Wednesday, August 21, 2019

backpack weight: a hopeful conjecture

In 2008, when I had no experience whatsoever with true distance walking, I overpacked my backpack, just like Reese Witherspoon's Cheryl Strayed in "Wild." This is apparently what all rookies do, so I now chalk it up to a necessary, character-building phase: people who insist on learning by making their own mistakes—instead of listening attentively to their elders—have little choice but to fuck up rather often, and that's what I did. My pack weighed an agonizing 60 pounds (27.2 kg). At the start of that 600-mile walk, I weighed around 300 pounds. Over the course of the hike, I did shed a few unnecessary items, but I mostly lost weight—around 50 pounds. That still meant that my feet were supporting nearly 300 pounds even toward the end of that walk. I'm surprised I didn't end up with worse foot problems than I did.

Fast-forward to 2017, and I've now applied many lessons learned from 2008 to the trans-Korea walk. I still ended up with a nasty blister that stayed with me the entire length of the Four Rivers Trail, but my backpack, at its heaviest, weighed only about 18 kilos (39.7 pounds), and that was only when the 3-liter hydration bladder was full. That weight went steadily down as I ate my way through my food supply. By the end, my 2017 pack weighed around half of my 2008 pack. As the proverb says: pack what you need, then chuck half.

I haven't done a dry run for this upcoming walk yet, but I'm hoping my pack will be even lighter, now that I know what I won't need to be carrying—namely, food. Taking MREs last time was a huge mistake: each MRE pack weighs in at a horrific 750 grams (1.7 pounds) or so because nothing is dehydrated. Even the dried food weighed a few ounces per pack, and the sack of Soylent that I carried with me—and never used—was a full pound (453 grams). So despite the wisdom I'd gained in 2008, my 2017 walk had its share of logistical mistakes.

This time, though, I'm going to be walking the exact same path. My feet are chronically achy these days, but they're tougher, and I think that, once I strip the pack down to the bare minimum, the weight ought to be no more than 12 kilos, even with the hydration bladder topped off. That's about the weight of a two-year-old—quite a step down from carrying an adult female Labrador retriever in 2008. There will be some extra material in the pack this time around, mainly clothing for cold weather, but that should only be a matter of ounces. And what are mere ounces compared to the pounds of supplies I won't be carrying with me?

So that's my conjecture: my pack will weigh 12 kilos or under when I finally do a dry run. I've got my brother's hand-held baggage scale with me this time, so I can take a pretty accurate reading of my encumbrance. And with my new, invulnerable leather belt in place, I'll be able to tighten the hip-belt assembly so that the pack's entire weight is resting on my sizable hips.

Did I mention how excited I am to be doing this again?

1 comment:

John Mac said...

Haha, at my age most of my elders are dead. I guess I'm screwed!

Yeah, this go around you are in better shape and all that experience weighs nothing! Seems to me having the weight on your hips will make a world of difference.

I'm getting excited too. I love taking vicarious long distance hikes with you...