Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Everywhere you turn, people are trying to shed weight on hikes or longer backpacking trips. As an awesome website Backpacking Light says "Pack Less. Be More". Erik The Black has a great rundown of the various clothes that he uses, all calibrated by weight. In general, I agree with the ultralight philosophy. Why carry more weight when you have to, what could possibly be the benefit?
Despite all the moves to ultralight backpacking for gear, clothing and other items, I believe there are areas where "hiking heavy" can actually benefit you. I know, I know, I sound like I have been hitting the trail beers a bit too heavy in suggesting that hiking heavy is a good thing but hear me out. Sometimes weight can be a good thing.
1) Example 1, Water Bottles
Camelbacks. A great innovations with one water bladder that saves on weight and with the filtration system, you can keep doing your activities without stopping to unscrew water bottles. However, I think heavier water bottles are a good thing and that the weight is worth it. Why? Because having water bottles MAKES you stop. Exercise is great for heart rate but often your heart is going way to fast when you do inclines and you need to rest and get the rate down to a more relaxed level. Stopping, taking off the pack, unscrewing the water top, these things give you time to chill out and get that heart rate down. That, plus water bottles allow you to carry more, since the bladders typically carry "only" 100oz.
2) Example 2, Fleece Me.
I am pretty practical when it comes to clothing. Nylon pants that are "convertible" to shorts? Check. Shirts that are 4 seasons? Check. However, one thing that adds weight but I still carry with me is fleece. Whether it is a vest or a full pullover, I make sure I have it with me and shoulder the weight. Why? If you start early in the morning like I do, it is cold. Until you warm up, you probably need it. Once you get to the summit, it is usually windy and you are still sweating but cooling down, not a great situation. You need the fleece on the summit to help prevent hypothermia. If, for some reason, you get lost and it is getting on toward nighttime, you are going to need it to survive, even here in SoCal. Fleece might be ounces that you never use but you will be glad to have it if you ever need it.
3) Example 3, Boots
Everyone I see nowadays have trail runners. They are lightweight and mesh-y so they are breathable. I wear boots. Lightweight boots but boots nonetheless. I see a lot of people with trailrunners slipping on boulders and uneven ground on the trail. Not so many people slipping in boots or if they do, the results are not so dire because of ankle support. Now, people like Tom Managan point out that the difference in support between boots and trail runners is mostly an illusion. However, I will take an illusion of support every time. The mind is a funny thing and if thinks it is more secure, you probably will be. Besides, unless you get the full leather upper "tanks" boots are pretty lightweight and overall won't make the weight too much of a factor.
4) Example 4, Pack Rope
At the bottom of my pack is always about 50 feet of climbing rope. Even when hiking out in the desert where water is essential, I have rope. Why? Most hikes here in SoCal, there is some boulder scrambling and you never know if someone takes a tumble, you might need it. Also, have you watched "127 Hours"? If that doesn't give you a good sense of why you need rope when things go wrong, nothing will. File it under a "better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it" category. Plus, you always need rope if you are backpacking/camping for tarps, hammocks, bear bags, etc. Rope is dope, don't be a mope!
These are just some items that have lightweight components but you really might be better off taking on the weight for the various reasons stated above. Save weight where you can? Of course! Just think about some side benefits on packing a few hiking pounds on iz allz.