Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Has lightweight packing really caught on?


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Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
Has lightweight packing really caught on? on 08/21/2010 10:28:25 MDT Print View

Just back from two, five-day trips in the Sierras.

On both trips I was shocked, really, at (1) the number of people with big heavy packs (the vast majority); and (2) the sheer size of some of those packs including the fifteen items strapped to the outside.

I think I saw a lot more lightweight packing when I did the JMT in *1999* than when I crossed the region in 2010.

Has lightweight packing failed to catch on in the U.S.? In the Sierras? Elsewhere in the U.S.? Did it catch on for a while, but then fade?

What about Europe, Canada, Australia, etc.?

What do you think is going on?

Discuss.

- Elizabeth

Diplomatic Mike
(MikefaeDundee)

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Smooth on 08/21/2010 10:37:08 MDT Print View

You can lead a horse to water.......

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Has lightweight packing really caught on? on 08/21/2010 11:54:55 MDT Print View

I think it's a macho thing with guys. And I bet most of those people started backpacking in the 80's.

Kier Selinsky
(Kieran) - F

Locale: Seattle, WA
Outfitters on 08/21/2010 12:18:21 MDT Print View

Have you been to an outfitter recently? I just started backpacking again in the last couple years, after taking about 12 years off. If you are just getting into the sport, or like me coming back to it, you start shopping for your gear. You start with your big 3, and most outfitters don't carry anything terribly light in those areas. They list the weights, but that doesn't really translate to a lot of weight when you're shopping. There's so much to learn, especially for the person who is completely new to the sport, that it's not till you get out there that you realize how much the pack weighs. And of course after you buy your big 3, you start seeing all sorts of neat gimmickey things, like ice cream makers and stuff, that a lot of people feel they have to have. I used to carry a lot of weight, but when I got back into backpacking, it was knowing that I'd have to be the family sherpa, so I re-entered backpacking looking for lightweight solutions. If I wasn't going to be the sherpa, I probably would have just bought what the outfitter and backpacker mag told me to buy.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Ohio/ midwest on 08/21/2010 12:23:10 MDT Print View

I don't see any true light-weight BPers here in Ohio. In fact, there is interest, but it doesn't translate into action, so far as I can see. At most campsites, people ooo and awww over my Hexamid (especially) and Moment (Is that really a tent?), but they are still carrying the heavy, heavy gear.

Mostly, people talk about how uncomfortable it all looks, and they look at me skeptically when I say that I am perfectly fine sleeping in such a "flimsy" or "tiny" shelter. But I am, and I'm certainly more comfortable cranking out the miles and climbing the stiff, unswitchbacked uphills of the Shawnee State Forest.

Earlier this summer, I passed a couple climbing a particularly nasty climb on the Shawnee North Loop. The agony on their faces spoke volumes.

Stargazer

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Has lightweight packing really caught on? on 08/21/2010 12:38:32 MDT Print View

I do not think so-I have been on a lot of trips this season and always see backpackers w/ HUGE packs and stuff hanging and dangling from them. Once in a Blue Moon I will see a UL person on the trail and will start chatting with them because we have something in common. Two weeks ago I saw a backpacker carrying in a double burner Coleman stove that weighed at least 10 lbs-He was a good 8 miles from the TH..Here is a good example of a heavy pack:
190

Edited by Creachen on 08/21/2010 16:24:41 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Ouch! on 08/21/2010 13:00:54 MDT Print View

Poor devil... amazing how much is outside the pack. Gaging by the sleeping gear, he's comfy at camp--- and probably needs the rest :)

You still see EXTENDED external frame packs loaded to the hilt trudging up the switchbacks with a human being hidden somewhere underneath.

It's all a degree of education, experience and superstition.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Ouch! on 08/21/2010 14:09:44 MDT Print View

The poor guy in the photo is missing a few things. I don't see any axe or cast iron skillet. For sure I don't see any hard-back books for reading in camp.

--B.G.--

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: Ouch! on 08/21/2010 14:21:15 MDT Print View

At least the guy is using a tarp.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
OUCH! on 08/21/2010 14:22:38 MDT Print View

>Two weeks ago I saw a backpacker carrying in a double burner Coleman stove that weighed at least 12 lbs.

I used to carry one of those in my misspend youth. Base weight: 65 lb. The enormous canvas tent didn't help. What was I thinking?

I know the guy with the heavy pack must have a pack under there someplace, but it's hard to see with all the stuff he has strapped to the outside. There but by the grace of Dog (or God, if you are so inclined)n go I.

Stargazer

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Ouch! on 08/21/2010 15:27:47 MDT Print View

Tarp?

I'll bet that poly tarp is the ground cloth for his tent.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: Re: Re: Ouch! on 08/21/2010 15:34:44 MDT Print View

Maybe so... Might that climbing rope be for guying out his tent?

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Has lightweight packing really caught on? on 08/21/2010 16:11:33 MDT Print View

+1 W/ Joe

I'll be selling somebody some gear and talk about light weight and they're like "Oh I can carry 50lbs... I'm not concerned with weight"

I answer " Well I CAN carry 50 lbs, but why would I WANT to?"

Then I enjoy their dumbfounded looks:)

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
What is in those packs? on 08/21/2010 16:11:57 MDT Print View

Last year when my son and I did the Sierra High Route we were on the JMT for a short section going into Red's Meadow. We passed some folks carrying massive packs and we started playing a game of "what is in that pack?" It almost got one hiker mugged after we decided that it had to be an iced down case of beer. My son started after it...

So, what is really in those packs?

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Has lightweight packing really caught on? on 08/21/2010 16:28:33 MDT Print View

Elizabeth, I just got back from 5 days in the Sierra on the JMT and I was thinking the exact same things.

Some observations:

HUGE packs. I was completely astonished. And their external frame packs weren't big enough so they strapped day packs and garbage bags fully loaded to the outside.

I would say hello to people on the trail and ask if they were hiking the whole JMT. Everybody answered back, and then whether they were doing the whole JMT or not they always added "We're just taking it slow, trying to soak it all in." It was like an apology for standing there in front of me with my tiny pack, skirt and sandals.

Women seemed to actually be worse offenders than men when it came to carrying too much weight. Many women were rest-stepping on level ground. Some women were so overloaded their legs were shaking with instability and they could barely lift their legs over rocks and things.

If I was hiking near a trailhead most people said things to me that indicated they thought I was day hiking. Like "Have a nice day" instead of "Have a nice hike." I got more "Have a nice hikes" further in.

One man said to me that he thought I was the strongest hiker he'd ever met. I thought he was the strongest hiker since he was carrying 65lbs and keeping up with me on a big hill. I told him I only look strong because I have a tiny pack. He said that didn't matter! How could it not matter?

One man seemed actually offended at my choices and tried to convince me that sandals were inappropriate (my feet were never happier.) He warned me that he hikes pretty fast and not to be surprised if he had to ask me to step aside and let him go by in a few minutes. After 5 minutes he faded into the distance behind me and I never saw him again.

I never evangelized to anyone about my gear. I just went for my hike and minded my own business. I never criticized anybody for their gear except one guy who said something in jest about going up hill and I responded with something like "you need a tiny pack like mine, then it would be easy." We talked for a while and he admitted that with his heavy pack he can rarely go as far from the trailhead as he plans to.

I really got the feeling that people actually LIKED their heavy packs, that if it wasn't really super hard carrying all that weight it just wasn't backpacking. That if it didn't take 12 days to go from Happy Isles to Silver Pass you were violating some kind of wilderness ethic. I think people actually do not want to hike light and fast. They really don't.

Eventually I started to wonder if I was somehow not enjoying the wilderness enough by doing it my way. Hiking 20 miles a day, was I missing something? Was it wrong to skip merrily up a big pass not even feeling the altitude, then go quickly down the other side and have it all done and conquered in about 4-5 hours? Should it have taken the whole day instead? Would I have savored it more, experienced it more, been more present to the extremes? I walked faster than expected and ended my trip a day early. Was that worse than running out of time?

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Has lightweight packing really caught on? on 08/21/2010 16:31:51 MDT Print View

Short answer:

There are 40,000+ participants in the BPL community here. Is that enough?

Stargazer

Edited by nerdboy52 on 08/21/2010 16:32:23 MDT.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: Has lightweight packing really caught on? on 08/21/2010 17:00:09 MDT Print View

"One man said to me that he thought I was the strongest hiker he'd ever met. I thought he was the strongest hiker since he was carrying 65lbs and keeping up with me on a big hill. I told him I only look strong because I have a tiny pack. He said that didn't matter! How could it not matter?"

So that's why young women wear those tiny backpacks!

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Well said! on 08/21/2010 17:14:56 MDT Print View

>Was it wrong to skip merrily up a big pass not even feeling the altitude, then go quickly down the other side and have it all done and conquered in about 4-5 hours? Should it have taken the whole day instead? Would I have savored it more, experienced it more, been more present to the extremes? I walked faster than expected and ended my trip a day early. Was that worse than running out of time?

Beautifully written, Piper. (Good use of rhetorical questions.) You capture the instinct toward minimalism (what UL really is, IMO) well.

Rock on! If you decide to stop and catch the glory of the view, won't you enjoy it more if you aren't exhausted by your enormous pack? (another rhetorical question) ;-)

Edited by nerdboy52 on 08/21/2010 17:15:56 MDT.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Has lightweight packing really caught on? on 08/21/2010 17:33:18 MDT Print View

No, it has not become the norm (except in the marketing of gear), IMO.

Last month my wife and I hiked almost a week with three relatives who were traditional backpackers: bro-in-law, his wife, and his son. My bro has been backpacking since the seventies both in the East and West. He is mid-50 like me. Wears the hiking boots, big pack, tent, bag, etc. Same with his wife and his son. His son has hiked with him before he could walk.

My wife was the lightest. A Zpack Z1, small pad (for frame and sitting), our water, two NeoAirs, two quilts, cocoons, clothing, and misc. Did not weigh her pack, but my bro picked up her pack and could not believe it. He said that it was like a pillow. She does not hike often. My strategy is "if she is happy, I am happy : ) ". She had no problems. Light is good.

I was next. With our food 21 lb (Bearikade weekender and a Bear Vault 350). 3.5 lb decrease per day as we ate our food. Pinnacle pack, DoubleRainbow tarptent, Steripen, SUL1100 pot, Snowpeak LiteMax stove, two poncho tarps, CoolPix camera, cell phone, two nesting bowls, two Trappers Mugs, two spoons, and that was about it. Felt comfortable on day one and then by day three became very comfortable.

The other three packs were what you usually see. We did not really debate pack weights at any time during the hike. I do believe that they were skeptical about us at first. After a couple of days, without arguments or debates, I think we showed three really good traditional backpackers that going light can be done very comfortably and safe just like traditional style.

It was a fun hike for all of us. My wife and I like the light and simple style while the others like doing what they are familiar and comfortable with. It really doesn't matter what others carry or do not carry. Everyone ends up doing what is right for them.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife
Re: Re: Has lightweight packing really caught on? on 08/21/2010 18:30:09 MDT Print View

Saw a ton of people in the Trinity Alps a few weeks ago(unfortunately)with huge packs. Only saw two with lightweight packs. Was amazed that I saw those two as I rarely see anyone else light minded other that when hiking with BPL alum. Saw some poor dad wearing 2 packs piggybacked. Must have had eighty pounds or so there. Did not look like fun. People just don't seem to know that it can be done differently. Saw a lot of gear of the early eighties bombproof mindset. I think they're out to haul not hike.