June 26, 2013
One of the aspects that has been so rewarding in having a strong relationship with Bill Jacksons has been the ability to network with fellow outdoor enthusiasts. It is somewhat challenging to find people that are knowledgeable on hiking and are as enthusiastic in putting forth the effort to do it “right.” In the year that I have worked at Bill Jacksons I have been able to “trim fat” from my pack and much of this has been due to the refined technologies that lightweight gear has to offer. It’s actually pretty remarkable that five years ago when I was doing my Florida Trail thru-hike my pack was flirting with the mid to upper 30 lb weight threshold. Last year on my Appalachian Trail hike, in which I completed nearly 1200 miles in two months, my weight was generally in the 27-30 pound range. In just a year, with lots of research, I have yet again found ways to effectively lose weight and will now be hiking with a 23lb pack! Simply by changing the tent I was using in 2008 (a 6.1 lb three man tent to a 3.4 lb MSR Hubba tent) single handedly represented nearly a 10% weight savings!
With that in mind, I find that that the creed of “think light, hike light” really adds to the overall experience of hiking, it reduces the chance of injury and allows one to move along at a faster clip. The technology advancements just in the last five years I think are genuinely one of the reasons that the AT has enjoyed such a growth in popularity. Perhaps it is a cultural shift, but I also believe that the ability to get packs lighter than ever before has allowed for a real growth in the number of women hiking the trail solo. Simple steps such as these act as a real enabler to making hiking all the more enjoyable and quite frankly, for some people, possible. As I am now leaving Bill Jacksons to find my own new adventure I can’t help but be grateful the number of trips I may have made more enjoyable, or at the very least, endurable. Going forward, questions such as, down vs. synthetic, Carbon Fiber/Titanium vs. Stainless steel/aluminum, chemical vs. carbon/ceramic, down vs. fleece, hi-top vs. low cut and free standing vs. tarp tents are all questions that I myself have had to analyze over the years. These questions I think are integral for hikers to at least be aware of before embarking on their next Walk in the Woods. How prepared do you feel for your own next adventure?