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[CDT-L] Re: [at-l] Thruhiking - What are you carrying?

Thomas McGinnis wrote:
>      I apologize for not fleshing out this response, but I have to offer a
>      countervailing observation:
>      The people who say "The equipment doesn't matter!" generally have the
>      equipment which meshes with their methods and satisfies their needs.
>      You mention ultralite "system" as a method -- I bet you'll agree that
>      ALL hiking styles (enough styles for each individual!) comprise a
>      "system". The hiking system is BOTH the hiker AND the individual
>      articles of equipment; the system must mesh well, satisfy day-to-day
>      needs, and plausibly allow progress up the trail. If a piece of
>      equipment seems to engender consistent delay in getting progress up
>      the trail, the hiker must change either the method of using the
>      equipment OR change the equipment. Equipment debates are more often
>      system debates than disagreements about articles of equipment given
>      the same hiking system. Thus, it may be better to make the observation
>      that
>      The people who say "The equipment doesn't matter!" generally have the
>      method of hiking which smoothly meshes their equipment and their
>      needs.
>      Lastly, thanks again for your "Throughhiking Papers" -- they're quite
>      a contribution.
>      --TMc

Tom -
I'll agree with a lot of what you said.  But allow me to clarify what I
mean by "the equipment doesn't matter".  To me it doesn't matter whether
I'm using a Pur water filter or an MSR, or none. I may prefer one over
the other for weight, utility, maintainability or other reasons, but the
end result of my thruhike (whether I finish or not) will NOT be affected
by that. I will try to start the hike with the filter that best fits my
projected needs on the particular trail that I'll be hiking, but if
something breaks and the only thing available in the next town is
something less desirable, that won't stop me or even slow me down. 
There is no piece of gear (with the possible exception of boots) that
could slow or stop my thruhike. But there are an infinite number of
mental/emotional/attitude factors that are capable of stopping people
(including me).

Now - a couple notes about that previous paragraph - first, with the
exception of Colorado,the CDT doesn't have a lot of outdoor shops along
way - and I wear out a pair of boots every 750-800 miles. So at some
I'll end up hiking in Sears work boots (or something similar).  But even
the boot thing won't stop me - if my boots blow out it may slow me down
until I can get to a town and find whatever will fit  (maybe even Keds?)
but it won't stop me.  The second point is that different trails DO have
different requirements.  It's one of the things that gets some AT
thruhikers in trouble when they get on the PCT - and vice versa.  In 92
hiked for a while with a couple guys who'd done the California part of
PCT - and tried to use the same equipment and techniques on the AT. 
them a while to figure out that the AT was a different (and much wetter)
world. Likewise, a lot of AT thruhikers have problems adjusting to the
desert hiking (or the mosquitos) on the PCT.  :-)

Now, back to "it doesn't matter" --- keep in mind that people have hiked
AT in mountaineering boots, sneakers -- and everything in between.  In
recent instance, a guy hiked a significant part of the at barefoot.
People have completed long trails with top of the line Dana packs - and
packs.  Some have carried 100 pound packs - and others 15 pound packs.
Some of them may be more comfortable than others, but the equipment is
the determining factor in whether or not they finish.  Even those who
with 100 pound packs and get off the trail generally get off for "head"
reasons - because they can't give up their "comfort" items to lighten
pack - or because they get discouraged by the too-heavy pack and they're
not flexible enough to lighten their load - or because ----- pick any of
thousand and seven reasons.  But it's nearly always a head problem
than a real equipment problem.  

I'll agree with you when you say -
>      The people who say "The equipment doesn't matter!" generally have the
>      method of hiking which smoothly meshes their equipment and their
>      needs.

			 -- if "method of hiking" means being mentally
and emotionally flexible enough to accept and adjust to whatever
conditions and
equipment they have or can get to meet the circumstances at the moment -
and learning to not allow the lack of availability of their particular
favorite brand of boots or water filter or pack or whatever to affect
attitude or their hike.  Because if it does affect their attitude, it
end their hike, but that's not an equipment thing -- it's a head thing.

If you want a great example, go read George Steffanos' journal at
http://w3.nai.com/~exile/Hail-nf.html.  There are times when he keeps on
hiking even when he's out of food.  His purpose was to hike the Trail -
and sometimes he kept hiking rather than take the time off the trail to
hitchike into town and resupply. (I will add that he also had other
demons driving him - but you'll have to read it to understand that) I
recently ran into one of the people who gave him some food when he was
in the Blue Ridge - and I think Steve will be thruhiking the AT in 99. 
What I'm saying here is that (at least for some of us) there's an
obsessive one-track, single-minded purpose (thruhiking the Trail) that
overrides any concern about equipment.

I'll repeat this - I WILL start the trail with the best (lightest, most
durable, etc) equipment I can afford.   But if it breaks or malfunctions
or I lose it or whatever -- it won't stop me. If I lose a water filter
and there's not another one available, I'll use iodine - or bleach - or
nothing.  But the loss or malfunction of a water filter or stove or any
other piece of equipment is not a show-stopper - just another problem to
be solved.  And therefore --- for me, the equipment doesn't really
matter in the larger context of a thruhike.  

YMMV -- but I don't really think so for you, Tom.  :-)

Walk softly,

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