Why It’s (Sometimes) Better to Have Too Much Than Too Little

It’s ironic that “minimalism” can be such a complex term. There are minimalist movements within visual art, literature, and music. Then there’s a minimalist lifestyle, and, of course, a minimalist philosophy among hikers, backpacks, and outdoor enthusiasts. You can get different definitions of minimalism, even within a specific field, depending on the person that you ask. Some say that minimalism is the idea that you should eliminate the unnecessary. Others will tell you that minimalism is about striving to rid yourself of as much as possible. For some, minimalism means leaving the camp chair at home. For others minimalism means whittling down your pack list until you have nothing but a knife and a tarp. At its most basic, however, minimalism is an emphasis on simplicity.

Simplification is an admirable pursuit in many spaces. When it comes to something like hiking, backpacking, or camping, however, minimalism isn’t always practical. Sometimes it’s better to have extra than to be left wanting.

Doesn’t every ounce count?

If you ask a backpacker whether it’s better to carry too much or too little, 9 times out of 10 they will say eliminate as much weight as possible and pack light. This is ultimately a matter of preference. Some people are willing to endure the extra ounces to pack a chair while others would rather save the weight and sit on a stump. However, there are three things that you should always pack too much of not enough.

  • Water
  • Food
  • Insulation

If you run out of these three things, you can be in a tough spot.

What about eliminating gear?

Some ultralight backpackers find themselves obsessing over counting ounces. They do the math and find that a wool blanket is lighter and more packable than their sleeping bag, so they sacrifice warmth and comfort in the name of shaving pack weight. Counting ounces is a slippery slope that can result in being underprepared. Sometimes this is just inconvenient and uncomfortable, but it can also be dangerous.

Some people can get along just fine without extra outdoor gear. If you have the knowledge and skill to replace equipment, it makes sense to leave unnecessary items at home. Minimalism isn’t necessarily practical for the casual hiker or weekend warrior. Inadequate shelter, clothing, or water can be dangerous out in nature. If you can’t resist the temptation to shave pack weight, or you are enamored with the thought of hitting the trail with nothing but the bare necessities, take baby steps and practice. Gradually eliminate items with each trip, until you get to the point where you want to be. Don’t leave half the contents of your normal pack list at home and get caught in a bad situation.

Of course, you might be looking to add gear rather than lose gear. Stop by and see us for any of your hiking, backpacking, or camping equipment that you need!

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