Another topic I want to ponder is my passion for gear, especially light weight backpacking gear. For years, I’ve wanted to get my “kit” lighter and lighter and lighter. For years, my mantra has been a quote from John Muir, “But in the midst of these fine lessons and landscapes, I had to remember that the sun was wheeling far to the west, while a new way down the mountain had to be discovered to some point on the timber-line where I could have a fire: for I had not even burdened myself with a coat.”
Years ago a buddy and I went down to the Gila Wilderness with this quote in mind and proceeded to embark on a 3 day journey with 13 pounds on our backs. Of course, we eschewed the use of both sleeping bags and fire, so we spent a frigid night leaning against a tree shivering. The next day we found ourselves in the midst of a forest fire, ironically enough, and had to hoof it out of there. Running on empty, we threw our packs into my Honda Civic and high-tailed it out of the forest, nearly running out of gas in Magdalena, New Mexico and arriving back in Albuquerque after 1 am. It was a real lesson in going too light. I am neither John Muir nor Bear Grylls.
With the explosion of “ultra-light backpacking,” there has been a symbiotic explosion of ultra-light gear available to those who want to liberate themselves from what I like to refer to as the astronaut approach to backpacking, insulating yourself from a “hostile” environment and bringing enough gear to effectively cut yourself off from the very experience you wish engage in.
I think what really fired me up about going lighter was my experience doing all 54 of Colorado’s 14ers. For the vast majority of them, I shouldered a CamelBack pack that was actually designed to be used on mountain bike rides. It weighed little, held even less, and was absolutely perfect. In fact, I still have it to this day; it is a faded bluish/purple and is rife with holes. It’s permanently stained with the salt of countless hours of sweat, yet I have found nothing that rivals its simplicity, comfort or ability to move in harmony with my body. I’ve rigged an ice-ax and crampons to it and even used it on several rock climbs.
So last year I decided to take this whole light weight deal to the next level and get “stupid light.” I shaved my “base pack weight” (all gear less consumables: food, water, stove fuel) to about 12 pounds. Pretty respectable, but not in the realm of a true ultra-lighter. I headed out to the Pecos Wilderness and had a grand time. By day three, I was feeling pretty proud of myself, until I met Champion (I shit you not; that’s his real name. Oh, the irony!). This guy was carrying 8 pounds as his base pack weight. The freaking shoulder straps on his pack were padded with his socks! I was truly humbled. Something had to be done. Krusty would not cotton to some Texan making his pack look like an albatross around his neck.
I came home with a new goal in mind. 8 pounds! 8 pound of light weight bliss. It had to be done. It would be done. After much research, trial and error, and a grip of cash, it is done. I have a spreadsheet (for those of you who know me, this in itself is a monumental accomplishment) with all my gear weights categorized and weighed down to the tenth of an ounce and to the gram, I have options for different predicted conditions, I have a stove that weighs 16 grams, I have a shelter that weights 4.4 ounces, and I’m still tweaking it all. In fact, I’m pondering the possibility of putting together a SUL (super ultralight) kit together. My goal is a base pack weight of not more than 6 pounds. Crazy? Maybe. But how great would it fee to traipse around the mountains with 6 pounds plus food and water on your back? Pretty great, I say.
I plan to use this site to review some of my choices and to hopefully convince a few people that going light is not only more fun, it’s safer, cheaper, and way more inspiring. Ok, maybe not that much cheaper…