How to Prepare to Begin Packing

Every time I have to pack for a trip, I panic. It’s as if, despite having traveled to remote parts of the world for decades, I have never before packed a bag. I have no idea why this is. Smart, organized people keep checklists. Not me. The best I seem to be able to do is to write down what I’m throwing in the bag as I’m throwing it in. And then I lose the list and spend hours looking for it.

But first, I need to invent a reason to put off for as long as possible even starting to pack, which I’m doing now, at 11 p.m. before my 6 a.m. departure from Maryland to Arkansas (by way of Detroit, naturally). Distracting myself with a ridiculous—but in my mind, crucial—task, I am meticulously applying NikWaxx Durable Water Repellent to the waterfowlng jacket I’m bringing. Even though it’s a deer hunt. And even though I’ve already packed a commercial fisherman’s raincoat. I know it’s insane. And I know that I have to do it.

My host, an outdoor writer named Bryan Hendricks, has already warned me that the forecast is for lows in the 20s, highs in the 40s, strong winds, and rain. In short, the worst, most penetrating, hardest-to-get-warm-again-once-you’ve-gotten-cold kind of cold. If I’m moving, I can be warm in almost any temperature. If I’m sitting in a deer stand, there aren’t enough clothes on earth to keep me warm.

The NikWaxx directions say to spray it on and wait for it to dry. But I can’t wait. I need it dry now. So I lug in a coat stand from the garage, stick a wooden broomstick through the arms of the jacket so that they stand out from the body and dry better. And then I put the coat stand before the pellet stove we put in after learning the hard way last winter that heat pumps aren’t designed for use in cold weather. The back’s dry, so I’m turning it around to do the front. And by then, I’m think, I may be ready to take on the herculean task of throwing a few things into a bag.