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Comfortable Backpacking


Camping with a Tarp


The Comfort Continuum

Last month, I ran a series of articles written by section hiker readers about their gear choices and how they’ve evolved over time. I’ve received very positive feedback from many of you about those posts. On a more personal note, I was gratified to see how many of you took this opportunity to weigh your gear and create a gear list for the first time as well as the feedback everyone gave an each others’ posts. Building a tolerant and supportive community around section hiker is important to me and it was exciting for me to sit back while I was prepping for Scotland and have you collectively drive the blog for a while.

Looking back, I think the series of posts were very effective in demonstrating the benefits carrying lightweight backpacking gear, the importance of having a gear list that still provides you with creature comforts, and how people’s experience with comfort evolves over time. These themes were repeated in dozens of conversation I had with backpackers in Scotland on the TGO Challenge.

The fact is, I still like my creature comforts when I’m out backpacking. I like to bring a comfortable air mattress, some extra camera gear, a good paperback, a plush animal friend, a digital voice recorder, and good food to eat. I can get away with bringing these little extras, and still keep my base gear weight under 14 lbs, because I’m careful about the weight, bulk and multi-purpose utility of the other gear I carry.

But my concept of comfort has definitely evolved over the past few years, as I’ve experimented with new gear and learned new skills. For example:

  1. I’ve switched from hiking boots to trail runners
  2. I’ve switched from pump based water purification to ultralight chlorine dioxide tablets
  3. I’ve switched from tarp-tents to tarps

So building on those themes: comfort vs. weight trade-offs, the benefits of lightweight backpacking, and the evolution of your definition of comfort, here are few excerpts from your submissions (linked to their original posts)  that resonated with me and that I wanted to call out. If you haven’t had a chance to read the entire series, it’s worth going back and having a browse.

Comfort vs. Weight Trade-offs

Benefits of Lightweight Backpacking

The Evolution of What’s Comfortable

Tarptent - Squall 2

Smarts Mountain, April 2008, New Hampshire AT

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  1. Have you tried a gravity filter?

  2. yes. Pain in the butt. I will still use a pump filter, but only when the weather is cooler and chemicals take too long to react.

  3. I just got a Steripen Journey, the neck fits right into a soda bottle. It seems perfect for long day hikes and several night trips. The water is ready in a minute! I am thinking of still using Aqua Mira for longer trips (doing the Colorado Trail late this summer)so I don't have to deal with batteries. I still carry Aqua Mira as a backup.

  4. A plush animal friend? That's cute.

  5. Glad to see someone was reading. :-)

    Surprisingly, I've found many backpackers who carry one with them. Be sure to check out my post tomorrow..the last picture..to see the one I carried across Scotland. One of these days, I will reveal why I started doing this.

  6. I’m with you on the trail running shoes. They’re easier and more comfortable to get around camp with as well.

  7. Agree – there's no point in carrying crocs anymore because trail runners are already soft and cool.

  8. Great summary of why to go lightweight. I find it an evolving process as well. Still overpack a bit (usually an extra pair of socks or something like that). One of my favorite stunts when teaching scouts and scout leaders (who tend to seriously overpack) is to pass them my loaded pack with a one handed throw, and then let them see that I'm just as comfortable as they are, if not more so!

  9. I'm already visualizing your plush animal friend distracting an angry grizzly while you climb a tree.

    Hope you don't get too attached.

  10. We are very attached. I'd give my life for that guy. Luckily there are no grizzlies around here.

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