I first started asking myself this question a few years ago during my A.T. thru hike attempt. My first night in a Georgia hostel really opened my eyes to how competitive everyone was acting; harshly scrutinizing each others gear, boasting past mileage, and poking fun at people who were predicted not to "make it". "What are we making" i thought. I was not spared from this initiation being told "your corpse will be to frozen for the mice to eat" after asking what my bag was rated at. This comment scared me enough to question what i was doing even though i had used this very sleep system on lots of multi day trips in a myriad of weather conditions, my confidence was dwindle down to almost embarrassment. I immediately learned that "comfort rating" was not the answer they wanted to hear, "lower limit" was what they were touting. It seemed dangerous to me, when in life do we ever base judgments on the absolute limit, but when your already nervous these comments do have an impact on your psyche. Why were they doing this? After walking through Georgia (BTW someone was airlifted from Springer, suffering from hypothermia that first night) I started to realize that it resembled the poop talk before a game. They were being competitive. Competing in distance, Speed, gear choices, Firewatches climbed, choice of path (blue or white or yellow). I chose to associate myself with walkers who wanted to see the next vista, who wanted to catch the perfect sunrise, who would stay at particularly breathtaking locales just to soak it all up, pushed not by guide books or friends but the secrets they lay around the bend, the soul changing magic that your heart aches for. This is what i had thought everyone would be like which i admit is naive, i understand everyone hikes their hike. As the pack thinned those left didn't carry a specific kit, didn't follow a specific path, they were all different; "pros", amateurs, old, young, external, internal, down, synthetic, nylon, polyester, 20 lbs, 30 lbs, 40 lbs. Are the gear companies driving this? or Is it just human nature? Is competion good or bad for backpacking? Is the magic being lost to weights and measures?