DC UL Backpacking is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019. As part of the celebration, we’ll be featuring conversations with group members throughout July and August.
Brian has been with DC UL since the very beginning (2009) and has attended or led some 180 trips as a co-organizer. You may know him by his unusual trail name, B~~~, a typographic representation of his scrawling trail signature. He earned this trail name while hiking the Appalachian Trail back in the “old days.” He notes that when hikers would catch up with him after seeing his name in the trail register was when they finally understood his name wasn’t “Bear” or “Brrr.”
Before DC UL, the few other outdoors and backpacking meetups I had joined all seemed to be what so many other outdoors groups are today, more of a general outdoors group that, sure, do some backpacking trips, but also mix in a whole lot of day hikes and camping trips. Actual backpacking trips seemed few and far between.
When Meetup sent the notice about “DC Overnight Adventures” and I read the description, I knew the group was what I was looking for. It eliminated all the other event chaff and focused on backpacking. Even as the group has evolved and grown into having more of an ultralight focus and doing longer trips, it’s been this clarity of focus on backpacking that’s really kept me coming back.
What’s been your favorite trip so far?
The trip that stands out most out of so many other fantastic ones is Kungsleden. It was a magical group of people to hike with. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful. The town and mountain station food was fantastic. Challenges like a stretch of several days of rain, mosquitoes so thick you could kill a dozen with a single swat, rowboats and ferry rides, and managing the logistics of flying resupplies overseas and then shipping them around using the Swedish postal system made it all the more fun. It also being one of the first of the big DC UL invitation-only (IO)/veteran members only (VMO) epic trips really helps in setting it apart.
What do you like best about DC UL?
Number one is all the great friends I’ve made and people I’ve met. It’s easy to connect with like minded souls when you’re spending a weekend (or more!) with them walking through (or suffering in) the woods and drinking whiskey around a campfire.
The other great thing is how, as the group has grown and gained more experienced assistant organizers, there can be so many fantastic and tempting trips being posted at times that it gets hard to narrow it down and decide which ones to choose to do! It’s been a pleasure to get out on so many of them!
What advice do you have for newcomers to DC UL?
There’s such a broad range of experience levels of those new to DC UL, but for those also new to lightweight or ultralight backpacking, there are extra challenges of navigating and figuring out all the gear and what they should be picking up to get started. Finding out about cottage gear options is also something new for most. For those folks, my advice is to take full advantage of the resources of DC UL to actually borrow, test, get opinions on, and check out all the different variations of gear before spending money on things based solely on internet reviews and specs, the gear list of a favorite vlogger, or simply because it’s the lightest option you found.
Everyone has a different style, and what works for your favorite vlogger may not end up working well for you. Oftentimes the lightest option comes with trade-offs you won’t necessarily like. So post on the message boards asking to borrow items for a trip or check in with the assistant organizer (AO) to see if they can hook you up. That way you can see what actually works for you before spending a lot of money to figure things out.
Where do you hope to go in the future with DC UL?
While it’s important DC UL never lose its backpacking focus, I think mixing in trips like the recent bikepacking and packrafting trips that are in the spirit of ultralight backpacking is a good thing and would love to see more of these kind of variations.
I’d also like to see DC UL do more sessions or workshops on building backpacking and general outdoor skills and knowledge. While gear goes a long way in helping to lighten a pack, it’s really skills, knowledge, and experience that make sure minimalistic gear kits are still safe, effective, and comfortable. And it’s always great to learn more and make the DC UL crew an even more impressive group of backpackers!