The Boy rolled out for scout camp with more personal equipment in tow than Napoleon required to sweep across Europe. I would have complained but, in its own way, overpacking is the first step toward learning how to get the most out of an adventure.

When it comes to percentage of enjoyment, it’s easy to let too much ride on the experiences of the adventure itself, overlooking what can be had thinking about it all in advance. Memories come in their own time and experiences happen as they will, but a great measure of the fun from any trip lies in thinking through the infinite options beforehand. In this way, a trip of a week or 10 days can be lived through anticipation for more than a year.

In the same way speeding tickets teach us to slow down, overweight baggage fees and the simple strains of lugging coach us to pack less. Besides, experience shows it’s less about what’s in the bag and more about what’s in the plan. For me, the enjoyment of planning a trip is the mirror image of a memory. Rather than savoring what was, it’s a foretaste of what can be.

It’s also where we learn the value of pacing ourselves. It’s easy to be trapped into believing no trip to Destination X can be complete without seeing and doing certain things, and many a fine adventure has been spoiled by spreading the mustard too thin just to touch it all. Experience and consideration prove it’s impossible to do it all, a disappointing truth. Once this truth is digested, though, it’s freeing. If you can’t do it all, then, by extension of logic, you don’t have to do it all. You’re therefore free to do whatever portion you care to attempt. You’re further free to adjust this valve as you go.

Planning a trip and executing it may be my favorite expression of our freedom as Americans, not to mention the highest and best use of the internet. With sufficient planning and a stout traveler’s heart, virtually no destination is out of reach, financially or otherwise.

But it all begins with an overstuffed bag and an open door, heading into a journey whose rigors are not yet defined and whose outcome is uncertain. Makes me want to pack a couple extra flashlights myself.

Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media for Mossy Oak in West Point.

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