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#101661 - 08/25/08 08:25 AM Recent observation of Light backpackers
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2742
Loc: California
We just returned from a 6-day loop from Edison Lake, with 2 days on the JMT (same as PCT here). We were going north; seems like all the JMT guys were going south, so we passed tons of backpackers. Out of all the hikers (perhaps 30 groups), only one couple looked like they were going "light". We lifted packs on the boat taxi: no light weight hikers here! One JMT hiker was carrying a 5-pound 2-man tent just for himself. I do not think it has rained for a month in the Sierra. Mosquitoes are practically nil right now too. Lots of heavy Nalgene water bottles. Lots of heavy-duty sleeping pads. Lots of 6-pound Gregory packs.

On the positive side, several of those camped at the Vermillion Lodge were going light- a Tarptent single Rainbow tent, a poncho set up, a bivy. So the message is getting out, however slowly. It seems to boil down to personal choice- which is good- we do live in a free country. There is an incredible reluctance go trade campsite creature comforts for all-day walking comfort. And I am far from light myself. I still have about 28-30 pounds on my back starting a 10-day trip.

Being a part of this forum makes us think that everyone is going light. Contrary to our personal interests in going light, it seems to me that most folks are still on the heavy side of the scale. Is this what you have observed in other places?

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#101662 - 08/25/08 09:58 AM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: wandering_daisy]
dkramalc Offline
member

Registered: 09/19/03
Posts: 1070
Loc: California
Yes, I was noticing that on our recent trip to Mitre Basin. Of course, most people we ran into were out for 5 days, but pretty much everyone was carrying big heavy-looking packs.
_________________________
dk

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#101663 - 08/25/08 11:43 AM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: wandering_daisy]
GrumpyGord Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 847
Loc: Michigan
Sometimes I question my lightweight ways. Recently I was out with a 21# pack w/ 5 days food and 1 qt water. I was going into my final destination on a well used tourist type trail and I spent one night with two couples who had hiked in five miles with 50# packs. They had fresh food, booze, chairs, coffee press, large tent etc. I hiked 12-15 miles per day and had tent, sleeping bag, thin sleeping pad, glop for food etc. I asked myself who was the smart one here.

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#101664 - 08/25/08 12:30 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: wandering_daisy]
trailblazer Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/02
Posts: 788
Loc: Menlo Park, CA/Sierra Nevada
I often never see ultralight backpackers "in the wild". In my mind it comes down to two concepts: education and decision making. As far as education goes, I think a lot of folks know about 'going lightweight' but that's as far as it goes (my last time I looked through mainstream backpacker magazines things were far from the philosophy of ultralight backpacking). So in my opinion although the concept is known, unless one decides to make that effort to learn, it'll never happen.

I will add that I once considered myself an ultralight backpacker and while I still adhere to the philosophy of lightening up, there are several decisions I've made over the last several years that stear me away from 'ultralight'. If you saw me on the trail, I doubt I'd be grouped into the lightweight club, but I couldn't be happier with my packweight. That's not to say my pack isn't light, it just doesn't look it. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
Greg
www.naturefocused.com

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#101665 - 08/25/08 03:41 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: wandering_daisy]
Spock Offline
member

Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 679
Loc: Central Texas
If everyone else was going UL, we couldn't feel smug.

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#101666 - 08/25/08 05:21 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: wandering_daisy]
Fiddleback Offline
member

Registered: 06/22/04
Posts: 478
Loc: Northern Rockies
I think your observation is spot on. 'We' think light packing is the 'answer' but the vast majority of backpackers are 'business as usual.' Nothing wrong with that except...

More and more, I'm running into neighbors and casual friends that say they, 'just can't do it anymore.' Their conditioning, middle-age spread, boomer knees, etc., have caused them to retire from backpacking. That's a real shame...everyone can do better/go further with 12 pounds on their back than with 50 (as one of my friends thinks is necessary). Meanwhile, I'm left with a diminishing group of trail partners...

FB
_________________________
"...inalienable rights...include the right to a clean and healthful environment..." Montana Constitution

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#101667 - 08/25/08 07:48 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: GrumpyGord]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Grumpy makes a good point. What is your priority?

My last few trips have been winter trips so mine is comfort and safety. I take a lot of stuff-a big two person tent, just for me, extra clothes and gear, skis and a sled. There are pics of my gear somewhere-winter forum or maybe trips forum.

On the other hand, I saw a tv show about Yellowstone showing a photgrapher sleeping under a tarp in a pretty big snowstorm. Not something I want to be doing.
_________________________
Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#101668 - 08/25/08 11:23 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: wandering_daisy]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
I'm probably not even considered lightweight by most here - I'm under 30 lbs but not under 20. However, I do feel that comfort is important and so is being prepared for sudden changes of weather/temps, especially as fall is slowly heading for winter.

Still I find that I am easily the smallest backpack on the trail with my Mariposa Plus, and all the coffin sized Jansports, Gregories and Ospreys going by me are often covered with sleeping pads, bags, mugs, huge GSI measuring cups, Nalgenes in various sizes, shoes boots or sandals, random bits of drying clothing, and parts of tents (or the whole darn Walmart dome tent that sleeps four). My stuff fits well into my pack and the bits I keep in the pockets are there for convenience's sake.

I do find that I run out of ibuprofen - I keep giving it to people who need it at the end of the day. Me, I just have a headache related to pollen allergies once in a while....
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#101669 - 08/27/08 08:14 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: GrumpyGord]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2742
Loc: California
For me, part of backpacking is knowing that I can be perfectly happy outdoors without the extras. Yes, I like real coffee; no I do not need it on a backpack. Yes I like wine; but do not need it on a backpack. I have found that if you go out for a long trip (say 30 days), you become very comfortable in the wilderness without the trappings of civilization. I think it is a mind-set. At first you miss the nice little things of civlization. Then you adapt to the wilderness and really do not miss these things. You begin to really LIVE in the wilderness.

I am not ultra light. For me the extra poundage that kicks me out of the ultra-light group is safety oriented- for me I need to know I can survive and be somewhat comfortable in odd one-week bad weather situations. The second thing that kicks me out of the ultra-light catagory is that I tend to use my current equipment until it wears out. When I replace a piece of equipment, I do go for the light weight gear, but it will take me some time to get everything light weight. But it is a goal of mine to lighten up a little bit each time I go out.

Don't get all envious of thoes with a coffee press. They are probably looking over at you with your small pack and envy you!

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#101670 - 08/27/08 08:29 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: TomD]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
> What's your priority

Mine has always been comfort.. Which is why I'm so happy right around the 18 to 20 lbs mark for a three day outing. With that I end up with a hammock and a big tarp that I sleep like a pithed frog under, comfortable clothes, food I like. a nip of scotch in the evening and
a book to read in my hammock after dark. There's little more I want or need, and I actuall
do not find myself looking at the 50-60 pounders with envy - usually it's more like pity -
particularly when the glass jars of peanut butter, and the full size kitchen wooden cutting boards come out.

As I've mentioned a few times - I know darn good and well I can go much lighter - particularly if I ditch the hammock and sleep on a thin pad on the ground with a smaller tarp, I *have* done it. it's just not comfy. *for me* the difference between "lightweight" (what I consider myself) and "ultralight" or other superlatives is comfort. I have for me to be what I consider a very nice balance between comfort on my back all day, and comfort in camp. But that "comfort" level will be very much up to the individual.

So, back to daisy's question, I hardly ever see other lightweighters on the trail, unless it's someone I've taken under my wing. I've seen a few. But frankly when I think most of the people I see on the trail in my area are twenty somethings who went into MEC with a visa card and said "Gear Me" it's not surprising. For all the availablility of mass market lightweight gear, it's not predominantly what is available, and it isn't "taught" to shoppers. Probably at least in part because they'd spend a lot less. Heck, i find even this group
tends to try to shy beginners away from it too much - beginners are scared they'll
end up cold, hungry, and uncomfortable an listen to the naysayers. (and don't start on me
about sending beginners out dangerously light. - search back and find my rant about
the crack-addled rhesus monkey being able to use my gear..)

And once winter gets here, my lightweight notions go mostly out the window. although I now have a homemade mini tent stove, bought a rollup pipe from tigoat, and have a golite hex 3 on the way that I am going to sew a stove boot into as my "solo hot tent". Again, lighter weight than traditional, but emphasis on the comfort.
_________________________
Any fool can be uncomfortable...
My 3 season gear list
Winter list.
Browse my pictures


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#101671 - 08/28/08 06:23 AM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: phat]
Fiddleback Offline
member

Registered: 06/22/04
Posts: 478
Loc: Northern Rockies
A soon-to-be bride was planning for her honeymoon cruise and dropped in at her drugstore to pick up dramamine and birth control pills. The druggest took a look at the lables of the bags he was handing over and said, "If it makes you sick, why do you keep doing it?" <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

I agree with phat. From my perspective, light/ultralight is all about comfort...the comfort of a light pack. If so much is dropped out that it impacts other factors of comfort or safety , then you're doing it wrong, IMO. Yes, I have read about gram weeinies whose approach is that weight is paramount. But, as my group in Boy Scouts use to say, "Any fool can be uncomfortable."

FB
_________________________
"...inalienable rights...include the right to a clean and healthful environment..." Montana Constitution

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#101672 - 08/29/08 01:41 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: wandering_daisy]
Earthling Offline
member

Registered: 02/22/03
Posts: 3228
Loc: USA
All seems to boil down to camp comfort and what style the individual backpacker takes. In the right Season WITH the right knowldege base, lightweight packing is alive and well. Sometimes a trip is planned around comforts in camp, as folks hike to a particular destination and back out. Every trip is different and that's what I enjoy about backpacking, to each their own. The other thing is that I never 'trail mooch', and am annoyed by those who do <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/mad.gif" alt="" /> If ya' failed to pack it to 'lighten' your load, then don't try to bum mine off me, use yer hand <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
PEPPER SPRAY AIN'T BRAINS IN A CAN!

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#101673 - 08/30/08 12:30 AM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: wandering_daisy]
intrek38 Offline
member

Registered: 11/29/03
Posts: 430
Loc: Hesperia, Calif
I'm down to around 30 -35lbs on my once a year 6 day trips which I know I have a ways to go but at least I can now look up a little more then I use too, also not a sore at the end of the day. Funny how much a person can forget in a year.
With the exception of this years hike, I have hike a loop above Edison Lake for the past 6 years. I must admit I'm a little anxious to see you trip report Daisy...

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#101674 - 08/30/08 06:29 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: wandering_daisy]
altadude Offline
member

Registered: 11/16/03
Posts: 524
I am headed for a 4 day trip in Baxter and will weigh my pack. I am with Phat-18-20lb including food.........lighter than in the old days.........but not that light.........

I am not an UL bper..........

I see the discussion/goal of UL as an intellectual imperative.......I aim to lighten up by not having what I consider "frills" and by slowly purchasing UL gear.........

What I cannot get rid of is the belts and suspenders gear for safety. I pack for a lot of "what ifs." Yes, I subscribe to "you brain" as being the most important piece of survival gear but also by knowing my limitations. I have read so many accounts of people who get injured or die from exposure-by not having any bivy or insulation clothing..........what ends up happening is that my day pack is much like my 4day bpack less the food............My professional training is aimed at working for the best and preparing for the worst............hard to be a gram weenie that way..........

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#101675 - 08/30/08 07:15 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: wandering_daisy]
Wolfeye Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/07
Posts: 413
Loc: Seattle, WA
Interesting observations. I've seen/talked to other hikers, and while the majority still do carry big-brand, big-weight packs and bombproof nalgenes, some people are at least aware of "those ultralight people". We're usually seen as those weirdos who pitch tarps with hiking poles. I do notice that chain sporting goods stores (like REI) mostly carry standard-weight gear, but will sometimes have a few token lightweight items for us who are in the minority of weight preference. A year ago I even saw a small line of "lightweight" hunting packs from Cabela's. At least we're on the radar.

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#101676 - 08/31/08 04:51 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: Wolfeye]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Wolfeye
Hi dude <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" />
Its been my observation that weight can be lessened by two methods, buying lighter gear, or taking less stuff. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> Little of my stuff is UL, but I generally BP with 16 -23 pounds of "traditional" gear. My tent is 3.25 lbs the pack is 29 ounces. UL to me means flimsy.
The concept that UL is better and people would embrace it if exposed to it is flawed.
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#101677 - 08/31/08 06:08 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: Jimshaw]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
I tend to agree (perhaps not quite so bluntly as Jim) that you can go light without necessarily going to extremes. One of the things the "hardcore" UL'ers have done is to nudge traditional gear makers to re-think traditional gear and come up with lighter versions. I've never found true UL gear to be flimsy, but I have found that it takes more care and fiddling.

Nearly all my gear is either from Granite Gear, MSR, Patagonia, or Brunton - all pretty much traditional offerings pared down as far as possible. Depending on exactly which shelter system (tent v. tarp and bivy), filter (Miniworks v. Hyperflow), rain gear (poncho v. rain suit), and pack (Vapor Trail v. Virga), my summer weekend load ranges from 13 to 17 pounds. A week in the fall rarely exceeds 25 pounds, even with a couple extra quarts of water.

Like Jim, most of the lighter load comes from doing without and thinking things through. For example, I can use a short pad instead of full-length by choosing a pack with a padded back that can be used to extend the pad; by using a Dromlite that can double as a pillow, and so forth. I only cook supper, reducing the weight of my food and letting me take less fuel, as well as reducing my kitchen gear to a Pocket Rocket stove, single Titan pot, and a spoon.

I've also stopped taking a candle lantern (when it gets dark, go to sleep) and spare clothes on weekend trips (nylon shorts with mesh liners eliminate the need for underwear and dry quickly, and a single synthetic T-shirt is plenty for a weekend. Longjohns under the shorts accomplish the same thing as long pants. I eliminated anything I didn't know how to use from my first aid kit, and also eliminated some of the more extreme stuff (where I hike reduces the risk of broken limbs and other trauma to an acceptably low risk, I believe.)

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#101678 - 09/01/08 05:48 AM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: Wolfeye]
chaz Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Tennessee
Oh they are aware of the lightweight crowd. And yes they think we take it to extreams. When I was in my local gear store (Outdoors Inc) here in Memphis and looking a stoves, I had the discussion with a salesman. Yes, we are kinda like freaks I guess. So be it.
_________________________
Enjoy your next trip...

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#101679 - 09/01/08 05:52 AM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: Jimshaw]
chaz Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Tennessee
Jim, I have to agree with you also. I don't own flimsey super lightweight stuff and I carry less. The only light gear that I carry is my pop can stove and pot and my hammock and fly. Everything else is regular stuff. And I consider a light pack weight at 26 to 30 lbs max.
_________________________
Enjoy your next trip...

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#101680 - 09/01/08 07:23 AM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: Jimshaw]
Fiddleback Offline
member

Registered: 06/22/04
Posts: 478
Loc: Northern Rockies
Yup...reducing the amount carried is the first and biggest step. But there's a certain negative connotation in the word, "flimsy", just as there is in its opposite, "over engineered." I'm not sure either word usage is fair. Backpackers can match equipment to the conditions expected and that often impacts pack weight, e.g., 'rugged' packs for bouldering or off-trail thickets, 'light' packs for cleared trails, trail runners or heavy boots, etc. Likewise, individuals can learn to match equipment to need; three-pound torch burners or soda-can stove, -20 sleeping bag or +20, 6000cu in pack or 4200?

Practiced correctly, packing light does not mean uncomfortable, unsafe, or unprepared. My standard, weekend load has been halved and I'm more comfortable and better fed on the trail than ever. I even carry more/more capable toys... <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

FB
_________________________
"...inalienable rights...include the right to a clean and healthful environment..." Montana Constitution

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#101681 - 09/04/08 07:30 AM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: wandering_daisy]
Haiwee Offline
member

Registered: 08/21/03
Posts: 330
Loc: Southern California
I see a lot of posts regarding "comfort" vs. "lightweight." I've posted on this subject before; I went lightweight precisely because I wanted to keep those comforts -- if not expand upon them.

When I was young I usually humped a fifty or fifty-five pound pack into the wilderness. I carried a heavy two-man tent in a heavy pack and slept in a heavy down bag on a ridge rest pad. Around camp I sat on logs or rocks. In addition to the essentials I carried a fishing rod, tackle, a book to read at night and a small flask of booze.

Thirty years later, I couldn't possibly carry that kind of weight; my knees would give out after two or three miles. Today, my base weight is a tad over 14 pounds, which allows me to still carry my fishing gear, book and booze, as well as a chair kit and an inflatable sleeping pad. My total weight on a five-day trip, including food and luxuries, is around thirty pounds.

In other words, I carry about twenty fewer pounds than before but actually enjoy more comforts -- I sleep better and lounge more comfortably around camp.

In short, I believe lightweight backpacking doesn't have to be a trade-off between weight and comfort, but is instead a means to continue to be comfortable, particularly as we grow older.
_________________________
My blog on politics, the environment and the outdoors: Haiwee.blogspot.com

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#101682 - 09/04/08 02:59 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: Haiwee]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
"In short, I believe lightweight backpacking doesn't have to be a trade-off between weight and comfort, but is instead a means to continue to be comfortable, particularly as we grow older."

I couldn't agree more. You've made the point I was trying for below, but much better: the extremists prompted the traditional gear makers to re-think their offerings, and the result has been that we get lighter gear without really sacrificing comfort or convenience.

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#101683 - 09/04/08 05:08 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: Glenn]
just_another_Joe Offline
member

Registered: 11/30/06
Posts: 117
Glad to see that everyone here, has it right. You are all focussed on personal preference. That is not the same as a gram weinnie bragging that his is lighter than yours. It is nice to be in good company.

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#101684 - 09/04/08 07:08 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: just_another_Joe]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

Hey mine is lighter than yours :-P
_________________________
Any fool can be uncomfortable...
My 3 season gear list
Winter list.
Browse my pictures


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#101685 - 09/04/08 07:22 PM Re: Recent observation of Light backpackers [Re: just_another_Joe]
bigfoot2 Offline
member

Registered: 09/17/06
Posts: 1432
Loc: Eugene , Oregon
Very good company at this board! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

BF <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
Hammockers aren't stuck up, they're just above it all.

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