Technology doesn't have to be something that divides us from nature. It can be a tool through which we can explore the natural world...

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Walls of Stone - Ultra Light Backpacking Technology

"Often I would feel ok, but it would only take one slip or lift to set my back off again. That's what happened before I set out on my Red Deer River trip, but I had committed myself so off I went..."

It has been over ten years since my last backpack trip. That probably sounds like a prologue for an address at a meeting of "Backpackers Anonymous", but it is a sad truth for someone who says he is crossing the Rocky Mountains in 2015. In 2003, I had decided that my backpacking career was over, but I am hoping that technology can overcome some of my physical issues and allow me to make this one last great trip.
The fledgling Red Deer River
When I made my "Red Deer River Journey", it began with a lengthy hike via Skoki Lodge in Banff National Park and into and along the headwaters of the Red Deer River to the grassy plain at the front of the Rockies known as Ya Ha Tinda. During the ten years that preceded my journeys, I suffered from the effects of a torn disc in my lower back, which (in the beginning) had knocked the legs out from under me. I remember getting out of my pickup truck and my legs buckling. I lay helpless on the ground while my two dogs jumped on me and licked my face. At the time, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. The rest of that Thanksgiving long weekend was spent lying on a mattress in excruciating pain. In many ways, I think that day was the end of my youth. What followed was physiotherapy, lost time off of work and continuous back pain of various intensities. Often I would feel ok, but it would only take one slip or lift to set my back off again. That's what happened before I set out on my Red Deer River trip, but I had committed myself so off I went...

The weight of the sixty or so pounds of gear that I packed through the front ranges compressed my torn disc causing it to herniate.  At first it actually felt better, but upon my return home I developed sciatica. That was the worst pain I have ever encountered and I have no desire to ever go to that place again.
It has been ten years free of back pain since then and I have done plenty of excellent day hikes in that time. I often carry daypacks of perhaps 20 to 30 pounds without problems, so that got me thinking about the possibilities of a phenomenon known as ultra light backpacking.

Here is some of the gear that I am planning to take with me:

Western Mountaineering ultralight -7                           820g             

Therma-rest neoair slite sleeping pad                          350g             

Big Agnes Fly creek UL1 tent                                       930g             

Video gear:

Panasonic Lumix GH4 body                                         560g              

Panasonic DMWBLF19 Lithium Ion Battery                                          

Lumix® G VARIO HD 14-140mm / F4.0-5.8 ASPH.    460g               

Go Pro Black                                                                136g  


LumixVario 100-300mm/f4.0-5.6 lens                          520g 
I haven't decided on a backpack yet. All or most of my food is going to have to be of the dehydrated variety. There will also be caches of food and fuel at two places along the trail to ease the weight of my pack. The bare necessities of sleeping gear and tent weigh in at a mere 2.1 kg (or 4.6 pounds). I will also need a campstove. I am considering bringing my trusty old Coleman Peak1.

I want to make a film of my experiences, but this time the video gear weighs in at 1.2 kg (or 2.6 pounds). A small carbon fiber tripod will weigh an additional pound or two. That is a very low weight for video gear that will capture excellent ultra-high definition images compared to the twenty pounds plus of standard-def gear that I lugged along the Upper Red Deer River!

There will be food and clothing of course, but I think that keeping the bulk of my equipment around ten pounds is a very good start. There is also the issue of my own 50+ year old girth. Last New Year's, I resolved to lose thirty pounds of my own unwanted fat and I achieved that goal. I have managed to maintain this new leaner weight and I am hoping to drop another ten pounds after this year's holiday season (to get me in fighting shape).
Kenner and me at Elbow Pass
(a place I will be revisiting on my Rocky Mountain traverse)
I received the news this week that my three week vacation has been approved (beginning on July 10). I am not taking this lightly (ha!), so I will begin a regimen that I hope will leave me ultra-light and ultra-fit.



  1. Please stop saying "This will be my last trip" I am nervous enough.

    1. Okay, from now on he will say this is my 69 th trip. does that make you feel better?

  2. Go for it! After 10 years your body should be healed.