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Backpacking sans batteries...
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Everett Vinzant
(wn7ant) - MLife

Locale: CDT
Backpacking sans batteries... on 09/26/2012 00:38:49 MDT Print View

Okay, Mike Clelland (hi Mike, the books are AWESOME) advocates toilet paperless techniques. Some day I may try them, today is not that day. However, I decided that I was going to experiment going without something that many other people "must" have. I have chosen to drop batteries. That's right NOTHING that requires a battery. No iPhone/iPod. No digital camera. No GPS. Wait for it.... NO flashlights! That's right, nothing electrical. It all stays here.

The watch I'm bringing is mechanical (winds up/no battery, useful for navigation). The camera is a film based Rollei 35B (no batteries). To really be comfortable with this I decided my first attempt would be an overnighter with a (1) 12 hour light stick. I'd unwrap it before I left the car (5 p.m. ish) and bust it at twilight. I'll be traveling well groomed trails, in an area I'm familiar with, and I have almost 30 years camping/backpacking/hiking experience.

Rules 6, 33, and 35 (Ultralight Backpacking Tips) are what "sparked" this insanity. 6 "Try something new," 33 "Ditch the watch, money, iPhone, wallet, keys, etc...," and 35 "Make a friend of the night." I really only plan to use the light stick if I need it. If this all works out like I expect it to, it may become a more permanent thing (using light sticks for emergency light only).

I tried to come up with a situation that having a light stick was more of a safety hazard than using a flash light. I'll be honest, in 30 years in the back 40 I don't remember running from Warewolves, Slender Man, aliens or even your run of the mill chainsaw weilding serial killer. Not once. And I even wear a tin foil lined beanie.

Seriously though, I am posting this so that if anyone has a, "you're being a complete idiot, and here's why I say that..." to share regarding this idea, I'm all ears. I'd really like to learn from your wisdom (screw ups) instead of making my own.

Look forward to the gripes and complaints.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Backpacking sans batteries... on 09/26/2012 02:06:04 MDT Print View

Campfire light.

jason quick

Locale: A tent in my backyard - Melbourne
sans batteries on 09/26/2012 03:26:21 MDT Print View

....sounds really interesting.

... let us know how you go!! I'd love to hear about the experience! :-)

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
RE: Backpacking sans batteries... on 09/26/2012 05:27:16 MDT Print View

Well, this brings back memories of camping in the Catskills as a kid. Typically, taking a pound of hotdogs, an old wool blanket and fishing gear (worms) we would head upstream to a tributary of the Delaware and follow it up hill.

Sure, you can do that. Sounds like fun! I think the only thing we did special was having a pile of smaller sticks near the fire. Simply dropping a few on the fire would make it flare up to find something, worked well.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Re: RE: Backpacking sans batteries... on 09/26/2012 07:28:05 MDT Print View

I used to backpack w/o batteries, but my little light weighs less than my candle lantern, my solar G-Shock weighs less than my auto-winder watch and my pocket digital camera weighs less than my old manual/analog camera (well not less than the 110, but who can find film for these?).

I think what you're doing is cool, and it sounds like fun. Having grown soft, I prefer to stick with my amenities, however.

Everett Vinzant
(wn7ant) - MLife

Locale: CDT
FYI 110 film on 09/26/2012 07:42:36 MDT Print View

If you're interested, both color and black and white film for your 110...

The same website will process it for you too.


Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Backpacking sans batteries... on 09/26/2012 08:56:26 MDT Print View

Ah...the days of film. Where one had to carry multiple rolls of film. And pray a shot came out. Instead of taking 10 shots and picking the best (trashing the rest) you got one chance.
I am not trying to poo-poo the anti-digital camera but I'll say this:
I didn't go digital till 10 years ago. My first son, who is 15, I have VERY few photos of him when he was young. Between film and processing it wasn't cheap. Same with hiking. So few photos.
After digital? So many memories. I take snapshots of my two youngest boys nearly daily.

And they all look good, not washed out grainy bad film.

But that is me. But don't forget that you tie yourself to 24 or so pictures and that is it.

As for lights. Why a lightstick? Why not a hand wound flashlight? They work and are quite light. I have a tiny one I carry in my purse, it is tiny but has LED bulbs. Cost me $1.

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Backpacking Sans Batteries on 09/26/2012 09:26:08 MDT Print View

I admire your intent and when I looked at my gear list I carry a lot of powered devices:
- iPhone
- Petzl e-Lite
- Fenix LD01 flashlight
- mUV (water purifier)
- Olympus Splashproof digital camera
- Weather forecaster (2.8 ounces in colder weather to record the low)

I think I could leave it all behind except for the Fenix. I'm okay going to sleep when the sun goes down but if I hear something at night (especially near my bear bag) I like to be able to see what it is.

I guess if it was a clear night with a bright moon I'd be okay, but I like to know what goes "bump" in the night.

Everett Vinzant
(wn7ant) - MLife

Locale: CDT
That is interesting... on 09/26/2012 09:38:10 MDT Print View


On your question regarding hand wound flashlights...
I have one. I think I got it at REI. It's a red cross one that has a USB port on it (for charging other devices). First, a light stick weighs .5 to .75 ounces. I could carry quite a haul of light sticks replacing the weight of most hand wound flashlights. The generator can be weighty. The other thing I found out... ready for this? They store energy in... batteries. I struck out on that one...

I think they are a great idea, and if I was going to go in a group (not just me), I'd likely use one. The idea of going entirely without batteries is something I would only do by myself, or with other backpackers that understood what I was doing (and that meant I wasn't going to be a light source for them). What I mean is either other UL backpackers, or other heavy pack guys that like bringing 3 with them.

As for the film...

For me using film is a philosophical thing. I totally understand where you are coming from on the digital camera. I LOVE (and hate to be separated from) my Olympus E-PL2 "come here baby, that's right give daddy some love.. OH uh wait..."

The reason I like to shoot film is: it's a limited resource. I HAVE to think before I push the button. Focus is about more than just adjusting the lens. I HAVE to be IN this moment, paying attention. I can use iDraw (Adobe Illustrator equivalent) to make some pretty nice graphics. I would NEVER try to oil paint though. I'm just not that kind of artist.

To me using a film camera forces me to be more creative because of the constraints. One constraint I disagree with though...
Any roll of 35mm film I get has 36 shots on it. If I go out from Friday night to Sunday afternoon, I typically have 36 hours of daylight. I can average one picture every hour, and only spend one roll. If I think I'm going to need more than that, a second roll costs me 1.5 ounces. I "get" to consider if the cost is really worth it. If my wife/daughter/son (or some mix of them) are coming along, I'd take the digital.

As for development, I have them develop the slides and scan them onto a CD directly. That's actually pretty cheap, because one machine does the development, and then the negatives are spit directly into another machine that makes the CD. I always ask for high resolution TIFF's so that I have a huge beautiful original to work from.

Thank you for making me explain that. I like having to justify why I would use film. It makes me think about the weight and the value. It also makes me think about the value of a limited resource v.s. the value of an unlimited resource. I wonder if I value my film pictures more because film as a medium is dying (goodbye Kodak), because I have fewer film pictures, and because it takes effort to get it right...

Looking at the picture of my daughter on my cell phone, I'd say...

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Backpacking Sans Batteries on 09/26/2012 09:40:29 MDT Print View

^^ I'm the same way. I have to have a bright flashlight. I don't have enough faith that the next mountain lion or bear that walks into camp will leave me alone if I don't run it off, and with my eyes, I need a flashlight for that. I can dump the GPS on most hikes, and can get by with a superlight disposable phone.

It can be quite easy to be tempted into carrying a couple pounds of electronics onto the trail.

Everett Vinzant
(wn7ant) - MLife

Locale: CDT
My goal may not be the "brightest" idea... on 09/26/2012 09:54:11 MDT Print View


I like being forced into a more... I hate using the word "organic"... I like being forced into a more analog situation. I have to use my map and compass (it's sick, but I like navigation). I have a GPS, but I'm leaving all my technical (not technological, technical) dependancies behind. I work as an Information Security guy. My day is non stop desktops, routers, firewalls, cell phones, iPads, laptops, IP phones... I want to get away from everything digital. The only way to do that, is to leave behind all batteries.

The reason I posted this in philosophy is because...

I feel backpacking is MEANT to be analog (FOR ME). I spend my life in (imagined) flowcharts, troubleshooting, where there is only one correct conclusion. I like shaking off that constraint and seeing what happens. It's nice having some risk of failure put back in life. Analog (many possibilities) leads to so much more learning than digital (limited possibilities). I want to grow outside of a flowchart. This is me separating who I am from what I do.

I in no way claim to be better than anyone for desperately needing to do it this way. I hold nothing against anyone that doesn't choose to follow my path. What I REALLY appreciate is all the wonderful comments I've received on this. Thank you all for your time. I can't wait to see what other people have to say. I may try this weekend to go to Rocky Mountain National Park and do the overnighter before it's too cold...

Everett Vinzant
(wn7ant) - MLife

Locale: CDT
Re: RE: Backpacking sans batteries... on 09/26/2012 09:55:35 MDT Print View


You REALLY need to write an article about your time camping in the Catskills... I'd love to read it.

Edited by wn7ant on 09/26/2012 10:16:49 MDT.

Everett Vinzant
(wn7ant) - MLife

Locale: CDT
Re: Re: Backpacking Sans Batteries on 09/26/2012 10:08:07 MDT Print View


I always thought there were two ways to deal with a Bear. One, play dead. Two, Bear Spray. I've never run into a place so dark that I couldn't see movement at night. So, using bear spray without a flashlight is something that I think is totally feasible (for me). Playing dead without a flash light? I think that would just be more convincing. Running at a wild animal with a flash light? That takes more than just a flashlight, and I must not have "it." :)

I may just have good night vision. When I spent a month in the desert near Fort Bliss I was always able to see my way around without lights (or NVG's). I seemed to get used to the terrain, knew what to expect, whatever.

I respect wanting to have the light though. Who knows, you guys may read about me in the news for trying this...

Edited by wn7ant on 09/26/2012 10:09:21 MDT.

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Re: My goal may not be the "brightest" idea... on 09/26/2012 10:08:46 MDT Print View

I'm totally in agreement with the desire for a simplified hiking experience, leaving all the daily clutter behind, but that should not compromise safety.

I always take a headtorch. It's not hard to envision a situation where it may be neccessary to continue hiking after nightfall, or to strike camp in the middle of the night. In such a situation a good light source is essential. It also comes in handy for a midnight pee.

Everett Vinzant
(wn7ant) - MLife

Locale: CDT
Re: Re: My goal may not be the "brightest" idea... on 09/26/2012 10:15:11 MDT Print View


Thank you for responding. In all the examples you gave, I was sure that a light stick would cast enough light to, get me to a spot for the midnight pee, or provide me with light to strike camp. If I was hiking in a way that REQUIRED me to cover an amount of ground before being able to camp, I TOTALLY agree that a headlamp is a good idea.

What I've done is temporarily put a constraint in place that mitigates the risk of the other situation you describe. I'm hiking a place that I know well, that at anytime I can go back to the car and go home, and that I don't really have to hike a minimum distance to get to a camp site (back country permit at a National Park). Okay, the minimum distance thing isn't exactly accurate, but if I can't cover the minimum distance before I need a light, I must be dealing with a much larger issue, and would try again another day...

Thank you for making sure I'm NOT doing something stoopid :)

Edited by wn7ant on 09/26/2012 10:18:13 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Backpacking sans batteries... on 09/26/2012 10:33:32 MDT Print View

Leaving the toys at home is a good way to lighten your base weight and I think it enhances the experience of nature.

Light sticks aren't very good and a negative on the renewable/sustainable resource side. I would look at the small hand-crank flashlights instead. I have one that is very useable. Candle lamps are okay in camp, but still a little wasteful over the hand crank.

Other than lighting, I don't have any need for battery driven gear that presents any issues with safety or comfort.

I do like a radio and digital camera. Both use rechargeable batteries, so no issues with sustainability, but they can be distracting.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Backpacking sans batteries... on 09/26/2012 10:40:34 MDT Print View

Light sticks IMO suck. But that is me. They are heavy for what they are, one use and never give a lot of light.

I get your take on film and whatnot - but honestly? I wouldn't go back to film. Even my husband who holds a degree in fine art photography and who used to do all his developing won't. On the side note that them chemicals ain't very healthy either for you ;-) Although I do have very pleasant memories of the tiny darkroom my parents built me when I was a kid.

It just seems odd to shoot film, develop and then put on a cd. ;-)

Then again my husband would probably say I am the same way with my love of canning.....

j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: Re: Backpacking sans batteries... on 09/26/2012 10:48:20 MDT Print View

I've hiked with my candle lantern and reflector. It was fun. I would do it again. 9 hours from one candle, windproof.

Everett Vinzant
(wn7ant) - MLife

Locale: CDT
Environmental impact on 09/26/2012 10:50:15 MDT Print View


I considered the environmental argument about light sticks, and here's what I discovered:

Cyalume Light Sticks are Non-Toxic, Non-Flammable and Weatherproof. When they're expended you can cut them open, empty the chemical out of them, and recycle the plastic. You ARE right about them being non-sustainable, to a limited degree. They are a one use item. My point is, I'm trying to use them as a backup item only. I want to see if I can get away with not needing anything, and if I do need something, use one. This means I may not need light at all, haven't used a light stick, and am a step ahead of a person using a flashlight even with rechargeable batteries.

I hear your argument about using rechargeable batteries. However rechargeable batteries are MUCH more environmentally damaging than the chemistry of a light stick (Lithium is a heavy metal, and MANY people don't recycle them). I'd like to see the comparison of environmental damage from the energy source that recharges your batteries+the spent batteries themselves v.s. my use of light sticks. I'm sure it would be interesting.

Thank you for your time and consideration. You've given me more to think about.


Edited by wn7ant on 09/26/2012 10:52:41 MDT.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Environmental impact on 09/26/2012 10:54:00 MDT Print View

While possibly heavy, a carbide headlamp might fit into this type of trip.