I subscribe to an email discussion for people hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. The list is really active lately because all the new hikers are in their preparation stages. They're all obsessing about gear and bear canisters and all the unknowns. One of the things I enjoyed about hiking the trail was how it put into perspective how little you need to be safe, warm, comfortable and HAPPY. Whenever people obsess about gear, especially about bringing electronics, it makes me feel the huge gap between the artificial world of "society" and the real world of nature. We really need so little, and of electronic things, even less.
Here's a response I wrote about what kind of headlamp is recommended.
I found a headlamp a few hours beyond Mojave Dam at a little camping area somebody carved into the chaparral near a spring. If it's yours and you can tell me what year you lost it and describe it, I'll return it. It has three LED lights. It's very light. It's very dim. It was perfect for my needs.
I have usually hiked without any light at all, or at most with a one LED light that I could clip to the bill of my cap. I enjoy fumbling in the dark for some reason. I really, really hate light at night. Years ago I had a studio apartment in town that faced the street. Somebody came to the door asking me to sign a petition to put street lights on my street. I told them I would never sign such a petition. What about safety? Criminals? I countered, What about stars? What about sleep? They put the darn light in and I had to pull down a blind every night to sleep but my room was still pink from those infernal sodium vapor lights. Curse from hell, those things are.
I'm not a big nighthiker, but one LED is enough to hike a little bit at night if you aren't in a hurry. Three is absolute luxury. Mostly I use it for reading.
There's so much excitement involved in getting ready for a big adventure like hiking the PCT. You think of all these cool things you can get to enhance your experience. By god you NEED some of these things.
The real gift of hiking a long trail like this is you learn you don't need most of it. You start sending stuff home so you can lighten your load. Then you start sending stuff home because you really don't need it. Your gear gets smaller and smaller and your happiness rises higher and higher. You acclimatize to being outside. You aren't cold anymore. The heat's not so bad. Hills? Yeah, so what? 15 miles to the next water? Yay, that's one of the shorter stretches. Soon you don't care that your stove is made from an old can, your water bottle brand names are for liquid long drunk not for empty containers backpackers are supposed to have (and if you're like me, you found a way to scratch off the brand names anyway). Your maps were downloaded for free. You have a sixth sense about the trail and can find your way pretty well and don't need the GPS anymore except for its entertainment value. The tent you have, the sleeping bag--you barely notice which brand you bought and you couldn't care less what brand your friends have. Ahh, the freedom of the trail, the freedom to just BE and not to HAVE.
I miss the trail SO MUCH!