If one end of the backpacking spectrum us ultralight, the other end is taking a bunch of stuff you don’t need. We asked goEast readers and contributors to share the thing they bring with them that’s objectively unnecessary.

I first met Larry at a veteran ruck march for suicide  prevention. He was secured to a Marine’s pack, and when I asked the Veteran why he had a stuffed opossum strapped to his pack, he said “well that’s Larry, he saved us from Lyme disease.” Had I not asked for more supporting information, that could have been the end of it and Larry would have been history. Since my curiosity demanded more, I learned that the three men hiking together were from a unit in New Hampshire that had a tour in Honduras, which apparently had lots of ticks. Once they discovered the opossum that lived near their tent, they encouraged it to hang around with evening treats of tuna fish or chicken from the chow hall. Larry, as he came to be called, stuck around the rest of their deployment. Some time after they arrived home, Sean found the stuffed opossum in a store one day and decided to take him home in honor of the original Larry.

Credit: Lindsay Hill

After a couple beers and spending more time with the guys and Larry, I decided that I needed to take him home. At these events, people often have commemorative items that they hike with including flags, stuffed animals, and other symbols from their previous units or deployments and current affiliations. Also at these events, are other veterans trying to “tactically acquire” these items when the owners are least expecting it. Integrity is one of my core values, so I elected to use wit and my charm to try and convince Sean to give Larry to me. One thing that veterans and hikers have in common is that they love a good challenge. It did take a bit of convincing (and a couple more beers for the Marine) but eventually I was given permission to take Larry home. When he gave him up, he said “Larry better visit every National Park in America.”

From that day on, Larry became the Suicide Prevention Opossum and has traveled all across the country. We have visited dozens of states and parks, hiked thousands of miles, and stopped at dozens of breweries for post hike beers, and even attended charity events. Larry is also an exceptional partner for fundraising, where he has  helped raise nearly $5000 for military mental health, veteran suicide awareness, and mental health programs for veterans.

Larry seems like unnecessary weight and is often a peculiar sight to see on the trails for most fellow explorers, but he is a great conversation starter for a very necessary conversation. He helps create light hearted discussion about mental health, especially for our veterans and military. After hearing our story, most people get a good chuckle and really appreciate all that we do and thank us for sharing and providing insight and creating dialogue for a very taboo topic. The reactions from passersby solidifies the reason we do what we do, and makes our efforts invaluable. Larry was even appointed the official mascot for Veteran Recreation Co. veteranrecreation.org, an up and coming non profit that promotes positive lifestyle changes through recreation therapy for veterans pursuing mental health.

Credit: Lindsay Hill