“Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free, take a load off Fanny, and put the load right on me…..” A verse from the great song by Robbie Robertson of The Band. The Playing for Change video is worth a look. Of course, the song has nothing to do with actual weight, but it does fit humming it along when hoisting the 30 pound pack for the day. The past week has had me switch out much of my equipment for a newer, lighter kit.
Vintage Equipment is Heavy
One of the better ways to enjoy the preparation is in the equipment store. I have vintage backpacking equipment. I never was worried about weight too much in the past. I usually just loaded up and got along with what I had been using for many years. Over the years, my backpacking buddies and I would think nothing about hoisting 50 lb. packs around all day. During my recent shakedowns in preparation for my AT flip-flop, I loaded up my pack with my existing equipment. Quickly I realized that I am not as young as I used to be. After reading other blogs on equipment and looking at the various specifications of different equipment on various websites, then off to the local outfitter.
Equipment Store Feeding Frenzy
I was reluctant at first. I liked my heavy seven pound pack with the extremely sturdy hip belt. I liked white gas. It has never failed me even in the middle of a snowstorm. My pump filter was quick and had plenty of surface area to handle the grittiest of water. My tent was sturdy and reliable. My well-worn synthetic bag had never let me down. Add to that the old vintage half closed cell half air mattress sleeping pad, I was set. Did I trust that the new era of backpacking equipment would hold up to the abuse my existing equipment had taken from me over the 40 or so years I have owned some of the pieces? Then I made the mistake of picking up a current era ultra-lite tent. It almost floated in front of my eyes. Then I grabbed a 30 degree down sleeping bag, this too seemed to hover off the ground. As I picked up both, I couldn’t feel that there was any force pulling the items back to earth at 32.2 ft/sec/sec. I set up the tent in the store and I was like a kid in a candy shop. Then I grabbed one of the newer sleeping pads, picked up a new stove, and one of the micro water filters. Now, I have read plenty of other blogs with opinion on what brand and different reviews, etc.…..what I am really pointing out is the level of excitement that hits you as you have a new set of ultra-lite gear all collected up and feeling like the weight has been taken to a place where you can enjoy the 2200 miles ahead.
Live Your Dreams Be Wild and Free
This is a great song by a band out of Hope, Alaska. I took a turn down a road one day and it made all the difference (I know…. it’s not quoted correctly from the famous poem, but you get the idea). It was a Saturday night on a dead end road off of the main highway running the Kenai Peninsula on the opposite side of the Turnagain Arm from Anchorage. I passed a bar that had live music. I pulled in and found a piece of paradise. Take a listen to any of the Hope Social Club’s stuff……. As I was talking with the outfitting store crew, you can see in their eyes memories of their own adventures coming to mind as we discussed pieces of equipment. The “be wild and free” look that people get when they think of adventures outdoors. The crew all started getting into the frenzy of the moment. Yes, they were making a sale, but more so they enjoyed being part of someone’s excitement for the journey ahead. The well wishes and suggestions flowed throughout the store. Sharing a common bond around the love of the outdoor adventure permeated all of us. It was magic. You could feel it in the vibe in the store. The lead specialist helping us out, Chris, was awesome. I had to go tell the store manager what a great vibe that his crew presents to customers. I am enjoying these moments. No matter what your budget or resources you never know what you might learn, the excitement you might feel, or what you might inspire in others through your own outfitting pursuits.
Modern Memories and the Lightweight Long Haul
As for my vintage equipment, it still has its place. I still love the clean lines and the extreme durability of my old pack. I always have liked not having stuff hanging all outside my pack. I like the way the old pack distributed the load. It’s just too heavy. I have never had any problems with it for the 40 years I have owned it. It has served me well and will continue to serve me well as I continue on my shorter adventures. For the long miles ahead of me though, I love the feather lightness of the new set of gear. I am looking forward to bringing the magic of the moment we all had in the store out to the trail and adding to the trail memories later on when others follow in the same type of preparation for their future hikes. It is incredible how my old reliable white gas stove and my old heavy pump water filter look compared to the new stuff. As I pack and unpack in my shakedowns before hitting the trail (about 20 nights of shakedowns in all different situations so far), I hope the glimpses of the feeding frenzy excitement keep me thinking about all the good stories and memories the moment inspired with the crew and that I am able to make some meaningful ones of my own as I hit the trail with the load lightened just a bit. “Take a load of Fanny, take a load for free………….”
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Sound so exciting!
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