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It was the summer of 2004 in the Sky Lakes Wilderness Area of southern Oregon, and with the continuous rain we’d had for several days, I was sure a few extra pounds were hitchhiking a ride on my pack. Still, I questioned it: physically hard working, 63 year old me having to ask my hiking buddy Jean’s assistance in heaving my 40-some pound pack onto my back. Bent over securing and adjusting the multitude of straps, I hoped I’d get it right the first time. Standing upright with a feeling of triumph, I shrugged my shoulders for a final adjustment and was ready for the day’s adventure. Then I heard a plea for help come from Jean, and with both of us lifting her pack, it too, was soon perched upon her back, waiting for adjustment.

“Watch your step!” I cautioned myself as I wobbled precariously next to a steep vertical drop. The view from 7,000 feet was spectacular, and I would have liked to have been gawking at the beauty surrounding me as I walked the zigzag section of trail. Instead, I was concerned with what was an uncomfortable load. A glimmer of thought flickered and I asked myself, “Just how much of this stuff do I really need?”

At our next rest break, the first words out of my mouth were “Jean, we need to lighten our load.” Carrying ten pounds more than I, she was very receptive to the idea.

That’s how I remember hiking buddy Jean Rogers and myself deciding it was time for us to go lightweight. How do we navigate the trail to lightweight backpacking? Where will it lead us? Well, we’re sharing our journey with Backpacking Light in a series of three articles, beginning here with our introductions to backpacking, our early backpacking experiences, and our current heavy gear lists. In the near future we’ll bring you our second article, with our many considerations in going lightweight, perhaps even ultra lightweight, and you’ll hear what we’ve learned, what skills we’ve gained, and what worked or didn’t on our gear testing trips. In our third article, we’ll share with you how our final gear choices perform for us on our 7 day, 90 mile hike of the Pacific Crest Trail from Crater Lake to Williametter Pass in September of this year. We’ll be backpacking at elevations of 5,000 to 8,000 feet, with warm to hot days, cold to freezing nights, and rain and thunderstorms very likely. It will be a great test of the gear and our skills. We hope you’ll join us as we go light!


  • Introduction
  • The Wise Women
    • Jean’s Story
    • Sue’s Story
  • Going Light
    • Jean
    • Sue
  • Backpacking Light
  • Gear Lists
    • Sue’s 7-Day Gear List: Heavy
    • Weight Summary
    • Jean’s 7-Day Gear List: Heavy
    • Weight Summary

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