Backpacking Wank: Epic Cage Matches

During my months months of research, whenever I found myself getting stressed out or nervous about my upcoming hike, there was always one foolproof thing I could do to relax:  Read the online arguments that continuously erupt in backpacking forums over gear preferences and the One Most True and Righteous Way.

The back-and-forths over gear preferences are interesting, and I usually learn a lot:

  • tents vs. tarps
  • tarps vs. hammocks
  • quilts vs. bags
  • alcohol stove vs. canister
  • stove vs. no stove
  • down vs. synthetic

The back-and-forths over backpacking ideologies are just straight-up amazing entertainment.

Some are applicable to any trail:

  • bring a cellphone vs. leave all technology at home
  • ultralighters vs. kitchen-sinkers

But my favorites are AT-specific:

  • shelter vs. stealth campsite
  • Every! Single! Blaze! purists vs. One! Long! Corridor! blue blazers
  • there’s just enough trail magic vs. there’s too much trail magic
  • mail drops vs. gas station resupply
  • filter always vs. filter never
  • hang your food vs. use it as a pillow
  • towns are awesome vs. towns must be avoided at all cost

Once you’ve settled on one side of an issue, I’m pretty sure you’re entrenched for life. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone from one camp manage to persuade an opponent to change their mind. It’s just a ritualized exchange of increasingly aggressive, self-righteous or dismissive comments until everyone gets it out of their system and wanders off to do something else.

There’s something really comforting about the fact that oceans will rise and empires will fall, but these same arguments will continue from now until the very end of time.

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