The plan was casual—our packing jobs even more so. The sun was already sinking low in the North Cascades as we cinched on our backpacks and locked the car doors behind us. I wasn’t used to this. Most of my backpacking trips had been planned long in advance and prepared for diligently. We’d only decided to sleep out that very afternoon, tossing sleeping bags, bivy sacks and a stove for morning coffee in our packs and loading up the dogs to drive up into the National Forest—and I’m so glad we did.
We arrived at the campsite in blue dusk, cozying down into our bivy sacks for conversation under the stars—instead of down at the bar in town. And in the morning, instead of an alarm clock, a stunning sunrise gently coaxed us awake. The hike in and out was only a couple of miles, and after a slow, scenic cup of coffee, we headed back to town, refreshed and inspired. Sure, a multi-day backpacking trip or extended thru-hike can be a spectacular experience, but I’ve learned lately that even a quick one-night outing can be just what my soul needs. In case you’ve never tried it, here are six reasons to go on a one-night-only backpacking trip.
1. It can shake some stress off—instead of causing more.
It’s truly amazing what a single night under the stars—and waking up to a sunrise—can do for the human psyche, even if you have to leave an hour early from work to get there and jump back into your routine as soon as you get back. The beauty of a single night out is that you get the simple pleasure of sleeping outside, without the hassle of planning a multi-day trip. Just throw some gear and something to eat in your backpack and hit the trail.
2. You’ll get more peace and quiet than with car camping.
Sure, one night out won’t get you as far into the wilderness as a week-long trip. But it’s guaranteed to be at least a little more epic than car camping. Instead of trying to ignore the drunken late-night sing-along at the next campsite over, you’ll just hear the breeze in the trees or a trickling brook.
3. You don’t have to pack much.
Don’t have the latest in uber-light backpacking gear? No problem. Never filtered water before? No worries. Since you’re not hiking far, you can load yourself down with as much or little as you want—you can probably even carry as much water as you need.
4. You might even be able to pull it off on a school night.
One of the secrets to snagging a good campsite is heading out when everyone else is still at work. And sometimes that doesn’t even mean you have to skip work altogether—maybe just leave a little early and come in a little late the next day. If you’re OK with arriving at your camp by headlamp and rising with the sun, it’s an easy way to enjoy a refreshing night out in the middle of the week.
5. It’s the perfect way to immerse a friend who’s never backpacked before.
Low mileage and a small pack make for a pleasant first-time experience, after all. And a single night on the ground is a nice way to test the waters before a bigger trip. If you’re super dedicated to making your friend’s first time backpacking trip even more pleasant, consider carrying the food, stove and tent all in your pack.
6. You’ll still have time for other things over the weekend.
There’s certainly something to be said for wringing every last moment out of a weekend, leaving early Friday afternoon and pulling in late on Sunday night. But sometimes other duties call. Home improvements, barbecues and grocery shopping don’t generally take care of themselves. And just because you can’t spend your entire weekend out backpacking doesn’t mean you can’t sneak in a relaxing, refreshing overnight in the great outdoors. Opening up your mind to the one-night backpacking trip can let you, proverbially, do it all.
Originally Published March 8th, 2016.