“Drop completely the term “fastpack.” You are backpacking, so call it that. There is a very well developed community of backpackers who take an endurance athlete’s approach to the activity, myself included. I’d encourage you to join it rather than try to create a new niche in the ultra niche. Don’t create distinctions where there are none. I’ll add that I find “fastpacking” to sound very elitist — it’s as if runners can’t admit that they are “backpacking” and it implies that the rest of us are just “slowpacking.”
Skurka left that comment on an article written about fastpacking a few months ago. To be perfectly honest, to me it was nonsensical. I dropped a quote on one of my previous posts from a climber demoting mountaineering to “hiking and camping”. As absurd as it sounds, it’s absolutely accurate. Whether hiking in Shenandoah National Park or climbing Everest, you’re mostly walking and sleeping. But if we didn’t have the term mountaineering, we may not know whether our friend just climbed Everest or went on a stroll in Nepal. His argument is synonymous to saying we don’t need the term whale because it’s just a mammal or we don’t need to term hiking because it’s just walking.
I may be delving into the realm of ridiculously lightweight but if that’s your thing, you may find some good ideas here. The original Buff® truly is multifunctional headwear. Previously on my trips I carried a bandanna as a pot holder, sweat wiper, rag, mud cleaner, napkin, and towel but a Buff acts equally well as replacement for all those uses. Additionally, while a stocking cap is certainly warmer than a Buff, it only serves one single function. The Buff, however, can be manipulated into a balaclava, can be used in warmer temperatures to keep sweat out of my eyes, and can protect the back of my neck and forehead on sunny hikes.
I’ve posted several theoretical gear lists over the past few weeks and just wanted to post an update of an actual gear list that I’ll be using on a trip down in the Smokies this upcoming week. I just got done with a string of five exams in the last two weeks and with my first med school spring break having just begun, I am stoked to be getting out in the woods for a short fastpacking trip. I’ve laid everything out and with low temps in the low 40s, think I can get away with a base weight of just below 3.5 pounds, FSO (from skin out) base of 5.74 pounds. The trip is the 170 mile North loop of the Benton MacKaye Trail/Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountain National Park starting from Twentymile Ranger Station near Fontana Dam, heading north on the BMT, resupplying at Davenport Gap, then back south on the AT. The theoretical total was 8.7 lbs. but it ended up coming out to 7.8 with 2 days with food and 1L water.
A couple weeks ago I visited Blacksburg, Virginia for a couple days to clean up where I had been living. I had stayed at my parents’ place for the last three and a half years and it showed. Some of their friends were going to be using the place so I had to touch it up before they got there. But I didn’t want to just drive there and back, I wanted an adventure, I wanted an escape. So I shoved some gear into my backpack and planned for a trip in the woods.
I made it to Blacksburg around two in the morning and crashed. The next day I quickly cleaned and called a couple of my friends who were still there. I told them what I wanted to do. I had ants in my pants and there was only one sure fix. My friend Daniel and I went over to our friend Scott’s place to talk plans. Daniel had no intentions of coming with us but after hours of discussion, we convinced him to meet us out there after buying some gear from Blue Ridge Mountain Sports. Scott and I made it to hiking just before seven pm. It’s not unusual for us to get a late start but this was a little crazy even for us considering we had sixteen miles to our destination. We headed towards Dragon’s tooth in Catawaba, Virginia, a beautiful mountaintop rock formation with incredible views, possible star-gazing, and good enough shelter from the wind. Continue reading Summer backpacking adventure→
I posted a couple days ago about my frustration with modern backpacking. I naively thinking that the methods of dropping pack weight were common knowledge. It wasn’t until I saw some of the gear lists from people claiming to pack light that I realized, a lot of the concepts of lightweight backpacking are not well known. Here I want to highlight some pieces of gear that I am not taking on my upcoming ultralight backpacking trip and why.
A roll of TP can weigh up to 6 ounces. That is an enormous amount of weight for a nonessential. While TP can double as a fire starter, the amount needed for that is of insignificant weight. This is a personal choice, I know, and a piece of gear that a lot of people could never imagine doing without. However, I instead use things that I don’t have to carry on my back to accomplish this task. I use sticks without bark, snow, leaves, or even moss. All of these are readily available and accomplish the task equally well. Wiping our asses with paper is only a recent phenomenon, so consider dropping the weight and doing without it.
If I carry a blade at all, I carry the tiny, tiny swiss army knife with scissors, tweezers, a file, and a toothpick that weighs 3/4 of an ounce. I’ve seen men carrying foot long blades into the tame backcountry of the east coast and the only justification I can imagine is compensation. At this point I’ve walked all but two states of the Appalachian Trail Continue reading Ultralight backpacking: ditching useless gear→
The simplicity of backpacking has always intrigued me. To carry everything you need to survive on your back is an enlightening and beautiful experience. Truly nothing gets me more excited than to be fully self supported. But when I, with a bulky pack on, look at an animal foraging in the backcountry, I am envious. They carry nothing; they do not know where or when their next meal or drink will come from and yet they are entirely self-sufficient. And when I see men clambering into the woods with pots and jackets and bottles hanging from their fifty plus pound packs, I want to cry. Continue reading Lightweight backpacking→