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The UltaMid Brings All the Friends to the Yard

Words & Photo by Bethany “Fidgit” Hughes 

We knew that our UltaMid could get us out to the wild places. We had thru hiked Patagonia with it, walking the lonely gaucho paths and the packed national parks alike. It had weathered many a storm and survived plenty of tumbles. The Greater Patagonian Trail was generally a solitary trail. So, the last thing I expected was that pitching our tent would begin new relationships.

A few years ago, walking into Torres del Paine in Chile’s Patagonia region, we were more than a little overwhelmed. The massif was truly beautiful, but what caught us by surprise were the crowds. Visitors came by bus and boatload, and where our route connected to “the W” and “the O” circuits, we spent a fair amount of our days sidestepping people slogging past with their heads hung while wearing packs larger than their torsos. Most conversations were spent explaining why and how our packs were so small, and assuring park guards that we did, in fact, have everything we needed to hike safely. In these mandated and pre-booked campsites, we were surrounded by more backpackers than we had seen in months, and yet, I felt more alone than ever before.

We were pitching our tent in one of the corner sites one evening when Jan and Resa came over. They were curious about the headroom and vestibule space of the UltaMid. We began chatting, and clearly, they were experienced in the concept of lightweight travel. Seeing the size of their packs the next day assured me of this. Bonding over our affinity for efficiency, we quickly became friends, and spent a happy day winding along between wildflowers and the following day after that, climbed to the bowl of the Torres for sunrise. Since then we have followed one another’s hiking, climbing, and skiing escapades, and all of us have shared our stories on Boldly Went.  

The second example was on my birthday-eve, three years ago. We had hiked out from Parque Nacional Patagonia and Reserva General Carrera into the town of Chile Chico. Camped in a town campground and waiting for the ferry the next morning, there was no one around. Except a man noted in my journals as “Kitten Dylan” – so titled because a kitten took up permanent residence in his lap as we shared a bottle of birthday wine that evening.

He had stridden directly over to our site when he saw us pitching the UltaMid, and we immediately got to talking gear and adventures. Over dinner, he proudly showed us the Windrider pack he has been using for five years of international adventuring. Among many other journeys, he put it through a 40-day bushwhacking trip in Canada and still carries it with gusto. He was one of the first genuinely mindful travelers I ever met, talking about his desire to reduce his footprint on this earth by traveling light and investing in and maintaining gear that will last, rather than having to replace it every year. 

I still think of him every time I am wading through thorny heathers, butt-scooting down a scree field, or shoving my pack between lines of barbed wire fence. Durability and sustainability are what I seek both in equipment and relationships. After four years of fringe adventuring, I am most grateful that our gear has introduced us to a small and conscientious group of travelers.

Bethany "Fidgit" Hughes is one half of the Her Odyssey team that is currently in the middle of a walking and boating trip across the Americas. Find out more about on the Her Odyssey website.

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