August 2, 2021

Why I hate BPL (backpacking light)

For those of you who don't know, BPL is a website devoted to ultralight backpacking. Nearly everything about this site annoys me. They are always badgering you for money. The site has a popup with the most obscure and hard to find "X" to dismiss the badgering. On and on it goes. These people are out to make money from your hobby, no two ways about it.

You might excuse this if there weren't countless other hobby oriented sites online that are completely free -- Hammock Forums is a notable example. So every time I visit this site I see in my minds eye a handful of elitist backpackers greedily making money off of the people they victimize.

I was once a forum member and would post from time to time. Then they changed their policies, and they changed them again. The site still has me grandfathered in as a "free" member, but that seems to be all but useless. They have whittled away at what I can do and it is not even clear what it means to be a "free member" these days, but I certainly can't post in the forums. Maybe you can't even read the forums without being a member. A forum I can't participate in is less than useless and a continual irritation.

An odd view of backpacking

I have written elsewhere of the evils of competition. However BPL fosters the competitive mindset in every possible way. I had to ask once what FKT stood for ("fastest known time" apparently). There are a handful of trails that the zombie backpacking drones all spend their time on and they compete to see how fast they can hike these trails. I can't imagine anything more at odds with what backpacking is for me.

Other forms of competition involve categories of backpacking (ultralight, super ultra light) with weight divisions. A classic case of the means taking priority over the ends. All this is making out backpacking to be some kind of community activity with some people superior to others, exactly the sort of thing I go backpacking to escape and avoid. I would post an article about this on the BPL forums and see what discussion I can stir up, but of course I have to pay to do that.

What I look for in a forum is people helping people (not people draining other people's pockets). Human beings have a strong tendency towards competition, but my claim is that in most cases this goes rapidly off the rails and becomes a bad thing. This is my view of life and many people won't agree. I suppose I should be glad that the backpacking media keeps promoting a handful of trails -- and indeed I am. When I go to the Sierra in California, as long as I avoid the JMT/PCT I can almost be guaranteed complete solitude. Along the JMT there is a turd under every rock and a herd of PCT hikers rubbing elbows with each other.

Have any comments? Questions? Drop me a line!

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