Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Daring Feets: Parade Of The Five Piggies


Backpacking is a fool's paradise of cruft.

Ultralight backpacking is supposed to cut through this but I don't see it, only more cruft.

Cruft is what got me into the ultralight end, and one of the things that got me into backpacking. So many cute little toys to dink with. I'm trying to learn my way out of it.

I know someone who gets tingly near any REI store, and I can understand that. That is, I remember when I could understand that.

Outdoor shops are stuffed with cruft. They sell it. The more they have the more likely you are to come and look. All the pretty, shiny things. The more you look the longer you stay, and the more you buy.

This has nothing to do with hiking or backpacking or bicycling or kayaking or skiing. At all.

It's marketing. They make money when there is a transaction. You decide that what they have is worth more than your money, and they decide that the money in your pocket is more valuable than what they are selling.

Think about that for a while. It doesn't really work unless you lose.

But that's another story.

Right now I'm thinking of feet and what I have to do with mine. I'll have more to say later sometime. It will take a while. Some experiments have to be run. Data digested. Calipers calipered. Hanenframies hanned and frammed, then fine tuned. The usual.

Tweakage must take place.

My thoughts today are with streams and water and rocks, and how to cross streams full of sharp rocks and cold water. And what to do, midnightish, when watering the flowers.

One thing is clear. I'm happier, freer, and more comfortable since I quit wearing boots. Trail running shoes have brought a lot of freedom, but I still want a supplement. Something to wade streams with. Something to slip into briefly around camp for short trips on dewy nights.

Shoes are much friendlier than boots, given. Even after a huge hiking day I no longer need alternate footwear to recover in. But it's nice to have something for those other times.

There are several options, but I want to mention something odd and new. It's footwear put out by Vibram (the people who invented gnarly rubber boot soles in 1935). They call it FiveFingers.

Shoes like armored toe socks.

They're light enough. All models in size 42 (U.S. 8 1/2) are well under a pound (454 g) per pair. But that isn't the key.

They have toes. Each shoe has five little bays, one for each toe. They are meant to be worn without socks. The uppers are stretchy and flexible. The soles are a thin variety of Vibram (smooth, not lugged). They are recommended for pretty much all moderate outdoor activities including running and climbing. Cost is currently $75 to $85, depending on model.

I'd bet that these are great for feeling the way across a tricky stream bed. No need to worry about stony points, sharp sticks, or abrasiive edges. Or nails, or broken glass. They come in a variety of colors. They look like fun.

I won't buy them. Too big, too expensive, too heavy. For me. More cruft, by my definition. I could eat for two weeks on $85. So I'm still looking for something I can buy or make that weighs almost nothing, costs almost nothing, can be bought or made easily, anywhere, and discarded without regret, and works. And packs down to nothing. Still thinking on that.

So I'm still hooked on my own kind of cruft then. How about that? Didn't realize it until just now.

Anyway, FiveFingers probably work really well. Your choice. Nice to have choices.


FiveFingers at REI
FiveFingers product pages at Vibram