Ryan Jordan

Occam’s Razor and the Simplicity of Outdoor Gear, Wilderness Travel

The fundamental tenet of Occam's Razor states that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis.

Occam's Razor is one of those principles that transcends the boundaries of philosophy, religion, and science, simply because it's so compatible with our reductionist nature to define wholes as complex configurations of parts.

Clearly, Occam's Razor is not a particularly popular philosophy amongst the designers of outdoor gear these days. Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2009 offered a few gems, as usual, but considering that more than 5,000 new products will hit the shelves of outdoor retailers this fall, the actual number of them considered to be necessary for the enjoyment of the wilderness experience must be few.

Because visiting a wild place, you see, is a phenomenon of sorts, and Occam's Razor filters those items that are necessary for that enjoyment from those items that are simply the fruits of consumer spending.

For example, something to carry your stuff in might be considered necessary while a backpack per se, may not, and a 7000 cubic inch pack with a dozen accessory pockets, definitely not.

In searching out new gear for our store and products for review at Backpacking Light, I like to consider Occam's Razor, even though I don't adhere so strictly to it. Maybe the satisfaction in filtering gear through Occam's Razor comes from the fact that few others do.

Occam's Razor is certainly a fundamental precept for the design of WT3, the advanced course in our Wilderness Trekking School that has only one mission, come snow, cold, or high water: Start at point A, and come out … somewhere.

And therein lies the real beauty of Occam's Razor for wilderness travel planning. It releases you to the experience, rather than chaining you to the agenda.