Monthly Archives: August 2015

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.


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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