A while ago I saw two hikers after their descent from Meron mountain in Upper Galilee. So tired they arrived at the campsite and dropped their huge packs on the ground. Ouuushh. After a short break one of them opened his backpack and pulled out a glass jar with jam. I thought: “this I call stupid heavy”.
So what is stupid heavy? It’s when you take something you don’t really need. For example that glass jar. What if they drop the pack in an accident and break the jar? Its fragments may damage the rest of the gear! How much glass jar weigh? It is completely ridicules to take item like this to the trail.
At this point I’m encouraging you to spend 5 minutes reading this great post by Andrew Skurka, a well known hiker and guide: http://andrewskurka.com/2012/stupid-light-not-always-right-or-better/. I think he described very well the term “stupid light” and there is no need to copy-paste it here.
Well, I’m really don’t know why Andrew separated stupid light and too light items. In my opinion too light does also fall into same definition of stupid light.
And the in-between
Ultralight is the lightest possible gear that allows acceptable comfort level for you. Don’t try to generalize this term as for each and every hiker UL is something different, as needs and comfort level of each one are different. My ultralight gear sometimes get lighter after I find some cute idea of how to save weight, but it also may get heavier after I test some heavier piece of gear and love it more than existing lighter alternative. I’ll share some of my own findings how to shave ounces from your regular gear with minimal impact on its functionality and reliability.
Be cautious while deciding to get specific UL piece of gear for hiking. Many items are tied in a way that you can’t use one item without using another. For example, getting UL pack is worthless until you really hit those 15 pounds (for example) of total load. Otherwise you will suffer from uncomfortable heavy pack. Using minimal and lightweight footwear with heavy loads is not clever too. Many UL items require babying them or they may fail. If it’s the only pole you use to setup a tarp and, unfortunately you broke it in an area above tree line you’re in trouble.
Generally there are guidelines to follow if you want lighten your load:
- Review your gear list. Is that something you can live without? Ditch it. Many “just-in-case” items could be left at home.
- If certain item is something you really need (tent, sleeping bag), take the lightest available but appropriate for expected trail conditions version.
- Reuse pieces of gear you are already carrying. A good example – hiking poles which may be used as tent poles and monopod for camera. Headnet maybe used as stuff sack and pillow.
But remember, the most important part of hiking is enjoyment of being on the trail, far from civilization. Ultralight backpacking techniques may help you get a higher level of enjoyment, but blindly following “lighter-better” paradigm will eventually cause you less enjoyable experience. The way to escape these undesirable situations is to test your gear prior to long hike. There is no substitute to your own experience with a new gear. Why I’m saying all this? Because every UL idea you find in my blog you must take with a grain of salt.
So, let’s start!