Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Who Is the Lightest of Them All?

| Comments

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 =)

The Week in Review


News & Various:

Devin from the boilerworks went to visit the shop where the Backcountry Boiler is being made.

If you're a ham-fisted klutz or cloth-headed nincompoops, stay away from Mark's MYOG video for an alcohol stove.

Grizzly Adam wrote a very instructive "How To: Backcountry Ski" Guide, here is Part One and Part Two.

In that same vein but for more flat and rolling terrain, I introduced the skis, bindings and boots I'm using for my backcountry cross country skiing.

Robin made a ULA Ohm Mod worth checking out.

Chris Wallace started a new blog under a new domain, OutdoorsWith.Me. Go have a look, say hello and update your RSS feed.

Gustav recommends you go out and try making a quinzhee and I totally agree with him. Tomas on the other hand prefers Igloos.

Johan from Nordic Bushcraft discloses some information on being comfortably in the cold.

Planning to walk in the hills and mountains? An ice axe is a useful tool to have, and here's a REI Guide on how to choose an ice axe.

The year started with an interview of Jotaro Yoshida, the owner of LOCUS GEAR. Learn where Jotaro takes his inspiration from when designing his gear, and what his philosophy is.

Brawny elaborates on How Much Money one needs to hike a Long Trail, while Ryan explains Through-Hike Resupply Planning. Mandatory reading for all thru-hikers to be.

Joe elaborates on running.

Jon shares the Photo Tip of the Year. You take photos? Read this tip.

Patrick asks "What do you get from a Walk?"

Nick has some photos from Tuesday's Partial Solar Eclipse up on his blog.

Carsten calls out for the UL Community 2010 Awards.

Phil writes about the Joy of Standardised Connectors. I wish I could share his joy (Do you read that, Apple et al.?).

Mr. Howell writes about The Human Race and its Stewardship of the Environment. Call yourself an outdoorsy person? Read this.

Nick calls out the "No More Gear Year". Are you on board?

Solar Eclipse 014

Trip Reports:

Miguel wrote a stunning post, accompanied by serene photos. Cold Dry Wind is a recommended read.

Ben walked the Appalachian trail in 2010. His photos from this epic journey are some of the finest from the AT, and you should most definitely check them out.

Another top-notch trip report is from Eugene's hike in the White Mountain Wilderness.

Alberto went for a freeriding session in the Dolomites. Gorgeous.

John shares a snowy desert scene with us. It is stunning.

Jim had a New Year's day after Hike.

Joshua hiked to Ka'iwa Ridge to watch the sun rise.

Kurt and Jadder went the Rennsteig in Winter. Beautiful German winter scenary.

Dan and Meena present Chapter 6 of The Nepal Chronicles.

Alex went for an ascent of Stob Coire nan Lochan.

Joseph found The Glow on the way to work on a sunny November morning.

Peter and Toni went for the first bikepacking overnighter of 2011.

Fraser went Snowshoeing in the Ochils.

Kicking the shit off his shoes is Peter.

Solar Eclipse 010

Fear of the Gear:

Andy reviews the Amazon Kindle 3.

Mr. ULG takes a look (and a video) at the Titanium Goat Vortex Cylinder Stove.

Damien shares with us his first impressions of the Altra Adam minimalist shoes.

Mr. Turner likes to play it save, and hence carries an Adventure Medical Kit. Check out his review on three different kits - and yes, there's an UL version available!

Roger shares his observations on gear which he used on his last winter trip. Planning to go winter camping? Then have a look.

New Spot Connect - Turn Smartphones into Personal Satellite Communicators.

Grannygear has some new bikepacking gear: A 'Layered' Shelter approach.

Dave explains awesome underquilt attachment to hammocks.

Izzy wrote a very in-depth article on Pocket Knives (for Kids): When, How To Introduce & What Kind.