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Backpacking with heavyweighters
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Eric Fredricksen
(efredricksen) - MLife

Locale: Silicon Valley
Backpacking with heavyweighters on 06/24/2013 13:07:37 MDT Print View

I just got back from a Sierra 4-nighter (planned as a 5-nighter) in the Hoover and Emigrant Wildernesses with two old backpacking buddies. I'm the only lightweight backpacker in the group. (I think lightweight backpacking should just be called "backpacking", and traditional backpacking should be called "heavyweight backpacking", so we don't seem like crackpots, and they do.)

I had some community gear that I wouldn't normally select, so my base weight was a little heavier than usual, at around 12 lbs. I also brought too much food, and couldn't find my slightly larger backpack, so I only barely managed to cram everything into my Gossamer Gear Murmur. At the start of the trip, with probably just over 20 lbs, it was a little too much to comfortably carry without a waist strap, but I was probably more comfortable than anyone else.

One friend, who we'll call "A", is up on gear and brings the latest and sometimes lightest that REI has to offer, but lots of it. Loves lots of fancy kit. GPS, adjustable down pillow, etc. So his pack weight is probably twice mine. He worries about his feet and legs making it far, so he laces into big hiking boots and vetoes longer routes. Yet one day we made it far longer than planned and he kept up the whole way; I think he limits himself.

The other friend, "B", feels nostalgic about all his old gear, and also likes to be devil-may-care about bringing stuff. "The report called for a cold snap, so I just threw in my four-season two-person tent at 6+ lbs." That's fine - he can hump it all at as fast a pace as I can, but there isn't so much left in the tank at the end of a half day of travel. And he got blisters and became sometimes campbound, and slower at water crossings.

So I found myself alone in having excess energy and enthusiasm at the end of each half day of backpacking. I did a little day hiking, but I would have rather done so with my friends.

The mosquitoes were also horrible the first half of the trip - if we were all in the same boat we'd have kept going in the afternoon to find somewhere better to stop.

The trip was engineered, eventually, to get us closer to the exit sooner. No one else wanted to stick it out for the extra night, so we exited early. I blame heavyweight backpacking for this.

I was in just a bivy; not just to save weight but to commune a bit more with nature. My trail runners have the same benefit to me - rather than just freight-training over terrain, I light having to consider where I'm stepping; it's fun and makes me feel more in tune with where I am. Plus, *I* didn't get any blisters.

But I don't think I showed anyone the "light". They saw the bivy as discomfort, and the shoes as an unattainable convenience. At least B liked the Steripen.

For my part, I never managed to exhaust myself; the mix of styles in the group kind of spoiled that for me. Also, my comfort with less kit, plus the extended potential range that results from a light pack make the wilderness smaller. Instead of feeling really out in the boonies, I knew that at any time I could throw on my pack and hike out in one of several directions without much trouble. In a sense that lessens the adventure and charm of backpacking, which used to seem more exciting when I felt more intimidated.

So that was my experience, and will be again. My mom is the only person I know who values the lightweight philosophy. I've really got to get a trip in with her!

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Backpacking with heavyweighters on 06/24/2013 13:24:19 MDT Print View

You should get your buddies to come on overnights with UL kit and see how they get on.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Re: Backpacking with heavyweighters on 06/24/2013 18:04:41 MDT Print View

+1 what Stephen says.

Also I have to agree. When you increase your mileage ability by reducing weight and improving fitness, the "wilderness" does seem to get uncomfortably small. When I plan trips it gets harder and harder to stay "far enough" from any kind of road or civilization. Probably why very fit hikers like skurka and jordan seem to do more "committed" trips, simply because they're as committed as anyone else, just more capable.

Time to pick up another adventure sport to throw into the mix. If 5 miles from the trail head doesn't inspire you as much, throw a 1000ft cliff in and you'll feel "immersed" again no problem ;)

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Backpacking with heavyweighters on 06/24/2013 19:12:58 MDT Print View

So they're your buddies and this is how they want to hike. Grin and bear it. Concentrate on the friendships. Don't try to show them the Way, the Truth, and the Light.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Backpacking with heavyweighters on 06/24/2013 19:46:09 MDT Print View

Take some trips with other BPLrs. Round out your experiences. Then you won't mind the low mileage, high fat trips much. Don't try to convert. If they get interested answer the questions.

Eric Fredricksen
(efredricksen) - MLife

Locale: Silicon Valley
You can't tell people anything they don't want to hear on 06/24/2013 22:15:40 MDT Print View

I think I only sang the praises of lightweight when challenged or questioned, though at times it was a little hard to bite my tongue. I'm just so much happier with less, and think they could be too. But I suppose we were each living out our own definition of adventure.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Backpacking with heavyweighters on 06/24/2013 22:29:57 MDT Print View

I too have experienced a conflict of goals and limits on backpacking trips. It can be frustrating, but I enjoy getting out with friends so much that I am willing to compromise.
Do some solo trips for the longer routes you have planned.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: You can't tell people anything they don't want to hear on 06/24/2013 23:33:28 MDT Print View

Yeah the fred eric/ eric fred threw me off.

Its like a legitimate B.G. / G.B.

+1 to wanting to sing the praises but not, and having a hard time not doing it. I'm kinda loud and i wanna be like "you brought a olive oil spritzer?!?!" I don't even have one of those at my house.

A couple of more trips with them and they will want to know.

Hopefully, anyway

Alex Wallace
(FeetFirst) - F

Locale: Northern California
trip report? on 06/24/2013 23:57:43 MDT Print View

Where did you go in Emigrant & Hoover? Route? Any wildlife? How about some pictures? How was the weather? Any alpenglow? Snow levels?

I don't mean to sound rude, but this post should be in the gear section, not trip reports.

Edited by FeetFirst on 06/25/2013 00:01:11 MDT.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: trip report? on 06/25/2013 06:32:42 MDT Print View

It gives a report of a hike and the experience of the hiker who wrote it. It's a trip report. It talks less about gear than a lot of trip reports with pictures (which you seem to think of as "real" trip reports) do.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: Backpacking with heavyweighters on 06/25/2013 06:35:33 MDT Print View

OP, your experience would have frustrated me immensely. I think if I were to hike with those friends again, I would plan a very deliberately easy trip and bring some fancy dinner and booze. Different sort of trip tailored to the abilities of the less mileage-capable participants.

rOg w
(rOg_w) - F

Locale: rogwilmers.wordpress
deleted on 06/25/2013 06:58:15 MDT Print View


Edited by rOg_w on 09/08/2013 16:22:51 MDT.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Backpacking with heavyweighters on 06/25/2013 09:19:28 MDT Print View

I lead hiking trips now and again. For me, getting the mileage right was the hardest part. Like you, I'm used to going hard all day and still feeling fine when I get to camp. But I quickly realized I needed to scale back my mileage expectations. The trips are a mix of experienced hikers, novices, and first-timers so pack weights and hiking ability is all over the place and you can't expect people to just grin-and-bear-it because you want to go a little farther. I've actually been using the trips to see who hikes in a similar style as me and am planning a special hike with just those folks in the fall. It will be moderate mileage but over rough (for Missouri) terrain with few water sources and include some bushwhacking to a gravel bar. Its certainly not something every hiker would enjoy but I've got a pretty good crew of people who are up for it.

I think "evangelizing" would have been the worst thing you could have done. Just doing your own thing is the approach I would have taken as well. Let them see a ULer in action. They probably thought you were nuts when you showed up at the trailhead but by the end they saw that your light gear worked perfectly well for you. If you do more trips with them just keeping doing your thing and adjust your expectations of what they're capable of. Maybe they'll come around to your way of thinking, maybe they won't but it shouldn't be any skin off your back. They aren't rejecting you, just your gear choices. HYOH!

And if it really ruffles your feathers to be limited by your hiking partners, seek out new ones. Join a local trail organization, meet-up group, etc. I'll bet there's at least one other person there who shares your idea of "fun."


Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: Backpacking with heavyweighters on 06/25/2013 11:48:20 MDT Print View

I literally just had this exact experience this weekend.

We were planning a 21 mile loop, which is pretty perfect here in the Midwest for an after-work Friday to Sunday sort of affair. We arrived at the trail head after dark on Friday and hiked in a mile or so for a good spot. The next morning two of the group (there were 6 of us...we've been hiking together for years) were obviously uncomfortable with the fact that the next water source was 7 miles away, and it was a bit hot out, and that we'd need to do about 13 miles on day one, then 7-8 on Sunday before we would drive 5 hours back to Chicago.

We ended up going our separate ways...4 of us did the whole loop, the two heavyweighters reversed course and hiked counter clockwise only about 3 miles to meet us at the end of our loop..

We met up with them at 10am on Sunday...we had hiked 7 miles already...and one of my friends proceeded to loudly make fun of my dirty girl gaiters...thinking it was ridiculous to wear low cut trail runners and then add the gaiters on top. Why not just wear boots like normal people?

It was an awkward mile back to the cars.

Alex Wallace
(FeetFirst) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: trip report? on 06/25/2013 11:50:22 MDT Print View

I apologize to the OP for my rude and unwarranted comment above(possibly fueld by one too many last night). I appreciate you taking the time to post your report. With that being said, I still really like pictures =) and encourage you to post some.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Why? on 06/25/2013 13:31:24 MDT Print View

"We met up with them at 10am on Sunday...we had hiked 7 miles already...and one of my friends proceeded to loudly make fun of my dirty girl gaiters...thinking it was ridiculous to wear low cut trail runners and then add the gaiters on top. Why not just wear boots like normal people? "

Why? Because dirty girls are cool!

To the OP.... Another option you have is to hike in with the good and then do some solo exploring. A couple of years back I did a rare trip that was a low mile, kickback sort of trip. Ended up meeting a good of folks and hanging out with them for the weekend. They would be considered heavyweights but with a base camp set up a couple of them joined me for some meandering around. It was also interesting that they were very interesting in my UL gear and were intrigued by the PCT bear hang. I will add that I did force a bit of the gear down their throat at all especially since I had just finished the PCT and gear was the last thing I wanted to talk about. Yet just seeing was enough to pique their interest.

One final thought. If you want to do your own hike, go solo!

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Evangelizing on 06/25/2013 14:15:28 MDT Print View

I'm with Adam: Being evangelized to is about as fun as, well, talking to middle-aged Witnesses or LDS "elders" at your front door while in your bathrobe. So I've been skipping the bathrobe and they wrap it up pretty darn quick.

HYOH and lead by quiet example. I've led a lot of trips and worked in a BPing store. People seem to go through a typical path of 1) bringing lots of heavy, crappy gear; 2) getting lots of expensive, lighter gear; 3) (those who might make it to UL or SUL) cut and cut and cut weight; then 4) adding a few things or ounces back in for comfort, safety or pleasure. It is hard to

This forum caters to those who got stuck in step 3.

In the early 80's when lots of people had 45-65 pound packs, my 19-pound base weight seemed weirdly light to them. But unlike anyone else, I could help out someone who bonked or twisted an ankle by just lashing their pack on top of mine.

Another subtle "sales technique" is to ask your friends to hand you your pack occasionally. It might get them thinking.

There are people I want to hike with who aren't as conditioned or confident as I am. My standing offer is to carry their stuff. This works far better for a day hike like Half Dome or Rim-River-Rim in the Grand Canyon than an overnight, though!

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Unsolicited Advice on 06/25/2013 14:26:02 MDT Print View

Sometimes people ignore advice that wasn't asked for

You have to wait for an opportunity where they ask about reducing pack weight or being too tired

Eric Fredricksen
(efredricksen) - MLife

Locale: Silicon Valley
Standard trip report fare on 06/25/2013 16:28:47 MDT Print View

No offense taken, Alex. The above were the thoughts I came back with and wanted to get down on silicon. I can throw you a bit of a bone though. Here's photos. I spent some time deleting dups and so on on, and it was painful and slow enough that I stopped partway through and never want to do it again. Next time I'll use some better method. For now, here's a mostly unedited dump of 139 photos. You'll be able to tell by pack size which one I am.

And here's a skeletal account of our route. It's terse but the best I can do just now:

We left Berkeley (where I overnighted for an early start) at 7am and were on the trail at Leavitt Meadows at 1pm, after a hefty breakfast in Twain Harte. We brought two Land Cruisers, and I left mine at Kennedy Meadows. One ranger at Pinecrest seemed to have no information and no interest in obtaining or sharing any. The other seemed more knowledgeable and gave us some more reliable-sounding misinformation. So we were discouraged from Gianelli/Crabtree based on peak mosquito reports (imagine the ranger shaping a bell curve with his hand and stopping right at the top of the curve) and decided to do the shuttle and visit the east side instead.

Our first day's hiking brought us to Fremont Lake which had what seemed, at the time, like a lot of mosquitoes. (Thanks, BPL headnet!) We arrived in time to pitch tents (or bivy, in my case) and have dinner.

We hiked the next morning to Cinco Lake. The mosquitoes were thick all day until 9pm-ish, and we all turned in early due to blood loss, presumably. The trout were jumping like crazy; never seen anything like it. B caught a fish on most casts (with a mosquito tied on, obviously) and they even struck at his bubble. He soon gave it up as not sporting. I did a bit of day hiking but didn't feel very enthusiastic for some reason.

We and the bugs were up at dawn and set off hopefully for Emigrant Pass. It was windy and bugless and blissful up there. The trail eluded us for a bit but there wasn't much snow and we picked it up again easily. I favored staying up high where there we no bugs, but we took the risk and headed down past Emigrant Meadow Lake to Middle Emigrant Lake. Happily it remained bugless (by our new standards) and after scouting all around it, we found a nice spot on the west side we called "Tyrol Vista", since the view to the west looked decidedly Austrian. I evening-hiked to some rocks to the west to catch more sun and to get the view of the valley below, which was absolutely beautiful. It was the highlight of the trip and it's a shame my companions didn't join me.

B developed a plan to add a loop to the west but A doubted his legs, though I'm sure he'd have been fine. I'd have liked to stay where we were another night and day hike, but after a very comfy night (for me at least), we just beat it along the trail through the lovely and also bug-free Mosquito Pass all the way down to Relief Reservoir. The last half was a hot, steady downhill on a trail sprinkled liberally with fist size rocks. It seemed like it would have been a trying slog the other way.

Relief Reservoir was quite large and lovely, though its nearness to the the Kennedy Meadows trailhead apparently made it available to sloppy weekenders who left toilet paper here and there and gathered firewood from living trees.

No one (else) wanted to day hike the next day and we early exited, cheerfully tromping through the four miles to Kennedy Meadows, where you will find a grumpy waitress who, like an angel, will bring you a cold beer.

Thanks for reading, and thanks everyone for your thoughts on my earlier thoughts.

Alex Wallace
(FeetFirst) - F

Locale: Northern California
Simple mind of Grog like pictures on 06/26/2013 13:11:24 MDT Print View

Awesome, thanks for posting the photos and report! I'm heading up there this weekend to go check out Iceland Lake via Kennedy Meadows TH. Looks like snow shouldn't be a problem, but mosquitoes will. Man I hate those things.

Eric Fredricksen
(efredricksen) - MLife

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Simple mind of Grog like pictures on 06/27/2013 12:56:08 MDT Print View

Iceland Lake should be beautifully bug-free, probably. The only meaningful mosquitoes we found west of Emmigrant Pass were around Blackbird Lake. An old mountan man we talked to on our way out was headed to Ridge Lake right next door and he knew his business. Snow should be a non-issue.

John Taylorson
(heyjt) - M

Locale: SoCal
Re: Backpacking with heavyweighters on 06/30/2013 23:56:55 MDT Print View

I just finished writing a trip report on my blog

Being a Boy Scout leader and UL enthusiast, at times, places me in the ring with "heaveyweighter" who simply like their old gear of the 80s, 4-lb boots and 5-lb tents in sunny California weather. They continue to defend their weight and "lightweight" REI gadgets to the death. Since I am into Scouting, and often lead trips with the same men, I have an opportunity to "model lightweight" rather than lecture it.

It's amazing how some people come around without having to force UL on them. I am beginning to see guys show up with home-made alcohol stoves, trail runners and half the clothes they've brought in the past.

I've also come to peace with the fact that you will not convert everyone.

Great report!


Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Backpacking with heavyweighters on 07/07/2013 13:28:36 MDT Print View

Very nice commentary about your trip anf the various backpacker approaches. Too bad you didn't get a "throw-back" hiker with only wool clothing who cuts fir branches with a hatchet for a shelter.

I have a few "unsolicited" suggestions for you and others (most reinforce what others have already said):
- Enjoy your hike with your friends and set your expectations appropriately.
- Pack in more treats (including liquid)
- Find some new friends who have similar UL views to get your occasional fix
- Offer to swap your pack with one of your buddies partway through the hike so they can experience the benefits of UL backpacking. Glen van Peski (who is a really nice guy) has reported good success with that approach.

Comments on the photos:
- Great shot of the little snow bridge.
- Bad sign-- you can't see the person's head from the back becasue of the pack size.
- Good sign -- you can't see the pack from the front because of the person wearing it.

Alex, kudos to you for clarifying your original comment. That's what I expect from a tight community like BPL. We're a passionate crowd, but basically good.


Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: Backpacking with heavyweighters on 07/07/2013 13:55:25 MDT Print View

"...and one of my friends proceeded to loudly make fun of my dirty girl gaiters..."

Good! You don't want other people to "get it". Otherwise everyone will have them. My favorite ones are bright yellow with a honeycomb and bees on them. When I wear them I feel a little like Michael Jackson the trail. I also have the ones with the grinning fish!

I have have it on good authority they scare bears away as well - though I think it may be a toss up for the honeycomb ones.

To the OP, I pretty much agree %100 with Nick's point of view. However, just as an experiment volunteer to switch packs with them for a mile or two. One of the guys that teaches the UL classes (think it was Mike C.) posted his comment that he always asked people that converted to UL when they decided they wanted to do so, and he was surprised that most said "about 2 minutes after I put on the pack". Definitely no proselytizing. However, if the subject happens to come up you can always say, "well, have a try for a bit".

Still, I think you should learn how to have a good time with your friends regardless. It shouldn't be an either or situation. If you take the attitude, like some, that it makes you angry or frustrated not going as far as you usually go, remember it works both ways - someday YOU are gonna be the slow one in the group. Also, being the only fast one makes YOU the squeaky wheel in this scenario, not them. ;-)

Edited by millonas on 07/07/2013 14:09:03 MDT.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Re: Backpacking with heavyweighters without preaching on 07/07/2013 17:29:38 MDT Print View

Like John, I'm involved in Scouts where many times Be Prepared is interpreted to mean "Have a lot of stuff" rather than "Know a lot of stuff"

In that context, here is a good role model opportunity, that avoids any preaching and keeps to what Nick posted.
This approach is similar to what David & Tom posted, and apparently to what Mike C & GVP do.
Wait until you're into a nice long uphill slog , stroll up next to the heavyweighter, complement his/her pack in someway (plush hip belt cushion, construction, etc.)and ask to try it out for a bit. Swap packs. After two to three minutes (or so), repeat the complement of the heavyweight pack (plush hip belt cushion, construction, etc.), but make a quick non-judgmental passing comment - saying you personally prefer the comfort of being lightweight and signal it is time to swap packs back ... that many times opens up a lot of questions & dialogue ... and if not, well then so be it: no preaching, just enjoy your friends.

Edited by tr-browsing on 07/08/2013 07:29:51 MDT.

backpacking heavyweight on 07/07/2013 17:49:44 MDT Print View

Been there, done that with the heavyweighters.

Some wont listen at all.

Some will listen, agree, get excited, but still revert to old ways because they are scared. They always get blisters with their boots and heavy socks/liner combos but they are still too brainwashed to try something different.

I also do remember though when I was in awe that anyone could go out and hike 100+ mile trip. That seemed so outrageously long. LOL.

The wilderness really does gets small when you can lay down 20-25 miles per day.

Edited by livingontheroad on 07/07/2013 17:52:19 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Backpacking with heavyweighters without preaching on 07/07/2013 18:40:17 MDT Print View

"Wait until you're into a nice long uphill slog , stroll up next to the heavyweighter, complement his/her pack in someway (plush hip belt cushion, construction, etc.)and ask to try it out for a bit. Swap packs. After two to three minutes (or so), repeat the complement of the heavyweight pack (plush hip belt cushion, construction, etc.), but make a quick non-judgmental passing comment - saying you personally prefer the comfort of being lightweight and signal it is time to swap packs back"

Are you kidding? I don't want to carry someone's heavy pack, even for a few minutes :)

If you are hiking with friends, they will probably ask questions.

If there is NO discussion about gear consider it an extremely successful trip. The focus will have been on much more important matters than gear.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: Backpacking with heavyweighters without preaching on 07/07/2013 19:15:39 MDT Print View

"If there is NO discussion about gear consider it an extremely successful trip. The focus will have been on much more important matters than gear."

Like how much your friends feet are hurting them?

But in all seriousness, I agree.