Why is Lightweight Hiking such a big deal?Under Construction
The internet is full of pages detailing lightweight hiking and how to get there, so I won't rehash their arguments...I'll just give my philosophy on the topic. Basically, packweight is like a continuum - the more you carry, the more comfortable you are in camp...but the harder it is to hike. And the less you carry, the more comfortable you are on the trail...but the fewer comforts you have in camp. It's hard to have both - so folks look for ways to lighten up their packs while keeping an acceptable amount of camp comfort. And if done correctly, it's not difficult to lighten a pack and still be just as comfortable in camp...i.e. if you choose your gear carefully, you can cut a 50 pound pack down to 30 pounds with no difference in camp comfort. Some folks get down to sub-4 pound base weights...great to know it can be done, and great if that fits your hiking style.
Personally, I find no difference in comfort on the trail if I'm carrying a 15 pound pack or a 25 pound pack. So I got my base weight down pretty low just to see if I could, then started adding stuff back until it's around 10 pounds...that means I have everything I want for a trip (minus food, water, fuel) for 10 pounds, so I have up to 15 pounds of luxuries - fresh fruit, a book, etc.
So while lightweight hiking is about reducing packweight to a more comfortable level, I don't consider it an end in itself - just a way to enjoy my hikes more. Reality explained this well in his Comfortweight thread on PracticalBackpackingForums:
I define the term Comfortweight™ as the weight an individual backpacker is comfortable carrying and using - having made a compromise between comfort and weight.
The philosophy that surrounds this is not as regimented as other classifications (e.g. ultralight). For example, comfortweight does not have any absolute numbers (weight) assigned to it. Because what is comfortable for one, may not be for another. What is a burden for one, may be a walk in the park (wilderness) for another.
Comfortweight™ is ultimately defined by the individual. A backpacker may carry 50 pounds or 5 pounds and still be considered a Comfortweight™ backpacker - provided the backpacker is comfortable with what he or she is carrying.
How do I save weight?Under Construction
What are the Big Three?Under Construction (Pack, Bag, Shelter)
Why use a quilt?
|Quilts vs. Tradition|
|"Without tradition, our lives would be as shaky as...the fiddler on the roof"
Traditionally, hikers have used sleeping bags to keep warm at night, a tried and true method of staying comfortable. However, several sources including myself have begun to question Why. There are two types of insulations that man has developed: loft and radiation. Either there must be dead air space as in loft or there must be reflection as in radiation. Due to the importance of breathability of a sleeping bag/quilt, using radiation to a significant degree would be avoided in order to maintain maximum loft and vapor transfer. The first type of insulation, dead air space, is what is used in sleeping bags and in most insulation found today here on Earth. It works on the principle of tiny particles trapping heat produced by a generator (i.e. your body) and keeping them warm by discouraging convection (air movement). If convection takes place, warmth will be lost. Therefore, the particles/fibers that fill the space must be very fine to prevent convection altogether. The wider the dead air space you have, the warmer it will be. Likewise, the thinner the dead air space you have, the less good it does you. Therefore, it could be said that your sleeping bag/quilt must have a certain amount of fluffiness to keep you warm at a certain temperature. When you lie on the bottom part of your sleeping bag, all of the insulation under the body is crushed and is therefore no longer useful insulation (It should be said at this point that heat rises). Since you already use a sleeping pad, and they were made first for insulation from the ground and second for comfort, trends leaning towards lighterweight gear would seem to suggest that chopping off the bottom of your sleeping bag would save you a good deal of weight at no loss of function. Although this is a crude generalization, and there are compromises on each side of the argument, using a quilt instead of a bag in conditions that permit will save a hiker a significant amount of weight and bulk in the pack.
On the other side of lightweight hikingLightweight hiking isn't an end in itself...it's just another way to enjoy your time outdoors. Some people don't like lightweight hiking because it prevents them from enjoying their time outdoors. Read Mountain Gazzette's "Cargo Cults" for a very good look at "the other side"...