Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

Recent Pack Trip – What I Learned (part 1)

After nearly 40 years of backpacking (starting at the age of 1 month? or not? ;-) you’d think that there wouldn’t be a lot more for me to learn about the techniques of this endeavor. However, after nearly every trip, and certainly after every season, I do discover new things – about the places I visit, the techniques I use, the weather and climate, and my equipment.

So, what did I learn on last week’s 6-day trip into the Ansel Adams wilderness? Well, my pack weight has been increasing once again as my ability to carry heavy weights decreases. Yes, I’m getting older. (Sorry to say, but so are you!)

Some years ago my equipment underwent what seemed at the time like a major change. “Back in the day” many internal frame packs weighed around 7 pounds what with heavy materials and thick padding that was then thought necessary. But eventually people began to wonder whether this was really necessary, and we saw a first wave of weight reduction in equipment. I caught this first wave, and I ended up with an excellent Mountainsmith Auspex pack and quite a bit of other relatively lighter gear.

However, I have since developed a two-fold problem. First, the amount of gear and the weight of said gear has steadily crept up. Although my pack hasn’t gotten any larger, the load has become denser. Partly I have tended to err on the side of having a bit too much extra stuff. While carrying a bit extra, say, sun screen won’t add much weight… carrying a bit of extra sunscreen, insect repellant, toothpaste, first aid gear, repair equipment, water, stove fuel, food, and clothing will. It is time for me to reduce that margin a bit – I’m carrying too much stuff “just in case.”

The other factor is photography. While I reduced the weight of some of my backpacking equipment, I have more than compensated by adding photography gear. I now carry what I regard as minimal (for my approach to photography) kit of Canon 5D, 17-40mm and 24-105mm lenses, small tripod, a filter, extra batteries. The weight is likely in the 12 pound range. Sigh.

For my remaining summer/fall 2007 trips I will make a few more changes. Unless really bad weather threatens I’m going to use my new and quite light eVent bivy and a 7 ounce SilTarp instead of a tent, and I’m leaving the ground cloth at home. I’m going to try out one of the very small MSR canister stoves. Realizing that I never actually wear all of the clothing I carry, I will make a few reductions there. I returned from the 6-day trip with too much leftover lunch/snack food, so there is room for some reductions in food weight. I’m going to go through my first-aid and repair kits, which have ballooned over the past couple years, and cut them back down to size. I’ll leave the book at home. I’ll repackage things like sunscreen and bug repellant into smaller containers.

And, with luck, maybe I can get the pack weight down to what it was before I added the camera gear…


August 1, 2007 - Posted by | Environment, Technique

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