Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ultra-light Backpacking for Beginners

Now that the sappy inspirational post is out of the way and my blog is looking all sorts of good, LET'S GET DOWN TO BUSINESS.

If you are already familiar with the basics of Ultra-light Backpacking, now would be the time to stop reading and look for entertainment elsewhere on my blog.(Maybe the video of me doing a workout with my nephew)

Ultra-light Backpacking is a fairly new style of backpacking that combines the use of high- tech light-weight materials and the old saying that less is more to drastically reduce the weight of a hikers pack. Reducing the weight of a pack comes with obvious advantages of being able to hike longer and faster. This is very important for thru-hikers like me who are on a tight schedule and really need to tear down the miles. 

There is an arbitrary number system that defines the difference between Ultra, Light and normal backpacking. Ultra-light backpacking is commonly associated with a base pack weight(no food, fuel, or water) of less then 10 pounds while a normal recreational backpacker base pack weight would be closer to 20-30lbs. 

To achieve such a light pack, the Ultra-light Wanna-Be must do 3 things.

1) Be willing to say good-bye to your old trusty and heavy gear, especially your tent with aluminum poles and your back-pack with a million pockets, and straps. Also your sleeping pad is probably too heavy and your sleeping bag as well. Cook set? what cook set. 

My trusty old and heavy set-up
REI Passage 2p and Gregory Baltoro 65L weighed 10lbs alone!
2) Be willing to spend some cash. Ultra-light backpacking is not inherently more expensive then normal backpacking but if your looking to feel the same comforts as normal backpacking you will have to spend allot to get the ultra-light version of that gear. For instance my old REI Passage 2-p tent clocks in at a whopping 4.5lbs but only cost me $125. The tent I will be using for the PCT is a custom made cuben fiber 2person tent that only ways 20oz but costs a jaw dropping $575. Luckily a friend split the cost with me hence the 2 person.

3) Be willing to leave stuff at home. Ultra-light backpacking is all about pushing your self to find a balance of minimalism and comfort. Can you still enjoy the hike without that extra pair of socks or underwear? Can you still find a will to live without a hot dinner? Do you need to carry a six inch buoy Knife just in case? 
The most common thing people bring too much of on the PCT is cook-ware and clothes. The goal of my gear preparation is to need exactly what I bring and nothing more or less. 

My complete gear list for the PCT'14 is coming soon. It looks like my base pack weight will be around 8lbs!!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Start with Gratitude

Yesterday, halfway into an 8 mile run (with a 20lb pack) I cried for the first time in years; a full-blown tears streaming down my face, snot-dripping sort of cry. I am faulted with pride, and like many young men I spent my childhood learning to suppress my more vulnerable emotions making it very hard for me to cry today. In the past year, I have experienced intense loneliness and heartbreak, but the feelings never translated to tears even when I wanted them to.

In 4 weeks from today, I will attempt to speed-hike the entire 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from Mexico to Canada. My goal is to average 25 miles a day for over 100 days so I can complete the trail in time to go back to school in August.

 I also suffer from a rare genetic skin disease that makes my skin extremely sensitive to the sun, unable to sweat efficiently, and very uncomfortable and unattractive without showers and applications of heavy lotion. My skin disease acts in direct opposition of my passion for hiking and getting immersed in wilderness; I don’t let it stop me. I have created a fundraising page to help me raise money to pay for supplies and to raise funds to support Ichthyosis research and awareness (my skin disease). The support so far has been overwhelming.

The reason I cried yesterday is the immense gratitude I feel to those who are supporting me on this journey. Hiking the PCT at any pace without a skin disease is a monumental accomplishment and takes a huge amount of support from friends, family, and strangers alike. Although, I have not started the hike I already feel a web of support and love that I never expected.

 A heart full of gratitude is a wind at your back and no matter how hot the dessert or how tall the mountains I will not stop because with each step there is someone behind me pushing me to go further. I don’t think I will ever deserve or be able to pay back all of the gifts I have been given, but I will start with gratitude.