Backpacking, it's called. Nothing more. Somehow, there is the notion that others take a shelter like us, food and the like and achieve more. Yet they see no better views, find no more of the joy that is to be had from the outdoors. The weight of your kit doesn't change the landscape. I am of course referring to those who profess to go Ultra Light. The pursuit of an identity in backpacking for the sake of claiming some stupid pre-defined base weight as the goal rather than seeking the real aim - to go outdoors.
I am so sick of the stupid label, tag, and to be honest arrogant bollocks that comes from the Ultra Light community. There is an old saying that the emptiest vessels make the most noise.
It is noticeable that the ones banging on about how Ultra Light backpacking is superior to all others seem to do very little in terms of actual backpacking and are the ones who do an overnight in the woods and odd three day trip at best. Less talk and more walk, comes to mind.
So when I read (and yes I am about to say excellent post by Dave C on his BLOG ) this: "Increasingly I agree with Martin Rye: it is time for ultralight as identity politics to die"
So I decided to say a bit on this matter and lay out my position.
It's backpacking and nothing more! You decide the kit you need and attempt to undertake your journey. The starting point for your kit aims is the geographical and meteorological need, and not a defined base weight to stroke an ego and say look at me. Just go backpacking.
Dave also bothered to read my comments on my Bye Bye Backpacking Light POST. I didn't have a go at light kit. Yet some got upset about it and assumed that I was knocking light kit. - the identity blanket that they cling to. Let's recap some comments I made:
"Light kit is here to stay as people (me included) will buy it. But sense needs to be the message and skills for the hills. Light kit is great. But kit that meets the trip aims and delivers for that is the key."
"Why we take kit is more than weight. Yes, light kit helps. But a shelter that won't blow away in a gale is essential. Somehow those who evangelise UL at all costs miss."
I did not slate light kit. I use light kit. But the truth is that kit is a means to an end. The end is to go outdoors and enjoy it (well for me it is). Not to identify as some UL elitist who somehow does more than others. When in fact they seem to do less, more times than not, after reading some trip reports.
Andrew Skurka has, for me, helped to kill the UL identity, by drawing attention to the simple truth:
Andrew Skurka July 2012
Some have that said this post by Skurka was not about Ul as a movement. Maybe it wasn't. Only he ultimately knows. But the truth is that not taking the gear and supplies that was necessary given the conditions was 'stupid'. The notion of baseweight as classified by the definition of UL is the wrong starting point - it is self-defeating and complete nonsense - take the kit you need, focus on that, and not some artificial baseweight limit.
The UL identity of obsessing over a baseweight limit as an aim and assuming that some light bit of kit will meet all outdoor conditions, needs and wants is wrong. The point Skurka made is take the gear needed. I'd say don't just take whatever meets some pre-defined weight limit so that you can give yourself an UL badge, and hang on to some elitist identity of UL as somehow superior.
Of course we need to understand how good a bit of kit is before we decide to use it, let alone have the skills to use it. Talking kit is a normal backpacking community pass time.
Engaging with people is part of joining in the backpacking community, with sharing views, analysing of and discussing the merits of kit. UL simply has divided that by its elitist approach and for me prevented others from looking at how they could lighten the pack weight they have and still be able to meet the real priority of taking the kit they need for the conditions - functional, durable and as light as possible - but not just the lightest alone in order to tick some box.
Kit choice is also subject to the conditions. Norway, Scotland, east coast of the USA all differ. The starting point is not the same. So having an aim of some set baseweight for those places and assuming that your cuben kit and superlight rucksack is ideal anyplace is self defeating, as the conditions could soon defeat you.
Then there are the skills that the UL community make a lot of. Does the person who is carrying the big pack and wearing boots lack skills? Get over yourself please. Share skills and tips, but don't assume you're somehow better than others. I have met too many old boys with years of amazing wilderness travel who have skills in abundance, and have been there and done it. Yet they still have a big rucksack and wear boots. Again the problem with the UL identity thing is the assumption that they have skills others don't. Has the thought crossed their minds that the old boys in boots could teach them a thing or two?
Skills shared, knowledge shared; lead by example, show others how you did it and many will be saying, I can do that. In the end we are all backpackers. Nothing complicated, not some deeper form of wilderness travel.
Let's get more excited about a trip report than a kit list. Let's be focused on getting fitter, more skilled and planning for those trips to come, rather than on some UL evangelist message.
UL as an identity, as an aim, rather than to be able to enjoy the outdoors, and as a concept needs to die.