“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 grew up with the idea that this was a backpacking trip: four kids, sleeping pads, some food and water, awesome misadventures. Honestly, when I saw my first backpacker with the heavy load on their back, I was shocked. I couldn’t imagine what they could possibly be carrying. Since I began my solo trips, I’ve tried to keep my gear as simple and practical as possible, mostly for functional reasons (less stuff to break) but also because for me it’s safer and more fun. Continue reading What ultralight backpacking means to me→
Weekend warriors and noob backpackers, I want to clear up some misconceptions that backpacking is necessarily a prohibitively expensive and back-breaking hobby. Below I have put together some of the information I’ve acquired over the years to help people who are interested in going on a summer adventure in the woods. I want to reassure people that getting outside is not difficult and that anyone can do it. The woods should not be thought of as a daunting hostile place that people carry machetes and guns into because frankly it isn’t. If you’re looking for a badass adventure, the backcountry in the Mid-Atlantic is not the place most of the year. But if you want a break from civilized life and want to relax, here are some tips I have, including a comprehensive budget ultralight backpacking gear list at the bottom. Continue reading 3 principles of ultralight backpacking→
With a solid training week coming to a close and preparations reaching a lull, I wanted to take a moment to review a piece of gear that is going to be invaluable to me on my upcoming Appalachian Trail self-supported record thru-hike attempt, my Enlightened Equipment 50 degree Enigma quilt.
To give some background, a quilt is similar to a sleeping bag, except sports a simpler, more efficient, and lighter design. While a sleeping bag wraps all the way around you, a quilt maximizes the insulation by only covering above you and letting the sleeping pad take care below. They usually come without a hood or with a detachable one. To most new backpackers they’re daunting for their simplicity in the same way that new hikers flock to tents over tarps. Unfortunately this kind of misunderstanding really halted the quilt’s progression as an innovative piece of backpacking gear. For years quilt companies simply didn’t have access to the top fabrics and were way behind the field in design. The fully enclosed counterparts were often lighter despite being fundamentally inefficient.
When I started checking out the market for new, lighter gear to replace my battered gear from my previous trips, I was elated to find Enlightened Equipment leading the way in lightweight sleep systems. Their 10 denier nylon fabric matched that of the outdoor gear giants and the option for 800+ fill down showed their dedication to using the highest quality materials for their quilts. I continued my search for competitors to make sure EE was truly the best and nothing came close. There was no getting around it, I needed an Enlightened Equipment quilt for my hike and to carry anything else would put me at a disadvantage from the gun. Continue reading Review: Enlightened Equipment Enigma quilt→
Over spring break I had a great adventure down in the Smokies in North Carolina hiking a section of the Benton MacKaye Trail and the Appalachian Trail. It is one that I’ll look back on as a solid foundation for some future trips. I went out into the woods in late winter in Smoky Mountain National Park (which boasts the highest mountains on the east coast and unseasonably cold weather) with a sub 3.5 pound pack. That’s it. Besides shoes, poles, socks, a shirt, and shorts, the 3.5 pounds on my back was all the gear I figured I needed to survive for four days. Loaded with 3 pounds of food and a liter of water, it brought the total up to 7.8 pounds. Continue reading Benton MacKaye Trail spring break hike→
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→