Forget about backpacking.... no...seriously..stop thinking about it so much.
When you reach the point where you're not thinking about your gear, how to put it all together, what you're going to eat, and where you're going to camp for the night, you've officially begun to backpack! I hate to say it, but there's really only one way to get to this place of purest backpacking and that's to start backpacking. Get out there, bust the rust off, screw up, get blisters, be cold, and just do it!
I spent far more years thinking about organizing the perfect backpacking trip than I care to admit. I wanted to make sure that I had some sort of view to behold, a river to cross, or a lake to swim in, but all that planning did me no good because I never pulled the trigger. I had this idea in my mind of what a backpacking trip should look like when in reality I was completely wrong. Sure, sometimes theres a massive expanse of wilderness to look down upon, a lake to swim in, or a river to cross, but it's not always like that.
All that planning and preparation for being in the right place at the right time did me no good. I thought more about the final destination than I did the process and it really toyed with my brain to the point where I wasn't enjoying the process of moving through the mountains or forest. I saw all those bends in the trail as an annoyance rather than a gift and I took for granted what my body was actually doing out there for me. I was moving through the backcountry like my ancestors did thousands and thousands of years ago.
We just think about it too much and forget what we're doing out there in the first place. I've since realized that all my planning was really just me being insecure and slightly worried about what could happen out there. This revealed itself in over-planning and obsessing over making sure I had the perfect campsite. Man, was I wrong.
To me, backpacking happens when you stop thinking about backpacking altogether and simply embrace the moment knowing you're well prepared for whatever the trail or hunt has waiting for you. When you finally begin to own your own existence out there you'll unlock some serious experiences.
As you hibernate this winter in preparation for the summer of 2018, do so with this idea in mind. Give yourself a chance to just go with it for a trip and let things be. Use the tools in your pack to make you happy and maybe, just maybe, camp in that spot you would have previously passed by. Solve problems and make mistakes doing it. Try something new, leave something at home you normally bring, and just live.
Forget about backpacking for once and just go.