Long trail hiker vs. vacation backpacker, vs. weekend backpacker.

10:53 p.m. on September 11, 2018 (EDT)
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I think you can put backpackers into three categories: Long trail, vacation (me), and weekend.  My current hiking partner is the first long trail hiker I've really gotten to know.  Obviously some sort of addiction.  Some of the appeal seems to be the community formed among long trail hikers.  A tight knit group.  One annoying aspect of them, if my friend is typical, is that they think the only advice worth anything comes from other long trail hikers.  The problem with this, as I see it, is that it is too easy for one or two people to start a trend.  One person gets on a blog and says the did the PCT with shoe A and it was fantastic.  Another person chimes in that he loves them too.  Pretty soon half the people on the PCT are hiking in shoe A, even though there are other shoes that would suit them better.

Long trail hikers need things that are durable, reliable and comfortable.  They could be stuck with it for a couple thousand miles.  Admittedly, quite a testing ground for gear and methods.

On the other hand, vacation backpackers have the advantage that if something doesn't work one trip, they can try something else next trip.  They can try more things.  This gives them experience too.

Weekend backpackers may do a dozen trips a year.  They can try something new almost every weekend,  But, unlike the long trail hikers, and vacation hikers, they aren't carrying heavy packs, so we need to keep this in mind.

The point is, anyone that has done a lot of backpacking, whether long trail, vacation, or weekend, probably has knowledge to contribute and is worth listening to. 

7:40 a.m. on September 12, 2018 (EDT)
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Listening is a great way to learn what works for other folks, but doing is what will tell you what works for you. In the end that is all that really matters. The shelter or shoe that everyone says you should use is not guaranteed to be the one that works best for you. This works in both directions, so what works for you may not be what is best for another. All you can do is try things and see what happens.

As someone who fits into all of your categories at various times of the year and a few categories you didn't mention, I've learned to listen to everyone because you never know who will lead you towards something you didn't know before, even if they don't know it either. I mix ideas I've stolen from long distance Ultra Lighters with others stolen from expedition style Ultra Loaders and even a few crazy ideas I came up with on my own. I'm happy to share my methods, but I never tell anyone they should do what I do. Everyone has to figure that out for themselves.

I agree with you about listening to everyone RP, but that doesn't mean I'm going to do what they tell me to do ;)

10:43 a.m. on September 12, 2018 (EDT)
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Long trail hikers are a relatively new group.  I meet them a lot on the PCT.  They have the lighest packs often and carry minimal food which seems counter intuitive.  They are into mileage. 

Vacation hikers are the main group. 

Weekend hikers are the newbies and casual people. Maybe the people with kids. 

I could never be a long trail hiker in a million years.  There is too much to see, feel and contemplate. Equipment needs are somewhat determined by which group people are in.  I respect the gear choices of the long distance group and do not believe that people use trendy equipment for 2,000 miles. They use what works. 

11:26 a.m. on September 12, 2018 (EDT)
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Don't we all do versions of each of these?  I've done a ton over overnight trips as my schedule allowed, and I've done some longer loops while on vacations.  I've also done some through hikes---although none in the thousand mile category.  And I've met many thru-hikers while they were on vacation afterwards...backpacking into an area that we were visiting. 

I think we are all backpackers.  Not sure what is to be gained by putting us into individual boxes...

11:37 a.m. on September 12, 2018 (EDT)
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ppine said:


I could never be a long trail hiker in a million years.  There is too much to see, feel and contemplate. 

 You totally could do it man. You just need to let go of the idea that you have to do it like other folks are doing it. If you want to go slower and see the world, make a plan that allows for that. Maybe you break the PCT into two years of hiking, or five :) Whatever fits your time schedule and makes you happy.

3:16 p.m. on September 12, 2018 (EDT)
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Thanks to Randall for throwing some good ideas out there.

LoneStranger it would take me 10 years or 20 but I am not interested. I do not care about mileage only being there. 

7:48 p.m. on September 12, 2018 (EDT)
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ppine said:

LoneStranger it would take me 10 years or 20 but I am not interested. I do not care about mileage only being there. 

 +1

it‘s the one place I’m allowe’d to slow down or speed up for that matter and experience life and all the peace, quiet and beauty that I can stand.without distraction or interruption. It is a calm place where my spirit gets to rest and interact with things and yes people who I find interesting and worth the effort. To steal a line from who I don’t know. “ Far From the Madning Crowd “

I can live with any one of these groups, even the ones who p me off! We all have the same goal in mind, leave the madness behind. And get near something that is honest and real!!!

9:15 p.m. on September 12, 2018 (EDT)
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I think we are all backpackers.  Not sure what is to be gained by putting us into individual boxes...

I agree...like saying if your pack weighs less than X you are Y....ultralight etc labels. Just carry what you think best for you and your plan, and walk as far and fast as you want and life and limbs allow.

3:14 a.m. on September 13, 2018 (EDT)
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I do believe that there are useful and meaningful differences between these different hiking experiences...but folks who go hiking on weekends don't necessarily have more time or more inclination to tweak things...I know plenty of folks who typically hike on weekends who rarely change anything. You could also make the argument that hiking day after day over several thousand miles gives both ample time and motive to tweak gear (mail and the internet provide the means). I think the tweaking of things is probably more a personal factor than a categorical one. That is...one tinkers more because he or she is a tinkerer...not because he or she goes hiking mostly on the weekend.

The idea that weekenders don't carry heavy packs is a bit laughable. A lot of beginners start by walking around in the woods with big packs on weekends...and I imagine a lot of veterans sometimes opt for a heavier pack for a "fun trip" because you can get away with some "luxuries" before the extra weight catches up with you on a weekend trip. Lastly...durability + reliability + comfort are qualities all three groups equally value and test (albeit differently). It may take me two or three years to put a comparable degree of wear on something that a Long-trailer could manage in a few months...but the lifespan of my gear choices is in years not months.

The Weekender seems like a useful category...if I was a Weekender most of my trips are likely to happen no more than a few hours away from my home. To keep cost and waste down I would want to buy gear highly tuned for 1-5 day trips no more than a few hundred miles from my house...splurging for more comfort when I can because I can "afford" to carry it...and comforts allow for more "chill" backpacking trips which are common for people who walk on weekends. On the rare occasions that I would hike more than a few hours from my home I would either work with what I had or supplement if absolutely necessary. The payoff with this strategy is that most of my $ is invested in gear that is used frequently and highly tuned for where I go and what I do...ideally no more and no less. Long-trailer also seems kind of useful...traveling with my gear is more of a priority to consider since I cannot assume I will always travel by car. I would also want my gear choices to work well over a larger range of conditions than I would as a weekender...usually at the cost of comforts since it is mostly business when on the trail. If I did more big-mile trips than weekend trips I would switch from a dedicated sets of clothes for "sleeping" and "moving" to something more of a single set of clothes to get more range for weight. I am unsure what a Vacationer is (I know the OP is one). Is a Vacationer someone who base-camps in cool spots and "vacations" in the area...or hikes for 1-2 weeks during their vacation-time? I've done both...there was not a lot of overlap in the gear used.

7:33 a.m. on September 13, 2018 (EDT)
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balzaccom said:

I think we are all backpackers.  Not sure what is to be gained by putting us into individual boxes...

 I think of it as more of a gradient than a bunch of categories. You just choose where you want to be on that gradient for any given trip and gear up accordingly. Hut-based hiking adds another angle to the mix.

9:05 a.m. on September 13, 2018 (EDT)
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I have my own categories for hikers (Walmart hikers, for example) but I try to remember that we all have our own way of enjoying the wild places and, as long as they don't trash the place, they're all okay. 

12:41 p.m. on September 13, 2018 (EDT)
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One of the joys of backpacking is that is personal.  You get to chose your stuff. It is a form of self expression whether people think of that way or not.  In over 50 years of bping, I have expressed myself quite differently over the years. From a Trapper Nelson to a ULA Circuit. 

1:47 p.m. on September 13, 2018 (EDT)
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ppine said:

One of the joys of backpacking is that is personal.  You get to chose your stuff. It is a form of self expression whether people think of that way or not.  In over 50 years of bping, I have expressed myself quite differently over the years. From a Trapper Nelson to a ULA Circuit. 

 We must put an end to this personal business; obviously regimentation is required.  We must have order - distinctive uniforms and insignia for each of the three ordained categories!

On a more serious note, I also started out with a Trapper Nelson which was actually pretty good,at least until I acquired a Kelty rigid frame.

There are all kinds of backpacking and hiking modes, not all of which are strictly recreational.

 

2:38 a.m. on September 14, 2018 (EDT)
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FromSagetoSnow said:

I have my own categories for hikers (Walmart hikers, for example) but I try to remember that we all have our own way of enjoying the wild places and, as long as they don't trash the place, they're all okay. 

Then there's these guys:

 "You see some folks out on the river

Scientifically clean

They look like everything just kind of stuck to them

The last time they walked through LL Bean"

--Greg Brown, "Fishin' with Bill"

3:56 a.m. on September 14, 2018 (EDT)
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BigRed said:

Then there's these guys:

 "You see some folks out on the river

Scientifically clean

They look like everything just kind of stuck to them

The last time they walked through LL Bean"

--Greg Brown, "Fishin' with Bill"

 I call these types Banana Republic refugees, and sometimes greet them "Dr Livingston I presume..."  They smile and write me off as a stoned, lost, wise ass tourist in a Hawaiian shirt.

---------------

My heaviest packs have always been the weekender packs - fresh meats, veggies and fruits, beer, wine, camp shoes, water when desert camping - things I don't wish to carry for days on end.  Other than that, my pack weight breaks down into 3 season, 4th season low altitude, and 4th season high altitude (due to the clothing and equipment requirements of each season), with each getting more heavy as additional days of food are piled on.

If I were critical of a particular doctrine, it is more the way certain folks practice UL principals.  I've run into long haulers in mid October, doing the JMT/PCT with trail runner shoes, clothing good only to about the mid thirties, a 40⁰F bag, and a 3 season tarp tent and Jetboil stove.  Even if it doesn't snow, temps often dip into the teens that time of year anywhere along the trail, and into the single digits in the alpine sections.  Very uncomfortable under the best of circumstances, and a risk of frost bitten toes if it does snow.  

Ed

3:19 p.m. on September 14, 2018 (EDT)
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I have done two weekend trips with a cooler of beer.  The first one was in a wheel barrow. The second was a little red wagon.  We went to a special place with a beautiful lake and no one around. Back in the days when the wives always wanted to go. 

12:44 p.m. on November 4, 2018 (EST)
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There's another category -- admittedly rare, but one I've fallen into most often myself: lifestylers. Folks that veritably live in the wilderness, with only short breaks in-between to restock.

Like the Long Trailers, we're out for extended periods of time, and are concerned primarily with durability, weight and comfort. But we spend far less time walking, and more time sitting, napping, eating, contemplating, etc., and thus measure the comfort of our gear with less emphasis on carry weight and more on convenience and in-camp enjoyment.

Lifestylers don't get to swap out gear very often -- perhaps even less often than Long Trailers, depending on where they happen to be traipsing for that season.

Lifestylers are immensely obsessed with versatility. Most often we have a but a single set of gear that has to be used in every situation, every terrain, every season.

From the Long Trailers, Lifestylers can glean good information about weight, but comfort not so much. Gear that is comfortable for high output activity looking to cover the most distance may or may not be right for the lifestyler. To the lifestyler, it's a thin line between "through-hiking" and "trail-running".

From the vacationers we find good tips on high-performance gear. From the weekenders, we get ideas for creating those "What? All the way out here?" moments, like when you whip out that surprise titanium flask of cask-strength whiskey 3 days in, just to see the look on your friends' faces.

All of these people are awesome. 

8:24 a.m. on November 5, 2018 (EST)
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I do believe any backpacker could be all three or four categories of backpacker....It's what peaks your interest at the time...Long trial hikers are also into lifestyle...But doesn't mean that after all the trials they don't enjoy short trips in canyons etc...It's what you have time for as said...BTW hello to everyone I been busy with work and helping a friend....

10:04 a.m. on November 5, 2018 (EST)
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I was a long distance backpacker for the first 30 years going to places like Yosemite, Denali, Grand Teton and the Grand Canyon for 5-6 months of the year to do nothing but backpack, camp and be alone in the wilds. I hiked about 5-10 miles a day.

Then in my 50's I started slowing down and doing week long trips. 

Now I do over nighters going in no more than a few miles, camping at favorite spots and then returning to town/home. I do overnighters once a week now in my early 60's.

10:07 a.m. on November 5, 2018 (EST)
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For a large group of backpackers, it is the weekend trips that make such a big difference in their lives.  I can remember living in an apartment when I was young and having a fairly urban existence.  We worked hard and being able to visit the quiet and hang out was part of a mental health plan.  Nearly all backpackers fit in some short trips.  I have done some one night trips behind the house that were outstanding. 

10:21 a.m. on November 5, 2018 (EST)
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BigRed said:

FromSagetoSnow said:

I have my own categories for hikers (Walmart hikers, for example) but I try to remember that we all have our own way of enjoying the wild places and, as long as they don't trash the place, they're all okay. 

Then there's these guys:

 "You see some folks out on the river

Scientifically clean

They look like everything just kind of stuck to them

The last time they walked through LL Bean"

--Greg Brown, "Fishin' with Bill"

 Ok this made me laugh. Yesterday I was waiting to meet up with my wife on a forest service road and needed to watch for her along a two mile stretch that paralleled a big creek. So as I hung out and walked up and down the road, I observed a fly fisherman dressed like this. He was glowingly clean but the part that bothered me was that he kept parking his $60K Audi Coupe almost in the middle of the single track road, would fish a hole for a minute and then move, stopping at any hole he could see from the road, traffic be damned. A couple folks thought he had car trouble (since he was blocking the two way road) and offered assistance only to find out, no, car was fine, he was just a jackass making everyone wait on him to fish the spot. 

9:18 a.m. on November 6, 2018 (EST)
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The nice thing about living in a free country with large areas of designated wilderness is that we get to do what we want.   People can dress like they came out of a catalogue or they can buy their whole outfit at WalMart.  Why should we care?  Especially out there in the bush. I care about the character of the people I meet, not what they look like.  Fortunately, at least in the West, the backcountry is a great filter, and it reveals great people mostly on their best behavior. 

2:24 a.m. on November 9, 2018 (EST)
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Obviously most of us fall along a continuum, it would be really difficult to do the same thing the same way all the time, but I tend to see a bit of value in analyzing and giving some measure of thoughtful order to the chaos around us. Knowing that your activities fit into one category more than others can help in evaluating gear and practices, at least enough to justify any loss of autonomy one feels when he or she learns about "fitting" (or if they are more rebellious, not "fitting") into a category.

The idea of a category of people positioned somewhere between weekenders and long-hikers is interesting, but lifestylers is far too broad of a name since all the categories are lifestyles, the word lifestyle seems to indicate a measure of commitment to a particular category. Similarly, I was thinking the single-set of gear descriptor is probably a better indicator of individual levels of resources and inclinations, than a requirement based on frequently doing stuff in one area for long periods of time. What do you think of the category base-campers instead?

11:03 a.m. on November 9, 2018 (EST)
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Fair enough regarding the breadth of the term "lifestylers". Specifically, I am referring to those who essentially live in their gear 24/27, and for whom backpacking/adventuring/outdoorsing is, more or less, their very career. Often these people have no other home than their backpack or car. "Extra" gear is anathema to these types: they're either using something every day for survival, or it gets left behind as too cumbersome.

Would "basecampers" be the folks who backpack in to set up a comfortable camp and then day-hike or peak-pag from there? (And suddenly I am thinking about the other thread here that recently mentioned unattended gear being stolen). 

7:44 p.m. on November 9, 2018 (EST)
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We are getting somewhat bounded by preconceptions of what different labels connote.  But in the spirit of chaos, let me add these categories:

Expedition Picnickers (enjoying a fine wine and fresh fruit 3 days from the nearest road)

Bannana Republic and LL Bean catalog refugees. (John James Audubon and Dr Stanley Livingston would envy these folks' attire.)  Most are day hikers.

Tuna (an insult Denali guides use when referring to their Patagucci donning, unskilled, rude clientele).

Darwinites (think poorly equipped, both physically and mentally).

Dirt baggers (old hippies found stumbling around the remote backcountry sporting chalk bags and bandanas. looking for a high place with a noice view to enjoy a smoke)

Angling ramblers (the guys with waders 20 miles from the nearest roadhead)

Wildlife tactical assault/survivalists (obsessed with emergency fire starters and bears; occupies self by clear cutting hillsides, acquiring materials to practice shelter construction.)

BC families (Getting tribal with your blood).

Ed

11:27 a.m. on November 10, 2018 (EST)
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My uncles always talks about "amiable rustics."  Local guys that know the country and carry little in the way of equipment.  They are always fun to talk with.  Ed has hinted at the great spectrum of humanity that loves to be outside.  God Bless all of them. 

Here are a couple of new car camper types.  In Yosemite we were visited by "NIght Germans."  They show up at night in sports cars dressed in track clothes and set up their tents with their headlights.  They are gone by the time we got the coffee made. 

A related new group are the "anti-camping Millenials."  They show up in sports cars and only sleep at their campsites.  They are gone all day and never cook any food. 
They go out to dinner and use a campsite as a place to sleep only. 

9:12 a.m. on November 27, 2018 (EST)
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Zalman has made some outstanding posts. 

As a scientist, we were out there about half the time.  It made life confusing though, because being in the bush always meant working hard with little time to rest and have fun.  It was still the life I was meant to live. 

4:44 p.m. on November 30, 2018 (EST)
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I agree with Denis. You are what you eat, so to speak. There were summers where I spent more time on the trail than off. Much shorter/more sporadic trail time now. Same with our kids - they day hike and occasionally overnight, but one spent a week out, trails near Lake Superior, and had a blast. Will say that the backpack I used for the longest times outside was the largest and heaviest because I was carrying a lot of stuff.

Also, gear is pretty season-dependent if you live in a place where you can get big snowfall and bad winter weather. 

Everyone has a point of view about what works. I haven't spent time on a trail with a know-it-all gear person in a very long time, and it would probably get me to intentionally walk faster or slower to avoid it. I'm not out there to listen to someone rap about the best shoes or backpack.

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