Not that anyone who hunts passionately in Africa is “normal,” but even by the standards of obsessive safari addicts, I stand out as, well, a bit strange. You see, I have this weird compulsion to carry my own backpack.
In Africa where your hunting party consists of at least one tracker, it’s unheard of for the “sport” to schlep his own pack. A friendly and genuinely helpful tracker will invariably mope like a kicked puppy if you refuse to allow him to carry your day-pack for you, assuming you even carry one at all which most safari clients don’t. (More on that later.)
But I’m downright compulsive when it comes to carrying my own pack, which is over-stuffed with everything I consider to be essential gear. For instance, I carry not just a first aid kit (which is well-stocked with Band-Aids, Neosporin, a splinter remover, eye wash, the usual repairs for nicks and scrapes) but also a trauma kit complete with Kwik-Clot gauze, an Asherman chest seal, combat bandages and a splint for broken limbs.
Altogether, my pack weighs about 25 to 30 pounds with a full 100 oz. “hydration system” (that’s 6 lbs. right there) and 20 rounds of ammo. I have never allowed a tracker to carry my pack, not even once, not even in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia at 13,300 feet, not even on the infamous Death March through the Zambezi Escarpment above Lake Kariba in 100+ degree heat, the exhausting hike that literally collapsed my PH and left him in bed for three days— NRA’s American Hunter managing editor and fellow blogger Jeff Johnston can verify that little adventure. Not once have I surrendered my sweat-stained, odor-reeking pack.
My good friend Craig Boddington doesn’t think I’m nuts, he knows it. “Your job is to shoot, not to play Sherpa,” he scolded me when we were filming Tracks Across Africa together in 2005-6. “Makasa [our lead tracker] would be glad to carry that pack for you. What the hell do you have in there anyway, an inflatable pontoon bridge?”
At the time, I did have a spare pair of “water shoes” in case we had to wade into the Zambezi. But I didn’t tell Craig that. He would think I’m even more nuts than he already does.