nullThis weekend, the LA Times ran a story by Dan Neil, following his adventures as he tries to make a six-day, north-south backpack through Joshua Tree National Park — weighed down with 7 pounds of high-tech gear. And that’s 7 pounds in a pack that already tips the scales at 50 pounds. Ultralight, this is not.

I realize this Neil probably did this just for the story. No experienced hiker would feel the need for a GPS receiver, two personal locator beacons and a satellite phone. Nor would they ditch their tent in the middle of the park because their pack was getting too heavy. *I* wouldn’t bring an iPod, but that’s a personal thing.

There are mini-reviews of several of the devices he uses, including the much lusted-after Garmin Colorado, as well as a few traditional travel tales to keep you entertained. Neil’s a good writer, and his description of the mindset of long-distance hiking is one of the most accurate I’ve ever read:

Like other sustained-heart-rate aerobic exercises, backpacking releases neuro-hormones that, first, bring a rush of mental energy — the brainstorms, flashes of insight and relived conversations that you mutter to yourself like a crazy person.

Then, the lull of repetition, the hypnosis of boots, the trance of the trail. Crunch crunch crunch. No talking now. This is the time of listening to your body.

But for all his modern gadget-based assistance, in the end — even though he drove through the park before he set out to bury water all over the place — after 3 days and 40 miles his toenails threaten to fall off and he hitches a ride back to his car.

Goes to show you — the gadgets don’t make the hiker. The hiker makes the gadgets.

But the hiker still probably wants all those gadgets, anyway.

Photo Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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