Just got this e-mail this morning from a veteran hiker/backpacker named Scott Huffman. It was so interesting I’m compelled to share:
I just saw your blog (via Susan Mernit). I noticed that there is no mention (yet) of “lite” backpacking gear.
I used to go hiking years ago when I lived in WV. I had a *huge* pack that I’d load with 50 lbs of gear for a weekend hike along the Greenbrier River trail.
Then I moved to Chicago. Not many places to go hiking there. However, while there I discovered a company called GoLite. Check out their web site, golite.com. I have no affiliation with the company, although I do like their stuff. They’ve got good service, too. They had a quality control problem with one of their first products. Even though I didn’t have a problem with the one I had, they sent me a free replacement and let me keep the original product — what a deal, two for one.
Anyway, when I first discovered them, they had only a few products and they were pretty much the only lightweight game in town. Now, there are many companies that have good lightweight hiking gear. I still use the original “Breeze” pack I bought from GoLite 5 years ago. It’s simple, but almost perfect for my needs — and it weighs only 11 oz.
Then, two years ago I moved to Europe. One of the reasons was to do some hiking in the Alps — that had always been a dream of mine. Last year, I managed to get in some hikes in Austria (Wilde Kaiser) and Italy (the Dolomites). This year, Switzerland is on the agenda.
I’m older now than when I carried the world on my back in WV (I’m your age, as a matter of fact), and there’s no way I could manage the kind of hiking I and my hiking buddies do if I didn’t go as “lite” as possible. I do week long hikes in the Alps, now, with less than 14 lbs of gear (including water).
A great place for info on “lite” backpaking is the Yahoo! Group BackpackingLight:
Check it out. I think you’ll like it.
There are many web sites devoted to light backpacking, too. Here’s one of the first I ever found:
He calls it “ultra lightweight” backpacking, but I found many good ideas there and I would not consider myself an ultra lightweight backpacker (although, I do find now that I pay great attention to the weight of everything that goes into my pack).
After reading your site, maybe I’ll start blogging my Alpine hikes, too.
Anyway, keep up the posts.
Scott’s right, of course. I found out how right last week, the first time I piled all my new gear into my new pack and slogged up a mountain trail that went 2000 feet up in less than two miles. When I got back home, Melissa asked how it went. I had a one-word reply:
Before I bought all this new stuff I had read up on packing light … my sense was that “going light” was something veterans did only after they learned how to do it the right (that is, heavy) way. I’m a firm believer that you have to know the fundamentals before you harbor any fantasies about doing things like the experts. Since I’ve been in fitness mode for most of the past year, I’ve figured more weight would just make me stronger.
But the experience of hauling real weight (only 40 pounds) up real trails opened my eyes, bigtime.
I’m stuck with my heavy stuff for now but I’ll be thinking light if I start getting crazy ideas about long-haul overnighters.