Getting Started: Balance and Strategy

Lakeland Wildcamp

Tarp Wild Camp in the Lake District

Before we get into the minutiae of gear and technique anyone wanting to explore the lightweight work will benefit from a bit of planning and self assessment. Where you go — and in which direction you might advised to look — very much depends on your own aims and ambitions. What do I mean by this?

Well, if you are primarily focussed on day walks — or maybe the of two or three days hike using youth hostels — you will gain some benefit from lighter-weight gear but this will be marginal. If you are a day hiker then carrying a little too much weight will not be critical. But, if you head out onto a trails for three or four days then you will soon notice a difference.

 

My focus on lightening my pack load came following a trip to the High Pyrenees many years ago now. I was day walking from campsites. Moving to a new base every three days or so. I had my main pack — a solid and heavy Osprey pack — and a lighter pack to carry during the day. Towards the end of maytime I looked at the maps and decided I would take he GR10 footpath for a couple of days to change locations. As soon as I started to climb serious gradients I realised my mistake. My big pack that was quite stable on flat-ish terrain became a major problem on this terrain. It is safe to say that I hated every moment of that walk. I remember throwing the pack down at my last campsite and vowing never again. As soon as I got home I started researching different options. My friend and walking companion Bob Cartwright at backpacking light.co.uk and the Outdoors Station had a similar epiphany after completing his first TGO Challenge with an over-the-top pack weight.

Research 

Researching the lightening of your pack weight today is very easy as we have the internet. But the internet is fraught with problems.

Much of the online resource is focussed on USA trail walking. There’s nothing wrong with this but the conditions can be very different from those found in the UK and Northern Europe. Walking on long trails often means that the big packs like my Osprey and more stable and effective than they are in hills with indistinct paths. So. focussing on guidance that is local your own hiking characteristics can be important.

Another problem, is frankly, social media and online reviews in general. I know a number of people who are trying to this responsibly but it helps to dig deep. There is a tendency for people to come evangelical about their own gear, particularly if they have paid a lot of money for it. There are others I know who produce youtube videos of shelters that always seem to be pitched in the same field which — at least  suggests they are not properly field tested. 

Today, manufacturers of many products in many fields have settled into a new business model. They understand the power of YouTube and happily despatch ‘test’ products to anyone who will have them. The resulting reviews might be useful but someone evaluating 10 stoves in their back garden needs thinking about. Do you know whether they had been used in the field? Similar, tents are major investments. The use of the tents inquisition — and the content of the review— is probably important.

So, to start with it is best to insulate yourself from the pressure of fashion!

The same can be said about old school media. For years companies have been flying out journalists and bloggers to places like the Alps to test their latest gear. Some of these results can be valid but — epistle invitations — I have always avoided these like the plague. I’m not sure how valid my views are if I’ve spent two or three nights being wined and dined by some outdoor manufacturer or another.

II will mention journalists and reviewers in these pages but only where I am confident that they know what they are talking about and — critically — where you can easily make that judgement yourself. For example, TGO Gear Editor Chris Townsend has years of experience behind him, not only of testing gear but also of tackling long distance trails and writing about his trips. Chris’ reviews in TGO magazine are very insightful and can be relied on.  He also compliments this with his own blog which carries a lot of information about the gear that he has been using over a period of time. It is people like Chris that I shall draw on.

 

Long Term Process v. The Big Bang

For the majority of us going lightweight is a gradual process, not least as that is what our bank balance allows!

There may be a  number of approaches to lightening your load but a lot of the will be personal and will depend on the kit you already have, what you like and are happy with and what is naturally coming to the end of it”s life.

So, before we start getting into the ins and outs of packs, shelters and the like the next piece in this series will focus on the two things that i thing are indispensable for anyone wanting to move towards lightweight hiking and backpacking.

You might be surprised!

Comments

  1. John hee says

    Got the interest piqued Andy. Bring it on

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