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Why so fast?
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Matt Christensen
(MattC) - F
Why so fast? on 03/09/2011 09:52:22 MST Print View

Hello. I have been lurking here for quite some time, but this is my first post.

It seems that the UL community is overly obsessed with the fast part of the light and fast philosophy. I don't think there is anything wrong with this and I have practiced this as well. Perhaps one of the main reasons for the fast part is the ability to cover and see more ground. However, I also think there is nothing wrong with going slow and light.

One of my favorite recent trips was in the High Uintas of Utah with my three boys. We only covered 24 miles in four days, but we had a great time exploring, climbed a few peaks, fished, and generally horsing around camp. On that trip I carried my ULA Conduit and had about 18 lbs. total. My 16 year had about the same weight in a Golite Jam, the thirteen year old had about 12 lbs. and my youngest at 8 years old had about 8 or 9 lbs. Having light packs made the trip that much more fun because when we got to camp, we had plenty of energy, and time, to explore and play.

My kids were incredulous as we were climbing a steep pass (Rocky Sea) when we passed two scout troops with enormous loads, crying kids, sweaty disheveled leaders, etc. They did not look like they were having much fun. It was a good lesson for my kids to see that.

Any thought on going slow and light?


jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
same here on 03/09/2011 10:07:29 MST Print View

Sometimes I'll do more than 10 miles in a day, which even that is short by most BPL standards. It's fun to do more strenuous trips sometimes.

Usually I'll do more like your 24 miles in 4 days. Then I have energy at the end of day to explore around.

But if you're not carrying much weight you can do your exploring during the day with your pack. At night camp somewhere that's more sheltered with fewer views and less exploring potential.

Both ways are good. Depends on where you are, the weather,...

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Why so fast? on 03/09/2011 10:09:47 MST Print View

I'm not so sure fast is the point but I prefer to move during the daylight hours and save the hanging out for twilight. In the summer with lots of daylight, this easily means 20 mile days. I think speed comes as a natural product of light pack weight plus more and more time on the trail. I'd be surprised if someone went out regularly and didn't pick up their pace and add more miles naturally over time.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Why so fast? on 03/09/2011 10:11:20 MST Print View

"My kids were incredulous as we were climbing a steep pass (Rocky Sea) when we passed two scout troops with enormous loads, crying kids, sweaty disheveled leaders, etc. They did not look like they were having much fun."

I think you nailed it right there. Having a lighter pack means that you don't expend as much energy getting from point A to point B. For some people, that means point A and B can be further apart, and you get to see more in a single day. For other people, that means that they have that much more energy for fishing/relaxing/photography/etc. when they get to point B. The whole UL philosophy is to do more with less; your "more" is exploring and enjoying camp.


Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Re: Re: Why so fast? on 03/09/2011 10:28:04 MST Print View

There's nothing wrong with either.

Sometimes its fun to do a 20 mile day and sometimes its fun to do a 5 mile day. I think what this website is good for is allowing you to do those 20 mile days, or pack light enough so you can do a 5 mile day with friends and surprise everyone with a dozen beers at camp.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Logistics on 03/09/2011 10:40:12 MST Print View

Being able to do more miles per day often makes logistics come out a lot easier. Less days between food resupply points. In places where water is far apart it can make the difference between dry camping (and thus a yet heavier pack to carry all that water) and making it to the next source.

If someone in your group is injured, a solo hiker who can comfortably do more miles can more credibly walk out to get help (without stripping down too far to do so).

Doing more miles per day can also make some trips possible that wouldn't be otherwise, based on available time.

It can also allow you to do more loop trips, i.e., where you park and start & return to the same spot. Do enough miles per day and all sorts of new "loops" become possible via stitching together various trails (and sometimes with a bit of off-trail stuff).

I think too that doing more miles in a day doesn't mean you see less, just that you see a different set of things in that same time frame. More miles can make the land sort of unfold in front of you as you get a different feeling for how all that geography and geology fits together. Hiking with two trekking poles means I can be looking round me quite a bit while I walk, unless the trail quality is pretty bad.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Not so fast on 03/09/2011 13:12:09 MST Print View

UL = freedom from a heavy pack (ie. anchor)
What you do with that freedom is up to you. Because I mostly hike solo, sitting around in camp at the end of a day is not all that appealing. There's no one to talk to and I don't usually bring a book. Consequently when backpacking, I generally walk till it gets dark and then go to sleep, having already eaten dinner on the trail. In this way it is easy to leisurely cover 20+ miles a day. I don't have to stop every hour to rest because of a monster load or to call it a day at 4 pm because of the need to get off my feet. I consider backpacking to be one of the most relaxing things I do. Even covering bigger miles, it's still just a stroll in the woods.

If I do go out with family, like you, the focus would be on fewer miles and more in-camp activities.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: You Gain Some and You Lose Some on 03/09/2011 13:45:16 MST Print View

" I think speed comes as a natural product of light pack weight plus more and more time on the trail. I'd be surprised if someone went out regularly and didn't pick up their pace and add more miles naturally over time."

Most all of us live fairly structured and fast-paced lives. It's hard to break that habit. And for some, covering big miles stokes the ego -- giving them that much more incentive to jettison ever more weight just for the sake of "conquering" more miles.

I compare fast packers to tourists who visit the maximum number of countries possible -- the proverbial "12 European capitals in 14 days". Sure, the jet age allows them to cover a lot of ground -- kind of like UL packing allowing us to cover a lot of ground. But I think a lot is missing if that is the ONLY way people travel or hike. Just because we have the ability doesn't mean we should maximize it each and every trip.

So what is the "best" way to hike? There is, of course, no correct answer here. But I think the slow poke among us might just enjoy the challenge of a fast hike once in a while for the psychic 'high' -- and conversely, the fast packer will very likely derive new benefits by hiking slower once in a while. Variety is good, right?

Edited by ben2world on 03/09/2011 13:57:24 MST.

Lance Marshall
(Lancem) - F - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Why so fast? on 03/09/2011 14:12:13 MST Print View

It's not necessarily about hiking fast. It's how you enjoy spending your time.

Ten hours hiking a leisurely 2 mph, 6 hours more leisure, and 8 hours sleeping.
Four hours hiking a leisurely 2 mph, 12 hours more leisure, and 8 hours sleeping.

UL and LW make the former more enjoyable. Either way, you can explore, see around another corner, and take a nap or a swim.

My favorite quote regarding long distance hiking is from Diane at

"You eat when you are hungry, you enjoy a lake when you're near one and you camp when it's time to sleep".


Edited by Lancem on 03/09/2011 17:08:32 MST.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Everyone's different. on 03/09/2011 14:32:50 MST Print View

I love to move fast and far but that is more due to time constraints vs. the trip I want to do and also the fact that I can't sit still. And while this is my right way it certainly won't be everyones nor should it be.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
fast hiking on 03/09/2011 15:22:20 MST Print View

I enjoy walking steadily all day, both the challenges and kinesthetics. It also lets me do trips in a weekend that wouldn't be possible otherwise (without using vacations days, etc).

On the other hand, a 12 hour day with 3-4 hours of hiking and lots of fishing along the way is also very fun.

Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
right mindset... on 03/09/2011 16:20:18 MST Print View

light = freedom

i like that and i like to enjoy my freedom in different ways - that's why i prefer to hike solo. if i'm in a good groove i might change my destination and push another 4 or 5 miles on the day. if i am feeling great to be out and alive and am in the mood for stopping at every rocky knob or break in the trees to gaze out at the valley below, so be it.

nothing gets under my skin than finding a groove only to have to stop at the next overlook so "everyone' can enjoy the same view, just 1 mile further along the ridge. if i want to roll on, it's worse than a 100 pound pack.

i say this often to those i encounter and it probably sounds crass but...

hike your own hike.

Ryan Linn

Locale: Maine!
Re: Why so fast? on 03/09/2011 17:35:58 MST Print View

I like this question. I find that light came after fast for me-- I hiked fast and hard to begin with, even with a 50-60 pound pack, but once I started lightening my load I realized it just felt better at the end of the day. Of course, I can hike a little faster and a little longer with the light pack, but I was inclined to long days before I heard about the lightweight thing.

Another aspect of hiking fast that blows my mind is how some people seem to think that if I'm hiking 20 to 25 miles a day versus their 5 to 10, I must not be enjoying myself. I got a lot of this when I hiked the AT several years ago. The funny thing was that the people who told me I wasn't enjoying the trail also said "Hike your own hike" a lot. I guess everyone's got an opinion that needs to be heard.

Edited by ryan.c.linn on 03/09/2011 17:37:43 MST.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
why so fast on 03/10/2011 07:59:25 MST Print View

"people seem to think that if I'm hiking 20 to 25 miles a day versus their 5 to 10, I must not be enjoying myself" +1

Believing that what works for you must therefore be the best way for everyone else is presumptuous. We have so many different reasons for being outdoors; solitude, adventure, personal growth, escape from the daily grind, physical challenge, group activity, etc. Enjoyment and means of execution will be directly tied to the motivation for being there in the first place. Because we all have different motivators (and different internal conversations), explaining why something works for you can be difficult.

For me personally, my enjoyment of a trip is greater if I feel like I've challenged myself in some way. Distance traveled is one such way, though not the only one.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Why so fast on 03/10/2011 08:02:03 MST Print View

I like the ability to go a little faster and get much more mileage since switching to a Mountainlight Auspex in Mar 2000 ... the freedom to do so if wanted or needed, specifically.

Accomplishing that, now trying to get even lighter to get faster (if wanted or needed), to go further (if wanted or needed) and to save my knees (highly desirable).

Edited by hknewman on 03/10/2011 08:04:40 MST.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Light and slow! on 03/10/2011 08:08:13 MST Print View

Light and slow! that's me! I'm not real fast to begin with, and what with stopping to watch birds or critters, admire and photograph flowers and views, I'm downright slow!

But it's much better with a light weight on my back - so much more enjoyable!

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Light and slow! on 03/10/2011 09:17:50 MST Print View

"Youth is wasted on the young" --- George Bernard Shaw

You have some related sports is all. Some like trail running or adventure racing, or their own version of it. Some are out for a good walk and communing with nature.

I'm on the communing-with-nature side, and that is also why I like to hike solo. Being hitched to someone else's pace doesn't work for me. For me, the idea is to get away from schedules and the Rat Race, not build a new one!

Ryan Linn

Locale: Maine!
Re: why so fast on 03/10/2011 09:44:49 MST Print View

"Believing that what works for you must therefore be the best way for everyone else is presumptuous."

It's true, although I know people don't always mean to be. Even though I frown on people saying "you can't be enjoying that," I've found myself doing it almost in the same breath sometimes. Hearing about Andrew Skurka's 35+ mile/day average, or hearing Sam Gardner's plan, or seeing people out to break speed records on the AT or PCT, I always find myself thinking "that's not how it's supposed to be," at first. I just make sure to consciously correct myself into thinking "I'm glad I'm not doing that, but I hope they're enjoying themselves." And usually I think they are.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Why so fast on 03/10/2011 10:45:20 MST Print View

I like to start out slow, then taper off.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Why so fast? on 03/10/2011 13:43:49 MST Print View

> I like to start out slow, then taper off.

Well put, Elliot. My take on it is that I do sometimes enjoy a fast hike. I get a thrill out of the cardiovascular workout and a sense of accomplishment from hiking a long way in one day. I take plenty of trips where I do not do these things, but focus instead on staying put and working with watercolors or base-camping so that I can climb a peak. I'm always "light" but I'm not always "fast".