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Does lightweight philosophy interfere with joining group trips?
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Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Does lightweight philosophy interfere with joining group trips? on 11/17/2010 14:02:18 MST Print View

I have considered joining group trips but I hesitate because I expect that my light gear would cause a problem. I might be turned down if I don't haul around a bunch of useless stuff. I might be ostracized or have to argue during the trip with others who disapprove of my gear. I might have people get panties in a wad over my lack of the "10 essentials." Etc. I also expect I would be incredibly frustrated by a slow pace, a short hike, and the sense of "oh my god we're in danger out here in the wilderness" while only being 4 miles from the car.

The same thoughts occur whenever someone says I ought to try getting a job as a wilderness guide or something like that.

Are my thoughts totally out-of-line here?

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Does lightweight philosophy interfere with joining group trips? on 11/17/2010 14:10:32 MST Print View

I hike with a loose knit group - and most of us have cut back on our packs over the years. We always had hiked as solo hikers in a group so "group gear" was never an issue. Unless we made private agreements with another person to share stuff, your kit was yours.

It has worked well over the years. Everyone is packed and ready to go when we get out of the vehicle(s). No bins of crud to sort through, no having to stick together mid day - not being dependent on others.

It works well :-) But you need to find the right folks though.

JJ Mathes
(JMathes) - F

Locale: Southeast US
Re: Does lightweight philosophy interfere with joining group trips? on 11/17/2010 14:12:48 MST Print View

hahahaha! Piper, I have experienced exactly what you described from a non-UL group, was told I was bad for their self esteem. I only hike solo or with fellow UL-ers.

Edited by JMathes on 11/17/2010 14:23:08 MST.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Does lightweight philosophy interfere with joining group trips? on 11/17/2010 14:14:23 MST Print View

Been there. Done that.

If you organize the group trip yourself, you can set up the expectations of each participant. For example, on some group trips, the organizer will do a central commissary consisting of group cook gear plus so many meals of food, so they tell each participant to expect to carry X pounds of central commissary. If the participants want to have 10 pounds or 20 pounds or 30 pounds of base weight, then that is their decision. By the same token, if you advertise the group trip as "lightweight gear," then you will attract a slightly different type of backpacker. Sometimes you might have to furnish a lightweight checklist of those backpackers are not fully tuned. If you tell them in advance that the group will need to cover Y miles per day, then that explains somewhat why they need to go lightweight.

Now, if you try to organize a lightweight trip and nobody else wants to go for two trips, then that means that you are trying to organize the wrong group of people.

One leader that I know does an evening training class for lightweight beginners, and it covers things from how to make your own alcohol burner to how to pitch a tarp.

I led group trips for 20 years, and that included several years of lightweight trips.


Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Regarding mileage/type of trip on 11/17/2010 14:20:20 MST Print View

I think the other thing about group trips is knowing upfront what the goals are. Lets say I want to a big hike somewhere, then I ask those I know who like to hike the same. Same with if all I wanted to do was 2 miles with kids. That way no one is under the wrong impression.

tommy d
(vinovampire) - F
Re: Does lightweight philosophy interfere with joining group trips? on 11/17/2010 16:29:17 MST Print View

I only really like to backpack with people who I know and trust. Usually this means people whom I've gone on multiple, short day hikes and then built up to longer day hikes and short overnight trips. I like to see (a) what type of pace they keep, (b) how they act on the trail, and (c) whether they carry the essential systems needed to keep yourself safe.

The one and only "group trip" I've been on in 10 years would easily have ended in a major disaster had the smallest bit a rain began to fall. My GF and I were well prepared as always, but the rest of the group was inadequately dressed, had no navigation aids, no emergency shelter, and the list goes on and on. It was shocking. The next morning I took the reins and marched the group back down the shortest, most sheltered trail possible. Never again.

So, on some level I agree with your concern about "group trips," but on the other hand I strongly disagree with you about the potential lack of danger just 4-miles from the car and people lacking essential systems. Without the ability to navigate, that group might as well have been 40 or 400 miles away from their cars. Of course, I'm not talking about sunscreen here.

Pedro Arvy
(PedroArvy) - MLife

Locale: Melbourne
Make the trip rating hard on 11/17/2010 16:40:58 MST Print View

I have organized trips with clubs before.
Just mark the trip rating as "hard" whilst for you it will be "medium". I see envy and disbelief when people see light gear, but no unpleasantness.
In my bushwalking club, the average weight for a weekend walk can be 20kg - 45 pounds.

Edited by PedroArvy on 11/17/2010 16:41:28 MST.

/A .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Does lightweight philosophy interfere with joining group trips? on 11/17/2010 16:46:16 MST Print View

For group trips, the class(ic) approach is to just put a watermelon in your pack (during summer time, of course). Then share it at camp. It will slow you down, you can enjoy the scenery and everyone will think you are superwoman at dinner time when you pull it out ;)

This is actually something some of us do while guiding as well, for the same reasons.

To excel at guiding takes significant patience, understanding, knowledge and the ability to put yourself in another soul's shoes. It also requires a meek and temperate attitude under difficult circumstances, where you demonstrate being grateful rather than complaining at all times. There are also unique challenges vs. solo or going with more experienced backcountry users that can be incredibly rewarding and character building for you. I find it particularly enjoyable sharing new ideas and experiences with people who are more easily awe-struck at the beauty of the places we visit. The slower pace also helps one to bask in creation and feel the ridges of the makers fingerprint all the more intricately.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
go for it on 11/17/2010 16:47:50 MST Print View

just run up the trail, back again and up again ...

the best thing about hiking with a bunch of 50 lb packs is that you dont have to worry about being the slowest person in the group when cute fuzzay bears decide that theyre hungray ....

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Regarding mileage/type of trip on 11/17/2010 16:49:17 MST Print View

"I think the other thing about group trips is knowing upfront what the goals are."

For one backpacking season, I enjoyed having a co-leader on my trips who was an expert cook and had studied cooking in several countries. So, we had international group meals with a different country for each meal. That was one of the advertised features of the trips that year, and they were especially popular.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Make the trip rating hard on 11/17/2010 18:18:06 MST Print View

Hi Pedro

> In my bushwalking club, the average weight for a weekend walk can be 20kg - 45 pounds.
Oh goodie! Means I get the easy life! Chuckle.
Errr... which club?


Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: Does lightweight philosophy interfere with joining group trips? on 11/17/2010 21:23:50 MST Print View

There's a group in my area that goes backpacking every now and then. It might be nice to join them sometime but the person who organizes the trips is kind of old-school and would likely disapprove of my gear.

There are a lot of people out there who you simply cannot convince that lightweight gear isn't cold, wet and unsafe. They simply can't wrap their heads around light gear being warm, safe and dry. It doesn't compute. They are usually the ones who consider themselves experts. They are instructors and "certified" in this or that. I think hiking the PCT and UL backpacking in general has ruined my ability to join trips where people like this are the leaders.

I guess I find that UL hiking opened a lot of doors for me to hike solo but closed other doors. A 2 mile backpack trip wouldn't be too bad, but recently I went for a 6 mile dayhike with one of these leadership experts and it took 4 hours to go the first 3 miles. I had to sign myself out and go home. When I got home I was so sore and exhausted. I think it was like Tai Chi hiking or something. I didn't know it was possible to walk so slow and stop so many times.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: It takes a different mindset to say the least on 11/18/2010 10:34:04 MST Print View

I have a friend whose company I enjoy. She has 2 young children - unlike my first born who was hiking like an adult at 4 these are average kids who tend to walk reeeeaaaalllllyyyyyyy slow and want to take a loooottttttt of breaks. Consequently she gets stressed due to this.

My husband has asked me how I do it. Pretty much I realize that I will walk 1/2 mile an hour and i best be prepared for that. Mentally and physically. Funny is legs always hurt worse after these hikes than a normal hike.

As I have hiked with her more I slowly added my bag of tricks to the youngest (who is 4) and she moves faster. This fall she did her first 4+ mile hike.

But I do see more with them - I get a lot of photos, a lot of seeing things I wouldn't normally see.

But yes...I have to change my mindset from the trailhead and on.

So slow hiking can be good - but only if you enjoy the company you are with and your goals get racketed way down. Otherwise it isn't worth it frustration wise.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Lightweight philosophy doesn't mean being selfish. on 11/18/2010 11:19:50 MST Print View

When you join a group, you take on some responsibility to the group. Not only to be able to take care of yourself, but others too (ie. staying together, bringing enough knowledge and gear for activities, communicate well about expectations and safety concerns etc.)

The trade off for
this extra responsibility can be increased safety, new learning opportunities, increased chance for accomplishment
of goals, and social fun.

I got to raft the grand canyon, even row, because I went
with a group of more experienced people. Couldn't have
done it alone. Same goes for climbing Rainier. You need
others tied to your rope. Thinking about these activities
with a lightweight bent can add to the fun and success.
It will be easier to pack your raft with smaller, lighter
gear and your boat will be more maneuverable. Hauling
a lighter pack up a mountain goes without saying.

It takes a different mindset, whether it is party in the
mountains, or goal focused expedition behavior.

With groups I find I need to bring extra warm clothing
as there is always more standing around. I wear extra clothes
sometimes when hiking since I may be going at a slower
pace with a group. Slowing down is kinda nice and I can participate in the social stuff. Extra fuel and
hot drinks are also good when waiting for others to set up
or break camp.

If you are with a group of red-hots, then a lighter pack is
a great equalizer.

Peter Treiber
(peterbt) - M

Locale: A^2
Groups on 11/18/2010 11:49:52 MST Print View

Hiking with groups is fun! Having other people around when you're not sure where the trail continues can be helpful! Arriving at camp, building a fire, checking out everybody's gear, sharing whiskey or chocolate or cheese or whatever you brought extra of, playing euchre... I hike with a group in Michigan and I'm the lightest guy with a base weight of 13-14lbs. But other people have cool stuff and good advice. As long as you can take care of yourself, people will respect you. The only thing I don't like about group hikes is that I feel overly responsible for the stragglers, even when I'm not the "leader". But that's a personal problem!


Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Does lightweight philosophy interfere with joining group trips? on 11/18/2010 13:47:54 MST Print View


Not to sound too harsh, but it sounds like to me that the difficulty that you are having has more to do with your personal frustration that those around you don't see your logic of going UL and unwillingness to adopt your UL ways.

I can understand the annoyance if the group leader and others are hassling you about your gear.

For me, the possible frustration is the relatively slower pace of the group in daily mileage. However, when I have taken trips with traditional backpackers, I have already adjusted my expectations to reduce or eliminate the frustrations with their slower pace. I tend to think of the trip as a very leisurely dayhike.

When I go on backpacking trips, I am no longer trying to convince anyone that my way/the UL way is the best way to do things. In fact, I tell everyone that I am just plain nuts when it comes to how I do it and the gear that I am taking. I tell them that they way that I am doing things is not for everyone.

That seems to end the conversation or criticism because I have simply confirmed what they are thinking.

Now, if they see that I am not shivering at night, not eating cold miserable food, and I am really enjoying the trip with less physical strains....that might spark a conversation about my gear and UL techniques.

Not leading by example, living by example.

More importantly, UL is just a means for me to beter enjoy my backpacking trips. I just want to get out there and see stuff and enjoy the company of the people who I am traveling with.

So let them be critical and tell you that you are crazy and you are risking your life. Just smile and agree with them. Tell them that what you do isn't for everyone, but it works for you.

As my friend, Jay, says, "They just don't know....they just don't know."

Which means, traditional backpackers just have no idea of what UL involved and what it is. They have a whole industry telling them that traditional gear is the only safe way to go into the outdoors is with that gear. Anything else is challenging established dogma. They can not see or touch UL gear at their local REI, so they have a lot of misperceptions about what it is.

This might shock you, but I have a childhood friend of mine, Jeff, who went from traditional backpacking and then UL, having been exposed to my UL propoganda, and now is back to traditional backpacking with some UL elements.

It just did not work for him. He is not careful wtih his gear, does not want to bother with carefully packing everything into a tiny pack. He simply wants to grab it all and dump it into his massive pack and be done with it.

Hike your own hike and realize that you are just plain nuts and a fringe backpacker.

Wear it with UL Pride!


Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Carrying your own food on 11/18/2010 14:34:05 MST Print View

From my own experience, I find there to be much less food related, trail-side, drama when each carries their own grub.

Regarding the original question: I hike more and more with folks carrying less and less, as they get older and older. It's nice to have a trail-head pack weight of 27 pounds, for a six day hike. On the trail, we get along just fine with the folks carrying 50 plus pounds. Their interest in our kit allows us to brag about our MYOG, quarter ounce, Multi-use, SUL Ti, Spoon-Shoehorn-Potty Trowel.

Hey, Did I tell you about my latest Ti windscreen?

Edited by redleader on 11/18/2010 14:40:35 MST.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Carrying your own food on 11/18/2010 14:50:38 MST Print View

"From my own experience, I find there to be much less food related, trail-side, drama when each carries their own grub."

For very experienced backpackers, I find this to be true. However, there are lots of inexperienced backpackers, and if you leave it up to them to bring their own food, they won't go at all, or else they will bring items that are impractical to cook over a tiny stove. I saw one gal bring an six-pound chicken one time! At least that was good entertainment. If one experienced menu organizer works it right, there are several workable ways to do group meals, and this often adds a lot to the group experience, expecially for those inexperienced people. You can get some good economies of scale with shared cook gear.

Plan A. Do a central commissary consisting of all meals and shared cook gear.
Plan B. Do a central commissary consisting of breakfasts and dinners, and let the individuals bring their own lunches and snacks for variety. Shared cook gear.
Plan C. Do a central commissary where each person is assigned to bring one whole group meal, and try to have the number of people match the number of meals on the trip. Shared cook gear.
Then there are other plans as well.

I used to try to eliminate potential problems by having each participant tell me in advance if they have food allergies or foods that they detest.

On the other hand, if the central commissary planner doesn't know what he or she is doing, a mutiny will result.

I was on a seven-day trip one time, and the giant bag of breakfast oats got rained on and spoiled, about three days into the trip. For the rest of the breakfasts, all we had was coffee and jam. That's a good way to create enemies.


Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Carrying your own food on 11/18/2010 16:21:29 MST Print View

I'd say the food issue has worked for us well over the years. I have one good friend who before he hiked with us couldn't understand how it was 'group hiking' if we all ate solo (in other words no shared cooking). He had done Scouting for years and in his experience mealtime was all about one big meal that everyone got a scoop of.

Then he came along and he got it. He realized that we all usually ate at the same time and that we sat in the communal kitchen area - and that often we shared samples or someone brought a dessert to share or appetizers, etc. It worked well and he was hooked. No being reliant on someone else and then getting out 15 miles and finding out they "forgot" half the food (I have hiked with someone like that. They left their food on the counter at home. Good thing I had MY food and we shared it.) The companionship was there but without the stress.

As for time like the present to learn IMO. When people come along and you get that sense they are not experienced with food planning, I openly ask them before. And they do just fine with a little guiding.

But honestly the biggest reason we don't communal cook is I swear every person I hike with eats a semi restricted diet! Vegans, high carb, nothing fake, all potted meat products, dirt bag diets, raw! No way would I ever want to plan a menu for that many quirks. We'd be eating air by the time we made everyone happy. Then there is my friend who hates macaroni and meat. And sitting next to her is Sausage Boy eating the 5th container of Vienna Wieners that trip.....

And yes...I have taken newbie hikers grocery shopping even - and helped them plan personal menus. Teach them to shop and plan and they will be successful :-)

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Carrying your own food on 11/18/2010 16:34:23 MST Print View

Sarah, you forgot about my seafood diet. I see food and I eat it.