I’m Not Worrying About Being Ultralight and Here’s Why
As prospective, current, and former thru hikers know all too well, there is an ongoing argument for getting the most ultralight gear possible. Apparently, there’s a secret badge of honor given out to those with a sub-10-pound base weight. To be honest, it feels like another box to put yourself in. While I do think it’s important to get lighter-weight gear and make your pack as light as possible, I don’t think it should be the most important factor in gear selection.
Gear: Important and Personal
Gear is such an important and personal selection process and should be tailored to what works best for your needs. As a plus size hiker, gear can be a kind of touchy subject. Options that are available for the majority of people, simply aren’t an option for me – whether it’s because the brand doesn’t have inclusive sizing, the product cuts in a certain area, or the gear simply isn’t built to handle extra weight. People of size have been conditioned to believe that we aren’t welcome everywhere, so walking into a store in search for gear can be incredibly intimidating. Stores like REI have really tried to make getting outdoor gear accessible to everyone, but we still have a long way to go.
Finding What Works
So how does this relate to starting a thru-hike? Finding gear that works AND is comfortable as a plus size person is a continuous game of trial and error, but sometimes, it just comes down to what fits. I really lucked out with my pack – the Osprey Ariel 65 – because the hip belt and shoulder harness are interchangeable. I measured for a small torso but needed a large hip belt and shoulder harness and was able to order the pack with that customization. The down side is that pack weighs about five pounds (four pounds without the brain)! Even though my pack weighs four pounds, I think it’s worth the weight because it’s extremely comfortable and carries so well that I almost forget I’m wearing it!
Other items like my sleeping pad (Big Agnes Q Core, Reg/Wide – 22 oz) and my tent (Nemo Hornet 2P – 38 oz) are items that work well for me, but weigh a bit more. Having a strong foundation of gear in my “Big 3” items, I think is worth the extra weight. I’d rather carry a little bit more weight and be comfortable than skimp and be miserable.
I have been able to cut weight in other areas – my sleeping bag (REI Magma 30 Quilt – 17 oz) is so light and packs down to the size of a Nalgene. I sleep warm, so I haven’t been cold in it except the night I forgot to wear socks to bed (whoops!). I’ve also tried to make as many items dual purpose to cut down on duplicates and unnecessary items. You can check out the rest of my gear list – I’ll link it at the bottom.
One Size Fits Most Isn’t Reality
At the end of the day, I’m a bigger person so my gear is going to weigh more. There’s more material in my clothes and that takes up more room. I purchased all ultralight gear, I’m not sure it would make too big of a difference simply because I still need bigger things like clothes. I would constantly be worrying about gear failure because I’d be pushing the limits on some things like the pack load.
Social media has become so prominent in the outdoor community and gear selection is a major part of that. It’s so easy to get lost in the “well that worked for (insert person here), it will work for me too” mentality. I fell into that too! The number of products I tried or looked into because someone on Instagram or YouTube is a bit ridiculous.
At the end of the day, I’d rather carry a few extra ounces on some gear and feel safe than to wish I had gear that worked better for me. Select gear that works for YOU and the rest will fall into place! Happy trails my friends!
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