Forum Index » Philosophy & Technique » More than being "light". The beauty of simplicity.


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Rusty Beaver
(rustyb) - F

Locale: Presence
More than being "light". The beauty of simplicity. on 07/25/2012 12:15:20 MDT Print View

I like going light, or SUL, not only to save my knees and have the general sense of physical freedom but I'm discovering that it's the simpleness of it that I'm just as drawn to. I don't take lots of little doo dads in tubes and various other miniscule doo hickeys that might make things more "convenient" or "comfortable". In fact, I'm finding that the less I take, and have to keep track of, the more free I feel...the better sense of connectedness I have in my surroundings.

All these yrs of traveling light and this is just beginning to sink in, deep. It's a carry-over from how I have tried to live my life at home, particularly in the last two decades......yet it is in the field now that I'm learning the importance of carrying this philosophy further in day to day life. Simplicity brings about freedom and contentment, I believe.

Nathan Hays
(oroambulant)

Locale: San Francisco
Simplicity on 07/25/2012 14:11:01 MDT Print View

I feel out of control when packing with others who carry too many things. When I take everything out at camp and everything gets used, then I have brought the right amount of gear.

My favorite demonstration is throwing everything of mine into the pack in about 60 seconds. The hardest thing is folding the polycro tarp. Lie down and wait.

My more heavily laden partners have a lot more pre-packing of things into ditties, sorting of items on a rock, compartments and straps, and oops I forgot to change my moleskin (inside pack inside first aid kit with dedicated scissors).

Cleaning: fork, knife, spatula, pot, cup, sponge, soap, collapsible bucket, grey water, filter clean water, rinse, air dry and repackage for stowing. Me? spork and cup licked clean while eating w/perhaps some alcohol for oily residue.

The Swedes have a word, log-am (sp?) that roughly means perfection. It comes from passing the stein around the circle and everyone gets the same size gulp and it is emptied by the last - perfection.

A bit snarky, but I poke at my former self.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Re: More than being "light". The beauty of simplicity. on 07/25/2012 16:36:32 MDT Print View

That's sort of where I'm going now, too. It's one of the reasons I like alcohol stoves- there is nothing simpler than a puddle of burning fuel. No valves, no o-rings, no non-reusable pressurized canisters. Well, no shut-off valve either but there you are.

Likewise my (new) DuoMid- it's sort of the closest thing I could think of to an all-purpose shelter, and is surpassed in simplicity only by a non-catenary tarp or a cowboy-camp. One center pole, stakes, done. Less fussing even than for that tarp I mentioned. I have long loved that about my SuperMid and recently decided to go 'mid for solo hiking too, and sold my Moment. (Though honestly the Moment was an awesome tent; wicked fast to erect.)

I've moved away from water filters unless I'm in a group, but can't quite stop treating altogether unless I'm very sure of my source, so now I carry chlorine dioxide tablets. No batteries, no filters to clog, clean, shatter, or freeze. Drop a tab in one liter, wait a bit... done.

Oddly, I'm leaning toward deserting my quilt and getting a light down bag- perhaps not simpler per se but certainly requires less fussing. Lets me pay more attention to more important things.

And on a similar note to what Nathan mentioned, I'm considering getting a slightly bigger pack so that I can just cram stuff into it and needn't take so much care with packing it.

Edited by acrosome on 07/25/2012 16:39:12 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
The enforced creativity of simplicity. on 07/25/2012 18:16:04 MDT Print View

The few times someone else would wish they'd brought more gear are actually some of my most gratifying experiences.

Two years ago, I forgot to bring any utensils on a family trip. Not trying to be SUL, I just forgot. So I showed my 10-year-old son how to whittle and supervised as he carved a crude spoon. I'm sure the mac&cheese tasted better off the spoon he'd made himself than off a HPDE or Ti spork.

Last July in China, my universal iThing charger didn't fit into an outlet. I needed a metal file to reduce the width of a blade. Rather than go into town and buy a file (would not have been a bad adventure in itself), I went to the river, got a rock, and rubbed on the prong for 3 minutes. It wore it down enough to fit.

I always loved the account of John Muir's summitting El Capitan with a knapsack of hard tack and a few railroad spikes. I'm increasingly planning on an hour or two of just foraging for lunch with the kids. An empty stomach really enhances the edible plant lessons!

Andy F
(AndyF) - M
simplicity on 07/25/2012 23:11:31 MDT Print View

I often don't bring tent stakes, relying on sticks instead. It's the simple things which make it simple.

There is also false simplicity. A bivy sack alone for a shelter seems so simple, until it rains and you have get in or out of one or change clothes. :)

Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Re: Simplicity on 07/26/2012 09:54:26 MDT Print View

"I feel out of control when packing with others who carry too many things."

i worry that they have overstated their backpacking acumen and i'm in for a miserable trip. there is a calmness in reduction for sure, but it, IMO, reflects an amount of experience and knowledge. knowing what is up is important when you might need to rely on that person in case of an accident.

forgetting something and having fashion it works great for low risk items, but i have been on trips where people have forgotten their boots and wore sneakers. for them, boots equaled backpacking and to so in sneakers was reckless and stupid... that person now only uses trail runners...

Edited by asciibaron on 07/26/2012 10:05:04 MDT.

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Simplicity on 07/26/2012 10:31:45 MDT Print View

"I feel out of control when packing with others who carry too many things."

Overthinking this. If others in the party have too much to pack and you really don't want to help them stuff the fart sack (as evidenced by nocturnal blasts in the night), go off a little ways and enjoy the AM until they are ready

joseph peterson
(sparky) - F

Locale: Southern California
More than being "light". The beauty of simplicity. on 07/26/2012 18:56:52 MDT Print View

Increase your simplicity by going solo.

Rusty Beaver
(rustyb) - F

Locale: Presence
Re: More than being "light". The beauty of simplicity. on 07/27/2012 08:41:38 MDT Print View

Good replies, everyone!

"Increase your simplicity by going solo".

You nailed that, Joseph! While I enjoy sitting around the campfire with a friend or two philosophizing, solving the world of its woes, 8 out of 10 times, I choose to go solo. I've pondered the reasons I enjoy solo travel, many a time on the drive to the trailhead and around the campfire, and the simplicity of it, particularly logistically, puts it near the top on the list of reasons.

Re the comment from another poster about the experience/gear correlation (assuming I interpreted it correctly), I believe that is a factor. The more experience a person has, the less gear they might feel the need for. I do think it runs deeper than that though. I believe gear laden packs are more a reflection of who we have become as a society...the love affair we have with buying stuff...possessing stuff....feeling the need for it, perhaps due, at least partially, to subconsciously buying into what the marketeers are telling us. I know more people than not, with plenty of experience and long backgrounds of being outdoorsmen, that still carry huge backpacks filled to the brim with...stuff. This is not a judgement by me but rather an observation borne out of the fascination of human nature. I believe those who simplify out on the trail probably live a simpler day to day life...and for those that don't, perhaps this will give pause. If we enjoy simpler life on the trail, we would probably enjoy it in our daily lives as well.

Harald Hope
(hhope)

Locale: East Bay
outsourced simplicity isn't simple on 08/05/2012 12:26:55 MDT Print View

As I just realized when working out just how many bottles of aquamira are required to match a sawyer squeeze filter, or tabs (about 40k sets if using rated sawyer life, about 4k if using 1/10 rated life, and just how much poison those bottles contained, all industrially generated), there's real simplicity, and then there's fake simplicity, where you simple generate the waste outside of your trip, and pretend that you didn't do that.

Since I live in the world, I am not going to pretend that waste and excess I generate outside of my backpacking doesn't count, they count, the industrial processes required merge into our ecosystem, which is where I am. And of course, there's the general shorter lives of ul gear, silnylon in particular seems to be prone to wear at far higher rates than say, 70d nylon. So that's another externalization of weight.

But overall, it is nice to go simpler, just as long as the actual plan isn't, as it often appears to be, go super simple / light, and if weather or other factors interfere, bail to suv at trailhead.

Agreed on solo, that's how to go really simple, then it's one spot, anywhere. Can always find a 2.5 x 6.5 foot flat spot, usually in that little dip between a rise and the hill behind it.

I like doodads and things, I think that's more a function of personality type than of actual decisions made, when I've got everything final and not needing too many more tweaks, I'll weigh them all and see, probably will be 2oz total I'd guess.

Agreed on alcohol stoves too, silent, simple, no moving parts. Well, my stove stand has moving parts, sort of, since it's collapsable.

I'm at the point now where I'm going to add weight, not remove it, to get back to actual simplicity again. If Lawson ever gets his thick pads up for sale, that will require re-evaluating gear again to see how to carry them.

The standard I shoot for is 'front door out weight/simplicity'. That way you get to add in tires, oil, gas, wear and tear on cars, and so on, the stuff that actually impacts the environment, and which is most certainly anything but light or simple. But once you factor that in, you get into real simplicity, and it's a lot harder, how to get to trailhead, how to get back, etc.

rusty, like you, I try to integrate my backpacking life with my day to day life, and live in a similar way, eat in a similar way, sleep in a similar way. While I have too much stuff, I have tons less than most people who talk about simplicity and ul in general, so I guess I'm doing ok. joseph, you seem like you'd be a cool person to meet on the trail, I hope we do someday on our solo trips out there.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: west coast best coast
Re: More than being "light". The beauty of simplicity. on 08/05/2012 12:30:35 MDT Print View

I agree, simplicity is more important to me than weight.
However, I am always kicking myself when I forget the little stuff, like bug spray, sew/repair kit, duc tape, TP, ect. The little stuff is what makes packing such a headache for me.

Harrison Carpenter
(carpenh) - M

Locale: St. Vrain River Valley
Simplicity isn't absolute on 08/11/2012 20:50:14 MDT Print View

Following this thread, I found myself agreeing with much of what's written: essentially, taking simple gear (and less gear, of course) means getting more satisfaction in return. But one thing kept going through my mind. I found myself constantly thinking "what's complicated to one person is simple to another." Isn't it all relative, really?

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: More than being "light". The beauty of simplicity. on 08/11/2012 23:10:57 MDT Print View

"Increase your simplicity by going solo."

Generally, the longer the trip, the more this holds true!

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: More than being "light". The beauty of simplicity. on 08/11/2012 23:18:57 MDT Print View

@ Justin:

"The little stuff is what makes packing such a headache for me."

I keep a master list (Excel spreadsheet) of all the gear I own -- plus consumables such as food. Before a trip, I duplicate a copy , then go through every row, and deleting all the items that I won't need. I then print out the list of what remains -- the packing list -- and pack from there. Doing it this way will minimize the chance of unintended omission.

Edward Zwibel
(YetiEddie) - MLife

Locale: Sunny San Diego
Agreed on 08/15/2012 21:33:40 MDT Print View

One of my most memorable trips this year was when I picked the kids up from school for a weekend on the PCT here in So Cal. Packed their packets, had mine all geared up and headed off! Only to find upon arrival at the trailhead that I forgot their clothes! All of them! So like good trail kids they went in school uniforms, white polo shirts and "skorts" for three days. Looked like transients at the end of the trip and caught many weird looks on the trail but it was awesome, and no undies to change or jammies or anything... a great simple time.