Podcast Episode July 22, 2018

Podcast 004 | Guide’s Roundtable




Over the summer months Ryan and Andrew are taking a break from the long format episodes to bring you a few different variations on the podcast. This episode features a conversation with a few of the Backpacking Light Wilderness Adventure guides. Kevin Fletcher, Dan Wielenga, and Adam Van Zee all joined Ryan in the Beartooth Wilderness in June for a guide training. In the car on the way home, conversation turned to the philosophy and “soft skills” of ultralight backpacking.

Later in the episode, Ryan gives a brief rundown of the new Garmin inReach Mini and previews the upcoming BPL Trekking Poles gear guide. Andrew is moving to Lake Tahoe and considering a 2019 PCT thru-hike.


  • Ryan and Andrew introduce the episode format
  • Ryan introduces the guides he will be talking to
  • Guest interview, Round Table Format: Backpacking Light Wilderness Adventure Guides Kevin, Dan, and Adam
    • How to define ultralight backpacking?
      • Simplicity
      • Weight range 15 – 25 pounds
      • Doesn’t necessarily mean having super high end gear
        • What works for you?
    • Length of trip (expedition style) can mean heavier packs even if ultralight skills and ideas are being practiced
      • Base weight vs food weight
      • Ultralight is a mindset
    • Ultralight can often be misinterpreted
      • Does the classic “cutting the handle off the toothbrush” move automatically make you an ultralight backpacker?
      • It’s a first step!
      • Ultralight backpacking is a methodology
        • Application of methodology across different types of trips
        • Skills, techniques, certain types of gear that allow you to simplify systems
        • Streamlined systems
        • Focus on experience
    • Reducing complexity leads to a reduction of packweight—in general
      • Multi-use items
    • Some ounces are worth adding for the sake of experience
      • Those items and that experience is different for everybody
      • Baking soda vs toothpaste
      • Going light helps you have a better experience
      • Searching for the optimal experience is a process that involves subtracting and sometimes adding weight over time
      • The search for simplicity is also an individual pursuit
    • How minimalism is misunderstood
      • Not just about what is necessary vs not necessary
      • What adds value?
    • Item evaluation and how to determine if it enhances experience
      • One item at a time
      • Research
      • Can it be lighter? Can it be eliminated?
    • Hiking in groups where not everyone is lightweight
      • How much are folks enjoying the experience?
    • How tradition and lack of experimentation leads to a mistaken belief about the importance of items
      • Education
    •  Exploring the idea that certain pieces of gear are necessary for certain experiences
      • Depth vs breadth of experience
    • Lightweight backpacking as a gateway for family / loved ones
    • Ultralight backpacking  = more fun?
      • Intentionality and research
      • Cottage gear companies
    • Systems
      • Changing one part of the system often leads to changing other parts of the system
    • Enjoyability of the experience
      • How much more can you see and experience with a lighter pack?
      • Travel farther, see more
      • Options opened up
    • Durability and quality of gear – how important is it?
      • What drives your gear choices?
      • Marketing vs actual needs
    • Hard Skills / Performance / Longevity
      • Ultralight octogenarians
    • Family Backpacking
      • Children experiencing the wonders of nature
      • Ultralight methods allow families to backpack enjoyably
      • For kids the outdoors should be fun
      • The challenges of outfitting a family with gear affordably
      • Longer trips with families
    • Ultralight backpacking as a catalyst for quality time with friends / loved ones
      • Less investment of time and energy
      • Lowering the barriers to get to the trailhead
  • Ryan and Andrew break down the conversation
    • Pros / cons of solo vs group backpacking
    • The affordability of ultralight backpacking
      • What is ultralight backpacking about?
        • Materials?
      •  You can go as light as possible and spend a lot of money, or you can go ALMOST as light as possible and spend far less
    • Hard skills and gear vs philosophy, soft skills, and relationships
  • Gear
    • Garmen InReach Mini
      • Two way satellite messaging
        • Allows wilderness trips at times when zero communication is not an option
      • Pairs with smartphone
      • Half the size and weight of the old InReach
        • Huge step forward
      • Bluetooth pairing to phone
      • Using device for messaging without the smartphone is extremely clumsy
        • Smartphone needed for messaging / mapping
      • Retails for $350.00 plus service plans
      • Check out the review on the website! Link below.
  • Here and Now
    • Ryan and Chase backpacked the Snowy Range and went off trail
    • Ryan is hip deep in trekking poles, screening over a hundred models for the upcoming Trekking Pole gear guide
      • Poles are still pretty heavy in general
      • Folding poles
      • Durability of poles over time
        • Shaft material
        • Common failure points on poles
    • Personal trekking pole preferences
    • Trekking pole strategies for getting your hands free quickly
    • Andrew’s family is moving to Lake Tahoe
    • Andrew’s possible 2019 PCT thru-hike
      • Logistical challenges
      • Discussion of speeds while thru-hiking
      • FKT thoughts


Feedback, Questions, Tips?

  • Submit them via email or Twitter and get featured on our next podcast!


  • Backpacking Light – Executive Producer
  • Ryan Jordan – Director and Host
  • Andrew Marshall – Producer, Host, and Editor
  •  Kevin Fletcher, Dan Wielenga, and Adam Van Zee – Guest Interview
  • Look for Me in the Mountains – Music

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