Traditional vs ultra light. A brief essay

11:22 a.m. on January 30, 2016 (EST)
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I have been a backpacker since grade 8, so around about 34 years, before that a Boy scout. That taught me to always be prepared, probably to the point of being obsessive. I just retired my last piece of kit that I used on my first ever boy scout trip, a plastic coffee mug, which may still find its way back into my pack due to its light weight, durability and memories.

I wear hiking boots, I carry an actual cook set and a bomb proof 25 year old Peak 1 stove, and good rain gear. Regardless of the season, I always have a toque, gloves, gaiters and proper layers. I like to eat, well and with variety, and I ALWAYS cary extra food, a minimum of three days.. I also carry 60 feet of 8.5mm rope, my compass, map and a good knife as well as my Leatherman, a well stocked first aid and a repair kit are also always found in my pack. Not to mention occasionally some luxuries like a small crib board and cards if I am not going solo. Depending on when and where I am going I will also add a small folding saw or my mountaineering axe and crampons.

I have recently learned however that this makes me " stupid", "lack confidence in my abilities", " a foolish waste of energy" and somehow it puts me at an increased risk of injury ?? ( knock on wood, only been injured once when I blew out a knee, which had nothing to do with pack weight or my trusty boots, and I still hiked 3 more days to get out, all hail Ibuprofen)

These are all things I have learned while exposing my self to a couple of forums and watching youtube videos, which I had never really done before.

This trend is naturally called Ultra Light hiking. Carry next to nothing and go as fast as you can.

I am a seasoned backpacker, I started way back when it wasn't even the slightest bit cool to do it. As a result I am very set in my ways and will continue to hike as I always have.....well prepared. I go at a steady pace and stop as often as I feel to enjoy whatever the trail has to offer, mother nature being my God.

What scares me is that new people getting into it read and watch this stuff and follow it. My last hike on the West Coast trail I was floored to see so many people wearing runners. We saw one fellow carrying a huge guitar on his back who had to mooch food off others and who had no rain gear. The trip before that, the rope I always carry saved three hikers who chose not to consult their map before following the Ocean, and who were also short on food, and thankful that we had extra, as we spent three days waiting out a severe storm in a cave.

I just watched one Youtube video of a solo through hiker who was complaining that every time he hikes he gets stress fractures in his feet, and moments later is extolling the virtues of hiking in running shoes, flimsy looking ones at that because they are so light.

Another fellow carries no food that needs to be cooked, using granola bars,peanuts and energy gel. NO COFFEE, ack I can't imagine !!

It is constantly in the news about SAR rescuing unprepared, inexperienced hikers. It is like a new religion that is being put in the kool aid and newbies are drinking it in.

Now I am not saying that you can't have a light pack, and if you are experienced and can deal with the risks if something happens then go for it, leave some of that stuff at home. If you are ok not really enjoying your food for you trip, then great for you. I however won't join you in the same practices. On three occasions I have been forced to extend trips by 2-3 days due to weather or illness. I was warm, comfortable, well fed and entertained. Because I left a proper itinerary with instructions that include a 4 day buffer there was only a bit of worry at home. I can't imagine the misery we would have endured if we went ultra light and lacked the food a gear needed to carry us through the extension. I can't count how many trips that I have been on, well in the hundreds for sure, and all those combined experiences good and bad have contributed to what and why I carry what I do. Which actually only amounts to 55 or so pounds usually, sometimes 70 or more for a long trip.

I think ultra lighters are playing Russian Roulette myself, but they are free to do as they so chose.

What really picks me is that like so many things in society it has become acceptable to be critical of others who are different. My quotes above we taken directly from videos and forums in relation to backpackers who carry so much gear.

If you are an ultra lighter that is fine by me, but please don't be critical of those who carry more. One day you may be very thankful to happen across one of us.

I fully suspect that one day I will be trundling down some trail and all the young folk will be going by with hover packs.

I am a traditional backpacker..... And I am a dying breed.

1:01 p.m. on January 30, 2016 (EST)
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You either have to develop a sense of humor about it or hike so far into the wilderness that you don't see any people. People love to tell you what you're doing wrong and why their way is not only better, but the only way.

I run into folks who enjoy telling me my pack is too heavy quite often. It amuses me greatly that they can make that assessment without any idea what is in my pack. Just the sight of an external frame seems to indicate to them that I am feeble minded and likely carrying a two burner Coleman stove and a canvas tent.

Last year I was taking a day off at Guyot and decided to hike up to Bond summit for lunch. Not having a day pack along I threw a few snacks in my pack but mostly put it on because I hang camera bags from the shoulder straps. I met two nice ladies near the top who were concerned about the heavy load I was carrying. Not sure they understood why I was laughing so hard as I told them the pack was empty.

There is no right or wrong as far as weight and what people carry out there other than safety and LNT issues. If people could figure that out and stop assuming that their own personal choices need to be affirmed by everyone else we could avoid these judgmental encounters.

Until then my standard response to someone who wants to tell me what I'm doing all wrong is to ask them, "So you get out much do ya?" and grin. Their answers can be entertaining.

1:14 p.m. on January 30, 2016 (EST)
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Very true, I think many of the people rarely get out at all. I wonder how many quit after their first hike or two because of the discomfort that I imagine goes along with being so light.  Luckily I do find almost everything funny. I have never heard criticisms on the trail, however have had lots of comments about the weight. Even my standard day pack is 40L. The real funny part is how many times we have helped others out. 

2:11 p.m. on January 30, 2016 (EST)
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I tend not talk gear unless someone asks me about what I have ...Then it becomes a show and tell if they want to see something and get my thoughts on a piece.,..This past fall I was interested in a few items another hiker was carrying and their thoughts on the products...he also told me how much weight he was carrying and he has just started to carry less with him...I am pretty close to UL for a hiker and I hike three season in trail runners..But each person feet are different and fit..So I just keep to myself unless asked...I did have one hiker ask me about the specific brand and model shoe's I was wearing.They had used the same exact brand and model and loved them..I on the other hand was not so impressed..So even in UL or Light weight hikers people have a disagreement in products...But yeah it seems you have to laugh off alot of what people say and just do your thing...

5:44 p.m. on January 30, 2016 (EST)
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Nice topic! The reason I frequent this site (although unfortunately infrequent lately) is because you get good advice for The most part without the "my way is the right way" attitude. Just respectful personal opinions with analysis and reasoning to back it up. I used to read sites like BPL and others but don't have the time or interest to listen to preachers who tend to dilute the good advice on those sites.

I don't like the terms light or ultralight and certain base weights defining what type of hiker you are. Seems to be trying to put artificial labels on our attempts to stay connected to nature...counterproductive.

I started backpacking around the same time as you and have a similar attitude, although I have lightened up my equipment a lot in the last 10 years due to knee troubles (mostly by spending a good bit to get better quality gear). I do try to carry the lightest gear I can considering the terrain and conditions. Sometimes that means a mid 20 lb pack for an easy weekend and others a close to 40 lb pack for a week on tougher terrain. I enjoy a good discussion of what's in the pack, both mine and others with lighter and heavier loads, as we can always learn from another point of view and integrate the best advice into your own system.

Keep hiking your own hike, as they say.

10:05 p.m. on January 30, 2016 (EST)
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I just want to get out and enjoy, I still have problems about going light.  The best thing I found for myself is practice and practice.  I feel what ever you have it will become one with you after a while.  In SoCal it is raining now and I have several rain jackets which I have tested at work, during big down pours.  It's amazing how fast they fail and how good a plain plastic bag works (most from  goodwill and DAV).  I tried using alcohol stoves but feel for myself it's not as good as my Reactor until I removed the canister a few weeks ago and it didn't seal itself and lost my fuel, but I split my food between freeze dry and ready to eat foods.  I also respect other hikers and keep to myself unless ask a question also, My magic number is 30 to 35 pounds for 2 days plus crackers for extra day, and 16 to 20 pounds for day hikes.  

10:30 p.m. on January 30, 2016 (EST)
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I have lots of ultralight gear. I have the skills necessary to do it safely and comfortably.

I don't like to engage in conversations with people about it, either for or against it because, to be frank, it is largely idiotic. Ignoring advancements in materials and design which are remarkably lighter and stronger and pretending lower weight doesnt reduce strain, is as silly as people who dont prepare for the trip they take just so they can get down to a specific weight to have the approval of a bunch of random people on a forum.

Hiking and backpacking is a bit of a funny concept... because its such a vague and blanket description. If I tell you I play basketball, theres only so many variable you can imagine, and whatever you imagine, will largely be quite accurate to reality. However, hiking, we all call it hiking...

but... 

where? whats the terrain? whats the weather? distance? pace? what altitude do we camp?

so many variables, yet people (naturally) generalize based on their own personal experiences.

I don't go outdoors to associate myself with "traditional" "ultralight" or whatever other nonsense people feel the need to classify themselves as. There's more than enough BS in my daily life, I get outdoors to get away from that.

10:48 p.m. on January 30, 2016 (EST)
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TJ1984 said:

I don't go outdoors to associate myself with "traditional" "ultralight" or whatever other nonsense people feel the need to classify themselves as. There's more than enough BS in my daily life, I get outdoors to get away from that

Amen

11:47 p.m. on January 30, 2016 (EST)
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Mike

Part of me wants to agree with you whole heartedly, however there is a tremendous amount of truth in what TJ said. My method of backpacking would probably mirror your own (although limited to the south east and not near as experienced) in that I over prepare and probably carry some things that aren't necessary but are reassuring. and also I do this (similar to and athlete in training) so as to better prepare myself for the big load I'll need to carry when the time and finances finally allow me longer trips. This is considered stupid by many who consider themselves smarter or the so called authority. There is merit in both sides. I carry more than necessary for a reason but if I find something better that weighs less then all the better. Thats my method for Dropping weight.

Now as to the people attacking your style I asked a Question along this very topic a while back and you would have thought I'd committed a crime, given some of the responses I received (everything from accusations, made fun of to correcting my grammar). I know your mad and I understand it and my response is this you cannot help people who are convinced in their mind. (and sometimes that is us also). Once I was able to get past these folks there were some excellent answers from some very helpful and knowledgeable people who share the same passion for backpacking as I do.

P.S. Its fun to lock horns with the others also, just wish it could be in a ring.  

12:33 a.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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Thanks for all the great feed back. I don't like lables either, I am a backpacker period. I just love being out there. We actually LIVE out there. Right now there is only 1 other person within about 90 square km of us. Well two if we count the grader operator who is currently doing snow removal. 

I like my solitude, yet I like company. 

I am a gear nut, I love seeing what other people do and don't carry. I often get jealous and develope gear envy, 

i definately want titanium pots to replace my stainless ones, but I simply won't part with my stove, they just arent built the same, and I think if I ever do change stoves it will be for a pocket rocket. 

I am really glad to see so much feed back.

I didn't actually know there was lables on hikers until I started trying to research Tweedsmuir park and found this and another forum. Until a couple of weeks ago I just thought we were all backpackers/hikers. Heck I don't even read backpacker magazine, I keep up on the new gear by going into the outdoor stores.

I don't care if I see a person hiking out of a trash bag, I will be glad to make their aquaintence. 

thanks for contributing to this topic

5:03 a.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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Just ignore the "you're doing it wrong" crowd, figure out what works best for you, get out, and enjoy.

7:26 a.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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The biggest reason I've personally found to reduce the weight of certain items is that it allows me to carry more food. The more food I can carry the longer I can stay on trail. So while going bleeding edge light is of no interest to me I'm always looking at what other folks are doing to see if I can learn a new trick.

That is why it cracks me up when folks comment on how heavy my pack is. Stripped down a bit, the Super Tioga I use weighs about 4.5 pounds I'll admit, but inside I'm carrying shelter and sleep systems that weigh less than that combined. That means if you catch me towards the end of a trip when I've eaten most of my food I'll just giggle if you say my pack is heavy.

Giving in to my predilections I invested in a Unaweep recently which weighs about half what the Kelty did. With Seek Outside's largest rolltop I have room and harness to carry a heck of a lot of food heh. Gave up the organizational advantages of all the pockets on the Super Tioga, but this thing rides like a dream. Just because I'm an aspiring Ultra Loader doesn't mean I can't take advantage of Ultra Light gear :)

9:48 a.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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Bill Hudson said:

Just ignore the "you're doing it wrong" crowd, figure out what works best for you, get out, and enjoy.

 You hit it Nail on the head,...I just want people to go out and enjoy themselves...That's what its about....

10:02 a.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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Don't get me wrong, as I replace gear, I get the lightest possible. I had to replace my tent a few years ago, and paid a premium for the lightest that was available to me. Cerain things however, like my pack and stove I want to be bomb proof, I use an Arcteyrx Bora 80 pack for eg, which is heavy, when I have to replace I will end up with a lighter pack because that is just how they are made. However, the new fabric does not instill confidence in its durability.  I do not buy cheap gear, which is why I don't replace it regularly, I wait for it to near the end of its life  

The part about this that bothered me was these people who are not even carrying the basics, or who are going out expecting everything to go perfect.

it is a topic I can go on and on about, the original intent was two fold. First to point out to newbies there is another way and a reson for it, the second is humours about a dinosaur desperately holding on to old and dated things due to irrational attachment to inanimate objects.    

10:30 a.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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It is amusing to witness the fanaticism of some of the lightweight crowd- to them, "lightweight" is truly a religion.  For me, when selecting gear, either for purchase or for a specific trip, there are three important variables - Cost, Utility, and Weight.  The best items will score well on all three.  A significant failing in any of the three results typically in rejection (sometimes i swallow hard and pay up).

The lightweight movement is beneficial when it highlights gear and techniques that allow less weight, with no appreciable decrease in utility and especially safety.  Safety in the outdoors is primarily the result of knowledge and experience, not gear carried.  Ill equipped and under experienced hikers have been around for many years (I was one myself, a long time ago).

11:22 a.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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hikermor said:

It is amusing to witness the fanaticism of some of the lightweight crowd- to them, "lightweight" is truly a religion.  For me, when selecting gear, either for purchase or for a specific trip, there are three important variables - Cost, Utility, and Weight.  The best items will score well on all three.  A significant failing in any of the three results typically in rejection (sometimes i swallow hard and pay up).

The lightweight movement is beneficial when it highlights gear and techniques that allow less weight, with no appreciable decrease in utility and especially safety.  Safety in the outdoors is primarily the result of knowledge and experience, not gear carried.  Ill equipped and under experienced hikers have been around for many years (I was one myself, a long time ago).

 Well said Hikermor. I too, evaluate the cost-benefit of each piece of gear I buy. I don't want to carry any more weight than I need to either, but if it means I carry a heavier piece of gear because it's made better, then I'll do it. Another really important consideration I make is long-term durability, especially on a more expensive piece of gear. Many of the tents and tarps out there these days are incredibly light weight, AND incredibly fragile. I have read many reviews about reports of pine needles puncturing holes through the tent floor!  Really????......pine needles??? No thank you. Each of my tents weigh between 7 and 11 lbs each, and are bombproof with lifetime warranties. No plans to switch. Two of my tents were quite expensive, but when I spread out the cost over a 15 year or so expected period of use, that justifies the purchase price for me and I know I will not need to replace that piece of gear for a long long time.

11:34 a.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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I started a thread about pack durability a while back and totally agree with the concerns about durability vs weight of equipment. However I compromised on that front and bought a lighter pack to supplement my bomb proof one and use it for easy hikes when I am staying on the trail. I don't regret that decision and absolutely love the new pack, but wouldn't trust it in my off trail adventures. Whatever works for you is the best answer to echo several folks above.

12:51 p.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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What I find funny about all this is coming up with an excuse to be carrying more garbage than you actually need.

1:26 p.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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I find these discussions of gear and "traditional vs Ultralight" to be amusing and perplexing at the same time. When I started carrying my own load some 6 decades ago (my parents were going into the backcountry before I came along, plus living in the middle of the Sonora Desert meant you were in the outdoors full-time anyway), I used a small pack appropriate to my weight. I bought my Kelty Backpacker (2.5 pounds, and I still have it) from Dick Kelty himself when he was selling them out of his garage (guess that makes him a "Craft" maker). That's quite a bit lighter than LS's Super Tioga, with the same comfort and carrying power. Cost was $20. The pack came with an information sheet that gave a gear list for a Sierra backpacking trip that totaled 14 pounds (plus you added food and water, except we just drank directly from the streams in those days and never got sick).

The Sierra Club had published a book by Walt Wheelock titled "Going Light with Backpack and Burro" (still have my copy of that). Shortly after, Ray Jardine published his ultralight book (who I knew from climbing in Yosemite Valley, and most recently ran into in Antarctica after he and his spouse did their unsupported trek from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole - same route that the Brit recently died on) .

In other words, "ultralight" is not a new concept. John Muir did many hikes with nothing more than the clothes he was wearing and some food stuffed in his pockets.

What you carry should be determined by the location of your trek, duration, weather conditions, etc. My pack varies from 5 pounds to 70 pounds, depending on those parameters. If I am heading for a technical back-country climb or ski tour, it is likely to be at the 70 pound end of the spectrum, though a 3 day weekend may be at the 5-pound level (getting the water from the streams. Trail runners are quite appropriate for some multiday treks, while double boots are needed for other treks.

But then, don't take what I posted here as gospel - after all, OGBO is just a crazy old coot, who has been wandering the woods and hills on 7 continents for almost 3/4 of a century, a half century of that being with his 21-yo spouse.

3:15 p.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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Just how much were you carrying in that Kelty pack Bill? The hip belts I've seen on the original packs look like they would have hurt like heck with a heavy load. My first pack had a handmade wooden frame with a baling twine belt so I'm familiar with the days when men were men and belts were unpadded.

5:19 p.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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??? Why would cost ever be a consideration in gear selection other than can I come up with the $$$ For what is my A-list or is it something that is needed immediately an so I'm stuck settling for B or C. When I evaluate gear it comes down to does it work 1st and foremost, 2nd is it gonna last 3rd does it work for me personally, 4th do I like/trust it. Then I find a way to pay for it or find something close to it that I can

5:37 p.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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John, you and I sound very similar. Lonestranger I am with you, most of my weight is food. 

Not sure what I carry that is garbage, nothing I carry has not ever been needed, except perhaps the crib board and cards but they are worth it. 

6:27 p.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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stupid is as stupid does.

6:42 p.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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LoneStranger said:

Just how much were you carrying in that Kelty pack Bill? The hip belts I've seen on the original packs look like they would have hurt like heck with a heavy load. My first pack had a handmade wooden frame with a baling twine belt so I'm familiar with the days when men were men and belts were unpadded.

 For a trek of, say, 15-20 miles/day, maybe 20 pounds including a week's worth of food. The belt that Kelty added was a big improvement over the Trapper Nelson packboards. Oh, whoops, that would be considered UL these days, wouldn't it? But when heading for a backcountry climb, where we took a full rack of pitons (10 pounds plus, including the hammer) and a 40 meter, 10 mil rope (standard in those days, but shared with your partner), it was probably 40-50 pounds. Remember, we generally didn't take a tent, just a plastic tube tent per person. Besides, we were super tough when we were in our late teens and 20s.  Someone (might have been Kelty) came out with the black rubber hip pads that slipped onto the Kelty belts around 1960. We also tried out tump-lines to ease the load a bit (surprised we didn't have sore necks all the time with those).

Nowadays, most hikers are wimps. These days, I'm just an old geezer, with 3/4 of a century on the trail, rocks, and ice. I never carried a "Norman Clyde" sized load, though. You may recall he often had a full library of books in his pack.

7:36 p.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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ppine said:

stupid is as stupid does.

 How about clarifying your statement 

7:57 p.m. on January 31, 2016 (EST)
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"Never go to excess, but let moderation be you guide." -Marcus Tullius Cicero

Most ultra lighters carry exactly the same stuff that traditional backpackers do, each item may be slightly lighter though, which adds up significantly in the end. That said, some don't, and those are the ones that usually end up in trouble and hence, the whole community gets a bad name.

I am not an UL'er, far from it, but I own and use UL gear. I'd be foolish not to use the lighter product when all other things are equal.

It is when people become obsessive about something (anything) that I no longer value that opinion. The current obsessions seem to be hammock camping, quilts and UL. If you aren't doing them, preferably all of them...at once, then you're camping wrong. My personal favourite is when hammock campers say something like "you get to get off the dirty, muddy, yucky ground".

12:14 a.m. on February 1, 2016 (EST)
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Jake W said:

It is when people become obsessive about something (anything) that I no longer value that opinion. The current obsessions seem to be hammock camping, quilts and UL. If you aren't doing them, preferably all of them...at once, then you're camping wrong. My personal favourite is when hammock campers say something like "you get to get off the dirty, muddy, yucky ground".

LOL

i agree completely that was sort of the point of my rant.  

In a storm I want a tent, if it is really buggy, I want a tent. I don't even find hammocks comfortable. I will stick to my thermarest pad and a good sleeping bag thanks

I find it ammusing, but frustrating. I am going to bed now becasue tomorrow I am going for a hike, carrying garbage I don't need, and want to get an early start !

 

2:30 a.m. on February 1, 2016 (EST)
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Mike your doing it all wrong.....lol. Sorry I had to say it. If it works for you don't change it. What works for you well works for you and that makes it right. I hike in my Garmont combat boots and I'm always being told I have on the wrong footwear but they work for me and I love them. Sure if I find a quality piece of gear that's ul I'm gonna grab it that means I can carry more food or whatever. UL gear allows me to make my trips more confortable I get to carry everything I want and then some. I'm not trying to carry next to nothing and speed hike and I'm definitely not trying to bum food from people because I wasn't prepared. UL gear just makes it easier for me to be prepared for anything.

10:46 a.m. on February 1, 2016 (EST)
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LOL

Oh I agree Tracker Clayton, as I replace gear it is with the lightest option that still seems durable. Im not affraid to spend the money, but I hate spending the same money over and over again. 

11:39 a.m. on February 1, 2016 (EST)
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Simply put  backpacking is a personal sport.

Do whatever you want and apologize to no one.

6:02 p.m. on February 1, 2016 (EST)
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Nothing like another Butt hurt Backpacker ranting..Then changes his tune when he relizes he carry's the some of the same gear as someone UL (SMH) Second time this happened it's all perspective anyway...

 

6:51 p.m. on February 1, 2016 (EST)
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Tune isn't changed, you would have to be an idiot to walk into a store with the thought of buying the heaviest. I am talking about not even carrying some of the basics in the interest of saving weight. 

7:26 p.m. on February 1, 2016 (EST)
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Speaking of traditional...is this the annual mid-winter cabin fever thread where everyone gets their grumpy out because they haven't been getting out enough? If so I am ready as I haven't had a night on trail since the solstice. To make it worse our snow has melted again giving us a February mud season and made us trade our snowshoes in for sidewalks. Pretty sure I can grump with the best of them about now.

Seriously though, no need to be so serious guys.

7:30 p.m. on February 1, 2016 (EST)
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LOL. I de-serioused

yes cabin fever, made worse by an unforeseen critical chore today stopping me from going on the snow shoe hike I was going to go on. 

7:32 p.m. on February 1, 2016 (EST)
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True Intelligence is found in simplicity not in a multiplicity of useless words. if what you have to say can't be understood by the least then you are just stroking your own ego.

Weakness is when you are unable to admit that there is a possibility that you just might be wrong. 

Idiocity is when you are so far off course that you resort to childish tactics such as name calling or shouting someone down.

Lets keep it civil so the thread doesn't get shut down. there is common ground to be found. I'd love to get in a fight over this my self but arguing is not fighting it is just poking out the chest for looks. I'm not impressed and I think we all risk losing a lot of credibility I know 1 person in this thread who has with me already.

10:41 p.m. on February 1, 2016 (EST)
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Interesting thread.  In most endeavors people pursue, there are a lot of different ways to do it and enjoy it.  there are also a lot of ways for people to misjudge the terrain, the weather, or their food needs and put themselves in an uncomfortable or even unsafe situation.  that's not new.  in my opinion, the primary culprit is inexperience, which can make someone less able to assess the impact of weather and terrain.  A secondary contributing factor for a lot of people are the ubiquitous cell phones, which tend to give people a false sense of security.  the availability of lighter-weight gear? not so much.  

rather than judging, enjoy being outside.  help other people do the same if you can.  carry a filter and help someone avoid dehydration.  bring some extra food and share.  

on a weeklong hike in the Presidentials a long time ago, in the summer, a friend overpacked.  Really nice Gregory pack, pack weight 52 pounds at the outset.  The pack could handle the weight; the legs couldn't.  There were three of us on that trip.  It went a lot better after 52 became 32, with the other members of the team each taking 10 pounds out of the Gregory.  

Same trip a few summers later, one of my college roommates and i decided to go lightweight.  Though we didn't skimp on food or things we felt were essential, we deliberately eschewed tent and sleeping pads in favor of light nylon hammocks with tarps hung overhead, we stuck to dehydrated food, and we intentionally limited what we carried to the bare minimum we thought we would need in a worst-case scenario.  much lighter load; well, well within a safe margin for the conditions.  

lately, i tend to be up in the Northeast for hikes in the winter.  that means crampons, snowshoes, a massive winter bag, and stuff to stay warm in really cold, insanely windy weather.  Good luck keeping your pack weight under 60 pounds.  

on a family trip to the Tetons a few years ago, our family got a great lesson in terrain and weather.  the day started out warmish, shorts and trail shoes.  the steepness and vertical gain was challenging, particularly with the higher altitude.  late afternoon, thunderheads rolled in and dropped a deluge, then marble-sized hail.  i was the only one carrying a pack, but we each had a rain shell, hats and gloves, a light mid-layer, and enough food and water to make do.  someone might call that ultralight; we were prepared, and it was an awesome day, so it really doesn't matter, does it?

10:48 p.m. on February 1, 2016 (EST)
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Garage sale said:

Tune isn't changed, you would have to be an idiot to walk into a store with the thought of buying the heaviest. I am talking about not even carrying some of the basics in the interest of saving weight. 

 i suppose that depends on one's needs.  when i'm hiking in the winter, i need something that can comfortably carry a lot of weight and not get damaged by rocks and ice.  my large backpack weighs nearly 8 pounds.  It's a Mystery Ranch G6000.  I chose it not because it is one of the heaviest backpacks available (it probably was, though), but because it serves a particular purpose well and is built to last a long time.  and it has.  I'm sure you're not suggesting i'm an idiot for using it.  not carrying the basis to save weight, i agree, can be an unwise choice.  

10:59 p.m. on February 1, 2016 (EST)
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Mike I agree! I'll pay more for quality gear especially if it's lighter than a piece of gear I have. I hate buying the same thing over and over because it's of crappy quality. That said I'm sure there are lighter and better packs than mine (London Bridge patrol pack ) but it's a tank and I like it. I think the point Mike is trying to make is if he needs say a stove he isn't gonna go look for the heaviest stove he is gonna find the lightest and best stove he can find that suits his needs. I'm sure that there are many UL hikers that are fine and know what they are doing but there are alot of UL hikers that are not experienced enough to pull it off and that quality UL gear can benifit us all even if we aren't UL hikers. Mike please correct me if I'm wrong I don't want to twist your words or overall meaning. We all hike and camp with different gear some may disagree with gear choices like me with tomahawks most people just see a weapon where I see a tool I'd be lost without. I have alot of money tied up in knives and tomahawks I also have alot of money tied up in UL fishing gear. We all have the opportunity to learn from each other here so rather than bash someone explain how you do something or why you carry something and if they don't understand that's fine because it's your way and works for you. I really just want to see everyone one get along and exchange info in a kind manner .....I'm no longer a fighter I'm a lover...lol. 

11:17 p.m. on February 1, 2016 (EST)
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you hit it on the head tracker clayton. This thread got way twisted, as did I.

i don't look at backpacking gear as designed for a particulare clique. It is all for the same activity. You get what you can afford and what you think will work for you.

the thread had nothing to do with using ultra light gear, it had everything to do with people carrying next to nothing and being ill prepared , and at the same time preching their way was as the only way while while criticizing others who do it differently

regadless of HOW you chose to do it, don't be critical of how others do the same thing.

4:57 a.m. on February 2, 2016 (EST)
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Seems to me that Criticism Lane was a two-way street in this thread.

6:19 a.m. on February 2, 2016 (EST)
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I think we are all here to learn and help each other. Sometimes egos need to be put aside so you can learn. I know no matter how much I know I can always learn more . Bill and I had discussion on firearms and I changed my point of view because I was man enough to listen to someone wiser with more experience. I was just used to being in nasty places and I always had an auto. Then Bill got me thinking and he was right in many ways,I listened and learned and was reminded thanks to him. It was a topic that usually turns nasty on forums but everyone who engaged in it was polite and respectful. This subject should be no different the gear is made for us all to get out there and have a good time it shouldn't matter if your a full time UL hiker or just use some UL gear or use no UL gear we are all out for the samething and that's to enjoy nature and the natural surroundings. Mikes worried about beginners and the people who are not prepared for the UL hiking and camping but think they are and when they see someone like me telling me I'm wrong in my gear choices but that's okay as i have a mix of UL gear and non UL gear in my pack that has everything you could need in it and plenty of food and water which thanks to UL gear I get to pack more. I think the only way Mike may be butt hurt is if he used a pinecone to wipe with...lol. Denis you maybe a very experienced UL hiker and camper to which you have all my respect and I don't think Mike was directing his comments to you its the guys and gals who jump into the UL world and fail and put themselves and possibly others at risk. I really have no dog in this fight it's your choice and your ļife just don't come beg me for food because you won't get any from me. I'll radio for help for you but I've noticed this trend of people bumming food on the trails and I won't participate and encourage this behavior. 

7:32 a.m. on February 2, 2016 (EST)
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Tracker I don't take things personal...I find on message boards people attack A) Non UL hikers B) Attack UL Hikers...I am not UL but close...I still pick my gear based upon the Trip Iam taking...I avoid UL rain gear like the plague...Cold cooking is a technique UL hikers use to eat their food..It involves using a Peanut butter jar to reconstitute your food ...For example Roman and a protein you use cold water when you come to a water source and put your food in and the water and keep hiking...It takes about 1 hour for it to fully rehydrate..I use this in summer..Protein bars and pro bars are high in a UL hikers diet..I keep one days xtra of food with me and every trip...Every backpacker knows with experience that heaviest thing we carry is food..New people to backpacking are going to make mistakes and come up short..That's the learning curve,..We all didn't have the answers when we first started..That's why I keep to myself about things till someone asks and I explain things..But I do watch what other people are doing..I observe them and then when they ask..I can give them a better answer...Backpacking is just that...Perspective in our own way...The hiker I was hiking around and became friends with was very experienced,,,He said he carried everything for years...I believed him he's an Assistant Scoutmaster In Tenn....He dropped weight because he was feeling it.He tried trail runners and they didn't work for him...No harm no foul...There's no harm trying something to see if it works for you..Where in a hobby that that's what we do...

8:34 a.m. on February 2, 2016 (EST)
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Denis I got some UL gear. I really used it working overseas and gained a great respect for it. My body armor alone just carrier and plates were about 26lbs then add rifle mags,sidearm mags,ect plus pack and you learn every ounce counts and that's when I started to seek out lighter gear that was quality like my TAD amphibious cargo pants they are just a few ounces. For food we did some of the most unhealthy things you can do to yourself but we weren't hiking for fun we were in nasty places looking for nasty people so we did what we had to. I am very impressed by UL hikers it's got to be hard and take alot of conditioning. I do think there are people who read an article in a magazine and go I can do that and those are the UL people I worry about because I never want to see someone die or have to call for help on a recreational sport they should be enjoying. I guess Ive become soft but I don't want to see anyone get hurt or be in danger . UL hiking or traditional hiking I guess the risks are pretty much the same to a beginner or novice now that I think about it. I was lucky and had family from the Rez teach me and coach me basically since I could walk about the outdoors. I do admit though I'd need to learn alot about UL hiking/camping. Sure I can play survivalist but I was taught that's only to be used in emergencies not for fun. 

5:40 p.m. on February 2, 2016 (EST)
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Excellent thread.

My own gear ranges from old & traditional, to UL and modern.

For the most part I just mix and match gear as I please to fit the conditions, challenges, and goals I have set.

Just recently I wore a pair of FGL boots that weigh around 4 lbs. and also carried an alcohol stove to cook with.

Just some of my weird combos I can think of:

UL hammock & tarp along with 15 lbs of camera gear and books.

UL Tarp & an UL Emberlit wood stove along with a heavy 20 year old MSR Alpine Stainless pot set.

9 lb. Mnt. Hardwear Tent & a Titanium Mug and pot.

I always have good food & coffee.


Mike G.

7:10 p.m. on February 2, 2016 (EST)
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trouthunter said:

I always have good food & coffee.

 

Very important for me as well.

2:16 a.m. on February 3, 2016 (EST)
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I don't drink coffee. I do always bring a flask of shine (moonshine) or wild turkey 101 and bacardi 151 mixed together and some cigars. I only drink on vacations now and it's always good for cleaning a wound. If yall haven't guessed by the times of my posts I'm a night owl but after a good days hike I can crash before midnight. It's these little extras that make me appreciate UL gear I get to pack more creature conforts and of course better and more food. I do like to catch and gather  my dinner to though fish,frog legs, berries,crayfish,ect. 

11:36 a.m. on February 4, 2016 (EST)
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My background is much like the OP's .... introduced to backpacking in scouting, been trailhauling since the age of 9, and still carry more gear than I should.  However, that preparation has saved the day - for myself or some else - on many an occasion over the years.

But one difference between Garage Sale and me is our age.  If I calculated correctly, GS is 42 and I'm 57.   And when I was 42, I still felt really comfortable with my older gear (heavier) and all of the extra "creature comforts" tagging along.


Not so anymore.  I really trimmed my pack weights hard once I reached the age of fifty.  I would routinely carry 40-50 pounds for a 5 day trip when I was in my forties. Now I routinely carry 30-34 lbs of gear for a similar 5-day outing.  Trust me, this saves a ton of wear-and-tear on my post-surgical knee.

I am by no means a UL fanatic, but the intense interest in the UL movement has spawned a multitude of innovative, lightweight product alternatives that have helped me to significantly lighten the load.

Translation:  I get to enjoy my backpacking passion for a few more years in my 57 year old body .... winner winner, lob-stah dinner!

1:56 p.m. on February 4, 2016 (EST)
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I actually just hit 48 Chimney Rock. Although not in the shape I once was, I am still pretty fit. I have tens of thousands of km of bicycle commuting and touring under my belt, so my legs have always been strong. Add in all the other activies I do and I hope to squeeze in another 10-12 years of being able to haul 55 pounds. I do feel it more now than ever before though, as a result I do look for light options as I replace older gear, but it has to still be reliable and durable. 

I live very remote and off grid, so every day is a workout keeping things running.

10:03 p.m. on February 4, 2016 (EST)
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I just hit 48 as well. Definitely been feeling it in my bad knee and ankle (several sports injuries and a car wreck 30 years ago). That was the real driver for me to begin replacing gear with lighter options and converting from my trusty hiking stick (although it still sits by the back door ready) to trecking poles, which I thought I would never use. The new gear cost a penny or two but I don't regret it at all.

Mike Gartman...agree totally on the food and coffee. I also just did a trip in FGL boots with an alcohol stove...great minds think alike?

I have seen many UL hikers underprepared, but have probably seen almost as many overburdened hikers carrying stuff that wouldn't help in a bind. Seems like we are really talking about good planning and experience rather than UL versus Traditional. Although I do think newbies should err on the side of caution and pack a little more rather than a little less then whittle down the load item by item.

Labels aside, it's a spectrum and everyone falls somewhere slightly different along the scale once you find what fits your style best.

3:47 a.m. on February 5, 2016 (EST)
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MIke I wish I could live off grid but I can't . I do plan to live as remote as possible and have a generator,solar,and any other source of electricity I can get for emergencies and sell what I don't store back to the power company. I will hunt and gather and fish for food too. UL gear is gonna be a huge help though it will let me cover more ground in a day which means I can get more done and cover more ground in a day.  

11:00 a.m. on February 5, 2016 (EST)
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Fit your equipment to the trip, not the other way around. I have been giving some thought to Death Valley lately.  We will need to carry all of our water, so there is no point in bringing dehydrated food. It is so dry I am not bringing a tent or tarp.  We will cache some of the water going in for the way out.  It will be heavy going in and light coming out, just the opposite of backpack hunting.

11:10 a.m. on February 5, 2016 (EST)
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LOL you should see how I am living at the moment Clayton. 3 light bulbs and the satellite internet. My water comes from the lake in buckets. It will be awesome once I have it all set up though. My back yard is the costal mountains and several Provincial parks. All the hiking, skiing and snowshoeing a person could ask for. I think the entire areas winter population is about 700 people spread out over about 500 sq KM. You should see my view.

11:28 p.m. on February 5, 2016 (EST)
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when I first started I bought only cheap things because I wasnt sure if it was a fad. Through the years I've been getting lighter gear, but I still carrry the same stuff, just lighter. Besides hiking my other favorite things are eating and sleeping, so I make sure to pack enough so indulge my favorite things. 

11:37 p.m. on February 5, 2016 (EST)
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when I first started I bought only cheap things because I wasnt sure if it was a fad. Through the years I've been getting lighter gear, but I still carrry the same stuff, just lighter. Besides hiking my other favorite things are eating and sleeping, so I make sure to pack enough so indulge my favorite things. 

10:42 p.m. on February 7, 2016 (EST)
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It is hard to spend your hard earned money on UL gear due to the fact it doesn't feel rugged I think. But once you know what to look for in the UL world it's easy to drop that cash and as some have said they carry a mixture of both. Again there is no right or wrong way as long as you have fun it's only bad when you put yourself or others in danger that your doing it wrong.

9:54 a.m. on February 8, 2016 (EST)
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tracker clayton 2 said:

It is hard to spend your hard earned money on UL gear due to the fact it doesn't feel rugged I think. But once you know what to look for in the UL world it's easy to drop that cash and as some have said they carry a mixture of both. Again there is no right or wrong way as long as you have fun it's only bad when you put yourself or others in danger that your doing it wrong.

Agreed- I didn't set out to buy the heaviest gear when I got my Hilleberge Natmmaj 3Gt or my Clark Jumgle Hammock Nx250. I went looking for what would get me or who ever was with me thru the worst we would face in the best and most live able condition. Accepting the weight penalty plus cost, $1500 later, I am well satisfied, and can say and recommend with confidence that they live up to their reputations at least in the worst we have faced and am very confident that they will handle much much worse, because they are true 4 season. 

If I Carry my Gregory Pallisade 80 I start out at around 16 lb. with the tent and around 11 lbs. with the hammock before I even add anything else.

In my opinion accepting the barest minimums in shelter,pack sleep system, and knife are fool hardy since weather, terrain and accidents are unpredictable.

Of course it is do able and the Ul folks are impressive in that aspect but when they don't give disclaimers or qualifiers to younger folks beginners or guys like me who are interested in their practices and products. It causes deep concerns in me as to their modivations.

6:09 p.m. on February 22, 2016 (EST)
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One of the things that bothers me the most about this UL mentality out there now is the condescending attitude from passerby's on the trail carrying next to nothing, going too fast to enjoy the trip, and looking upon the rest of us as if we are not knowing, inexperienced, or just plain stupid.

I have a hard time on sections of the AT because of this culture. I began hiking in the scouts in the late 70's and early 80's. I have logged many miles over may trips through differing terrain and weather. I have always been prepared.

That being said, I do try to manage weight by upgrading gear, multi tasking equipment, and smarter packing.

While not ultralight, depending on the trip, I might approach light.

What I will never be is unprepared. This cannot be said for some of those on the trails these days, loading out not by experience, but by website.

Knowledge and information are dangerous.

6:24 p.m. on February 22, 2016 (EST)
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RedSoxFan

Aren't your assumptions that

(a) these people are going too fast to enjoy the trip (didn't know there was an optimal speed for joy)

(b) these people are unprepared, or inexperienced

just as silly as the presupposed judgements of these people on those carrying loads as being as you put it, not knowing, inexperienced, or just plain stupid?

6:39 p.m. on February 22, 2016 (EST)
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John Starnes said:

tracker clayton 2 said:

It is hard to spend your hard earned money on UL gear due to the fact it doesn't feel rugged I think. But once you know what to look for in the UL world it's easy to drop that cash and as some have said they carry a mixture of both. Again there is no right or wrong way as long as you have fun it's only bad when you put yourself or others in danger that your doing it wrong.

Agreed- I didn't set out to buy the heaviest gear when I got my Hilleberge Natmmaj 3Gt or my Clark Jumgle Hammock Nx250. I went looking for what would get me or who ever was with me thru the worst we would face in the best and most live able condition. Accepting the weight penalty plus cost, $1500 later, I am well satisfied, and can say and recommend with confidence that they live up to their reputations at least in the worst we have faced and am very confident that they will handle much much worse, because they are true 4 season. 

If I Carry my Gregory Pallisade 80 I start out at around 16 lb. with the tent and around 11 lbs. with the hammock before I even add anything else.

In my opinion accepting the barest minimums in shelter,pack sleep system, and knife are fool hardy since weather, terrain and accidents are unpredictable.

Of course it is do able and the Ul folks are impressive in that aspect but when they don't give disclaimers or qualifiers to younger folks beginners or guys like me who are interested in their practices and products. It causes deep concerns in me as to their modivations.

 John, there is no arguing that the Hilleberg is a well built tent. It is certainly very robust, and I doubt that unless you were foolhardy, you would ever find yourself in a situation where it wouldnt be sufficient. However, having been in some demanding situations, with very minimal gear, I can tell you I was also fine. While a 50 lb sledge hammer will drive a nail into wood, so will a 20 oz one. You would be surprised as to what you actually need to get the job done and be safe and comfortable. Part of that is slowly testing out your gear, and yourself to see what the comfort zone is. This is also part of the fun of trying out new gear and experiencing new things outdoors.

6:53 a.m. on February 23, 2016 (EST)
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Tj -point very well put. I guess it all comes down to do you want a brick wood or plastic house an are you prepared to pay the price for it. Excellent point on your part about slowly reaching your comfort zone that is what I was attempting to get across. Very well put. I also believe peoples life circumstances and mentality play a large part in their choices. People who have been thru hard times will try their dead level best not to let it happen again. Me personally I know that nothing is with out risk and am therefore a little more open to UL concepts although In the afore mentioned areas in will take me a serious reason or event to change my philosophy. Simply put I don't yet have the level of experience and trust that you do. good to hear from you

10:03 a.m. on February 23, 2016 (EST)
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thanks to Bill for the reference to "going light with pack and burro."

I will be taking my neighbor's new donkey for a walk today. As I age, the idea of packing a donkey becomes more appealing. Even a small burro can carry 60 pounds which is a generous load for one person, or doable with two people with day packs.  It is an age old way to travel and easy on the joints. They make good companions, kind of like a tall vegetarian dog.

2:11 p.m. on February 23, 2016 (EST)
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ppine said:

thanks to Bill for the reference to "going light with pack and burro."

I will be taking my neighbor's new donkey for a walk today. As I age, the idea of packing a donkey becomes more appealing. Even a small burro can carry 60 pounds which is a generous load for one person, or doable with two people with day packs.  It is an age old way to travel and easy on the joints. They make good companions, kind of like a tall vegetarian dog.

 Yeh but that ain't backpacking that is called prospecting (what old people do when they no longer can shoulder the load) course I guess we're all gonna get to that point

by the way that is about as hilarious as any thing I've read I'm still laughing. GOOD ONE

8:58 p.m. on February 23, 2016 (EST)
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ppine, I slightly misstated the title. It is "Going Light with Backpack or Burro". Plus it is actually a compilation, with Walt Wheelock as one of the contributors. David Brower was the editor, so you will find it under his name on Amazon.

John, sorry you have no familiarity or acquaintance with pack animals. As ppine mentioned, it is really nice to have those gentle creatures (even if they put you in your place sometimes). When I go on our research expeditions in the Andes, we pretty much have to use burros to carry the 2-3 weeks worth of food for our group (typically a dozen or more, half of whom are grad students) and the scientific gear, plus fuel and stoves up to the base stations well up into the steep quebradas at 15,000 to 16,000 feet, and bring the samples down to town to be shipped back to the States for final analysis.
BurrosPeru.jpg
This is just part of the burros we were using on this particular expedition.

11:49 a.m. on February 24, 2016 (EST)
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Good reference to the Andes Bill. Llamas are still common pack animals. I had two friends who are geologists. They were in northern Argentina for 6 weeks at a time with an all mule outfit. They rode and packed them. They had a couple of local packers that kept watch at night with rifles for mountain lions at 16,000 feet. Did you see guanacos on your trips? They are the main prey base for lions. Have you ever seen a vicuña?

In Baja Mexico the mountain people ride mules and pack donkeys which are herded loose with a bell.  Those animals are much tougher than horses in rough and dry country.

12:16 p.m. on February 24, 2016 (EST)
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Bill S said:

John, sorry you have no familiarity or acquaintance with pack animals. As ppine mentioned, it is really nice to have those gentle creatures (even if they put you in your place sometimes). When I go on our research expeditions in the Andes, 

 OH Contraire Bill I have quite a bit of experience with mules and donkeys grew up on a farm an our neighbors had several of them over the years ridden them many times and been kicked by them more times than I care to mention. Just don't like it when they back talk you for no reason smells kinda bad

sure wish I could go with you to the Andes heck you wouldn't need a mule then I'm just dumb enough to carry for you. Hahahaha

12:51 p.m. on February 24, 2016 (EST)
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I like this topic. My trips are weekenders. Being I live paycheck to paycheck.  And having bad habbits like being married and having kids. But being a boy scout leader gives me the chance to get out more. I am a traditional kinda person. I over pack my self for the first year scouts. But the older I get the more I like ultra light. I quit smoking and drinking. My wife let me trade cigarette packs of a new ospray atmos 65 ag pack. I look forward to trying it out. My old camp trail that I keep threatening to frame for the living roon. Right above the mantel.  I've had it for about 20 years weights it seems 10 to 15lb. I guess I'm trying to say is that the older I get the more I like going light.

1:39 p.m. on February 24, 2016 (EST)
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ppine, yes I have seen vicuna, guanaco, llama and alpaca ... Llama are not used much in the Cordillera Blanca since they can't carry as much as burros. We have used horses sometimes for people who aren't acclimatized. But that's a problem on steep trails. We lost a horse down the side of a quebrada because it was not used to such narrow trails on steep slopes. Cost us a bit, of course, to buy a replacement for the arriero.

9:01 p.m. on February 24, 2016 (EST)
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it's a give and take for some if while working I knew we were moving fast and far I dropped my body armor the plates alone were 8lbs a piece and I had 1 in front 1 in back and 1 on each side but I got no clue what they weighed. Now I could carry more water and ammo, go pens, better med kit , ect . I could move faster I was more agial and even though I had stocked more gear it was still lighter than my standard setup with armor. So I was UL and could move but I also was taking a.risk,with a few extra pounds and losing some ammo and other things I would have been at a safe medium. So it's all kind of risk and reward . It's the same with hiking and camping.too me.

5:16 p.m. on March 1, 2016 (EST)
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Sometimes fun trumps weight for me.

Spent the last year lugging a 3 lb waterproof bluetooth speaker for multi day trips where we would be chilling by a river for a couple nights.

And a not to light waterproof power pack & water resistant solar panels to keep the speaker & phone charged.

Sadly my speaker stopped holding a decent charge and I returned it to Costco where I bought the new version they carry which is now 1.5 lbs. It's not for every trip. Its still loud but lost a lot of bass :(

I just added a 1lb 6oz backpacking chair to my load

I always carry a bottle of tequila (in plastic of course)

Sometimes i bring a fishing pole & tackle.

I bring a foam thermarest & an air pad. (makes no sense to leave the foam home because its weightless & just adds to the comfort) Plus the foam pad becomes a float in the river!

I always bring extra shoes or slippers. I tried flip flops one time & almost destroyed my foot/toes scrambling on boulders. Old trail runners sneakers for summer & old slippers for winter (yes I've boulder scrambled in slippers & they work great)

always bring a little extra food, full 1st aide (it's been used & refilled so much), duct tape, extra stove fuel, extra fire (lighters matches), extra batteries & light source (ever had a light fail in pitch darkness?)

I used to bring a big rubber collapsible mug/bowl for years but gave it up after it got a hole. Replaced it with a lighter smaller plastic mug (for coffee/soup when not solo, otherwise I'll drink out of my jetboil)

 

 

 

 

4:25 p.m. on April 12, 2016 (EDT)
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The goal is to pack the optimum amount.  For me that has varied from 8 to 100 LBS depending on the nature of the trip and duration.  Basically each individual has to decide what optimum means.  Living in Minnesota I frequently hike the superior hiking trail in northern Mn.  If I'm doing a trip up there in the summer where we plan to hike a lot of miles I try to keep my pack weight under 10 lbs including food for up a 4 day trip.  For these trips I base "success" on doing as many miles as possible while still enjoying every minute.  While I could probably do the same number of miles with 40 lbs it wouldn't be fun anymore. Personally, I feel that on this particular trip there is a very minimal impact to safety between 10 and 40 lbs as the longest stretch without crossing a road is maybe 15 miles and I usually hike with my wife as well.  In my opinion for this particular trip 90% of the risk that I add by packing less is offset by the fact that I am less likely to slip, fall or twist an ankle.

Last weekend I did a trip to a local state park and packed 70 lbs.  The difference was that we were only hiking a bit over a mile into a place where we base camped and did day hikes from.  In this instance our primary objective (having a fun trip) was minimally impacted by the heavy load as we had a short hike in so we packed a lot of luxuries such as a tent with a  wood stove, backpacking chairs and brought heavier food items.  

When my wife and I backpacked for 2 weeks in Baffin Island last summer we took roughy 40 lbs each which included our food.  We thought this was a good balance between keeping the weight reasonably light while carrying a bit extra to account for the remoteness, environment and duration of the trip.  We brought 3 extra days of food a heavier tent than we would have normally brought (hilleberg nallo 2) as well as some repair items due to the duration of the trip (sewing kit, seam grip etc.)  

Every year I do a 2 week hunting trip in Alaska.  Because I am hiking only 9 miles into a base camp where I stay for 2 weeks, our loads are 80-90 lbs while hiking in.  It takes away from the fun of the hike in as well as adding some risk, but we elect to take items that improve our chances of a successful hunt (spotting scope, rangefinder, binoculars etc.) 

Climbing trips fall into the same category as above.  You can pack to heavy and not summit due to moving to slow.  Too much weight could mean you spend too much time exposed to objective dangers such as ice/rock fall or avalanche.  On the other hand you could fail to summit by traveling too light if conditions are not as expected (leaving the second ice axe or rope behind)  

Each individual gets to decide what "optimal" means, although you never really know how "optimal" you're packing was until you are done with the trip.  

5:27 p.m. on April 12, 2016 (EDT)
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Bring what ever strikes your fancy folks. I have taken coolers on backpacking trips with a wheel barrow and a little red wagon.

11:36 a.m. on May 30, 2016 (EDT)
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Before I started winter hiking my brother gave me some advice that works for me. My brother did his winter hiking in the mid to late 70's.

1. You are responsible for yourself, don't expect someone else to carry the medical pack, food, fluids, etc.

2. The mountains are not a place to be cocky, check your attitude at the trail head.

3. Ventilation, ventilation, ventilation. keep perspiration to a minimum.

Use all zippers and yes he included the front zipper.

He had a lot more information but those were the ones he stressed.

Now that I have some experience winter hiking I have made some rules for my self and I adhere to them.

My #1 rule, Don't put yourself in a situation where you will put someone else's life in danger.

2:49 p.m. on May 31, 2016 (EDT)
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this thread.  Here are my thoughts based on my 25 years experience.

My purpose in being outdoors is to be outdoors.  I'm not there to prove my gear or methods.  Rather, each trip is a chance to learn, hone my methods, and if necessary hone my gear.

Gear is just a means to get outdoors.  Use what works for you.  Set whatever pace works for you.  Consider how backpacking+ can increase your enjoyment outdoors.  (i.e. backpacking+cigars, backpacking+fishing, backpacking+stargazing, backpacking+rock climbing, etc)  And recognize that some are just interested in backpacking+more backpacking.  To each their own.

I'm a Boy Scout.  Almost all scouts end up carrying 3+ pound sleeping bags, 4+ pound packs, 4+ pound tents, etc because parents are not interested in spending $1000+ on gear for a young boy to grow out of.  As I gained my own source of income and read Jardine, I started to experiment with lightweight methods.  But I always look at some of the internet wisdom and lightweight methods with a heavy dose of my Boy Scout training.  I never skimp on my first aid kit, layers, rain gear, map & compass, and a good knife.  Be prepared.

That said, Jardine and make-your-own-gear type websites are a great way to learn how to cheaply make good quality outdoor gear on a budget.  And to make that gear customized for your needs/size/color preference/etc.  RipstopByTheRoll dot com, MakeYourGear dot com, or RayJardine dot com.

As an old pastor once preached to me...  "eat the watermelon and spit out the seeds".  For instance, Ray Jardine has a vast amount of outdoor experience and has spent decades honing his methods and gear.  I'm more likely to listen to that source, than I am some random internet guy who may or may not have any experience with the "advice" he is giving.  But even then, you will find true experts who give differing advice.  Eat the watermelon and spit out the seeds.  Find what works for you.

A great article on the whole subject is "Stupid Light: Why light is not necessarily right, and why lighter is not necessarily better" by Andrew Skurka.  Lots of good wisdom.  But again, eat the watermelon and spit out the seeds.  Recognize that Skurka and many other high adventure, ultralight, speed hikers are out there with a different motive than you might have.  They intend to cover the maximum amount of miles per day, go to bed as soon as they set up camp, and eat just what it takes to keep going the next day.  If that isn't your idea of a good time, then recognize that your gear list will not look like theirs.

Though lightweight backpacking has recently been popularized by Jardine and many others and is supported by a cottage manufacturer industry, you can look at Horace Kephart's "Camping and Woodcraft" (1916) to see that this is an old trend.  Silk tarps anyone?

I have ridden out crazy storms under a 1.5 pound silnylon pyramid tent, and my 0.5 pound cuben tarp (in my hammock).  These new materials are fantastically strong and capable.  And in the case of silnylon, very affordable.  As for cuben, not $o much.  My 1.5 pound pack works great for 30 pound loads or less and is bomber.  Though it definitely isn't for winter (not enough volume), and I would never dream of carrying 40+ pounds in it.  It serves its purpose.

Be aware that plenty of lightweight advice comes from summer California hikers.  Their advice may not have any worth for your trip to the Smokies in late fall.

Be willing to try new things.  I gave trail runners a try, and found they didn't work for my feet.  I gave hammocks a try (many tries), and have found that I don't sleep nearly as well in a hammock as I do on the ground.  I gave single wall silnylon tents a try and found that I really like them, despite some of their drawbacks.  I gave cuben a try and think that it is too abrasion intolerant for most uses...  works great in tarps, but not so great in stuff sacks and it co$t$ too much for me to justify using any more of it.  I gave quilts a try and doubt I will ever go back to a sleeping bag unless I am below 0F (which is unlikely because I'm more of a spring/fall guy).

I'm not ultralight.  My kit usually comes out to 25-30 pounds for a 5 day hike (including food and 2L water).  I never leave necessary gear at home to drop a few pounds, but I do look for lighter weight alternatives to lighten my load.

Great discussion.  Hopefully my little booklet above just adds to it and keeps it going.

3:24 p.m. on May 31, 2016 (EDT)
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I really have no idea whether I am heavy, normal, light, or ultra light, nor do I care.  I do know that I am prepared, confident that I can deal with most situations I will encounter.

I really paid attention to my gear when I was active in SAR, some years ago in southern Arizona.  We would be called frequently on very short notice, so it made sense to keep a pack ready to go, adjusted seasonally for conditions.  .Usually there was a good chance we would be out all or most of a night, in all kinds of terrain.  Technical gear was a must I carried more medical gear than most hikers, so the pack was not particularly light.  But weight was a factor; if something lighter could do the job, it replaced the heavier item.

The problem is emphasizing weight over all else.  Other parameters count as well. 

I sincerely could not give a fig about what some one on the internet might say about my gear choices - they work for me.

3:54 p.m. on May 31, 2016 (EDT)
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I sincerely could not give a fig about what some one on the internet might say about my gear choices - they work for me.

Coming from a SARS background, it would be interesting to learn some of the gear that you carry that others may not.  I have plans to take wilderness first responder this year, and know that it will change my FAK gear list.

I just started helping out with my son's scout troop.  I am looking at my regular gear and thinking of getting a larger capacity pack to carry additional first aid and backup gear for boys who don't prepare as well.  I may be comfortable not carrying certain items when I go by myself or with my normal hiking buddies.  But if I'm going with a group of scouts, my priorities change.  And the weight and bulk of the disbursed group gear is going to be most likely heavier than if I am going in a smaller group.

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