Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Who Is the Lightest of Them All?

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Lately I have been observing an increase in "competitive" thinking in the ultralight community. The aim is to show of what kind of super-extra-über-ultralight-backpacker one is, doing trips with a full skin-out weight of less than three kilogram and what-not. It seems the focus of some is going more and more on the gear instead of the outdoors.

While SUL/ XUL gearlists, like this one from Adventure Alan or this one from Laufbursche, are a great feat and show what is possible, I personally feel that in these kind of undertakings the focus is more on gear used instead of the landscape, skills and experience. Sure, they are part of the whole, but in the end you're likely just reading about "tarp performed as expected, quilt could go lighter, could take less fuel, etc." instead of how wonderful the flora and fauna was, how funny it was that most other walkers thought you'd be a on a day trip, and how relaxing it was watching the sun set over the lake. Gear obsessiveness ftw?

Another factor which disqualifies the majority of those gear centric trips for me is that the majority of such undertakings are taken on a lush summer weekend, where the weather forecast is excellent, and one stays on well maintained trails. I find the "Oh my me, look at with how less I can go out!" celebrations, well, questionable. If the counter-argument is "But I do have the skills, and cherish the experience in the outdoors!" then I question why one doesn't read about them more? It's about views of the nature, and in those one doesn't need to try to squeeze in a shot of the pitched tarp or whatever at every opportunity; and not every paragraph needs to read like you're a gear junkie.

Personally I feel might fine carrying five kilograms for a weekend trip, being warm, comfortable, and knowing that I'm safe if shit hits the fan. I don't see myself wearing the running tights which are being so de rigueur in some circles, they're fine for trailrunning, but on trail I prefer my Arc'teryx Palisade Pants or BPL Thorofare and I can hit the Café after a trip in style. And while cuben is a mighty fine material, Spinnaker or Silnylon do the job just as well for a fraction of the price. Going light is fine. But don't make it a competition, where gear is number one.

In the end what counts for me is to go out, have a good time, be light, and comfortable, but let the gear be gear and concentrate on the surroundings and the experience in it. Because if it's the gear that counts, then one might as well go walking on a threadmill in a fitness centre.

Go out. Be light. But don't be blinded by gear.

edit 20.01.2011: Please read the comments, a great discussion going on there with a multitude of points of view.

To clarify my position a bit:

- I like gear
- I like ultralight gear
- I don't look down on SUL/ XUL folks, heaven forbid
- I think the focus shouldn't be only on gear (lots of great opinions on that in the comments)
- I think there shouldn't be a too competitive spirit and snobbery in our community
- Buy quality once instead of rubbish twice

Hope that helps. Everyone is free to what he likes, if ultraheavy traditional 30 kg backpacks are your thing, or 2 kg FSO strikes your fancy, be my guest. I am not judging anyone =)