|Tim Shey in Montana|
30 March 2005
I think I should write a little about my backpack. I carry it everywhere I go; it has been invaluable in my hitchhiking journeys.
Back in September of 1999 I was hitchhiking in northern California--somewhere on U.S. 395 north of Susanville--and this guy picked me up and asked me if I would help him do some carpenter work. I agreed and worked for him for about three hours.
After we were finished, he said he would give me his backpack because he didn't have any money to give me. I gave him my bag that I carried on my shoulder, took his backpack and put my stuff in it and have had it ever since. It was a real blessing because the backpack's weight is better distributed on your shoulders and back and hips than the bag that I carried on my shoulder--and I can carry heavier loads. I think my backpack has weighed up to forty pounds.
The things that I carry in my backpack are: a U.S. Army sleeping bag; a water bottle; a zippered folder that holds my manuscripts, CDs, a floppy disc, pens, address book, an atlas of North America and other papers; clothing; a shaving kit; batteries for my flashlight; a little all-purpose tool; toilet paper; moist towelettes; a little Gideon's New Testament; a pocket atlas of the United States; a King James Compact Reference Bible; some disposable Gillette razors; a plastic carrying case for six mini-CDs; two stocking caps; a small roll of duct tape.
My backpack has shown a lot of wear and tear over the years. There are rips in it; it is somewhat dirty. There are places where I sewed it up with monofilament fishing line and there is a piece of duct tape on the bottom of the pack. Without duct tape, we would be a people no more.
I believe the weight of my backpack averages around thirty-five pounds, so I get some good exercise everyday when I have to walk several miles on the highway. The guy who gave me the backpack told me that he spent $200.00 for it back in 1979. It is still hanging in there pretty tough. It is an interior frame backpack. I don't know the brand name.
It has been through rain, snow, dirt, mud, sand (e.g. I slept on the beach at Cambria, California), crude oil (in the back of a pickup in New Mexico), hundred-degree heat, and twenty-below-zero cold. I use it as a pillow when I sleep outside. I use it as body armor when somebody drives by and sprays me with submachine gun bullets (just joking). My body armor is a wall of fire that surrounds me--the Holy Ghost Fire.
My backpack and myself have hitchhiked countless thousands upon thousands of miles throughout the United States. Somebody once offered to buy me a new backpack two or three years ago. I graciously declined their offer. I'm going to keep this backpack as long as I can. You see, it never argues with me, it never disagrees with me, never talks back. It is very low maintenance. When I get tired of carrying it, I stop, take off my backpack and sit on it on the side of the road and rest for a while.
When I die, it doesn't look like I will be able to take it to heaven with me--I guess this is something that I will just have to accept.
A backpack, a backpack, my kingdom for a backpack.
Without a backpack, I would be a hitchhiker no more--or just another hitchhiker without a backpack.
The first backpack was probably invented somewhere between Cain and Abel and the time of Noah. The first hitchhikers probably came about just after the Tower of Babel: the Lord confused the languages of the people and the people were forced to migrate to the four corners of the known world, so there must've been a lot of people looking for rides on oxen-driven carts and on camel caravans.
I have heard that U.S. Marines carry eighty-pound backpacks in boot camp and that British SAS (Special Air Services) men carried two hundred-pound packs in Operation Desert Storm (1991). Thirty-five pounds doesn't feel so bad. It's my backpack and it doesn't complain: I'll keep it as long as it holds up.
[Originally published by Digihitch.com]
Hitchhiking Stories from Digihitch
The Things I Carry
I weighed my backpack about a week ago and it weighed 56 pounds. It is a North Face backpack. My friends bought it for me at a garage sale in Jackson, Wyoming in October of 2006; they paid 50 bucks. It has a lot of duct tape and gorilla tape on it. In 2009 I voted gorilla tape my Most Valuable Player.
This is what I carry in my backpack:
1 summer sleeping bag
1 Coleman winter sleeping bag (rated at 10 degrees F)
1 two-man tent
1 Muleskins winter coat
1 Cabelas hooded sweat shirt
1 pair Billabong shorts
1 insulated flannel shirt
An extra baseball cap
1 compact pillow
1 roll toilet paper
1 package Bic shavers
2 stocking caps (1 full mask)
1 pair winter gloves
1 Duracell flashlight/radio. (This is one of the best things ever given to me on the road. You don't need batteries; there is a handle you use to wind it up and recharge it. This Canadian Army veteran of Afghanistan picked me up outside of Lolo, Montana and gave me a ride to Lolo Pass. He said the flashlight was brand new. He was from Alberta, Canada.)
2 water bottles (1 liter each)
1 can opener
1 pair reading glasses
2 Bic lighters
Leatherman all-purpose tool
Various articles of clothing (socks, underwear, etc.)
1 compact King James Bible
A Mead folder that holds:
A road atlas
A pocket-sized daily planner/calendar for 2010
A 100-page notebook
A folder that holds some photocopies (11 pages) of Milton and the English Revolution by Christopher Hill
A copy of my seven-year contract with PublishAmerica
[Originally published by Digihitch.com]
Old Backpack, New Backpack