Profile: Rod Johnson of Midwest Mountaineering

8:35 a.m. on May 17, 2010 (EDT)
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This thread is for comments on the article "Profile: Rod Johnson of Midwest Mountaineering"

Rod Johnson on the Pacific Crest Trail in the San Jacinto Mountains, May 2009. (All images courtesy of Rod Johnson)
“Ask us. We've been there.”
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9:42 p.m. on May 17, 2010 (EDT)
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Sounds like he’s been everywhere, and cares for his public! His PCT project, or at least this article, however, seems more of an ultra-light merchandising scheme than anything else. If this represents his ultra-light credo, he is overselling its potential.

One only need look at his pack and realize this light weight spec is accomplished by leaving most anything considered a camp comfort at home, and lacks any gear for the occasional unseasonable weather the Sierras throws at you. While he could be comfortable mid summer, even high on the JMT portions of the PCT, often the same trail would force him to cook from his sleeping bag, as he describes. Likewise no change of under garments has to make for rather crusty camping, especially after one of those 30 milers! Thus this approach to camping pretty much precludes the typical night time camp comradeship. Besides, after thirty miles it is all one can mange to crawl into their sack and pass out. IMHO these considerations are serious strikes against his calculus “..when the weight goes down, the fun goes up.”

The warm layer is only good for one’s fleece layer equivalent, at least according to its manufacturer. Barely enough warmth to get through hustling to get on the trail in the morning. Again that doesn’t sound fun.

His shell layer is actually a wind shirt with water resistant properties, this according to its manufacturer. Totally inadequate as rain gear. A two day storm will be serving out exposure to those relying on such gear to weather a storm.

No warm head gear. Especially an issue for us bald dudes.

Odor proof food bags. Yea right! That must be how they smuggle drugs past customs sniffer dogs. Again this appears to be a product pitched beyond its true capability. I don’t think a canister is necessary, since I had been hanging food for 35 years without incident, but that requires he bring along cord to carry out this task.

No toilet kit, sun screen, chap stick, water treatment, means to clean his mess kit, or means to keep his pack contents dry. All items I consider essential. One can debate the necessity of water treatment, several studies of many Sierra Nevada water sheds indicate treatment is necessary only for locales open to livestock ranges, or receive moderate + equestrian use, or receive heavy human use. All of these studies conclude locations requiring water treatment are the exception, not the norm, and even in many of these instances one can find unsullied water by searching out and utilizing head water sources. But no toilet kit is just wrong! As for no sun screen or chap stick, well to each his own.

Lastly, anyone who has walked 20 -30 miles a day realizes very few people would equate such distances to fun, even with no pack at sea level, regardless of physical conditioning. Most people’s bodies cannot absorb that amount of abuse day after day. This kind of article is exactly what I and others commented on in another thread, that the promise of ultra-light trekking is way overstated, and that merchandisers are principle in overselling these virtues to the gullible. Every time I went with some ultra-lighter on a Sierra trip who had a kit even remotely resembled such Spartan outfitting, they ended up borrowing gear from others.

11:12 p.m. on May 17, 2010 (EDT)
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Rod is a great guy, he runs a wonderful store. I've shopped at Midwest Mountaineering since 1982 when I moved to Minneapolis from Lake Wobegon to attend the University of Minnesota. The store has grown a lot since then. I had the pleasure of meeting Rod once (though I've seen him numerous times in the store). We sat next to each other at a counter in a local cafe and I enjoyed our conversation.

5:03 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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He seems like a cool guy. Lake Wobegon Alan? You really are a Minnesotan!

8:41 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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And to think that John Muir, according to the legend, hiked around the Sierra with a blanket and some bread! He must have been miserable, too!

9:13 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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And to think that John Muir, according to the legend, hiked around the Sierra with a blanket and some bread! He must have been miserable, too!

Yes, and Paul Bunyan had a blue ox! John Muir did a fair amount of his trekking by horseback, his "blanket" was ten pounds (or so says legend), he carried an axe, a means to start a fire, things to wear for the cold, etc. Legend and folklore aside, he probably did travel light relative to his era, but rest assured he went to the mountains with more than a blanket and a crust of bread.


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