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Thread: Slackpacking

  1. #21

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    I enjoy walking, day hiking, and backpacking, but unless I was infirmed I couldn't imagine having someone carry my gear for me on the long trail. It reminds me of celebrities who go to Burning Man and stay at a luxury camp that their advance team set up with five star accommodations and gourmet chefs; I'm sure they have a wonderful time in their own way, but it takes away a lot of the reason people do it in the first place and dilutes the experience for everyone else.

  2. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by greenpete View Post
    Good points, and I agree with what you ticked off except for the "wilderness-like experience" part. You (and others) conveniently leave out the automobile aspect of slacking. MacKaye and Avery intended the trail to be an escape from urban life and modern living. But when you employ a car to haul your gear, when you remove the home-on-back aspect that most non-hikers associate with distance hiking, you're defeating that purpose...aren't you? Certainly we ALL now rely on some degree of modern convenience to make our hikes less difficult (cellphones, GPS, pocket rockets, etc.). It's an issue of how low some hikers want to set the bar, in my opinion.

    Also...it's no secret that auto fumes are huge contributors to the Greenhouse Effect and climate change. Yet hikers are using autos to transport their supplies, merely so they can have an easier hike? Not exactly a "wilderness experience." There's an ethical element of slackpacking that is being left out.

    Just my observation, and thanks for the civil discussion here.
    Bringing up the Automobile reminds me of a great Doug Peacock quote when he describes a backpacking trip into Yellowstone to study grizzly behavior.

    Screenshot 2021-08-02 at 16-34-01 Grizzly Years.png

    Screenshot 2021-08-02 at 16-34-14 Grizzly Years.png

    "Whatever transcendence I had Gained" describes it perfectly for me. I often include these words in my trip reports when I'm out for a week or two and then stumble on an ATV rider illegally riding in the woods or I'm crossing a road with zooming harleys with custom pipes---Whatever transcendence I gained in the last two weeks in "wilderness" has been lost.

  3. #23

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    Geenpete does make a good point about all the extra gas burnt in shuttling hikers around everyday. Of course, most of us get in a car and drive to town for resupply every couple of days, so there's really no getting around it. I kind of feel guilty driving all over the Whites to do day hikes once a week, but I draw a line at driving 2 hours to do a 4 mile hike just because the hill in on some list. But at least I'm local. Every weekend I see hundreds of cars from out of state in the parking lots to do a day hike.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  4. #24
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    Slackpacking is still walking, and I doubt anyone who chooses to slackpack regrets it at the end. They can do it again with no slacking if it bothers them! Right now, I say I won't, but only because I have control issues with somebody having my pack while I hike, and having to meet the deadline at the end of the day, not because I think slacking is somehow cheating.

    If you hike a long trail, you have plenty of miles with a pack - a few without are a joy.

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    I kind of feel guilty driving all over the Whites to do day hikes once a week, but I draw a line at driving 2 hours to do a 4 mile hike just because the hill is on some list.
    That's how I hiked the ADK 46 - 2 hour drive to NY - 15-20 mile day hike - 2 hour drive home. Had a blast, just to get all the hills that were on that list!

    I might draw the line at a 2 hour drive to New Hampshire!

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by greenpete View Post

    Thoughts, anyone?...slackers and non-slackers?
    i'm a non-slacker. i always carry my backpack. even up Katahdin

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crossup View Post
    I'm 100% with Tipi. I dont mind people doing what ever kind of hike they want and saying they did the AT . But once it comes out they slack packed or spent a big percentage of nights off trail then in my mind they took short cuts and choose to avoid the full experience.
    "Avoided the full experience" - I'll agree with that
    "took short cuts" - I'll disagree with that

    The main reason I'm going to disagree is because I see a similarity to someone who "did the AT" and a "900 Miler".
    {FYI: A "900 Miler" is someone who has hiked all the trails on the $1 back country map in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.}

    Both tasks are very admirable hiking goals.
    Both have similar "orders of magnitude" as the typical 900 Miler has most likely hiked 1,200 to 1,500 miles to complete the achievement.
    The obvious difference is that the AT is a "linear" trail where as the 900 Miler hikes a network of trails.

    While many of the trails in GSMNP are day-hikes, there are other segments of the network that are remote enough that the typical 900 Miler has spent part of their time back packing and sleeping in the woods.
    But there are 900 Milers who don't want that experience and instead accomplish the goal limiting themselves to day hikes. Doing so requires several very long day-hikes, likely requiring more resources that will allow you to do a point-to-point hike rather than the cheaper loop hike. But at the end of the day, it doesn't mater how you did the miles, you're a 900 Miler if you did it camping or if you did it all as day-hikes.

    I see "completing" the AT the same way. So long as you put in all the trail miles, it doesn't mater if you did it as a series of supported day hikes or carried a back pack the whole way.
    The only difference is just the level of support you recieved.
    Sure, someone who slack-pack the whole way (or these FKT trail runners) have much more support than the "typical" AT Hiker.
    But I believe the only distinction the ATC makes is between a "Thru" hiker and a "Section" hiker, with a "Thru" hiker simply defined by the fact they completed all the parts of the trail within a continuous 12 month period. No distinction is made based on how much support you get (either as a Thru or Section hiker).

  8. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    I see "completing" the AT the same way. So long as you put in all the trail miles, it doesn't mater if you did it as a series of supported day hikes or carried a back pack the whole way.
    The only difference is just the level of support you recieved.
    .
    It's not the only difference. Slackpackers don't set up a tent, right? Or spend the night in the woods. Or sleep thru a blizzard in a tent or during a freakish -10F cold snap. Or go to sleep at a special CS and wake up the next morning at the same CS. These are huge differences.

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    It's not the only difference. Slackpackers don't set up a tent, right? Or spend the night in the woods. Or sleep thru a blizzard in a tent or during a freakish -10F cold snap. Or go to sleep at a special CS and wake up the next morning at the same CS. These are huge differences.
    Technically you are correct...

    But I still see all that as falling into the rough collection of "support level"...
    Especially since there are multiple levels to "slack packing".
    After all, just because you "slack pack" doesn't mean you don't spend the night in the woods.
    Google the work "slackpacking", you will get a description that includes "an assisted way of hiking where you have a host who carries the burden of your equipment, takes care of your possessions and set up you overnight camps for you". So a slack packer might be spending every night in the woods and getting to experience that blizzard or cold snap, etc.

    Besides, your "experience" doesn't define if you get the title of "2,000-Miler". Only the fact that you've hiked the entire trail is all that matters to earn that title.
    When I go to the ATC website to see their listing of "2,000-Miler's", the only detail listed is if the hiker was a NOBO Thru, a SOBO Thru, or Section Hiker. No special star is placed beside someone who slack-packed or who did the whole trail and never encountered a blizzard or a cold night in the woods, or didn't spend a single night in the woods.
    All that is important is you hiked the whole trail.

    That's why I compared it to the 900 Miler Club... it doesn't mater how you hike the trail, it only maters that you hiked the trail(s).

    So staying with the AT... doesn't mater if you are a thru hiker (12 months) or a section hiker. Once you've completed the trail, you've generically earned the title "2,000 Miler".
    Your "experience" doesn't
    After all, your experience doesn't define if you have or have not completed the AT and

    that camp can be in the woods where you would experience a blizzard, a cold snap, etc. But that "camp" might also be a hotel room your "host" has driven you to after a long day's hike.

    So no mater how you "hike your own hike", you're going to have different experiences that are uniquely your own.
    After all, some AT hikers might experience a bear encounter
    After all, "slack packing" does not mean you do not spend the night in the woods. A slack packer can be someone who simply doesn't carry their own pack, and perhaps doesn't even setup their own campsite. But you can be a slack packer and

  10. #30
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    Opps.... didn't finish my editing.
    Please ignore everything after "That's why I compared it to the 900 Miler Club... it doesn't mater how you hike the trail, it only maters that you hiked the trail(s)."

  11. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    It's not the only difference. Slackpackers don't set up a tent, right? Or spend the night in the woods. Or sleep thru a blizzard in a tent or during a freakish -10F cold snap. Or go to sleep at a special CS and wake up the next morning at the same CS. These are huge differences.
    Slackpackers generally don't hike the whole time slackpacking - it's more of a chance opportunity along the trail. The people I know that have thru'd have slacked some, spent some nights in hostels or motels, but spent most of their nights in a tent on the trail. It's not an all-or-nothing choice.

  12. #32
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    Five years ago my sons and I began backpacking SNP and points north. Over the next four years it has evolved into a mostly slackpacking endeavor. With a lighter pack we can cover a bit longer distance and it is easier for my old bones on the hills and negotiating rocks. One son plans to complete the trail this way, backpacking when needed such at GSMNP next month.

    Last month at our base camp (a camper) we observed several thru or LASH backpackers come through the campground. We enjoy meeting thrus and have aided them in their travels. I took one hiker to town to meet a ride and a couple then to go shopping for supplies. We also took one out to supper to hear his interesting stories. Eight years ago I bought supper for a thru backpacker and took him to a motel in Millinocket since he was a day early to meet his family who were to summit Katahdin with him. The "boys" often have cold drinks in their vehicles for hikers passing through any trailhead.

    I think of it as a hiking vacation for which I need to stay in shape for the next season. I must admit the carbon footprint is a bit high this way.
    But I can just do the sections that are a bit safer and more enjoyable. Probably the funnest way to hike the A T.

  13. #33
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    Re:Wilderness experience on trail

    Greenpete: My comments could be considered convenient and self-serving. They really only apply on the trail itself not off the trail and even then apply primarily to those spending the night on the trail . I absolutely agree that a slackpacker or day hiker gets less wilderness experience due to the lack of spending nights in the woods, under the stars, during rain storms, snow storms.

    A tenent I learned from minimum impact or LNT philosophy is the visiual one. Per the OP, if all thrus stayed on the trail then the number of overnighters would more than double. Even in '99 the numbers in the south and as he will found out in the Whites can be overwhelming. Thus his experience would be lessened tremdously in my opinion. It is amazing how few people notice you if you are only a few steps off trail.

    Outside the AT, LNT would suggest one camps and stops off trail with appropriate care to improve everyones wilderness experience.

  14. #34

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    If you don’t make all your clothes and gear, grow, gather, or catch your own food, cook without any modern utensils, walk to the beginning of the trail from home, and walk home from the end, then you are not a true through hiker.

  15. #35
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    RE Full trail experience

    I have not slack packed on a long distance trail except for Khatadin. I don't believe I have the full AT experience. The AT evolves. At times it existed on many roads, passed by many small stores, resupply could be done from AT neighbors... You could camp as needed. It was envisioned to connect work camps and be close to towns... so perhaps the vision idk could include pure slackpacking. Today the trail includes phones, GPS, the internet, immediate storm warnings, more and bigger shelters. People hang out until the weather is better. There are more people. It is more social. There are more town services and more people slackpack. It is closer to a hut to hut experience. My experience was that by far most thrus slack pack some and most slack packers who finish start out traditional but mostly backpack. For many, slackpacking allows for more of a town experience which is part of a full AT experience on today's trail. Note that the numbers of slacks in the south disappear as you head north, money runs low and many drop out.

  16. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by gpburdelljr View Post
    If you don’t make all your clothes and gear, grow, gather, or catch your own food, cook without any modern utensils, walk to the beginning of the trail from home, and walk home from the end, then you are not a true through hiker.
    But it is okay to hitch past the 2000+ miles in the middle.

  17. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by gpburdelljr View Post
    If you don’t make all your clothes and gear, grow, gather, or catch your own food, cook without any modern utensils, walk to the beginning of the trail from home, and walk home from the end, then you are not a true through hiker.
    Excellent comment! Love the sarcasm.

  18. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by gpburdelljr View Post
    If you don’t make all your clothes and gear, grow, gather, or catch your own food, cook without any modern utensils, walk to the beginning of the trail from home, and walk home from the end, then you are not a true through hiker.
    There is no adequate definition of a "true through hiker" and I don't think I implied that in my original post. I'm merely making a comparison between full packers and slackers, and getting opinions from the forum. As someone who is somewhat outside today's trail culture, I was just a bit shocked at how many of my fellow thrus are now slacking. Would've thought they were a minority rather than majority. But it seems to be the opposite these days.

    On a side note (or maybe not) I developed thrombophlebitis and blood clotting in one leg and now have to get off the trail. Would slackpacking have prevented this? It's possible. But it just increases my admiration for full-pack hikers like Bilbo, who has the use of just one arm, yet is carrying his "home" the entire distance without using a car to deliver it from place to place.

    Peace...and as Mr. Schwarzenegger said: I'll Be Back! (on trail, full pack and sweaty bandana)

  19. #39
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    I hiked the AT with an ultra-light pack. I never slackpacked because there's not much point in that if you don't carry enough stuff to notice it. I still got questioned about whether my fast and light hike "counted" as a thru-hike. "That's not backpacking," I heard more than once. Some of us just can't get accepted by people who need to let us know about it.

    The amount of fuel and resources spent on some slackpacking hikes is discouraging. I met a young couple who were slackpacking the AT with two cars, one of which they purchased just for the hike. I gave up trying to estimate their carbon footprint for that.

    On my first section hike on the AT, in New England, I was beat up after a week or two and accepted a "free" slackpacking offer from a hostel owner in Maine, who got us to stay another night in the hostel. It was fun and a nice change of pace and a great rest. But I never made a habit of it, and never went through complicated logistics and many highway miles to make it happen. Hike "purity" has nothing to do with it for me.

  20. #40
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    For my thru the great majority of slacking I did was courtesy of a local trail angel, complete stranger wanting to assist and live vicariously. I had many enriching encounters off the trail. Experiencing small diners and crappy motels in mountain towns was remarkable.

    Having hiked out west, the AT was a shock with near constant contact with others-i embraced it. I slacked a LOT and paid or arranged for less than 20% of them. Some drove hours (Maine) and put me up in their homes. I would never consider that aspect of my journey "cutting corners" nor regret it.

    Some go out for solitude and living out of your pack and others go for the whole journey.

    And best of luck "roughing it" on the AT. Respectfully, hike yours-neither purists or slackers are wrong.

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