Ultralight Backpacking Versus
Contrary to what many think, ultralight backpacking is not just
about the freedom to hike more miles or to take your whole pack up
the mountain with you. It is also about comfort and safety.
Backpackers with heavy loads work too hard and threaten their joints
too much. Challenges may add to the experience, but why suffer more
than is necessary?
The Disadvantages Of Traditional Backpacking
You can't easily take a side trip up that hill, just to see what
is there. If you do it without your pack, you have to go back the
same way to get your pack.
Putting on and taking off your heavy pack quickly becomes a
chore. You start leaving it on even during rest stops, just so you
don't have to deal with it.
Backpacking is clearly more tiring with a heavy pack, and you
probably won't enjoy yourself as much when you are tired.
Sprained ankles, blistered feet, sore muscles, and back and knee
problems are just some of the common consequences of too much weight
on your back.
More weight equals slower progress, which means less access to
wild places (you can't go as far on your four-day trip), or it means
less time to for enjoyable activities, like a swim in a mountain
lake, or a relaxing evening in camp.
More injuries, and the inability to move quickly when a storm is
coming or an emergency requires you to get to a road, means that
backpacking can actually be more dangerous with a heavy load. Add to
that the possibility of bad decisions due to tiredness.
The Ultralight Backpacking Alternative
Done the right way, ultralight backpacking gives you more
freedom, more comfort, more safety, more enjoyment and less
suffering than traditional backpacking. It allows you to move
faster, but notice that I say "allows." It doesn't require
it. It just gives you the option. That's more freedom.
I have yet to meet or hear about a person who has tried
lightweight backpacking for a while, and then gone back to a heavy
load. I'm not saying it is for everyone. Bad ankles may require
heavy hiking boots, and bad habits may require a big pack to satisfy
them. But even a backpacker who needs a pillow and big rectangular
sleeping bag, can find these in lighter forms.
You just can't understand the sense of liberation felt by a
convert to ultralight backpacking, until you try it yourself. When
I, with my eleven-pound pack, walk past overloaded backpackers
struggling up steep trails, I remembered being in their place, and I
know I am enjoying myself more now.
Misconceptions About Ultralight Backpacking
Lightweight Backpacking Means Sacrifice
Not so. Bring your favorite camera! A lighter load means you can
stop to use it more easily. If you leave behind the things you don't
need, and bring a lighter backpack, tent, and sleeping bag, you can
more easily bring that telephoto lens or whatever is really
important to you.
Lightweight Backpacking Is Less Safe
The opposite! Bring all the safety items; a sleeping bag, first
aid kit, shelter, water purification, etc. Just bring lighter
versions. A light load makes you less likely to lose your balance
and fall, or to otherwise injure yourself. It also means faster
response to iffy situations.
A note about safety:
It is largely a matter of knowledge and experience. A trained
survivalist will always be safer backpacking with no shelter than a
neophyte with the best tent. Learn a little about how to use you
equipment properly, or to read the sky for coming storms, and you
can go lighter and safer.
Lightweight Backpacking Is Less Comfortable
Is it less comfortable to have 18 pounds on your back than 50? Is
it less comfortable to have an ultralight sleeping bag if it keeps
you just as warm? I stopped getting blisters (totally) when I
started using running shoes instead of hiking boots. Cut the weight
on your back by twenty-five pounds, and you can add back a heavier
coat, if that is what you need to be comfortable.
Lightweight Backpacking Is Expensive
Ultralight sleeping bags are expensive. Almost everything else
needed for ultralight backpacking can be found for the same price or
cheaper than traditional gear. There are many sub-three-pound
backpacks under a hundred dollars, for example.
Try it. The first time you are fifteen miles into the day, and
you realize that you can easily run up that hill-just to see what is
there, you'll know you made the right decision.
Steve Gillman is a long-time backpacker, and advocate of going
light. His advice and stories can be found at The
Ultralight Backpacking Site. (http://www.the-ultralight-site.com)
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/
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