Ultra Heavy Backpacking

| August 20, 2009

Ray Jardine would be spinning in his grave if he saw this, except for the fact that he is still very much alive and hiking.  Ray is a leading proponent of Ultralight Backpacking and often covers up to forty miles a day while carrying an eight-pound pack.  At the other end of the spectrum, I recently flew with 225 pounds of food and gear, then proceeded to add another 100 or so pounds of food and gas.  It was a staggering about of junk and guaranteed that we weren’t going to be going very far.

When in doubt... bring it.

When in doubt... bring it.

The advantage of going ultralight is increased mobility whereas the advantage of ultraheavy is increased comfort for extended periods of time.  In the case of skiing a big peak, you may luck out and get perfect conditions right off the bat, but more than likely you are going to have to do some hard tent-time while waiting for the weather and stability to improve and biding your time.  In cases like this, its important to be warm, well rested and well fed so that when the time is right, you are ready to go.  Eating freeze dried food and waking up every time your partner moves in a tiny little two person tent is okay for a day or so, but it takes its toll after a week or more.

Day eight in the tent... but whose counting?

Day eight in the tent... but who's counting?

I think I first learned about Ultraheavy camping through Lorne Glick when we brought along frying pans, bacon, cook tents, speakers, triple servings of Costco cheese and all sorts of other stuff on a trip to Mt. Hunter.  From where the plane dropped us off, we hauled all of our gear a grand total of about a mile down the glacier on sleds, set up base camp and left it.  Of the three weeks we allotted to this trip, the actual climbing and skiing only took 1-2 days, but success was a matter of being able to patiently and comfortably wait for the right days.  On this and other subsequent heavy camping trips, I think I have actually gained weight while winter camping. For reference, here is a link to a partial food list on a recent heavy camping trip.

All you can eat burritos, complete with hot sauce and guacamole.

All you can eat burritos, complete with hot sauce and guacamole.

Key ingrediants of Ultra Heavy camping - butter, booze and bacon.

Key ingrediants of Ultra Heavy camping - butter, booze and bacon.

The downside of heavy camping is that it kills your mobility, so it is something that only works in certain situations.  But when it works, it is the only way to fly.

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Category: Expeditions

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (13)

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  1. Ultra Heavy Backpacking at Backcountry.com: The Goat | August 20, 2009
  1. d3 says:

    i hope lorne writes a book about ultra heavies; i’d buy it!

    what’s really fun is to put rocks in your backpacking buddies’ packs when they’re not looking.

    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

  2. Freeryder72 says:

    thats how I roll, except for Canadian CLub we bring Macallan 12 or 15

  3. salt water says:

    we bring cabernet

  4. Colin in CA says:

    Mmm… whiskey and butter. I’d opt for the Macallan 12 as well though.

  5. Colin in CA says:

    Doh… shoulda made that post with a different blog linked.

  6. The Behr says:

    Couldn’t agree more with all of the comments. I’ll gladly hike around 60-70 pounds for a little extra night time enjoyment. I go for the scotch solo and switch over to the whiskey for mixing (Pablo Picasso – whiskey, cider, red wine heated in a kettle delicious). And don’t let anyone tell you that light beer weighs less in your pack then regular, you need those extra calories anyway after hauling all that in.

  7. Hacksaw says:

    What, no little “Goldfish” crackers???

  8. doubleA says:

    Did you guys bring Propeller Beanies for the summit?

  9. workerserf says:

    The real quetion isn’t whether to pack light or heavy, but how can i get 3 weeks off to go skiing? I’m jealous.

  10. CedarChelle says:

    Why bring a bottle of wine, when you can bring a box?

  11. OakAgnew says:

    I like to bring a case of PBR

  12. Liz Warner says:

    butter, booze and bacon seem like a great combination especially if you’re out there having an adventure with yer buddies :)

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