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Anti-Lightweight prejudice?
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David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Anti-Lightweight prejudice? on 07/17/2005 14:25:49 MDT Print View

Just wondering if this is a common thing that others have experienced? I was at a planning meeting for an upcoming trip and the guide was demonstrating different ways to get up with a heavy back on... including the roll on your belly and do a push-up method... which people kind of got a kick out of laughing about the pain they would all be in... and I just turned to the fellow beside me and said in a very matter of fact... completely non-boastful way "well, I don't think my pack is going to be more than 20 pounds anyway... so..."... meaning that I didn't think I would have a problem getting up. He just raised his eyebrows and shook his head at me. I was like... what?!

Is this kind of reaction common? Are we like the vegans of the backpacking world... being pre-judged due to those who would try to force their way on others? I just didn't understand why he would react that way. If anything, I would think people would say "really? wow... how do you manage that?".

Anyway, that's my little story :) I didn't say anything to this fellow at all. I didn't push my lightweight views on him at all. I just dropped it.

Edited by davidlewis on 07/17/2005 14:28:55 MDT.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Anti-Lightweight prejudice? on 07/17/2005 16:32:32 MDT Print View

You find them in every crowd.

In my seminars, there are always skeptics. The worst tend to be those with either vast amounts of experience so as to be entrenched in their ideals of safety, comfort, strength attitudes (ski patrollers and search and rescue personnel come to mind) or too young and inexperienced to know any better than to feed their own ego that heavy is good.

It's not as bad as it was 5 years ago, but it's a long way from the norm for the majority of backpackers.

David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Re: Re: Anti-Lightweight prejudice? on 07/17/2005 16:44:01 MDT Print View

The fellow in question was indeed a slightly older fellow (40's) with a lot of experience.

I also have a younger friend who boasts about carrying heavy loads. He routinely carries a 60-80 pound pack and says he likes it for the workout. He's carried as much as 120 pounds when leading a trek (i.e. carrying a lot of gear for the group). I can't even imagine.

I just thought it was odd that I would get an admonishing head shake just by guessing that my pack would be under 20 lbs. I didn't realize that pack weight was similar in nature to religion and politics. To each his own right? As long as no one dies :-)

From my point of view, I've never gone really heavy... so I guess I can't relate. I started backpacking just a couple years ago and my first trek was with a guide who taught us all about lightweight. She made us weigh in and wouldn't let us go until we all got our bags at 30 pounds or less (before water). I consider that heavy now... but she really instilled the idea of lightweight in me right from day one.

Edited by davidlewis on 07/17/2005 19:42:39 MDT.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
slightly older? on 07/17/2005 17:36:11 MDT Print View

No offense taken but I just had to chuckle at "The fellow in question was indeed a slightly older fellow (40's)" ... oh to be so young!

When I started paying attention to ultralight ideas it seemed that a majority of those I encountered were well into middle age and coming to the conclusion that it was time to lighten up or stay home ... and that is how it went for me. Maybe 40-ish is too young to hear the wisdom spoken by a heavy pack?

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: Anti-Lightweight prejudice? on 07/17/2005 17:56:10 MDT Print View

“I just turned to the fellow beside me and said in a very matter of fact... completely non-boastful way "well, I don't think my pack is going to be more than 20 pounds anyway... so.... meaning that I didn't think I would have a problem getting up. He just raised his eyebrows and shook his head at me.”

Anti-Lightweight prejudice, give me a break? You’re not being prosecuted for your beliefs!!! From what you wrote it sounds like you were interrupting the demonstration, distracting the class and undermining the guides authority. Wilderness guides are reasonable for the safety of you and the rest of the group. Backpacking Lightweight isn’t for everyone, it requires experience and skills that this group had yet to acquire.

Next time just listen. As you said: “He was a slightly older fellow (40's) with a lot of experience” You just might pickup a few nuggets of knowledge you could incorporate into your own backpacking philosophy. Also try to make your comments known at the end of the demo that would of shown respect and consideration for the Guide and the rest of the group.

And if you truly find your skill level is above what your current guide/instructor is teaching perhaps you should look into an Advanced Ultra-light Backpacking Course taught by Ryan, Glen or Coup

Hike your own hike…..

David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Re: slightly older? on 07/17/2005 18:46:10 MDT Print View

"No offense taken but I just had to chuckle at "The fellow in question was indeed a slightly older fellow (40's)" ... oh to be so young!"

Yes... well... it's all relative right? :) I'm 36... so he's slightly older than me :)

David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Re: Re: Anti-Lightweight prejudice? on 07/17/2005 18:55:59 MDT Print View

Roger, I did not interrupt anyone. We were all laughing and chatting amongst ourselves after the demo about rolling on your stomach and pushing yourself up... a technique which the guide said is only really needed if you have 80 pounds or more on your back. People were all just laughing about how much pain we would all presumably be in. I was just chatting (along with everyone else) with the fellow hiker beside me... whom I had just met.

I can see how my description of the situation could make it sound like I was being distracting or undermining the guide's authority. I was not doing either. Myself and the guide are actually good friends. And I certainly don't think I know more than him. Again... we were all just lauging and talking amongst ourselves when I made the comment to the fellow beside me.

As for my choice of trips, I'm going on this trip because it consists of a lot of very dear friends of mine (along with a few new people) and the location is simply breathtaking.

And although "prosecuted" may be too strong a word... he was judging. He (the fellow hiker beside me who I told I was hoping to get my pack around 20 lbs., not the guide) made other derogatory comments (afterwords) about lightweighters.

I guess you had to be there :-)

Edited by davidlewis on 07/18/2005 05:28:03 MDT.

Stuart Bilby
(StuBilby) - MLife

Locale: New Zealand
Re: Anti-Lightweight prejudice? on 07/18/2005 04:05:32 MDT Print View

Yes the first time it happened to me I was astonished. Smart, experienced. technically minded people, who I had backpacked with before - who were angry my gear was so light. I still don't really understand it. I think that they felt what I was doing must be dangerous. If it really was possible to travel that light they would know. - ultralight really is a paradigm shift.

Travis Songer
(tsonger1979) - F
The winds of change... on 07/18/2005 06:28:25 MDT Print View

UL Backpacking is certainly misunderstood. When the ocassion permits I do my best to point out the advantages of UL, but a lot of people are skeptical. When my packweight comes up among a gear discussion with more traditional backpackers I hear a lot of, "..but I prefer to sleep warm and eat something other than Raman Noodles..." I remember once I was at Carter Notch hut chatting with the caretaker who said something very similar. It was our first day out and I happened to have hiked in a whole carrot cake for my party, which I offered to the caretaker. Needless to say that was one suprised person. To be fair I have seen some pretty scary UL hikers myself. I remember my introduction to the alcohol stove. It was while I was thru-hiking the Long Trail. We had heard about someone "fastpacking" up and back. We met him one rainy night in a cabin/shelter. His alcohol stove was an empty tuna fish can, which he promptly tipped over and lit the entire table on fire. This was when I myself was more of a 50lb pack man and I wasn't real impressed. Now a days I don't use anything but alcohol stoves and love them for their simplicity, but you can see where someone might come away with an attitude that is less than positive. I try to set a positive example for UL hikers. I am always well prepared, almost never set fire to anything, and don't push my views on others. I do love to talk about my gear of course, but only when inquired upon first.


John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Anti-Lightweight prejudice on 07/18/2005 06:46:24 MDT Print View

Heavy can be dangerous. When heavy, fresh snow kept a group of us off the mountains, we went for a short walk along a bouldery beach. Only one person slipped. He had just returned from a mountain leadership course and was carrying everything recommended. I had to carry the shocking weight of his pack back to the hostel and felt unstable with it. He underwent surgery for a dislocated shoulder.

David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Re: The winds of change... on 07/18/2005 06:48:17 MDT Print View

Thanks for the stories Travis.

I think it was mostly a situation of "what... are you crazy". i.e... misunderstanding. When we were discussing who had stoves later on in the meeting (i.e. to work out sharing arrangements) ... my friend said "you must have one right dave?". I said, yah... but it's a tiny alcohol stove... really only good for one or two people. That brought on an eye roll from one and comments from another about how hard they are to use, etc. I just let it pass.

I'm the same way with my vegetarian diet. I never push it on others, I never talk about it unless asked and I almost never set things on fire :) Most people don't even know I'm vegetarian. The only way they ever (sometimes) figure it out is if I'm out with them at a restaurant. And sometimes, when people find out, they get very angry with me. It's rare, but it happens. It seems bizzare to get mad at someone just because of what they eat (again... I never, ever, preach... ever... people just find out I'm a veggie and instantly get angry). But it's the result of two things, a) the fact that it's out of the ordinary and misunderstood and b) the fact that there are some veggies (and we all probably have encountered a few) who, unfortunately, preach, deride, rail on... etc. I made a pact with myself a long time ago not to be one of those people.

Edited by davidlewis on 07/18/2005 06:50:03 MDT.

Re: Anti-Lightweight prejudice on 07/18/2005 06:58:07 MDT Print View

"Havy can be dangerous"

True enough. The last thing you want when you turn an ankle is a 20K hike out with a 60 pound pack.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Anti-Lightweight prejudice? on 07/18/2005 11:56:31 MDT Print View

I have come across UL hikers who seem to think that cutting weight is the key to everything.... Maybe (just maybe) the guy shaking his head at you just assumed that you were one of those???

It's not like ULers don't wag their fingers and shake their heads A LOT of the time...

David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Re: Re: Anti-Lightweight prejudice? on 07/18/2005 12:00:44 MDT Print View

"It's not like ULers don't wag their fingers and shake their heads A LOT of the time..."

Which was one of my points / questions... i.e. that perhaps others have given us a bad rep. for being zealots who admonish others. I don't really know since I don't know any UL hikers... but I can easily imagine UL people being like that.

Edited by davidlewis on 07/18/2005 12:01:21 MDT.

Duane Hall
(PKH) - M

Locale: Nova Scotia
Feeling Lightweight and weird on 07/19/2005 15:33:27 MDT Print View

I know what you mean David. Just last month I was flying around Cape Chignecto with an 18 lb load and everyone looked at me like I was on the ragged edge of insanity.

You're actually the first really light packer I've encountered in this area. Most people I meet on the trail are genuinely proud of their 50 lbs loads. I suppose it is an accomplishment of sorts.



david epley
(RenMan) - F
Heavyweight Prejudice on 07/21/2005 06:31:41 MDT Print View

Dave, it sounds like you handled it perfectly. Ignore the raised eyebrows and idiotic comments. Go on the trip and let your gear do the talking. When someone is doing a pushup just trying to get off the ground, go over with your loaded pack in one hand and help them up with the other. :)
I find that most of these people who raise eyebrows or show other signs of intolerance for the LW paradigm shift are nothing more than jealous. Their egos are tied up in their gear choices and their need to believe that they know best. THEY aren't going lightweight, so it must be bad. Unfortunately, the evidence is in, but they can't let go of their prejudices, so it comes out in rude behavior.

Camille Bibles
(Pingora) - F
Re: Heavyweight Prejudice on 07/27/2005 22:30:58 MDT Print View

Hope it's alright if I interject a little perspective in here. I've been backpacking over 25 years (hence into the 40 something range) all over the world and although I have always worked to reduce pack weight my experiences led me to equate "UL" with a "Ray's Way" extreme vision that I was not comfortable with in the outdoors of my experience. i.e. I live in the desert and frequently carry large quantities of water to make it through dry areas which means a heavy pack at times - so discounted what I understood UL to be as a viable possibility here. (As I understood it ULers carried a max of 2 liters at a time- which frankly would result in death in many places that I hike.) However, in June I did a weeklong backpack in a remote area of the Grand Canyon and was surprised to watch the packs form among the members of the group. The two most fit folks looked like they were carrying daypacks. I was impressed through the week at the fact that they had everything (sleeping bags, food, book to read, first aid kit, water filter, etc) that I thought ULers left behind. The fact that they packed comfortably for a week, including water for a long stretch, with their total gear weighing less than 30 pounds was a treat to watch. I also fully got how lightening the load helps get to water sources faster- although I'll always carry sufficient capacity here to deal with a surprise on the desert dry trail. I've now redone my gear and have a low packweight- with sleeping bag, tents, stoves, etc and am happily not UL but seriously light. I guess it might be helpful to understand that many of us who have thousands of diverse miles under our pack belts viewed UL philosophy as being unsafe and just flat uncomfortable. I don't think it's prejudice so much as understanding what it means here and now to hike lighter, not to mention a willingness and financial ability to spend the considerable bucks (very substantial in the last month for me) needed to revamp the gear for the lightest pack we're comfortable carrying for the conditions. Up until June I would have also been concerned that someone heading out on a major trip with a <20lb pack was going to be a safety issue. Let your legs do the talking....

Edited by Pingora on 07/27/2005 22:45:57 MDT.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Heavyweight Prejudice on 07/28/2005 02:01:22 MDT Print View

L/UL refers, in my understanding, more to the BASE PACK WT., not the "full skin-out wt" as it is known.

obviously, if one going for 2wks unsupported & not planning on fishing, trapping, hunting, foraging for food, then that food must be carried. one will never achieve a <10lb total pack wt if 2wks of food is included. same holds true for water - sometimes you just must carry a lot of water.

does not include consummables (i.e., food, water, and fuel - some would also exclude other items, e.g. bug dope, TP, etc.).

what is actually more impt to me is what is the max. wt. i will be haulin' around w/me (i call this "true pack wt"). i can say i have a 7lb pack, but if i'm haulin' 2L of water & 5days of food with me, i've got nearly 19lbs on my back. on a longer trek, if that wt gets too high, then i would have to find a way to lighten up w/o leaving any food or water behind. leave some gear behind or use lighter substitutes for necessary gear (or shorten the trek or resupply pts) would be my alternatives.

David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Re: Re: Heavyweight Prejudice on 07/28/2005 05:18:47 MDT Print View

Hi Camille,

Thanks for your post. It's always really interesting to hear these kinds of stories. I know some people even prefer dry camping... water sources or not. I also know people who prefer heavy packs. My friend (the guide in my story above) actually sometimes takes extra weight... a 10 lb. bolster for instance... if his pack is under 60 pounds, because he likes the workout. That's just his preferance, and that's fine! He becoming interested in Mountainerring (sp)... so he wants to train with as much weight as possible. We tease each other... but we don't judge. Whatever makes you happy and gets you to where you want to be. I guess my point was just the instant look of scorn from my fellow hiker upon learning my packweight.

But I agree that prejudice was not the best word to describe the situation. That makes it sound a little more dramatic than it actually was in reality. Also, judging from who I meet on the trail and around town and at the outfitters and the people I hike with... it's looking like I'm one of the only (or a very few) ultra light weight backpackers in my town of 360,000 (only about 100,000 of that is the city proper... so it's actually a fairly small city). So people just don't quite get it that's all. It's completely foreign to them to be honest. I mean, go to any outfitter and look for a 1 pound backpack... they just don't exist where everyone shops. Most people get curious about it tho' and want to know how it's done rather than simply shutting it out. His reaction was simply my first experience with that kind of reaction. But I understand that reaction too... and when it happened I simply let it pass.

Anyway, as long as we love what we are doing and take care of and respect each other and all come back alive, that's all that really matters :)

Edited by davidlewis on 07/28/2005 05:47:49 MDT.

David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Efficiency + Safety = Pack Weight on 07/28/2005 05:38:37 MDT Print View


Great points. I think the thing is, we tend to focus on weight alone. The real challenge is not about weight at all... not per se. The real challenge is about efficiency... coming up with the most efficient collection of gear while still remaining safe. And when you start to think about efficiency, you realize that weight is not the only determining factor.

For instance, to reduce weight, you could eat nothing but ramen noodles. But at what point does what you gain from that lighter load become less than what you would have gained (in terms of miles, comfort, well being, safety, etc.) from having a somewhat heavier but more nutritious diet? It's the law of diminishing returns.

Same thing with hiking in arid conditions. I thought the idea above about carrying less water meaning that you could make it to natural resupply sources faster was a very interesting one. That's brilliant and that's thinking about efficiency. But it only works up to the point when you start taking in less water than your body needs, then you slow down and your efficiency errodes.

You have to find the balance between safety and efficiency and the weight is simply a by-product of that equation. That's what it's all about. For a weekend hike in the woods in summer with plenty of water sources, that could mean a 5 pound base weight plus your food and just a couple of pounds of water at any one time. For a dry camping trek though a remote section of the Grand Canyon, that could mean a lot more weight.

Edited by davidlewis on 07/28/2005 05:39:11 MDT.