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Naked and Afraid: A Tale of Backpacking Gone Wrong

It was dark and cold, and I was butt naked with a broken tent.

By: Lysianne Peacock + Save to a List

Originally published on out-spiration.com.

The first time I camped near the edge of a cliff, the wind was so strong, I nearly lost my tent and sleeping bag, and I did lose my coveted Sea to Summit inflatable pillow (you can read about that in my “Backpacking to Reflection Canyon” article). You would think I would have learned my lesson but my addiction to chasing views in and out of my tent set me up for my own personal episode of “Naked and Afraid.”

I just moved to Asheville, and me and my coworker, Lizzy, have hit it off. We have started exploring trails together and now spend our evenings climbing together. Her partner, Logan, joins us frequently and we make a wonderful adventure trio.

My story begins few weeks ago when Lizzy and I decided we wanted to go camping for Fourth of July weekend. After a bit of research and going back and forth between the idea of car camping or backpacking, we decided to backpack the Roan Mountain Highlands on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee.

The plan was to hike up to the Grassy Ridge Balds and camp for the night, a hike that would total a little under 5 miles. The hike itself was strenuous considering we had heavy packs and there was 1500 feet of elevation gain in just over two miles. But the beauty of the landscape before us, reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands, overshadowed my pain as I pushed my way up another bald.

As expected, tents dotted Grassy Ridge so we wandered until we found a seemingly perfect campsite sat near a rock outcropping that gave us expansive views of the rolling mountains before us. Mt. Mitchell stood proud and prominent in the distance. We decided this would be our home away from home for the evening.

View from Grassy Ridge Bald
View of Mt. Mitchell from Grassy Ridge Bald

After setting up camp, we explored the surrounding area, busted out our cheap bag of wine, played the ukulele, made a new friend, and then went to bed.

Naked and Afraid: A Background

It is important to note that Lizzy, Logan, and I had decided to experiment with the rain flys on our tents. There was no rain in the forecast, so we wanted to sleep with the flies off but the temperament of the Appalachian Mountains was unpredictable. So, we set up our tents with half the fly on so we could fall asleep to the dazzling stars above our heads with the added safety of being able to pull our flys back over in a flash if rain decided to “rain on our parade.”

Another important note is, I sleep naked even when camping. That is probably more than you will ever want to know about me, but this story would not be titled “Naked and Afraid,” and I figured you all deserve to know why.

Finding Out Who Your Friends Are

The only thing raining on our parade that night was the intense wind that overtook our cliffside campsite. The urge to pee had woken me up in the middle of the night along with condensation dripping on my face. I sat up and heard the loud flapping of my rain fly. I put on my headlamp to find that it had detached part of the way. I put on a jacket because I couldn’t seem to find where I put the rest of my clothes, and crawled out of my tent to fix it and utilize a facilitree. As soon as I crawled out, the wind knocked my tent flat.

My heart dropped. I was pantsless in the dark wearing nothing but a jacket with my white butt hanging out and my tent collapsed. I could see the problem. One of my tent poles had popped out of the tent body clip. I quickly walked around to reattach the pole but it snapped like a twig the second I bent it. I was in shock. This tent was less than a year old and cost just under $500 and it broke. I quickly found the tent pole repair piece and slid it on.

Read how to fix a broken tent pole here.

At this point, Lizzy and Logan had woken up, I am assuming from the sporadic movement of my headlamp. I was naked, afraid and desperately needed help. So, I asked for it. Lizzy got out not questioning my half naked appearance. As I held the tent up, she tried to reattach the pole but then it snapped…TWO MORE TIMES. At this point, my toes were going numb, I was caked with mud, and I was shivering. At that moment, we decided it was best if I crawled into Lizzy and Logan’s tent for the night.

I quickly found some clothes to put on (you are probably screaming “FINALLY”), and Lizzy, Logan, and I managed to squeeze three people into a two person backpacking tent with two sleeping pads.

The Unglamorous Life of the Outdoors

I woke up the next morning with a hangover from the bagged wine but surprisingly felt hopeful. While my tent laid in a heap from the aftermath from the evening, I was grateful for the people I had with me that helped me when I needed it the most. It could have been so much worse but it wasn’t. I was alive, comfortable, and still enjoyed my experience. Naked, afraid, and all.

My collapsed tent
Broken tent poles

Social media, advertisements, and websites glamourize outdoor experiences when in reality they can be downright messy, terrifying, and in the moment, something you never want to experience again. But we still keep coming back and it’s worth it every time.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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