On Tuesday I drove down to the Boston area (fleeing all that nasty weather) to join Earlylite/Sectionhiker/Phil’s presentation on Lightweight hiking at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s headquarters. He had invited me to help with the presentation about a month earlier, when I thought I would be on the trail constantly through this month. I’m glad I accepted, not just because I had been rained out of the trip I’d already been on, but because it was a really fun experience.
The talk went like this: Phil started out with a half-hour or so of a slide show introducing the concepts of lightweight backpacking. There was an audience of about 50 or so people, and they all seemed very interested, which is a good way to start out. It also helps that Phil can handle an audience very well. I think he’s had some practice with this public speaking stuff. After the slide show, Phil, Mary (another of his hiking friends), and I each set up at a table with our packs, emptied them out, and showed off our gear and answered questions from the audience in an up-close and hands-on format. Grant Sible from Gossamer Gear had also brought some of his things to show to the audience, letting them try on an ultralight backpack to see how it felt to go light.
Phil says most of it in his blog post about the presentation. I’ll just add two little things that I thought were really fantastic. Two of the many people who had lots of great questions to ask me about my pack really stood out in my mind. One was a lady who had never backpacked before, and was going to start out with a lightweight gear list. I thought that was great because most people seem to come to lightweight backpacking from the perspective of already having done the traditional heavy backpacking (I did). My bet is that a perspective that is unclouded by the old ways would get off to a great start with lightweight packing. Imagine how great it will be when most people come into lightweight backpacking without the mental clutter of the old ways already in their mind. Maybe the phrase “lightweight” will no longer be needed with “backpacking” because that’s just normal. Then we would have to specify “heavy” packing for what seems to be the norm now.
The other person that stood out for me at the Q&A session was a man who, twenty or so years earlier, had damaged his spine and been told by his doctor that he would never be able to go backpacking again (I’m sure I’m getting the details a little wrong here, but that was the gist of it). “But I go backcountry skiing with a seventeen-pound pack all the time,” he said. “So I don’t see why I couldn’t backpack with an ultralight pack.” I hope it goes well for him, because that would be an amazing victory over the odds. Imagine your doctor telling you’d never be able to do something again, but then being able to do it again just by changing the way you do it. What better reason to hike light?
Along with the presentation, it was pretty great to meet Phil in person, and to learn a bit from him about how he manages his blog, his hikes, and his very impressive lifestyle (he semi-retired, sort of, recently, to devote more of his time to the good things in life, like hiking and living at his own speed. I like that idea). I hope to run into him more often in the future, either hiking or if I can attend any more of his talks.
Back to hiking now. More stories to follow!