Got my new mail scale yesterday and started weighing everything that wasn’t nailed down.

Those boots in the upper left hand corner weigh 57.75 ounces. The Montrail mud-runners I’ve been hiking in most of this winter are 33 ounces. My Neos overshoes are 52.6 ounces. My extra camera batteries are 1.05 ounces apiece.

A simple scale with a digital readout could keep a guy occupied fora month’s worth of rainy days (which is about what we’ve gotten this year, the rainiest March in San Jose since before Woodrow Wilson was president).

It’s amazing how technology enables ounce-geekery. A spreadsheet tells me that if I want to take my tent on a campout in the Sierra, it’s another five pounds for shelter and small anti-bear canister. Stuff I like to take along — a sling thing that makes a chair out of my Thermarest, a plastic mallet to drive stakes — adds another 17 ounces. Just a pound but seems pretty weighty compared to my Petzl light, which is a tad over 2 ounces with batteries. Excel tells you this in seconds so you don’t have to pile it all in the pack and step onto a bathroom scale, the way I did it for the last year.

I heard someone say it comes down to whether you hike to camp, or camp to hike. If you choose the former, then pile all you can stand into your pack, but don’t fantasize about taking it very far. If you go for the latter, throw a tarp, a blanket and some PowerBars in your daypack and go till your soles say stop.

I’m sorta philosophically opposed to hiking distance for distance’s sake. If it’s miles you want to cover, walking is among the least-practical ways to go about it. Get a bike, drive to the gym, buy a treadmill. Then again, if you want to get back to nature, the more stuff from from a Chinese sweatshop that you carry along, the less you’re behaving in a natural fashion.

Weighing all your junk and typing the results into a spreadsheet might not seem particularly organic for lovers of nature, but it’s really just a natural extension of our urge to ease the sting of being separated from our technology for more than a few hours. Unless you’re going into the woods wearing wool from sheep you raised and sheared yourself and spearing wild boars for breakfast, you’re taking civilization out there with you.

To me it comes down to: are you in the house playing with indoor toys when you could be outdoors playing with the outdoor ones? Sun and sky aren’t much use to somebody sitting on the couch.