The Most Important Thing to Bring

Luke Vargas July 14, 2022

It’s the first Thursday of the session, and we all know what that means: 

Time for the campout!

Campout days are prepared for, days in advance. The adventure team is busy distributing camping and hiking gear to cabins. The kitchen staff preps and packages delicious meals for the campers and their counselors. 

But on Thursday, the campers pack their bags, and I’m always intrigued by what each camper thinks they’ll need while they venture out for a night in the woods. 

Today, I walked around The Grove and asked the Deer Campers about what they were lugging around in their backpacks. 

Of course, everyone had their essentials. 

Campers had plenty of water, rain jackets, tents, warm clothes, along with some other less-essential items. There were portable fans, decks of cards, books, pillows, and I’m sure a stuffed animal or two was tucked away somewhere. 

Still mentally in counselor mode, I was checking off boxes in my mind as the boys listed off what they were carrying. 

I know what the essentials are, and I know all too well what it’s like to forget an essential.

There’s nothing worse than a night in the woods without a sleeping bag or without a rain tarp. Last night, I slept on top of Black Balsam Knob without a tarp — almost daring the rain to come down. 

Short story short: It did.

Although we teach and preach the essentials of packings, what a camper will make space for in his bag often broadens the parameters of essential in perhaps more profound directions. 

Curious to know what the Deer Campers thought was important, I asked them what the most essential thing they were bringing on the campout, and nearly all of them had the same answer:

“My sleeping bag.”

I stressed that my first question wasn’t a test, but my second question certainly was. 

I asked them, “If your friend couldn’t come with you on the campout, would you give up your sleeping bag so he could come?”

Without hesitation, the answer was (almost) always “Yes.”

We spend a lot of time preparing for the worst. 

We buy flood insurance. We carry around Tide Wipes or leave umbrellas in our cars. I always carry a small rain jacket and a granola bar in my backpack when I’m at school. 

But camping has taught me that there’s really nothing more essential than bringing a friend. 

CIT Director Paxton Ballard (left) and myself carrying ropes on a climbing trip to the Linville Gorge.

In my life, there’s never been an obstacle I couldn’t face or a difficult moment I couldn’t overcome with the support of a friend. 

Whether it’s pouring in the middle of a hike or it’s freezing cold with three layers of clothes on, the laughter and the joy that good friends bring have never failed to get me through.

So the next time someone asks me, “What’s the most important thing you packed?” — 

I’ll tell them I brought a friend.

Luke Vargas

Assistant Marketing Director

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