Some time ago I went to a lecture given by a guy who teaches wilderness survival. He was sort of contempuous of backpackers, comparing us to astronauts, with our packs being the equivalent to space suits. His point being that we act like we are entering an environment that humans could not live in. He of course believed that this wasn't true.
After thinking about that I have agree a little bit. Obviously we are not choosing to merely survive in the mountains. We bring along a lot of "civilized" comforts. A flashlight is a luxury, for example.
But the truth is no one should be living off the public land anymore, at least in the lower 48. The environment couldn't handle the impact. If we tried to survive on the land in any numbers we would destroy it.
I do a lot packing above tree line. That really is a hostile environment to humans. I worked in the High Sierra for the USFS and got to know the archelogists. No people lived above tree line. The Indian sites were all in the montane zone, and those were summer only camps. Like us, they appear to have only visited the high regions. So maybe our packs are space suits.
Just something that has been rattling around in my mind for awhile.