The older I get, the more I want to reduce the amount of weight I carry on my adventures. I can and have carried some monstrous loads, but really don’t want to do that if I don’t have to. Some of it just consists of doing away with unnecessary items, and a big part of it is just using lighter items. It’s been a gradual, ongoing process. Some of the stuff is purchased, and can be a bit spendy, and some of it is self made. To get the money to buy or find the time to make, the whole process to shave off the weight on my back will happen over a period of time. And I’m certainly not obsessive about it. When I read about people drilling holes in a titanium spoon or rejecting a cord lock because it weighs 2 milligrams, I think that’s taking it to an extreme.
I frequent various lightweight backpacking / hiking forums, and I love the concepts I glean, the innovative ideas others showcase, the DIY ethic, the information about new and improved gear. But reading through them, I sometimes get the sense that some people set a very arbitrary weight limit to strive for. “I must get my base weight down to X amount of grams!” Some of the weights being advocated as desirable by ultra-lighters, are not very realistic for everyone. Given times of year, given locales, and given body size, they strike this wandering wookie as flights of fancy at best. Making that gear is fun, and buying that gear is fun, and trying out that gear is fun, but I have to wonder if a bit of zealotry isn’t creeping into the mindset of some folks.
I was thinking about it a while back and it struck me that the ability to go down to a 5 pound base pack weight is partially contingent on where one lives. A lot of people advocating those weights live in Florida or Texas or California. But if I go for a hike here in Ontario in October, the temps can go from 20°C in the day time to -5°C at night. Not sure that I want to be traipsing around with gossamer light gear that has no margin for error under those parameters. “I must get my base weight down to X amount of grams!” That’s swell when you live in San Diego and you’re going for a an overnighter in summer. But when you’re in more northern climes, with far greater variances of temps and conditions, the less realistic that goal becomes.
But something else affects my ability to trim weight off my loadout. My height.
I’m 6'7" or a touch over 2 meters, and a solidly built 235 pounds or a bit over 100 kilos.
I’m a big guy.
My hammock is bigger. My tarp is bigger. My quilt is bigger. My underquilt is bigger. My clothes are bigger. The stuff sacks they go into are slightly bigger. If I was to use a tent, there are many that I can’t fit into, necessitating a larger model. My pack consequently needs to be a bit bigger. I tend to eat slightly bigger portions than a smaller person.“I must get my base weight down to X amount of grams!” That’s swell when you’re a 5'4" woman who weighs 130 lbs. But when you’re a burly giant, the less realistic that goal becomes.
I can try and shave weight off where I can, but at some point I hit a limit that someone a foot and a half shorter than me can squeeze past. Obviously some things are size independent - stove, pot, tools, etc. - but there are certain things that a smaller person has a distinct advantage with.
Sure I'd love to have a feather weight pack as I traipse around. But an extra foot of insulation over me and an extra foot of insulation under me, and an extra foot of nylon to suspend me in the air, and an extra foot of nylon to keep the rain off of me, and the extra length of wool to clothe me make that a more difficult goal to attain.
Height has its advantages, but it also has its disadvantages.
I guess all I can do is enjoy the good aspects of the hand that fate dealt me, and cheerfully deal with the not so good aspects. And to keep on hiking and to keep on striving to shave off weight where I can.