Carry as little as possible, but choose that little with care.” – Earl Shaffer.
Oregon Public Television recently re-released a video discussing lightweight backpacking. The video featured well-known backpacker Clint “Lint” Bunting.
The video featured Lint’s typical laid-back, funny, and informative presentation. (Though, my favorite line from the video may just be a woman they interviewed that stated she carried “the three main food groups which are chocolate, Jack Daniels, and ibuprofen.” 🙂 )
Though the video is almost five years old, the video presents the information in such a way that the concepts will not be outdated.
And upon this recent re-release on the NPR and OPB social media pages? Ah, the comments are wonders to behold!
Among some more interesting comments:
I have found that ultralight equipment tends to be very fragile and will fail in a catastrophic way when you absolutely need it. The subculture of ultralight backpacking really is a fad that should fade out before too much longer people will realized that you over pay for equipment that will not stand up to the rough terrain or environment..
I feel suspicious of the claim that this guy does 26 miles per day with only an 8lb ruck, for weeks at a time. Bet he mails gear to waystations so that he’s got food, water, clothes and sleeping gear.
Calling bullshit on this dude doing any overnights without a fart-sack, much less inclement weather gear.
Can’t be warm or comfortable in bad weather traveling that light! No water filter is just idiotic! I’ve had giardia and I’m never doing that again!! Day hike ok go super light but serious 2 weeks or more backpacking come on now😳
And so on…
To summarize a bulk of the comments: This way is different and unknown to me. Therefore this way is wrong and dangerous.
I won’t argue the points. Some of which are just blatantly wrong. People who associate total weight carried with safety aren’t going to be convinced by a blog post written by some short, bald guy who lives in Colorado.
I continue to be dumbfounded that people see this type of backpacking as new or radical.
But despite the astonishments indicated in the comments, going light is nothing new.
But people have been going light far, far, far longer than that time.
When people want to cover longer distances over a day, a weekend, or more, they went light.
Or, perhaps more appropriately, they went minimalist: Taking no more than they needed to be warm, comfortable, and safe in outdoor conditions when traveling all day.
Grandma Gatewood is a well-known example with her Ked sneakers, shower curtain, and denim duffle bag. But there are some examples than Grandma Gatewood that are less extreme regarding the gear.
Consider a 1930s ski tour of the Sierra. To quote an article: “Otto Steiner made a two-week solo tour there and back with only a 20-pound pack in the 1930s.” That is a winter pack weight most people would have trouble duplicating today!
Then there are the stories, again from the 1930s, in Maine where members of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) did twelve-day excursions on the Appalachian Trail. Their base weight was not to exceed 12 pounds!
Kathryn Fulkerson’s journal details a 1939 jaunt done with her wearing 11 oz tennis shoes, using a 3lb frame pack, packing 11 oz golf suits for rain protection, and describes the weighing of all the socks, clothing, cook sets, etc. to find the lightest gear available; a routine that sounds familiar to many. 🙂 Fulkerson also refers to an “invaluable List of Minimum Equipment for light traveling“ indicating that the PATC had an established practice and way of going light regularly. In fact, you can review an earlier book from the Appalachian Mountain Club online titled Going Light published in 1924.
My favorite example is perhaps from Andrew J. Giger’s account of his 1969 Appalachian Trail thru-hike.
As I wrote earlier:
Giger was a rocket engineer and his attention to detail was phenomenal. What we would call a spreadsheet for resupplies, gear weight , costs and so on are documented. Andrew would have fit right in with Backpackinglight.com !
14 lbs total of gear in 1969! And that equipment includes a white gas stove, a standard backpack for the time, and so on. Hardly equipment that was dangerous or foolish to take for an extended trip in the outdoors. The Appalachian Trail was a bit more remote and underused nearly fifty years ago as well.
Saying all of today’s lightweight gear is not durable, is dangerous, and is foolish to take? Well, that makes as much sense to make that statement as it did in the 1930s, 1960s, 1990s, or today.
Or, to use a phrase from my ever-wise and colorful mother: “They are so full of shit their mouth is full.”
Today’s lighter gear is even more comfortable and efficient than the lighter weight gear of even fifteen years ago. Equipment that admittedly required more of a knowledge base to use efficiently. Today’s equipment? Even the off-the-shelf REI gear is lighter than what was available in a similar store in the Dark Ages of the 1990s.
It is easy to go light, be comfortable, and be safe. People have been using this method for eighty years. If not longer.
Go out, have fun, and realize that to indeed go with a cumbersome gear load takes a lot more work than going lighter, comfortable, and safe in 2017.
Despite what people online may state. 🙂
Update: And a newer article on the modern history of what we know as ultralight gear systems