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The Laughing Curmudgeon's Guide to Going Light

The Laughing Curmudgeon's Guide to Going Light


by George Cole | 2001-08-20 03:00:00-06

1. Do you already have gear?

If “yes” go to item “1a.” If “no” go to item “1a” anyway.


You’ll only end up replacing it later.

If you have no gear, you probably haven’t backpacked much, so go slowly until you discover whether you really like backpacking or not. Not everyone does. Go to item “2.”

If you have gear, keep it until you know there’s something lighter that fits your personal needs. There might not be, and you may have to modify something you already have. Go to item “3.”

2. Read Ray Jardine’s book, Beyond Backpacking.

Don’t take it too seriously, as gear selection is a highly personal thing and Ray is into the “guru” thing. He will offer one perspective.

Subscribe to the BackpackingLight Email Group ( There you will find a wealth of perspectives. Lurk. Think. Link. Ask. Ask again. If you like what someone says and how they say it, ask them to send you their gear list. Get at least three different lists, and ask the owners to explain why they made certain selections. You can do this on or off-line. Don’t worry about bothering these folks; most of them love the attention.

Read gear reviews, but remember that commercial magazines are in the business of selling their advertisers’ gear. When you think you know what you want, find a way to try it out before buying. Borrow. Rent. Buy only what you can return in good condition if you don’t like it.

Get an inexpensive scale. Weigh everything and keep adding it all up. Try stuff out in your living room, then your back yard.

Then think about it some more.

3. Go Back to #2 One More Time

You’re going to have to reform your thinking. After all, you bought all that heavy stuff in the first place. Then go to item ”4.”

4. The Practice that Never...Ever...Ends

a. Make a list of all your gear. Include two blank columns on the list entitled “used” and “didn’t use.”

b. At the end of each trip for the next year make two piles of gear on your living room rug - one for the stuff you actually used and one for the stuff you didn’t. Put a check in the appropriate column for each piece of gear. Think about why you did or did not use it.

c. Underline on your gear list each piece of gear that you did not use because you didn’t need it, or did use only because you had it with you.

d. On each successive trip, leave behind one piece of gear that you didn’t use because you didn’t need it, or did use only because you had it with you. See how it feels. Don’t be a slave to this process and fail to take essential clothing, first aid or health maintenance supplies, but subject all these things, too, to the same scrutiny.

e. At the end of the year make a new list of the gear you absolutely have to take with you in order to be comfortable and feel safe.

f. Reread item “2,” then replace each item on your new gear list with the lightest, most functional and multi-functional product that you can afford. If a piece of gear is not commercially available or is out of your price range consider modifying the gear you have or making your own.

g. Don’t take any of this too seriously. Have fun. Whatever gear you have, get outside and use it.


"The Laughing Curmudgeon's Guide to Going Light," by George Cole. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2001-08-20 03:00:00-06.