Thursday, July 19, 2012

Elk Crossing and backpacking ultra-lightweight

Like my previous backpack at 5.5 lbs empty
What does lightweight backpacking mean to you?  Hopefully it means a much lighter load on your back and ease of overland travel.  For me, it means I can actually now carry a backpack again.  It has been years since I hiked on a multi-day trip with a backpack when I lived in Colorado.  It was my second backpacking trip there to the Flat Tops wilderness area with a friend.  We encountered fairly heavy snowfall late in the season and attempted to backpack a loop trip in it.  We didn't get more than 5-6 miles from the car and reached a creek that was overflowing.  We couldn't cross it or continue the trip.  We walked back from the creek and pitched the tent in what became "Elk Crossing".  After dinner we lay in our sleeping bags and listened to all the elks bugle, for hours.  When morning came, the area was full of elk track crossings just outside our tent.  Hunting season would start on Monday and this was the Saturday before, so we figured the elk were enjoying one last "fling" before hiding in the woods for the next several weeks.  Those are the things you miss by not backpacking.
The main thing was I couldn't continue with the pack on, it was a struggle just to get back to the car, and my friend Owen even packed the tent.  That huge backpack and tent are now gone and since then I have day-hiked, until my son joined a Boy Scout troop and we began "car camping" at Florida state parks.  On our few backpacking trips during Scouting I used a day pack and a one-person tent.  It was painful because the pack couldn't carry the weight of my old sleeping bag and pad, plus the stove, cook gear and toiletries.  BSA camping was a group event and I still really enjoyed being out (I slept great!).
Like my REI Flash 18
So my reason for lightweight backpacking is just to get out "there".  To follow a trail until sunset, to get up and hike again the next morning and the next.  To eat and sleep outdoors and to enjoy the views and the peace.  And to be able to do this much later in life.  At a base weight of 10 pounds,  a pack weight around 25 pounds is "carry able" by me, even up to an occasional "through-hike 35 pound-er".
This winter, I purchased an REI Flash 18 day pack, a Platypus 2-liter hydration bladder and an Esbit mini-stove to seriously reduce my day hike weight.  My wife pitched in with a Snow Peak 700 titanium cooking pot at Christmas (very nice).  I added the ten essentials and recently a Marmot Precip rain jacket (on sale) this spring.  I generally hike about half a day locally on trails a quick drive away and am back home nightly.  I used to pack for an accidental overnight using a poncho and my hiking poles, but am planning to change to a lightweight bivy to save weight.
The problem with living in Florida is the heat during the summer and the daily thunderstorms, not to mention the bugs.  That cycle has been underway since late May with no breaks until October.  I will only get out a few times to actually hike over the next 3-4 months.  Once October/November arrive, we can start discussing camping out locally.
My daughter's REI Flash 18
In the meantime I ride my bicycle weekly on the local rail trails, and walk for exercise early in the mornings before work.
I recently bought a new version of the Flash 18 pack and Platypus hydration bladder for my daughter for college graduation.  Now she can hike with me locally on her days off and we can enjoy some of the outdoors together.  We will cover the trails mentioned in this blog and she may even grace a picture or two along the way.

1 comment:

  1. This is very interesting. A lot of thoughts to be learned from this blog. Thanks for posting.

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