166: Armchair Backpacker

Show Notes: Episode 166

Today on the First 40 Miles, for whatever reason, maybe you’re not going to be able to get out hiking or backpacking for a while.  That’s ok!  We’ll help you immerse yourself in the experience without leaving home.  Then we’ll review a huge tarp that will give you all the coverage you need.  Then we’ll show you ”the place to go when you can’t go backpacking”.  And we’ll wrap up the show with some strong words from someone who always seemed to have time to get outdoors.


  • Armchair Backpacker: It’s a person who may not be able to get out backpacking, but they still want to experience the scenery, the comradery, the gear talk, the excitement of hearing about trips.
  • Maybe you’ve hit a rough patch in your health OR maybe it’s been so long since you’re last trip because of scheduling or you’re so new to hiking and backpacking that you’re still just trying to get comfortable with what it’s all about—you might be an armchair backpacker.
  • You’re not going to get out backpacking for a while…and that can be hard. You know something is missing and you’re getting that antsy last day of school feeling.
  • (On the positive side, being an armchair backpacker is the ultimate in leave no trace.)
  • What outdoor adventures do you dream about when you’re at your desk? What are the elements of your dream trail time?  What does trail time do for you?  Why do you plan for and create meaningful trail experiences?

Top 5 Ways to Go Armchair Backpacking

Dig Deeper

  • If you’re not out experiencing an area thru time on the trail, then get to know it through reading guidebooks and learning the history
  • Guide books should tell enough of the story of the trail to paint a picture without revealing too much.
  • Learn history of the area (Mountain Loop song)

Films or Documentaries

  • High Sierra : A Journey on the John Muir Trail
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJsZ08582To
  • Find quite a few on YouTube of Appalachian trail or PCT documentaries of varying quality levels—but they all have something that might just scratch an itch if you’re unable to get out.
  • Adventure Archives (YouTube channel)
  • Film Festival Flix: Mountain and Adventure Film Festival, subscription to watch adventure films (Actual film festival is in Feb/Mar–$30 for pass all access filmfestivalflix.com)

Lurk the backpacking boards and forums!

  • This is especially fun if you’re an old seasoned backpacker and you just want to still be a part of the conversation.
  • It’s also fun if you have no experience hiking or backpacking and you just want to learn lingo, get some opinions, and listen in on the chatter. You can learn a lot

Listen to podcasts

Ones we like and listen to:

  • Cascade Hiker
  • S’more Outdoor
  • She Explores
  • HYOH
  • Trust the Trail
  • Weekly Hiking Tip
  • The Field Guides
  • Hike Like a Woman
  • G.O. Get Outside
  • n2Backpacking

Window Shop

  • YouTube: gear lists, people prepping for trips
  • Turn your outdoor adventure into prep (heavier load, mindset)
  • Also… Oregon Trail Game, AT Game, Backpacker feed on Google news, and feel free to eat a few freeze dried meals, make up a batch of beef jerky and throw a few logs on the backyard fire pit.
  • And I’m working on a game right now…it’s in the initial testing phase…

SUMMIT Gear Review™: Paria Sanctuary SilTarp 10×12


  • “Plug and play” tarp—comes with everything you need for a versatile outdoor setup
  • With each tarp comes 60 feet of 1.5 mm reflective Dyneema® guy line, six micro line-lok adjusters, and six aluminum Y-stakes.
  • The 30 denier ripstop nylon has a silicon/PU dual-coating and fully taped seams,
  • 5,000 mm of hydro-static resistance–ensures a dry trip


  • 10×12
  • Flat shape—which seems funny to have to say that a tarp is flat, but not all tarps are flat. Some are cut and sewn with a curve—this cuts weight, but it also can limit the versatility of the tarp.
  • https://sectionhiker.com/what-is-the-difference-between-flat-tarps-and-shaped-tarps/
  • A total of 16 perimeter attachment loops
  • One center loop
  • You can use this as an open air shelter or pair it with a hammock


  • Weighs 21.0 oz (whole kit with stakes 27.0 oz)


  • Comes with a stuff sack
  • Treat it like a nice tent…don’t use it as a ground cloth.
  • Stuffing gear vs. folding gear: might be tempting to fold it like a big flat sheet… don’t.
  • Dry it out completely at home—even if you think it’s dry when you stuffed it into the stuff sack… take it out at home.


  • $89
  • limited lifetime warranty


  • They also have lots of other sizes and shape combinations including hex cut and tapered cut.

Backpack Hack of the Week™:  Seattle Backpackers Magazine

“The place to go when you can’t go backpacking”

Seattle Backpackers Magazine (online, free, great content)

Trail Wisdom

“I have a low opinion of books; they are but piles of stone set up to show travelers where other minds have been, or at least signal smokes to call attention…. No amount of wordmaking will ever make a single soul to know these mountains.  As well to seek to warm the naked and frostbitten by lectures on caloric and pictures of flame. One day’s exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books. See how willingly Nature poses herself upon photographer’s plates. No earthy chemicals are so sensitive as those of the human soul. All that is required is exposure, and purity of material.”
—John Muir