Ultra-simple?
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Nat Lim
(LithiumMetalman) - F

Locale: Cesspool Central!
Ultra-simple? on 07/31/2007 01:36:30 MDT Print View

Hi! I apologize upfront, this is a long blurb!

A blurb:

I first started backpacking in my early teens with the Boy Scouts, at that time my family I had NO CLUE how or what I needed.
Fortunately, my grandfather scrounged up a few things he used to use when he was younger, a small rucksack, a fixed-blade knife ,wool sweater, wool beanie, wool beret, canteen, military poncho and a light wool blanket.
I remembered the first overniter we did as a troop, and my Scoutmaster was furious to see how "in adequately I was prepared", nonetheless it was a summer outing, and he tentatively allowed me to go, with the promise that I would buy a more "serious sleeping bag" for the next outing.
As I recalled, it was a blast of a trip: slept under the stars, no pad, a moth eatened wool blanket that barely kept me warm, regardless, I was hooked!
After many more short trips, and a new second hand sleeping bag, (which my grandparents at that time thought was unnecessary!) I was soon bitten with the "gear bug", at that time my naive-self was envious of everyone else having nice gear like a top of the line framed pack, nice big puffy sleeping bags, inflatable sleeping pads, tents etc.

So as soon I could work legally, (high school), I started spending my money on big hiking boots, big framed pack, big sleeping bag, etc, at the same time big blisters, and big loads became the mantra for my troop.
After my first 50 miler with a monster load (55 lb load for a 110 lb individual at that time, I soon realized that carrying my older gear set-up I never had blisters, sore hips, etc, thus I was bitten, (like others who also recieved the "light") with the "UL bug" and started buying lighter stuff, high tech products, using tarps, bivies, etc...

After almost 10 years of UL (roughly 3 1/2 years ago from this date), I started to realize that gear, as cool as it was, it was either just too complicated, or too delicate, and saw myself more concerned about enjoying / fretting over gear for the hike, than enjoying the hike for myself. Thus started reminiscing on how simple my old set-up was (16 years ago), and how far I could walk, and how much I enjoyed the trip and not worried or thought much about my equipment.

Now these days I'm not so much a "gear bug" as I used to be, and my set-up has started going back to my old set-up I had used years ago, just modernized! Example: use a 35 degree synthetic or down sleeping bag instead of wool blanket. As the years go by, I find myself bringing less and less, relying on my skills, using more natural fiber clothing, or using cheap fleece.(down in winter) Even footwear, moccassins, or cheap water shoes. Some trips I bring my sleeping bag, pad(optional) sweater, (or fleece hoodie) beanie, hat, poncho, knife, first aid kit, bottle, food (no stove, or pot), on other trips I just bring my sleeping bag, poncho, food, water, first aid kit, knife.

Don't know how to explain it, weight yes it's nice to keep it down, using spinsilk, or thinner silnylon, is fantastic in keeping weight down, but what about durability? Yes some will argue, if one is careful, the gear is more than ample in durability. I guess the last thing I want to do is to worry about my gear and to be able to enjoy myself, even it means bringing slightly heavier / durable gear, a simpler system of not having to think about the system.
If one was truly ultra-simple, then just bringing a knife and a few tools is the ultimate way to go (I like my blankie/sleeping bag, first aid kit too much )
I am awe inspired when I hear people going on trips with nothing more than a few things in a fanny pack or their pockets, or nothing at all, and getting by fantastically!

So for all those out there! Shoot back, I would love to hear stories, tales, or thoughts on experiences with going minimal / spartan / simple!

Thank you!

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Adding post to: "Ultra-simple?" on 07/31/2007 03:17:15 MDT Print View

Welcome Nat, I think your experience mirrors many of the posters here at BPL, my early experience was also with heavy packs, cotton clothing, leather boots, and resultant cold-weather injuries that lasted years.
BPL for me is about researching and choosing the best gear to maintain safety and comfort while enjoying outdoor activities. Usually the 'best' gear is relatively light, but not too light so as to sacrifice durability. There are exceptions, and some things I carry only have to last one trip to justify their low weight. (free alcohol stoves and soda bottles come to mind).
Light backpacking also fits into a lightweight lifestyle I adopted a few years ago. I own maybe 1% by weight the amount of stuff I did 5 years ago; and don't miss it.(well, with a few exceptions).
Since learning BPL theories I enjoy the outdoors much more, and traditional hikers I hike with benefit from the experience also.
Enjoy the journey.

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
"Ultra-simple?" on 07/31/2007 08:32:37 MDT Print View

I feel the same way, I also dont like the "near disposable" UL gear, its not great for the enviroment for one, but I also still have a kind of romantic idea about using some of the same gear till Im an old man! The problem so far is that every year I seem to get lighter and new UL/SUL designs have been improving so much over what was available before. But I think Ive stabilized at about 8-10 lbs ( depending on conditions).
I also have been working on my skills -I just took a survival coarse last weekend and learned a lot! In your Grandfathers day those skills would have been more common knowledge for outdoors types and a wool blanket is all you need next to a fire, although LNT forces us to find another solution these days.
I think that as durability goes your pack needs to be the most durable and your shelter and so on need not be so much. My point being that ones pack is handled scrapped and dragged ect. while your shelter, lets say a spinnaker tarp should almost never be rubbing against anything and only rain will come into contact with it.

G Cowen
(coweng) - F
simple on 07/31/2007 11:00:19 MDT Print View

My evolution into UL/LW backpacking stemmed more from my efforts to simplify/de-clutter all areas of my life, than from a desire to reduce weight. The single best way to reduce the weight of a piece of gear is to realize that you simply don't need it...

Joseph Williams
(deadogdancing) - F

Locale: SW England
K.I.S.S. on 10/27/2007 10:18:43 MDT Print View

really, really good thread Nat! I think simplification is a very important goal all on it's own. Lighter packs improve performance, but it's the simplicity that leaves our heads clear to experience what's around us.

I am not a performance-orientated backpacker, and have only short trips to enjoy at the moment, so a kit that's quick to pack and simple to use is key to making it worthwhile catching the bus in the first place!

Durability is really important if we're going to be socially responsible. Switching gear so that your stuff matches your preferred techniques is fine- sell it/give it on, and it will still be used. Replacing gear that is not durable enough for purpose seems wrong to me.

For gear that is perhaps not the lightest, but is cheap, simple and very durable, army surplus shops are a brilliant resource.

Simplicity guarantees a measure of lightness- less items to add up, and means more than out-and out lightness in terms of satisfaction.