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Which cannonballs should I be looking at?
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Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Jardine on 02/18/2013 20:00:05 MST Print View

"On flat ground, put them in your pack or you feel stupid. "

I don't. I like swinging them, parallel to the ground, in cadence with my step.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Jardine on 02/18/2013 20:35:11 MST Print View

Trekking poles ... On flat ground, put them in your pack or you feel stupid.

Me? I'm too stupid to feel stupid, he-he. I appreciate the extra propulsion on flats as well as up hills and the brakes on downhills. Sometimes I'll carry them for a while in one hand for variety but I don't take off my pack unless I'm taking a long break.

I'll grant Roger C his assertion that they are a negative in scrub (which I'm assuming is Aussie for off-trail hiking through nasty vegetation).

I resisted using poles for several years but then decided to prove they weren't needed. Encountered someone on day two of a trip who asked how I liked the poles ... I said the jury was still out. The next three days the trail became a steep roller coaster ride ... the jury returned a verdict! Later that year I left them at home on a weekend where we ended up walking on steep trails covered with wet leaves. Having two more points of contact would have made for quicker more "secure" descents.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Jardine on 02/18/2013 20:39:09 MST Print View

Yeah, I think trekking poles, despite some people's dislike of them, are just like anything else. Their usefullness and practicality really depend on the person and their walking technique. Some people are very adept at using them to great advantage on any terrain, and other get along perfectly fine without them.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Which cannonballs should I be looking at? on 02/18/2013 20:42:01 MST Print View

Sorry I see a lot historical revisionism here. Jardine didn't invent the idea but his books popularized the idea and laid out the arguments for it far better than any other book before then. Hard to convince me that this site would exist without the influence of those books nor the cottage industry that serves the UL movement his books initiated. I bet all the people who post old gear lists as proof that there was an UL movement before him were carrying heavy gear in the 80s and most of the nineties like every one else.

Matthew Black
Re: Re: Which cannonballs should I be looking at? on 02/18/2013 21:11:11 MST Print View

It is unfair to disparage those who state they were using the same idea in the 70's and 80's but the fact remains that Ray Jardine's writings popularized and galvanized UL thinking and allowed it to reach an audience which quite simply didn't exist in any numbers prior to the internet.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Which cannonballs should I be looking at? on 02/18/2013 21:14:11 MST Print View

"I bet all the people who post old gear lists as proof that there was an UL movement before him were carrying heavy gear in the 80s and most of the nineties like every one else."

This is an utterly bad bet for you.

The July 1982 article in Backpacker Magazine disproves it. That article got a few of us moving.


Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
1980s on 02/18/2013 21:24:39 MST Print View

In the 1980s the only pack I was carrying was what had my GI Joe toys and Transformers. :)

In the 1990s, I was more about chrome rims on my Mustang with faint smell of Darkkar Noir permeating the interior. (We all have our dark secrets. I was born back East and, for a brief period, fit a certain ethnic stereotype. Those dark days still haunt me ;))

Being serious, Mr Jardine did popularize the ideas for sure. He also started writing just as the Internet as we know it today started coming of age.

I don't think his popularizing the ideas would have been as, well, popular, if it was not for the listserves and forums that also became popular at the same time.

Interesting review of the 2002 edition of his book that sums up many of these points:

My take? Jardine was influential for sure. But he was part of a movement that was already under way IMO.

Edited by PaulMags on 02/18/2013 21:25:38 MST.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Re: Re: Which cannonballs should I be looking at? on 02/18/2013 21:25:30 MST Print View

"to reach an audience which quite simply didn't exist in any numbers prior to the internet."

The real reason for it's success and increase in popularity.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Re: Which cannonballs should I be looking at? on 02/18/2013 22:03:59 MST Print View

In the early- and mid-1980's a few of us, working in a BPing store did the usual progression - having used heavy stuff on Scout trips, we got better stuff, then got too much stuff, than saw how much we could cut back, cut back maybe too far, finally finding our own comfort level. I remember a few climbers bringing half their calories as Squeeze Parkay margarine (calorie dense and cheap) and then never doing that again.

By 1984, without reading anything by anyone, I was doing 9 day trips with a tarp, no tent, no sleeping bag, no stove, no pots. I slept in my clothes on the lightest thermarest. I was still using a Kelty pack with a frame and yoke system (not 7 pounds, maybe 4.5 pounds) and of course didn't have a Nano Puff or Hoodini, but had a system of very functional, layered clothing. I'd converted to Nike Lava Domes as soon as they came out and have stayed with low-cut hikers ever since.

But, again, what I grant Jardine is that he got the word out. Some of his books present the innovations as something only he developed and that's not true. He may well have developed them independently, but he wasn't the only one.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: Re: Which cannonballs should I be looking at? on 02/19/2013 05:14:45 MST Print View

My post came off as overly and unfairly critical. I m trying to say that it's hind site 20/20 to find those rare and wise articles touting lightweight gear as a priority. The mainstream attitude was if you pack was crushingly heavily all the better to make a man out of you.
It's fascinating to see how relatively light gear from the 60's and seventies was and how light one could go by carrying just what you need. That didn't stop anyone from packing extra cotton jeans or strapping a cast iron to their external frame. But I think it says more about how out of control the outdoor industry became in the 80's with its bomber/expedition/ the more gimmicks the better marketing. UL can be seen as a response to that excess.
The climbing community seemed to be different they took weight seriously and paired their gear down to the bare essentials. In fact Jardine was a climber and you could say that influenced his thinking and he applied it to hiking in a time when gear was grossly overbuilt and people where over packed. So while his books spread the word along with the Internet it's was probably climbers that influenced hikers and brought back some common sense.
Jardine made the case but his books were still lacking,too focused on his own peculiar gear designs and style. It was magazines like BPL that explored UL in more depth and with more diversity in approach that allowed people to find their own way to lighten their load and allow the concept to grow and become mainstream based on the input and experience of many smart people over many different environments. It's at a point that we have standards and know generally were the point of diminishing returns is for most people. Today I would recommend Surka's book over Jardines.

Mike Whitesell
(madgoat) - F

Locale: Ohio
jardine's style on 02/19/2013 05:49:04 MST Print View

Ray continues to use his silnylon pack and tarp and rack up miles and exploits that only I could dream about. Yeah, there have been times when he has come off as a bit myopic towards his own viewpoints. He definitely comes across as a type A personality.

But, as an old pastor once told me, "eat the watermelon, but spit out the seeds." Ray's PCT Handbook opened my eyes to lightweight backpacking. Up to that time, I was focused on Boy Scout style "Be Prepared" gear. While others may have been already going lighter, that was not anywhere within my realm of experience.

So, my thanks to Ray. It was because of his books that I got a sewing machine and made much of my own gear for several years (packs, quilts, ponchos, hats, gloves, etc.) But now, the cottage industry has picked up where my skills and my desire have left off.

Charles Grier
(Rincon) - M

Locale: Desert Southwest
1950 Sierra Club "Going Light --" book. on 02/19/2013 06:44:59 MST Print View

About 1950 the Sierra Club published a book titled "Going Light With Backpack or Burro". It was a compendium of then state-of-the-art lightweight backpacking techniques. For many years this book was my Bible for "going light". Sure, in those days there were a lot of people who hauled heavy packs: base campers, fishermen and hunters. But, there were also a lot of hikers that went as light as they could with the gear available then. I hiked the JMT in 1954 as a teenager with a pack that weighed about 15 pounds, most of it WW-II surplus gear. My gear was not unusual for those who were trail hiking in those days. It was about the time that the baby boomers started heading out into the mountains that the heavy style of backpacking showed up, even among distance hikers. A lot of the weight increase simply reflected the strength of the consumer culture developing then. So, IMO, lightweight backpacking has been around for a long time but it has been submerged by the consumer-focused backpacking culture until recently.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Cannonballsy on 02/19/2013 07:04:38 MST Print View

I hadn't read that commentary before (in fact, I've read very little of Ray Jardine), but I love the metaphor and the message even if I have to "spit a few seeds" (borrowing from above).

It's a good reminder to consider gear and what we carry, right? As one who carries what others certainly consider "cannonballs", I can yet look at my gear box of old, eliminated stuff that also fits the concept and that's without considering the stuff I've sold or given away over the years.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
1950's and 1960's on 02/19/2013 09:18:35 MST Print View

I went to the 50th reunion of the UC Berkeley Hiking Club (I wasn't in it that long, only 1979 to 1995). It was interesting to talk to members from 1949-1955. Lots of army surplus gear, but they also sewed their own. Including convertible pants with zip-off lower legs decades before anyone thought to patent that (its now off-patent). Then in the 60's, when all the Sierra Designs, Consumer's Co-op, and sew-your-own designs became available, they were all doing that.

Also, I'd long known of "The Complete Walker" by Colin Fletcher but only got around to reading an early version a few years ago. It has aged well - I was impressed by the lightweight techniques he was promoting decades ago. He also had a meticulous approach to weighing gear, fuel, BTUs, calories, etc.

Andrew Zajac

Locale: South West
Ray Jardine on 02/19/2013 09:22:30 MST Print View

Does anybody think that his invention of the spring loaded camming device could have been a reason for his relative fame in lightweight backpacking? I think he was pretty well known before he ever started to write about lightweight backpacking. I seem to remember that he set some historical first ascents in Yosemite and invented the modern camming device a few years before he began backpacking.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Ray Jardine on 02/19/2013 09:37:21 MST Print View

From wikipedia:

Ray Jardine. . . in May 1979, was the first to free climb the West Face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. Jardine is noted for inventing and developing the spring-loaded camming devices called Friends that revolutionized rock climbing in the late 1970s. . . . including the first ascent of The Phoenix (5.13a) in 1977.

So, yeah, a kind of a later-day Chouinard on a smaller scale. Jardine didn't put up as many first ascents or invent as much new gear (but there weren't as many first ascents or new gear to invent by the late 1970's). Also no Yuppie has heard of Ray-way gear. No yuppie HASN'T heard of Patagonia although Chouinard himself was amazed to be making vastly more money just from thermal underwear than he ever did selling pitons.

David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
Trekking poles on 02/19/2013 10:38:54 MST Print View

"On flat ground, put them in your pack or you feel stupid. "

I don't. I like swinging them, parallel to the ground, in cadence with my step.

Me too, Doug.

Trekking poles:

- Have caught me from falling many times.

- Provide my arms something to push against on the uphills.

- Help me keep up a rhythm.

- Hold up my shelter.

Don't leave home without 'em.

Andrew Zajac

Locale: South West
I know BPLers don't like just in case items, but... on 02/19/2013 10:42:58 MST Print View

I hurt my knee taking an awkward fall in the bottom of the Grand Canyon and was really glad that I had my trekking poles to help me hike out. Otherwise I might have had to make some serious bribes to ride a donkey to the top.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Humility weighs less than gear. on 02/19/2013 11:01:44 MST Print View

>"and was really glad that I had my trekking poles to help me hike out."

I'm glad you had them, too, but . . . .

If you'd asked the next dozen people who walked by, "I hurt my knee, do you have any poles I could borrow and mail back to you?", somebody have helped out and felt good about doing so. Maybe someone like Doug who otherwise would have just been using them to point out the sights and cook s'mores.

I've loaned a bunch of stuff out on the trail and every time it gets mailed back or is there at my car, hotel room - whatever. The thing is, usually I'm having to notice that they are heat exhausted, mildly hypothermic, or their foot is bleeding.

I'm a guy, too, and I find it hard to ask for help. But (1) mishaps go better when I do and (2) I'm less nervous about trimming my gear down when I realize on many trail corridors there's no end of gear, water, calories and telecommunications devices going by every 10 minutes.

We can help each other out BEFORE anyone stops breathing.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Trekking poles on 02/19/2013 11:12:51 MST Print View

I fell in the desert once, into a bowl-like depression within large boulders. I fell back first onto my pack, and somehow my poles got caught underneath me. My wrists were still in the straps so my arms were pinned beneath me. Imagine sitting in an innertube in a pool with your arms stuck below you.

I could have eventually wiggled out, but my wife came along and pulled me out. That's the only time where they were a real hindrance.