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Alternative Energy Backpacking

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Alternative Energy Backpacking

Postby Kris » Thu Apr 30, 2009 4:07 pm

Being a low impact group of people (for most of us i'm hoping), how many of us incorporate things like the small folding solar chargers for gps, mp3, etc? How about something even more fundamentally sound like a magnifying glass for those evening campfires? I decided this year throw a small lense into my emergency kit as a 'just in case'. Any other ideas on how we can lighten our footprints?
~We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started... and know the place for the first time.

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Re: Alternative Energy Backpacking

Postby cmon4day » Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:18 pm

Leave those items at home and you wont need solar power. Having GPS, MP3, et al, on a backpack trip ruins the wilderness experience.
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Re: Alternative Energy Backpacking

Postby hikerduane » Thu Apr 30, 2009 6:44 pm

Too! I listen to Mother Nature, use a wet finger as a compass.

On the Lost Coast trip last week, about three or so in our Nobo group had the ole IPod a going. I took in the sites and yelled at them, trying to be heard once in awhile.
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Re: Alternative Energy Backpacking

Postby BSquared » Thu Apr 30, 2009 8:37 pm

cmon4day wrote:Leave those items at home and you wont need solar power. Having GPS, MP3, et al, on a backpack trip ruins the wilderness experience.

Well, now. An MP3, yes, I agree -- I go to the wilderness largely for the silence. I'll never forget getting up to Bishop Pass from the east side (pant, pant) and seeing a large group descending toward me, mostly teenagers with a couple of adults. A couple of teenagers actually had boom boxes pressed to their ears (I know: I'm dating myself)! I asked them what sort of group they were, and the reply was "Boy Scouts, cancha tell?!?" :crybaby:

But a GPS, well, your mileage may vary, but I actually think the GPS enhances my wilderness experience. Kind of like a map: what's the name of that peak? Can we get to the next pass some other way? Are we looking toward San Francisco, or more towards Monterey out there?
Last edited by BSquared on Fri May 01, 2009 4:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Alternative Energy Backpacking

Postby trav867 » Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:24 pm

I sometimes bring an ipod shuffle with headphones (1.25oz)- I enjoy listening to music before bed (come on I was a music major!). This is a little off topic though-environmentally, the single biggest thing I do is take my girlfriend's Mini Cooper (40+ mpg hwy) instead of my Jeep Cherokee (20mpg) to the trail head.

I keep up with recycled/green gear but I'll admit that I'm more concerned with finding gear that has the features and weight I need than its carbon footprint. I have considered using an alcohol stove as opposed to my usual fossil fuel powered canister stove but have never actually done it.

For fire, I use a Light My Fire firesteel, but again that's due to its functionality rather than its greenness. Rather than a lens over a lighter, I would say skip the campfire altogether if you're concerned about carbon.
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Re: Alternative Energy Backpacking

Postby LMBSGV » Thu Apr 30, 2009 10:11 pm

Carrying an MP3 player is one of those "unclear on the concept" desecrations. Experiencing the wilderness means using all our senses. Hearing the wind in the pines, the splashing and trickle of creeks, and lap of the water on lakes is as integral to wilderness as the views.

As for my carbon footprint in wilderness, the one thing I'd love to find an alternative for is ziploc plastic bags.
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Re: Alternative Energy Backpacking

Postby BSquared » Fri May 01, 2009 4:16 am

LMBSGV wrote:Carrying an MP3 player is one of those "unclear on the concept" desecrations. Experiencing the wilderness means using all our senses. Hearing the wind in the pines, the splashing and trickle of creeks, and lap of the water on lakes is as integral to wilderness as the views.

As for my carbon footprint in wilderness, the one thing I'd love to find an alternative for is ziploc plastic bags.


Amen to both, although I can certainly see why other people like to listen to music in the backcountry; just not my earful of tea. And of course, for me, the one thingI'd love to find a low-carbon alternative to is the airplane ride to California. :rolleyes: I did look into Amtrak for this coming summer ... three days and several thousand dollars later... :thumbsdown:

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Re: Alternative Energy Backpacking

Postby TehipiteTom » Fri May 01, 2009 8:47 am

I don't own a GPS and would never bring my iPod into the wilderness...but I'm surprised nobody has commented on the highest-impact item of all: the "evening campfire". There are very good reasons why campfires are banned in much of the high country.
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Re: Alternative Energy Backpacking

Postby gdurkee » Fri May 01, 2009 10:53 am

MP3 --- aaaarrgggh! In the privacy of one's own tent OK, but way up on my list of irritations is people shouting questions at me while plugged into their gizmo. I'm gonna start cutting their wires before I answer them in the future.

And I agree with others here -- no fires for a variety of good reasons, a reduced carbon footprint among them.

Another small quibble: How much technology/transportation/manufacturing materials goes into that "small folding" solar panel vs. not having the thing and assorted gizmos in the first place?

Still, a minor issue and negligible impact (but, I have to say, a strange question as far as bringing and supporting technology into wilderness). One of the unique experiences we can gain only from wilderness is the chance to totally unplug from the world. I'd consider that as a better approach.

g.
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Re: Alternative Energy Backpacking

Postby Kris » Fri May 01, 2009 12:08 pm

This isn't necessarily technology specific. Simply to get the ideas rolling. Carpooling (if possible) and using the 4 cylinder are definitely a couple big ones. Buying food in bulk, dehydrating your own meals, recylcing items when you can, etc. I personally carry neither an mp3 or gps, and very rarely have campfires even when allowed. I don't mind if people do, however. Everyone's mountain experience is different, and should be honored as such. Why get frustrated and take away from my own experience because of what somelse is doing (assuming the music can only be heard by the one playing it, etc). Like many of you, the music of the mountains for me is always far more satisfying. The issue of 'greening' all of our gear is a big one. It's easy to point the finger at an mp3, solar charger, or a campfire, but what we should all try to address is the petrol riding on our backs (and the externalized costs involved with all of our gear). Like shaving pack weight, you should start with the biggest items first.
~We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started... and know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot
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Re: Alternative Energy Backpacking

Postby dave54 » Fri May 01, 2009 9:04 pm

The solar chargers do not work, which is why you rarely see them on the trail (no one brings it along twice, after experiencing its uselessness the first trip).

I am not certain all those things you mentioned are all that beneficial. Is dehydrating your own food more energy efficient than purchasing it? The food companies have large industrial food dryers, giving economy of scale. On a per pound basis do they use more energy than a small home unit? The prepared food must be transported to your home, but so does the fresh food you dry yourself. There are many reasons to dry your own food, but I am not convinced there is an overall energy saving.

Campfires are unsightly, but the true ecological impact is far less than most people think (below the tree line. Above the tree line different factors come into play.) You are simply burning wood that otherwise would burn in a future wildfire, hastening the nutrient and carbon cycling process. Is that less of an overall impact than burning fossil fuel? I do not generally have a campfire, but that is for personal reasons, not altruistic environmental reasons.

There have been only a few studies exploring the total carbon footprint of various human powered outdoor pursuits, with mixed results. Some published results have been very unsettling and uncomfortable. Backpacking itself is not a no-impact benign activity and the effects are identified and quantified.

I am unsure what others have posted here about mp3 players. I do not listen to mine while on the trail. That is foolish. I have used mine at night to listen to a few chapters of a book I am currently enjoying. Indeed, the proper book is a fine complement to the trip (like listening to John Muir's writings while camping in the Desolation Wilderness or John Wesley Powell's journal while on a trip down the Green River). I have the Audubon Society's recording of bird songs loaded into mine also. On more than one occasion it has helped me identify a species I heard but could not locate.

A practice not mentioned, and a pet peeve of mine, involves the bright neon colors found on clothing and gear. They are visible from a long distance, and other groups on the trail or in camp look like the circus came to town. Choosing more muted colors like greens and earth tones reduce the visual impact in an increasingly crowded backcountry. You can always have a single article of clothing of bright color stuffed in your pack for the rare instance when visibility is desired.
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Re: Alternative Energy Backpacking

Postby BSquared » Sat May 02, 2009 8:00 am

dave54 wrote:There have been only a few studies exploring the total carbon footprint of various human powered outdoor pursuits, with mixed results. Some published results have been very unsettling and uncomfortable. Backpacking itself is not a no-impact benign activity and the effects are identified and quantified.


If you get the chance, Dave, I'd like to know more about these studies; do you have any citations?
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