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#110419 - 01/30/09 09:47 PM Is it worth it?
Barefoot Friar Offline

Registered: 01/23/09
Posts: 176
Loc: Houston, Alabama
I wandered into a large outdoor store yesterday evening. Let's call it "Big Fish". It was a great store, with friendly sales associates, more fishing bait than I knew existed, and the "look and feel" of the outdoors. My wife and I had been in a Big Fish in Nashville, TN, but this one was laid out and decorated differently than I remembered seeing before.

After looking through the clothing section, vainly searching for hiking socks, we made our way upstairs to the camping section. We zig-zagged up and down the aisles, looking at camp stoves, sleeping bags, and even a fairly wide selection of dehydrated and/or freeze-dried food.

Now, I am a newbie at all of this "backpacking stuff". I am even newer to the idea of lightweight backpacking. I carried around 50lbs for an overnighter my first time out. My wife and I are both still in college, so my budget-bought equipment isn't as light -- or as cool -- as others' gear. For instance, my pack is a hand-me-down ALICE rucksack on an aluminum frame, and it weighs in at around 7 pounds. So, although I really like the idea of ultralight backpacking, I haven't got the gear to really call myself ultralight.

As I was perusing the shelves of camping gear at Big Fish, I realized something: I could purchase any amount of this stuff and end up less happy than I am now. Sure, my backpack is heavy and out of date. Maybe my Coleman canister stove is bulky and heavy. Perhaps I don't have the latest fleece jacket or down mummy bag or bivy sack. The question is, am I using the gear I do have to get the most enjoyment from exploring the Great Outdoors?

I am one of these types of people who has to have the latest and greatest. Up until recently, that trait manifested itself most in books and computers. I have resisted the urge to go and spend my hard-earned (and much needed) money on a kit that I will use once or twice and then never look at again.

Eventually, I want to trade my two-man 3-season tent for a homemade hammock. I want to get rid of the army pack and get an ultralight internal frame. I want to trade my camp stove for one that is cheaper to use and lighter to carry. Some of these things will happen sooner than others. Until then, I am enjoying the wilderness, making memories and taking pictures. Someday, I will have children, and I hope to be able to share this with them as well.

I guess the point of all of this is to say that, when I am out in the wilderness, the equipment fades into the background and I focus on far deeper issues. As long as I pack intelligently, and use the gear I do have as best I can, it doesn't matter if my pack weighs 5 pounds or 25.

What is your viewpoint?
"Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls."

#110421 - 01/30/09 09:52 PM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
thecook Offline

Registered: 10/03/08
Posts: 541
Loc: Minnesota
More power to you! We would all be happier in our lives if we could remember to enjoy what we have instead of chasing what we don't have. That said, I must admit that I enjoy a trip more if my back doesn't hurt and I can take my eyes of the trail to look around because I am carrying less weight.
If I wouldn't eat it at home, why would I want to eat it on the trail?

#110425 - 01/30/09 10:40 PM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Heber Offline

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Well let me give you my perspective on that. I've been a poor married college student and it was great: the best time in my life in many ways. I have lots more money now and I'm pretty happy but not more happy than I was back then. Money is not requisite to happiness.

But I think you can cure you gear lust, lighten your backpack, conserve your meager resources, and enjoy the outdoors more in the process.

The trick is to learn to hike with less and to make the stuff you do take.

For instance you mention the hammock you hope to make. My homemade hammock cost less than $20 to make (material from the $1 bin at walmart and webbing from walmart as well). I have several professionally made hammocks but I don't like them better.

Ditch your heavy old stove and make a new one for free out of aluminum pop cans. It's fun to do and you'll like it better because you made it. Make the potstand of coat hangers and the windscreen of aluminum foil. It's more fun and lighter weight!

The thing is that the lighter your backpack gets the more of it is made of junk you find and think "hey, I could use this for ...". Look inside any lightweight backpackers bag and you'll find ziplock bags instead of cookware, old water bottles instead of canteens or nalgenes, keychain lights instead of flashlights, and pop can stoves instead of fancy stoves. And we use garbage bags for almost everything. Now I admit that I have a titanium spork. But that's because the $20 it costs is nothing to me. I remember when I was in your position and $20 was a lot of money. Take a plastic picnic spoon instead. It's lighter and you can always get a new one.

My advice is to stay away from those stores. It hurts me every time I go in and see people getting "oversold" with stuff they don't need. You can't really blame the salespeople, that's their job. They will try to convince you that this gadget is the thing that will make your wilderness trip worthwhile. They are wrong. The experience of hiking is it's own reward. Lightening up makes it easier to go farther and see more. But it doesn't take money to do that. It just takes smarts.

#110427 - 01/30/09 10:46 PM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
phat Offline

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

I'd say your experience perfectly mirrors mine. I don't find an awful lot of good lightweight stuff in "big box" outdoor stores.or if there is, you have to be *really* careful about what you are buying. Is it worth it? I think so. Personally
I don't notice much difference between carying 15 pounds and 20 pounds on my back. but I notice 30, and 45 to 50 is a real pain. The main difference for me with 20 pounds is I can walk like my pack doesn't exist. I can enjoy the walk - not just the camp, and I walk more and go further. So for me, yes, it's
totally "worth it" - but I certainly doin't get to such weights
by buying gear randomly at big fish type stores.

There are a lot of options to go out with "less" and as you seem to have noticed (good on you!) that doesn't mean you *can't* go out with old "uncool" gear. One of the biggest ways
to start going lighter is just start reducing, what you are taking down to what you need, as opposed to what "might be cool". There are lots of things you can do without doing very much at all:

1) consider adapting the food you take to something suitable for an alcohol stove, and make one of the endless varietys discussed here and elsewhere and try it out. While you're at it
reduce your "cook kit" to a small pot, spoon, and maybe a cup.

2) Carefully look at the clothing you take. look at a few of our packlists and how we use them. If you have to change anything, don't necessrily run out and buy the most expensive Patagucci rig you can find - second hand stores can find you wonderful nylon dress/liner socks - woolens - fleece - and cashemere which are wonderful to take for hardly any dough.

3) you've probably seen the risk tesk hammock links here, and you've mentioned making a cheap one - great other way to start.

4) any rudimentary sewing skills help. lots of projects there.

There is a good couple of threads here about a 200 dollar challenge (with some healthy arguments) and a few cheap lists.
look back a bit and you'll find them.

Any fool can be uncomfortable...
My 3 season gear list
Winter list.
Browse my pictures

#110431 - 01/30/09 11:34 PM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: phat]
Jimshaw Offline

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3939
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Read what phat said again


You have to ask your self, are you doing this to collect cool stuff that you may use once to justify it? Are you simply trying to go enjoy camping. What is your purpose? How often will you go? I spent $75 on gear to spend an entire summer backpacking. ok it was a long time ago, but the point is, unless you're outfitting an expedition or intend to buy rugged for ever gear, maybe just concentrate on having fun without worrying too much about gear. I mean ya wear clothes anyway, a pack is just a sack for your stuff, and so is a sleeping bag.
Have fun
get out
plan later
just go, unless its below freezing, then ignre all of the above.
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

#110433 - 01/30/09 11:47 PM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Glenn Offline

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
I think you've got your head screwed on straight, and like the others said, you'll make the biggest weight reductions by learning what you don't need. If you just start replacing everything you carry now, you'll just end up with lighter versions of stuff you don't need.

I started out like most folks here - American Camper pack, Sterno stove, polyethylene tarp - and, yes, a very heavy Coleman slumber-party sleeping bag. It worked great, and I was happy.

As the kids grew, finished college, and started their own lives, the financial pressures eased. I've been lucky enough, the last few years, to be able to indulge myself in a lot of those shiny new toys - from the backpacking stores, not Big Fish. It's added another dimension to the hobby, and greatly improved my knowledge of how gear is made and intended to function - but it hasn't really made me any happier when I'm out (it hasn't made me less happy either.) You've already figured out my point: gear is secondary to the main thing, getting out and away to restore your soul and your sanity.

Worry about the shiny new toys in a few years. Just have fun now.

#110447 - 01/31/09 08:51 AM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
earlylite Offline

Registered: 02/27/07
Posts: 31
Loc: New England
For me, lightweight is not about the weight. It's about simplification and higher awareness.

Going light lets you focus on the wilderness and not your stuff because you haven't brought much with you. Out in "the world", we insulate ourselves from feeling and experiencing through gadgets and unnecessary crap.

If you have to figure out how to use what little you've brought to survive, you are forced to become more creative and plugged in to your experience.

my two,


#110448 - 01/31/09 09:35 AM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Barefoot Friar Offline

Registered: 01/23/09
Posts: 176
Loc: Houston, Alabama
I've certainly learned a good bit. I'm getting my gear together for a weekender in a few weeks, and I've got my base weight down to less than 20lbs. Even with food, water, and fuel, I should still be below 25lbs. The limiting factor for me has been the weight of my pack, stove, and tent.

I asked about hammocks on the MYOG board and got a great link to a pattern that I'm going to try. That will save me at least 32oz. Like Heber mentioned above, I've seen several threads about making stoves from various cans*. I will probably try that before too long. That will shave a good bit more weight. Once I get my kit down to where I want it, I can start looking for a pack that weighs significantly less than 7lbs.

I visited Big Fish just to see what all they had, and because I had two hours to kill. They didn't have all that many more things than a good-sized Wally World, and I really didn't expect them to. Looking at their selection did start me to thinking about all this.

I guess it all boils down to this: What are your priorities? Now, what gear do you need to meet those priorities?

*We Southerners have no such thing as "pop". I'm assuming you're talking about Coke? Down here, all carbonated soft drinks are referred to as Coke. For instance, "I want a Coke." "What kind?" "Pepsi." I think it's kinda funny, actually.
"Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls."

#110471 - 01/31/09 04:30 PM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Becks Offline

Registered: 01/27/09
Posts: 18
Loc: Switzerland
Originally Posted By Bear

I guess it all boils down to this: What are your priorities? Now, what gear do you need to meet those priorities?

This is exactly what you have to learn (and it takes time). I have trimmed my stuff to the lowest possible weight, but if it comes to safety or comfort, i donīt accept any "workarounds".

Safety - I will never replace my heavy ice axe with one made of alu and carbon. Weight is needed to penetrate hard ice and therefor means safety.

Comfort - my thermarest weight more than other sleeping mats. buts itīs comfotable, and if I sleep well, I am not so tirede the next day.

personal reasons: I carry a heavy D80 SLR, even if I go climbing. I love my pictures and taking photos. the small ones donīt produce the same quality and offer what the D80 does.

itīs up to you. If you like fresh socks in the evening, take two pairs with you, even on weekened trips. And let the rest of the surround persons cry because you have carried unneeded materials with you.


#110474 - 01/31/09 07:16 PM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: Becks]
sabre11004 Offline

Registered: 05/05/07
Posts: 513
Loc: Tennessee

Yes, I do think that it is worth the time and money to go as light as you possibly can. However, that doesn't mean that you have to go out and spend a thousand dollars on all new gear. That, in my opinion, would be crazy. I think that I saw someone in here post some thing about making your own gear and there is an entire section right here on that very topic. I am quite like the poster right before me. I would like to be as light as I possibly can but I won't sacrifice where it compromises safety. Some times I have left gear to be a little lighter and thought man I wished that I would have brought that, or I might pack something a little extra, and sooner than later be saying, "what the hell did I bring that for, so as many in here advise do a lot through trial and error, check and try out a lot of your gear at home before taking it to the back country and last but not least, make whatever gear that you can manage. Those things should save you a lot of money. I like tinkering with different gear trying to fashion some on my own that will suffice what the gear stores sell. I could go out and purchase all new gear but I am much too frugal for that. I get the safest, most comfortable, and the most cost efficient gear that I can get my hands on and I don't mind at all that it is home made either. Hope that helps...sabre11004..goodjob

The first step that you take will be one of those that get you there...
The first step that you take will be one of those that get you there 1!!!!!

#110489 - 01/31/09 09:03 PM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Spock Offline

Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 679
Loc: Central Texas
5 pounds or 25?
Well, no. But you will find - if you are out a lot and have any gumption at all - that your pack weight will come down - if you make intelligent gear choices. And if you go out with 8 pounds instead of 25, you might find it is a completely different experience - like not wearing a pack at all.

Edited by Spock (02/02/09 12:28 PM)

#110542 - 02/01/09 07:23 PM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
finallyME Offline

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Hey Bear,

Your signature is exactly what I experienced when I moved from California to Texas. grin grin . Someone would ask me, "Want a coke?". I would say, "No, how about a sprite instead", they would say, "That is what I asked?". I rebel against the two and call it "soda" though.

All right, back to the topic at hand. eek
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

#110579 - 02/02/09 03:12 PM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: finallyME]
Paddy_Crow Offline

Registered: 11/08/04
Posts: 2285
Loc: Michigan
Don't you mean "pop?"

#110588 - 02/02/09 05:37 PM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: finallyME]
chaz Offline

Registered: 10/22/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Tennessee
Coke was invented in Atlanta and it's the same here in Memphis.
I think up north they call em sodas. Anyway, they rot your teeth sick and give you an overload of sugar. Water and good beer is much better. Give me a good Porter anyday. wink
Enjoy your next trip...

#110605 - 02/02/09 11:53 PM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: chaz]
kevonionia Offline

Registered: 04/17/06
Posts: 1322
Loc: Dallas, TX
Or a stout.

- kevon

(avatar: raptor, Lake Dillon)

#110620 - 02/03/09 10:11 AM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: kevonionia]
chaz Offline

Registered: 10/22/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Tennessee
Right, No Bud,miller,coors etc.. Any good real beer. Yummmm...
Enjoy your next trip...

#110635 - 02/03/09 02:14 PM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: chaz]
hikerduane Offline

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2124
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
In the early 70's I was talking to my boss, a outdoor hunter/fisherman. We were discussing fishing at a lake I had heard about and I didn't have a pack. He loaned me his pack a couple times, then I bought it off of him for around $35 I believe, a Camp Trails external pack which I used for weekend and up to eight day trips until the nineties. What I want to say, is, a bp is all you really need to buy, if you had a sleeping bag from when you were a kid, you can take stuff from home to do at least an overnighter. A heavy, synthetic bag is cheap to at least get out of the house. Maybe a piece of plastic if it looks like rain, in the west, on alot of trips that would have been all that was needed. Of course back then, I cooked over a fire.

#110658 - 02/04/09 12:34 AM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
jimbame Offline

Registered: 02/21/04
Posts: 50
Bad knees...older frame....desk it worth it....yes definately yes...

#110685 - 02/04/09 11:33 AM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Wolfeye Offline

Registered: 01/11/07
Posts: 413
Loc: Seattle, WA
My experience is much as you describe, Bear - when I'm out there, days away from civilization, it's not about the gear. When I'm with people, we learn things about each other even if we were lifelong friends or family. When I'm alone, I sometimes have profound, almost religious experiences. The wilderness is about centering one's self, leaving all the schedules & cellphones behind. Or at least turned off. wink

What I've found is that the gear "fades into the background" much more readily if it weighs less. Plus, it gives me something hiking related to focus on during the winter months; that's when I finetun my gear for the upcoming spring.

The commercializm of all that gear also gets to me. I used to shop at REI & Cabela's all the time, but now I find myself ording gear online from lesser-known places, manufacturers of niche products that fit my needs better.

#110763 - 02/05/09 01:52 PM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Coffeefiend Offline

Registered: 02/03/09
Posts: 8
Loc: Mid-South USA
I'm with you buddy. Though the best way to cut weight is to leave your wallet at home; it's going to be heavy with all the money you're going to be saving. wink

I agree with what many have said here: find out where your priorities are, and pack for that. I usually don't take many extra clothes when I go camping; something clean to sleep in (so I don't get my bag filthy) and I'm good to go. My campmates complain that I stink, but I'm comfortable!

#110809 - 02/06/09 11:36 AM Re: Is it worth it? [Re: Coffeefiend]
JAK Offline

Registered: 03/19/04
Posts: 2569
Wool doesn't stink so much. At least mine doesn't, I don't think.
No camp mates. Hmmm. wink


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