There was a time, before the advent of cuben fabric, when going ultralight or lightweight backpacking meant taking less stuff on trips and on developing your backcountry skills to make up for the smaller safety margin. The simplicity of the activity was its greatest appeal for me, providing a welcome relief from a high stress, high interrupt, high tech career.
But I feel like those days are being replaced by a manufacturing arms race to create the lightest gear. Instead of maintaining simplicity, we now have the ability to fill out our gear lists with all kinds of electronic gadgets and luxury items that would have been unthinkable additions, before cuben.
At first the change was subtle, but as I started slashing my gear weight with cuben-based alternatives, I started carrying more stuff on trips, not less. First it was a cell phone; then a personal locator beacon; a GPS next, and so on. The miracle of cuben fabric let me add more and more luxury items to my pack, because overall, my gear weight was still decreasing.
Technologically, the advances we’ve seen in fabrics are exciting. But I fear that we are losing sight of the simplicity that embracing an ultralight or lightweight backpacking philosophy brings. I’m not suggesting that we turn back the tide of technological or product innovation, but I pray we don’t forget the spiritual reasons for going light. It’s not just about weight.
What you you think?