M The Wait for Lightweight (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2008)
by Ryan Gardner
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Last weekend my wife and I were on our way back from spending a night at beautiful Lake Blanche in Utah's Wasatch Mountains. As we bounced down the trail, we passed a large scout group on their way up to the same lake. I noticed one of the kids was wearing a GoLite pack, and feeling a sense of kinship, I pointed to my hat and pack and gave an enthusiastic, "GoLite! Right on!" It was obvious that I was much more excited about this moment than he was. As we passed the leader bringing up the rear, I couldn't help but notice his orange external frame pack with an enormous sleeping bag lashed to the back. Something about this scene jarred my memory. It was then that I recalled my earliest memory of backpacking.
I must have been nine or ten-years-old when my Dad decided to take my brother and me on the most thrilling adventure our little minds could imagine. We loaded our orange external frame packs with all the gear we could carry and set off for the mountains. Army surplus cookware, a heavy tent, and cloth sleeping bags made for quite the load on our backs. With nightfall approaching and our destination still distant, we set up our tent right on the trail. The night was spent huddled together as thunder cracked all around us. I don't think we ever made it to the summit, but we didn't need to. That trip was the high point of my young life.
Let's fast forward to the present. Look how far things have come! Fabrics, insulation, metals and plastics have all seen major advances in technology. We are seeing more and more mainstream companies offer products that fall in the lightweight category. Has the mass market finally moved from "traditional" to "lightweight" status, and could this trend continue into the ultralight realm? Will I ever walk into my local gear shop and browse the shelves for sub-10 oz backpacks? Will I ever get to pull a quilt off the wall and lay under a tarp before I buy it? How much lighter can a piece of gear go and still remain feasible for the mass market? To answer these questions, I spoke with representatives from Golite, Osprey, and Prolite Gear.
- The Manufacturer Viewpoint
- The Retail Store Viewpoint
- What Does the Future Hold?
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