The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

November 3, 2013

Light load is key to a good hike

A one-pound item doesn’t weigh much. “A pint’s a pound, the world around,” right?

But if you’re carrying that pound on your back, up and down mountains, it can feel like an anvil.

I’m getting ready to hike 95 miles on the Appalachian Trail, from Boiling Springs, Pa., to Harpers Ferry, W.Va. This time, I’m examining every item in my pack and eliminating every ounce I can.

A 45-pound load, which many backpackers carry, can make you feel like a sweating, panting beast of burden. It’s tiring, painful, and sometimes dangerous.

By cutting the pack weight to, say, 30 pounds, you can cover more miles and actually enjoy the experience. I carried a fairly heavy pack across 110 miles of Virginia mountains a year ago, so I have been focusing more on lightening up.

This time, before I put anything in the pack, I am hefting it, studying it, and deciding whether I can safely get by without it.

— The pack. I had been using an internal frame pack, with big, cushiony shoulder straps and a thick, soft waist belt. It was comfortable, but heavy. I have reverted to my circa-1970 Kelty pack, with an external frame made of thin, lightweight aluminum tubing. That shaves three pounds, at least.

—Water filter. It weighs more than a pound, so I’m leaving it. I plan to drink from springs and use iodine tablets to treat anything else. There are lots of springs in this section, so I should be fine. Drinking straight from a cold mountain spring is one of the sweetest parts of backpacking, anyway.

— Alcohol stove. I found a site online that showed how to make a simple alcohol stove from a Fancy Feast cat food can. I made one and it works. My new stove weighs less than 1/3 of an ounce. I also ditched part of my cook kit.

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