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December 05, 2008


I learned to drive when I was eleven years old. My dad, my brother (eight years old at the time) and I were camping in Northern Wisconsin and it was on the dirt roads of Burnett county that my Dad first let my brother and I take the wheel.

I'm in my 30s now and my mode of travel is now primarily a bicycle but when it comes time to spend a weekend out of town its usually in my trusty Subaru. In the trunk of that old car is also an old sleeping bag, old Ridgerest, and an old tarp. These items used to be in my backpack before I became 'enlightened'.

Now when I'm on a weekend excursion someplace where my car is my basecamp I take joy in putting my old, heavy gear back in use. Its nice that this gear gets to live a second life and that I get to reminisce about the places I've been every time I climb back into that sleeping bag.

I grew up camping at Scout camp and sleeping in 9x9 Army canvas wall tents and sleeping on cots. Many of those tents were from the '60s and '70s, but because canvas is so durable, they still repelled water and could be rigged to withstand most northern Minnesota storms in summer.

The tents always had an odd smell to them, almost a musty scent. But it wasn't must, because that would mean the tent was stored wet, a death knell for any tent. There was something comforting to it, like smell of your parents' house from when you were young.

Since then, I have moved on to glorious nylon, but those old canvas tents bring back memories.

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RYAN JORDAN is the Founder and CEO of Backpacking Light, and a wilderness adventurer, speaker, writer, photographer, instructor, and guide. Learn more about Ryan and his services.
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Ryan also serves on the Board of Directors for the Continental Divide Trail Alliance and the Winter Wildlands Alliance, is an Eagle Scout, Assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 676 of Bozeman, Mont., and the High Adventure Committee Chair for Montana BSA.

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