Lighten Your Load Today
Over the past 15-20 years, significant changes have occurred in the philosophies and approaches to outdoor adventuring. Pioneers have questioned tradition and tested boundaries with resulting improvements in every aspect of their sport. And today the evolution continues as outdoor enthusiasts push themselves to new limits, both in the field and in the design room, developing and discovering new methodologies, new technologies, and new and improved products.
Initiated by distance hikers, backpackers and climbers, lightweight and ultralight refer to a recent and growing trend in outdoor adventuring in which participants carry less weight than traditionally accepted. Lightweight and ultralight are philosophies and comprehensive methodologies which lead to a more simplistic approach to sporting. By analyzing every necessity and maximizing the efficiency of it, participants have reduced their base pack weights by more than half when adventuring in the wilderness.
Hikers and backpackers, for example, traditionally carried packs that were one-third of their body weight, or 50-70 lbs. Today it is generally accepted that lightweight hikers carry less than 20 lbs of base pack weight making them more efficient and more skillful athletes while simultaneously allowing them to reduce barriers and more closely interact with Nature. Lightweight athletes go faster and farther with more agility, versatility and enjoyment.
The growing ultralight philosophy takes lightweight to the next level in its evolution as participants carry base pack weights under 10 lbs. And more recently, a new super-ultralight philosophy has emerged for participants carrying less than 5 lbs. of gear, excluding food, water & fuel.
Essentially, going light means doing more with less!
In the early 1990s, in an attempt to push boundaries and productivity, hikers, backpackers and climbers began to reevaluate the way in which they approached their sports. These early pioneers of the lightweight philosophy started minimizing their needs and maximizing their efficiency by looking at every piece of gear they used and asking the questions: Do we need it? Can we make it better? Can we make it lighter?
They initially analyzed their heaviest equipment – referred to as the big three: shelters, sleeping systems and backpacks. Loads were lightened by switching from tents to tarp shelters, which were more versatile and efficient when used skillfully. Sleeping systems were lightened with advancements in materials technology, such as the use of cuben fiber. And big, heavy packs were no longer necessary as total packed weight was decreasing. Cooking systems were simplified, hiking boots were replaced with trail runners, and eventually all non-essentials were eliminated. Early on, these pioneers had to make their own gear as there was no ultralight gear available on the market, and they quickly discovered how much faster and farther they could move in the backcountry. They had more agility and energy, and without necessarily knowing it, they were in the process of revolutionizing the approach to hiking, backpacking and climbing.
Lighter packs, lighter shelters, lighter sleeping bags, lighter stoves, lighter shoes and lighter clothes all meant decreased weight, less expended energy, less required food, and thus, even lighter and lighter pack loads. Ultimately, the lightweight revolution was like a snowball rolling uphill as participants traded weight for skill and intelligence to become increasingly efficient at what they were doing.
And most importantly…everything that was being learned was shared. Through word-of-mouth on the trails, as well as publications by some of the earliest pioneers, knowledge spread about this change in philosophy and this revolutionizing new approach to outdoor adventuring.
And today, the evolution continues!
Going light is a rapidly growing trend in outdoor adventuring. Initially led by distance hikers, backpackers and climbers, it is now catching on for mountaineering, cycling, kayaking, weekend hiking, camping and canoeing. Why carry unnecessarily heavy loads when safe, more efficient alternatives exist? By researching lightweight and ultralight gear alternatives, athletes are learning they can do more and perform better by working smarter, not harder.
Going light is not about sacrificing safety or every last bit of comfort. Nor is it about achieving specific weight standards. Going light is about getting smarter. Going light is about getting simpler. Going light is about gaining skill and efficiency by safely minimizing your essentials and replacing inappropriate gear.
Lightweight is right for everyone! Regardless of your sport, it makes sense to research and take full advantage of the latest ultralight technologies and methodologies available you – there are benefits! And lightening your load is a benefit that will increase your efficiency, your performance and your enjoyment, given that it is done safely and at a level appropriate for your skill and ability.