The skies are grey, so time for a dose of escapism with the next instalment from my #FITROADTRIP around California. This time, the latest trend in hiking (which you can try at home too!)
ULTRALIGHT HIKING: GO HARDER, LONGER, FASTER
WHAT? The buzzword in hiking right now is ‘ultralight’. From backpacks to poles to camping stoves, companies are developing seriously high-tech materials and designs to shave lbs…heck ounces…off the weight of walking kit. I gave it a whirl with Jeff, the owner of the Cedar House Sport Hotel in Truckee, Lake Tahoe (about 3hrs northeast of San Fran), and his dog Baxter. Jeff runs Tahoe Trips and Trails which, amongst other things, offers guided treks into the backcountry. I was kitted out with a backpack that weighed a mere 8oz (by Gossamer) and poles that felt totally weightless.
WHY? If your gear is lighter, you can go for longer, more arduous treks further off the beaten track, without being held back by it. Jeff explained that while ultralight backpacking has been around for years it’s seen a spike in popularity of late as more stressed out types are wanting to disappear on trails for days at a time.
WHAT IS IT LIKE? Nothing short of amazing. We went miles off the well-worn routes into the mountains in the Tahoe National Forest and managed to plough through 16 miles – much more than I’d normally take on. Not being weighed down with excess kit makes a real difference. I felt as though we were really able to get out into the wilderness –and frankly, we were. We were surrounded by towering trees and at 9,300ft up Castle Peak, looking out across lakes and forests, there was not another soul in sight. Using kit such as a Sawyer biological water filter (a bottle that makes any water you collect outside safe to drink) both limited the weight we were carrying (no need for extra water supplies) but also made me feel more connected with nature as we filled up with crisp, fresh spring water.
WHERE TO DO IT: The beauty of this trend? You can try it anywhere, by investing in kit from the likes of Gossamer. If you’re near Truckee, I’d 100% recommend heading out with Jeff (who gives you the kit to use). But wherever you are, unless you’re experienced, it pays to have someone with you who knows the area well and is trail-smart, so you can escape the masses.