There was a scene in "where the red fern grows" (one of the few movies my family had--I didn't even know it was a book until years later) that got me chewing beef jerky or gum and leaning against tree trunks thinking and carving designs into sticks. I felt that was all I wanted to do when I grew up.

There's romance in the dirt-in dirt on neck and feet and hands from work, or play or time. Things apart from my guitar, or tools for making music, seem abstract and heavy to me at times, and the most free I ever feel is when I'm walking, carrying only what's necessary for my survival, self contained under the sky with the bugs and the plants, and, in the best of times, a friend or two as company.

I've been learning what things I need to be self-contained. These tools-thanks to modern camping technology- can be made extremely lightweight. My current travel bag is a forty liter lightweight backpack containing a 3 liter water bladder, a ceramic water filter, an inflatable 11 oz sleeping pad, a 15 degree 2 pound sleeping bag, and ultralight 2 pound backpacking tent, a small camp stove set with a single burner white gas camp stove, titanium pot pan and spork, a small sack of clothes for sleeping also containing a lightweight rain coat, thin wool sweater, and a thin down coat for warmth (this sack is made of fleece and doubles as a pillow), a small first aid kit, a tooth brush, a knife, a compass, maps, a lighter, and a couple of essential oils that are good for various ailments. Before a hike or a trip, I'll pack enough food for a few meals and replenish at markets as I run out.

Without the weight of heavy equipment, it's easy to move about and walking with a backpack feels almost as easy as walking without it. It's light enough to move quickly if need be, and can be worn for hours without discomfort, making it possible to move swiftly through hills, rivers, mountains, plains, streets, sidewalks and cities.

Lastly and perhaps one of the most important things imperative to my experience on any journey is a guitar. Though hiking without it is lighter, this companion is worth it's weight. Having a guitar while traveling is like carrying a portal; it opens pathways into realms beyond imagination, and turns strangers into friends.

After walking and sleeping in nature for some time, there is a new skin, new eyes, new lungs. Chew on licorice root and roll in the dirt, jump naked into bodies of water, and drink from mountain springs, have coffee in a can.

Big Thief's debut record, Masterpiece, is out now on Saddle Creek.