Lightweight Hiking: Shedding Weight
If you've spent any time on long trails lately, you've probably seen something that looks like this:
A skinny, fast-walking apparition strides by, carrying what looks like a mini-backpack that couldn't possibly weigh more than 20 pounds, total. He stops to chat, and tells you he's on the trail for six months. You ask to feel his pack, and find out it weighs half as much as yours does.
You wonder what he knows that you don't.
The word on today's long trails is "light."
Just about everyone who's ever hefted a backpack started out on their first trip with too much gear. I shudder to admit what went into my first packmemory has thankfully blacked out some of the details, but I know my choices included one of those horsehair-blanket-covered metal water bottles, a heavy steel army-surplus cookset (WITH knife, fork, AND spoon!), way too many clothes, and a first-aid kit that could have started a third-world hospital.
I know I wasn't alone. A friend who once joined me for a few days brought a change of clothes for every day of the hike and a battery-powered razor. I've seen economy-sized bottles of shampoo (PLUS conditioner), bath-sized towels, iron skillets, and teddy bears.
Gradually, the backcountry teaches all of us what we need to know. Big bottles of shampoo get traded for those hotel samplers. The bath towel is replaced by a bandanna, the iron skillet by a titanium pot. The teddy bear gets sent home.
But lightweight hiking is about more than simple replacementsit's a whole new way of thinking. It's about simplicityliving with minimal equipment that can keep you safe and comfortable without weighing you down. It's about learning what you truly do need as opposed to what you only think you need. It's about learning your strengths and limitations so that you can accurately evaluate the conditions you'll have to deal with and how you'll be able to cope.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication