December 12, 2019
Chasing Ten with Huw Oliver (Scottish Edition)
How long have you been going light?
I don’t think I’ve ever been a fan of carrying more than I need to! I have vivid memories of a hiking trip when I was four or five, and my dad shouldered a big pack with the tent, stove, all the food, and me carrying my wee school bag with a little bit of stuff. I remember being overawed at how anyone could take all that stuff! These days, most of my adventures are by bike, which pushes you toward a lightweight ethos to a) physically fit all your gear on to the bike and b) make sure that your bike is still enjoyable to ride. In the past five or six years, I feel like I’ve gotten to a point where I’m pleased with my base gear and never worry too much about what I’ll need for a given location or season. For around the same amount of time, my partner Annie and I have been living primarily out of our vans in the Scottish Highlands, so packing light really applies to work and play.
What’s the base weight of your pack before adding consumables like food and fuel?
Well, this was an interesting exercise for me as I never really weighed my gear and had no idea of the weight beforehand. It seems like my summer base weight is around 5kg or 11lb, assuming I can’t share any equipment with a partner, and 6kg/13lb in winter. Generally, I research gear heavily before committing to spending my hard-earned cash on it, but once I’ve got it, I don’t fret about the weight since it’s no longer up for debate.
Beyond the “The Ten” items, what other kinds of gear do you make room for, and why?
The first luxury I’ll pack is a small book or a Kindle; I love having something to read in the evening. Often a book becomes more vivid if it’s read in a certain setting. For example, I read Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams while on a backcountry trip in Greenland and reading a fantastic book about those places while actually living in them day to day has cemented it as my favorite book of all time. After that, my favorite thing to bring is extra food–a little treat to look forward to at the end of the day like a bar of chocolate to share or some good cheese.
Are you currently forgoing any of the ten pieces? Why?
We’re pretty lucky in the Scottish Highlands in that we have no shortage of water and rarely need to filter or purify it. A little local knowledge comes in handy to know when things are likely to be safe or not, but it’s rare that I carry a filter. When I do, it’s just a simple Katadyn BeFree that screws into the top of a bladder. Long day rides or bikepacking trips can be made with a single 750ml bottle that gets refilled whenever needed. There have to be some perks to our climate! However, due to the rain, bogs, and biting midges, I pretty much always carry a shelter with a floor. I dream of just pitching a ‘Mid outer and traveling lighter here, but to do so would be to court death by blood loss or drowning.
What has achieving this low base weight done for your trips outdoors? How has it impacted the way you travel?
Lowering the amount of gear that I’m carrying allows me to look up and look around more. My attentional focus can move away from me and out towards the place that I’m in and experiencing, and that’s a huge shift in how I feel when I’m on a trip. Before trying a Porter, I had never really found a pack that I could wear all day without hating it, but that has also coincided with getting to a point where I know what I’m going to pack and what that weight is going to feel like. Aside from simply enjoying travel more, lowering base weight has also enabled more ambitious plans to be a reality: 10+ day stretches without resupply add challenges from a packing perspective, but they reward you with more freedom to chase lines on the map.