Is that NEW GEAR?
The year is 2025 and I am in Georgia about to begin my thru hike on the AT. My total pack weight is eleven pounds and I am not an ultra-light hiker. No, those younger hikers carry a maximum of five pounds. Packs are now a combination of a carbon fiber composite with titanium threading. They are almost weightless, but are as strong as a tank. They don’t even get a scratch because of the new coatings, originally designed for eyeglass lenses, now routinely applied to backpacks and other outdoor gear.
My tent is translucent, strong, breathable, waterproof, and needs no poles. My sleeping bag is made of feathers that do not crush, do not absorb water and offer warmth envied by actual geese. My stove is a non-existent because I now carry a powder that burns hot, is environmentally sound, lasts for years and heats my specially manufactured food into tasty and nutritional morsels. I’m full after just a mouthful. My clothing is similar to what I remember from old Star Trek shows. You will recall that Captain Kirk wore the same damn clothes on every planet—no matter how far they were from their respective suns! Hiker clothing is now as comfortable as yoga outfits and works in heat, cold, rain etc. Patagonia Nano Puffs are now routinely found in hiker boxes and second hand stores.
Back to present day.
Sound like an exaggeration? Look at the technology advancement, in just the last five years, in the hiker community. Gear manufacturers have discovered that there are a lot of us who like to hike. The AT is as popular as ever—and will become even more popular after the release of a certain soon to be released movie—and hikers are gear junkies. Similar to those who are always looking for the next phone, next app, next tablet or some other advancement, hikers are constantly looking for the lightest, strongest, and most technologically advanced gear.
As an older hiker, it seemed like it took forever for total pack weight to go from forty to thirty pounds. But, in only the last year or two ever lightening gear and other technological advancements have accelerated. The stove I bought just three years ago is now almost a relic because it is four ounces heavier than the current version. I feel like a sap.
Baby boomers, like myself, have undoubtedly contributed to the incentive manufacturers now have to spend money on research and development. We have some disposable income and will buy the newest stuff. In part, we have discovered we can hike longer and harder if we are carrying less weight on our backs. Younger hikers are also part of the resurgence in hiker technology. They want the latest and greatest stuff too. They have the same mindset as their brethren standing in line—overnight—to get the latest iPhone.
I have never needed the best phone, but I do feel the temptation to have the best gear. I resist it pretty well, but am not always as strong as I want to be. I guess if it gets more people outdoors, and away from the “other” technology, it is probably a good thing. I admit longing for the day that rain gear is invented that doesn’t make me sweat and keeps me dry. When that day comes, I will be buying it!
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