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Light, but maybe too fast?
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Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Light, but maybe too fast? on 02/23/2006 17:52:18 MST Print View

There's something that has struck me as I read about ultralight hiking and that is the fast part. The light part makes perfect sense and I understand that it lets you go farther with less physical stress, BUT, I don't get the 40 mile days. I'm out in the woods to get away from the rat race!

I assume that some are looking at it from an athletic, competitive perspective and to each his own. It seems to me that the less-is-more philosophy fits well with a stop-and-smell-the-roses approach too. My load is lighter, so I'm enjoying myself and able to pay more attention to my surroundings rather than collapsing in a heap at the top of the pass. Camp is more enjoyable too, with more time an energy for a good read, journal writing, or just watching the clouds roll by, the birds singing... and the racoon stealing my gorp bag-- HEY YOU, GET OUTTA HERE!!!

So, I'll vote for light and easy does it too. Any takers?

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: Light, but maybe too fast? on 02/23/2006 18:02:52 MST Print View

I don't think big days are required at all.

Because the thru-hiker subculture has been a big driving force behind ultralight backpacking gear, that automatically links big distance and some speed with the whole experience. The adventure racers have been another set of early adopters.

But I again don't think it is required.

I've had trips where I covered nearly five hundred miles in three weeks. I've also had trips where I never kept track. Actually, that is most trips for me.

The point of this whole thing is to have fun. If linking horizons and bragging about the ground you cover is fun for you, do it. If going on a nature crawl and covering a mile and a half over a morning, but seeing a bazillion flowers is fun for you, do that. There isn't an official backpacking governing body telling us how to do our sport, and I for one would burn all of my gear if one were invented.

We do this to satisfy ourselves, for our own sense of happiness and sanity. Do whatever is fun for you.

Marion Watts Jr
(mdwattsjr) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Light, but maybe too fast? on 02/23/2006 19:18:45 MST Print View

Amen, David. Right on. Good post.

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
There and back again - another slant on 02/24/2006 04:42:18 MST Print View

I was never attracted to ultralight by the "fast" part; I prefer 10 mile days, or maybe 15 if I have to once in a while. The light part always made a lot of sense, carrying less for whatever distance.

But it's easy to get seduced, and let the "ultra" in ultralight take over, too. I did that, going from a 16 pound base load to 12, initially. (Replacing pack, tent, and kitchen with lighter, more compact versions - pretty basic stuff.) At that point, the bug bit; nothing would do but to squeeze every ounce out. I ended up with a frameless silnylon pack, small shaped tarp, and soda-can kitchen - a 7 pound base load. Thought I'd be happy.

But I wasn't. The bleeding edge gear I had required me to make more compromises than I preferred; saving weight reduced comfort, efficiency, or simplicity. Yes, it was lighter, but the pack was less comfortable - so I wasn't any less tired after those 12 miles. (I was after the initial 16 to 12 reduction.) In camp, it was more hassle for a lower level of comfort (I found my 55-year-old hips wouldn't take a night on a closed-cell pad any more without complaining, the stove was fussier to assemble, etc.)

So, I'm now drifting back up toward that 12 pound base load, and am pretty sure that I'll find I'm light and happy, even if I'm not ultralight and fast.

I'm not knocking ultralighting - far from it. The practitioners of ultralight are some truly innovative people. I've learned a lot from them, and look forward to learning more; I fully expect to benefit from the experience and would anticipate that normal gear evolution will have me down to a 10 pound base load in a few years. But, when I weigh my own personal priorities after my two year experiences with trying to get as light as possible, I'm finding that the extra few pounds of weight is worth it for me.

Edited by garkjr on 02/24/2006 11:48:43 MST.

(RavenUL) - F
Re: There and back again - another slant on 02/24/2006 11:41:56 MST Print View

Glenn, couldnt agree more.

You hit several big nails on the head for me.

Ive put together rediculously light gear lists, even used them a time or two, but the enjoyment wasnt there. I was either worried about the gear (will it tear, crush, whatever) or what would happen to me if something happened to the gear?

I dont consider myself much of a "worrywart", but when my gear list weighs less than a decent survival kit, things get questionable.

So, I carry what I need to feel safe, carry what I need to be reasonably comfortable, and nothing else.

My packweight hovers in the 12-16lbs area when Im not trying to "keep up with the Joneses" and thats OK by me.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
Re: Re: There and back again - another slant on 02/28/2006 20:20:40 MST Print View

I spent a great deal of my time in the wilderness doing predawn approaches to climbing destinations in the sierras, the rockies, and s.america. Blowing through lake basins and alpine meadows. Occasionally someone mentions going somewhere and it will dawn on me I've been there and then I realize I really haven't.
So many places and no pictures, no memories, just a dark slog to another place. I do not regret the climbing but I am a little wistful about passing by so much.
I still climb, still run trails, but I do walk...have you ever seen these bright colored objects atop stems waving in a breeze in a meadow? Just amazing.
A lighter pack does allow me to enjoy more but a lighter attitude helps too.

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
I agree on 03/01/2006 08:21:53 MST Print View

That's a very good point. Ultralight for the sake of ultralight left me with a very hollow feeling, too. That may be part of the frustration I was alluding to in my earlier post. I think I heard somewhere once that it's not the destination, it's the getting there that's important. I forgot that in my pursuit of the lightest pack; I'm remembering it now.

Michael Wands
(walksoftly) - F

Locale: Piney Woods
To What End?? on 03/01/2006 15:35:59 MST Print View

Our ancestors never just took time off to walk through the woods. They were too busy trying to make a living off the land. Those who did venture out did so to hunt, trap, map, scout, deliver goods, etc. "Going Hiking" for pure enjoyment is a fairly recent phenom.

I truly believe that to have your most satisfying experience, you have to have a reason to be on the trail. It can be to simplify & relax, to exert to the max, to satify a personal goal, etc. But you have to have some reason!!

Once you know what experience that you are after, you select the gear to make your dream come true. I think many of us have jumped on the ultralight bandwagon and adjusted our gear without first aligning this new gear with our trip expectations.

I see people all of the time who camp and pack much differently than I do. We all do. I wish them well and hope that they are making great memories. For me, I'll hike my own hike and carry exactly the right quantities of exactly the right gear - regardless of what it weighs.

Edited by walksoftly on 03/01/2006 15:36:52 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: To What End?? on 03/03/2006 07:57:22 MST Print View

Michael Wands wrote "Our ancestors never just took time off to walk through the woods. They were too busy trying to make a living off the land. Those who did venture out did so to hunt, trap, map, scout, deliver goods, etc. "Going Hiking" for pure enjoyment is a fairly recent phenom."

Don't forget the time our ancestors spent for spiritual quests. They very much sought isolation and removal from everyday stresses to become more connected with inner proccesses and find their place in the universe.

The pace they were taking while "working" in the woods wasn't adventure racing either-- imagine spending a day picking berries and what you would see and hear around you. Hunting was an art of being totally connected with the surroundings--- wind direction, the twigs underfoot, and a complete knowledge of the habits of the prey. The changes of the seasons, the movement sun, moon and stars, following the cycles of spawning fish and migrating animals were part and parcel of their existence.

Remember Recreation is re-creation--- that's the whole point to getting outdoors for me.

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: Light, but maybe too fast? on 05/01/2006 14:22:10 MDT Print View

"Hike your own hike" was a mantra often heard when I through-hiked the AT 7 years ago. But you were still somewhat dictated by seasons and economics to hike a certain number of miles, averaging probably 15 or so to make the length of the trail before Katahdin iced up for the season. But I found that I really ENJOYED walking bigger miles, and I could wander mentally into a zen-like state where I knew what was happenning all around me while writing a novel in my head. Once off the AT, as my body grew less trail-hardened, I found I liked a lighter pack since heavy loads detracted from this wonderful sensation. Nowadays I've found that with my lighter weight pack, I get bored a bit more easily in camp, so I prefer to walk longer into the day, but not necessarily any faster. So for me the experience is more about walking than camping. The miles and sights and smells and experience are the biggest reason for the journey so bigger mileage isn't about a race; it's about loving the feel of a body in motion and balance with the mountains around me.

Edited by Bearpaw on 05/01/2006 14:23:46 MDT.

Dane Burke
(Dane) - F

Locale: Western Washington
longer, not faster on 05/15/2006 17:25:55 MDT Print View

How often could I get to the deep wilderness places I really love if I carried heavy loads? I would either have to take longer on my hikes, meaning less hikes overall, or else suffer long miles under a heavy pack. Neither option works for me.

For me it is about hiking longer mileage in fewer days while still enjoying the hike rather than suffering. Yes I happen to hike a little faster, but that's an unplanned side effect. And I'm not about to put more weight in my pack just to slow myself down!

Or would a self-inflating mattress slow me down just right? hehehe...