Backpacks: less is not more

You don’t have to be a genius to know that the lighter your backpacking kit is the easier it is to hike. The easiest way to lighten your load is to discard things you don’t need, get rid of duplicate items, and opt for items made from lighter weight materials. Often gear can be jettisoned and replaced with skill alone.

At some point the parring down process reaches a point of diminishing returns and can enter the realm of “stupid light” as described by well known adventurer Andrew Skurka.

Today I hear many backpackers, who are trying to lighten their gear, ask, “What is the best pack that weighs less than X ounces?” and often that request for input that has an arbitrary formula such as:

X <= 16 ounces

One might wonder what rationale or unfounded thought process brought these folks to the conclusion that X ounces is the defining criteria for a piece of gear. It is the concept that less is more, or the lighter your pack the more enjoyable your trek will be. That may be true to a point, unless you cross into stupid light or into the kingdom of diminishing returns where weight compromises comfort and efficiency.

Less is more is an oft quoted concept of the modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. What it means is good design is dependent on focus and simplicity. The corollary proposition to this concept is the modernist architecture mantra of form follows function. The shape or design of an object must be based on its function or purpose, not some random goal such as a specific weight as the only consideration.

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How did we get to this point where pack weight trumps function? We can blame Don Jensen, Dana Gleason, Wayne Gregory, Ray Jardine, and a multitude of other pack designers.

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Stove Bans

I have few backpacking acquaintances, fewer than I have fingers on my hands. And I have even fewer backpacking friends, and an even smaller circle of close friends. That’s how it should be. Just because someone likes you on Facebook or is your friend on one of the other social media sites, doesn’t mean they are true friends.

Anyway, my few backpacking acquaintances and friends know I go screw-shit when I see so-called gear or outdoor experts operate a stove in an unsafe manner. One of these fine folks (my acquaintances – not the so called experts) emailed me a “stove” picture. No subject in the email, no comments; nada. Just a picture. Guess he thought it would piss me off.

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How to Excel at Backpacking

A while back an acquaintance of an acquaintance, who is a friend of a friend, sent me an email inquiring whether I could recommend a backpacking gear App or did I think a spreadsheet could possibly suffice. I occasionally get these kinds of requests, but more often people ask me to review their gear list and then want to debate any recommendations I might make. Worse than that, they send me a link to some online gear program that won’t run on my iPad, forcing me to open my computer to look at it. I’m too busy to jump through hoops like this to help someone out. What is the world coming to?

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Is my BIC empty?

My last post was about the wonderful Bic Lighter.

I touched on the fact you can hold a light to it and see how much fuel is left. I have never tried to check the level on a trip with a headlamp, because I am incredibly smart — I check it before I leave home with a flash light. Below is an example.

You can see the lighter is half full (the optimist point of view) and you can also see the pickup  tube.

You can see the lighter is half full (the optimist point of view) and you can also see the pickup tube.

Best Piece of Backpacking Gear. Ever.

I often read gear reviews that are really just initial impressions. Some folks use gear for a year or two and call it a long term review. I think if gear is used for 10 or more years, it qualifies as a long term review. This way we can answer the question, “Does it stand the test of time?”

For the past 40 plus years there has been only one piece of gear I have taken on every backpacking trip. It has also accompanied me on most day hikes and camping trips too.

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Fastest Known Time redux

Almost two years ago I wrote about the phenomenon known as the Fastest Known Time or FKT. At the time, I stated I wasn’t against the concept per se, but I did express several concerns.

Stuck at home this weekend, I spent some time catching up on a few of my favorite blogs. And my fears about the FKT negatively impacting wilderness areas were personified in this simple one line statement and picture on Tom Jamrog’s blog.

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I don’t have anything to add.

You might want to read Paul Magnanti’s comments on the above subject. His thoughts mirror mine.

 

Prudence and Weather

PRUDENCE

The concept of prudence is a critical cornerstone in Western thought, philosophy, and theology; often considered to be a virtue. Prudence is the ability to make good decisions using reason.

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Beauty Directed by Prudence – Angelica Kauffman

It has been nearly a month since my last post. I have been away from home on several trips with little time for publishing anything here. That is how my summers seem to go. Perhaps I will put together a trip report or two, since I am at home this weekend: the result of a prudent decision.

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California Wildfires

Jenks Lake Fire 2015-06-19

Smoke moving from the San Bernardino Mountains toward the San Jacinto Mountains. Without the fire it would have been a blue-sky kind of day. To the left of the picture you can see the smoke moving south past Palm Springs heading towards the Salton Sea. Smoke also covered Joshua Tree National Park.

When you are in the forest and see a forest fire, it is disheartening. But wildfires are a natural phenomenon and normally healthy for forests. But there are times when wildfires are destructive and cause irreversible damage. Such is the state of affairs in California. For someone on a long distant backpacking trip of several weeks or months, forest fires are often considered by backpackers as a minor inconvenience. One has to re-route their trip, sometimes walking on roads, until they can get back on the trail. However on a short trip, a forest fire often ends the trip, which happened to me last week when I was forced to turn around and bail when a fire that broke out on Wednesday grew out of control and moved into the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Currently the fire, which is near Big Bear, has consumed 27 square miles and is about 20% contained. Already it is the largest fire in this area in over one hundred years. Smoke from this fire has traveled all the way to Arizona and reportedly is visible in the Grand Canyon.

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