View Full Version : 30 year changes in thru`s

04-24-2006, 21:55
I`ve read a number of threads in this section from thru or potential thru hikers which have me wondering some things...While I am not a "thru-hiker" I did do about half the trail in one trip and had 3 other month long hikes as well as many multi-week trips way way way back in the early-late 1970`s...After that my exposure to the trail dropped down to scattered day hikes but I did sell backpacking equipment full time (6 days a week) for 11 years and then health concerns and personal concerns pretty much cut me off from the hiking world for a long time..Now I`m slowly coming back into it and may even consider a thru hike once I retire..Now to my questions...

I`ve seen a lot of threads about very low pack weights (As compared to what we normally carried 30 years ago) and have seen photos of hikers with very small looking packs including thru-hikers..Also talk of 4 days food being carried....My question basically is..Has technology changed that much that people can carry the same amount of equipment we did back then and yet have it be that much lighter and fit in that much smaller of a pack?...Or do people just carry less stuff and live rougher to save weight and increase speed?..I`ve written out a number of equipment check-lists of what I would have normally carried back in say 1975 on a month long trip and looking over various equipment websites I don`t see things being that much lighter or taking up that much less room.

Perhaps some recent thru-hikers can share with me their typical equipment list..Minus food...But at the same time..4 days food supply?

04-24-2006, 22:35
I'm no thru hiker, but I have hung around WB for a while- basically there are the essentials- then you cut the weight out of these essentials (including technology). You have a teeny little pack, so you can hike longer days, and thus hit towns more often for food resupplies.

the basic categories would be:
shelter - tarp instead of bombproof everest-ready tent, maybe a hammock
sleeping - sleeping bag/quilt, down or some hightech poly fill
eating- alcohol stoves made from pop cans, pots used only to boil water, freezer bag cooking. Or just go with cold food.
firstaid kit- how much are you actually going to need?
flashlight- hello LEDs!
etc etc.

There are some loonies (oh, sorry guys) who drill holes in their toothbrushes, cut off the white bits on their maps, and use soap for toothpaste, but this is gram/ounce scrimping. Technology allows for the pounds to roll off.

Also technology allows for greater compression of stuff.

Yeah, it's a combination of factors- technology, living a little bit rougher and thus being able to hike more faster.

check out the ultralight and homemade gear forums here at WB.


04-25-2006, 08:05
Let's see. 30 years ago, I was backpacking with a canvas backpack, wearing cotton and wool. I didn't filter water, and cooked over a fire. My flashlight probably used D cells. No goretex. Down sleeping bags were rated based on pounds of fill, but I probably used a rectangular cotton batting fill bag in warm weather. So, in 30 years, lots of changes in gear, and I probably carry a smaller pack now than then.

The General
04-25-2006, 08:16
If it aint Heavy you aint Hiking

04-25-2006, 08:45
Don't worry about being lighter then 30 years ago. Let's see - 30 yrs. ago I weighed about 135lbs. - today I've got about 200lbs. to carry for two weeks and then I'll walk down to 175lbs.. The pack should start at -25lbs. and may increase for two weeks to zero pounds and I'll still be carring 40lbs. more then I did 30 years ago.

04-25-2006, 11:00
I have both volume of the Roledale Appalachian Trail books.

In the list is a gear list for a thur-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

His total weight of gear? 14 lbs.

Also have another book at home with a gear list for a 1930's MATC outing. The gear list was about the same weight.

Lightweight backpacking ain't anything new.

04-25-2006, 12:25
thirty years ago, I was 4. :)

04-25-2006, 12:43
If it aint Heavy you aint Hiking

:D well just keep on hiking heavy,i am going light:cool: neo

SGT Rock
04-25-2006, 13:16
Well 30 years ago I was 9, but I was doing some hiking back then and some of my gear compared to today has changed. I really started backpacking when I was 12, so I can speak about how I and everyone around me seemed to pack back around 27 years ago.

Back then I would use a stove with fuel that could weigh 2 pounds, now we go half that. Note that this isn't just alcohol, there are now stove like the Simmerlite and Pocket Rocket that can go pretty darn light and still have some heat.

Back then I used a 5+ pound nylon A-Frame tent. Now you can get stuff about half that weight.

Back then I had a 5 or so pound sleeping bag that doesn't compress as much as my sub 2 pound thing I carry now - and I am warmer than I was then.

Back then my flashlight was a doubble D flashlight, now I have a AAA headlamp that works better since it is hands free and is a lot smaller and lighter.

Back then I had a fairly large knife - now all I need is a small knife. Not, this isn't a gear evolution but just a change in how I use a knife.

Back then I had a solid aluminum canteen strapped to the outside of my pack. Now I can carry a water bladder that weighs less and fits better inside my pack which takes up less space as I use the water.

Back then I used an Army poncho, now my rain gear takes up less space.

Back then I had never heard of using a sleeping pad, now I have one - so more space used.

Back then I carried more canned foods and fresh foods. These days I use more easy to cook meals from the stores - less space and weight.

Back then I carried more bulky clothing and cotton stuff - so more of it to have something dry to change into while the cotton attempted to dry. These days I carry less synthetic clothing and it takes up less space, compacts better, and I am at least as comfortable as I was back then if not more comfortable.

Back then I carried a lot of spare things, these days I don't. I think that is more of a result of finding ways to do things differently. I can't say the same for others.

Back then I hiked in boots and carried a spare pair of shoes for camp. These days I hike in the spare pair of shoes and leave the boots at home.

Back then I carried a mess kit with fork, knife, and spoon. These days I just have the pot and the spoon. Funny thing is I should have figured it out back then - but then everyone I hiked with also did the same thing.

Back then I used a 35mm camera with flash and telephoto lense for good shots plus extra film and batteries. These days I can use a 3mp digital camera with 512mb memory cards and a spare set of AAA.

But now I also have a MP3 player - tunes I didn't have then. I also carry a book which I probably wouldn't have back then. I also keep a journal now. So in some ways I have more comfort and extra activities than I used to. I don't think I am less comfortable or have given anything up.

I think in some ways the gear has gotten smaller and lighter, and in some ways it is just backpackers talking and finding out different ways to skin that cat.

04-25-2006, 15:04
I just did a short section hike on the AT and wish I had read this first. Took way too much gear. My daughter and I were both carrying around 45 to 50 lbs.. I will carry much less on my next weekend jaunt.

04-25-2006, 20:05
You have a teeny little pack, so you can hike longer days, and thus hit towns more often for food resupplies.

Hey that's the Ray Jardine theory! But the average hiker on the AT back in the day pounded out many more miles per day with 10 days of food on thier backs than they do now with just a few (me thinks). :eek:

Perhaps its because they didn't have to carry a water filter, IPod, Camera, Lekis, Bearbag, Pack Cover (Garbage bags worked fine),Thermarest, Thru hikers Companion, Glock, pocketmail, or cell phone? Not to mention camp shoes!

Nah , it is because they were of stonger moral fibre! :D

Seriously, I am thinking that an average thru hikers pack without food wasn't all that heavier way back when,than is the average hikers pack today.

04-25-2006, 22:25
Hey that`s a photo of the stove I carried way back when..The old sturdy SVEA 123..Could drop kick it down a mountain and fire it right up!