I'm a backpacker. It's how I prefer to experience the outdoors. There's nothing like getting off the grid, tens of miles away from the nearest road, and having everything you need on your back. It's one of the freest feelings I've experienced. It's surprising what shedding all the crap does for the psyche.
I'm no ultra-light backpacker, but I do acknowledge there's a lot to consider and learn from that approach. There was a book in the 80s for the Mazda RX-7 with Wankel Rotary Engine about how they challenged the engineers to shave 1gm from all their designs, which ultimately resulted in many grams from all their designs being shaved from the total weight. Less weight, more power and performance. Another idea of watching the grams. Because you're using your feet, every step, with every gram, yields X energy expended. Just basic logic and physical science, but I know that wasn't the approach to gear until the ultra-lighters came along.
I take a small pipe with a repaired, once cracked mortise, that also happens to be a phenomenal smoker, a couple pipe cleaners, and a minimal amount of tobacco in a small zip lock. That's it. I use a stick or rock for a tamper I find at the campsites. On longer trips, when I've had more food to lug, I've also skipped the pipe and used rolling papers instead to make little pipe tobacco cigars. Again, shave off the weight of the pipe. I'm not nuts about this weight thing, but if I can still enjoy X, Y, or Z without the burden of the added weight, I'll take an alternative.
*still won't give up my 6LB backpack with framesheet and stays, though. I draw the line somewhere.
Awesome! I'm right there with you! I love the week-ish long trips but even a quick 1-night out and back is enough to recharge.
I probably wont have the time to even consider one of the big ones until I'm retired. I just don't realistically have 4+ months to spare from work and family. But I 100% agree that being out on the trail is as free as it gets. I've done a bunch out in Colorado and in Arizona and some in the Smoky Mountains and in Kentucky. Working on getting more of North Carolina Mountains in and starting to dabble in Virginia. I'm looking to plan a week to go do the 100-mile wilderness in Maine some time as well.
I'm also not an ultra-light person. I go as light as reasonably allowed. However I still carry things like my 2-burner stove because I havent bought myself a little one. But I still carry a pipe kit as well as my herf with 1 cigar per night. Never know what I'm gonna feel like. I haven't felt that the extra couple ounces hinders my ability to get full days in.
I'm pretty much always on solo trips, so I don't have to adapt to other skills and endurance schedules as much as some may. So I can always push myself enough to get to the destination on schedule.
They've got some great, ultra-light stoves out there now. I still use an older MSR Whisperlite from the 90s, but I know they have much more compact and lighter models now. I don't have any interest in using a homemade alcohol stove, but I think it is super cool how resourceful and innovative some backpackers and bushcrafters have gotten with those. And I still prefer wool over synthetics. Pick and choose your battles, just as in life.
So before you go camp in the woods in your hammock, I'd recommend trying your hammock out in your back yard first to decide if you can sleep for 5-8 hours in a hammock. I personally love hammock camping, I have a bug net and a rain fly for it so it's fantastic. But sleeping in a banana shape is not for everyone. I also usually only sleep for like 4 or 5 hours while camping, unsure why but it is high quality sleep.
I highly recommend dispersed camping (that is, finding a random spot in the woods) as opposed to at a campsite because it's quieter, but there are no amenities like a privy. If LBL is a national park, check it's website because many NPs don't allow dispersed camping.
Theres nothing more free than just being out in nature with no signs of human civilization anywhere near you.
I agree about the hammock. I'm one of those people who has trouble sleeping in them. I like to sleep on my side or stomach. Some people just can't do them. But I guess you could test it in the field. If you can't do it, drop it to the ground and use it like a ground tarp, at least for that one time.
The problem these days with the way trails are designed are that they want to appeal to the greater public. Both for grants and funding, but also for donations and volunteer maintenance. So a lot of them don't get truly remote. Parking lots every ten miles and quick access to main highways so people of various areas can drop in and out of them and so on. It's understandable, but it is also a bummer. I can remember being so excited about The Superior Hiking Trail, thinking I was going to get away from things and enjoy lesser traveled Minnesota and Lake Superior. Wrong. I could almost always hear the highway. Crazy amounts of foot traffic. That trail wasn't designed for backpackers. It's for daily hikes and family excursions. Civilization is always nagging at you.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid the better known trails and parks. Sounds obvious, but the logic of "it's a big place. I can find a spot." isn't usually true. Most states have hidden gems, much like fisherman have secret holes. A lot of BLM land has trails. Or even national monuments, because most people don't associate great hiking with monuments. They think of national parks for that. Some of our national monuments have incredible hiking and backpacking opportunities.