Pack light, go fast

Being an economist has an impact on almost every single aspect of my life. This means, that I assess, think about and judge things by the same algorithms, I would use to solve a micro-economic question. Or a game-theoretical one.

I also do this in climbing. When packing my stuff for a weekend, I typically go like this: „Is it increasing safety? Is leaving it behind posing a higher risk on me? Is it heavy? How bad have things to go to make me miss it and blame myself for not taking it?“

With everything that is increasing comfort without having any safety purpose the answer is almost exclusively: Leave it at home, don’t take it. If it is not increasing safety, but a must-have for any other reason, cut it. Take only the core.


Those things that can have a safety impact are a little trickier to judge. How many carbines are a must? Do I really need so many slings? Can we go in trail-running shoes without breaking our ankles after the first 20 steps? It is not going to rain, so why take a hardshell in the first place (I need to add: my hardshell weighs 290 gram, so we are not talking about some bulky, heavy GoreTex XCR jacket from back in the days). Insulation can be stripped from the pack after getting used to the cold.

No matter how light I go there always comes the moment where my pack is starting to become more and more a burden on my shoulders. After five to six hours even the lightest pack becomes nerve-wracking and can cause me to blame myself for bringing too much stuff. This is the moment where all the things in the rucksack are re-assessed. If I have not touched it on a tour, I certainly won’t bring it next time. As long as it is not mandatory equipment such as gloves, headlamp, bivy sack.

Coming back to the economist: In my pack, the marginal rate of safety-loss and the marginal rate of speed gain are equal. This has to be the case otherwise it would make sense to either add something to the list or make something go away. For instance: I leave gloves behind. The increase in speed is almost inexistent when looking at their weight. On the other hand I risk severe troubles from cold hands. So I take them with me. A t-shirt might look like something light to carry, so why bother. But its contribution to safety is zero, ergo I do not take it. You can start weighing things, but I hardly do this. I just buy the lightest equipment that still suffices my needs.


For those interested in more thoughts like this, I recommend Mark Twight’s „Extreme Alpinism“ (find it on amazon here or here (german)).

Going light and fast is something one has to learn. I paid a lot because of not taking a piece, which I later desperately needed. But when you find your equilibrium, it is just awesome!


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