Learning From “Wild”

I’ve been forcibly recruited to work a full five day week now – boooo to losing my wilderness Wednesdays! And this week, I’m adding an extra 12 hour day, leaving today as my only free day. Sitting here at 6:30 PM, I’m feeling extremely regretful I spent the day catching up on errands and not camping or hiking (I need to take my own advice on managing my time!), so I’m nursing my FOMO with a movie…

Colin’s mom kindly gifted me “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed during her visit last winter. I was interested in the book since Colin and I had talked about getting into backpacking and not only was the book about a woman backpacking – a rare topic – but it was gaining critical acclaim nationwide.

To be honest, I’m not much of a reader – not because I don’t enjoy it (I do), but I find it hard to become intrigued by a book enough to finish it. “Wild” was different… Cheryl wasn’t a good backpacker, by any means, but she is a hell of a storyteller. I felt like I was apart of her journey, both the physical one on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the emotional one, dealing with the loss of her mother and more.

Now that I had the time, I watched the film adaptation and I couldn’t help but take mental notes of Cheryl’s mistakes. Her adventure is incredible and I don’t fault her for taking the risk, but there are many backpacking musts that she neglected. While we all enjoy a good story, it’s better (for everyone’s sake!) to learn from Cheryl, rather than repeat her actions.

1. Take practice runs with your equipment.

Tent, water filters, stove, compass… Do a trial run on a short backpacking trip, or even in your apartment! Product defects happen, but it’s also integral to know, by memory, how to set-up your tent and how to cook your food. Who wants to be reading a pamphlet of directions when you’re tired and starving after a long day of hiking?

2. Pack your backpack beforehand.

I understand that you can’t really pack your backpack until the 10 minutes before the trip. Most of the time we don’t have the food we’re bringing, toiletries, or clothes sorted out. However, it’s great to get in the routine of a “rehearsal pack” the night before a trip. Throw in your sleeping bag, mat, tent, cooking supplies, and other essentials, as well as substitutes for clothing and food. Everyone packs their bag different each day on the trail, but it’s great to get an idea of what arrangements work best for weight distribution and just fitting everything in there. Believe me, it helps prevent that very stressful pre-trip crunch time!

3. Prepare your body for many days of hiking.

In the film, Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) says, “Yes, everything hurts… all the time.” She is consistently covered in scabs, bruises, and scars from her backpack and shoes. Although I have hardly hiked a fraction of the 1,100 miles she did on the PCT, I have a feeling Cheryl could have done her feet a favor by wearing her brand new hiking boots (as well as a packed backpack) on additional trips, before the PCT. Furthermore, her aches and pains could be prevented with proper strength and cardio training, and again, with long hikes.


Cheryl did get some things right. She was realistic about her journey; she knew 5 to 7 miles a day was her limit and planned her trip accordingly, like with supply drop-offs. As a solo female backpacker, she remained alert and kept her guard up with strangers, but she knew when she could trust a fellow backpacker, and sought help when she needed it.

Personally, I think the film was well done, considering how the book was written. It remained true to Cheryl’s story and the movie managed to illustrate Cheryl’s train of thought, as well as her personal, emotional growth while hiking the PCT. I also loved how it was real. On her first day, she’s constantly thinking, “Fuck this, fuck this, what am I doing? I can leave whenever I want.” Those are thoughts I have battled with on some tough days as well, and as she evolves with her trip, those opinions subside.

But I love “Wild” for its female focus. It’s probably not far-fetched to say every film with a female protagonist ends with her falling in love with some guy and that’s her story line coming to resolution. It plants this idea that we, women, cannot have a complete story if love or a man is involved. Even films meant to be female empowering fall into this trap – I can’t help but think of “Eat, Pray, Love,” for instance. “Wild” is about Cheryl and only Cheryl. Sure, her relationships and promiscuity are mentioned, but it’s never a primary storyline. Cheryl is hiking for herself; this is her journey and she’s not sharing it with a man.

I think “Wild” may receive some unnecessary flack from the world of expert backpackers, but I highly recommend it – both the book, and the film – for ladies looking for some inspiration to get into backpacking. It’s goes much deeper than a pack, but accurately depicts the power of the hobby on one’s body and mind.

What are your thought on “Wild?”

Watch the trailer:


2 responses to “Learning From “Wild”

  1. I watched this movie in theaters with my mother (her age 48 and me 23). We both drew on the womanly power of it and how it captured life. There were moments we connected in experience such as the scene with the creepy men and then the fucks and all the conquering she felt. I related to other parts that I haven’t felt connected to in other movies.

    Not until your post have I wanted to go backpacking though.


    • Yes!! I felt very connected to Cheryl too. I appreciate Cheryl’s honesty when writing “Wild,” and this authenticity shines through in the film as well. Agreed on the womanly power — it’s so hard to find movies that center on this, in a positive manner. We need more strong, relatable female depictions on the big screen! Glad you enjoyed the movie as much as I did.

      Liked by 1 person

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