Ultralight Isn’t Always Ultra-Right
(Note: I’m so proud of myself for this title).
Happy weekend! You made it. Hopefully many of you are already out on the trails, enjoying a much needed long weekend (and maybe a few blisters too). Personally, I did my usual “I didn’t bother to plan ahead for the holiday weekend thing,” so I’m taking the opportunity to spend this lovely weekend working on an exciting and unrelated-to-the-outdoors freelance project (maybe I’ll tell you about it someday). I know we technically have a few more weeks of summer, but it’s starting to really feel like fall here in Oregon. It’s no longer 102 degrees (that was weird), and we’ve had almost an entire week of cloudy cool weather. I’ve worn a vest. I’ve drank tea. It’s been wonderful. While the pacific northwest is still generally on fire, we’ve even had some snow already in the higher elevations. Really exciting!
Later this week, I have a possible trip planned to a still yet unknown location (I guess I should figure that out). As I start to gather my gear, for anything from a climb of Mt. Saint Helens (if we can snag some prized permits) to a chill few days at a lake, I’ve been thinking a lot about the fluidity of my gear system. In light of this, and since I seem to love talking about and obsessing about gear, I thought I’d write a post this beautiful Saturday morning about the general evolution of my gear system (and philosophy?).
Here’s where I’m basically at these days: After spending several years really enjoying the challenge of having a sub 10 pound base weight (or, everything you carry NOT including food, water and fuel) for every trip, I’ve finally found that sweet spot, where the weight of my pack is well balanced with my other trip goals. Sure, I’ve spent time hacking different things off my pack to see how light I could go, and I’ve also generally ascribed to the practice of pushing myself to see how little I really needed while in the backcountry (i.e no extra clothes, bare minimum of gear needed for safety). It’s been a wonderfully fun, but sometimes very uncomfortable experience of learning what I personally need to balance being ultralight while also making the most of every trip, whether that being doing big mile days or spending more time at camp.
Here’s what I’ve learned: Your gear choice is completely dependent on what you’re doing, and what your “style” is. What do I mean by this? I very rarely carry the same gear from trip to trip, because every adventure has different goals, different companions, and different conditions (which is why I always post my gear lists from trips, because as you can see, it changes). The question of “what stove do you use” is totally dependent on the combination of all these factors. For example, on a recent trip, I brought a hammock in addition to a tent, because I knew we’d be operating out of a base camp, and you know what? It was awesome.
I think what I’m getting at, is that being COMFORTABLE is just as important as being critical in your gear selection. It’s okay to want to be comfortable, because sometimes those extra luxuries add to the enjoyment of getting out in the first place (i.e my hammock). Furthermore, this goes both ways in the weight department. Sometimes adding a few ounces to your ultralight setup tips the scale in the right direction, whereas other times, you’ll need to lighten up. Added to this is the fact that every person has a very different idea of what he or she needs to have a comfortable experience. I’m sure this seems obvious, but for some reason, I think it’s sometimes important to remind myself that there’s a lot I can do to maximize the enjoyment of any trip.
It’s all a balance, and as you can tell, I think half the fun is figuring out how to reach that sweet spot.
Enjoy the WEEKEND! I guess I’ll get back to my other project now…