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Heavy Weight Beginnings
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ian wright
(ianwright) - F

Locale: Photo - Mt Everest - 1980
Heavy Weight Beginnings on 11/25/2008 14:40:59 MST Print View

I was reading my diary/journal from my first trip overseas back in 1979, 4 months of island hopping in the Pacific. My pack not including any food or water weighed 18.5kg ! I think that's 40lbs.
I knew nothing at all about gear and was all wide-eyed and excitied and had some art gear and a speargun I never used and even a machete.
I didn't have to carry my pack for the first two weeks but when I finally did I remember falling exhausted by the side of the road after about half a mile. I spent the next 3 months offloading gear.
What a laugh in hindsight. Next trip for me will be out of a largish daypack.

What memories do you have of your very first backpacking adventure? Were you an ignoramus like me?

victoria maki
(clt1953) - F

Locale: northern minnesota
re:heavy wt. beginnings on 11/25/2008 14:54:06 MST Print View

ian, my first backpack trip was at isle royal. mind you, i am 5'3" and weigh 125 lbs. i carried 45 lbs. and went 19 miles the second day out. the lest hiked trail on the island, back then, took me to feldman lake. i was hiking alone, beating my way through the marshy areas where the trail would seem to end, so would have to backtrack. got to the camping area at feldman lake, totally alone. the sites looked like moose had been sleeping right where you would pitch your tent. needless to say, i had no desire to get stepped on by one of those buggers, so rested for 10 min. and hiked the rest of the way to windigo. i still brag about that hike and laugh at myself. i have been going lighter every year.....

Blue _
(lrmblue) - MLife

Locale: Northeast (New England)
Re: Heavy Weight Beginnings on 11/25/2008 16:54:55 MST Print View

First backpacking trip, autumn of 1975:
For one weekend in the Pemigewasset Wilderness of New Hampshire--old Boy Scout frame pack, canvas Boy Scout tent, hardcover copy of “The Fellowship of the Ring” canned beans, pound of butter, four boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinners—need I go on? The pack weighed about 45 pounds (as measured on my best friend’s mom’s bathroom scale), my weight (as measured on the same scale): 93 pounds. In a nod toward something like common sense I decided I was going to need some ankle support so I wore my black high top Chuck Taylor All-Stars, not my white low-tops. My best friend, Tim, won—he carried about 50 pounds. It was almost a year before I went backpacking again.

Second backpacking trip summer of 1976:
Back to the Pemigewasset with Tim again. This time we brought girlfriends. Tim carried nearly fifty pounds, but I was desperately in love, so with Tim’s help, I managed to strap a load of over sixty pounds to my 93-pound body. We staggered about three miles up the trail until we came to the first designated tenting platforms and then collapsed. Unfortunately, I think must have burned away most of my testosterone in ratcheting myself over the last mile because the weekend and my right knee were pretty much busted. On the other hand, it was my first introduction to the potential of lightweight backcountry travel. My girlfriend, Janet, had carried fewer than twenty pounds and had a great time. While I limped around the tenting area or sat morosely aching in the shade, she flitted about making new friends and raving about the “beauty of the great outdoors.” At the end of the weekend, things got a bit tense between us, however. It was clear that something bad had happened to my right knee and I wasn’t going to be able to carry out a very heavy load. I thought that, at the very least, she should try to carry out the extra twenty plus pounds of her stuff that I had carried in and she thought that I should leave some of my “stupid things” behind. In the end, Tim and his girlfriend took some disputed gear, and Janet and I compromised: each of us left some of our things behind; but all I remember specifically is that I left my camp axe with the ranger, and she gave him her two pounds of Fig Newtons.

What’s really disturbing, though, is that it was about twenty years before I realized that Janet had had such a good time, not because I was miserable but, because she had only carried in twenty pounds. She actually had enough energy left over to flit and rave. On the other hand, I had misguidedly injured myself carrying the heavy burden of my own ego. Years later, on my first lightweight trip, I actually found myself raving about the beauty of the great outdoors. It was great.

So, yeah, Ian, I was probably even more ignoramuser than you. Still not the swiftest boat afloat, I guess.


Edited by lrmblue on 12/04/2008 15:32:48 MST.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Heavy Weight Beginnings on 11/25/2008 18:30:42 MST Print View

In my youth I carreid as much as 55lbs which included standard fishing gear and an inflatable raft to fish from, amongst other silly things. Of course, the tent, pack and sleeping bag technology hadn't evolved to the level it is now, so a lot of the weight I carried wasn't really optional, but I am amazed, in hindsight, that I carried on with a sport that was soooo not fun at the time!!!

Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
Heavy Weight on 11/25/2008 19:43:32 MST Print View

Uhhhm - I think I win. I worked (and still work) as a NOLS mountaineering instructor.

I have consistently carried packs well over 80 pounds. No foolin'

I know I've carried 100 pound packs on plenty of hard days.

So - If I ever come across as a smarty-pants zeleot, please know I've been on the other side of the issue with a huge poky load of wet ropes.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Heavy Weight Days on 11/25/2008 20:13:34 MST Print View

My first trip I carried in a boom box with the CD's in there jewel cases. I owned Jansport external frame that was 7 lbs at 5700 CI and I hiked in 90* weather. OH MY FG!!!!! I was so tired after that hike.. My pack fully locked and loaded look like TANK - I would say 60 -70 lbs easily!!!

ian wright
(ianwright) - F

Locale: Photo - Mt Everest - 1980
heavy on 11/26/2008 04:26:30 MST Print View

What was that book?
'Fellowship of the Dingbats' !?!

The stupid thing about my first trip was I needed precious little. Warm tropical Pacific islands, the only 'big' item I needed was the tent. I have no idea at all what took up the 18.5kg. I do know the 'airmat' I had deflated from day one and I soon got used to sleeping on the ground. I also had a casette player to record traditional music and never did work out how to use it or have fresh batteries when I did.

jim bailey
(florigen) - F - M

Locale: South East
backpacking stupidity on 11/30/2008 21:09:34 MST Print View

What memories do you have of your very first backpacking adventure? Were you an ignoramus like me?

Oh Definitely!

First tax refund after college went out and bought some camping gear at EMS for backpacking, was fairly new to all this so picked up a really cool 3 person dome tent, had an external frame Camp Trails pack and some warm cotton thermal layers along with a warm canvas duck coat, threw in a Sterno can and a cast iron frying pan so I could cook up a cheeseburger, oh yea and brought some Milwaukee's best (great Idea!!!) then took my vintage VW bug into northern NH, was also hiking in a styling pair of Levi's while it was 40 degrees out and raining.

Boy..... does hypothermia stink! Lucky I did not get a Darwin award for this one.

Rick Cheehy
(kilgoretrout2317) - F

Locale: Virginia
Re: backpacking stupidity on 11/30/2008 21:22:21 MST Print View

Four liters of water, a water filter, and 24 purification tabs for an overnight in SNP thru a gorge and camp next to a river. Why? Too much "I shouldn't be Alive."

Nate Meinzer
(Rezniem) - F

Locale: San Francisco
Sawtooth Mountains 2005 on 11/30/2008 21:37:14 MST Print View

Must have carried 60 lbs up the side of Mount Heyburn. Old-school Ipod with speakers, grill for cooking, way too many changes of clothes, hammock, double-sized air mattress, and and old heavy Kelty pack.

Worst part was--for all the weight, my gear didn't work. I didn't bring any insulation under the air mattress and froze my butt off, and my thing synthetic bag wasn't up to snuff in those conditions.

On the way down, ran into a naked Swiss man, hiking with nothing but a stick. I figured he had the right idea, and I decided to "lighten up" for my next trip. (Albeit not THAT light).

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Heavy Weight Beginnings on 12/01/2008 09:21:37 MST Print View

I got into lightweight backpacking in 2005. In 2004 I was on a trail crew in Glacier National Park and on our days off we would go backpacking for fun. I specifically remember bragging to other backpackers how my pack was HEAVIER than theirs. Wow, how the times have changed!

Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
Heavy Weight Beginnings on 12/01/2008 10:33:54 MST Print View

Sam wrote:
"I remember bragging to other backpackers how my pack was HEAVIER than theirs..."

Ha! You're a guy right?


There is an outdoor school that begins with "N" that is permeated with just that same mindset. That said - Things are changing, but slowly.

(cuzzettj) - MLife

Locale: NorCal - South Bay
RE: "Heavy Weight Beginnings" on 12/01/2008 13:29:23 MST Print View

I remember carrying really heavy packs in the army and then taking a college course on backpacking when I got out. First thing I did was buy all surplus stuff and use that for the course. I was warm and dry even though it rained buckets in MN. I cooked my food with no issues while others couldn't. But I remember when I got a B on the course even though I had aced everything I had to ask the teacher why?

She said you did 'A' work but: on the outing I hiked ahead, set up away from the group, and didn't listen to a thing she said. She also said she should be able to lift my pack. And couldn't. She thought I already new a lot. I didn't.

Now having joined all of you here to learn this I am enjoying life and hiking much more. It is no longer a chore, even with my 4 kids (though they still complain with their light packs in tow).

My base is down to 11 pounds with the potential of breaking the 9 pound barrier (finances willing). Thanks.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Heavy Weight Beginnings on 12/01/2008 16:28:59 MST Print View

I have a photo of an ex girlfriend wearing a pack that appears to be larger than she is while in attendance to a certain outdoor school that starts with the letter "N".

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Heavyweight Beginnings on 12/01/2008 17:43:54 MST Print View

As a young scout in the early 70's I do not remember carrying that much on our 50 miler. A Kelty framed pack, sleeping bag, tube tent for 2, cook gear, food, etc. We ate oatmeal, rice and fish we caught. It was awesome!

I did not formally pack again until I started with my kids. With a borrowed Lowe Alpine 7 lb. pack, 4 lb sleeping bag, 5 lb. tent, lots of food, too many clothes, etc. I probably had about 40-45 lbs. I was remodeling my house and not in great hiking shape. The first day we hiked about 2.5 miles. Not bad. The next we hiked about 3.5 with some good switchbacks. I couldn't wait to get that pack off. The pack was comfortable but just too heavy.

From that day on I have been consistently backpacking and refining my gear taking my base summer weight (pack, shelter, sleep system, cooking set up etc.) down to an easy 5.25 lbs. I'm enjoying it more than ever.

Paul Tree
(Paul_Tree) - F

Locale: Wowwww
Camp Unalayee! on 12/24/2008 01:28:58 MST Print View

10 days 100 something miles in the Trinity Alps starting well over 50 pounds.
This is around age 14.
We secretly buried about a third of the food after 4 days.
I dropped my sleeping bag and didnt notice before going a few miles.
There was a fashion of making halter tops out of bandanas.
Burnt lentils in 10-tins, aka billy cans.
I carried a Royal Robbins sweater (still have it), heavy wool pants, and rubberized canvas raingear. We all used tube tents.
EDIT: AAAARRRR! - notice the knee braces to go along with that young kid's pack!

They are still in business:classic

Edited by Paul_Tree on 12/25/2008 19:13:22 MST.

Jesse Glover
(hellbillylarry) - F

Locale: southern appalachians
Re: Heavy Weight Beginnings on 12/24/2008 08:42:57 MST Print View

My story is a little weird. I started camping and backpacking with my dad. I guess my dad was UL because we never carried anything. We had an old school pup tent that was open on the ends and a canvas ground cloth to sleep on. (I thought sleeping pads were for wimps until I was like 20.) Never carried a stove we cooked on the fire. We used a pie pan and some aluminum foil for a cookset. I had no Idea about packs with frames until I was about 16 or so.

Then I met some "experienced" backpackers and within a year or so I had spent close to 1500 bucks and had a pack that weighed 40-50 pounds. That kit worked for several years of weekend trips but then I decided to thru-hike the AT. I started with 45 pounds and made it to the NOC my knees were shot my ankles were in tremendous pain. I knew my trip was over and I had to lighten up my load. Over the next 3 months I completely re-outfitted myself for about 400 bucks and ended up with 7 pound base weight for summer trips.

Edited by hellbillylarry on 12/24/2008 12:11:35 MST.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Heavy Weight Beginnings on 12/24/2008 09:29:10 MST Print View

not my first trip, but my pack weighed in at almost 70 pounds. I have a 3 pound bag, 9 pound internal pack, a 9 pound 2 person tent, and a heck of alot more. I was doing the Rae Lakes Loop and suffered the whole way. Though it was an epic trip I wished for lighter weight. After that trip I started learning what going light was.

Daniel Fosse
(magillagorilla) - F

Locale: Southwest Ohio
Isle Royal on 12/24/2008 09:33:54 MST Print View

My first real trip was Isle Royal. I think it was 1991. My pack was about 55 lbs. I had some rediculous crap in that pack. I was with 2 friends that had the same rediculous weight. We did not meet our ambitious hiking agenda but we had a "ton" of fun.

I remember hiking straight across the island ridge the first day. When we got to the first site there was about 3 hikers there with half the gear we had. They were looking at us like we had 3 eyes or something.

On about the 8th day there we hiked to an inlet where there was this giant boat anchored. They were rocking out to music, pulling cold beers from a cooler, and lounging on the deck. It just isn't fair to hike for 8 days just to run in to that. One of the boat guys had nothing but turkey jerky to eat and was trying to talk me out of my Backpackers Pantry rasberry cobbler in trade. No deal! I thought, get in your boat and go find a McDonalds.

I would love to go back there with my new gear some day.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
First hike on 12/24/2008 19:38:16 MST Print View

It must have been 1965 and I went on a Boy Scout overnight with a Trapper Nelson pack. That is a wood frame with a canvas sack. My father added some foam padding to cotton webbing shoulder straps. My boots were like lead and my sleeping bag was your basic Coleman with a cotton flannel lining. It had to weigh 6 or more pounds. I had an Army surplus air mattress that left me on the ground in the middle of the night. Clothing was 90% cotton, I'm sure. I'll bet I had a hatchet and a steel mess kit. We nearly poisoned ourselves trying to cook raw chicken in foil in the coals. Our tents were pyramid cotton canvas with water-proofing that failed of you touched the tent wall when wet. We each carried a part of the tent, with three of us in each one.

The hike was to Lake Snoqualmie, about 2.5 miles of switchbacks from the Forest Service road trailhead and a 1600' elevation gain. I did okay for the first half, but the rest stop was short and I thought I was gonna die the second half.

The lake was beautiful. We did some quick dips-- couldn't call it swimming--- the water was fresh off the snowfields, so you turned beet red after a few minutes.

I remember the Eagle Scout in our group hiked up with the latest gear and actually had a steak on ice in his pack.

The trailhead was moved back 7 miles over 20 years ago and the old road is growing over. About five miles into the current hike, you come to a 1960's steel and concrete bridge that crosses the base of a large slickrock waterfall. It's weird seeing a bridge built like a freeway overpass on a trail. It does make a great observation platform to enjoy the waterfall.

I think the pack must have been 40+ pounds and I was 11. Now I'm well over 40 and my pack weighs 11 pounds :)