When delving in to the world of long distance hiking, you almost immediately encounter endless gear lists and a near religious obsession with pack weight. I get it. If you are going to carry something for any significant distance, it makes good sense to have everything deliver value exceeding its weight (and the space necessary to bring it along). Some things are non-negotiable like backpack, sleeping bag, and shelter aka The Big Three.
As a Boy Scout in the late 1970s, enormous, external frame packs reigned were de rigueur and while some attention was paid to weight, ‘Be Prepared’ often translated into bulky, heavy packs. Fast forwarding to more recent times, pack frames went internal and most all equipment became smaller and lighter. Even so, my ‘old school’ mentality resulted in trips up Mt Rainier and elsewhere lugging 60+ pound loads even while appearing more streamlined. That I looked better doing it did not necessarily mean it was any easier.
Confronting the challenge of thru-hiking the PCT, it seems prudent to rethink my approach. Being mistaken for a day hiker with a tiny pack appears to be the ultimate form of flattery for the new breed ‘ultralight’ hiker. These folks worry their loads down to fractions of ounces and often compare their lists with others online. A ‘pack teardown’ is when one hiker critiques the gear choices made by another hiker with the goal of reducing to the smallest and lightest load possible.
I must admit I got caught up a bit in the mania and have published a preliminary gear list. Indeed, there’s an app for that too. I am not much interested in measuring and comparing ‘pack’ size but I am all about gear choices that serve as efficiently as possible. Let me tell you, outdoor gear has come a long way since my days as a Boy Scout. I pulled out all my existing gear and almost to an item, technology and design has improved.
If you peruse my list, you can see that I’m not necessarily solving for smallest and lightest. It’s more like smallest and lightest that will make the hike not just bearable but also enjoyable. I am trying to get my base weight – all equipment but no food or water- down to under 20 pounds. For those who know me well won’t be surprised to find camera and electronics make up a significant percentage of clearly extraneous pack weight. What can I say? I like my gadgets and I want to use what I can to share my adventure with others. I’ll carry it and you will benefit. Good deal no?