My Backpack, My Shrink

Hiking down the trail into Big Dominguez Canyon, I reached the stream at the point where it flows over slickrock, creating a smooth, bobsled-like trough through the buff-colored sandstone. The temperature was already heating up, erasing memories of the early morning frost, which coated my sleeping bag when I woke up at my tent-less campsite several hours earlier. At the stream, I filled my water bottle and admired the tarnished red rock cliffs that make up the unique geology of the Colorado Plateau.

Winter Packrafting

Winter Packrafting, Bear Trap Canyon, Madison River, MT

I'm working on a comprehensive piece about packrafting techniques for "winter" conditions (water temperatures near freezing, air temperatures below freezing), and as I test and refine these techniques, a few things stand out:

1. Everything that gets wet will freeze at night. Wearing damp clothes to bed, or storing them "in bed" are essential strategies, but they tax the sleep system severely. If there was ever a place for a fat synthetic quilt, winter packrafting is it!

Skills, Knowledge :: Gear, Process

Daniel's insightful post about the tenkara method of fly fishing certainly reflects what many ultralight backpackers believe as well - the more knowledge and skills that you have, the less you need in the backcountry.

But not often discussed is the fact that an increase in skills and knowledge can lead to an increase in the complexity of your processes. It requires some bit of intentionality to harness that knowledge into a reduction and simplification of process.

The More You Know, The Less You Need

The first time I read the phrase “The more you know, the less you need”, it was attributed to Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. A Patagonia employee was wearing a t-shirt with the quote during a tenkara class I was teaching in Japan. A couple of months later I met Yvon in person, he admitted the quote was a favorite of his but it was probably from someone else, Thoreau he guessed. Some quick online research indicates it is often recognized as an “aboriginal saying” (aboriginal = native born).

Ultralight Living at Home

Ultralight hiking is a practice of making a very deliberate selection of equipment with priority given to weight, performance, volume and multiple use, and only those items that will actually be used are taken. The typical approach is to make a spreadsheet and list every item and the weight and simply add them up. Broad categories are pack and accessories, sleeping gear, shelter, clothing, cooking gear, food, hydration and water purification, navigation, and emergency essentials. Each item is evaluated for maximum performance, weight, and multiple uses. For example, a bandanna can be used for washcloth, towel, pot grabber, water filter, hat, or first aid.

Simpler Photography

This subject opens up cans of worms and futile debates amongst the backcountry faithful as much as guns, alky stoves, and leave less trace.

But if you're anything other than (e.g., more than, or perhaps even less than) a casual photographer, it's a subject worth considering.

Pack Less, See More (Hiking Without a Camera)

One thing lightweight philosophy taught me, as I spent more and more time scrutinizing ounces, was to evaluate the role of a camera. I remember writing, in my first concerted gear list, that I felt a camera critical to my full enjoyment of my trip. What I meant was that I liked the process of seeing beauty, framing a shot, balancing light and subject. I liked to sit at home, months after a trip, and regain a sense of the experience as I flipped through images.