Drop the Weight of the World

Camp overnight or camp all week. We've got the gear to let you go fast and light under blue skies or gray.

Apr 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

FORGET EVERYTHING YOU KNOW about backpacking. Think hiking. Hiking is about movement, not accoutrement. Off you go with a daypack, so unencumbered you're practically skipping. Now imagine being that lighthearted and light-footed, but spending several nights out. To do it, you just need to know your comfort boundaries. I used to fastpack with a madman who carried practically nothing. He could sleep like a baby on a slab of granite. He hiked naked through a snowstorm singing "Marching to Pretoria" (I was an eyewitness). He ate gelatinous mac-and-cheese and cold cocoa and half a PBJ mashed together in a cup, grinning. He took all forms of suffering as good fun.

Most of us are not so masochistic, of course, but the lesson is clear—forsaking some amenities pays off in freedom. Since there's no point in escaping the materialistic burden of everyday life by replacing it with the crushing burden of a beastly pack, you simply must cut weight.
There are two ways to do it: First, don't carry certain items. Do you really need hot meals? Nah. Forsake the stove, fuel, and kitchenry. Eat Baby Ruths for breakfast, bagels for lunch, buffalo jerky and dried apricots for dinner. Ditch the trekking poles, the ice ax that you never use, and all the great-white-hunter nonsense like Bowie knives and bulky multitools with saw blades. As for the Game Boy, fat paperback, and leatherbound diary, forget them. Try being where you are while you're there.

Carry ultralight versions of all essentials. Scrap the heavy hiking boots; wear the sneakers. Instead of a medical kit, carry some ibuprofen and duct tape. A bottle of iodine tablets instead of a water filter.

Of course, if it snows or sleets and you've gone too light, you'll have an unnecessarily brutal thrash and end up hypothermic in a ditch. So beware! There are two categories of going light: fair-weather and foul-weather. Before you skip off for the hills, check the forecast and grab the gear that suits the conditions—but nothing more.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Need a Gear Fix?

Open email. Get latest gear. Repeat.

Thank you!