Forum Index » Philosophy & Technique » Current conversations with JMT hikers


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Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
Current conversations with JMT hikers on 07/25/2013 19:39:28 MDT Print View

I wanted to relay some interesting observations I had over the last 16 days on the JMT, with "traditional" hiking folks; ie bigger or more traditional packs etc. I was really surprised with the lack of what I considered to be readily available "knowledge" about hiking lighter. I (we) were asked repeatedly about how light our packs were, and I believe it was just because we looked so comfortable on the trail, and because our packs barely reached our shoulders.
On a regular basis, I heard " I have to go lighter, I just can't do this anymore", and other comments that were a direct reflection on the impact of weight on their bodies. I spent most of my explaining not on specific gear info, but on the broader theory of using systems and techniques. I pointed out repeatedly that there were items that they had doubled up on, or even tripled up on. Multiple pairs of shoes, cups, bowls, coats, clothing, etc. Really surprised me just what folks were bringing with them. Cooking systems were a big item as most folks truly bring it all, and "the kitchen sink"... I also was surprised at the lack of confidence in themselves as hikers. It was like they were afraid to really trust themselves to going out there without their percieved life lines!
pack size
My sons pack size
pack
My pack size
For reference, when we left MTR with out biggest re-supply, 6-7 days of food/fuel. Our trail weights were 23#, and 28# for us respectivley. With 2 liters each of water!
I did see a lot of UL packs, but they seemed to be being used with traditional gear. So is anyone else having these kinds of conversations on the trail these days? I'd be interested to hear what you are experiencing....

Edited by idahosteve on 07/25/2013 19:41:40 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 07/25/2013 20:04:53 MDT Print View

"Are you fellas out on a day hike?"
"No..."
"But you're carrying day packs."



Lately I have been using my old jansport school backpack for low elevation summer hiking. All I really need is my summerlite, sleeping pad, windshirt, food, water, and that's it. My ohm is way too big for that. I'm sure I would get some weird looks carrying that pack 20 miles from the trail head.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 07/25/2013 21:34:57 MDT Print View

Steve,
I've had those conversations as well. I've done "on trail show and tell". I've given away my email address to dozens of folks who were interested in a smaller, lighter kit.

In the past 5 years NO ONE has every emailed me for information.

go figure...

Richard Gless
(rgless) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Current conversations with JMT hikers on 07/25/2013 23:35:56 MDT Print View

I've had these conversations with traditional gear hikers for several years now. I just tell them to look up ultralight backpacking on the web. I do have to admit I love it when someone asks me where I day hiked and I can tell them I've been out a week.

Dena Kelley
(EagleRiverDee) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Current conversations with JMT hikers" on 07/26/2013 10:30:57 MDT Print View

Maybe you'll get some converts! :)

My pack is standard size but (with bear can and all consumables, water etc) 28#. But people can't tell looking at the size of my pack how light it is. Sometimes I regret that. Hard to get converts unless I have them pick my pack up.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 08/04/2013 16:58:25 MDT Print View

A couple years ago I did a section hike on the JMT and my experience was similar to yours. My pack wasn't even quite as small as yours. It was like everybody I met apologized to me for carrying so much stuff. Or else they would just tell me, unbidden, that they were purposefully going slow to enjoy it more out there, as if to say to me that my light load meant I was going too fast to enjoy the scenery. At least I could look somewhere other than down while I walked.

I couldn't believe how much stuff people had. I saw quite often some people had huge backpacks with a second large, fully stuffed day pack strapped on top. They staggered and were clearly suffering under their loads, rest-stepping even on level parts of the trail.

I spent a long time today talking to a local retailer. He says he can't sell the ultralight stuff because people will either hurt themselves, use it wrong and break it, or all the above plus the small companies tend to go out of business too often to carry their products. Furthermore, he believes that the only people out backpacking anymore are old. Young people are no longer being taught or are no longer interested.

As long as it's too hard to get ultralight gear, and as long as the big manufacturers make their things lighter than whatever someone has somewhere in their garage (but still not that light) and use keywords like "ultralight" in their marketing, few will ever experience hiking light. It really takes word-of-mouth by people like us. We should all share our knowledge when we can, when it seems like someone is interested.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 08/04/2013 17:14:17 MDT Print View

"As long as it's too hard to get ultralight gear.."

It doesn't have to be -

Experiential Learning in the Heart of Utah

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 08/04/2013 18:42:49 MDT Print View

The important question is, what pencil did they bring?

M B
(livingontheroad) - M
preaching on 08/04/2013 18:53:18 MDT Print View

I have sort of given up trying to help people out by disseminating information.
Im not sure why, but they will listen, agree, then go right back to their old ways.
I assume they are afraid to buck the mainstream brainwashing that has been done to them.
Deep down, they think something bad will happen if they dont bring everything they can.

They usually end up defensive anyway, its like admitting they are ignorant or are doing it wrong.
Im quick to point out there is no right and wrong, only different ways to accomplish the same thing.

The more you make it seem like they missed readily available information, the more defensive they get about their heavy gear.

Now if they ask, I answer questions. Thats about it.

Edited by livingontheroad on 08/04/2013 18:57:04 MDT.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - M

Locale: Western Washington
hiking light on the trail on 08/04/2013 18:57:38 MDT Print View

Neither my boyfriend nor I are truly ultralight, but we get this all the time when we're out. We still regret to this day not having a trailside "what's in your pack" show-and-tell with one fellow who had stopped to take his pack off. It was damn near as tall as I am sitting on the ground. We were in a highly popular area on the Wonderland Trail, and he thought we were out for a day hike. He was shocked to hear we'd been out for 5 days already, and had another 4 to go, all with packs half the size of his. What the hell did he have, a circus tent?

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: preaching on 08/04/2013 18:59:34 MDT Print View

I don't understand the evangelical approach and need to convert people to lightweight backpacking. I don't understand why people try to talk others into backpacking at all. There are already too many people on the trails and in the backcountry.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: preaching on 08/04/2013 19:05:45 MDT Print View

"There are already too many people on the trails and in the backcountry."

Hike off trail. Problem solved. Even in some areas that get bombarded with casual backpackers, you can walk off trail and never see anyone (or any traces of people). A good example of this is Big Sur.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Re: preaching on 08/04/2013 19:14:38 MDT Print View

those people are out there doing what they love doing ...

thats what matters

;)

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: preaching on 08/04/2013 21:43:05 MDT Print View

"I don't understand why people try to talk others into backpacking at all."

If there are few backpackers then no one will know about the wilderness so it will be "harvested"

If there are more backpackers then wilderness will be more likely to be preserved.

Steve Meier
(smeier) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Retaillers are a problem on 08/05/2013 14:20:34 MDT Print View

Interesting thread. I think that retailers are the biggest problem of people taking way too much on the trail. I love my beloved REI but they drive me crazy. Everytime I go in there I overhear one of their folks trying to convince someone to buy heavy leather boots and massive packs. I swear their advise is straight out of the '70's. I went in to specifically buy a 33 litre pack for a Kilimanjaro climb (we have to use guides that carry the tents and bags so I don't need much) and the guy said that I had to get one over 40 litres. I asked him why and he said 'that's what I tell everyone'. Hmmmm, who is doing the training there?

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Retaillers are a problem on 08/05/2013 14:42:56 MDT Print View

"I think that retailers are the biggest problem of people taking way too much on the trail."

Hmm... of course retailers try to sell stuff, that is how they make money. I learned a long, long, long time ago not to trust salespeople.

Patrick O'Neil
(human) - F
Re: Re: Retaillers are a problem on 08/05/2013 22:03:40 MDT Print View

I kind of get the op's sentiment. I don't usually try to give people impromptu advice but i feel awful when i see older folks with expedition packs suffering. I'm more surprised how out of shape some people are on the trail. I find getting in shape for hiking makes more sense than hiking to get in shape.

I'm not ul, just barely lightweight really. I'm at about 28 lbs all in for three nights four days. I could easily ditch a book, camp shoes, camera, gps along with their extra batteries and extra food to lose maybe four pounds but I like the luxuries so I hang on to them. I've noticed a lot of people in the 30-40 lb range for 3-4 days and some way heavier. I think people are getting lighter but they just dont know about all the cottage manufacturers so their big three is heavier than they need to be. I've been to pukaskwa, kluane, denali, tombstones, and robson parks this summer and only saw one group with ul gear and spoke to maybe one other person who has heard of any of these companies. I think many want to go light but are restricted by what they find in places like mec.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Lazy Luddites on 08/05/2013 22:27:09 MDT Print View

are just not interested enough to change their gear because they only use it one week a year. People can research so easily now.
No excuse to put up and suffer with a heavy pack.

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 08/05/2013 22:39:23 MDT Print View

Well in my case, if I went out right now I'd be BPH. I'm coming at this from a car-camping set of gear. I used to get out several times a year with my wife (now my ex), and she liked to be comfortable. And I think a lot of folks are the same way. It's hard to justify shelling out for all new stuff when the stuff you have works just fine. You just buy a pack big enough to haul all your crap and that's what you go with.

Luckily for me, when my ex moved back to California she took our tent and sleeping bags, the Coleman stove and lantern, and the ridiculous air-mattress she insisted we sleep on.

As far as hiking long miles with a heavy pack, no thanks. I almost crippled myself once hitchhiking from San Diego to New York City with a 45# pack. Never again. But for a multiday trip where I'm just hiking to a campsite down the trail apiece and setting up for a few nights, heavy gear is OK. I'm slowly getting lighter though.

Patrick O'Neil
(human) - F
Re: Lazy Luddites on 08/05/2013 22:42:59 MDT Print View

Time is a problem for a lot of people. The closest overnight hiking is 3.5 hours away from me back home and sadly no mountains like here out west. I'll probably continue with GAS like the thread below though!

Nathan Watts
(7sport) - MLife
Re: Lazy Luddites on 08/05/2013 22:47:50 MDT Print View

In all fairness to heavy backpackers, perhaps they just don't care. Obviously people here are passionate about lightweight gear, but some others quite simply could care less.

I don't spend an awful lot of time researching things that aren't my hobbies. Backpacking light is just another hobby. It captivates us, but is boring and inconsequential to some other people - even if backpacking or hiking is something they enjoy.

I could make similar arguments about cars or fishing gear and a large group here might see and understand the logical arguments I could make about those hobbies, yet go about their lives driving some boring car or fishing with some crappy gear that gets the job mostly done.

Others here are pretty passionate photographers. I like taking pictures. And I understand the value of high end camera gear. But I'm not passionate about it, so I'm content to get by with the camera I've got. It doesn't mean I'm ignorant about photography equipment.

There are all kinds of niche hobbies out there that aren't for everyone. Guess what? The community here happens to share one such niche hobby. It doesn't make us better or smarter than others...just different

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: Lazy Luddites on 08/07/2013 08:02:28 MDT Print View

You have a point. I don't carry heavy camera gear either. I am happy with snapshots and a point and shoot. I don't pursue photography as a passion. But I think this is different when we're talking about people on a JMT thru-hike or something. I mean, these ARE people who have backpacking as a passion. And their response to those of us who do have lightweight gear is really odd. And the response of the retailers is really odd.

At least the retailer I spoke to did say that he is phasing out the big expedition packs. He thinks they're not necessary for most people. He has two in stock and all the rest of his packs are really nice ones that I would actually use. Osprey has an ultralight model that was available, and there were a number of similar packs. I used an Osprey Aura 65L pack for part of the PCT. Carries 22lbs of added water a lot better than a G4. He also had numerous other things on the low end for standard non-cottage companies.

Richard May
(richardmay)

Locale: Costa Rica
fear on 08/07/2013 09:13:22 MDT Print View

a long time ago I stopped trying to convince anybody of anything. people tend to live in fear of what they are not accustomed to so, they resist.

to think that you 'need less' in society that applauds 'having more' doesn't make sense. in itself it's a fringe idea and one that isn't conducive to consumption. the core of ultralight philosophy runs counter to pop-culture.

on the flip-side this idea of 'needing less' can lead to puritanical, self-righteous, extremes. which isn't much better than wanton, fear driven, consumerism.

my 2 cents

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
hurts to see others hurting on 08/09/2013 14:52:46 MDT Print View

I guess that while hiking along the trail, and really enjoying the pure love of just walking in the mountains, it's hard to see folks who outwardly are in pain, or who are expending an obvious amount of effort to move on the trail. I don't want to preach to any of these folks, but I sure feel for them, especially since I know from 35 years of climbing just what it feels like to carry those big loads. I guess as humans we do kind of stick to that maxim of "... will we ever learn..."

Edited by idahosteve on 08/09/2013 14:53:51 MDT.

Kate Magill
(lapedestrienne) - F
great thread on 08/12/2013 10:37:27 MDT Print View

ULers often replace heavy gear items with experience and skills, rather than just going out and buying a lighter version. For people who only get out for one trip a year, acquiring those skills may not seem possible. For example, a tarp instead of a tent, or a twig fire instead of a canister stove.

If someone is really into hiking, they'll get out and do it and learn what works for them--at their own pace. I love talking gear and technique with people who are genuinely interested and eager to learn, and I meet more and more of those people. For instance: I regularly drink out of a Platypus at work, which my students find totally intriguing--and just about everyone can appreciate the convenience of a bottle that collapses down to next-to-nothing when it's empty. "Whoa, it's like a reusable Capri Sun!" a kid once exclaimed to me.

A lot of people I meet who've been bitten by the UL bug are older folks facing the possibility of knee/ankle/hip surgery, back and shoulder problems, etc, who simply wouldn't be able to get out in the mountains if it weren't for UL gear. After being warned you'll never backpack again, it must feel great to get out and prove the medical "experts" wrong.

Younger folks are often resistant to UL gear for lots of reasons. There's an element of machismo to "proving" you can carry a heavy pack up a mountain. When you're young and your body repairs itself easily, you may not be aware of the damage you're doing until years later.

Moreover, many people are intimidated by the apparent cost of replacing gear, especially "Big 3" items; I carried the same pack from the time I was in high school til well after I was done with university. Luckily, it "only" weighed 3 lbs and fit well, but justifying a new pack was very hard for me until I had all but destroyed my first one. And if I didn't hike and travel regularly, it would have taken me a lot longer to destroy that Gregory. :) I'd love a 1 lb shelter, but it's not in the budget right now, so my 2 lb option will have to suffice.

The heart and soul of UL, however, isn't buying fancy gear; it's being able to look long and hard at what you take with you, what you take for granted, and ask yourself whether you really need it or not. I see people carrying 16 oz bottles of Dr Bronners, sunscreen, bug stuff, etc, on weekend trips. Putting your toiletries in mini bottles costs next to nothing!

In my experience, it isn't possible to "convert" people, and I'm not a fan of anyone who treats their beliefs like gospel that must be preached--especially when I'm in the mountains. But, if you're out with an 8 lb base weight and you are clearly safe and comfortable and happy (and good company on the trail), *that* makes a strong impression on other hikers, and is probably the best way to be a UL "ambassador".

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 08/12/2013 12:50:03 MDT Print View

UL might equal less gear carried, but it does not equal less gear in total. Browse some of the pictures of the gear rooms people on this site have. Multiple packs, multiple shelters, a sleeping bag for every season, 5 stoves....

And the "traditional" backpackers that I know are not any less seasoned than many ULers out there. How many UL people on this site have endless posts on gear with a trip report nowhere to be found?

Many of the "traditional" backpackers I know still carry their heavy gear because:
A) They are not chronic consumers and do not want to replace functional gear already owned to save some weight.
B) They are not held back in their objectives by the heavier gear they have. Case in point: many climbers and surfers I know. They could care less about shelters and packs and stoves because backpacking is not the goal- the goal is to set up a camp to climb or surf from, not make high trail mileage or simply backpack.
C) They are just not interested in gear. My surfing partner, who has traveled the world, climbed Kilamanjaro and McKinley, and is sleeping outside on boats, islands, or beaches just about every weekend of the year doesn't give a damn about gear. To him, if it keeps you dry and warm, a tent is a tent. Why does he carry a 6lb. North Face shelter and a 7lb. Gregory pack? Because they're what he has and will continue to use until they're worn out. His money goes to gasoline, food, and trips.

And to think some newbie UL convert might run across him in the Sierra some day and judge him to not know what he's doing because he has a Gregory on his back....

Bleh.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 08/12/2013 13:41:20 MDT Print View

Some of us have arrived at a ripe old age, well over 45, and we simply are not speedy anymore. I keep going by reducing my base weight each year by one pound. I can't keep that up for long. However, I can stay in the game.

--B.G.--

Kate Magill
(lapedestrienne) - F
UL vs minimalism on 08/12/2013 15:33:37 MDT Print View

"UL might equal less gear carried, but it does not equal less gear in total."

Not always the case. At least a few of us are drawn to UL because we're minimalists, not because we crave the latest and greatest. When I buy a piece of gear, I don't want to have to buy two more iterations to fill specific niches, and I don't want to have to buy a replacement every season for stuff that disintegrates. I strive to use as much of my gear as possible year round and not own things that only see the light of day once a year. Because of this, I'll never set any records for lowest base weight ever. But, as a 100 lb person, there is simply no way carrying a 7 lb pack or a 6 lb tent would be smart choices for me, especially since I put in roughly 500-1000 miles of hiking on a yearly basis (I'd love to be able to afford more). I might not do any damage on a weekend trip, but I know my knees couldn't handle that weight for a month of continuous trekking, and it sure wouldn't be fun for me.

Moreover, I live mostly off-the-grid, in a 100 sq ft space. I simply don't have the space for stuff that I don't use, nor do I want to accumulate objects I don't really need. Most of my backpacking gear sees regular use around my home. I sleep with my down quilt when it gets chilly. I eat with my spork and drink coffee out of a snowpeak mug. If it weren't for some fond heirloom dishes, it would probably be my only mug. When friends visit, I pitch the tent or hammock for them to sleep in. Indoors, my hammock doubles as a storage loft, and prior to that it was my at-home bed. A tarp helps make my outdoor space livable in iffy weather.

Carrying lighter gear has improved my outdoor experience, plain and simple. Going from nearly 20 lbs to 10 lbs of baseweight means I get out in the woods more often, for longer stretches, and enjoy it more. And I don't have more gear than when I started. Everything I don't use is either sold secondhand or gifted to friends and family, but most items don't get replaced until I've worn them out. Impulse purchases and redundancy aren't really in my budget--I like to travel.

Long story short, it's silly to make generalizations about why people have the gear they have, whether heavy or light or anywhere in between.

M B
(livingontheroad) - M
gear on 08/12/2013 17:37:40 MDT Print View

"UL might equal less gear carried, but it does not equal less gear in total."

No one set of gear, suits all trips, all seasons, all conditions.

Especially not a UL set.

If one was to cherry pick times and trips, they could certainly get by with one set much of year however.

There are a few that enjoy being out in adverse conditions, and a very few that seem to seek out the worst mother nature can sling at them.

Brian Mix
(Aggro) - M

Locale: Western slope, Sierra Nevada
How? on 08/14/2013 17:32:51 MDT Print View

I read thru this thread when it first started and again now. My question is how/ when do you have these conversations? I briefly notice peoples' gear as I am approaching to pass, generally the only "conversation" I'm having with them is "Passing on your right" or left whichever the case may be. When I get passed it generally plays out pretty much the same.
Maybe I'm in the minority but I visit the wilderness to get away- I'm not there to make friends. If it happened that would be pretty cool because it would be a like minded hiker but it hasn't yet.
When I do chat with people who are stopped I never talk about gear. I figure we are out there for the same reason and discuss the area not the gear. If someone were to ask, I'd have no problem explaining but until then...
But then again, I'm not UL- my last 4 night trip I carried 26lbs including two quarts of water so maybe my opinion doesn't count.

Nathan Watts
(7sport) - MLife
Re: How? on 08/14/2013 18:25:35 MDT Print View

"I read thru this thread when it first started and again now. My question is how/ when do you have these conversations?"

Try reading a third time. OP answers your question in his 3rd sentence.

Brian Mix
(Aggro) - M

Locale: Western slope, Sierra Nevada
Re: Re: How? on 08/14/2013 22:56:51 MDT Print View

"Try reading a third time. OP answers your question in his 3rd sentence."
Thanks. I guess it was somewhat rhetorical. Or maybe I lack reading comprehension.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Current conversations with JMT hikers on 08/21/2013 06:55:50 MDT Print View

I also believe that outfitters are big contributor to these heavy packs you see.

I don't usually buy from outfitters because of their lack of light hiking gear.

Some stores do actually stock ultralight gear because of requests from experienced hikers, but they keep this gear in back rooms or high up on a shelf in the corner and the sales people will almost always try to talk you out of even considering it.

In front they will have displays of car camping tents, heavy big backpacks and other items that a backpacker wouldn't like carrying on their backs.

Lets face it, car camping is by far more popular than backpacking and those that do backpack are only doing it once every two years.

So they run to the outfitter a couple days before their hike and the salespeople will proceed to sell them a bunch of expensive heavy junk. High profits and commissions can be made this way.

We've all heard the sales person in the shoe department who uses his extensive hiking experience to convince you to buy the heavy, waterproof high top boots.

Or maybe they convince people that they need the so-called backpacking tent that they have on display. It only weighs 5 lbs and it's on sale this week.

Of course, since they will be carrying a lot of heavy gear and 20 lbs of food for a 4 day hike, they will need the 8 lb framed pack to make hiking more comfortable.

They will also need a lantern, hatchet, two cooking pots and a mug, plates, knife, spoon and fork, heavy ground cloth(don't want to get dirt on your new tent) and a few other perceived necessities.

These sales-people are experienced backpackers and so they know what is required for you to enjoy your hike and they will make sure you get all this gear at their shop.

Dena Kelley
(EagleRiverDee) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Current conversations with JMT hikers" on 08/21/2013 10:47:30 MDT Print View

"So they run to the outfitter a couple days before their hike and the salespeople will proceed to sell them a bunch of expensive heavy junk. High profits and commissions can be made this way."
-
I would think that the average outdoors store makes as much money or more on UL versions of gear than they do on heavy stuff. I could easily buy a much roomier, much more comfortable 2-man tent for a lot less than I spent on my Fly Creek UL2 if I were willing to carry 2 or 3 lbs more. My Western Mountaineering sleeping bag cost me a small fortune and I could have spent less for an equally rated, much heavier synthetic bag from REI. For that matter, I could have simply continued to use my 10 year old heavy gear that all of this replaced. I could provide more examples but you get the point, I'm sure. Unless you're a DIY'er, you probably spent more money on your UL gear than you would have spent on equivalently rated heavy gear. So I don't think stores are doing it out of profit motivation.

I think the heavier gear is driven from three other things:
1) Liability to the store. Bombproof heavy gear will be less prone to failure, reducing legal liability to the store (possibly) and reducing the chance of a warranty return (definitely). UL gear is often more fragile than heavy gear, excepting things like titanium and carbon fiber.
2) Ignorance on the part of the seller. In all honesty I think many people that work in sporting goods stores are actually rather ignorant of what they sell. Or they may legitimately think that the buyer wants some heavy, bombproof gear when the reality is that...
3) The buyer is ignorant. They don't know about UL, they only know that when they were kids they hauled in 50 lb packs of gear and so as an adult they plan to do the same and they scoff at the gossamer thinness of some UL gear and think, "There's no way that would hold up". They want gear that won't fail, and they convey that message to the seller. The seller just wants to keep the customer happy, so they sell them what they "want" rather than educate them on UL. Assuming the seller knows anything about UL to start with.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 08/21/2013 10:50:27 MDT Print View

Yes, but all that light stuff is sitting right by the stuff they buy.
They are ultimately making the choice. If anyone even wanted to look into lighting thier load, it doesn't take much to find out what to do anymore.

The ones who don't even try are the ones with the huge heavy packs.
Okay, so it's 80-90% of the ones out there.
Ignorance is bliss.

It seems obvious to me that the UL crowd is not getting the word out to enough people. Either that or there needs to be Ultralight gear shops popping up everywhere that can compete with REI or similar outfitters.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Current conversations with JMT hikers on 08/21/2013 12:13:38 MDT Print View

My experience has shown that the salespeople in most outfitters do talk people out of purchasing UL gear.

Time and time again I have had sales people try to talk me out of an item that was in stock, hidden on a corner shelf.
Insisting that I would be happier with much heavier item.

It may be because the markup is not as high on most UL gear and so they make less profit.

I know when I went to replace my shoes, I went to two different stores because they didn't have my style and/or size.

In both cases the sales people asked if I was going to wear them hiking. When I said yes, they insisted that I buy high-top waterproof boots instead of light trail runners.
Telling me that the lighter shoes are unsafe and that trail runners are only for paved or smooth gravel trails.

My wife went in to try on backpacks and was also looking at daypacks a few years back.
There were no UL packs in stock at any of the stores.
One store was a Golite dealer at the time, yet they didn't stock any of the Golite UL packs, only the heavier framed packs.
Even the Golite daypacks they stocked were the heaviest models. And this was when Golite were making the Ion.

When we asked about weight, they didn't know and didn't think it was important, blabbing about how heavier packs are more comfortable and all the usual sales crap.

I do want to support local businesses, but I am frustrated with the choice and the sales people and so usually order online.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: "Current conversations with JMT hikers" on 08/21/2013 21:21:29 MDT Print View

"I would think that the average outdoors store makes as much money or more on UL versions of gear than they do on heavy stuff."

Typically retailers look for a gross profit margin (GPM) across the board of XX%.

So lets say they want 40% GPM. They get this by multiplying Cost x 1.67.

Product #1 Cost = $200. Selling price = $200 x 1.67 = $334. Gross Profit = $134.

Product #2 Cost = $100. Selling price = $100 x 1.67 = $167. Gross Profit = $67.

Sometimes if they buy a large quantity of product on sale, they will lower the expected GPM because they can move it quickly and take in profit quicker.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
durability on 08/21/2013 22:07:22 MDT Print View

Many people are afraid that lighter gear will not hold up. They want rugged stuff, and when they handle the lighter gear it feels flimsy to them, so they stick with the bombproof stuff. Durability has always been a big selling point in the outdoor gear industry, and lighter gear is simply not going to be as durable unless it is made from more expensive stuff like Dyneema. Also, people like "features", features are easy to sell and features add weight.

Outdoor gear shops will sell anything that they can make money on. I've worked in both large(REI) and small shops in the past, and that was true for both. They may be conservative in trying new products, but if it moves off the shelf they will get more of it. Of course, it it's REI they want a LOT of it. They aren't going to carry something they can't stock in every store and order in large quantities, so the cottage makers aren't in the game.
And I do think they are going to be conservative in their recommendations. I think the assumption in a big store has to be that the customer is not knowledgeable or skilled - that is the safe assumption to make.

Another factor is that the store naturally wants to sell you as much gear as they can, since that's how they make money. Especially the small stuff - accessories. Not only do they make a bigger margin on accessories, but a lot of that stuff is consumable to a degree. So the salesperson is happy to sell you lots of nice widgets that sure seem handy but that all add weight to your pack.

Joseph Brody
(Killroy1999)
Day Hike? on 08/23/2013 00:12:31 MDT Print View

That last 5 day trip I did. I was asked a lot, "Are you on a day hike?".

Some of the conversations turned into 45 min talks.

The thing that makes me cringe is seeing a pair shoes dangling from the outside of packs.

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
RE: "Current conversations with JMT hikers" on 09/02/2013 18:34:33 MDT Print View

Just got back from several days on the JMT, and I only saw one SUL person (guy with a tiny Cuben pack - dead giveaway!). Most people seemed to be med/lt backpackers (Osprey 60L packs seemed to be the "average"). But let's face it: the absolute requirement for bear canisters is a game changer. Unless you don't really eat (and I know some of you on BPL don't believe in bringing much food - but that's another thread), those 30L packs won't fit even a small Bearikade (much less a standard Bearvault or Garcia).
I don't think the JMT is a good place to "preach" about UL, because it's a "name brand" hike, thereby attracting all kinds of people who don't normally backpack (akin to a Grand Canyon "rim-to-rim"). If you really want to talk about minimalism, here's a shout-out to the NY-sounding guy who jogged up to the stone building on John Muir Pass in running shorts/t-shirt/running shoes, and was carrying only a small water bottle (not even so much as a snack!); or the two girls with teeny 3L Camelbacks who ran through LeConte canyon at 6am....
No question that most outdoor store employees are less knowledgeable that someone who ACTUALLY gets out there and DOES this stuff...and most people will just listen without researching for themselves. But money is also a big factor -- don't forget, a $100 sleeping bag is heavy, but cheap; a WM bag is light, but VERY pricey. Not everyone has the financial freedom to spend what's required for a "comfortable" UL set-up.
Anyway, I don't think this should be a competition. Everyone has different wants/needs/comfort levels, and at the risk of being a giant cliché factory: HYOH!

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Bryson on 09/02/2013 18:39:27 MDT Print View

I am reading Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" for the second or third time, and I was smiling when he was on about going to the outfitter to get kitted out.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: RE: "Current conversations with JMT hikers" on 09/02/2013 23:48:42 MDT Print View

"But money is also a big factor"

research and just plain not buying extra crap goes a long ways.

http://www.lytw8.com/uploads/Cheap_Ultralight_Gear_List.pdf

I think having people be UL on a mainstream trail would help them do other trails or hikes instead of going on a deathmarch with a heavy ass pack for 2 weeks and hating it. It would go a long ways if more information was out there like the link above and people talked about it more instead of large entities like NOLS and AMC telling people they are unprepared and stupid without giant lists of crap.

JMT is relatively short.. go to a longer trail and the people who have made it the furthest generally have it figured out and the ones who didn't are probably at home. It takes a pretty stubborn person to walk 2000mi with a heavy pack surrounded by people who are carrying much less.

The problem with many outfitters is that they don't pay people well enough to afford to go out and do as much. also many require weekend/holiday work so opportunities are limited. I worked at EMS when i knew a lot about climbing, a bit about backpacking and next to nothing about shoes and kayaks (big kayaking area). I applied to REI over the winter..knowing a lot about climbing, a lot about backpacking, a lot about cycling, a bit about shoes and barely an interview over the phone and never heard again. And even if i got the job i couldn't afford to live on what they pay so it would have been short lived and they'd hire some college kid needing part time work.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 05:05:24 MDT Print View

There are some basic rules of retail sales that come into play here.

#1 - If the customer is looking to buy something you stock, you sell it to them, even if you think it is a bad choice.

#2 - Always recommend items that you stock, even if the customer could get a more appropriate item elsewhere.

#3 - Stock an inventory of popular items, even if they are not that great for their purpose. Car camping gear is far more popular than backpacking gear.

#4 - The customer is always right. Don't debate their decision no matter how uneducated their choice. If they like you, they will come back and buy the better item when they figure out they made a bad choice.

I remember interviewing for specialized software and electronic hardware retail sales jobs when I was young.
I had a complete knowledge of all items the stores sold. And the people who were selling the products had very little knowledge of how to run the items they sold.

I never got the jobs because the required sales experience was more important than knowledge of the products. They were not looking for nerds/gear heads.

I decided that retail sales was not for me after that and luckily got a technician job making much more money than I would have ever made in retail sales.

Richard May
(richardmay)

Locale: Costa Rica
Buyers get what they want on 09/03/2013 07:53:55 MDT Print View

Steven, I think you make a good point. Stores stock and sell what customers want and buy.

I've never known a car salesperson who actually sells cars. The father at the Volvo dealership is actually buying security and the middle-aged man at the Porsche dealer is buying the fountain of youth. Good salespeople know this and exploit it. People want tough, durable and secure so they get big, bulky and heavy. After all, why spend good money on a flimsy, delicate piece of plastic?

Hey, salespeople have got to make a living. It takes less time to sell a tent that pitches itself to a newbie than take them outside and show them how to pitch a tarp, use a bivy and select the right kind of sleeping gear.

Frankly it's not their job. Arguably, as a community, that job is ours. Assuming, of course, it's your thing to evangelize.

When people start walking into outfitters asking for tarps they will start pushing tarps.

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
re: bear cannisters on 09/03/2013 15:23:01 MDT Print View

I don't think that the bear cans are that big of a deal. I have been using the old original Jams, and even in the small/med size, I can get the 450 to fit. Just knowing you need a can should add to the decision process for that hike. The sheer logistics and planning for someone to come over and do the JMT should take that into account. When I went to the REI here in Idaho, to order a can, they didn't even know what they were. :)

Even worse is the fact that with a very limited amount of planning, one could spend almost every night on their JMT hike in what I would call "non bear habitat". Like any smart animal, they go where food is, and they won't be at altitude just for the sake of some hikers food stash. I was really surprised at how much of the JMT really wasn't very good bear country. Sure, they are and have been all over there for many centuries, but that doesn't mean they live there continuously. Most high country is very very void of serious food or forage. Its a short lived community at best. But on a good note, its nice to hear stats that show the incidents of bear confrontations over food have diminished so dramatically.

Erik Basil
(EBasil) - M

Locale: Atzlan
Did see some UL on the JMT on 09/03/2013 17:03:13 MDT Print View

We were on portions of the JMT two weeks ago (just now back from the trip) and crossed UL'ers at Thousand Island, and the passes at Ruby Lake and Garnet Lake. Three groups. We also met plenty of hikers that were carry large packs, as we were (despite all the UL tricks and tips we incorporate).

One thing very apparent with all three fast-moving, running-shoe wearing UL groups: not a bear canister among them. No carbon fiber chi-chi's, no blue Bear Vaults, not a single, boat-anchor Garcia. My boys found ways to ask, usually after someone commented on their packs. None of those crews has spare shoes, stools, fishing gear or free-standing tents. Two of them told us they shivered all night in the rain (6.5 hours) the night before, with rain blowing under their "tarps" up in the rocks below Donohue Pass.

We were 12 on trail, with 6 large Bear Vaults and 4 small for seven days on trail. We supplemented with a total of 14 trout, sizzled up in adobo seasoning, olive oil and an MSR skillet. We ate very well and donated a 2lb bag of nuts to hikers that told us they were running low on food. Cute packs, though. (And I am cutting back our nut cargo for the next one!)

A lady on the trailhead shuttle commented that my pack looked really heavy. A full Tioga XL with 15 pounds of food and water will do that, and it ain't no lie, even if I do use some very light gear.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Did see some UL on the JMT on 09/03/2013 17:33:35 MDT Print View

"None of those crews has spare shoes, stools, fishing gear or free-standing tents."

why would you 'need' any of that? camp shoes are a nice thing to add for a thru hike but not a necessity..

sounds like they did some stuff right and some stuff wrong... some UL techniques take skills that need to be practiced.. tarp pitching for example. not having enough warm clothing for the conditions also sucks.

i've seen heavy weight people be unprepared and have flooded tents, flipped over free standing tents... etc having a crapload of gear doesn't guarantee anything.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 17:54:38 MDT Print View

Steven: What you write is all true in the vast majority of stores.

But, . . . .

I was an early convert to REI after going shopping in 1976, when I was a boy scout, and someone in the boot department told me to buy a lighter and less expensive boot than I had planned to. One reduced sales ticket can equal decades of loyal patronage.

When I was working in a backpacking/ski shop, my goal was not to necessarily make the sale (that day), but to make the customer glad they came to our store first. If they needed a different item than what we sold, I'd tell them so, and tell them where to get it. Fewer sales that day, perhaps, but there were a lot of customers who would start at our store, even for stuff we didn't come close to carrying (like specialized rock or ice climbing gear).

For me, when I'm a customer, I don't want to wade through aisle of crap, a la Walmart to find the few quality items. I'd rather go someplace where everything has been pre-screened for quality.

That was also my modus operandi while working in computer stores in the 1970's. But that another era and computers are now a commodity, not a purchase researched for many months. And, yes, nerds do need to learn how to do the ask and wrap up a sale.

One of many problems is that commissions work, in the short term. Sales are up. But the experience is less pleasant and often less productive for the customer.

Brandon =Þ
(Beeen) - MLife

Locale: California
Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 17:57:19 MDT Print View

#4 - The customer is always right. Don't debate their decision no matter how uneducated their choice. If they like you, they will come back and buy the better item when they figure out they made a bad choice.

REI staff I don't think is taught #4. I routinely find myself lying to staff in REI, because if I tell them what something is for, they end up wasting a lot of time trying to talk me into something else.

Recently, I went in for new trail running shoes for my fiance. When she stated she did not want anything "waterproof", they asked her what she was using them for, and she of course proudly blurted out that they were for a 150+ mile backpacking trip. We spent the rest of that shoe buying experience getting sneered at, and having to defend the shoe over boot choice while continually explaining why we believed Gor-Tex didn't make a lot of sense for what we were doing.

Edited by Beeen on 09/03/2013 17:59:37 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 18:17:32 MDT Print View

My wife was purchasing a sleeping bag in REI last year and when I asked a question about fill power the sales persons eyes glazed over and had to ask a manager what fill power was. I was surprised as she working the sleeping bag section and not just so one we stopped.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 18:24:36 MDT Print View

"I was surprised as she working the sleeping bag section and not just so one we stopped."

REI has certainly lowered their staff training levels lately.

--B.G.--

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Re: Re: Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 18:44:28 MDT Print View

I have only shopped in REI the last 18 months but was in a MEC in Toronto 3 years ago and the staff where really on the ball.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 19:16:52 MDT Print View

"REI has certainly lowered their staff training levels lately."

I was in one a couple years ago and asked where the public gear scale was located (this used to be a common customer tool at REI stores). The sales person asked why I wanted it. Anyway after she asked several people including the store manager, there was no scale available.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 19:28:51 MDT Print View

Not in Colorado Springs or in the "Flagship Store" in Denver.

so now I take my own.

James Couch
(JBC) - M

Locale: Cascade Mountains
Scales at REI on 09/03/2013 19:38:40 MDT Print View

Check in the bike shop, there is a good chance they have one there.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Scales at REI on 09/03/2013 19:40:25 MDT Print View

Had to get rid of the scales as most manufacturers downright lie about their weights, if given.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Re: Scales at REI on 09/03/2013 20:00:01 MDT Print View

Or maybe they got sold in the garage sale,

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Did see some UL on the JMT on 09/03/2013 20:08:48 MDT Print View

Hi Erik,

I was on the JMT two weeks ago and could have been one of those fast-moving, running-shoe wearing UL'ers that you saw at Thousand Island Lake. I didn't have spare shoes, a stool, or a free-standing tent, but my partner had fishing gear and caught fish every day of our 7-day trip (we both prefer lemon pepper seasoning.) We weathered the 4 days of thunderstorms and hail just fine in our tarp without any problems getting wet at night. Here's a photo of Manfred taking a break next to our fully-packed backpacks:

backpacks

One of the two backpacks has a Bearikade in it, which we shared for the trip. Can you guess which one?

Just a friendly counterpoint. :)

Andrew

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Scales at REI on 09/03/2013 20:51:46 MDT Print View

At mine, they have one in the backpack section. They hang all the 'torso-sizing tools' on it so it's a big hassle to use. The gram scale is in the bike shop.

spelt the enigmatic
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
"Good salespeople know this and exploit it. " on 09/03/2013 21:00:44 MDT Print View

Which is why I hate dealing with all them. I can't be the only one. The worst are the ones that keep coming back to check multiple times after I say, "Just looking." I've started saying, "If I have a question, I'll ask someone." It works marginally better.

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Re: "Good salespeople know this and exploit it. " on 09/03/2013 21:18:35 MDT Print View

They have to ask. It's what they're trained to do first and foremost. Product knowledge comes later, if ever.
My technique is to ask them very technical questions about a product on the website, but not in the store. They scurry off for a few minutes. When they return to tell me it's not in stock, I ask them to check the five nearest stores to see if they have it.
Eventually, they learn to avoid me.
There's one old guy there, semi-retired. He's just there for the social aspect, but he's got a lot of experience, and time to actually learn about all the product. There's probably one guy like that at each store. Find him and buy from him only.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: "Good salespeople know this and exploit it. " on 09/03/2013 21:22:33 MDT Print View

They are probably required to keep asking. unfortunately cooperate policies like that are made up from focus group/surveys and theft prevention people. the amount of people who would rather they be asked if they need help outweigh the ones who would like to be left alone or they wouldn't be like that. It trickles down.. cooperate tell the managers so the managers tell the staff so the staff does what they say so they can keep their job.

Erik Basil
(EBasil) - M

Locale: Atzlan
Re: Re: Did see some UL on the JMT on 09/04/2013 11:38:14 MDT Print View

Andrew F,
Did we meet on trail, mine being the big group with the Scouts out front and the old fella with the big pack walking sweep? Whenever folks are willing to chat, I always try to engage hikers with the boys, particularly where you can underscore or beat my exhortations for light and limited gear!

Since you had fishing gear, I think we missed you. Believe me, we had fellas that would have grilled you on your baits and technique: we call this trek "The High Sierra Fishing Expedition".

By the way, I'd EXPECT you to be warm and dry with your teeny little Kleenex tarp and dental floss guy lines, because you're into it. However, it didn't go without notice that two of the groups we had fun chatting with proffered that they'd been wet and cold using that gear. Similarly, one of our tent crews was sloppy with their (freestanding) tent and had plenty of wet gear the morning after those rains on the 17th. I think it would have been fair to presume they'd have been dry, too, certainly if based on the square footage of vestibule space they had!

Mono County SAR bedded down in the trees near us, on the north shore of Garnet, for that storm on the 17th and used a guyed, flat tarp with one in a bivy/bag and the other just in his clothes. The dude without bivy was soaked by that windy rain, but a sunbathe in the morning boosted him right up. The pair punched over the westerly, XC pass to TI and then up to North Pass, looking for a pair of hikers reported in distress (not found).

To me, it's all about the gear that I can make work, and reliably so. When the wind's blowing rain sideways and I am dry and situated inside my Copper Spur, or when I'm comfy sleeping on rough ground because my big cush inflatable pad is awesome, or enjoy a sunrise fishing with a cup of coffee while sitting on a stool rather than a wet rock, these things justify themselves just as much as my more traditionally-recognized "UL" margarine-container mess kit, 22g knife, ti stove and zip-lock tackle bag do.

Either way, despite our full-size internal- and external-framed packs, we only saw three groups out there on the limited portion of the JMT we traveled that appeared to be packing lighter than we were. One little Japanese lady with a face covered in white zinc had a pack that was about 2/3 her own height (and she jammed) and we passed 4 dudes with giant Gregory packs loaded with a 5-person inflatable raft, oars and a bellows pump. Those energetic fellas were going to fish the deeps in Garnet and TI. Each of the three "UL Crews" we encountered looked happy and fast, notwithstanding the shortcomings of their Kleenex tarp and "cheatin'" on canister weight.

(I slipped rocks in their packs when possible.)

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Did see some UL on the JMT on 09/04/2013 12:06:40 MDT Print View

Erik,

I agree with your post 100%.

I honestly can't remember if we saw you guys or not, we did meet some people from San Diego and we heard about a big scout group somewhere near Rosalie Lake, but I'm not sure if we actually ran into you. Manfred did speak to an older gentleman who was some kind of scout leader who had an external frame pack.

We met people with an interesting array of gear on the JMT. One woman with a dog, long curly hair, and no rain gear at all wasn't having much fun in the thunderstorms as we got to Red's Meadow. Hopefully she bought herself a cheap poncho from their store. Another gentleman decided to forego any form of shelter altogether despite having a huge DSLR and what looked like a 40+ lb pack. He told us that he spent one evening sheltered under a log to stay out of the rain. However, with only a few notable exceptions, it seemed like everyone we talked to (including both of those examples) were having a wonderful experience and really enjoying their time out in the mountains.

Andrew

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
BINGO! on 09/04/2013 12:17:06 MDT Print View

"However, with only a few notable exceptions, it seemed like everyone we talked to (including both of those examples) were having a wonderful experience and really enjoying their time out in the mountains."

So weight doesn't matter that much.

spelt the enigmatic
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: Re: "Good salespeople know this and exploit it. " on 09/04/2013 13:01:12 MDT Print View

I know it's their job and I try not to take my annoyance out on them.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: BINGO! on 09/04/2013 13:37:43 MDT Print View

My wife a daughter did a week at Mount Rainier together and came home wanting to know all about my UL gear :) Nothing like a couple steep higher altitude passes to make converts. The JMT should make for a great "conversion ground"


As far as gear store staff, those poor folk are getting low wages and working retail hours. REI is known to be a positive work environment, but no one working the floor is getting rich, let alone making a real living wage. I've run into a couple sales clerks who really speak UL, but just a couple.

Imagine the range of customers they deal with too. I've overheard conversations that made me gently thump my head on the nearest wall. I've done technical product sales in several industries over the years and IMHO, most of the public lives just this side of the 12th Century in terms of their knowledge of physics and engineering and they practice the most amazing types of logic. Like the comic says, "you can't fix 'stupid'"

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: Did see some UL on the JMT on 09/06/2013 09:15:57 MDT Print View

I actually saw a nice amount of ULers, including an 80 year old lady who was all decked out in cuben ("honey, that's the only way I can do this!"). There were a lot of ZPacks packs, a few HMGs, not many ULAs, tons of huge ospreys, and one guy with a full-on homemade get up constructed entirely of CCF - with his bear can attached to his chest.

But what was interesting from so many people was the constant refrain of "yeah, but I want to be comfortable," as though carrying all that weight is sooooo comfy.

I just smiled, answered questions when asked, talked gear with a few folks who wanted to (including the CCF guy - I so wish I'd taken a picture!), discovered a Zimmerbuilt pack that I need to have made now, and started dreaming of my PCT......

Bill Law
(williamlaw) - M

Locale: SF Bay Area
One too many ULers on the JMT on 09/07/2013 10:25:14 MDT Print View

We were on the trail for 4 nights last weekend.

I remember one guy (two guys, with similar gear, but I talked to only one), but it isn't really a positive. The guy said "Your pack is really heavy!".

They were carrying 30L packs, and mine was markedly bulkier, and heavier, than his.

But what was he trying to do? I've pretty much got the lightest version of everything I want. He can't see what's in my pack or know what my preferences are.

All I know is that his pack was 2 pounds lighter than it *should* have been (they weren't carrying a bear canister) and that I'm not going to start lecturing other people on what they are carrying. That was the only mention of gear weight I had in 5 days, thank goodness.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: One too many ULers on the JMT on 09/07/2013 11:41:29 MDT Print View

I remember one guy (two guys, with similar gear, but I talked to only one), but it isn't really a positive. The guy said "Your pack is really heavy!".

They were carrying 30L packs, and mine was markedly bulkier, and heavier, than his.

But what was he trying to do? I've pretty much got the lightest version of everything I want. He can't see what's in my pack or know what my preferences are.


brag ...

bit of UL "elitism" there

was he going much "faster" than you, doing gnarlier stuff, did he have a big belly? .... you can always find a good comeback

;)

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Re: BINGO! on 09/07/2013 13:05:59 MDT Print View

Dale,

"My wife a daughter did a week at Mount Rainier together and came home wanting to know all about my UL gear :) "

That made me smile, but because I couldn't believe that they hadn't already been indoctrinated into UL backpacking already!!

Tom

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: One too many ULers on the JMT on 09/07/2013 15:49:38 MDT Print View

I would have called them out on not having canisters. Losers.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: UL evangelizing on 09/07/2013 16:36:46 MDT Print View

"That made me smile, but because I couldn't believe that they hadn't already been indoctrinated into UL backpacking already!!

Tom"

You can lead a horse to water...

Oh, they know about UL, but they weren't thirsty for the UL Koolaid until they were headed from Glacier Basin to Sunrise with too many heavy toys. I mentioned the virtues of a particular UL product and described the process of weighing and putting everything in a spreadsheet and their eyes glazed over. Nothing like sweat and burning calves to make converts.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: Re: Did see some UL on the JMT on 09/09/2013 12:57:01 MDT Print View

I did a section on the JMT a couple years ago with a small pack (compared to the norm) and I had a ranger comment to me with suspicion that my pack looked too small to contain a bear canister. I offered to show it to him but he said, nah, I'll trust you. Later he came by while I was having my lunch and my bear canister was out in the open. I carried a small canister since my trip was only 4 days. With how many rangers I saw out there I'm surprised anyone could hike the JMT without a canister and not get caught.

Brittany W
(quasarr) - F

Locale: Southeast
JMTers on 09/15/2013 21:45:49 MDT Print View

I'm 100% in favor of ultra-heavy JMT backpackers ... cause they often lighten their load by donating generous amounts of food to other hikers!! :)

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: JMTers on 09/16/2013 16:25:51 MDT Print View

Just got off the JMT.

I did see a few U/L hikers, although half of them were sectional or doing a portion of the SHR.
It was nice being the only N. bound JMT hiker. I got to see everyone passing by each day.
A lot of huge packs, but a lot of smiling people enjoying some amazing views as well.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: JMTers on 09/16/2013 16:29:15 MDT Print View

Aaron, how was the trip? I'd love to be able to do a fastpack one day.....

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Trip Report on 09/17/2013 12:23:31 MDT Print View

Here is Aaron's trip report:

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=81939

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
RE: "Current conversations with JMT hikers" on 09/17/2013 19:19:39 MDT Print View

I think Aaron said it best:

>> A lot of huge packs, but a lot of smiling people enjoying some amazing views as well.

Unless they are harming themselves, you, or the environment/trail, maybe everyone should do as they prefer...

We plan to thru-hike the JMT next year, and while we may not have the smallest packs out there (not the biggest ones, either), we DO plan to have the biggest smiles...

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: RE: "Current conversations with JMT hikers" on 09/17/2013 20:36:48 MDT Print View

I loved that line about the smiles...

My family remarked how happy I look in ALL my photos. I was tired, the trail kicked my out of shape flatlander buttocks, but I still can't wipe the smile off my face.

Kyle Meyer
(kylemeyer) - M

Locale: Portland, OR
RE: "Current conversations with JMT hikers" on 09/26/2013 08:37:54 MDT Print View

I was on the JMT July 7th to the 29th. My wife and I had a lot of ultralight gear but it was mostly a means to an end–she being a 105 pound 5'2" human, I had to carry the majority of our shared gear and food to make it a comfortable adventure for her. In addition, we carried quite a bit of photography equipment, tenkara, and some other comfort items like a frying pan and mugs. So I was the human on the trail with the cuben fiber ULA Circuit with 30+ pounds in it. : )

Many folks I ran in to had a few elements of UL gear but hadn't fully made the transition. I fielded a lot of questions about my pack, our trailstar, and the tenkara set up, and it seemed like younger people are interested and fundamentally heading the direction of lighter packs. They just may not have fully transitioned.