Jul 25, 2013 at 6:39 pm #1305825
I wanted to relay some interesting observations I had over the last 16 days on the JMT, with "traditional" hiking folks; ie bigger or more traditional packs etc. I was really surprised with the lack of what I considered to be readily available "knowledge" about hiking lighter. I (we) were asked repeatedly about how light our packs were, and I believe it was just because we looked so comfortable on the trail, and because our packs barely reached our shoulders.
On a regular basis, I heard " I have to go lighter, I just can't do this anymore", and other comments that were a direct reflection on the impact of weight on their bodies. I spent most of my explaining not on specific gear info, but on the broader theory of using systems and techniques. I pointed out repeatedly that there were items that they had doubled up on, or even tripled up on. Multiple pairs of shoes, cups, bowls, coats, clothing, etc. Really surprised me just what folks were bringing with them. Cooking systems were a big item as most folks truly bring it all, and "the kitchen sink"… I also was surprised at the lack of confidence in themselves as hikers. It was like they were afraid to really trust themselves to going out there without their percieved life lines!
My sons pack size
My pack size
For reference, when we left MTR with out biggest re-supply, 6-7 days of food/fuel. Our trail weights were 23#, and 28# for us respectivley. With 2 liters each of water!
I did see a lot of UL packs, but they seemed to be being used with traditional gear. So is anyone else having these kinds of conversations on the trail these days? I'd be interested to hear what you are experiencing….Jul 25, 2013 at 7:04 pm #2009539
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
"Are you fellas out on a day hike?"
"But you're carrying day packs."
Lately I have been using my old jansport school backpack for low elevation summer hiking. All I really need is my summerlite, sleeping pad, windshirt, food, water, and that's it. My ohm is way too big for that. I'm sure I would get some weird looks carrying that pack 20 miles from the trail head.Jul 25, 2013 at 8:34 pm #2009578
I've had those conversations as well. I've done "on trail show and tell". I've given away my email address to dozens of folks who were interested in a smaller, lighter kit.
In the past 5 years NO ONE has every emailed me for information.
go figure…Jul 25, 2013 at 10:35 pm #2009624
@rglessLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
I've had these conversations with traditional gear hikers for several years now. I just tell them to look up ultralight backpacking on the web. I do have to admit I love it when someone asks me where I day hiked and I can tell them I've been out a week.Jul 26, 2013 at 9:30 am #2009713
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
Maybe you'll get some converts! :)
My pack is standard size but (with bear can and all consumables, water etc) 28#. But people can't tell looking at the size of my pack how light it is. Sometimes I regret that. Hard to get converts unless I have them pick my pack up.Aug 4, 2013 at 3:58 pm #2012322
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
A couple years ago I did a section hike on the JMT and my experience was similar to yours. My pack wasn't even quite as small as yours. It was like everybody I met apologized to me for carrying so much stuff. Or else they would just tell me, unbidden, that they were purposefully going slow to enjoy it more out there, as if to say to me that my light load meant I was going too fast to enjoy the scenery. At least I could look somewhere other than down while I walked.
I couldn't believe how much stuff people had. I saw quite often some people had huge backpacks with a second large, fully stuffed day pack strapped on top. They staggered and were clearly suffering under their loads, rest-stepping even on level parts of the trail.
I spent a long time today talking to a local retailer. He says he can't sell the ultralight stuff because people will either hurt themselves, use it wrong and break it, or all the above plus the small companies tend to go out of business too often to carry their products. Furthermore, he believes that the only people out backpacking anymore are old. Young people are no longer being taught or are no longer interested.
As long as it's too hard to get ultralight gear, and as long as the big manufacturers make their things lighter than whatever someone has somewhere in their garage (but still not that light) and use keywords like "ultralight" in their marketing, few will ever experience hiking light. It really takes word-of-mouth by people like us. We should all share our knowledge when we can, when it seems like someone is interested.Aug 4, 2013 at 4:14 pm #2012330
"As long as it's too hard to get ultralight gear.."
It doesn't have to be –Aug 4, 2013 at 5:42 pm #2012368
The important question is, what pencil did they bring?Aug 4, 2013 at 5:53 pm #2012374
I have sort of given up trying to help people out by disseminating information.
Im not sure why, but they will listen, agree, then go right back to their old ways.
I assume they are afraid to buck the mainstream brainwashing that has been done to them.
Deep down, they think something bad will happen if they dont bring everything they can.
They usually end up defensive anyway, its like admitting they are ignorant or are doing it wrong.
Im quick to point out there is no right and wrong, only different ways to accomplish the same thing.
The more you make it seem like they missed readily available information, the more defensive they get about their heavy gear.
Now if they ask, I answer questions. Thats about it.Aug 4, 2013 at 5:57 pm #2012377
@dipinkLocale: Western Washington
Neither my boyfriend nor I are truly ultralight, but we get this all the time when we're out. We still regret to this day not having a trailside "what's in your pack" show-and-tell with one fellow who had stopped to take his pack off. It was damn near as tall as I am sitting on the ground. We were in a highly popular area on the Wonderland Trail, and he thought we were out for a day hike. He was shocked to hear we'd been out for 5 days already, and had another 4 to go, all with packs half the size of his. What the hell did he have, a circus tent?Aug 4, 2013 at 5:59 pm #2012379
I don't understand the evangelical approach and need to convert people to lightweight backpacking. I don't understand why people try to talk others into backpacking at all. There are already too many people on the trails and in the backcountry.Aug 4, 2013 at 6:05 pm #2012385
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
"There are already too many people on the trails and in the backcountry."
Hike off trail. Problem solved. Even in some areas that get bombarded with casual backpackers, you can walk off trail and never see anyone (or any traces of people). A good example of this is Big Sur.Aug 4, 2013 at 6:14 pm #2012390
those people are out there doing what they love doing …
thats what matters
;)Aug 4, 2013 at 8:43 pm #2012443
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
"I don't understand why people try to talk others into backpacking at all."
If there are few backpackers then no one will know about the wilderness so it will be "harvested"
If there are more backpackers then wilderness will be more likely to be preserved.Aug 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm #2012631
Interesting thread. I think that retailers are the biggest problem of people taking way too much on the trail. I love my beloved REI but they drive me crazy. Everytime I go in there I overhear one of their folks trying to convince someone to buy heavy leather boots and massive packs. I swear their advise is straight out of the '70's. I went in to specifically buy a 33 litre pack for a Kilimanjaro climb (we have to use guides that carry the tents and bags so I don't need much) and the guy said that I had to get one over 40 litres. I asked him why and he said 'that's what I tell everyone'. Hmmmm, who is doing the training there?Aug 5, 2013 at 1:42 pm #2012648
"I think that retailers are the biggest problem of people taking way too much on the trail."
Hmm… of course retailers try to sell stuff, that is how they make money. I learned a long, long, long time ago not to trust salespeople.Aug 5, 2013 at 9:03 pm #2012795
I kind of get the op's sentiment. I don't usually try to give people impromptu advice but i feel awful when i see older folks with expedition packs suffering. I'm more surprised how out of shape some people are on the trail. I find getting in shape for hiking makes more sense than hiking to get in shape.
I'm not ul, just barely lightweight really. I'm at about 28 lbs all in for three nights four days. I could easily ditch a book, camp shoes, camera, gps along with their extra batteries and extra food to lose maybe four pounds but I like the luxuries so I hang on to them. I've noticed a lot of people in the 30-40 lb range for 3-4 days and some way heavier. I think people are getting lighter but they just dont know about all the cottage manufacturers so their big three is heavier than they need to be. I've been to pukaskwa, kluane, denali, tombstones, and robson parks this summer and only saw one group with ul gear and spoke to maybe one other person who has heard of any of these companies. I think many want to go light but are restricted by what they find in places like mec.Aug 5, 2013 at 9:27 pm #2012805
are just not interested enough to change their gear because they only use it one week a year. People can research so easily now.
No excuse to put up and suffer with a heavy pack.Aug 5, 2013 at 9:39 pm #2012812
@pitsyLocale: Central Texas
Well in my case, if I went out right now I'd be BPH. I'm coming at this from a car-camping set of gear. I used to get out several times a year with my wife (now my ex), and she liked to be comfortable. And I think a lot of folks are the same way. It's hard to justify shelling out for all new stuff when the stuff you have works just fine. You just buy a pack big enough to haul all your crap and that's what you go with.
Luckily for me, when my ex moved back to California she took our tent and sleeping bags, the Coleman stove and lantern, and the ridiculous air-mattress she insisted we sleep on.
As far as hiking long miles with a heavy pack, no thanks. I almost crippled myself once hitchhiking from San Diego to New York City with a 45# pack. Never again. But for a multiday trip where I'm just hiking to a campsite down the trail apiece and setting up for a few nights, heavy gear is OK. I'm slowly getting lighter though.Aug 5, 2013 at 9:42 pm #2012816
Time is a problem for a lot of people. The closest overnight hiking is 3.5 hours away from me back home and sadly no mountains like here out west. I'll probably continue with GAS like the thread below though!Aug 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm #2012821
In all fairness to heavy backpackers, perhaps they just don't care. Obviously people here are passionate about lightweight gear, but some others quite simply could care less.
I don't spend an awful lot of time researching things that aren't my hobbies. Backpacking light is just another hobby. It captivates us, but is boring and inconsequential to some other people – even if backpacking or hiking is something they enjoy.
I could make similar arguments about cars or fishing gear and a large group here might see and understand the logical arguments I could make about those hobbies, yet go about their lives driving some boring car or fishing with some crappy gear that gets the job mostly done.
Others here are pretty passionate photographers. I like taking pictures. And I understand the value of high end camera gear. But I'm not passionate about it, so I'm content to get by with the camera I've got. It doesn't mean I'm ignorant about photography equipment.
There are all kinds of niche hobbies out there that aren't for everyone. Guess what? The community here happens to share one such niche hobby. It doesn't make us better or smarter than others…just differentAug 7, 2013 at 7:02 am #2013224
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
You have a point. I don't carry heavy camera gear either. I am happy with snapshots and a point and shoot. I don't pursue photography as a passion. But I think this is different when we're talking about people on a JMT thru-hike or something. I mean, these ARE people who have backpacking as a passion. And their response to those of us who do have lightweight gear is really odd. And the response of the retailers is really odd.
At least the retailer I spoke to did say that he is phasing out the big expedition packs. He thinks they're not necessary for most people. He has two in stock and all the rest of his packs are really nice ones that I would actually use. Osprey has an ultralight model that was available, and there were a number of similar packs. I used an Osprey Aura 65L pack for part of the PCT. Carries 22lbs of added water a lot better than a G4. He also had numerous other things on the low end for standard non-cottage companies.Aug 7, 2013 at 8:13 am #2013234
a long time ago I stopped trying to convince anybody of anything. people tend to live in fear of what they are not accustomed to so, they resist.
to think that you 'need less' in society that applauds 'having more' doesn't make sense. in itself it's a fringe idea and one that isn't conducive to consumption. the core of ultralight philosophy runs counter to pop-culture.
on the flip-side this idea of 'needing less' can lead to puritanical, self-righteous, extremes. which isn't much better than wanton, fear driven, consumerism.
my 2 centsAug 9, 2013 at 1:52 pm #2013972
I guess that while hiking along the trail, and really enjoying the pure love of just walking in the mountains, it's hard to see folks who outwardly are in pain, or who are expending an obvious amount of effort to move on the trail. I don't want to preach to any of these folks, but I sure feel for them, especially since I know from 35 years of climbing just what it feels like to carry those big loads. I guess as humans we do kind of stick to that maxim of "… will we ever learn…"Aug 12, 2013 at 9:37 am #2014585
ULers often replace heavy gear items with experience and skills, rather than just going out and buying a lighter version. For people who only get out for one trip a year, acquiring those skills may not seem possible. For example, a tarp instead of a tent, or a twig fire instead of a canister stove.
If someone is really into hiking, they'll get out and do it and learn what works for them–at their own pace. I love talking gear and technique with people who are genuinely interested and eager to learn, and I meet more and more of those people. For instance: I regularly drink out of a Platypus at work, which my students find totally intriguing–and just about everyone can appreciate the convenience of a bottle that collapses down to next-to-nothing when it's empty. "Whoa, it's like a reusable Capri Sun!" a kid once exclaimed to me.
A lot of people I meet who've been bitten by the UL bug are older folks facing the possibility of knee/ankle/hip surgery, back and shoulder problems, etc, who simply wouldn't be able to get out in the mountains if it weren't for UL gear. After being warned you'll never backpack again, it must feel great to get out and prove the medical "experts" wrong.
Younger folks are often resistant to UL gear for lots of reasons. There's an element of machismo to "proving" you can carry a heavy pack up a mountain. When you're young and your body repairs itself easily, you may not be aware of the damage you're doing until years later.
Moreover, many people are intimidated by the apparent cost of replacing gear, especially "Big 3" items; I carried the same pack from the time I was in high school til well after I was done with university. Luckily, it "only" weighed 3 lbs and fit well, but justifying a new pack was very hard for me until I had all but destroyed my first one. And if I didn't hike and travel regularly, it would have taken me a lot longer to destroy that Gregory. :) I'd love a 1 lb shelter, but it's not in the budget right now, so my 2 lb option will have to suffice.
The heart and soul of UL, however, isn't buying fancy gear; it's being able to look long and hard at what you take with you, what you take for granted, and ask yourself whether you really need it or not. I see people carrying 16 oz bottles of Dr Bronners, sunscreen, bug stuff, etc, on weekend trips. Putting your toiletries in mini bottles costs next to nothing!
In my experience, it isn't possible to "convert" people, and I'm not a fan of anyone who treats their beliefs like gospel that must be preached–especially when I'm in the mountains. But, if you're out with an 8 lb base weight and you are clearly safe and comfortable and happy (and good company on the trail), *that* makes a strong impression on other hikers, and is probably the best way to be a UL "ambassador".
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