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Bits & Pieces: The most important piece of equipment

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Goggles. Check. Helmet. Check. Ten-year old skis and jacket with questionable waterproofness. Check and check.

I can’t help that as I pack my bags to go on this ski adventure halfway around the world with some fancy clients, some feelings of inadequacy start bubbling up. It’s funny how it’s always the little things that can trigger these emotions.

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In an instant, I’m catapulted back to all those times in school when we were required to head out on some big outdoor adventure that called for all sorts of outdoor equipment — gear that my family didn’t have, couldn’t afford, or knew nothing about.

Over the years, my mom — bless her little corazón — tried her absolute best collecting items like packs, rain gear, and even sleeping bags (Ew!) from the Aspen Thrift Store. Even though my mamá swore up and down she washed everything really well, I always imagined some big sweaty lumberjack was the former owner of my sleeping bag. But, none of my concerns mattered to her. Her children were participating in every Outdoor Ed. trip no matter how out of our comfort zone we sometimes felt, or how ragtag our gear.

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On one particular adventure, my entire class cross-country skied up to Weller Campground where we then proceeded to spend a night in sub-zero temperatures. As we departed that morning, I looked around and noticed that my backpack was many times bigger than the modern, sleek ones my classmates carried on their backs.

I was sure I was lugging what was probably the last external frame pack left in all America. I suppose it wouldn’t have been an issue if the old pack was my size. “I bet it belonged to the same broad-shouldered lumberjack,” I thought. “He must have gotten sick of life in the woods and donated everything to the thrift store where my mom then snatched it up for our outdoor education adventures.”

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Anyway, as we made our way up Independence Pass, a teacher saw I not only was sweating like a pig, but so demoralized as I lagged way behind the whole class. Someone finally noticed the beastly size of my pack. The hipbelt was already on the smallest setting and was no help. Basically, the pack’s entire weight fell on my shoulder straps that were ill fitted themselves. That teacher did what any savvy outdoor person would do in this situation and duct taped the crap out of my pack, so it fit snugly on to my body. Despite the fact that I wasn’t able to relieve my bladder until we arrived at camp where someone cut the tape, it was amazing! Duct tape for the win.

After we survived the cold night, the next morning we made our way back down towards town. On the way the teachers organized a friendly ski race with packs, skis and all. I won, beating every boy and girl in my sixth grade class. As we rode the bus back to school I thoroughly enjoyed my prize, which was an entire Hershey bar all to myself.

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That memory helps disperse any of those pesky feelings, the ones that for a split second make me doubt that this Mexican gal even belongs on an adventure that requires avalanche beacons, probes, shovels, A/T gear, packs, etc. I know from experiences like the one at Weller, that despite the fact that I’m never the one geared up to the gills with the newest, top-of- the-line equipment, I’m going in with this big heart of mine.

Without a doubt, the most important piece of equipment,  for any adventure in life, is a heart that is open to new adventures and a spirit that says, “Yes-I’m in!” Oh, and duct tape. Don’t forget the duct tape.

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