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what if

In an environment where people sometimes cut the labels off their clothing, saw their toothbrushes in half, and just so that they won’t have to carry it, choose to use leaves instead of toilet paper, all in the name of saving weight, the most dangerous question to ask is, “What if?” What if my brakes fail? What if we have a freak blizzard in July? What if bike thieves with portable grinders are lurking in the shadows? Without a doubt, some of those what-if things may very well occur, but unless you’re content to carry an extra 100 lbs. of weight up every mountain pass, sometimes you have to play the averages.

What if…

The longer we sit here, and the more we let our imaginations run wild, the more the what-if question has an opportunity to worm its way into our thinking. Virtually every single day we have kept an eye peeled for the postal truck to stop outside the driveway, ferrying packages to us from Amazon, REI, and small mom-and-pop manufactures. The top image shows what was included in yesterday’s delivery, and today will be another big day. Of course, it’s all stuff that we need (there is definite sarcasm intended there in case you missed it), but we’re nearing the end. Seriously, we are.

what if

What if our phone cords break, as they always do? Rather than carrying spares, I preemptively wrapped the new ones that we have in shrink wrap tubing.

Additional what-if thoughts:

As much as this post is meant to be a cautionary tail of asking “What if” too much, there are definite benefits to sometimes posing the question, especially for sailors. Check out this post and its follow up for my thoughts on the subject.


  1. I’ll be the old contrarian.

    The best way to save weight is always to eliminate the item. On most climbing trips we skipped cell phones. If it was remote, they wouldn’t work, and if it was not, we reasoned we didn’t need them. At most we would take one. If it broke, we could get another. We liked not being in touch. And obviously, when I began, the point was mute for the first few decades.

    This reminds me of the “what navigation electronics do I need on my boat” threads. The obvious answer, since you used the word “need,” is none. I’m not suggesting that for this trip–nav software will weigh less than the maps. But it can all fit on one phone, for example.

    As you hint, it’s not about whether you want the item, it’s about do you want it enough to carry it to the top of the mountain, only to realize you didn’t actually need it after all. My light packs were generally the envy of all. Occasionally you miss something, but not as often as you groan about the useless crap you apparently carried.

  2. Clothes are always the heaviest. 2 pair of cycling shorts & 2 shirts? Repair gear. Camping gear. Travel gear. What else is there? Food but that can be compressed as well. When my partner and I reached the Grand Canyon, we shipped 2 boxes back home. You both will discover what is necessary and what is not. It’s about personal preference, likes/dislikes. Just as you both discovered with sailing. Happy trails.

    • We’re starting off pretty streamlined, having tried to learn from others’ accounts. Like you wrote, we each have two pairs of shorts, two shirts, etc. Not too much in the way of luxuries. We figure that if we really miss something, we can buy it down the road.

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