I will try to keep this short and sweet because I know you did not come here to read about my (probably unhealthy) fixation with something called “Ultralight Backpacking”, however, I recently stumbled ass backward across a fairly stunning (yet somehow super-obvious) metaphoric connection.
(“Ultralight backpacking” is just regular backpacking but with a Base Pack Weight (BPW) of ten pounds or less. BPW is all your gear and stuff less “consumables” like food and water.)
See, I have been extremely stressed out over the past month or so, work has been simply out-of-control-legitimately-unreasonably-unhealthily-stressful and some things in my personal life have not gone EXACTLY how I wanted them to (you know how that annoys me) and so I have been feeling it in my neck and my shoulders and my back and my general sense of exhaustion. However, what I have found most relaxing lately is to make a simple dinner (usually chicken and vegetables) and eat it while I read blogs about ultralight backpacking. While I do that, I have a spreadsheet open and I add up the weights of various things to assemble various “systems” (that is what the backpacking-blog-people call them). I have even found a system that I think will work for me, at an anticipated weight of about six pounds. How does one achieve such a low BPW, you exclaim? Well, by being dangerously unreasonable about what they’re willing to sacrifice! I mean, come on, if you subtract the wine out of my life, I basically lead a largely ascetic existence (My breakfast and lunch are both of the meal-replacement variety and I already described my dinner. I barely even eat cookies anymore and only actually sleep in my bed when I’ve had a really good day.)
But by this point in this blog post you’re getting bored, right? Well then I will get to the point … the way you get down to six pounds is by not having a tent (which usually weighs 2 – 6 lbs). I will be using a bivy sack (16 ounces) for shelter (some people only use tarps and I used a hammock in the Grand Canyon) also, instead of a sleeping bag (30 – 50 ounces) I’m going to use an Adventure Medical Kits Escape Bivy (8.5 ounces). And instead of a regular backpack (2 – 5 lbs) I am modifying an Embark laptop backpack from Target (20 ounces). These are all decisions I have made recently, while sitting at my kitchen table. I haven’t gotten to use any of this stuff yet, of course, but it is still pretty cold here in Southern California (yeah, laugh it up Alaskans). The reality is that I will probably use this “system” once and freeze my ass off so bad that I come home and jump into the hot tub and simply refuse to ever leave it ever.
Oh! But have you caught onto the metaphor part of all this yet? Well here is it: the more and more and more stressed out I am by the simple act of living my life, the lighter and lighter and lighter my theoretical weight is getting. This is what those of us in the numbers business call an “inverse relationship” (actually, it is what everyone calls an inverse relationship). I realized this the other day when my 8.5 ounce sleeping bag-replacement arrived in the mail (it is basically a very special and fancy metallic emergency blanket) and the first thing I did after taking it out of the Amazon wrapping was weigh it.
So the cogent and cognitive part of my brain laid on the brakes and went, “Woooooah there buddy, is it possible that you may have gone round the bend?” But the sensitive and humanistic part of my brain was saying, “Look, this I what everyone does. People buy sports cars to feel cool, go golfing to feel active and become cops because they have mother issues (that’s 100% true BTW), so why should you feel bad that thinking light weight helps you enjoy life more?”
The problem, of course, is that this particular psychosis is all leading toward an inevitable night where I am alone on the side of a mountain somewhere freezing to death or getting attacked by a bear and not having a proper camping machete with which to fend it off. So I suppose there is some actual danger, but, you know, what’s life without a marginal but appreciable amount of danger?
So that’s it! That was all I had to say about all of that! I can talks some more about the various nuanced aspects of ultralight backpacking, if you want, but I think that really you would just feel obligated to keep reading out of some misplaced sense of politeness and I would feel obliged to make things increasingly more interesting and so would have to start lying about things (“I hike with no clothes on and just one match, that’s how light I go!”) , only you would know that I was lying and it would just become embarrassing and uncomfortable for both of us.