What’s Ultralight All About, Anyway?
As I have been talking to many other backpackers from all walks and styles, I have run up against this question a few times now. Okay so the question most often is “How did you get your pack so light?!” But the root of how I did it is what UL is all about. I thought I’d take a post off from my JMT prep and just talk about why I chose to be an ultralight backpacker and the philosophy behind the whole movement.
A Change of Necessity
Looking back at my very first post, my reasoning for going UL are pretty much the same now as it was then; I just can’t enjoy myself with that much weight on my back. More than that, I want to be able to pick up my pack and head out into the wild places when I’m 60 or even 70 and I know that if I take 40-50 lbs now, I won’t be able to do it then. I know my body and I know myself and for me it’s a necessity to go light. Beyond that, it has been really amazing and empowering to learn skills that allow me to leave some things behind. After going UL, I just don’t understand why someone would take more weight if they didn’t have to and I’d be lying if I didn’t also admit that getting all nerdy about gear is a lot of fun for me. 🙂
Take Knowledge, Not Gear
I don’t know where I first heard that phrase or who even told it to me, but it has been the root of everything I’ve done in backpacking for a while now. I take a quilt instead of a sleeping bag because I know that putting insulation underneath me and then flattening it with my body weight doesn’t add anything to my night and adds pointless weight to my back. I take a tarp instead of a tent because I know how to optimize the natural protection of the wilderness I’m in and the best ways to set up a tarp to protect me from whatever I might encounter. I also know how to read the sky during my trip and a weather report ahead of time to get a complete picture of what I might be in store for each night. I don’t take a GPS because I work really hard to keep my map and compass skills sharp. I test and try out my clothing in all kinds of situations so I can know with absolute certainty what I can leave at home and what really has to be in my pack. Because of all the knowledge I have gained, I am more confident and self reliant not just when I’m out in the woods but in every area of my life. I’ve gotten to do things I would have never had the guts to do if I hadn’t found that strength and confidence in myself. For me this is the heart of what it means to be an ultralight backpacker.
There it is. It’s as simple as that for me.