View Full Version : my philosophy

2005-03-01, 19:01
Being new here, I thought I should share with you my personal thoughts and ideas on hiking. Comment as you like. I am a tough cookie and can take positive and negative feedback.

I am from Northern Canada and over the last few years in particular my hiking and canoing has progressed to more and more remote areas. There is a special feeling you get when you complete a course that you can be certain fewer than 50 people may have done, or may ever do in your lifetime. Canada is great for this ... we have allllot of wide open space with nobody around.
No cities, no towns, no roads, no signs of the man-made world. ahhhh home.

I know this is a luxury not afforded by many of you Americans. But I will give you this. Your trails are nonetheless awesome! So much better maintained than ours, well laid out, and interconnected. I realize that with these great features also comes some of your biggest complaints. Garbage and litter problems arise due to high volumes of people on these trails. I have seen only a little of these problems as I have only hiked outside Canada in Michigan, Ohio and Florida.

So what Kind of Hiker am I?

Well I call myself a lightweight, though to look at any of my gear you might call me an extreme ultralight. This is not true. But my "Base Gear" provides a convincing illusion at just over 5 lbs. The truth is I never carry less than a 30 to 40 lb pack. So where does all the weight come from? Why my food and drink of course!
I carry 30-40 lbs because that is what I am comfortable carrying allday and everyday. My hiking and canoing time is also my vacation time. I have precious little vacation days so I like to fill them with small luxuries.
I eat extremely well on the trail. Meats, cheeses, a brigade of condiments and seasonings, various beverage options, and of course lots of alcohol. (Most of this in the form of fine Irish Whiskey). You would be amazed at how much 25 lbs of food amounts to when your base gear weighs so little!

There is nothing more rewarding than sitting around a good fire after a long day on the trail and having a good Irish coffee .. or two .. or three.

Here in Canada we still hike by an old moral code. It dates back to the time of the French Voyageurs. If you meet a hiker in the woods (and this is truly a rare occurance), you are expected to exchange gifts. This goes right back to the 1700's and the great fur trade. Even today we acknowledge this ancient tradition, though it has obscured greatly. Today if you meet some fellow hikers on the trail, you usually stop for a spell, exchange weather and trail conditions, share a snack or a meal, and a drink.

Based on this I pride myself in being able to provide an absolutely 5 star trade gift. I love the look on a strangers face when you can pull out multiple 40 oz bottles of fine irish whiskey. Or pounds of dried summer sausage, crackers and massive blocks of cheese. The eyes bulge, mouths drool, and ironically .. you make very quick friends of anyone you meet :) I can see how this custom would quickly deterioriate on a trail that you were likely to see many people on any given day. I can go days or even weeks on some of our most traversed trails without seeing anyone. Perhaps this is what keeps the custom alive.

My simple philosophy on lightweight vs ultralight:

I take only what I absolutely must take. I resist any and all gadgets with viscious sarcastic comments to anyone that would dare take such trinkets on a trip with me. My base gear is down to a comfortable 5 lbs. This includes my shelter, sleep system, cooking gear, first/last aid,firemaking, water system, and raingear. Not included in this tally is the empty weight of my pack (as I have and use several different ones depending on what I am doiing, my clothing worn, tomahawk and camp knife (worn) and rope coil). My clothing, rope, and empty pack weights can change drastically depending on what sort of trip I am doing. Also my tomahawk and camp knife never leave my body for a second. They are extentions of my hands, and my most important tools. With them, I could afford to lose all else in an emergency and survive. They also weigh next to nothing. 1lb combined. What it all boils down to is personal comfort. What is essential and what is luxury to me, might be insanity to you. And vice versa.

Some of my personal oddities: (Well maybe to you, but to each his own):

1) I never EVER take a stove. To me, stoves are for alpinists and speed racers. If you can't make fire quickly and efficiently under any weather conditions ... well then lug around a stove. I will assume you are either too lazy to learn real survival skills, or concede that you are pushing yourself way too hard and too fast if you are so concerned about miles per day, and time wasted. ( I am NOT taking a jab at you AT trail guys. I realize you do long miles each day where minutes DO count). I am merely stating that for ME personally, I dont understand the whole stove issue. A Cree Indian taught me how to make and use fire. Its your second most valuable tool. It never breaks down, there are always free replacements and the fuel is always free!

2) Guns and huge knives. I cannot understand this whole concept and never will. It HAS to be a cultural thing. Up here, you never lock your door at night. Strange people are always welcome on your property, and your neighbours are also your friends. To actually need self defense against another person on a trail is about as likely up here as being struck by lightning multiple times. As for big knives ... I am sorry but a knife cannot beat the efficiency of a good hatchet. Sure you will argue the whole weight issue. But the time lost in splitting wet wood with a knife cannot possible compensate for the few extra ounces of the hatchet. Better yet, get yourself a tomahawk. I am not kidding. A tomahawk is the PERFECT camp tool.

3) I feel deep sympathy for anyone that has not discovered the Hennessey Hammock sleep system. To even think about those poor bastards out there with their tents, and rain flys and poles and ground sheets, and thermarests. All that fabric!! Are they camping or building a sailboat? My only regret is that I did not learn of this brilliant system years ago. It was completely by chance that I stumbled upon an internet site that mentioned something about throwing out your tent for a hammock. It was soon after I was driving over 1100kms to purchase my HH from the closest available retailer in southern ontario. when you lose 5 pounds in tent, thats another 2 litres of whiskey that makes it on the trail! Happy trails indeed!

Anyways that was a long one. But thought I would share some of my personal ideas. I am certainly open to questions, comments, suggestions of any kind. I am here to learn what I can, and provide what I can. Great site Sarge, hope I can make an honorable contribution.

2005-03-01, 21:15
Nice to meet ya! I'm sure you'll have interesting input on the forums!

2005-03-02, 01:18
Welcome Turk, great intro. The stove versus fire issue is this: Stoves don't gobble up precious twigs on the trail systems which are stressed by quantities of hikers, and stoves don't generally mar the landscape. Stoves are also great in the morning for quick heat for the am chow. Fires are a bit of a worry in the am, with having to be sure they are stone cold out, and then attempting to hide your fire ring blah blah blah. Stoves burn out, and go in the pack. Besides, they are cool to play with, especially if you build your own. And finally, many jurisdictions down here frown on and/or ban fires in the summer months.
Not everyone down here is packing a gun. I never leave home without it. As noted in this forum before, guns can serve many purposes, aside from the self defense issue.
I love your tomahawk points. I have learned to break firewood between two trees to create shorter lumber, when I do burn. I do not split wood, but search out small diameter twigs and such as my kindling.

In summary, great post and welcome.

Aussie Nutter
2005-03-02, 06:11
It would be a nice ride in a police car for hikers who had an axe and an open fire where i come from. If i had a choice i would have open fires... something primitive in their apeal.

Talking of gear and strange habits, i hike in modified (AUS)army webbing setup and i havent seen anyone else doing the same. Do any of you use military webbing?

Our webbing setup is like the US setup of around the vietnam era i.e belt, bumbag, ammo pouches(good to jam a stove in) and drink bottles with covers on belt. I get around half my gear on my webbing and find that i end up with a light pack. Weight distribution i find with webbing negates the extra 4 pounds of canvas. Particularly good when having to carry 5 litres of water.

2005-03-02, 14:29
About 3/4 of the year, its too dry for open fires around here.... on occasion we have a wet year, but the last good one was about 5 years ago. Plus, alot of areas around here are too travelled for open fires, as too many people dont know how to camouflage and dismantel them. For some reason, everyone needs to make their own ring... and combine it all and you end up with 10 rings within seeing distance of each other, each inf various stages of neglect - usually with trash dumped into the ring.

Army webbing can work well... I dont like it, but I dont use it for hiking purposes. When Im wearing it, its got 6-8 mags in a chest harness and a 30lbs ruck on my back. However some people have made ultralight type "army webbing"... big front pockets on the harness system... Its not exactly military style, but obviously inspired by it.

2005-03-02, 14:32
Oh, alot of people I know carry firearms or large knives for defense... not really from people, but bears, mtn lions, etc. You may not have that problem in your neck of ontario, but in the Rockies, west into Alaska, and most polar areas, Bears can be more than a nusance.

2005-03-02, 21:38
Yeah, a campfire is nice to look at, and firestarting a requisite skill, but a stove will boil a pot of water faster, cleaner, quieter, and won't cause trouble with the law. As for weapons, I'm so ugly even the bugs don't bother me. But... you carry what you want, and I'll now carry something to surprise any wayward Canadians I see on the trail (usually quite a few, I'm just a few miles from the border). Bienvenue!