Sometimes it is bemoaned how lightweight gear is not used more. But it is. The longer view just has to be taken.
Gossamer Gear recently published another blog post about the traditional definitions of lightweight backpacking. That it is time to reinvent what we mean by lightweight or ultralight backpacking. And perhaps the movement has to be evangelized a bit because mainstream companies aren’t really light (read the comments)
The backpacking blogging community tends to write in cycles about how the lightweight backpacking revolution is dead. That it has to be changed.
And with GoLite, arguably the first mainstream lightweight gear company, liquidating, there has been some speculation that lightweight gear is too niche of a market to appeal to the masses.
I do not necessarily disagree with any of the above per se. In fact, I have made similar points myself in the past.
However, as I was talking with a friend the other day, it occurred to me that people who backpack are lightening up by default.
A fact that seems to be ignored by the community of long distance hikers and their often intertwined kin of lightweight backpackers. Both types seem to be active on the online forums (Pot. Kettle. Black. Guilty as charged.. 🙂 .).
The comments on the various forums and blogs are that people take “big packs. big tents. big boots” and so on.
But I think the online backpacking community tends to have too narrow a focus.
We are in our little bubble and compare and contrast with each other as to what is the norm.
- …Anything over a pound is considered heavy for a sleeping bad.
- …A four pound pack? Monstrous!
- …A free-standing five-pound tent? Time to hit the backpacking equivalent of Jenny Craig.
But I think that is the rather short-term view. People ARE going lighter, just perhaps not by our rigid standards.
Don’t get me wrong.
I do not plan on taking a five-pound tent, a four-pound pack for solo trips and my Espresso maker.
But from what I can tell, the general backpacking public is indeed going lighter overall.
- A NeoAir replaces the Therm-A-Rest….
- A down “sweater” replaces the 200 wt fleece jacket. ….
- An MSR Pocket Rocket replaced the MSR Whisperlite….
- And so on….
Let’s look at 2000 vs 2014 gear for the “average” (?!) backpacker. These are common, off-the-shelf items found at the store most well-known to the general backpacking public: REI. The exception is the fleece that I found more accurate specs for at Backcountry.com Most of the weights for the old items were found from the Backpacker Magazine Gear Guide archive found on Google.
I suspect other items have similar drops in weight.
Tents seem to stay the same regardless of year (the REI Halfdome has the same specs in 2000 vs 2014. Seems to be the most popular backpacking tent at least in my rather unscientific eye-balling of what people use out here on weekends). And a down sleeping bag is a down sleeping bag regardless of the year.
But just looking at some basic items, our average backpacker has dropped over three-pounds without trying. Not a lot but any means, but that is almost two days of food for a person out for a typically short trip.
For the casual, weekend backpacker who maybe goes out once or twice a year, they are going lighter.
So fret not about the lightweight revolution..or whatever it is called today. Labels matter less and less.
It is more of a gradual evolution.
People will still take too much stuff…but the stuff is getting lighter overall.
Ain’t it a hoot?
People are becoming lightweight backpackers without even knowing it! 🙂