Philosophy – ULB Style
I’ve been thinking a lot about something that occurred to me as I was reading Ray Jardine’s page recently. It’s a thought that feels like it has been forgotten by quite a few people that I run into in the forum world. The theme I saw running throughout Ray’s pages seemed to be that going ultralight is not about ounce counting your gear to death, and it’s not about how much you spent or the prestige of buying certain name brands or staying away from the box stores of the backpacking world (aka REI) at all costs. It is all about enjoying your journey as much as your destination, and being warm and well fed as well as safe along the way. It is, dare I say, the goal we all started with when we started our journey to ultralight backpacking. But it is very easy to forget the reason we started with in the first place. I have found myself guilty of worrying more about the ounces than the item I’m looking at and I think it’s something we all get caught up in from time to time.
I sat down recently and decided to compare the things I have to the things I want and as I started to compare, I realized just how much I had been ready and willing to spend to what ended up being less than a pound of savings in weight! It was truly eye opening. There are ways to save weight and those ways can be great and worthwhile, but it’s actually something Henry Shire said on a forum in response to why he hadn’t used Cuben Fiber in his tarptents, that hit home for me about where we draw that line. He said that it’s not just how much it weighs, the weight to cost ratio matters just as much, maybe even a little more. It got me thinking, is it really worth it to spend $100 dollars more to save 3-5 ounces? When does 3-5 ounces turn into 3-5 pounds? Where do we compromise and where do we just pull the trigger and spend a little more? These are questions I thought I could get the answer to by searching all over the net and someone out there somewhere would tell me the “right” answer. The truth is no one had my answer, because no one can tell a person what they are willing to sacrifice on and what they need to be happy. All anyone can do is ask, will you be miserable if you get out there and don’t have “blank”.
In my sitting down and comparing my “had” to “had not” lists I found something else that was really bothering me. I got my long johns at REI and I got the REI brand ones mostly because they fit were soft and comfortable, I felt like they would keep me just as warm and were the same weight as the more expensive brands, (and on my trip in April they did that very well) and they were on clearance. That is the point of any long john, so why did I feel like I had an inferior product? Is it because they are inferior? I don’t feel like they are, in fact I love my long johns and they work really well for me. But they’re not Patagonia and every time I turn around I find another backpacker that went with Patagonia. Nothing wrong with going with Patagonia, but there is also nothing wrong with REI. It’s just a matter of choice. It’s a simple and maybe even silly example but I find brand names start to matter more than they should. Even in something as anti-mainstream as UL Backpacking, we get caught up in having certain products. Granted most of the time it is because these products work best, but next time you go to buy a UL product you might try just stopping and thinking, is this really going to fit my needs better than any other product out there or what I already have and is it going to work with my current system? If you already ask this, that’s great! I personally find myself drooling over a new product and pulling out my calculator to try and fit it in my budget before I realize I’m trying to buy something I don’t need and won’t even work with the stuff I already have. So now I’m wanting to buy something that will mean I have to change my whole system that was already working for me just because that something has more prestige than the thing I already have. Thankfully I have Richard who always asks, why do we need that?
So that sums up what I’ve been thinking about lately…