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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
WHY? on 04/13/2009 12:55:40 MDT Print View

Step out of your practical shoes for a minute and consider meditating on the following question before delivering your response to it:

I already know you are interested in backpacking. But why lightweight backpacking? I'm not looking for a list of "benefits to..." but a deeper connection to your personal psyche that tells me a little more about your motivations and value systems, and how "lightweight" fits into them.

I don't pretend I've figured it out. The answer to this question evolves over time for me. Certainly, I can list the practical benefits. But learning how this activity fits into the scope of who I am as a whole being is far more interesting to me as I gain more experience. For me, the begging question right now is reconciling whether or not lightweight backpacking has shaped who I am, or is simply a reflection of who I am or would like to be. Still not sure about that one ;)

Edited by ryan on 04/13/2009 12:58:36 MDT.

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
Zen & Existentialism on 04/13/2009 13:14:02 MDT Print View

one of the first, strong existentialist urges I can remember is after reading and seeing the film "My Side of the Mountain," in the 3rd grade. I spent several weeks that summer sleeping in the backyard inside the tent my dad showed our cub scout troop how to make from old sticks & nylon tarps, and dreaming of wandering far. i celebrated my h.s. graduation by having dad drop me off at twin bridges, hiking up horsetail falls into desolation wilderness for a week on my own - my graduation present from dad was a new backpack, tent & stove. later, i left to live in china for two years, packing the same backpack the morning of my flight, $600 in my pocket, nothing lined up but a place i could stay for a couple weeks until i found a job & a room of my own to rent.

"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone." H.D.Thoreau.

"Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind." H.D.Thoreau.

"Zen is itself enlightenment." Dogen.

"The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there." R.M. Pirsig.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." A.Einstein.

Edit: INFP here - was curious how the INTJ/INTPs would respond with the caveat of "aside from practical resons"...

Edited by cbert on 04/13/2009 14:10:02 MDT.

Dennis Hiorns

Locale: Michigan
Re: WHY? on 04/13/2009 13:35:46 MDT Print View

I started out doing it for the "benefits", but I quickly realized what really attracted me to lightweight backpacking - I think it will help me teach my kids the difference between "wants" and "needs".

I would like them to not only learn that "wants" aren't necessary, but that "wants" can change based on your environment. I'd like to be able to replace their "want" for plastic toys (which have to stay at home) with an experience instead - a "want" to spend time messing around by the creek gathering water.

I'd also like them to learn that all "wants" come with some degree of sacrifice (you may "want" chocolate milk with your breakfast, but you'll have to carry it...).

I'm glad you asked this question because I'm curious how many people in this community are thinking along the same lines that I am.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: WHY? on 04/13/2009 13:36:19 MDT Print View

Very simple on my end, I just like doing more with less in all parts of my life.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
WHY? on 04/13/2009 13:46:56 MDT Print View

I went light as a misguided attempt to delude myself into thinking UL would adequately offset advancing age and a lack of conditioning. Stayed light because I tend to get a little gear obsessed in whatever hobby I'm currently in; and I can't even begin to explain that. Makes me a wealth of largely useless knowledge though.

Getting conditioned now, so I can fly with the lightweight stuff.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: WHY?-Because we are primarily INTJs-See the last sentence on 04/13/2009 13:53:39 MDT Print View

Rational Portrait of the Mastermind (INTJ)

All Rationals are good at planning operations, but Masterminds are head and shoulders above all the rest in contingency planning. Complex operations involve many steps or stages, one following another in a necessary progression, and Masterminds are naturally able to grasp how each one leads to the next, and to prepare alternatives for difficulties that are likely to arise any step of the way. Trying to anticipate every contingency, Masterminds never set off on their current project without a Plan A firmly in mind, but they are always prepared to switch to Plan B or C or D if need be.

Masterminds are rare, comprising no more than, say, one percent of the population, and they are rarely encountered outside their office, factory, school, or laboratory. Although they are highly capable leaders, Masterminds are not at all eager to take command, preferring to stay in the background until others demonstrate their inability to lead. Once they take charge, however, they are thoroughgoing pragmatists. Masterminds are certain that efficiency is indispensable in a well-run organization, and if they encounter inefficiency-any waste of human and material resources-they are quick to realign operations and reassign personnel. Masterminds do not feel bound by established rules and procedures, and traditional authority does not impress them, nor do slogans or catchwords. Only ideas that make sense to them are adopted; those that don't, aren't, no matter who thought of them. Remember, their aim is always maximum efficiency.

Ali e
(barefootnavigator) - F

Locale: Outside
"WHY?" on 04/13/2009 13:56:30 MDT Print View

Ryan, For me its a matter of simplicity. Less is more no matter how you look at it. Less gear, less cost, less to carry, less to maintain, less to worry about. I have been in an internal battle of less vs more my entire life. If I own a house I feel trapped, If I own furniture I feel stagnant. If I a car I feel like a hypocrite.

In a fairly large storm years ago all my gear was washed away except my day-pack which I was able to grab before I was nearly washed away. After a 21 day soul search and meandering jungle walk I finally found my way out.
My first stop, the mountain shop. Why? Society, we learn that we have to have stuff to fit in. You can't be in a yacht club without a yacht. You cant be in a bike club without a bike. Can you be a backpacker without a backpack? sometimes it seems as if you are judged more by what you have than who you are.
Have you ever asked a stranger what they do for a living? Were you impressed? Whats your impression when you see a homeless person? Do you have the same feeling when you see a guy with a 35k Rolex? Society, society, society.
When I got to the mountain shop I started looking at packs and sleeping bags and tents. I was completely overwhelmed. I decided to wait a day or so and figure it out. I rented a surfboard paddled out to old-mans and sat in the lineup nearly naked and feeling completely free. I had almost nothing and it felt good.

My first stop was the local and only backpacking store it the state called the bike shop. Why after nearly dieing why was the gear shop my first stop? I don't know.

When I tried to check into the local hostel they inquired as to why all I had was a small day-pack and not the typical large backpack. For the first time ever I was asked by the Hostel for ID and asked to wait and see the manager. Frustrated and insulted I left and got a nice room on Waikiki beach.
I continued my travels for three more years. I never got a new pack, I never got new gear. Once I left the states I found that I was more accepted because I was not seen as a rich American. People felt sorry for me and took me home, cooked me meals and let me sleep on their couch. Why did one place turn me away for being poor while others opened their arms because I was poor?

Going light is a way of life for me. Simplicity is way of life for me. Giving is a way of life for me. Every time I get a call asking for a donation I say sure how much of my time would you like. A simple life is a generous life. Rather than put value on things I put it on time.

To sum it up I would say that the less you have, the less you have in the way. I've never wished my pack was heavier or that I had a larger house to paint. Ali

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: WHY?-Because we are primarily INTJs-See the last sentence on 04/13/2009 14:14:04 MDT Print View

I go the woods to escape everything. No contact with the outside world, no work, school, anything. My purpose is simple: walk and enjoy. That I intricately plan trips down the gram, count caloric densities and can put on 35 miles a day does not detract from my purpose.

It irks me when I see people on the trail not enjoying their hiking. Their packs are so loaded down that they cannot possibly be having fun during their walk. Their fun comes when they are sitting in an artificially-cleared area in a forest. But to get there, alas, that is not fun.

My purpose must be fulfilled in every scope of my walk. Everything I do must be focused on that purpose with an eye toward efficiency. If I need to take 30 minutes to rest my feet, then so be it - it will save me rest (and injury, maybe) time off later.

I am still working on this. I have recently been tinkering with a poncho/tarp and have yet to figure out an efficient system storing and attaching guylines to prevent Triptease rats' nests.

A lightweight back, through inherent benefits, gets me to that purpose with the most efficiency. Although I do not see myself as the personality type that Richard quotes, the last sentence hits me hard.

Maximum efficiency is applied to many a thing for, however, is generally applied to only things that are capable of calculation with few exceptions. I weigh each item down to the gram and record it in a spreadsheet and make derivative lists from there. I have started to meticulously record fuel weight for my canister stove. I use a program keeps track of my run distance, time and pace. I use this to track progress and to make sure I am running efficiently. I try and apply this to my pocketbook, although I am less successful there. At least I recognize my shortcomings.

As a law student, efficiency is drilled into me from day 1 of classes. I must manage my time, read effectively and communicate in concise statements. Because of the logical system that underlies legal analysis, my brain never moves out of lawyer mode. I apply logical analysis to out most things with thinking, almost like a set reflect to an specific exterior stimulus. I can't help it. Lightweight hiking just makes sense.

To quote Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club):"[T]hat which does not matter, truly slide[s]." Unnecessary items in my pack must go, and it frees me to fulfill my purpose.

Edited by citystuckhiker on 04/13/2009 14:17:37 MDT.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
WHY? Because I'm not a masochist on 04/13/2009 14:28:51 MDT Print View

My goal is to be out in the back country. I see no need to punish/challenge myself by making it harder to achieve my goals than it has to be. If my goal was to make hiking as hard as possible I would load my pack up with lead.

If I can float with the tide and get where I'm going why should I swim against it?

I also agree with Richard. There is an intrinsic joy for me in replacing brute force effort with thought and planning.

While I wish light weight backpacking was a route to inner peace that just isn't true for me. My slutish focus on gear is anything but zen or simple. Instead it's a puzzle of putting together all the pieces to solve the problem of existing comfortably for a time in the back country with the minimal weight in gear. So far minimal price has not entered into the equation.

Edited by nschmald on 04/13/2009 14:32:49 MDT.

Rick Cheehy
(kilgoretrout2317) - F

Locale: Virginia
the sound of a tree falling in the forest on 04/13/2009 14:40:47 MDT Print View

It’s a jumble of things:
A clean white room with nothing in it
The first time autumn smells familiar and you see the cycle
Looking up at the grown-ups
Looking down at the children
Homo erectus smashing open a bone with a rock
Eating the marrow
Walking down a trail in space age cuben fiber
Bruce lee taking out the unnecessary steps of kung fu
The first time you cook your own ramen
The first time you cook ramen ten miles from a road
A picnic in the backyard
A huge flock of birds flying over,
an endless flock
one of those once in a century events
when countless birds come together and block out the sky
and it goes on forever
and you know for the rest of your life
nature is something huge and miraculous
and it's such a privilege to see it and be here
and see that empty blue sky when all the birds fly by
and it gets real quite and the frogs start to chirp in the concrete culvert behind grandpas house in Houston
The daydreams and the freedom when unencumbered in the wild
And the memories and lessons

Edited by kilgoretrout2317 on 04/13/2009 15:02:08 MDT.

Ali e
(barefootnavigator) - F

Locale: Outside
"WHY?" on 04/13/2009 14:45:38 MDT Print View

Cheers rick, you just made my day impossibly better. Ali

Rick Cheehy
(kilgoretrout2317) - F

Locale: Virginia
Re: "WHY?" on 04/13/2009 14:47:26 MDT Print View

Ali you're cool and I always dig your posts as well.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
WHY? on 04/13/2009 15:30:50 MDT Print View

Over the years I have turned into a Mimilist with my life, house and backpacking gear...The theme "Less is More" is a lifestyle with me. The theme has spread into every aspect of my life and I love it... I personally am not caught up in materialistic possession and Pop culture. I was fortunate enough to play two professional sports in my time and from those experiences I find that the most important things in life are Family and Nature. -Live Simply and Get Out More!!!!


Ali e
(barefootnavigator) - F

Locale: Outside
"WHY?" on 04/13/2009 15:50:21 MDT Print View

In 1966 a friend of mine wrote a quote at the end of her first published magazine article. Go small, go simple, go now. She is now famous for that quote and over 40 years later still living that lifestyle. Ali

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
WHY? on 04/13/2009 16:07:32 MDT Print View

Guess it doesn't say much for me that I fixated on the "my slutish focus on gear" quote.......

ben wood

Locale: flatlands of MO
Re: WHY? on 04/13/2009 16:51:24 MDT Print View

well , i have only been backpacking for a year now, but i have car camped and motorcycle camped for years. so i started off like many others with used hand-me-down equipment and borrowing stuff. mt first backpacking trip i had a 10 lbs tent and a 4 lb stove system. i research this backpacking world to find the lightweight approach, which i liked the idea of because i wasn't in shape and didn't want to carry alot of crap. since starting i have bought just about everything i need and am in the range of 12-14 bas weight. i am also in much better shape. it was satisfying the first time i returned home without any unused items in my pack.

any how to answer your question, as i started measuring my gear and needs and alcohol before i left for another weekend, this thinking started seeping into my everyday life. i now measure the amount water i will need for coffee before putting on the kettle. i find that in the US we are a buy in bulk society. we buy cars and homes bigger than we need. we buy much more clothing than we will ever wear. we retire things not because they have worn out, but because the advertising department came up with something supposedly better. we even put on a whole liter of water to boil when we only need 12 ounces. this less is more idea has led me to use more efficiently, ans waste less.

so yes i would sat that lightweight backpacking has shaped who i am in some ways, but i would also say that it is a reflection of who i would like to be. concious of my enviroment and the needs i have regarding that environment, and effecient without being wasteful.

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"WHY?" on 04/13/2009 17:16:18 MDT Print View

Why? Because carrying a heavy pack just plain hurts and is no fun at all.


Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: WHY? on 04/13/2009 17:24:38 MDT Print View

Why lightweight backpacking? Hmm. I'm not sure, actually.

Part of it is practical. A 40lb pack is close to 1/3 my body weight. That's unacceptable.

Part of it is making stuff and using creativity to approach a problem. Being creative is really fun and there seems to be so much potential with backpacking gear, especially MYOG.

Part of the creativity aspect is making things out of garbage. Before I found a Golite Chrome Dome (lucky me!) I was thinking of building a mylar umbrella cover made of corn chip bags and other wrappers. We make so much stuff intended to be trash that actually lasts forever. This bothers me so using it makes me happy and is my own little protest.

At the same time I'm so conflicted because, while buying a nice ultralight tent was good because I had no tent, buying other things are not so good because now I'm being a consumer again. Sure I found a Chrome Dome but I thought I could make something even lighter out of auto window shades so I bought brand new auto shades just to try. Two pairs! What a waste! I hate this about myself.

Finally, I have to admit it feels like being in an elite club. I get a kick out of hanging with my gram-weenie buds getting new ideas and being amazed at their creativity. I love knowing that my pack weight to comfort ratio blows away almost anyone out there I see who is not in our "club". I feel so smug and superior. Another bad thing about me.

So anyway, I guess lightweight backpacking for me is about being creative, making dual use of trash, being a typical American consumer and stroking my ego. There you go.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
my lighterweight life on 04/13/2009 17:53:22 MDT Print View

Ryan, for me the answer is becoming more and more clear with every trip and every adjustment I make with my gear and my outdoor methodology, the desire to challenge and push myself physically while outdoors has increased with every shed pound on my back. Lightweight backpacking by nature has permitted me to focus less on the physical by product of carrying items on my back and more on the physical challenges that nature is throwing at me, and to be honest, I'm taking those blows in stride now and it feels great! The biggest crossover into my everyday life I would say is the desire to shape and shave away the pounds on my body through physical training, a lighter pack has opened my mind to bigger personal goals in the outdoors, the more elemental the process, the more enjoyable my experiences seem to be. When something works you just gotta go with it and I'm enjoying this ride.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: WHY? on 04/13/2009 17:57:39 MDT Print View

The fact is, keeping your pack weight down is just smart and practical.
I used to fancy myself a bit of a minimalist but Ive gotten over that since "the simple life ain't so simple"
I'm not anti materialistic or anti consumerist and I'm not an escapist.
I like a walk in the woods and swim in the lake and a night under the stars every once in a while.
I now try to carry a light pack that will keep me comfortable for the widest range of conditions instead of carrying the lightest pack for the narrowest conditions. I know whats its like to suffer under a heavy pack and I know what its like to suffer for the sake of pushing the limits and achieving arbitrary goals.
Now I'm just going for the fun of it.