When a hiker decides to spend the night under the stars, he becomes a backpacker and immediately finds himself confronted with a dilemma: how to find the most comfort in my campsite while carrying the least weight?
Staying overnight may require protection from the elements and meal preparation. Will you bring a tent? A sleeping pad? A cooker? What about a water purification kit? An air mattress? A chair? A table? How far can you go with this?
A few times in the past I have opted for so much gear that I was forced to forget a regular backpack and found myself carrying all of my necessities in a huge backpack attached to a frame made of aluminum, on which many superfluous objects were stacked or tied. , pretending to be a traveling handyman from the horse and buggy era.
In the 1960s, it was not uncommon for hikers to carry 20 to 30 kilos of equipment on their backs!
Over the years, the trend has gone exactly in the opposite direction – to ultralight hiking.
I first heard about this trend in hiking gear from long-distance hiker Cam Honan, who has established his base here in Mexico but frequently spends months trekking the world’s longest trails. .
Honan, an Australian who uses the trail name “Swami”, has walked over 96,000 kilometers in his lifetime and has been named “the world’s most traveled hiker” by Hiker reviewed in 2015.
You may be surprised to learn that Swami usually does not carry more than three kilograms of equipment on his back, plus food and water.
Its secret is simple: It takes full advantage of the wonderfully clever ultralight materials that have replaced leather, canvas, steel and rubber, allowing a modern backpacker to enjoy comfort without paying for it in weight.
Another such modern backpacker is Matteo Volpi, 22, who grew up in Guadalajara and started a company, Volpi Outdoor Gear, to make and sell his own lightweight, high-quality hiking backpacks.
“I got interested in hiking and the outdoors when I saw a movie called In nature, Volpi told me, “which shows – for 10 seconds – the protagonist walking along the Pacific Crest Trail [PCT] which crosses California, Oregon and Washington for more than 4,000 kilometers, from Mexico to Canada.
That 10-second preview was enough for him, he said.
“I decided then and there that one day I was going to hike this trail, even though at the time I was just starting high school,” Volpi said. “So I started working on this project saving money. And finally in 2019, I was able to do it.
“I hiked all the way from the Mexican border to Chester, Calif. (The middle of the trail), which is 1,380 kilometers.”
Along the way, Volpi acquired his track name, “olive oil”, a condiment he has a fondness for, possibly inherited from his father, who was born in Italy. “On PCT, I used olive oil in all of my meals,” he laughs. “I even drank it to finish what was left in the bottle before buying more at the replenishment!”
It took Volpi 37 days to hike, covering 40-50 kilometers per day.
“I had an ultralight tent made by Tarptent. It is a mark of the cottage industry of the United States. It weighs around 500 grams and I support it with my hiking poles. I also have a down trekking quilt which serves as my sleeping bag but weighs very little.
During this hike he went without a stove, he said.
“I cold soaked all my meals. For example, if you want to eat couscous, you just need to put the grain in a plastic jar, add water and throw the jar in your backpack, where it bounces for half an hour, during which the grain absorbs water and voila, you have a meal! It’s cold but it’s still good. So you don’t need to carry a stove or a gas canister, and you need a lot less water, ”he said.
“Other items I ordered from the United States were a puffer jacket, hiking poles, raincoat, rain pants, sleeping pad, Columbia [brand] merino wool shirt and socks, ”Volpi said. “The socks are made by Darn Tough in Vermont and have an unconditional lifetime warranty: a great product. And [I wore] Altra hiking boots. They make shoes for the trail, and thanks to them I never had a single bulb. Almost all of my equipment comes from small cottage industries.
Volpi told me that the biggest problem for Mexicans who want to do one of these long distance trails is to get all this high quality ultralight gear.
“I had to buy everything in the United States, but the duty they charge on this type of specialized equipment is so high that it actually exceeds the item you are buying! ” he said.
This situation prompted Volpi to think about making his own backpacks. “I wanted to do it here in Mexico, so I made a prototype of a frameless ultralight and showed it to a man I know who has spent his entire life making backpacks and shoes. , a real expert in sewing. His name is Don Pepe.
“Of course he had never worked with ultralight materials before and maybe never looked for such high quality, but he immediately knew what I was looking for. So we combined his skills with my knowledge of trekking and ultralight, and Don Pepe quickly found himself five or six assistants.
“By the way, they’re all old people. They make a great team and work really well together.
For months, Volpi and his team of seniors tapped into their backpack, which is made of professional-grade materials made by Ripstop by the Roll, a premium ultralight fabric supplier in the United States, popular among small startups and craft brands.
“Slowly but surely,” says Volpi, “we improved our backpack more and more until we ended up with a very high quality product. And because each one is handmade, you could tell they are artisanal, handcrafted. I am happy to add that we are now selling it in the United States and France.
The Volpi 40 Liter Backpack weighs just under 500 grams (17.6 ounces), light enough to let you carry just a little more olive oil!
Maybe you, as a Volpi customer, will find that “I feel like I have nothing on my back” and, yes, Volpi’s backpack passed the biggest test of all:
“I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail using this bag,” explains “Balloons” hiker Orozco, “and loved it. It is the lightest on the market for capacity, well built and at the right price.
(To walk means to walk an established path with continuous steps in one direction.)
You can find out more about Volpi and its ultralight Mexico-made backpack on US seller Garage Grown Gear’s website and on Instagram.
The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, since 1985. His most recent book is Outdoors in Western Mexico, volume three. More of his writings can be found on his Blog.