What is traditionalist? I know things change over the years and quickly and there is a lot of discussion on what gear is carried and what traditionalist gear is. What is your view of traditional camping gear in this near to be 2012? For discussion sake letís keep it at five days hike? Say about 40 lbs What is normal for a weekend camper say overnight on Friday and Saturday night. I mention this because one hiker in our club makes his own gear. He even waterproofs his own cotton tarp. Every space has a purpose and everything exactly fits or will not take it with him. He says he is a traditionalist?
Many reach for distant shores only to run to the safest harbor.
To me, a traditionalist is one who attempts to do things with the same materials, tools and skills of a specific time and place. It is an attempt to keep history alive by respecting the tradition. One obvious example that fits *my* definition are re-enactors. Whether it is the civil war, or some other historical re-enactment. My personal definition allows for traditionalists to exist on a continuum as well. In other words, there could be degrees of "traditionalist", it isn't necessarily an either/or proposition. One could attempt to re-trace a specific hike of historical (or personal) significance, but using modern gear for example. Or one could attempt to use historical gear just to hike/camp with on modern trails/parks/grounds. Or anything in between. But that is just my personal view of what it means to be a traditionalist.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
A "traditionalist" could be someone who carries the kind of heavy pack I carried 25 years ago--45 lbs for a 5-day trip (as opposed to my current 18). Or a "traditionalist" could be someone who uses the kind of gear our ancestors used in the days before silnylon, titanium and other lightweight materials, such as cotton canvas tarps or (the tent my parents bought in 1941), long-staple Egyptian cotton with paraffin coating. (Is that what your friend was making?) It could also be applied to someone trying to re-create what Jim Bridger or John Muir used on the trail. However, I would think the term "historical re-enactor" might be more accurate for the latter two categories.
I am extremely grateful for the new lightweight materials, because by any definition of "traditional," I would no longer be backpacking!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Short answer: anybody who consistently agrees with Jimshaw.
The term is usually applied to gear: if you prefer, say, Kelty, Jansport, and Sierra Designs gear to Tarptent, Six Moon Designs, and Gossamer Gear, you're probably making "traditional" choices: they will be slightly heavier, perhaps more bombproof, and generally less expensive.
In my own case, I have a preference (some of the unenlightened would say, "obsession") for MSR and Thermarest gear. Within those lines, I tend to think of my "traditional" gear as the Prolite Plus, Hubba tent, and Miniworks filter; the "modern" gear would be the NeoAir, Carbon Reflex tent, and Hyperflow filter.
However, it can also refer to style: preferring a single hiking staff rather than trekking poles, white gas stove instead of alcohol or canister - or cooking over a fire instead of any stove, preferring a tarp (and getting chewed on by insects) to a tent, or an external frame pack over an internal frame.
Unfortunately, it's also sometimes used as a slur, hinting that someone who prefers traditional gear or style just doesn't get it, and isn't on top of his/her game. That's totally unfair. Traditional gear works as well now as it ever did, and as well as the cutting edge stuff - and if it doesn't, it's usually because of user error or lack of skill, not because there's anything inherently wrong with the gear. (Which brings us full circle back to Jimshaw.)
The word conjured a mental picture of an external frame with a massive sleeping bag roll tied to it, full of things like a blue poly tarp, a griddle, extra pair of jeans and various other things today's backpacker would raise eyebrows at.
Guess that's because that's how we did it when I was a kid. There were also massive internal frame packs, but dad as family sherpa preferred the external.
We ate stuff like pancakes, eggs and bacon, fried potatoes, and fresh caught trout. Slept cold but had a good time.
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki
Loc: Portland, OR
As near as I can tell, backpacking has a tradition of innovation and adaptation. Take for example the "traditional" bed of cut boughs, which is now replaced by the air mattress, the closed cell foam pad, the inflatable foam pad, the DAM, and the molded & folded foam pad.
Or consider the consistent upgrading of rain gear over the years, from wool or waxed cotton, to PU coated nylon to a variety of nylon laminates with breathable membranes.
Every piece of gear shows a similar pattern of ceaseless innovation. My conclusion is that this IS the tradition. Long live the tradition!
Loc: California (southern)
I suppose a traditionalist would be someone who uses gear, and or techniques that were widely in use twenty years ago, or thereabouts. Funny thing is, I don't know anyone who really fits that standard. Most of us can be lured by innovations that promise greater capability with the same or less weight.
An exception might be someone who was active some years ago, and resumes activity with the gear representative of that period. They will get hep to innovations soon enough.
I am not sure that the concept that years ago everyone backpacked with needlessly heavy packs is accurate. My crowd was routinely using lightweight tarps (as lightweight as possible - silnylon had not yet been invented) back in the 60s for the very good reason that none of us could afford a tent. We recently had a tread on this very subject.
Another definition of traditionalist might be - anyone who does not share my opinion of what is proper lightweight gear - obviously they are behind the times and have fallen off the cutting edge.
Great topic. I thought about it while taking a 7 mile hike in near blizzard conditons. Traditionalists don't let a little snow stop us.
I finally decided tradition needs to be handed down or received before it becomes a tradition. It also needs to be something not in general use today. For instance, the cast iron skillets I got from my mother who got them from her mother who got them from her mother I use to cook pierogi in are a tradition spanning 5 generations (including my son.)
My external frame packs didn't become a tradition until I passed them on to my son. The modern clothes we started using at the same time aren't a part of tradition as they haven't been passed on.
Ringtail, yes, a SVEA 123R stove is a part of our tradition. I got mine in 1977 and have never used anything else. My son also wouldn't dream of using anything else.
Gee, I don't know about the hammock; I did it one summer in the 80s (that's not a temperature) - do you actually have to sleep, or just spend the night? (There's a difference, and it's why I've never quite worked up the nerve to repeat the experiment.)
A Svea stove definitely helps identify you as a traditionalist, especially if you're sitting in your sleeping bag, leaning back against your external frame pack (propped up by your hiking staff) while you cook. (I suppose if you still follow the rest of New Complete Walker's or Complete Walker III's technique, you definitely qualify.
Glenn well - the best gear of the late 80s is as functional and more rugged if slightly heavier than the new gear. Thats not to say that a lot of the old gear and a lot of the new gear is't too heavy and not funtional enough - but there was excellent gear then and now, but only a tiny portion of it at any time. Like I was sort of cold in my new Montbell Alpine light at 22 degrees with a tee shirt and hoody under it, but my 30 year old 500 down jacket was quite warm and weighed 10 ounces more. $199 is a lot of expensive jacket for little warmth - and a warning - traditional down jackets were thick - don't be fooled by numbers, like 600 or 800, many modern products are through sewn to save weight. In fact just being new or modern is not a proof of quality at all, however traditional techniques ae probably still around because they work.
Gershon - yes I think you hit it on the head - traditionalists do not whine after traveling 7 miles in a snow storm, they grin.
Ringtail i I bought a pair of frostline full zipper insulated snowpants for $5 at a thrift store yesterday.
Lori - spare levis? I don't think I ever carried spare jeans but I do remember hiking in boxer shorts.
All - traditionalists wear boots - the correct boot for the occasion. I have 18 pairs give or take a couple. And no, I don't snivel when the going gets tough and I don't need no stinking bolts when I rock climb. I think traditionalists set out to take on nature at its worst and on its own terms and modern campers are about not getting wet or having to carry too much. Like eating reconstituted powder for dinner after a long cold hike - what ever happened to eating beef for dinner, or buffalo? Now those are traditionas to stand up for, but fire strikers are a low tech retrofad. AND traditionalists are opinionated!!! Jim
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.
I didn't realize my grin over a hike in the snow came so clearly through the computer. I'm plotzing here. (Did I mention I was carrying my older brother so his shoes wouldn't get wet?)
Traditionalists like to cook their steak right on the coals and don't use no stinkin' aluminum foil when baking their potato in the coals. The only thing to drink with the steak is Heinekin, or perhaps wine from their old wineskin. (Remember when all the skiers had wineskins?) In the morning, they stir the hot coffee grounds right in the pot and filter the grounds out with their teeth, spitting them on the fire.
After tonight, I'm sold on boots. I'd rather be comfortable than maybe go slightly faster. I don't have 18 pairs though. Just one perfect pair.
We aren't afraid to shoot a snot rocket when someone is looking and we know how to crap in the woods without making a big deal about it.
Still, for all the talk, there is a balance for me. I have some modern things and some old things. I'll change if the modern item really is better. Lately, I'm also insisting it not be made in China.
Hmmm. Well, I work in the wine business, which many people think of as quite traditional. But things change all the time. I once asked an Italian friend of mine about it. He makes wonderful wines, and isn't afraid to use a new technique. But in general his philosophy is traditional. He had a great answer.
A tradition is just an innovation that was a really good idea a long time ago.
A "traditionalist" is someone that, while flexible of mind, has backpacked long enough to know that some of the current gear trends are nothing new and were tried and rejected a couple decades ago (and for good reason)... that person likely sticks with what they know works, weight be damned.
There Is No Bad Weather, Just Bad Clothing...
Loc: Northern CA, Placer co.
Interesting topic, I tend to agree with you Glenn. But I'm by no means an expert and I could be wrong. I'm 55, started backpacking as a kid in the scouts. Back then in the 70s I carried an old canvas pack and gear I found at Army Navy stores, we lashed huge car sleeping bags under our packs that bopped up and down for miles. And we had no waist belts. I used a tube tent, the kids with money bought Smiley tarps. I remember walking for miles with all the weight on my shoulders. Argh. Fast forward to 2012. My pack a North Face Terra 65L internal frame (with the frame removed). It was too heavy so I opened it up and removed the huge plastic "board" frame with the aluminum stays from inside it. That shaved almost 2lbs. And if someone has been packing at all you learn to pack a bag. Gone is my Sierra cup that used to clang along my belt, might explain why I never saw critters? I carry either a 3 liter camelback blatter or I filter into a sports bottle or Nagleen as I go. I use an MSR whisperlite stove, a Kadyden filter, Thermarest NeoAire pad (sweet). And my tent is a 2.6lb fully enclosed Tarp Tent. I learned years ago not to wear Levis. I wear synthetic convertible pants. I layer my clothes use lightweight fleece. I'm also a gear geek, I have a glow tube, small fishing rod w/reel. Small tripod stool. And I carry a decent first aid kit. Nothing worse then a bad head or stomach ache out there. There's nothing wrong with traditional. But the new ligher gear is just too cool. Sure I can't afford a $500 REI tech jacket, so a $2 used fleece from good will works for me. Have a nice day.
Loc: San Diego CA
Interesting topic to think about (but not dwell on).
Traditionalists don't let a little snow stop us.
My last outing partner MPCWatkins spent the start of his Arizona Trail experience going up Miller Peak in a snow storm. Although maybe not a blizzard, it dumped 2 feet of snow on him. 14 trail days later when I met up with him, it seemed the only thing really holding him back was being alone on trial the whole time. Well, maybe the blisters on his feet, but he pushed through that and did the last section with me. He was all of 19 years. (I hope he posts up a trip report, but I know he is back at school now and pretty busy).
With a little thought, my thoughts go to John Muir and what he took with him to ramble around the Sierra Nevada.
Edited by skcreidc (01/21/1209:40 AM) Edit Reason: last sentence
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