Dirtbagging as Cheap Lightweight Backpacking
By Steve Gillman
Dirtbagging is stripping backpacking down to its essentials:
fun and adventure. Throw a few things in any old pack, and just
get out there. You don't need all that expensive backpacking
gear. Leave the extra clothes behind, sleep in a pile of leaves
or next to a fire. Dirtbagging is keeping it simple and using
your wits instead of your wallet.
Example of a Dirtbagging Trip
I took an inflated old rubber tube, a homemade plastic bivy
sack, and some snacks for a float down the Boardman River here
in Michigan. I had a few warm things to wear to bed instead of
using a sleeping bag. I carried a small umbrella to use on the
river and over my head at night. Altogether, I had maybe 10 pounds
in a bundle on my lap as I floated down the river sitting in
the tube, with my butt and my feet in the water.
The trout were surfacing everywhere and the deer were stepping
back from the riverbank at the sight of me. Blue heron were hunting
for fish in the shallows. There were wild strawberries at every
stop. No paddling, just going with the flow. It was very relaxing,
and yet still had the element of unpredictability, and thus adventure.
I feasted on berries in the evening until the rain came. It
rained all night, but I stayed dry in my garbage bag bivy sack
(my dirtbagging shelter), with a small umbrella over my head.
A large white-tail deer almost stepped on me in the middle of
the night, and scared me half to death with his snorting. In
the morning it was still raining.
It wasn't just raining, it was a thunderstorm. One thing about
a bivy sack is that you don't have enough space to keep yourself
entertained. So storm or not, it was time to get moving. I bundled
up my few things, stepped into the cold river, and sat in the
I drifted by beautiful houses, sitting in my tube in a heavy
sweater, with my umbrella over my head. It was just getting light,
late because of the storm. People looked up from their morning
coffee, to see me in a flash of lightning. I waved and floated
on. I had a great time slogging through knee-deep mud in a portage
around a dam, and arrived home safely a couple hours later. That's
For another dirtbagging story, visit the page, "An
Ultralight River Rafting Adventure".
Note: To be safe in circumstances like the above, it s a good
idea to know how to start a fire in the rain, and other basic
wilderness skills. It is also helpful to know which berries and
other edible wild plants you can eat. Here are some related pages:
Edible Wild Plants
Edible Wild Berries