I know everyone would bring at least one or two luxury items when they go on a backpacking trip. It could be an sitpad, a fancy chair, fishing gears (if they are into fishing), inflatable pillow, etc. I’m personally always bringing my camera gears on every single trip that I go.
I got introduced to backpacking back in college when a buddy of mine invited me on a trip. I have done plenty of roadtrip, hiking, camping and mostly doing a lot of photography when I have a chance. My set up back then was a big full-frame Nikon DSLR with its holy trinity lens. I didn’t know what backpacking was back then, but all I heard from him is this is going to be a lot of fun and lots of views to take pictures of!
Sure, I was lured into the “trap”. I started to go online and doing a ton of research. Damn, this new “hobby” is as expensive as my photography hobby itself. Gears are insanely expensive. The lighter the gear is, the more expensive it gets. I remember questioning myself, “Why would someone spent $300-$500 on a single tent to save 1.5lbs vs a cheap alternative tent on Amazon?” “Why would someone spent $300-$400 on a single sleeping bag? There are other options that is $100-$200 cheaper elsewhere”
So I pulled myself a list of “Cheap and Budget Friendly” items from Amazon and purchased all at once. After the gears arrived, I tried to put everything together along with my photography gear. Since I’m in Southern California and mostly hiking in the Sierra, bear canister is always a must. With everything “fits” in the backpack, well my sleeping bag was hanging on top of the bag while the tent was attached to the bottom outside of the pack, I weighted my set up, it came out to be a whopping 40lbs without food and water and with very minimal clothing. (Well, my camera gear itself was 15 lbs with just bringing 1 camera 1 lens and a tripod)
Like HOLY SMOKE, 40 lbs without food and water. That was just a weekend trip, so add maybe few more pounds, it’ll be somewhere in a low 50lbs. I thought to myself, “I’m a big dude, I can do this, this is ezpz”.
I remembered on that big day, I thought to myself, “4 miles to camp, it’s nothing. I did 10 miles hike before, this is a piece of cake”. Sure is … Coming up straight from Sea Level to 9000ft, with a heavy pack in the back and the elevation difference from where I’m used to be at, I would say that was the most brutal 4 miles hike I ever did. I started at 10AM, I didn’t get to camp till 5PM.
After arrived to camp, even though the view is really nice, but I did not have any energy left to do anything. The food wasn’t tasty. The night was cold. Sleeping pad was suck when you have to blew it up after an exhausted day. It got to the point where I wanted to go back home, back to my comfort home and not have to deal with all of these anymore.
After I got home from the trip, I started to question myself, “There has to be another way to backpack and enjoy like everyone said. It’s not supposed to be miserable like this” I started to do more research and upgrading my gears over years.
I started to sell of all my DSLR camera gear and switch to mirrorless camera to lower my base weight. I started to buy different tent $300-$400, to save myself 1.5lbs from my other tent that I bought. I bought another sleeping bag (this time is a down sleeping bag) along with a new backpack. In short, I just literally answered myself questions that I asked above. “Why would someone spent $300-$500 on a single tent to save 1.5lbs vs a cheap alternative tent on Amazon?” “Why would someone spent $300-$400 on a single sleeping bag? There are other options that is $100-$200 cheaper elsewhere” – This will allows for you to have a comfortable and enjoyable experience in the backcountry. The lighter the total weight of the pack, the less exhaustion you will get throughout the trip.
Backpacking is not a cheap hobby, but it allows me to expand my photography experience to the alpine lakes and high range mountains in the Sierra. A lot of people say you don’t need digital camera. Your phone is enough. Sure is. I agree with yall about that. But photography is a reason why I got myself into backpacking.
There is a pleasure feeling when you get to print out your own photos in a large scale and hang up in your room. That’s like an accomplishment that I see in myself.
Everyone has their own goal when it comes to backpacking. Some people go out their to crush the mileage. They want to hit the trail early and finish 15-20 or even 25 miles in a day. Some people go out just do couple miles like myself. I’m not there to torture myself, I’m there to enjoy the beautify scenery. I’m there to find and take pictures that I’m always imagined in my head. In the end of the day, as long as you are happy with what you did and accomplished, that’s what matters.
I’m still trying to work on my backpacking gears and photography gears to lower my baseweight even more now. I’m not trying to be “Ultralight”, but I’m more on the “Light Weight” with comfort. So if anyone have any suggestion, please let me know. I’m attaching my Lighterpack link at the bottom :)
Thanks a lot for reading and have a wonderful hike :)