Editor's note: No joke. This is a wild story. It involves a bad backpack, a dog/baby sick in the Alaskan outback, a strange man having a diabetic emergency on top of a volcano in Hawaii, a broken ankle and a double heli-evac. At the end our protagonist knows what kind of pack she wants. (Yes, of course, it's a Deuter.) Think you've got a good story for the blog? Check out the Write For Us page, put some miles behind you and some pen to paper.
I spent last summer in Alaska as a traveling nurse. I was only able to do one backpacking trip while I was there because I had a very ill dog/child. She required so much attention that my mom came out to help me with her. One day she gave me a break and I did an overnighter to Lost Lake.
For years I have been trying to find a backpack that fit me well. With my low back problems, I needed something that didn't put a lot of pressure on my hips where my sciatica would go wild. Last year I bought a new bag from a really high profile brand and have been pretty disappointed with how it pulls on my shoulders and neck causing pretty bad pain and discomfort. On this trip to the Lost Lake, I used my new backpack and it was terrible. The entire hike I kept lifting my pack to release the stress on my shoulders and neck. My body hurt for days after.
A stranger in the midst
Getting to the story... sadly, my pup passed in early October and a part of my grieving I went to Hawaii to spend a month with friends. They had a three day trip planned to go to Halape – a beautiful volcanic hike on The Big Island – the day after Thanksgiving. At our Thanksgiving dinner there was a man there that overheard us chatting about the hike and asked if he could come along. Of course, the more the merrier, we said!
The next morning when we met up with everyone to start our adventure, the new guy told my friend that he's diabetic and hadn't slept well. Because I'm a nurse, my friend relayed that info to me. I thought, I'm sure he'll be fine. He had all his supplies and seemed to be in good shape overall. And, he had a backpack that he said he had used many times for overnighters. That's gotta say something, right? Well, and it happened to be an Aircontact 65+10.
With a big group of friends and a new guy, we started our 8-mile hike over volcanic rock, rain joining us here and there.
About two miles in the new guy started saying how he felt like his core body temp was 105. He had to frequently stop and take breaks. He ran out of water. We were all giving him our water. We gave him salt tabs. He didn't want to eat. Wasn't hungry. Seemed pretty stable. Just a little dehydrated.
Long story short, he couldn't carry his pack anymore. So we all started taking turns carrying his pack on top of our own. Eventually most of the group went ahead. They took the packs to basecamp and then a couple would come back and help us. As the resident medical professional, I stayed with the new guy along with one other friend.
We got about five miles in and he was really struggling. I pulled my friend aside and told him we really should call a helicopter. He needed IV fluids. And all his diabetic equipment and medicine that he thought was in his fanny pack was actually in the pack that the others had carried back to our campsite. So we called the helicopter and they came to pick him up.
Also during this time one of our other friends fell and sprained/broke her ankle. She's about 5' 11" and 250 lbs. Her ankle was the size of a baseball. She was being stubborn and continued on the hike at a very, very slow pace. So after we helicoptered out new guy, we then went to relieve her and took on her pack as well. The next day she was also helicoptered out as she couldn't even move enough to get to the bathroom.
Through it all, the whole group had tried this diabetic man's Deuter pack. And we were all arguing over who was gonna beg him to let us keep it. It was soo comfortable and just felt so perfect as a fitting. No one else had a Deuter so it was something new.
I have never written a letter like this but it was such a crazy weekend and experience. I wanted you to know that your product received much praise. It really made many of our lives easier during a time of having to carry extra packs.
I'm hoping to go back to Alaska this next summer and do all the backpacking I was unable to do with my sick baby. I can't wait to go try some packs on and get one for that trip. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for making such a great product. God Bless.
About Kelly Bruckner
Just a wandering soul who's passion is to take her work as a nurse and be rewarded in all regards with exploring, spreading the love and meeting new people all around this beautiful world! Find her at @bigislandwahine (Instagram) or
Need some more traditional advice on how to fit a pack? Check out the Tips & Tricks section of the blog.