Delmar’s Poll

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    Stephanie Jordan


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    Companion forum thread to:

    Delmar's Poll

    David Ure


    Oh my God, I'm average.

    Thanks to Delmar and the BPL staff for compiling this.

    BPL Member


    "This item contains a few surprises, although the zero entries for 'nuclear' does not surprise me. I wonder what Delmar was thinking here?"

    Well water can be treated by the UV light from the sun… which is nuclear powered.

    Alex H
    BPL Member


    Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW

    Ha Ha, "Oh my God, I'm average."

    Dave I am in the same boat with a few exceptions.

    Delmar and Roger thank you for doing this and the quick turn around!

    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Right there

    Roger. You really need to fix that Cuban thing.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    > Roger. You really need to fix that Cuban thing.
    What Cuban thing?


    Bob Gross
    BPL Member


    Locale: Silicon Valley

    Cuben Fiber, not Cuban Fiber.


    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Ah, Phooey. I always get that wrong.
    OK, I will pass the message. Thanks.


    Simon Kenton
    BPL Member


    Great stuff, thanks for the work guys. I enjoyed it.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    Roger, who doesn't enjoy a good Cuben in the woods?

    Craig Gulley
    BPL Member


    Locale: Midwest

    I am surprised and disappointed at how many of the respondents still bury their TP and do not pack it out. Still need to "spread" the word

    Sam Haraldson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Gallatin Range

    Toilet paper? Pshaw!

    Ross Bleakney
    BPL Member


    Locale: Cascades

    >> Given the weight and cost of Gore-Tex

    I think Jacket 1 also includes Propore (unless I am mistaken). In which case, it is both cheap and light. Not quite as light as a really light poncho, but a poncho can't double as bug gear. But of course, a jacket can't double as a tarp.

    Speaking of which, I know for myself, the main reason I use a tent is because of bugs, not foul weather. I could probably get by just fine with a tarp if I was only concerned about rain. But in the summer in the Northwest, bugs are a much bigger nuisance. A lot of the tarptents have weights that are close (if not lighter) than a tarp/bivy combination. Likewise, a lot of the double walled, or at least hybrid walled tents are lighter than the average single walled tents (e. g. Refuge X).

    In that regard, the use of tents is similar to the use of canister stove. As the stoves have gotten lighter and more efficient, the difference has shrunk. There is nothing in here about the number of people on a typical trip, but I imagine there is a correspondence there as well. Go out for a week long trip with a couple friends and a canister stove is probably lighter (for the group). That being said, I agree with you, I think that is the most surprising part of this survey. I personally think canister stoves are a bigger hassle, since I have to figure out which canister to bring (how much is left, etc.). But once I start cooking, they are much, much easier.

    I would imagine there is a strong correspondence between roughness of terrain and pole usage. The Northwest has a lot of very steep trails. California has its share, even though it has a lot more smooth ones. I think all it takes is one long steep section (especially going down) for folks to want to bring the poles. The fact that trekking poles double as tent poles (very strong ones at that) may bump the numbers as well.

    Mark Turpin
    BPL Member


    Most of the backpackers I see on the trail have 40lb packs, as if Jardine never wrote a word, and they certainly never read it. So, just to have an interest in the idea that a lighter pack might make a better experience—is unusual, but must be common to all subscribers of BPL. As far as I'm concerned, all the rest is dogma, and yet, I'm a lifetime member of BPL because my pack weight has dropped, and everything is a considered choice, I will never go pack rafting. I will never trail run, Long distance backpacking is tempting, but my time and inclination is better suited for shorter, more intense trips. I find myself much more interested in the nuances of short crosscountry journeys, in which I'm making my own choices about how to cross terrain, which necessities lower not greater daily mileage. For me, I could never run out of places to go in the Sierras, why go anywhere else? The possibility of perhaps having more than the usual acquaintance with this one vast place is sufficient challenge for me. Does any of this make me an average BPLer? In some ways i think It probably does. I not sure what the survey was for, but I would hope it would help BPL continue to tune into its readership.

    jimmy b
    BPL Member


    Average +1 more

    except being a bag user seems to make me a bit of dinosaur. The amount of quilt users was very interesting but really not that surprising. Don't know much about the finer points of polling but it sure was fun to participate and compare notes at the end. Thanks all for the work put in.

    Delmar, give those poles a try and stick with them at least long enough so they are second nature to you. Then if you still find them cumbersome leave 'em at home. Maybe not for the Australian bush, but I was an early convert and have used them for years. The lighter the better!

    I must confess though I now am pretty much forced into using poles having lost my inner ear function 4 years ago. Poles keep me upright, especially when the trail narrows and the drop offs become widow makers :)


    terry a thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: West

    Thanks Delmar and Roger, Great work and very interesting!

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    Kind of like I thought

    Most people have a 12 pound base weight, not super lightweight

    Most people have canister stove – lightweight, convenient, powerful – not those alcohol or esbit stoves

    Most people use toilet paper and bury it (I can not think of a time in hundreds of nights out that I've dug a hole and someone else has already done so. I have seen piles of toilet paper and worse on the surface – but that's just an a**hole)

    I'm surprised how many people use down rather than synthetic, but it is lighter.

    Most people have rainjackets, like Gore-Tex or eVent. Yeah they're a bit heavy and they don't work perfectly, but it's the best thing if it's rainy.

    Most people use water filter, like the Sawyer Squeeze. Steripen UV are just too finicky although they work good for a lot of people – until that time it doesn't work

    Longest trip for most people is 80 miles. Relatively few are able to do a thru-hike or whatever.

    I'm surprised how many people use two trekking poles. I rarely use one. Must be an anomoly. Delmar, you must have worded that question incorrectly…

    Gary Dunckel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Boulder

    I think the results are interesting, but not too unexpected. I am thinking that there might have been another "locale'–Rocky Mountains? Almost all of my backpacking has been in CO, WY, and MT, but the closest choice offered was SW U.S.

    Thanks for coming up with this idea, Delmar. And also thanks to Roger for a speedy publication of the results (and your fun comments).

    John Giesemann
    BPL Member


    So, the majority of BPLers: carry a pack from 40-60 liters with a base weight of 8 to 16 pounds and 2 trekking poles. Sleeping in a tent or under a tarp with a down quilt/sleeping bag and pillow is the preferred method. Many seem to be cold natured as 55% have a cover rated less than 32 degrees. Almost all of them cook, primarily with a canister/alcohol/ESBIT stove, and hang their food at night. Most have a breathable rain jacket and about half of those carry rain pants. Water treatment leans heavily toward a filter and they find that water and their way using a compass and map. Most use toilet paper and bury it. Many talk on, or at least carry, a smart phone.

    The vast majority are hiking in North America for 8 to 30 nights a year, with more than half of those being in the west. Most don’t go too far from home, usually within 1 to 4 hours or 40 to 320 miles of home. They prefer moderate conditions at practically any elevation up to 12,000 feet.

    Seems like a pretty normal bunch of hikers. The message of light weight does seem to be getting across, at least according to base weight numbers. It would be interesting to know the total carried weight once food, fuel, and water are added. Also, how much water do they carry; just enough to get to the next water source or significantly more. I would also like to know the ratio of 2/3 day hikes (e.g. Friday to Sunday) to longer hikes. I wonder how many of them hike with a friend/group versus solitary hiking. Obviously, water filters are the primary treatment method, but how has this changed in the last three years? Have chemical and UV treatment increased significantly or has improved filtering methods such as gravity and squeeze negated that increase?

    Very interesting poll. I hope you repeat it soon with the suggestions made by the commenters. Thanks for the work.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    > I am surprised and disappointed at how many of the respondents still bury their TP
    > and do not pack it out.
    I am not surprised. Let's be logical about this: given the very successful way the backcountry manages to handle all those animals pooing everywhere, I cannot see why it could not handle a small number of humans as well. Just what is the dfference between a bear poo and a human poo?

    Now, packing out used TP. That seems to be a peculiarly USA political thing. The rest of the world does not even contemplate it. It may work for a couple of nights, but just what do you do when you are out for 2 weeks – or 2 months, as some of us are sometimes? The idea becomes farcical.

    In addition, what is the environmental cost of burying TP? I (strongly) suggest the cost is zero. TP is designed to break down quickly, so it will be gone soon enough – just like bits of leaf mulch and twigs rot away. The bacteria and fungii in the ground just do their thing. Again, I suggest that the do-not-bury thing is a bit of political ideology rather than having any solid environmental logic behind it.

    But always, HYOH. I don't mind, as long as you don't leave your TP (and poo) visible near the trail.


    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    > There is nothing in here about the number of people on a typical trip, but I imagine
    > there is a correspondence there as well. [re canister stoves]
    That is a very good point.

    There would seem to be some cultural factors here as well. It seems, although without a survey to get real figures, that a lot of American walkers sleep solo. That makes solo cooking a bit more logical. My experience in Australia/NZ and Europe is that there are a lot more small groups (2+) and more shared tents there, so there is more shared cooking. But that is just my impression: I might be wrong. Yup, data needed.


    Peter S
    BPL Member


    Locale: Denmark

    Roger wrote: "…in my opinion is the potential health hazard created by possible contamination on your hands when you don't use TP…"

    This is wrong, it's the other way around. You need to use many (approximately 20) layers of TP to be sure that no bacteria gets through. A nice rock or a stick is a 100% closed barrier.

    Tim Zen


    Locale: MI

    Wow — great data. I need to get cracking this year, I am way to the left on the days out this year.

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    wow! Do you really want to go there? : )

    It depends on how wet it is how many sheets of TP are required. And how long from contact to releasing it.

    Sam Farrington
    BPL Member


    Locale: Chocorua NH, USA

    Funny, but even with considerable meniscal damage in both knees, I still prefer just one pole, so long as it is a sturdy one that can support a lot of weight. A second one would just be a nuisance getting in the way.

    The "wheels" may refer to those two-wheeled carts that some pull on long trips. Australia's John Muir used one in the movie about his S-N trip across Oz.

    Could see the TP thing ending up with hundreds of posts like the Faux-Dini.
    Whatever you might think about China, the barefoot doctor period where the highly educated young were sent into the boonies to live and work with the peasantry had its points. Once in Colorado, I had just finished packing up, and was resting with the pooches a spell before beginning the day's trek, when this guy comes along with his cronies and walks all over the place in my vicinity with his nose about ten inches from the ground. Completely ignored me, no hello or nuttin'. Seemed like not finding anything almost ruined his day. These people drive me right up the wall, so I've had to develop numerous techniques to avoid them at all costs. A shame when I've met so many good folks on the trail.

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