When Luxury Becomes Necessity
Nov 22, 2019 at 1:52 am #3619900W I S N E R !BPL Member
I was wondering about this Yuval Harari quote (from Sapiens) and its applicability in the backpacking world:
“One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations. Once people get used to a certain luxury, they take it for granted. Then they begin to count on it. Finally they reach a point where they can’t live without it.”
‘Tis the season to be inundated with black Friday ads and consumerism. I dusted off an old copy of Jardine’s Beyond Backpacking last night; compared with slick REI ads and Patagonia catalogues, it reads like a relic from another world…and sort of kindled a newfound respect for the man.Nov 22, 2019 at 2:29 am #3619906rubmybelly!BPL Member
@sleepingLocale: The Cascades
I can really relate, unfortunately from one who has become accustomed to a certain degree of comfort. I’ve become so accustomed to a car with heated seats, backup camera and blind spot monitoring I can’t see ever getting a car without such things. My current car even has adaptive cruise control, which I’m quickly believing is a necessity moving forward (no pun intended).
I got along quite well without any of these things for most of my life — and suddenly they’ve become necessities. Ugh.Nov 22, 2019 at 3:50 am #3619923W I S N E R !BPL Member
“I can really relate, unfortunately from one who has become accustomed to a certain degree of comfort.”
Who hasn’t? Such is the way it seems.
I still do about 50% of my trips with a 3/4 Ridgerest., tarp, and my GoLite Jam rucksack. I like the simplicity, but it’s also a silly and rather futile act of defiance- but it does help me remember just how soft a 2.5″ thick Neoair really is. At the rate things are going, backpacking mattresses will be 6″ thick, heated, 3oz., and $500 soon.Nov 22, 2019 at 3:56 am #3619927Greg MihalikBPL Member
Heated? Sign Me Up!Nov 22, 2019 at 5:45 pm #3619987Nick GatelBPL Member
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
I still do about 50% of my trips with a 3/4 Ridgerest., tarp, and my GoLite Jam rucksack. I like the simplicity, but it’s also a silly and rather futile act of defiance- but it does help me remember just how soft a 2.5″ thick Neoair really is.
I operated similarly until I hit the age of 60. Biggest “concession” was a NeoAir. Just got too difficult to get great night’s sleep on a foam pad. Other than that, I make a concerted effort to avoid other backpacking luxuries as they, for me, change my outdoors experience.
On the other hand, I’m in the same school as Doug when it comes to cars. Don’t need heated seats or backup camera, but power windows and door locks, cruise control, and satellite radio are features I “need.” Now that we have had a 75” TV and surround sound for several years I can’t imagine going back to the “huge” 27” thing I used to have. At the same time I cut the cord finding cable or satellite TV was a luxury we don’t need at all — something I learned from my kids and their millennial friends.Nov 22, 2019 at 7:36 pm #3620005Tipi WalterBPL Member
In the old days many primitive North American Indians lived in buffalo hide tipis and used dog travois’s to haul gear—along with old style basket packs. They still had technology and gear—buffalo/bear fur hides supplied winter warmth—tipis were designed as inverted tilted cones with a liner so they were staying warm inside a chimney—in effect—with an open fire.
Before horses people still had to haul stuff around but they used natural materials of course.
Backpackers have been around probably for the last 20,000 years. Eventually canvas packs emerged and then pack frames (think Norman Clyde with his Trapper Nelson wooden pack frame and canvas pack bag etc). Who spun the canvas? Who forged the metal parts and/or hipbelts?? And don’t forget the ubiquitous Wool blankets.
Plastics emerged after WW2 and so here we are—with Cuben and Spectra and Cordura 500 and aluminum poles and eVent and GTX and all the rest. Is such technology bad? Is it worse than using a grizzly bear fur for warmth? Or a buffalo hide? The Ute Indians used rabbit hides sewn into circular long strips for winter jackets. Now we process Geese for our warmth.
The prevalence of plastics and nano-plastics might kill us all in the end—as these plastics are in our bloodstreams and we’re carrying around a pound of plastics inside our bodies etc.Nov 22, 2019 at 8:38 pm #3620014JohnBPL Member
@johnnyh88Locale: The SouthWest
Sometimes I leave my Helinox chair at home and just sit on a log or on the ground at camp. It feels good to carry less, but I don’t enjoy my in-camp time as much and regret not bringing it. Now I wonder how I was happy in camp all those years pre-chair.Nov 23, 2019 at 7:50 pm #3620148KarenBPL Member
The blessing of being older and weaker, is that I cannot carry all those luxuries. I just can’t do it. I’m 55 and have autoimmune arthritis and things are starting to fall apart. I need a lighter pack if I’m going to go. So I have less stuff and find ways to use simple luxuries – like a foam sit pad – make my camping more pleasant. Maybe I’m just learning to hone down to the luxuries that matter most.
I backpacked when I was in my teens, twenties, thirties. Then I had kids, and a long interval without actual backpacking, just car camping, and mostly working, way too much working. When I went out the first few times after that long interval, I thought I would need things and wouldn’t be happy without them – cups and bowls and forks and lanterns and multiple books and frying pan and pillow – I thought I had to have really good coffee. I didn’t need any of it to be happy out in nature. A hot cup of coffee, no matter what brand or how it’s prepared, is a luxury that makes me totally happy. If someone else is cooking, I’m happily eating whatever they make. Simple luxuries.
I guess it’s a mindset, and I’m just so glad I can still go, that not much else matters. Now I wonder why I ever needed more.Nov 23, 2019 at 7:52 pm #3620149KarenBPL Member
Tipi I’ll bet that 55 year olds, back in the days you describe, weren’t the ones doing most of the load hauling!Nov 24, 2019 at 1:13 am #3620197Tom KBPL Member
“I guess it’s a mindset, and I’m just so glad I can still go, that not much else matters. Now I wonder why I ever needed more.”
About as well said as it could possibly be. Thank you, Karen, for cutting to the chase and bypassing all the CHAFF, if you’ll excuse the pun.
Would that we could channel our ancestors, circa 20,000 BCE, and get their take on this discussion. I have a hunch that their version of luxury might be a cave with a narrow, easily defended entrance, an abundance of fire wood to assist in that most basic of functions, and a nearby source of water. Almost certainly, they had to make do with much less most of the time. And yet, here we, the genetic beneficiaries of their ingenuity, are today, discussing things like UL folding chairs….perspective. It’s hard for me, at least, to escape the irony. ;0)Dec 4, 2019 at 2:28 am #3621426HkNewmanBPL Member
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
Speaking of the “Ray-Way”, wonder how many are at #4 on the latest swami post?
In the non-backpacking realm, I’ve about had it. When I had cable, I remember watching the morning news when a commercial for the zombie show “The Living Dead” plays. Who wants to eat oatmeal or whatever while watching a decaying corpse? Scratch one luxury, … though I’ll rent movies over the internet (connected to a television) if not needing the big screen for the effects.Dec 4, 2019 at 5:02 am #3621439GumboBPL Member
@redgumLocale: Aussie in exile in the PNW
Sometimes I leave my Helinox chair at home and just sit on a log or on the ground at camp. It feels good to carry less, but I don’t enjoy my in-camp time as much and regret not bringing it. Now I wonder how I was happy in camp all those years pre-chair.
+1Dec 4, 2019 at 5:24 am #3621442HkNewmanBPL Member
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
..its applicability in the backpacking world
Backpack wise, it’ll probably be a puffier sleeping stuff all around and perhaps going back to a one-piece single-wall shelter for most applications (though the latter requires more searching for the footprint, so perhaps an offset).
Thinking about it, higher fills of down and better sleeping pads are pretty much the “end-all” of luxury that I can foresee needing (unless there’s some quantum leap in materials). I’ll add an oz here and there, but good sleep is no luxury.Dec 4, 2019 at 1:04 pm #3621470Brad PBPL Member
Are you backpacking to enjoy time in the wilderness or to prove how little you can take and not die?
Going light increases enjoyment. Going with the absolute bare minimum doesn’t add enjoyment for everyone.
Be safe, have fun, LNT and don’t worry what others think.Dec 4, 2019 at 2:24 pm #3621475Monte MastersonBPL Member
@septimiusLocale: Changes Often
The words Luxury and Necessity oppose each other. For example, according to dictionary.com Luxury is a) a material object, service, etc conducive to sumptuous living, usually a delicacy, elegance or refinement of living rather than a necessity.
b) free or habitual indulgence in or enjoyment of comforts and pleasure in addition to those necessary for a reasonable standard of well being.
I also think some may be underestimating the intelligence and level of comfort Neolithic peoples were able to achieve.
Reminds me of a book I read about Emperor Hadrian and how he attempted to figure out why the Legions on the Rhine frontier had become so ineffective. He soon learned that soldiers had acquired soft beds to sleep on. He immediately ordered them done away with because he argued that it made his soldiers soft and weak.Dec 4, 2019 at 2:56 pm #3621483JohnBPL Member
@johnnyh88Locale: The SouthWest
I saw this comic on pmag’s site, and it reminded me of this discussion:Dec 4, 2019 at 5:11 pm #3621500Erica RBPL Member
My luxury is less weight on my back. Geeze… I’m looking a a DCF tent which will cost about $30-$35/oz to save me 8-9 oz over a silnylon version.Dec 4, 2019 at 5:29 pm #3621503Brian WBPL Member
Some gear is ridiculously priced. I can start a topic on backpacking inequality based on the prices I see for gear. But what would really help people out is inexpensive lightweight gear, meaning they can find most of it at their local Walmart. REI has become more and more yuppie. And Bass Pro Shop isn’t all that cheaper.
REI pushes their opt outside thing, but they don’t price out even their store brand to make it affordable. Now, you can go day hiking with good shoes and gym clothes. But if you try to put together car camping gear at REI, it gets really expensive fast.
It’s a luxury to go backpacking and camping. Mainstream gear is pretty light these days. The next step is cheaper cost per ounce and still light to make this hobby more inclusive and less back breaking.
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