It’s one of the first utterances we hear as we enter the world: ’6 lbs. 4 oz’. Or, in the case of my son, Jason, ’9 lbs!’ Rejoicing to have that chunky monkey off my bladder was sweet and no small miracle. Now, 26 years later, I seem to be reliving the preoccupation of how much ‘extra’ weight I’m purposely putting on my body.
The life of a backpacker extends the concept of weight to almost obsessive proportions as the never-ending quest for the lightest hike possible churns on in our hearts and souls, day and night.
Charles Lindbergh was so dedicated to the subtraction of weight that in preparation for his solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris in 1927, he went so far as to cut his maps down to include only those reference points he would need and wrote notes between the lines of his journal to save the weight of extra paper. Every ounce mattered.
Likewise, to an ultralight backpacker it seems as if ‘Lucky Lindy’ was not so crazy. Putting your entire world on your back for any length of time is certainly a challenge (and insane behavior to many) but one that offers the ability to wend through forests, mountain tops and valleys with a freedom and joy only known by the long-distance hiker.
Researching gear for a thru-hike is like the ultimate lesson in ‘less is more’. Sleeping bags with ultra small zipper pulls, sawing off the handle of your toothbrush, taking the cardboard tube out of your toilet paper roll and cutting the tags out of your clothing are methods I’ve come across while learning the ‘ropes’ of ultralight backpacking. And when I say ‘rope’, I mean 50 ft. of 3mm Zing-It paracord that weighs .5 oz, of course.
I’ve always been a big fan of not accumulating a lot of ‘stuff’ to make things easier in my life but I’m still learning that our emotional backpack can deter the joys in our lives as well. Doing a ‘shakedown’ of our packs can help shed those unwanted and often unnecessary items. Carrying a backpack too heavy can cause plenty of problems:
* Slow, tedious hiking
* Exhaustion, irritability, and low spirits on the trail
* Increased chance of injury–sore back, sprained ankles, blown knees, sore muscles, bruised and blistered feet, sore hips and shoulders.
* Increased risk of poor foot placement and falls.
* The need for heavy boots (to support heavy loads)
* Tired, angry people who make bad decisions, sometimes with serious consequences
* Long hiking times that mean less time for the fun stuff
* Exhaustion upon arrival at camp for the night
Putting this in the context of life’s journey can make all the difference. A cardinal rule of backpacking is that if you carry the weight of your pack on your shoulders, there’s a problem. Instead, get a proper-fitting pack that puts the weight on your hips where the weight is appropriately distributed for easier mobility and a more enjoyable hike.
So, as they say: Lighten Up! Put that weight were it belongs and hike on!
The journey is too fine to make it more difficult than it is.