Sure, those packs were seven pound behemoths, and my pack weight often soared to seventy pounds when I counted the Forest Service radio, search and rescue gear, a pulaski wedged in the ice axe loop, and all the trash I could possibly find and carry (hammocks, old shoes. Tents. Cans, bottles, cast iron frying pans, grills, tin foil to the max). But those packs were built so well that the load carried like a dream. Today's packs are feather light but they will never carry like that. I was young and fast and the weight didn't bother me then.
I wouldn't carry a seven-pound-empty pack today, because I need to be kind to my knees, just like I wouldn't carry the high tech gear we had available then: Whisper-Lite stove, first generation. Ceramic water filter. Cotton sweatshirts. Four pound one person tents. I have to laugh when people earnestly ask about saving four ounces, one puffy over another. Just cowboy up and hike, I want to say. We did it in the old days! And look, we are still alive!
|This is a newer version of the pack I carried for years as a wilderness ranger. I think we had more straps!|
I won't really change my mind on packs though. I tried one that was less than a pound, and it was amazing. But then I had to do a 24 hour water carry to a dry camp, and I didn't pick that pack. I knew it would drag on my shoulders and wouldn't stand up to 6 liters of water. What's the point of being superlight if you are miserable? Now I am in between. My pack is a well constructed one that tops the scale at (GASP) three pounds. It definitely would not hold up to the kind of wilderness rangering I used to do, but it works for what I do now.
Still, I'll always miss my behemoth packs. I carried them with pride through the mountains, off trail and across snowfields and clinging to the side of cliffs. I never once thought about cutting off straps to make them lighter. Instead of your base weight being "cool" now if it is below ten pounds, it was cool then to be able to carry a heavy load. We would have scoffed at people with UL gear. What was wrong with them, why couldn't they carry a load and still hike 4 mph? We could.
We hung our packs on the scale and groaned at their weight, but secretly we wanted them to be heavy, because it meant we were tough. Misguided? Probably. But we were twenty-five and thought we could do anything. Thought our seasonal jobs would be enough to sustain us, thought that people who could love us and put up with our wandering would always come along, thought we would never get old. So we hiked with what we had. And it was fine. We survived, and we always made it over the next summit, and we walked on to the rest of our lives, which did not include big, heavy packs and all the other things we left behind in that decade.