The tent, sleeping bag and backpack, are the major items carried by a through hiker. There are various arguments to consider, with balance for each individual, being the most important. Ray Jardine the rock climber popularized ultralight backpacking in a 1992 Hikers handbook later retitled Beyond backpacking, the foundation for what was to follow. Grandma Gatewood, was aged 67, when she became the first woman to hike the entire 2050 miles of the Appalachian Trail alone in 1955. A mother of 11 and grandmother of 23, she survived more than 30 years of marriage to a brutal man who beat her repeatedly.
It’s been said, that the media coverage of her hike, led to the restoration of the trail, inspiring a new generation of hikers. The reporters thought they were talking to a widow, as that’s how she described herself. They didn’t know the awful truth, so couldn’t describe, what we now know, as domestic violence. This begs the question, was she walking towards something, or walking away? She carried a blanket and a plastic shower curtain to protect herself from the elements. She had no sleeping bag or tent, but relied on the hospitality of strangers and her own resourcefulness.
Circumstances dictate most things in our lives, most people today, would not choose to set off on a hike with extremely little preparation. In 2017 we have a plethora of choice, with designers making better tents and equipment giving consumers a greater choice. Modern tents, began to take shape around the 1960’s, pegs were introduced to stake the tent down, and new lightweight metal poles began replacing wooden frames. The 1970’s, saw a boom in interest in backpacking which has led to a linear progress towards the equipment we can choose today. This hike and seeker has his own way of organizing things, weight is important, but I’m not obsessional about it.
My tent of choice.
My tent of choice is the Wilderness equipment space 1 person lightweight tent with an inner tent for warmer weather, or just the fly as shelter, or combined. By inverting the walking poles to become part of the framework, weighs 1.53 kilos and has stood up to many high winds. This tent, already has lots of memories, setting it up in the garden numerous times, more than I would care to mention, with much laughter ensuing. I read somewhere you can never get your tent up and down fast enough in a strong wind or rain, the laughter was worth it. The tent, felt safe, snug and almost womb like, this may be pushing the boundaries, but that’s how it felt. My wife said that it looked like I was sleeping in a coffin, so who knows.
As more people began to enjoy the benefits of hiking in nature, tent makers saw the need for season and activity specific tents. Generally as weight decreases, the skill to use a shelter safely increases. There are many alternatives for weather protection, single layer hybrids, hammocks, poncho-tarps or a bivouac sack configuration. A lightweight enclosed tent, works for me on many levels. The space 1 is a four season tent so its very adaptable to what ever season you find yourself in. The inner layer for warm weather, the outer layer, for wet weather protection. I have always combined the two, because it suited the conditions at the time.
I have a thermarest neoair ultralight hiking mattress. A bag can be attached to the inflation toggle, to inflate and be used as a carry bag. I have used this as a laundry bag when camping out for longer periods. To top off my sleeping arrangements, I have a Mont Prolite 300 sleeping bag, this is down filled, another personal choice. The use of down as an insulation material, is lighter by volume, than currently available synthetic fibers. The argument between down and synthetic goes on. Moisture causes loft loss in down, my choice is down, it’s lighter and condenses better for packing away. If getting it damp is a problem, then don’t.
It neatly teams up with the thermarest mattress as it has no down on the bottom and Velcro straps that pass around the thermarest, to hold it in place. I have my backpack outside the inner tent but protected by the outer fly sheet, which becomes my organized storage area. Easily reached by unzipping the inner tent door without having to leave my sleeping bag on a cold night.
Looking at this from my own perspective, I have a sense of the “tool box” effect, I can’t remember the countless hours that went into researching all my equipment, it could be a male thing, to have an organized tool box. Grandma Gatewood, set off with nothing, by todays standards, I can’t imagine many hikers wanting to put themselves in that position now. We can still have less, but better quality and embrace the absolute minimum like Grandma, but have our credit card in our pocket just in case.