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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lighten Up!

How to choose and use light-hiking equipment and philosophy to make your photography forays more enjoyable, comfortable and productive

Labels: Gear

Remote wilderness offers a unique venue for the outdoor photographer. Quiet solitude combined with the intimacy of a single place elevates photography from mechanical process to immersive experience. Experiencing remote wilderness is one thing. Getting there, however, can be quite another. In addition to photography equipment, one must contend with the burden created by camping gear, foul-weather clothing, cooking supplies and enough food for several days. Pack weights can easily balloon to 60 pounds or more, limiting the distance you can travel in a day, how remote you can go and how long you can stay in one location photographing your objective.

I've spent the better part of my career disseminating information and education about helping people experience remote places with a lighter pack. The outcome has been the development of a style of wilderness travel known as "lightweight backpacking" that uses skills and equipment to achieve less pack weight, more comfort, more distance and more fun.

The Guiding Principles
The benefits of carrying a lighter pack are numerous, but three, in particular, resonate with my own desire to be a better outdoor photographer:

1 A lighter pack allows me to cover more terrain and see more sights. This opens up additional photographic opportunities that I might have missed while traveling slower with a heavier pack.

2 A lighter pack is easier on my aging body. Less fatigue when I arrive in camp means I'm more enthused about the need to "work" hard during the magic hours at dusk and dawn.

3 A lighter pack means less equipment to keep track of and maintain, freeing my mind to focus its mental energy on photography, rather than fiddling with piles of backpacking gear.

The Lightweight Philosophy
The lightweight philosophy can be broken down into six core principles:

1 Take Inventory. Pack your pack as you normally would for an expedition, including food and water, and weigh it. You may be shocked! Then, take each item out of your pack, log it (I use spreadsheet software) and weigh it. Knowing what you have, how many things you have and how much each item weighs provides insight that will allow you to eliminate unnecessary items and lighten up your essentials.

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