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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
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?"
"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

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

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?

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) - MLife

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 T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
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!