Leotards ... fortunately I live in a different country, far, far away ... :-)
> i wonder how you evolved towards this point
This is actually a very important question.
My answer, for myself, has two parts.
First, Both Sue and I started to feel that we needed to lighten our packs a bit if we were going to keep enjoying walking in the mountains. Nothing to do with our age of course ... :-) This happened some years before I became involved with BPL, but BPL managed to really crystalise the concepts for us.
Second, triggered in part by the above, was the realisation that a lot of what I was carrying was only there because of conventional thinking, while in practice I never used or needed any of it.
For example, at one stage I had a first aid kit which could almost let me perform open heart surgery, although your survival might be open to question. Then I realised that most of the prescription items were several years out of date and (of course) completely untouched. I was carting around lots of 'just-in-case' weight.
A hard-nosed analysis of my pack showed that many 'just-in-case' items were really quite useless. So I stopped carrying them. That was many years ago, and I have never regretted the decision.
> would you, if you were teaching newcomers (eg boy scouts etc) about solo hiking
> actually advocate they dont take a whistle/knife/mirror
I would not teach novices about solo walking. For me, the benefits of having a walking partner is a huge increase in safety. I don't mind if someone wants to go solo, but that is THEIR decision.
Edit while typing: solo walking on popular tracks where there may be others passing by is vastly different from our normal off-track extended walking in Australian wilderness areas, where we never meet anyone. My comments above relate mainly to our off-track stuff. YMMV.
Watch/altimeter: yes, of course I carry one. It helps us navigate (altitude and by the sun) and tells us how much longer we have to go before lunchtime :-) I stopped wearing it on my wrist for two reasons:
The glass got bashed up when we were scrambling around the cliffs
The compression from the strap blocked blood flow in cold weather, especially when ski-touring, making that hand really cold.
> safer vis a vis bad people
OK, contentious subject. Frankly, we feel safer in the mountains than in the city.
(end of sermon)