Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Ultralight backpacking - why

Of the people I know who go ultralight, they do it expressly so that they can do the following things:
  1. go farther in less time
  2. get to places they never could get to before
  3. play with gear, be gram weenies, invent new things, play with new technologies
  4. have the flexibility to add extra mileage, change the route, do some exploring
  5. do more with less
The last one is sort of hard to explain, but it has to do with the "stuff" you want to bring with you.

Many of us ultralight backpackers have learned by leaving "stuff" home that it isn't about the stuff you bring at all. The less stuff you need, the closer you are to the nature you came out to experience. The less your trip is focused on stuff, the sharper the experience feels. It's about your skill, about feeling at home in the wilderness, about shedding not just the weight but the insecurities. When you reach the point where you're no longer packing your insecurities, you experience a special kind of freedom that has to be experienced to be understood.

I like going ultralight so I can bring luxuries, too. I brought a cup last time. I can hear you laughing. But since I don't need a cup, I don't usually bring one. Having a cup this time brought me great joy while I lingered over a hot cup of coffee. I also brought an extra pair of shoes. I'm choosy about my luxuries. They have to enhance the experience, not take away from it.

I like hiking and I like my hiking to be comfortable. The lighter my gear is the more comfortable my hiking is. It feels exactly the same as dayhiking when I go out for a weekend. I can't imagine a more comfort-driven system than that. Warm, safe, dry and it feels like dayhiking. That's what comfort is all about. It's not about being a beast of burden laboring under a heavy, uncomfortable load. It's about luxury where it matters and having fun the whole time you are out there. With only two days a week to enjoy ourselves in our work-driven lives, you have to maximize the fun. The fun really does go up when the weight goes down.

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