November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
enjoying backpacking
Display Avatars Sort By:
Stephen Nelson
(stephenn6289) - F

Locale: Sunshine State
enjoying backpacking on 05/19/2007 19:51:49 MDT Print View

I first decided to go light in order to enjoy backpacking more. I hated the burden of heavy loads that were unnecessary. In your journey toward going light, what single change made the entire experience more enjoyable? I'm thinking along the lines of a perspective change, gear change, or technique change. What did you do to accomplish the original goal, to enjoy nature more?

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
Re: enjoying backpacking on 05/19/2007 20:15:30 MDT Print View

For me, it was the realization that lighter gear was also simpler. First, I learned that I had to leave some things behind (the candle lantern, second pot, mug, change of clothes, etc.) Then, I learned that I had to buy lighter versions of what was left. Lighter usually meant fewer bells and whistles, and simpler design.

On my first trip, I realized that I wasn't messing around with my gear all the time. I no longer had to sort and keep track of all the stuff I didn't bring, and the stuff I brought was simpler to use. The gear, which had taken over the trips, now receded into the background and let me enjoy just being out there.

Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Enjoying backpacking on 05/19/2007 21:54:19 MDT Print View

The thing that made the biggest change for me was sleeping under a tarp or only in an open bivy sack when conditions were favorable. In a tent I was more separated from the outdoors. In more open accomodations I can feel the breezes, smell the smells, and look up at the stars as I fall asleep. This change, more than any other, has made me feel a part of my surroundings and able to enjoy the outdoors more.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: enjoying backpacking on 05/20/2007 09:18:21 MDT Print View

pairing down my gear and finding out that I could exist in the wilderness just as easily. Lighter gear made it much more enjoyable to be out in the wildernes

Paul Wozniak

Locale: Midwest
enjoying backpacking on 05/21/2007 07:34:42 MDT Print View


You tempt us to wax poetic.

In a nutshell lighter and less gear has gotten me mostly off the trails. That is the single biggest deal for me, to wander around and not follow a track. Can't tell you what a difference that makes. Some people report how much faster or further they can go. I tend to go slower, cover less ground, snoop around more, grab some mushrooms, wet a line, see more wildlife. No need to set up a base camp and ditch the pack, it all comes along. OK, I'm getting a little misty-eyed here so .. signing off.

Don Wilson
(don) - MLife

Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
Re: enjoying backpacking on 05/21/2007 07:59:20 MDT Print View

Stephen -

For me, all of the above - I've changed my perspective, my gear and my technique. As Kevin mentioned, sleeping outside, sans tarp or tent has been one of the best benefits.

I used to feel like hiding in a tent was necessary, but now I only pitch a tarp or tent when absolutely necessary. Love those stars. Love that wind.

I used to spend a lot of time at camp messing with my gear. Now my gear is still important, but in a different way. I want the layer between me and the world to be as thin as possible. And I don't spend much time dealing with gear when I am on a trip. The gear is simple, so I can spend more time hiking or exploring.

I take trips now that I would not have taken before. Things like hiking at night, traversing an entire mountain range in one weekend. Or going out for only 1 night. I never did any of that before.

And don't even get me started on how more time and more connection with the wild has impacted my everyday life.


Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Re: enjoying backpacking on 05/21/2007 11:22:45 MDT Print View

We didn't backpack for almost 20 years while our kids were growing up, with the exception of one overnight trip years ago where I turned into a pack mule. Day trips and car camping were the rule.

Then, after reaching 50 years old, I figured it was too way I or my wife could carry those heavy loads again, especially with our aging knees and ankles.

Then I read Beyond Backpacking, and it changed everything.

I updated our 1980's era gear, sewed tarps and other stuff, and quickly got our base weight down to 15 lbs. I'm working on 12 lbs, but it gets kind of expensive, we love to cook, we insist on very comfortable sleeping pads, and we need comfortable packs. We also bought good hiking poles and found them essential.

Now we pore over maps, plan multi-week treks years in advance, etc. If only having to work for a living didn't get in the way...

David Wills
(willspower3) - F
Re: enjoying backpacking on 05/21/2007 14:10:39 MDT Print View

The whole ultralight thing got me into making my gear which is super cheap. Without making my gear, I couldn't afford to go backpacking by traditional standards. I also love the simplicity- my gear list is small enough to where I can plan a 3 or 4 day trip in under 2 hours and have my stuff packed and ready in a few more. this allows me to get out on a whim when I have a few spare days. The lack of complexities also allows me to see more things when I am on the trail. I can get up and be out of camp in well under an hour where others take close to 2 hours. I also don't have to worry about adjusting this strap or that belt because they dont exist. I can also fit all non clothing/food/shelter items in a 1 gallon ziploc bag for a super easy to find packing system. Simplicity allows me to experience nature like I feel i should.

cat morris
(catt) - F

Locale: Alaska
A good scale! on 05/21/2007 20:36:20 MDT Print View

Getting an good, accurate scale to weigh every item!!

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: enjoying backpacking on 05/21/2007 22:35:06 MDT Print View

There have been a number of changes... but the seed change was a gear change. So in chronological order:

1) Gear: switching from heavy weight gear to light weight gear. I used to be a heavy weight packer. For example, I would bring items which could withstand 2x the worst conditions I might face. For example, I would drag my 4 season tent heavy-weight bomber tent out in the middle of the summer, etc. In the summer I would bring clothing which would keep me comfortable between 10-90F. [I could justify that because on one trip I actually experienced 30-85F temp range in a day]

2) Perspective: I used to think that you have to grind through a painful hike to get to some remote location where I would reap the benefits of my labor. I would set up camp, relax, and enjoy the great destination. Once my weight dropped below 30lbs I found that I could enjoy the hike. In fact, "camp" is really just a place I stop between the times I am hiking. Often, even dinner and breakfast are somewhere else. I spent a lot more time hiking and seeing signs as I go.

3) Technique: Over time I honed techniques to be more in keeping with classic "ultralight doctrine" which resulted in my pack weighting even less and a number of things being simplified. For example, I used to always set up my tent and sleep in the tent. These days I don't even bother setting up my tarp unless either (1) I am doing some sort of test (2) there is a real risk of rain.


Kim Grant
(Kimberlymae) - F
envy! on 05/28/2007 22:57:38 MDT Print View

I am envious of those of you who can ditch the tent completely.

[I sleep in places where scorpions and rattlers would love to crawl into bed with me, so needs must use the tent. That said, I got the Big Agnes seedhouse superlight 1. Did you know it sleeps 2? I'm 5'2", my companion is 5'9" and we sleep very comfortably. Weighs in at 2.5 lbs without the stakes and fly.]

Being small, I have no alternative but to pack as light as possible. I think the best thing that the whole light-weight approach has given me is a certain kind of physical confidence and self reliance. With some detailed planning, maps, and careful judgement, I feel liberated and successful in doing what I thought only bigger, stronger, more rugged people could do.

That said, I agree with everyone's comments about accessibility, freedom, and immersion in the out-of-doors.

I've had the fun 'backwards' experience of having to learn how to car camp and indulge in luxuries like the MSR wind tent (1/2 price with yet-to-be-found "cosmetic factory blemish") and a feather bed. A cushy base camp is a great way to get super remote and explore in weather that I'd never backpack in.


Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Re: A good scale! on 05/29/2007 02:38:31 MDT Print View

We too find our scale indispensible. Especially for food for a long trip...I don't know how we'd carry the right amount if we didn't weigh everything.

Joseph Williams
(deadogdancing) - F

Locale: SW England
wandering aparatus on 07/06/2007 15:39:05 MDT Print View

ditching the tent was the single biggest...watching the sun rise over my nose for the first time was very special, and has become an addiction...

...really the thing that is special is abandoning the anxiety that lead to having such a heavy pack in the first place...I live in a temperate climate, and realising that I just don't have to be afraid of being outdoors at night is very liberating...

...reducing pack weight has allowed me to backpack out of curiosity, to plan less and wander more...that's what lightweight backpacking gear is for me...wandering apparatus!

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: enjoying backpacking on 07/06/2007 16:54:52 MDT Print View

Gear Change - probably like most everyone else, whacking away at the "Big Four" got me the most bang for the buck, followed by changes made to clothing.

Technique Change - saved weight, pack space, plus lots of packing and unpacking time -- simply by ditching the idea of separate stuff sacks for 'everything'. I now use only 2 sacks -- one for the tent and one for "all the small stuff". Can't believe the time, space, and effort I used to spend wrestling sleeping bag, pad and clothes into their respective stuff sacks!

Matt Brodhead
(mattbrodhead) - F

Locale: Michigan
Failure at GSMNP on 09/05/2007 04:19:19 MDT Print View

My eyes were opened when I failed a through hike in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

From there it's history.

Jesse Glover
(hellbillylarry) - F

Locale: southern appalachians
Re: Failure at GSMNP on 09/05/2007 06:15:58 MDT Print View

I only made it as far as the NOC.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: enjoying backpacking on 09/05/2007 15:25:10 MDT Print View

Like many others (Hi Elliot W!) we found that increasing age meant that a heavy pack was no longer possible. So the first and biggest change was definitely perspective - supplemented perhaps by buying some digital scales.

Then I launched into redesigning and making UL gear for Sue and me, because you can't buy it here in Oz ('bombproof' gear still rules here). But that required a change in materials - from canvas to silnylon and so on. So I think realising what modern technology and materials had to offer was the second big thing.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
for Elliot Wolin on 09/05/2007 15:32:29 MDT Print View

> If only having to work for a living didn't get in the way...
Does it have to?

Where I worked closed down when I was in my late 40s. I was looking for another research position when my wife asked whether I really wanted to keep working 50 hour weeks without holidays until I was 65 or more, only to be then thrown out on the junk heap at an age when I would be no longer fit enough to do long hard walks. Was that the summit of my ambition?

So now, walking with my wife comes first. Employment comes second.

We don't regret.


Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: for Elliot Wolin on 09/11/2007 17:58:45 MDT Print View

Right on, Roger.
If you have sufficient funds to put a roof of some sort over your head, food in your belly, enough clothes to keep from getting arrested, pay the little incidental bills, and have enough left over for a few relatively simple "toys", it makes no sense to work unless you love the work you do. I call it "the concept of enough" and fervently believe that we, and every other creature with whom we share this fragile earth, would be a whole lot better off if more people figured that out. Hike on!