Is backpacking a dying sport? That seems to be the question asked by this article over at the Seattle Weekly website. Backpacking was a craze that took off in the United States during the 60’s and 70’s, but seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years as something people do when they head outdoors. The article sites a study that shows the number of American’s who participate in backpacking is dropping fairly substantially, especially amongst the 16-24 year old age groups, where the sport has traditionally been popular. Other activities, such as trail running, adventure racing, and snowshoeing have all seen steady growth.
What’s the solution? Well, the article quotes Demetri Coupounas, founder of GoLite who is a strong proponent of Fast Packing. It’s the mantra of GoLite in fact. Drop the weight, take the bare necessities, and move fast an light on your hikes.
It’s a shame that backpacking has fallen out of favor to a degree. Many people are missing out on an opportunity to explore the backcountry in the best way possible, but it’s also not for everyone. You need to plan ahead, and think about what you’re doing and where you’re going. You need to carry your gear and food and other equipement, and you have to know how to navigate and surive off the beaten path. The upside of less people taking part in the sport, is that there are fewer people out there when we head into the backcountry, which means more solitude. That always sounds good to me.
Update: (10/6/2006) I urge everyone to read the comments posted on this article by Steve Sergeant. He has made some great points about how the lack of interest in backpacking can cause less resources to be given to our natural resources in general, and a growing sense of apathy amongst people to fight to defend the backcountry. I completely agree with what he has to say, and although my comments above make it sound like I’d prefer fewer people to actually be in the backcountry, I was actually trying offering a little tongue in cheek commentary. Obviously I love the wilderness, and want to see it preserved for all of us to enjoy, future generations included. Steve, who produces the Wildebeat podcast, does a much better job making the argument than I can, so again, be sure to read his comments.
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