Here recently as I prepare my gear for the 2012 winter season, and starting to plan for the 2013 hiking season, one of the issues that I have been facing is that of the overall bulk of my gear. A few years back when I broke the 10 pound BPW and I sold off my three beloved ULA backpacks because they were all too big for my needs at the time, I took myself down a path that lead to me buying gear that was less bulky. As somebody who has always been an advocate that you buy your backpack based on the bulk (cubic inches) of your gear, this is one of those many decisions I made that helped me down the quest to go lighter and lighter, but also resulted in the (at the time) unforeseeable consequence of some day needing to carry more gear for longer hikes in a myriad of conditions.
In this article I want to do yet another article on “Application Hiking”, with my first being my article on “Pocketless hiking” – which was an article to get people to think about their backpacks and the importance of the gear that they carry – and by no means an article to try to convert hikers to going pocketless. It has been my desire to write more about the day to day life of a long distance hiker, rather than just writing gear reviews. In this second article on application hiking I want to address the issue of when I have personally made decisions to carry larger and heavier gear, over lighter weight and smaller gear. This might not make sense to those who know me as a sul/xul hiker, but as much as I enjoy helping others learn about what there is to learn as a sul/xul hiker, I enjoy just as much talking about heavier weight gear when it serves a greater purpose. There has been a lot of discussion on the internet as of late about weight classifications and I have stay quite about it. Reason being, the vast majority of it I fully agree with. As I hopefully make clear (or try to at least) on my “how I define base pack weight” article, the focus and goal needs to be about self-education and experience, not about grams and ounces. The quest to have a lighter backpack is always a good thing – doing so without the necessary levels of experience and education is something I absolutely do not believe in. That is, and will hopefully continue to be, why I write about application hiking and why I will continue to stress that experience on the trail leads to education, and education is what will hopefully keep you from getting yourself into a situation that no hiker should have to face. This self-education includes learning when carrying something that is so small, and so light, that it potentially puts you at risk when you need that piece of gear to actually perform.
I want to use the following three pieces of gear as an example: