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Going Ultra light: Why do it and What Does it Mean?

In the outdoor equipment world the trend over the last number of years has been towards fast and light. An overnight backpack, consisting of all of the gear that you may need to cook food, set up your tent and maintain a decent level of comfort, used to weigh upwards of 50 pounds and fill a 60-70L backpack, however that is no longer the case. Equipment and clothing for outdoor pursuits has continually gotten both lighter and smaller and the quest for absolute zero weight and size seems to be the holy grail of equipment design. There are now tents that weigh less than one pound and can sleep two people comfortably. A camping sleeping pad that was classically strapped to the top of your pack and was both cumbersome and heavy, now is the size of an average bottle of water and one-quarter of its previous weight.

With the advent of better gear some people have taken it upon themselves to see just what the limitations of adventure are with this newfound advantage over historical norms. Speed records on most established trails and large alpine summits have been shattered by ultra-lighters and this has simply helped to fuel the trend. Ultra light equipment enthusiasts, or ultra-lighters, have quickly proliferated the backcountry and are leading the demand for an even more aggressive equipment development race. Some people might scoff at the person striding past them on the west coast trail wearing nothing but spandex and a mesh vest and stuffing energy gel into their mouth to keep from collapsing, however this may just be the future of hiking.

I must admit that I was one of the scoffers who rolled my eyes at things like cutting a toothbrush in half to save weight, however my tune has begun to change as I have taken a closer look at the ultralight idea. Why do we carry more weight than we have to? And is it totally necessary to cook a hot meal while camping or is the trade off of eight or nine less pounds in your pack worth it to simply eat granola bars on your next outing. These are the ideas that I began to explore and I surprised myself with the conclusions that I came to.

There is an overwhelming amount of research that, not-surprisingly, points to the idea that the less weight that we load ourselves down with, the fewer injuries we will sustain, as well as the faster and farther we will be able to go. So, if you’re wanting to invest in some lightweight equipment to go into the great outdoors with then take a look at REI to see what they have to offer! You could even wait for them to have a clearance of their stock to save yourself money while you update your gear. Without compromising an undue amount of comfort, enjoyment and safety, the next time you set out on the trail maybe try shaving your weight down and taking the bare minimum in equipment and clothing; you never know you might just like it. Perhaps you too will call yourself an ultra-lighter before the summer is finished.

– Sam Waddington – Owner of Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors : Equipping you for Rock, Water, Snow, Sand, Wind and anything else the Outdoors can throw at you!

Published in The Chilliwack Progress “Alive Outside” – August 15th 2013

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