I am what you might call a “comfy camper”. It’s just a theory, but I think the ground is harder, the air colder and the rain wetter than when I was a teenager. My husband has another theory, but I think I must have tuned him out at some point because for the life of me I can’t remember what he said after the word “old”… Apparently there is a correlation between my increasing age and my increasing pack size. It might have something to do with bringing a bigger and thicker sleeping pad, folding chair, pillow, gourmet food…
Anyway, contrary to the tide that has seen me creating an ever chummier relationship with creature comforts, this is a year that will see me attempting some more technical trips. My family will be going on not one, but two journeys this summer that will require me to rediscover my lighter side. We’re talking about an advanced seven day hike along the Coastal Trail in Pukaskwa National Park AND a three week canoe trip cutting the entire of Algonquin Provincial Park from north to south. When I was younger I brought what I pleased on trips. Luckily it pleased me to bring far less than my current self. After years of casual canoe tripping, I’ve been spoiled by the fact that I can bring pretty much anything as long as I (or lately my kids) am willing to carry it on the portages.
Being so far removed from a time when I measured my necessities by the ounce, I am very much out of practice. It feels like I’m relearning the game with a whole new set of players and rules. I mean, titanium pot sets and cutlery, headlamps the size of toonies, folding chopsticks? They’re so small, I’m almost afraid that they will become needles in a haystack if I were to drop them in some brush! Don’t get me wrong; these are by no means complaints about modern gear, but rather wide-eyed amazement at all of the advances. I am thrilled to set up a compliment of gear for the times when my trusty regulars just won’t make the cut. When every piece is one more that you will be piggybacking for days or weeks on end, they better be earning their keep!
So yes, smaller and lighter are great attributes, but my favourite word right now is versatile, like ponchos that double as tarps. It’s all about taking what you need, making what you bring work for multiple applications, and cutting out the fat. The problem is that I like fat. No, I love fat. I can’t force an ultra-light diet down my throat, but I am staring down the inevitability of one free of folding chairs and corn on the cob and full of silicone impregnated tarps and micro-stoves. To top it all off, I can throw all of my shiny new toys into a multi-day pack that weighs in at about 2kg! It’s a whole new world out there, and thankfully it looks like it’s going to be a comfortable one that won’t break my back.
So for all of you hardcore, ultra-light veterans… do you have any tips for a convert looking to lighten the load without sacrificing on comfort? I’ve got the general idea, but I’d sure love to hear from those in the know. I’m staring the down the barrel of a couple of very long and demanding treks and I’ll have miles to go before I sleep.