Nov 30, 2018469 views

Is backpacking a competitive sport?

I first started asking myself this question a few years ago during my A.T. thru hike attempt. My first night in a Georgia hostel really opened my eyes to how competitive everyone was acting; harshly scrutinizing each others gear, boasting past mileage, and poking fun at people who were predicted not to "make it". "What are we making" i thought. I was not spared from this initiation being told "your corpse will be to frozen for the mice to eat" after asking what my bag was rated at. This comment scared me enough to question what i was doing even though i had used this very sleep system on lots of multi day trips in a myriad of weather conditions, my confidence was dwindle down to almost embarrassment. I immediately learned that "comfort rating" was not the answer they wanted to hear, "lower limit" was what they were touting. It seemed dangerous to me, when in life do we ever base judgments on the absolute limit, but when your already nervous these comments do have an impact on your psyche. Why were they doing this? After walking through Georgia (BTW someone was airlifted from Springer, suffering from hypothermia that first night) I started to realize that it resembled the poop talk before a game. They were being competitive. Competing in distance, Speed, gear choices, Firewatches climbed, choice of path (blue or white or yellow). I chose to associate myself with walkers who wanted to see the next vista, who wanted to catch the perfect sunrise, who would stay at particularly breathtaking locales just to soak it all up, pushed not by guide books or friends but the secrets they lay around the bend, the soul changing magic that your heart aches for. This is what i had thought everyone would be like which i admit is naive, i understand everyone hikes their hike. As the pack thinned those left didn't carry a specific kit, didn't follow a specific path, they were all different; "pros", amateurs, old, young, external, internal, down, synthetic, nylon, polyester, 20 lbs, 30 lbs, 40 lbs. Are the gear companies driving this? or Is it just human nature? Is competion good or bad for backpacking? Is the magic being lost to weights and measures?
Xanthe, bijou1971, and 8 others

Can I ask did you make katadin?? cos in my experience as a triple crowner those that give the chat don’t complete there are plenty of successful thru hikers particularly on the A T with many would describe as low quality kit and plenty with hyper lite ., z packs to name a couple of more costly suppliers and Ti everywhere hikers who don’t complete it ain’t the kit it’s the love , courage, determination or my favourite word stickability to get it done... it it ain’t the kit.. its the people you meet. the sharing the caring the views the sunrise that God gives us every day the wildlife there’s none so blind as those can’t see!!! keep hiking and stay safe
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Guessed that!!! Congrats bro!!
Right back at you! A triple crown! That’s something really special, something I dream about
Course it is!!!! with yourself on any thru hike
I have been hiking for three decades and never came across anything like what is described in the opening of the OP. If this kind of thing happens, it's probably more a reflection on people attracted to the AT or something even more specific than that.
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I read some of the other comments, and the 'competitive' angle is still really confusing. I wonder if maybe it's more an US thing.
American?? nope...... romans we’re doing it 2000 yrs ago lol
When I hiked the north section of the AT in 1996, I was smoked by two girls carrying 60lb backpacks (normal back then). My ego still hasn't recovered. On a serious note... feats of endurance are always celebrated by enthusiasts. It can be inspiring and push our own limits of what is possible. -taught.
The wisdom is hike your own hike. There are some trying to make record attempts and if real contenders, you wont see them after a day! And yes some will try to make anything competitive. Gear freaks can be the same way. “What’s YOUR base weight?” It’s all like bringing the Rat Race along to me!
It's only competitive if you let it become that way. If anything when I go hiking it's anything but competitive ( if you don't count going slow ) . I just don't look , I enjoy each step and minute I can be out there , no hurry to get anywhere. Not in the mood or frame of mind to set speed records or to keep up with anyone. Ther's three of us who hike together , Me ,Myself and I.
You've probably heard it many times: "Hike Your Own Hike." I couldn't care less what the fastest time is, or the most miles in a day or year, or whatever, for us backpacking/hiking is definitely NOT a competive sport. We'd much rather watch wildlife, smell the flowers, search for berries, etc. than make miles and miss a lot of it. So ignore the "competitors" if you so desire, they can have their fun, you can have yours.
Of course it is that is why there is Fastest known times and attempts to break them every year. That does not mean you have to participate hike your own hike.
That is very interesting. I do pay a lot of attention to the weight of all my gear, but that kind of competitive nonsense really irritates me. Sometimes I think they are trying to convince themselves they have bought the right stuff. I must remember not to get drawn into those kind of conversations ...
I grew up an athlete and have been in competitive sports through my college years, while I would not consider it a competitive sport, I do believe that there is a very mental aspect for each person doing their hike. I'm 53 now and have always been an outdoor person for hiking, camping and hunting and have usually enjoyed just being outdoors and reveling in the majesty of it. however for me I train for the trail, lots of legs and core, but I have also always bee a gym rat and believe in the benefits of weight training/cardio. As I have gotten older the abuse I placed on my body through my younger years has taken its toll, so maintaining muscle and core strength is important. Hiking is a love for many people for various reasons, we really don't compete with anyone except our mental battles, we are out for a few things and each of those may be different, but they all have common themes; nature, solitude, getting away and unplugging from the daily grind etc.. so unless your are trying to break posted times for for trails and age groups etc, it is more about the journey than beating your fellow hiker!
Great reply ...
As an aside and part of what may encourage some of the 'hiker snobbishness' is directly related to social media AND nearly all Outside type websites and magazines touting FKT's and some just ridicoulous stunts so people can see their name somewhere...Supported, unsupported...who cares ?!? Stop and smell the roses or coffee or hiker stench, you know ? IMHO
I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve you’ve said. I like gear and I like finding lighter gear that works for a me. It’s fun, but gear isn’t the point. I thru liked the PCT in 2017 and ultimately gear is a means, not the goal. I’m an older hiker ( 61) and I found it hard at times to be accepted, or engaged , surrounded by UL hikers, many of whom had previously completed the AT, looking at my conventional “ backpacking” gear, my age, and writing me off as finished before I had made 200 miles. I did trade out a lot my gear as I went but I got a different attitude when I walked through the Sierras with the highest snowpack on record making as many miles as people 35 years younger than me. ( not to be competitive🙂) . I travelled with several people who just not give a shit how heavy their pack was or what was in it and how many miles others did. I admired those people the most. It didn’t matter to them and it doesn’t matter to me. Most of them walked across the Canadian border. There is an underlying competiveness at times and it’s a negative. Making mileage goals and pushing harder as an individual or group can be rewarding and fun but people shouldn’t judge others for their mileage, what they wear or carry. It’s not why we’re out there
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I think Skurka has a good, realistic view of reality, in regards to hiking in general...
Thanks for the reply Tctower12! You bring up a good point that hiking in a group and pushing hard to make mileage goals together IS rewarding and fun. In my original post I feel like I might’ve came off as “poo-pooing” this comradery (they don’t call me rusty bridges for no reason). Truth is with out my core group of friends picking me up when I was down in the dumps, I would have never had as much fun as I did. And like you said, we would never judge each other or anyone for that matter on how, why and where they walked; negativity wasn’t even in our vocabulary because of a shared understanding of how crushing and contagious it can be.
Check out the Trek - loads of good info and first hand knowledge/experience on there...
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Yes that's it - also check out I am not familiar w/the cleverhiker, I will take a look as well...Thx !
Oh neat, that’s new to me, I’ll check it out thanks man
Different people are out there for different reasons, and I am certain to some degree it is an 'age thing' (I'm 56). When I first got my kids hiking we were doing a kind of test hike to the Hike Inn near Springer as a precursor to LeConte. They were probably 8 and 11 at the time (now 13 and 16)...Up to that point we had always had to drag (the younger one) my Son, along. After a few hikes his competitive nature kicked in and he would lead and set the pace most of the time. When we returned the next year it was his goal to get there in less than 2 hours (which we did, easily). I guess my point is we all have different motivations for being out there, the important thing is that people are out there. But as it becomes more popular and places tout FKTs and such, you bring in a different group/type of hiker. Let the young ones talk, because it is just Happy Hiking, S.
Thanks for the reply S! That’s awesome your kids are getting outside, no easy feat these days. You bring up a very good point, one I really didn’t take into account, being in my 30’s I was in a minority age group (I think I met one other) everyone else was in their 20’s or 50’s. Your right though, whatever gets us outside is a good thing.