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Where do you backpack?
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Brandt Zook
(BassDude) - F - M

Locale: Texas
Where do you backpack? on 01/09/2011 18:56:41 MST Print View

I am really new to the ultralight backpacking world and pretty new to the backpacking world in general. As I am looking at all the effort/money needed to go ultralight, I'm wondering if it is worth it? My primary destinations are state parks at the moment. Does one really need ultralight gear for that? I love the idea of ultralight, I really do. But is it worth the cost for my experience/expected field of use? I do expect and hope that I can hike the AT, JMT, and other big trips, but that is probably not anytime soon. School and other activities take up most of my time at the moment.

So what I am trying to get out of this is: where do you go to backpack? The vibe I get from this crowd is one that is mostly concerned with thru-hikes and other big trips (such as the AT and JMT). Or am I wrong? Are you guys frequenters at your local state parks for maybe a weekend trip or a quick overnighter?

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Where do you backpack? on 01/09/2011 19:41:41 MST Print View


Local State Parks make up most of my trips due to time involved and proximity. That said, I love it when I can really get away!!!

As for the cost of going UL, I believe that except for the best bags,quilts, and insulating clothing that it is cheaper. But you have to ask questions on sites like this BEFORE making the plunge. Many here will tell you the same thing.

A reason UL can be cheaper is that you won't buy heavier gear that LOOKS right for you now, only to discover that by using it youu see where UL gear is actually better for your style of hiking/camping. After selling the old gear for less than you paid (more than once), and buying the 'right' gear, I found that I spent much more than I would have by not trying to "save" so much money buying "cheaper" heavy gear!

Gear Swap on this this site and non-traditional items (like aluminum IMUSA mugs for cookpots) make bargain-finding easier.

So start asking questions and saving yourself money and disappointment! :) All of this doesn't work for EVERYONE however, so do what feels right for you.


Douglas Raymond
(Dougr320) - F

Locale: Indy
re on 01/09/2011 19:51:11 MST Print View

What part of Texas are you in, SW Arkansas has the Ouchita Natl Forest, I've been there a handful of times this summer since moving to SE Louisiana, It's some of the best backpacking in the region.

Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
re: expensive. on 01/10/2011 01:02:50 MST Print View

Whatever you do, do your research, and check out the "Gear Deal" and "Gear Swap" section regularly. Don't pay full price for anything.

I agree with the first responder, Todd.

In my opinion, in "absolute" terms, UL gear isn't a lot more expensive, if at all. A shelter is around $200-300, packs $150. In "relative" terms, they may cost more. You can buy a 3 man traditional double wall tent for $200, it'll cover more "possible" camping scenarios, but you'll pay the price with weight.

Guess it comes down to know thy self.

Since you've found this site, and you're definitely going to do cooler stuff once you've got time and money (you're young right), you will save yourself money in the longterm by not having to replace stuff.

You can always resell the more popular UL/hobbyist gear (Montbell, WM, MLD, Tarptent, Zpacks etc) as you go along and figure out your style or if you move onto something else, but good luck trying to get back money on traditional stuff.

This pretty much goes with all hobbyist endeavors, spend time reading the forums and research the gear, no matter the hobby.

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: Where do you backpack? on 01/10/2011 01:59:39 MST Print View

"I am really new to the ultralight backpacking world and pretty new to the backpacking world in general. As I am looking at all the effort/money needed to go ultralight, I'm wondering if it is worth it?"

A lot of the UL gear is cheaper than the non-UL equivalents of equivalent quality.

And feel free to UL anywhere - I often use my gear for commuting.

Edited by Arapiles on 01/10/2011 02:01:14 MST.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Where do you backpack? on 01/10/2011 03:37:55 MST Print View

Mostly, I pack in the Adirondacks in NY. No real mountains, the highest peak is a about a mile. The North Country Trail (Finger Lakes Trail) is near by. I often hike that area too. (Sections of AT from Georgia to Maine at one time or another.)

UL does not have to be expensive. Like anything else, only the lightest gear is expensive. Like biking, it can cost as much as $100 per gram (more sometimes.)
Or you can go UL camping with $100 total on your back at 1 pound more.

MYOG will help a lot. Flat tarps are easy (5x7 silnylon, <$15.) Rain gear can be a large garbage bag. Poly or nylon clothing is *recomended.* Light weight means less loading on your feet...sneakers rather than hiking boots. Soda can stoves cost next to nothing. Fuel bottles are reused soda/water bottles. Water bottles are reused gatoraid bottles. Packs are typically far less than larger, heavier packs. Light blue pads from WallMart are <$15 (and can be trimmed for a pot cozy.) A light and very usefull pot is the K-Mart grease pot. A $30 sleeping bag will easily last one or two years. Food you have to eat anyway. A spoon can be had from the local McBuggers. Aluminum foil for lids, and windscreens. And so on...

Of course, you could also buy UL gear at about $2000 to fill a pack. A $500 bag and $800 cuben tent for starters.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
re on 01/10/2011 07:08:49 MST Print View

"The vibe I get from this crowd is one that is mostly concerned with thru-hikes and other big trips (such as the AT and JMT). Or am I wrong?"

The most I do is 4 or 5 nights, 25 to 50 miles.

I think relatively few people are thru hikers, don't have 3 or 4 months.

Dave Myers
(PatientWolf) - F

Locale: South Western Oklahoma
Re: Where do you backpack? on 01/10/2011 07:40:57 MST Print View


I live in SW Oklahoma just 9 mi from the Texas border. Most of my hiking is in national grass lands, natural scenic recreation areas, and a nearby wildlife refuge in the Witchita Mountains. Like the previous poster most of my trips are weekenders or at most 4 or 5 days and 20-25 miles. Like you I would like to do the AT, PCT, JMT, etc... at some point. To me going light has definitely been worth it.

Previously I had done mostly car camping and hated it. The crowds packed in as tightly as they could be with drunken partiers 20 feet away all weekend long. I found out that the local wildelife refuge had an area for backcountry camping. So I went out and bought a tent, backpack, sleeping bag, coleman stove and canister, had a full coleman cookset pot, skillet, mug, cofeepot. I didn't bother weighing it but probably I was well over 30 or 40lbs of gear for just a weekend outing. The backcountry camping area is only 3 miles back in the mountains. I'm not in the greatest shape but I am pretty fit and when I got out to the area where camping is allowed my back, shoulders, neck, feet and knees were killing me. I spend the entire weekend only 3 miles in the country miserable because of the weight I carried.

When I got home all that gear went in my closet and I gave up thoughts of backpacking. Then I came across this site. I had never heard of lightweight backpacking but I immediately loved the sound of it. I started out by just getting a lighter pack and ditching a lot of the equipment I had thought was just absolutely necessary, i.e. extra cookware, lantern, huge first aid kit. I spent just about $200 got a pack, AGG pot, made my own alchohol stove, packed half the clothes, etc... and when done my base packweight was around 18 lbs. Went back out for the weekend in the Witchita Mountains, same location totally different experience. There was no pain, I wasn't exhausted at the end of the day and I was actually able to enjoy the area.

So it doesn't make a difference if you are doing 2000+ miles on the AT or if you are just going out 3 miles for a weekend trip going light is definitely worth it and doesn't have to break the bank. Start out by just deteriming what is within your budget and lighten up as much as you can within that. You would be suprised how much weight you can lose without spending a dime with MYOG like alchohol stoves or by just not taking items that are really not necessary. Combine that with one or two moderate purchases and you can really drop some weight.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Where do you backpack? on 01/10/2011 09:08:10 MST Print View

I live in Seattle, so I have access to a lot of great hiking. Most of my trips are in the Central and North Cascades. If I'm lucky, I get in trips to the coast and the Olympics--- drive time is significant.

Most of my trips are day hikes with a few overnighters sprinkled in. Car camping as a base with day hikes is another way to get out too. Once in a great while I get in a multi-day trip. I'll bet the vast majority of readers here do much the same.

Day hikes can make a difference in gear choices over multi-day trips, and thru-hikes are a whole other order of needs. Do keep that in mind when you read through the gear lists.

You can most certainly go ultralight for day hiking, in fact you can have fun seeing how compact and simple you can get your rig. I could get by with a thrift store backpack, a couple recycled water bottles, and a handful of essentials. Add some rain gear, basic clothing and a good pair of shoes and you are in the woods. Day hiking food is easy enough and you don't need cooking. You could go "heavy" and haul a thermos of hot stuff too.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
where I backpack on 01/10/2011 11:43:22 MST Print View

After growing up in Ohio and going backpacking in state parks, I've made life choices to put myself in places with more interesting options. Thus, I live 45 minutes from Glacier NP, and a bit more from the Bob Marshall complex. I do most of my camping, hiking and skiing there, with occasional trips further afield.

That said, I work a semi-flexible 9-5 without much paid vacation and job responsibilities that don't get done if I'm not around, so almost all my backcountry trips are 2-3 days. In my mind perhaps the best reason to slim your gear down and enhance technique, knowledge and fitness is to be able to do longer, more wild and ambitious trips in those weekends. It's liberating to be able to do a 40-60 mile loop without taking vacation time, and I wouldn't/couldn't do those trips with a big ole pack.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
lighten the load on 01/10/2011 12:06:58 MST Print View

Lightweight backpacking is worth it every time you hike wether it is for a week, a week-end, or a day hike. The less weight you carry the easier it is to hike. It's easier to walk to the grocery store than it is to walk home carrying the groceries!

Start your quest toward going light, by looking at what you carry now. If in doubt...leave it out. Did you use it on your last hike?

For example, I used to carry enough first aid gear to open a field hospital...triangular bandages, splints, a variety of ace bandages, etc...none of which I ever used. Leave out extra clothing, socks, t-shirts, undies, "clean stuff for town". Remember those Swiss Army knives with all the option blades, saws, leather punch, and cork screw? if you start with new batteries in your flashlight or head lamp or camera, do you really need to carry spares?

Look for lightweight clothing right in your closet. For example, a lightweight wool sweater and a thin nylon windbreaker or shell will be lighter, less bulky and even more efficient than a heavy weight sweater or a heavy weight fleece. (!00 weight fleece is a good weight).

When you find yourself thinking, "Well, I might need it in a pinch and it doesn't weigh much"....leave it at home. An ounce here another there, soon adds up to a pound.

Start next by looking at the weight of the pack when it is empty. Some packs empty can weigh 6 pounds. Consider next the weight of you footwear. I have some nice pairs of rugged leather boots with thick vibram soles that I will never hike in again, but are nice for work projects outside around the house. I only hike now in low cuts, "trail runners".

Hike in the hills and mountains nearest to you whenever you can. Think carefully about your gear and soon your experience will help you decide. When you return from a hike look carefully at everything you had in your pack. Did it work well? Did you use it? Did you need it?

Two things hikers do all the time....revise the gear list...plan the next hike.

BTW State Parks and State Forests are great areas to hike in. For example, outside of Steamboat Springs CO, is Zirkel Wilderness Area of Routt State Forest...hiked a week-end there. Beautiful scenery, never saw a soul. Another week end, my wife and I hiked in a National Forest that borders on the western side of Rocky Mt. National Park, CO. Never saw another person, only wildlife and wonderful mountain scenery.

Edited by rambler on 01/10/2011 12:31:00 MST.

ed hyatt
(edhyatt) - MLife

Locale: The North
European (mostly) backpacking on 01/10/2011 12:18:14 MST Print View

I backpack in the UK quite a lot (as I live here); mostly long weekends+ in the Lake District and Scotland. Also get to bits of Europe and the Alps quite a lot - 5 Alpine weeks last summer :-)

Done a little bit elsewhere, JMT, Morocco, South America.

Light seems to be the way to go for me for maximum enjoyment - I used to think not perhaps as light as many of you....but then saw what people were carrying in the Sierras; a lot. I further have the idea (from the Sierras) that the US is all settled weather and sunshine - then I read accounts of New England, and realise it is like Old England. Wet.

Hoping to do the Colorado Trail this summer :-)

carl becker
(carlbecker) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: Where do you backpack? on 01/10/2011 12:21:20 MST Print View

I have been hiking on and off for 35 years. Until recently it was heavy hiking whether day, weekend or longer. I did a lot of research and have a base weight of 12.5lbs including more than 3lbs for my camera and tripod. For me light weight counts for every trip regardless of how long. My old heavy leather boots are gone, I now wear trail runners and walk safer.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Where do you backpack? on 01/10/2011 13:42:35 MST Print View

I do a lot of backpacking in Washington and Oregon, since I live here. Most of these are 2-3 day trips. However, for the past four years (except last summer) I've driven back to the Wind Rivers in Wyoming for at least one longer (7-9 days) trip. If all goes well, this summer I want to go back and do three back-to-back trips there, which will cover most of the territory I haven't yet visited. I'm not getting any younger and neither is my hiking buddy (dog), so I suspect that in future years we'll be slowing down a lot! Thanks to age and an old knee injury, having lightweight gear is the only way I can backpack.

Re the cost of gear: Go to Mark Verber's website:
Check the links in his "Backpacking for Cheap" section for lots of ideas on how to get lightweight gear on a budget. Also, at the end of each category ("Clothing and Footwear," "Packs," etc., he lists low-budget options. And, of course, there's always used gear. Save up your $$$ for a high quality sleeping bag and go for low budget options on the rest.

There's a recent thread here on gearing up mostly at Walmart which is another good source for finding budget gear. If (like me) you prefer not to shop at Wallyworld, there are other big box/discount/outlet stores around with comparable prices. Oops, I just looked and I think that's the last link in "Backpacking for Cheap" on Mark's website.

Edited by hikinggranny on 01/10/2011 13:46:13 MST.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Where do you backpack? on 01/10/2011 15:26:03 MST Print View

Mostly in California. The state has a little bit of everything, and a whole lot of everything else.. Most trips are 2-3 day affairs. Coast, mountains, deserts, I love them all.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Where do you backpack? on 01/10/2011 16:33:32 MST Print View

I usually hike in Wa or Oregon though I do branch out periodically to Ut,Id, Mt, etc and even the east coast. We like to travel. And .... traveling light is easier!

Out here I am surrounded (literally) by State lands, NF and NP lands. Most often my trips are overnighters in the NF or in the NP.

I pack light well because I don't like heavy packs. Pretty simple.