Large external frame backpacks protruded over their heads. Bungee cords lashed to them a frying pan, heavy foam sleeping pads and an extra daypack. A bulky backpacking shower, full books, and eggs, bacon and hash browns added to the unwieldy load.
This is how backpacking used to look for parents, Nancy and Cleve Schenck, back in the ’70s and early ’80s, before I was a twinkle in their eyes – and, for that matter, even once I became part of their outdoor adventures.
“Packs used to not have sternum straps, so we’d jerry rig the sternum straps,” my mom reminisced.
Back then, my mom and dad managed to make it work, hiking into remote and breathtaking backcountry destinations, many of which in later decades would become “discovered.”
But now in their 60s, they’ve changed their approach, adopting a lightweight mindset, mostly out of necessity.
“It’s made the difference between being able to backpack or not, that’s the bottom line,” my mom said. Going lightweight prevents back, shoulder and neck injuries and also allows them to sleep comfortably when they arrive at their destination “because our bodies feel good,” my mom said.
“My days of carrying 60 pound packs are over,” my dad said. “Every year the pack gets heavier, even though there’s less weight in it.”
My mom’s pack weight is now down to 23 pounds and my dad carries between 30 and 35 pounds.
Today my parents are cheerleaders for companies that make lightweight equipment, like Hyperlite Mountain Gear, but it’s been a transition that’s come with some resistance. My dad clung to his 11-pound, all-season, four-man tent for years, even after my brother and I had moved out of the house. It wasn’t until the tent fly was in threads from having been water proofed so many times that he finally upgraded to a technical 4-pound tent.
And when I first suggested to my dad that he try out my Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider backpack, he showed little interest. It took my mom’s raving about it, to get him to put it on. But only a few weeks after he tried it, he was buying his own for an upcoming trip to the Dolomites in Italy.
“The thing about the Hyperlite that struck me, it’s nice that it’s lightweight, but it’s really comfortable,” my dad said.
My mom echoed this with:
“It has everything you need and nothing more. I feel more secure on more challenging trails, especially when there is some exposure, because I feel like the pack is fitting so well that it’s not throwing my body weight around.”
Amy Hatch is an ambassador for Hyperlite Mountain Gear. She’s also the founder of two companies: Jackson Hole Packraft & Packraft Rentals Anywhere (www.jhpackraft.com) and Garage Grown Gear (www.garagegrowngear.com).