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Hypermaterialism and Ultralight Gear
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Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Hypermaterialism and Ultralight Gear on 01/23/2006 12:19:01 MST Print View

Years ago (1995) I had a little BBS and I started a message thread regarding the concepts of simple living and shedding some possessions to make life easier to manage. It follows the ideas that Henry David Thoreau brought up in "Walden" -- the idea that we are owned by our possessions.

I suggested that everyone imagine putting all their possessions in a one meter cube. If it helps, imagine that you are moving to a desert island or going on a mission to Mars and you are allowed one cubic meter of storage space. Many of the BBS members said it was impossible; of course, half the people on the planet would have no problem at all. I was inspired by the photo of Gandhi's Earthly possessions:
http://www.gandhiinstitute.org/Library/PhotoDetail.cfm?LibraryID=1313

What I came to is that this is not so much anti-materialism as it is hypermaterialism, and so the link with ultralight hiking: we want every item to be ideal for our needs, to have as many uses as possible, and to use as little space and resources as possible.

So try the excercise-- can you live from the contents of a one meter cube? It should be easy for this crowd.

One of my first consessions was to limit the amount of hiking gear I have, so I started with "one pack load" of equipment. My Golite Trek has a maximum volume of 76 liters, so I can start there. (A one meter cube is 1000 liters). Does that make you cringe? It does me-- I like toys, so that is really a compromise.

The "personal" stuff was easier and more like loading a pack-- so many pairs of pants, socks, shirts, shoes, etc.

Technology makes some of it easier-- a laptop is an entertainment system, communication device, etc. It can take care of a large library of classics by using resources like Project Gutenburg ( http://www.gutenberg.org/ ). Likewise, a PDA can fill in a lot of gaps. I added a small AM/FM/SW radio to my list. My CD's all came out of their jewel cases and went into a binder (I really did this at home-- saves a ton of space). The public library helps to limit my books on hand to current reading and a few references.

Other personal effects were things like dishes, furniture, etc. It gets difficult there and the excercise starta to break down, so concetrate on personal items. The concept can certainly be applied to the big stuff-- pick a volume and go for it: one shipping container, or one of those portable storage gizmos they drop in front of your house, or a 9x12 room.

The 9x12 room should give most Americans a good go for it. Imagine everything you own fitting in a 9x12 room. Does your tummy tighten? Good. But if you get a 9x12 room, that means you have to be able to have normal access-- you don't get to pile it full: you have space for your bed, a chair, perhaps a desk, room to store all your toys-- or that one meter cube.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Hypermaterialism and Ultralight Gear on 01/23/2006 12:38:52 MST Print View

I purchased a singularity from InfinitelyDenseGear.com and now my entire suite of possessions takes virtually no space whatever. There are drawbacks:

* Still working on retrieving them for use.
* Important to keep family and pets well away.
* Nobody visits former homesite.
* Mortgage lender very, very concerned.
* My "He who dies with the most toys, wins" bumper sticker can't be seen on my infinitely small car.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Hypermaterialism and Ultralight Gear on 01/23/2006 14:11:16 MST Print View

"I purchased a singularity from InfinitelyDenseGear.com and now my entire suite of possessions takes virtually no space whatever."

So, do you back up to it or go head-first to get your gear? That event horizon is Hell, but the other side is a whole new ummmm dimension in hiking :)

Mike Storesund
(mikes) - F
Re: Hypermaterialism and Ultralight Gear on 01/23/2006 15:41:00 MST Print View

>> So try the exercise-- can you live from the contents of a one meter cube? <<

Sounds like an exercise to get ready for the next generation of a “Hoover Town”, or
“Bush Town” or whoever the President in office is when the country’s economy will drive people out of their homes to live out of their vehicles.

Neil Bender
(nebender) - F
Re: Re: Hypermaterialism and Ultralight Gear on 01/23/2006 17:06:30 MST Print View

>> So try the exercise-- can you live from the contents of a one meter cube? <<


Make it a cubic meter of tightly stacked gold bullion. I think I could retire and live off of that for a while, some place wild and austere like Maui. I'd probably have to give up my gym membership. I'd keep around a few greenbacks for wiping and lighting cigars;-)

Doing without is a very Zen thing. Funny thing though, in all my exposure to eastern lands, the buddhist priests are always better fed than the commoners. In Japan some of them are downright fat and tend to drive luxury vehicles. Some sort of yin and yang dialectic going on there.

As a gear freak, I'm hoping to go through several reincarnations before reaching austere enlightenment. It's the journey through light beer to water that is going to be the biggest obstacle on the path to nirvana.

I almost had a zen moment in the Grand Canyon once. After 4 days of hauling water and 55 lb packs, I was tempted to "cache" my over weight Kelty tent symbolic of the burdens of all my wordly cares and insecurity. It rained and then snowed on us the next evening, and rained for 2 more days. I was rewarded for my patience and suffering. My hiking buddy has fond memories of our being tent-bound on that and other trips. It's been tough converting him to tarping.

But yeah, I think my wife would let me keep a cubic meter of stuff when she left me if I ever tried to pull this stunt on her. I wonder how many days of clean sox and briefs that'd hold?

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Hypermaterialism and Ultralight Gear on 01/23/2006 19:44:34 MST Print View

>>Doing without is a very Zen thing. Funny thing though, in all my exposure to eastern lands, the buddhist priests are always better fed than the commoners. In Japan some of them are downright fat and tend to drive luxury vehicles. Some sort of yin and yang dialectic going on there.<<

Sounds like Jerry Fallwell to me ;) Fat preachers in Cadillacs, oh my!

It's not doing without-- it is doing with what exactly is needed and with the absolute very best. That's my point: it isn't anti-materialistic, it is HYPER-materialistic. You have a mug and it is the very best mug, just the right mug, the epitome of mugness. What was that old Donovan song about "I like my shirt..."?

Filling the box with gold just leaves you to go buy what it is that you need. The concept has nothing to do with riches or poverty. In this case you get to pick what tools you will take to live by. If you want to be philosophical about it, the game is more knowing what you need rather than what you want. The goal is setting limits: you can have anything you want rather than having everything you want.

My pet theory is that much of our attitudes about material wealth come from our Great Depression ancestors-- it kinked us.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Hypermaterialism and Ultralight Gear on 01/23/2006 20:52:01 MST Print View

Several years ago a bicycle mechanic showed up in town on his bike pulling a trailer with his possesions, went to work at one of the outdoor retailers, got an apartment with some material things added a regular intervals. One day he decides to move on, gives or donates everything that wouldn't fit in his trailer including several bikes...in the ten years he lived here he only drove once, to rescue an injured rider. That trailer could not of held much more than a meter cubed. He was in his fiftys when he left...

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Hypermaterialism and Ultralight Gear on 01/23/2006 21:32:10 MST Print View

>>Doing without is a very Zen thing. Funny thing though, in all my exposure to eastern lands, the buddhist priests are always better fed than the commoners. In Japan some of them are downright fat and tend to drive luxury vehicles. Some sort of yin and yang dialectic going on there.<<

Sounds like Jerry Fallwell to me ;) Fat preachers in Cadillacs, oh my!

It's not doing without-- it is doing with what exactly is needed and with the absolute very best. That's my point: it isn't anti-materialistic, it is HYPER-materialistic. You have a mug and it is the very best mug, just the right mug, the epitome of mugness. What was that old Donovan song about "I like my shirt..."?

Filling the box with gold just leaves you to go buy what it is that you need. The concept has nothing to do with riches or poverty. In this case you get to pick what tools you will take to live by. If you want to be philosophical about it, the game is more knowing what you need rather than what you want. The goal is setting limits: you can have anything you want rather than having everything you want.

My pet theory is that much of our attitudes about material wealth come from our Great Depression ancestors-- it kinked us.

J R
(RavenUL) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Hypermaterialism and Ultralight Gear on 01/24/2006 00:01:49 MST Print View

Years back, I could literally fit all of my "earthly possessions" behind the seats of my old datsun pickup. It was a king cab, so there was a little bit of space, but not much. All of my clothes were packed into an old army footlocker (32x16x12), my outdoor gear was packed into a Medium ALICE (2400ci), and the rest packed loosely in the space not filled with the footlocker. My mtn bike went into the bed of the truck. Granted, I couldnt stuff my truck into a box a cubic yard in size, but the rest of my things would easily fit, with room to spare. I wasnt a total hobo though... My parents stored my twin mattress, books, 13in TV, and dresser, while I drove around the western US hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, mtn biking, and whatever it was I could do without having to actually get a job. So maybe its cheating a bit to think I could pass the "test", but I was much closer then than I am today.

Now-a-days my wife, 3 cats, 2 dogs, and a 55gal fish tank, and myself are feeling comfortable in our 800-ish sqft house, though we eventually plan to downsize to a house about 500-ish sqft in the next 5 years or so.

I truely miss the days when I could have EVERYTHING packed in the space of a morning. There was a definate freedom there.

When I was in Moscow, I was told that after so many years under the Czars, and then under the Soviets, that the Russian people have a bit of tradition that says that freedom doesnt come from having everything that you could want or need. Freedom comes from having nothing. When you have "things" you are forced to protect them, build walls around them, chain them down, stand guard over them. When you have no "things", you can come and go as you please. You arnt bound to this or that. You dont need to worry that something might be taken from you. You dont need to worry about youll do if you cant stand guard over your "stuff".

I think they are right.

Edited by RavenUL on 01/24/2006 00:45:36 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hypermaterialism and Ultralight Gear on 01/24/2006 00:52:36 MST Print View

>>Years back, I could literally fit all of my "earthly possessions" behind the seats of my old datsun pickup. <<

Those are the days I was thinking of, although in my case it was a '66 Valiant. heheh-- I drink better beer and eat less Top Ramen and peanutbutter samiches.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
The problem of space on 01/24/2006 01:03:18 MST Print View

There's probably an Axiom with someone's name associated with this phenomenon of modern day American culture, viz. "Possessions will tend to fill any and all available space." A corollary to the well known "a computer program will grow to fill all available memory" (not so true anymore, but for two or three decades was often very true).

Years ago, for nearly a decade, all my possessions fit in the trunk of my car, which was ~16 cu. ft. of trunk space. The possessions fit with quite a bit of space left over. All my worldly possessions consisted of one seabag of clothing (military issue and a few civies), and one of gear and some civies; also two boxes of books, approximately 50lbs each; oh...and some mechanics tools, and spare belts and hoses for the car - and a spare thermostat. That's far less (something less than ~453 liters) than the volume suggested by the original poster (if you exclude the "wheels").

When you shipped out only one seabag was taken and the car and the remaining possessions were left behind, to be reclaimed upon return.

Had planned on making a career of the military (as my father, in fact, did - a family tradition) and then retiring and living in a camper on the back of a pickup truck - nice to be able to "move" my humble abode from place to place as the winds of fate blew. So,...what happened?

Met a girl!!! That 'bout says it all. [Fortunately, for me, my father also had previously met a girl - another family tradition apparently, but at a much later stage in his military career.]

Now...it takes a house! What happened? Got married, had kids, several dogs, a ton of tools for working on/fixing cars and most anything around the house; and oh, yes...a small storage room full of gear, and spare parts for aging appliances and cars (nunquam non paratus - "never, not prepared").

The only thing that saves it from being a larger house, is that now many, many books can fit on a laptop computer's hard drive. If only i could do that with the tools!

Periodically, the gear closet is purged and items given away or occasionally sold; the tools - almost never divested of, but it's happened twice. Of course, getting rid of gear and tools means that...yes, that's right...there's room for more gear and tools. Yes...I know...re-acquisition is NOT the point of the exercise, but it sometimes happens.

Life was simpler then. Life is better now, but sometimes i still miss the old, simpler life. ...I think I'll go fix something now, or read a book.

Edited by pj on 01/24/2006 16:35:54 MST.

Mike Storesund
(mikes) - F
Re: The problem of space on 01/24/2006 15:28:36 MST Print View

I remember the time (20 years ago) when all my worldly possessions were on my back in a 5300 ci REI external framed backpack. Start in California and get on the Amtrak; stop at different rail stops and explore a while, read newspapers and maps, ride public transportation and contemplate if I wanted to stay longer or not. Saw a lot of this country, good and bad.
Take a bus from Pocatello to West Yellowstone then hike to Jackson Hole. Get on a bus to Salt Lake and back on the train to Glenwood Springs. Get back on the train to Denver, then Chicago, then Columbus, and on to Philadelphia then New York and Boston. Each stop offered a wealth of information and experiences. I found that the Rocky Mountains, for me anyhow, offered the best carefree opportunity to explore and enjoy some of the most beautiful country I’ve seen and has been my home since.
Like PJ… generated baggage, met a girl, made a family and gather many new possessions. Getting back to having all my worldly belongings in a backpack will have to remain on a back burner about 5 more years when my youngest will be on his own. Even then it may not be how it was some 20 years ago, but it is nice to dream. At least the next time, it will be done with lighter equipment and attitude.
Hi-diddle-dee a backpackers life for me!

Edited by mikes on 01/24/2006 15:31:23 MST.