November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist? on 09/13/2011 05:27:39 MDT Print View

Many of us make gear out of literally garbage (cat food can stove, beer can pots/mugs, etc.).

Many of us buy/sell/trade among ourselves, bypassing many or all industries, and much of these transactions are with MYOG/DIY gear as well as the independent cottage industries.

Many of us reject the materialistic notions of the "Traditional" school of camping, which encourages the individual to take as much as possible to be as comfortable as possible, along with having lots of redundant gear or gear easily replaced by lighter alternatives (in some cases much cheaper alternatives).

UL and SUL backpackers, I hope we can agree are not a popular or "cool" and/or "mainstream" subgroup of backpackers--thus more immune to the Marxist idea of false consciousness and/or consumerism. In general, LW backpacking is a rejection of many so-called "needs" of the backpacker. Just look at BPL's motto: "Pack less. Be more." This directly advocates packing less, which indirectly may suggest to buy and own less.

I know, I know--many of us also buy a ton of stuff from China and are gear hoarders. But is this enough to not call LW backpacking in general anti-capitalist? I mean, even at the most radical left-wing meetings, self-described anti-capitalists/Marxists/etc. own iPods/iPhones, wear Nikes sneakers, and enjoy many mainstream things like popular sports teams and Hollywood movies.

Something I have also noticed, and I could be wrong (just my own observations), is that on BPL people in general tend to express more left wing politics. And on my time on a Bushcraft website I noticed (this observation is much more concrete and accurate I am willing to claim) that people there in general expressed more right wing politics, at times extreme right wing politics. Many bushcraft people are very anti LW backpacking, which is consistent with the whole left/right trends in each school. And not only do the bushcrafters express right wing ideology, their actions are also right in line with capitalism and materialism. Many hoard gear for the sake of hoarding gear or for show--literally. Especially with knives and guns, you can usually count on an American bushcrafter to own over 10 each of Rambo-esque knives, axes, and guns.

Of course I am speaking using some generalizations, and that I am not saying that all LW and all BC people think or act the same. But there are clear and present patterns that I think make both schools political to one extent or another.

Just a brainstorm I had and wanted to share with the intent of an interesting discussion.


Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist? on 09/13/2011 05:48:10 MDT Print View

Dangerous topic. Maybe you should move it to "Chaff" before the heat and flame begin the rise. :-)

I may be anti-capitalist (I ain't sayin' here), but, if so, my actions bely my words. I do an awful lot of consuming. I try to buy from the cottage manufacturers because they make quality products, mostly be hand, and I'd dearly like to keep them in business.

We do a lot of buying and selling to each other, as well. I sometimes get the feeling that a few folks are buying gear on gear swap in order to resell it here or elsewhere. Buy low; sell high. That sounds pretty capitalist to me.


Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Okay you hippies on 09/13/2011 07:07:26 MDT Print View

From my perspective, ultralighters are consumers and, unless you're givin' me that cool setup you made for free (you bourguoisie swine), you're a capitalist. Where'd you get that money to buy the margarine container you converted to a 32 gram tarp tent?

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist? on 09/13/2011 07:37:59 MDT Print View

It's one thing to make a finished pack like most of the fantastic MYOG packs I've seen handmade on BPL. It's quite another to make a running shoe, a canister stove, a titanium pot, etc... Also kudos to those who modify or repair old big box gear since it usually has good bones.

The nitty gritty:

IMO the packs in MYOG are mostly due to not finding the perfect pack among the major manufacturers in terms of

(1) pack layout
(2) great layout but not lightweight materials
(3) or if there's a perfect pack, then likely the manufacturer won't have your size (the almost perfect Osprey Hornet is too short for my torso - would buy it in a dedicated large but running out of time).

Another observation is a preference for grays and black in UL (both the custom pack threads and the thread where members dyed their manufactured packs). Also less products are designed to fit a taller American (hiking and non-hiking). To paraphrase an (in)famous American trial, if it can't fit, then my spending will quit. C'mon big gear makers, what's another coupla pallets on that cargo ship when you are paying 20 cents/centavos a piece?

P.S. I do not think most are anti-capitalist as no one is giving away free new packs.

(ed: spl/brevity)

Edited by hknewman on 09/13/2011 08:56:47 MDT.

Aaron Benson
(AaronMB) - F

Locale: Central Valley California
Re: Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist? on 09/13/2011 08:35:08 MDT Print View

Considering I have a foot in each of the bushcraft & backpacking light camps, respectively, I really have to say that I see plenty of capitalism taking place all around. Without rehashing the big gear debate of either "side," I think the biggest difference--in my opinion--is that those who backpack light have more of an open mind, at least about this backpacking stuff. They had to, in order to at least see their gear differently and drop the weight, while the former camp, though evolving just a bit, can be quite obstinate in its traditions, in my opinion.

Custom knives, stainless, tactical/traditional rucksacks, boots, MYOG hobo stove...
Custom quilts, cuben fiber shelters, Ti whatever, minimalist shoes, MYOG pack...
It's all the same, more or less, whether we make our gear, or buy it in the U.S.A. or from somewhere overseas.

I think you hit it pretty good with the politics, but that's a can of worms I don't want to fish with.

David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist? on 09/13/2011 08:45:38 MDT Print View

What I like about BPL is the sense that most people here are not ideologues, either on the Left or the Right. I'm sure my politics are different from those of others who comment on these forums. What makes BPL forums work in my opinion is that the vast majority are interested in thoughtful, rational discussion. The very nature of going light means flexibility and willingness to change one's mind. I'd guess there's also a strong utilitarian streak running through most folks here. Dogmatic adherence to *any* political tribe would seem out of character.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist? on 09/13/2011 08:55:28 MDT Print View

How you get from Point A to Point Z is beyond me.

Oh please UL'ers are some of the worst gear hoarders around and love to buy new junk - which most likely 3/4 is from Asia.

Methinks you are combining SUL/UL hikers with Bushcraft practicers into some weird concept that doesn't actually exist outside of a handful of people.

And bringing in politics? Wow, you just circled the block and added in everything. Snort. Left wing? How about independents that think for themselves and tend to vote conservatively - and who don't wear Nike shoes or go to politcial rallies? Snort.

And sorry, owning a gun (or 20) doesn't make you a capitalist pig, even though you might think that. It makes you self sufficent rather. Look at the state of Montana for a hands off gov't and high gun ownership for that, thankyouverymuch.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist? on 09/13/2011 09:10:32 MDT Print View

Belongs in Chaff.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist? on 09/13/2011 09:11:25 MDT Print View

"Left wing" does not equal anti-consumerist, anti-capitalist, socialist, conservationist, or any such thing.

LW backpacking is not anti-capitalist in the least. Certain philosophies of LW backpacking might, if followed closely, qualify as an anti-consumerism/anti-industrial capitalism ethic. Then again, those philosophies could also be used to turn bushcrafting into the same sort of ethical statement. I'm not hesitant in stating that the percentage of adherents to those philosophies in both camps is extremely low.

I actually think this should go in Philosophy rather than Chaff, but either way I expect you'll be getting plenty of responses. :)

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist? on 09/13/2011 09:49:26 MDT Print View

I just think there's some inventive mo- (um, characters) on this website and am in awe of their workmanship.

That said, packs, quilts, shelters, can stoves, and even apparel is one thing. I don't think anyone is coming up with a MYOG iPhone or Android anytime soon.

(ADD: My Exos 34 L has been the perfect solution for packing my Snowpeak, Pata, WM, and TNF this hot/humid hiking season)

Edited by hknewman on 09/13/2011 12:49:09 MDT.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist? on 09/13/2011 10:12:35 MDT Print View

Seeing as how the majority of topics around here are of the "what should I buy" nature, I'd say that UL backpacking is quite consumerist.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Re: Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist? on 09/13/2011 10:14:44 MDT Print View

...and wasteful. UL gear is not as durable as more traditional gear and will wear out sooner. Given that, one will purchase more. I am okay with that trade-off for lighter gear, but it is a reality.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist? on 09/13/2011 10:50:39 MDT Print View

Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist?

With all the high tech materials and constant upgrades to the newest lightest gear? Anti-capitalist? Hardly! It isn't unusual to get anti-profit sentiments in a liberal group, but I've found that many of the folk who harbor such leanings don't have a clue about how a business is operated. I think the real sentiment is towards consumer protection and the anti-profit philosophy just happens to come along for the ride.

I have to agree with the general political slant of the UL vs the bushcraft folk. And of course that is a huge generalization. What I see in the bushcraft crowd is a tendency to traditional values, and a love of traditional materials and methods, where the UL hikers will embrace the newest high-tech materials: folk craft vs bleeding edge technology. Some can handle a little of both, some can't. It is very interesting to compare in a sociological sense. I would guess that the demographics would be blue collar and less education for the bushcrafters and white collar and more education for the UL hikers. No right or wrong, just the way things are. Shopping at Cabelas is a different experience than REI, but it is still shopping, and the cash registers still ring :)

As to gear hording, there are UL folk who do that too. It goes with gear heads of any type-- photography, computers, audio gear, bicycles-- you name it.

I've said before that ultralight gear technology is what I call hypermaterialism. It isn't a process of accumulating huge masses of stuff, but it is a micro-examination of your gear, checking the materials and construction techniques, and the performance characteristics.

Take a windshirt as an example. Any clothing manufacturer could make a light windshirt, but for UL hiking, we demand the highest performance along with light weight. It needs to block wind, but still breathe, and it needs to shed moisture, and still breath, and it can't weigh more than X ounces, yet survive stuffing and tree branches and laundering.

It is that extra 10% performance that we will pay an additional 200% or more to get. A 3 cup aluminum pot is $10, yet many will fork out $50 for the titanium equivalent. That is hardly anti-materialist or anti-capitalist. Etc, etc, etc.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist? on 09/13/2011 11:04:44 MDT Print View

I sure wish it was.

I've yet to find a manufacturer that will give me gear in exchange for handmade pottery, homegrown vegetables, and chicken eggs.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
nope on 09/13/2011 11:14:02 MDT Print View

BPLers on here are just as materialistic as anyone else

rather than hoarding money though ... they hoard UL packs, 2 oz stoves, cuben gear, etc ... look up the how many packs do you own thread (we wont even talk about how many they use constantly) ...

rather than social status based on money .... its based on this weird thing called "base weight", and the new shiny UL brand gear you have to reach that goal

those poor bums with normal non-UL brand gear are sentenced to a subhuman race here ... even if their gear is basically UL/Light

dont believe me ... search for one of those old UL at REI threads ;)

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Is lightweight backpacking anti-capitalist? on 09/13/2011 12:00:03 MDT Print View

>those poor bums with normal non-UL brand gear are sentenced to a subhuman race here ... even if their gear is basically UL/Light

My experience is that, generally speaking, the prejudice tends to run more deeply in the opposite direction. I've been scoffed at far more often than I've scoffed.


adam spates
(adamspates) - F

Locale: southeast
@dale on 09/13/2011 12:27:25 MDT Print View

I find your comment about blue collar/white collar and educational differences very condescending and full of bigotry! That would be like someone saying that a UL hiker is just a sissy of a man who has to use all of his money on new lightweight materials because he isn't man enogh to carry anything over 10lbs! I know some very astute doctors and proffessors who are heavy into bushcraft and I would say they have more knowledge of land resources and chemistry etc. in their toenail on their big toe on their left foot than most that hit the woods. I'm a blue collar worker and very well educated and have test scores well above average. I like a mix of both...why not bushcraft with UL gear as much as is allowed. In my opinion your comment is equal to a racist remark.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
@Adam on 09/13/2011 12:37:55 MDT Print View

I don't see how Dale's remark on blue collar vs white collar could be perceived as condescending, unless someone was looking for a bone to pick . I am sure Dale will defend himself just fine, but I take a little issue here with loading his matter of fact, admittedly generalized, statement with condescension and the like. In broad terms he is probably correct. That does not mean that there are not numerous notable exceptions. I also did not get any indication that he made a judgement.
To move forward, we need to able to express ourselves a little more than the latest pc terminology.
If you disagree, maybe open a discussion in those terms.

Edited by Kat_P on 09/13/2011 12:42:20 MDT.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: @Adam on 09/13/2011 12:47:40 MDT Print View

"I don't see how Dale's remark on blue collar vs white collar could be perceived as condescending, unless someone was looking for a bone to pick"


"In broad terms he is probably correct."

Disagree. He's simply making a generalization based on perception, perhaps well informed and perhaps not. My own ill informed perception is that you'd probably find more white collar in both UL backpacking and bushcraft. After all, we all know quite well that the vast majority of blue collar folk are watching NASCAR races, listening to Larry the Cable Guy records and voting against their own interests, when would they have time to practice bushcraft?

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: @dale on 09/13/2011 13:16:02 MDT Print View

Not at all, just conjecturing demographics and I've spent a lot of time on the bushcraft type forums. I've worked blue collar and my family is definitely blue-collar union hunting and fishing folk. I value my heritage and the skills it gave me. I said nothing that was negative about blue collar workers in any way, but it wouldn't be any surprise to find that you will find different demographics (and political leanings) on than So? I don't think you should be threatened by the comparison at all, let alone seeing it as the equivalent of racism.

I will hold that a majority of the bushcraft folk are blue collar and do not hold college degrees. So what? That certainly doesn't say they are wrong or less in any way, just my estimation of who they are--- with no proof on my part. I am CERTAIN that any trip through a bushcraft forum will find a lot right wing/conservative politics. Again, no right or wrong, just the way it looks to me. I would guess you will find more pickup truck owners too, but there is no judgment in that either. You will probably find more Subaru owners here. So?

I will readily concede that these are wild generalizations without any form of real statistics. But you go to or the like and read a few thousand posts and see what you think. Likewise, open a thread here on a lightweight firearm and watch the fur fly. I know that for a fact!