It’s very important to remember that backpacking, lightweight backpacking, is all a game-- which is in no way to denigrate it. There’s nothing more serious or more useful than play. Play makes us sharper, more able to handle the unexpected event, less apt to get in ruts, enables us to establish and function in stable hierarchies in social subgroups, refocuses our gazes outward, etc.
Typically a game is established by an inventor who creates the game and enrolls others in playing it. Unsurprisingly, the rules initially favor the skill set of the creator. But as the game gets absorbed by its surrounding culture, the rules change to keep it interesting— playable by more people, and unlikely to be dominated by some uninteresting subset of players. For example, in auto racing, engine size is limited to keep races from being dominated by the inelegant behemoths of super-rich sponsors.
The process of making the rules is inherently political, and subject to the surprises and reversals typical of politics. As with the engine size analogy, if the LW backpacking game had a cost-no-object flavor, the boards would ultimately be dominated by posters crowing about their latest $4,000 sleeping bag, and might ultimately devolve into the game of “what do I buy next?” (Thus losing sight of a fundamental initial play function, to reduce the gap that separates us from the natural world). As in any good game, the rules evolve to optimize the nature of the play.
Interestingly, before LW backpacking, the backpacking game was often (usually covertly) about “heavyweight” backpacking. People delighted in how much, not how little, weight they were carrying— hefting each others packs, bragging rights going to the heaviest load. So the shift to LW was a complete reversal. And perhaps the shift away from a consumerist approach is another reversal. (And just in time—I’m running out of room & money!)