OR 8,900 inches. OR 24 gallons.
OR the exact amount of space you have to hold your stuff on Mountain Classroom.
For 10 weeks.
For someone who just is preparing to go on Mountain Classroom, it can be exciting and stressful. You are given a packing list, but because it is such a small space, and such a long amount of time, the items you bring are especially key. Most people don’t know what to cut away, some bring way too much stuff, and others leave things at home that they miss the entire time. Mountain Classroom isn’t at all about the stuff you bring, it’s about the memories you make throughout the trip, but through discussion with many MTNCLRM veterans, I have compiled a list of things to definitely not forget.
NUMERO UNO (1)
So simple, I know, but so necessary. Sunglasses are on the original packing list, but the key to them is bringing a pair that you love, can really get the job done AND you are not overly emotionally attached to. Now me, I became emotionally attached to almost everything I brought, including my pencils, ( I saved as many as I could from the trip so I can just keep them) but it’s important that these sunglasses are utility over style. Style is great too, and you will come to realize that Mountain Classroom has its own bizarre style. You can trade sunglasses with others once you get tired of your own, or rock some Croakies. Actually, you should most definitely bring some Croakies as well they are a necessity. You don’t want to lose said sentimentally-valued sunglasses while rock climbing in Cochise Stronghold or canoeing the Rio Grande. Bring along some extra sunglass pouches as well to hold underwear and other miscellaneous items, they work great for small stuff you really don’t want to lose.
Good, Great, Music. And lots of it.
One of the goals behind Mountain Classroom is to give you the ability to take a breather from a world overrun with technology. This is tough at times, and a luxury in others. But for me, and many others, music falls into a different boat. It brings people together, it makes you happy, it’s something you can share with the rest of the group or keep to yourself, and it’s something that you can take with you back to “real life” once you finish Mountain Classroom. The soundtrack to your adventure. You aren’t allowed to bring your smartphone or even a flip phone, but you are allowed to the take with you an MP3 player or iPod that cannot connect to the internet. I chose an ancient iPod classic with around 9,000 songs. It was incredibly worth it. Take the time to fill it up with songs and artists that make you happy. Add so much music, even the obscure stuff, because there are going to be days while hiking up the Chisos mountain range when you remember a random song–one that tumbles around in your mind like a small stone in a rock polisher, and you just NEED to hear it.
For all you ladies out there, this one’s for you.
Let’s talk about menstruation. That part of your life doesn’t pause automatically once you decide to spend weeks on end in the backcountry, but there’s an easy and great solution to this problem: The DivaCup. Now if you want to know more of about the DivaCup and all of its glory, I suggest you read up here. But seriously, do it. Read it, buy it, bring it on Mountain, and thank me later.
Socks/ accessories you LOVE.
Also, socks that are wool. Wool is the holiest of the fibers on Mountain Classroom and having fun with super cool socks was the absolute best. They keep your feet warm, they take a while to get dirty, and they boost your style. Pick fun ones, colorful ones, and hardy ones. I grow very emotionally attached to my socks, possibly too attached, but I assume you can do this for any set of accessories on Mountain. Spirit animal t-shirts, Western button downs, exciting underwear, cool headbands, pick the wacky stuff, people. You also have the chance to go thrift shopping on more than one occasion, and let me tell you, that is when the bizarre Mountain Classroom style really shines. So leave a little space in you action-packer for a cool pair of legwarmers, or a button-down vest. You never know what you are going to find. Our group ended up with cheap cowboy hats, some gold chains, a beaver pelt, a pair of flip-flops made out of tire rubber, a bucket hat with an eagle feather, and a turtle shell.
It’s way more fun and you have very little access to mirrors so you only find out just how ridiculous/awesome you look later on, going through the pictures.
A positive mindset.
This is a cliché ending I know, but it is so so SO important. There are going to be days on Mountain where you acknowledge how lucky you are to be traveling and learning, (Think hiking the sacred snow-topped mountain Baboquivari in the Arizona desert, or exploring El Paso, Texas) but you still don’t want to be there. There are going to be days where you wish it was over already. Days where all you want is to be clean and warm and well rested. Where the last thing you want to be doing is waking up before the sun and leaving your warm sleeping bag for the freezing weather outside. Please persist. Please power through, and remind yourself to stay in the present. Soak it all up, because this is the most unique present you’ve ever been given.
Those days with the comfort and family and cozy blankets inside are on their way, but once they come along, it means that your adventure is over. Someday you’ll miss the cold metal on your fingers while taking down the tents in the morning, the laughter, and the feeling of purpose while stirring your pot of potato-kale curry for twelve people. Keep that in mind. Stay positive.
Other fun stuff that the Mountain Vets don’t think you’ll regret bring:
-sarong or wrap-around skirt
-thin, movable gloves to keep you warm and do work at the same time
-a good pencil case
-a seriously comfy sleeping bag
-extra stuff sacks with distinctive patterns
-a good watch with a loud alarm
-a small pillow