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Anna Carter
(acarter_1) - F

Locale: Pacific NW U.S.
Ultralight Backpacking Ethically (UBE) on 10/21/2009 10:58:14 MDT Print View

This is a discussion I would like to get going, so thanks in advance: "Leave No Trace" reaches far beyond what we as backpackers/hikers/climbers do or do not do on the trail. From the moment the raw materials that will eventually become a piece of gear are produced to the moment that we discard that piece for another, we leave a footprint on the natural world. Backpacking ultralight inherently involves less impact and waste (hopefully), but I would like to know how other lightweight hikers see their own footprints. To start: Do you think about your environmental impact as you buy/make gear? Would you compromise weight for a piece of reclaimed or recycled gear? How do you view the use of down and other animal-derived products?

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Ultralight Backpacking Ethically (UBE) on 10/21/2009 11:33:42 MDT Print View

>Do you think about your environmental impact as you buy/make gear?

Nope. Sorry. I guess I was indoctrinated poorly. It's kind of like driving a hybrid, you feel good about it, but the manufacturing left a mess somewhere.

>Would you compromise weight for a piece of reclaimed or recycled gear?

If it was cheaper and did the job.

>How do you view the use of down and other animal-derived products?

Sure, why not?

Besides, who gets to decide what is ethical, and whether it is ethical for me or not? I didn't get a vote. If I try to attach right or wrong to something, I'm intolerant. Why doesn't that same logic apply when the intellectual elites decree something ethical? And I would like to predict this will be almost as long as the global warming thread. We should start a pot, every kick in $5 a square.

Edited by skinewmexico on 10/21/2009 11:35:12 MDT.

Michael Skwarczek
(uberkatzen) - F

Locale: Sudamerica
UBE on 10/21/2009 11:51:16 MDT Print View

do those who have adopted a lifestyle choice to minimize their impact on animals or the environment use down? transversely, is the use of synthetic materials a better option?

consider, too, that our lightweight gear often has a lower lifespan and leads to a concern with disposal and an increase in consumerist tendencies (already an issue with gear-heads).

do we wash and reuse all the plastic baggies, all those quart bags from freezer-bag cooking? Would it be better, really, to use a bowl or plate or your pot?

I think this is a good topic, and even if it's already been discussed, it's always a reminder that UL is an opportunity to expand a mindfulness practice. In fact, I think mindfulness is an inherent quality of UL if you allow yourself to realize an UL philosophy and break away from the gear-headedness.

thanks for posting.

-Michael

EDIT: it's process of education, not a personal attack on your "values" or "freedoms", Joe.

A friend's mother once told us a story during a discussion about littering and of other societies relationships to certain ideals we now take for granted, anyway, she related a time when at the end of families picnics back in the 50/60's it was common to remove your plates and bowls and napkins, etc, and sweep the tablecloth off the public park table, leaving the trash and litter for.. someone else!?!. Well, we (most of us, or maybe just us lefties) don't do that anymore because over the decades we've been repeatedly taught otherwise. I'm certain the knee jerk reaction of the time was the same as responses like, "well, this global warming is just a fad of elitist/leftist/hippies"...

hmmm... "all this, leave-no-trace, pack-it-in-pack-it-out, is just a bunch of commies telling us how to live! What's next!?!?"

Edited by uberkatzen on 10/21/2009 12:05:42 MDT.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Tough issue on 10/21/2009 12:07:18 MDT Print View

I view these issues as separate but important. I want to leave as little trace on the trail as possible because I want the trail to be there -- and as unchanged as possible -- for the next generation of hikers. In this regard, I can control my own actions and their effect on the trail.

The issue of the gear I buy and use is part and parcel of the large issue of the impact I leave on the environment as a whole. This one I have less control over. I must drive a car to work. I have to wear pants, and they may be made in China, where real human being s are exploited to make the pants. My sleeping bag shell is made from polyester manufactured from petrol byproducts. Heck, the drinking container I use is made from a petrol byproduct.

I try. The socks I'm wearing are made from recycled material. Of course, more than a bit of energy was used up in the recycling process. I wash and reuse everything I can. Did the hot water I used to wash wipe away the advantage of reuse?

I dunno. I try to recycle and buy "green" items, but thinking about such matters all the time can lead to madness.

I do know that by packing out everything I use and burying my personal, human waste, I can do my part to preserve the trail I love so well. That's good enough for me.

I'll try to do the other stuff the best I can, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. The issues are too complex, and I go out on the trail to escape, not to ponder, the issues that give me ulcers when I'm not on the trail.

Just my $.05. I could be wrong.

Stargazer

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Lefty mentality on 10/21/2009 12:16:15 MDT Print View

>A friend's mother once told us a story during a discussion about littering and of other societies relationships to certain ideals we now take for granted, anyway, she related a time when at the end of families picnics back in the 50/60's it was common to remove your plates and bowls and napkins, etc, and sweep the tablecloth off the public park table, leaving the trash and litter for.. someone else!?!.

Interesting. My sainted mother, a real conservative in the classic sense, would have kicked my a@@ down the block if I had left a speck of mess for someone else to clean up.

She was no environmentalist lefty. She just believed in a clean and beautiful world. Really, folks. There's nothing unique or weird about the "green" movement. My mother just loved the world and felt a responsibility to leave it as she found it. Leave it as you found it. Don't take more than you can eat. Clean up after yourself. Take only what you need. This is not environmentalism. This is just good, depression-era common sense.

Stargazer

Jim Colten
(jcolten)

Locale: MN
Re: Lefty mentality on 10/21/2009 12:19:51 MDT Print View

My mother just loved the world and felt a responsibility to leave it as she found it. Leave it as you found it. Don't take more than you can eat. Clean up after yourself. Take only what you need. This is not environmentalism. This is just good, depression-era common sense.

Sadly, it ain't so common.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Lefty mentality on 10/21/2009 12:27:09 MDT Print View

Funny you mention this Thomas.
I was also going to bring up my grandmother- she turns 87 today.
"Environmentalism" was not around in her youth. There were no "green" jobs, etc.
Yet her and my grandfather lived a life more "sustainable" than any of us can dream.
She canned, jarred, and pickled. She darned socks. My grandfather fixed EVERYTHING. They line dried laundry and washed by hand. There was no such thing as a disposable razor or plate. They used durable goods. They did not buy new jackets for fashion seasons and they resoled their shoes. They didn't walk to the corner market to make a statement, they walked because it was easier.

My grandmother still clings to these ways as best as she can. To me, she's the image of "green", of the sustainability movement.

I doubt she has any idea what hemp clothes or carbon offsets are.

Man, we're a bunch of lost little puppies...trying to figure out how to shop our way to a better future.

Edited by xnomanx on 10/21/2009 12:32:02 MDT.

Anna Carter
(acarter_1) - F

Locale: Pacific NW U.S.
Re: Ultralight Backpacking Ethically (UBE) on 10/21/2009 13:43:42 MDT Print View

Joe- Everyone is already making this an insightful discussion. Thank you for being the first responder. As someone who might be dismissed as one of those "intellectual elites," I feel the need to respond to your post. When it comes to environmental issues, I sense a degree of acquiescence to frustration-even hopelessness- in everyone, myself included. You are correct. Why drive a hybrid vehicle that is no less of an environmental nightmare to manufacture than an suv? Maybe we are all just newly indoctrinated by "green" ideas in the same way we have been by our materialistic, consummerist culture. I find that to be a poor excuse, however. Maybe trying to make less of an impact is just delaying the inevitable, but maybe enough people are sick of being told what to buy by their TVs that the inevitable could be stopped.
To answer your question about using animal products...I do not attach "right" or "wrong" to this answer. I, personally, strive to buy products that are free of animal derivatives and labeled cruelty-free; I am also aware that this is actually nearly impossible, when the entire life of a product is taken into account. But I have voted to be the cause of less harm to the environment and less cruelty to other organisms. I encourage others to do the same for both environmental and ethical reasons. But...you do get a vote. You get hundreds of votes simply in the form of the money you spend. Or don't spend.
You could make the argument that the same resources/energy are used to manufacture a down quilt as a synthetic bag. The synthetic bag is made with petroleum-based products. Is this better for the environment than the goose down? Probably not. But one reason I started this thread was to get others' ideas I hadn't thought of yet; who better to discuss the environment than the people who love to be out in it? So far, so good.

Edited by acarter_1 on 10/21/2009 14:47:23 MDT.

Michael Neal
(michaeltn2) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
conservation on 10/21/2009 13:48:42 MDT Print View

Conservation has been around a long time, before it was co-opted into the leftist political movement. I recycle, use energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, I care for conservation of natural habitat and wildlife. I am also a political conservative.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Ultralight Backpacking Ethically (UBE) on 10/21/2009 14:02:56 MDT Print View

I was trying to say something like Michael said. As I'm having one of those weeks where I understand why tigers eat their young, I came off pretty harsh, and petty. Never post angry, right? So I apologize, and I'll probably Biden his first line as a sig somewhere.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: conservation on 10/21/2009 14:07:23 MDT Print View

"Everyone is already making this an insightful discussion"

instead of an inciteful discussion... ;-)

"co-opted into the leftist political movement"

Not sure how it's been co-opted if political conservatives believe in it strongly as well.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Ultralight Backpacking Ethically (UBE) on 10/21/2009 14:18:32 MDT Print View

I don't know Joe, I don't think you came off as petty and harsh. Angry, maybe... ;-)

What always seems to happen in these discussions, unfortunately (and happens in discussions with a good friend of mine as well, and, as Joe predicted, happened in the lightweight rifle 'discussion') is that people seem (I said SEEM) to think that the way they live is the right way, when it's only the right way for them. We all make tradeoffs, every one of us, to live what we believe to be a 'good' or 'proper' life. But different tradeoffs suit different people. And some people, again, unfortunately, seem to think that if someone differs with their view of the world then that somehows translates to their views being denigrated or attacked. And that's when the flames begin. Why are we too often so angry? Differences are great. I live my life by my credo. I don't expect anyone else to live by my credo. In the end, I can only control me. I'm okay with that.

Now, that doesn't mean we shouldn't share ideas and opinions. Of course we should! I've changed views (both mine and theirs) based on discussions with others. But I don't denigrate their opinions and views, and I don't feel their disagreement with my views denigrates mine. Keeps me happy and smiling. And ulcer free!

Anna Carter
(acarter_1) - F

Locale: Pacific NW U.S.
Re: Re: conservation on 10/21/2009 14:42:52 MDT Print View

Obviously, political conservatives and liberals are equally capable of being concerned for the environment. I think that he was speaking of the association commonly perceived, whether correctly or not, between environmentalism and the political far left. I believe the polite term is "treehuggers" or "d*** hippies." Given that we all have to inhabit this planet, I think we can stick to a discussion of environmentally ethical backpacking without falling victim to the argument of who is at fault for global warming, etc., which is inevitably what political discussions tend to do when it comes to environmental issues (or pretty much any other issue). We can each be equally concerned with lessening environmental degradation, regardless of political leanings. Anyway, as backpackers, it is likely that we have all hugged several trees. So let us not allow an excellent discussion to turn into a scuffle over politics.
I have another question, brought to you by energy-efficient light bulbs. As a backpacker, how far are you (or me or anyone else) willing to go to make less of an impact? Does this limit correlate with the degree to which you make environmentally friendly changes, if any, in your non-backpacking life? What is your motivation for making these changes?

Edited by acarter_1 on 10/21/2009 14:46:41 MDT.

James Patsalides
(james@patsalides.com) - MLife

Locale: New England
Ultralight Backpacking Ethically (UBE) on 10/21/2009 14:47:04 MDT Print View

Doug et al:
I have to agree with your "HYOH" philosophy here, except for when person A's credo or style has an impact on person B's credo or style. When your freedom damages my freedom, is it really freedom at all???

Consider a large-scale traditional hiking "operation" (large groups using semi-permanent base camps, lighting fires, digging communal latrines, moving trees to make seats for campfire singing, maybe stereos playing in the wilderness etc). For those individuals involved in this style of camping, this could be a wonderful communal outdoors experience. These folks could be careful to remove garbage and clean up after themselves, BUT, inevitably, their presence in the backcountry would leave an impact on the backcountry.

So, now you or I walk solo with our lightweight zero-impact philosophy, and we are forced to witness (according to our credo) the damage humans do to the environment. Part of this philosophy is to "leave only footprints and take only memories", so we walk softly, avoid damaging things, gently brush the grass when we pack up in the morning, dig a little cat hole and go TP free. At the same time, to do this, we must use more expensive and perhaps less durable (debatable!!!) gear. We might have multiple versions of the same gear, so that we can plan each trip based on weather conditions, seasons etc.

I guess what I am saying is, in the end we are all rational, we just appear irrational to one another because of our context, because of the lenses we each apply, which are biased by our own philosophy of life. Some people believe that the free market is the best way to provide health care for the US. Those people are almost all people who can afford to buy health insurance, and therefore have never experienced the problem with the free market - that by definition some people can afford to buy products and some cannot, i.e. that the market succeeds if the system makes profits. This is not part of their context, or perhaps they see this intellectually, but never having actually experienced it, they put it aside as less relevant than that which they have experienced.

So, I think we should update the HYOH philosophy, to say, HYOHBDDM (hike your own hike but don't damage mine). ;-)

Cheers, James.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Ultralight Backpacking Ethically (UBE) on 10/21/2009 14:56:58 MDT Print View

The question of down is an interesting one, and certainly not straight-forward.

In countries like Poland they run geese in two different areas. In one (meat) area the geese live for about 1.5 years and are then turned into dinner. Their down is 'free' in an environmental sense, but it is not the highest quality. In the other (down) area the geese live to ripe old ages of 20+ years. Their down is manually harvested at molt time each year, when it is due to fall out anyhow. How do you assess the environmental cost of down birds?

In China all the down used to be from duck and goose meat chain, which is why it wasn't as good as the European down, but in recent years I understand they are starting to run specific down birds too.

Then there is the life-time issue. A 'good' synthetic bag may last just a few years before the filling gets squashed too much and it ceases to provide the warmth. Then you have 'consumed' both the filling and the shell. But a good down bag can last 20+ years with a little care. Since there is considerable environmental cost in making the shell fabric anyhow, a longer life has environmental benefits.

Any blind adherence to 'animal-free' products (or any other cult thing) tends to be more of an ideology than a reasoned rational behaviour. Every other animal on this planet 'uses' the planet: I cannot see why humans should not be able to use the planet (within reason) as well.

Yeah, I know - it's the 'within reason' bit which is hard in this era of intense promotional & marketing budgets.

Cheers

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Re: Ultralight Backpacking Ethically (UBE) on 10/21/2009 15:35:27 MDT Print View

"tends to be more of an ideology than a reasoned rational behaviour."

I'm sure that many vegans have reasonable, rational ideas behind their behavior. Perhaps, it's not enough to convince you, but if it works for them....

The "best" rational argument that I have found, that works for me, for vegetarianism is: Knowingly, needlessly and willingly causing suffering to another sentient being is evil. Thanks for not arguing the point. It's a theoretical aside and discussions of environmental topics all too often devolve into pointless theoretical debate.

"How do you assess the environmental cost of down birds?"
Great question. I find that Patagonia does the best job at assessing the environmental impact of their products. I wondered what their thoughts were on down. I found their interactive discussion about down to be insightful (http://www.patagonia.com/web/us/footprint/index.jsp/?slc=en_US&sct=US). I will continue to buy down products, even as a vegetarian.

PS: Patagonia's Footprint chronicles is a great place to look for a lot of info on outdoor gear sustainability.

Edited by Found on 10/21/2009 15:36:10 MDT.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Ultralight Backpacking Ethically (UBE) on 10/21/2009 15:51:41 MDT Print View

I care deeply about the environment, wilderness and wildness. And I feel ethically compelled to make adjustments and sacrifices in my own life. So I do extend LNT broadly. If you are still one of those people who is anti-environment, I'm angered by you, and I choose to leave you out of my life.

So, what are my thoughts?

- SUL gear is out. I spend hundreds of days outdoors a year. And I refuse to buy gear that doesn't offer at least some decent durability. I have also urged various cottage gear manufacturers to build with more durability in mind. Specifically, I'd like to see sturdier silnylon that doesn't start leaking after two seasons. And I'd like to see Dirty Girl Gaiters made with more durable fabric (they last only 3-500 miles. So yes, absolutely, I sacrifice weight in favor of durability.

- Almost all of my gear is made from oil. I'm not ready to move beyond oil here. So I try to buy less. And I also lean towards buying recycled and recyclable clothes. Patagonia makes great gear and offers clothing that I can recycle. I really like wearing stuff that I can return to the shop when I'm done with it. The sacrifices are pretty minimal here as Pataguchi makes great products.

- I repair my gear.

- Just today, I got back from my second ever U.S. public transit assisted backpacking trip. Left the house by foot and came back by bus.

- Generally, I refuse "free" schwag. Outdoor companies give a lot of stuff away. Typically, I don't need it, so no thanks.

- I'm trying to consider multi-sport gear more. I'm getting more in to cycling and right now I'm looking at cycling clothes. I'm either not going to buy any, or buy stuff that I'll be ok with backpacking as well.

- Yes, I cook and eat out of my pot. Partly because plastic bags are wasteful. I also repackage my food less and have been satisfied carrying food in less than ideal containers like bread bags.

Global warming is a real and serious concern. As is pollution and habitat degradation and destruction. I feel ethically compelled to partake in the solution. Mainly, I try to buy less STUFF.

I'm not sure that ultralight backpacking really does involve less waste. Sure, each product is made of less, but I wonder how we really stack up to other backpackers.

Anna Carter
(acarter_1) - F

Locale: Pacific NW U.S.
Re: Re: Ultralight Backpacking Ethically (UBE) on 10/21/2009 16:18:15 MDT Print View

I do not think that UL backpacking is itself inherently less wasteful of product as it is of utility, but I think maybe the mindset is not too far off. If you ask yourself "How can I save weight and space by using one [something] that does two or three tasks instead of carrying two or three things that accomplish the same?" as a backpacker, are you more open to asking yourself the same questions as an everyday consumer? UL backpacking does take an anti-stuff stance in that sense. It is easier to eliminate wasted stuff from your life if you already have taken it out of your pack. Both practices make you lighter mentally.

-For gear repair, have you found a good adhesive/seal that does not contain toluene? Or avoid inflatable things and stick with needle-and-thread repair jobs?

Edited by acarter_1 on 10/21/2009 16:20:51 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: Ultralight Backpacking Ethically (UBE) on 10/21/2009 18:13:53 MDT Print View

Do you think about your environmental impact as you buy/make gear?
Mostly no.

Would you compromise weight for a piece of reclaimed or recycled gear?
Maybe. I bought some END shoes, but they are lighter but probably less durable.

How do you view the use of down and other animal-derived products?
It is not unethical to use animal-derived products, either down or foodwise. I would not however wear a mink coat ; ).

Edited by jshann on 10/21/2009 18:26:41 MDT.

Anna Carter
(acarter_1) - F

Locale: Pacific NW U.S.
Re: Re: Re: Ultralight Backpacking Ethically (UBE) on 10/21/2009 18:29:08 MDT Print View

Jshann- Do you have any insights to share on why these are your answers/views?