An Introduction to Lightweight Backpacking

Is your backpack so heavy that you need help lifting it off the ground? Do you let out a cougar scream when you finally get it onto your back, like the guy below?

If so, perhaps it's time to learn about lightweight backpacking and how to reduce the weight of your pack to a more comfortable 10 to 15 percent of your body weight. Carrying a 50 pound pack on overnight hiking and camping trips is unnecessary and can be avoided with a little knowledge and planning.

Lightweight backpacking isn't a new idea, but it has gone mainstream as more women, families, and aging boomers take up hiking and camping. What's driving this shift to lighter weight gear? New fabric and insulation technologies certainly play a role, but the main reasons are quite simple. People want to be more comfortable when they're backpacking, they want to spend more time seeing the sights, and they want to avoid getting injured from carrying too much weight. 

In response, many gear manufacturers including Osprey, Big Agnes, Therm-a-Rest, and REI are selling new gear that is dramatically lighter than their old products. For example, multi-day backpacks that weigh under three pounds, single person tents that weigh under three pounds, inflatable sleeping pads under one pound, and sleeping bag manufacturers are selling more ultralight quilts and summer-weight sleeping bags than ever before.

The best way to start reducing your load is to weigh your backpack, your sleeping bag, and your tent on a digital scale. These items, often called The Big Three, are usually the heaviest pieces of gear you carry. If any of them weigh more than three pounds, you should try to find a lighter weight alternative. Getting each of them under three pounds will have an immediate impact on your gear weight and comfort level.

But going lightweight isn't just about gear replacement. There are a lot of choices you can make about what you bring or don't bring on a trip that can dramatically reduce your pack weight and make the entire experience more enjoyable.

In the coming weeks, I'll be writing a series of posts here on Trailspace about the principles of lightweight backpacking and the pros and cons of different types of gear that are commonly chosen by lightweight backpackers. I'll show you all kinds of gear you may have never considered using before like hammocks, tarp tents, sleeping quilts, and frameless backpacks. I'll show you how to stop carrying clothing on trips that you never use, how to eat well but carry a lighter stove and less fuel, and how you can still be comfortable and bring along luxury items to enhance your outdoor experience.

We'll discuss:

Get ready to ask questions, share your own lightweight tips, and lighten your load.

 

Philip Werner is the author of SectionHiker.com, a blog about lightweight backpacking and hiking. A popular speaker, Philip gives frequent backpacking talks and gear demonstrations across New England. In addition, he is a Long Trail mentor for the Green Mountain Club, a trail adopter in the White Mountain National Forest, and a lightweight backpacking evangelist for Gossamer Gear.


Filed under: Buyers' Guides, Outdoor Skills

Comments

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
June 8, 2011 at 5:05 p.m. (EDT)

Good stuff. I actually have purchased some lighter gear. Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1(-3lbs), Leki Thermolite Aergon Anti Shocks(14oz.) I dunno. I am in pretty good shape(work out regurlarly.) Lighter gear can be a great thing depending on the trade-off. I guess I am in between with gear. Some items are a lil heavy but they just work. Never the less I am definitelt looking forward to the coming info.

philipwerner
130 reviewer rep
130 forum posts
June 8, 2011 at 5:56 p.m. (EDT)

Big Agnes is definitely leading the pack on the lightweight tent front, so good choice. Totally agree about the trade-offs: there are always pros and cons, and a lot depends on weather, terrain, personal preferences, and budget.

whomeworry
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts
June 8, 2011 at 8:21 p.m. (EDT)

Someone needs to show the guy in the video how to put a pack on - proper technique definitely would make that task easier.

Ed

OttoStover
0 reviewer rep
247 forum posts
June 8, 2011 at 8:23 p.m. (EDT)

I agree with all above. The idea of lightweight trekking is interesting. But the trade offs are a problem. First it is the price, LW equipment is sometimes hideously expensive. Then the durability, as some materials get thinner and lighter the strength gets lower, sometimes showing in holes and cuts. Also the question of comfort, small tents are lighter but comfort may be impaired.

When looking at the video of the guy with the pack I must say it was an example of how NOT to do it. Too small pack and things hanging pendling all around. Better have a bigger pack that keeps all at one place.

I have planned some hikes this summer, and tent, bag, mat, kitchen utility and pack weighs about 10kg (22 lb) So when I go the dog for a walk I have the pack filled with 60 lb of sand, just to train myself for the tour. I do not plan the pack to be that heavy, more in the range of 45 lb but better overdo the weight now and feel fine when I'm off on the tour. I went on a hill here from sea up to 400m with the pack on, and I only used 50% more time than without any weight at all. I'm satisfied with that.

Otto

philipwerner
130 reviewer rep
130 forum posts
June 8, 2011 at 10:13 p.m. (EDT)

I'm going to be teaching LW backpacking at a high adventure scout camp this summer and have been thinking a lot about how to keep the costs down. I think getting kids to share flat tarps is a great way to cut down a lot of gear weight and an 8 x 10 silnylon tarp costs under $100. I agree though that there is a lot of UL gear that is way to expensive and that that part of the industry is out of touch with ordinary backpackers and more modest budgets.

There are LW gear manufacturers though who do make pretty robust gear at very reasonable prices out of silnylon. Obviously backpacks will wear worse than tents. But your mileage will also vary depending on where you go hiking and how well you treat your gear. 

I honestly think the gear itself is less important than skills and the ability to understand what makes a good choice in different situations. For myself, I have certain physical limitations that make it very painful for me to carry more than a 25 lb pack any distance. So I've learned how to make my gear "do more" for me, even though there is less of it and it's lighter weight. After years of trying different LW gear options, I can now hike about 200 miles without any issues, up from 40 miles a few years ago. I attribute this to LW gear and the skills I've developed that make me more self reliant with what I can carry comfortably.

denis daly
87 reviewer rep
1,087 forum posts
June 9, 2011 at 10:07 a.m. (EDT)

I was basically behind the times phillip when I joined trailspace. I wanted to do the appalchian trail and the first thing they had me do was a gearlist.Made sense.They had me realize that I needed to get my gear to a managible weight for that distance. Many UL hikers gave me sights to look at different gear options. In a four month span I learned from the resources they sent me to what to look for in R value, weight and what gear I needed to update. At first it seemed overwelming. But the more I talked to the " Cottage industry" manufacturers and people like Pillowthread, gonzan, The Rambler. I did find cost effective and weight reduceing items that could save my back.I also became a member of BPL to learn more. I am just a novice but I do like to look at aternative methods.I am not saying everything needs to be UL but it has many benefits..And your article as well as your future one's can help everyone.

philipwerner
130 reviewer rep
130 forum posts
June 9, 2011 at 12:55 p.m. (EDT)

I draw a distinction between lightweight (10-25 pounds) and ultralight backpacking (under 10 pounds), and consider myself a lightweight backpacker. Like you, I'm willing to use UL gear for certain things where it makes sense, but I'm not at all religious it. Everybody's idea of comfort is different, but I'd be lying if I said I don't enjoy learning about the choices people make and why.

Snipps Whispers
0 reviewer rep
6 forum posts
June 9, 2011 at 1:06 p.m. (EDT)

I agree with Otto, the cost of UL gear is prohibitive to the ordinary Joe. I'm sure everyone wants to reach a compromise between the weight of the carry and the comfort provided. The guy in the video has way too small a pack for the gear he's carrying. I've just come back to Backpacking after many years and am amazed at the advances in fabric technology. I'm now aiming to get my 2/3 day pack weight down to about 25/30lbs but over here in the UK we have to factor in the weather and that means anything from Snow in June to a heatwave that would put north Africa to shame. A heavy pack to me detracts from my enjoyment of the landscape but I want the security of knowing I've got everything I need when I pitch tent. I'm also a professional photographer and my carry is considerably added to by my camera, tripod, filters, spares.

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
June 9, 2011 at 2:44 p.m. (EDT)

It is complete bunk that UL gear is more expensive than traditional gear.  Have you priced out:

-a silnylon 8x10 tarp?  Under $100.

-an alcohol stove?  Have a spare catfood can laying around?

-a frameless UL pack - 50L for $105

Shall I go on?  The believe that you HAVE to employ cuben fiber as a fabric is, of course, not true.

If you think that expensive gear is limited to some presupposed fringe of UL backpacking, have a look at Hilleberg tents.  There is a ton of traditional gear that is way out of the price range for the average Joe (whoever he is).

 

stevet
7 reviewer rep
134 forum posts
June 9, 2011 at 3:28 p.m. (EDT)

I have a different experience in getting to lighter packweights and from what I've seen on the trail my experience can apply to many others...I was simply carrying too much stuff.

Without breaking a sweat I was able to trim >20 lbs from my pack without spending money.  Examples of what I stopped bringing:

* change of clothes - now I bring what I wear plus a pair of socks

* long pants & rain pants - now one or the other

* 2lbs first aid gear - now a 2-3 oz kit

* Tent footprint - now never bring

* Tent - will only bring a tent when I know it will rain and rain alot, otherwise a tarp

* Campshoes - now never bring

* Big bottle of sunblock - now only small bottles

* l liter of white gas - now bring only what I'll use

* Thermarest chair kit - now never bring

And so forth.  These kinds of changes made the initial big difference.  And over the last 10 years as what I do bring wears out I always replace it with a lighter piece.  It was in this 2nd phase of lightening that I went after the "big three".  And my 3rd phase has been taking "bring only what I need plus a little bit more" to a further extreme (counting sheets of TP, and decanting sunblock or bug dope into 1oz of smaller containers for instance).

Phase 2 can be spendy, but not bringing stuff you don't need brings big gains and is pretty cheap.

gonzan
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
658 reviewer rep
2,149 forum posts
June 9, 2011 at 3:53 p.m. (EDT)

CWF said:

It is complete bunk that UL gear is more expensive than traditional gear.  Have you priced out:

-a silnylon 8x10 tarp?  Under $100.

-an alcohol stove?  Have a spare catfood can laying around?

-a frameless UL pack - 50L for $105

Shall I go on?  The believe that you HAVE to employ cuben fiber as a fabric is, of course, not true.

If you think that expensive gear is limited to some presupposed fringe of UL backpacking, have a look at Hilleberg tents.  There is a ton of traditional gear that is way out of the price range for the average Joe (whoever he is).

 

If you desire to help others by convincing them it is possible to inexpensively achieve UL goals, I don't think the antagonistic and condescending tone of your post will further that end.

There are some UL gear items that can be gotten not too expensively, such as you list above. However, there are many people, myself included, who are not going to ever use a frameless pack for backpacking. An UL sleeping bag that will do the job below 40F  cannot be acquired without spending serious cash. I love alc stoves, and use them most of the time, but they are not suitable at all in true winter conditions. Same does for a tarp, they simply are not suitable for harsh winter conditions.  If you like to actually cook more than just heating water, there are no suitable UL cooking products.  To go UL and still achieve functionality and comfort in a variety of conditions  you have to spend a significant amount of money for many items. 

As for mentioning a Hilleberg, that example is neither equitable or effective. A Hille is designed to be used in conditions which UL gear cannot be used as a reliable means of staying alive.

alan
0 reviewer rep
1,083 forum posts
June 9, 2011 at 5:05 p.m. (EDT)

If you want to go UL (or simply lighter in general since UL can become little more than a numbers game to many) you need to start with a gear list.  Pare down the list as best you can.  Nothing goes in the pack if it isn't on the list.  Weigh everything (especially food) and document the weight on your list.  After you have done that, then simply look for lighter weight replacement items on your list.  The replacement items do not need to be cutting edge, ultra light items but simply lighter than the item you are replacing.  If you work at that over time your pack weight will slowly go down.  None of my gear is ultra light by anyone's standards, but I have reduced the weight I carry by slowly replacing some gear.

Snipps Whispers
0 reviewer rep
6 forum posts
June 10, 2011 at 5:27 a.m. (EDT)

CWF said:

It is complete bunk that UL gear is more expensive than traditional gear.  Have you priced out:

-a silnylon 8x10 tarp?  Under $100.

-an alcohol stove?  Have a spare catfood can laying around?

-a frameless UL pack - 50L for $105

Shall I go on?  The believe that you HAVE to employ cuben fiber as a fabric is, of course, not true.

If you think that expensive gear is limited to some presupposed fringe of UL backpacking, have a look at Hilleberg tents.  There is a ton of traditional gear that is way out of the price range for the average Joe (whoever he is).

 

I wouldn't consider sleeping under a tarp in the Scottish Highlands, it's just not practical. Like Gonzan I'd also probably never entertain a frameless pack.

I fully understand your point that it's possible to innovate, produce and buy inexpensive yet lightweight gear but generally speaking for the rank and file of Backcountry hikers and backpackers the majority of the UL gear is expensive.

For every item you can list that comes in under the $100 mark I'm sure there are twice as many that can be described as UL that fall way above it.

Good advice from Steve T IMO.

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
June 10, 2011 at 11:54 a.m. (EDT)

Here is a $159 tarp shelter used in Scotland with much success:

http://www.andyhowell.info/Colin-Ibbotson/Trailstar-review.pdf

Head over to backpackinglight.com for Scots going UL on the cheap.  You make it sound like Scotland weather is the worst.  Try -30C in the Canadian Rockies.

pillowthread
REVIEW CORPS
1,308 reviewer rep
1,076 forum posts
June 10, 2011 at 12:40 p.m. (EDT)

I love tarp camping! I've used my ID Silwing in pretty horrendous weather, my down bag staying dry without a bivy through 3 days of pouring rain. I set it up with short lengths of bungee at every corner to account for the slight stretching of the silnylon. It works perfectly, as long as the forecast doesn't call for lots of snow or lots of bugs...though I'm about to get an MLD Serenity net-tent for those really buggy nights. 

I've been really pleased with my TiGoat/Jacks-R-Better UL Sierra Sniveller quilt. Perfect for anything down to 25F, for 21oz. I ditched a 40F REI Halo bag that weighed 3 ounces more and haven't looked back. I pair it up with a full-length eight ounce closed-cell-foam mat, adding a full-length Thermarest Prolite Plus when needed/wanted. I like foam inflatables over a NeoAir or Kooka Bay-style pad because if it punctures and I can't field repair it, at least I still have a layer of foam between myself and the ground.

My go-to pack nowadays is a ULA Catalyst; I really have no need/desire to use anything else. I have 12oz frameless pack that I seldom employ but for very minimal overnights/weekends; I haven't used it since I got to Colorado.

I use an MLD 475ml mug/pot with either a titanium wood-burning stove, or a Vargo Jet-ti canister stove. I love freezer-bag cooking! Easy clean-up FTW! Thus, I get away with a Light My Fire spork, and an Orikaso bowl/plate, when needed.

Re-packing things is key...these things are brilliant...

http://www.ultralightdesigns.com/products/packing/miniBottles.html

http://www.ultralightdesigns.com/products/packing/miniJars.html

...get one for your lip balm, sunblock, bug lotion, soap, hot sauce, water treatment, hand sanitizer, fire starting material, etc...

My base weight (dry, no consumables) can certainly be below 7lbs for some trips, but I never sacrifice comfort or safety for weight. I use the gear I do because I understand what it can and can't do, and I enjoy carrying a lighter pack when possible.

 

gonzan
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
658 reviewer rep
2,149 forum posts
June 10, 2011 at 1:09 p.m. (EDT)

CWF said:

Here is a $159 tarp shelter used in Scotland with much success:

http://www.andyhowell.info/Colin-Ibbotson/Trailstar-review.pdf

Head over to backpackinglight.com for Scots going UL on the cheap.  You make it sound like Scotland weather is the worst.  Try -30C in the Canadian Rockies.

 That is a really cool shelter, CWF. Except for the small entry opening, it is virtually a floorless tent without the weight of a tent. I could definitely go for one of those, though not in winter if there was a chance of much of any precipitation.

I have eyed the Golight "tents" as well, I would have to compare the weights, but they seem quite similar.

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
June 10, 2011 at 1:41 p.m. (EDT)

I have a MLD DuoMid on order for winter use - essentially a lighter 1+ person pyramid (4 sided) design similar to say, the Golite Shangri-La 3 that will come in at 16oz.  It can be pitched almost right to the ground and has a zippered entry. I should have it within 3 weeks and will post some pics.

www.mountainlaureldesigns.com

Snipps Whispers
0 reviewer rep
6 forum posts
June 10, 2011 at 3:34 p.m. (EDT)

CWF said:

Here is a $159 tarp shelter used in Scotland with much success:

http://www.andyhowell.info/Colin-Ibbotson/Trailstar-review.pdf

Head over to backpackinglight.com for Scots going UL on the cheap.  You make it sound like Scotland weather is the worst.  Try -30C in the Canadian Rockies.

 Erm, just back up there buddy. I never said anything about Scotland's weather in comparison to anywhere else so just read posts properly before you go commenting and making yourself look foolish.

I simply said I wouldn't sleep under a tarp in the Scottish Highlands - where you get the inference that  I implied Scotland's weather 'is the worst' I don't know - perhaps you could tell us?.

Your posts are confrontational and antagonistic. Just chill out.

Alicia
TRAILSPACE STAFF
715 reviewer rep
3,158 forum posts
June 10, 2011 at 3:45 p.m. (EDT)

Wow, there have been 18 responses in this spirited discussion and we haven't even published Philip's first part on shelters yet!

As we can see, opinions can run strong on this topic, so I'll also ask everyone to stay relaxed in the ensuing discussions.

The shelter piece will be up the first part of next week. I won't have to worry that no one will have anything to share! I'm glad there's so much interest in the series.

Thanks!

gonzan
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
658 reviewer rep
2,149 forum posts
June 10, 2011 at 4:06 p.m. (EDT)

Alicia said:

...so I'll also ask everyone to stay relaxed in the ensuing discussions.

 Aw, but I really want to throw a tantrum! RAAAAGGGEEE!

;)

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
June 10, 2011 at 6:19 p.m. (EDT)

I don't want to get started ... either.

However; I HAVE moderated my attitudes.   I am now slightly  to the LEFT of Genghis Khan.   The Liberals will be pleased, I am certain.

_______________________________

~r2~

pillowthread
REVIEW CORPS
1,308 reviewer rep
1,076 forum posts
June 10, 2011 at 9:11 p.m. (EDT)

I want to know why. Why go UL?...Why do you practice lightweight backpacking techniques?

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
June 10, 2011 at 10:00 p.m. (EDT)

Why do I trek UL?  Apparently to anger people from Scotland.  It wasn't my intention (should have added a smiley face) - sorry about that.  I know a lot of folks from Scotland (including my ancestors) and they always tell me how a good day is windy and rainy.  My response is always the incredibly cold winters we have here.

It took a long time for me to commit to going UL.  It started slowly, generally item by item of what went into my pack.  Every time I gather my gear for a trip, I asked myself whether I had used a specific piece of gear recently and / or if I could leave it at home without drastically (negatively) affecting my trip.  

Then came replacing heavier items that I felt I needed with lighter versions.  Then came the shelter.  Then the pack.  But with the UL approach, the gear is really secondary.  It is all about using a mindset that has you not only questioning your gear choices, but also why you hike.  

Do you hike to get to camp early and relax (which is fine, of course), or is camping a necessary 'evil' that splits two days of hiking on the trail?  I found that I much preferred to hike, rather than camp.  As such, it meant that I wanted to be as light as possible on the trail and therefore, take the lightest gear possible. There isn't a right or wrong way to trek - but UL treking for me means seeing more with less stress to the body.

azrhino
38 reviewer rep
395 forum posts
June 10, 2011 at 10:08 p.m. (EDT)

Do I want to go totally 100% UL......HECK NO! Seems like it would be rather uncomfortable in soooo many ways. (dont get all fired up, thats just my opinion)  But I am always intrested in hearing ideas on how to drop wieght. Some things I do like. 

pillowthread - THANX for the link on the mini bottles. They're just what I've been looking for! I'll be ordering a few of those.

denis daly
87 reviewer rep
1,087 forum posts
June 10, 2011 at 10:23 p.m. (EDT)

gonzan said:

CWF said:

Here is a $159 tarp shelter used in Scotland with much success:

http://www.andyhowell.info/Colin-Ibbotson/Trailstar-review.pdf

Head over to backpackinglight.com for Scots going UL on the cheap.  You make it sound like Scotland weather is the worst.  Try -30C in the Canadian Rockies.

 That is a really cool shelter, CWF. Except for the small entry opening, it is virtually a floorless tent without the weight of a tent. I could definitely go for one of those, though not in winter if there was a chance of much of any precipitation.

I have eyed the Golight "tents" as well, I would have to compare the weights, but they seem quite similar.

 gonzan check out this "cottage manufacturer" as well www.bearpawwd.com

 

he make's shelters  for uL and lightweight backpackers. I also have a Montbell double wall tent heading in for a single backpacker that weighs 2.7. Bought it used online. best way to get gear.i figure I can PIF my MH glacier to a member..

philipwerner
130 reviewer rep
130 forum posts
June 11, 2011 at 7:51 p.m. (EDT)

Regarding Scotland...

I hiked across Scotland in May 2010 in the TGO Challenge with a pyramid tarp and a frameless backpack. Took me 13 days, I hiked 173 miles, and I  had some nasty weather. Lots of other people I know had similar kit, including tarps. Lots of people also preferred Hilleberg Atkos, which is a real nice tent in my opinion.

But I will maintain, it's not the gear that is important, it's the skills. I've found that lightweight gear makes me use my skills more because there's less of a safety margin. I guess that's why I really like this style of backpacking. Everyone probably has their own reasons.

trouthunter
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
998 reviewer rep
3,505 forum posts
June 11, 2011 at 9:39 p.m. (EDT)

I think I have hiked with the guy in the video before.

Good article Phillip!

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
June 12, 2011 at 7:46 a.m. (EDT)

What's the difference between a frameless backpack, and a rucksack?

~r2~

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
June 12, 2011 at 12:18 p.m. (EDT)

@Robert - correct, except that larger frameless packs will have superior means of compression so as to keep the load tight and stable against your back.  I consider a simple ruck as a floppy 'thing.'

I much prefer packs with a frame, however.  Even with light loads.

Alicia
TRAILSPACE STAFF
715 reviewer rep
3,158 forum posts
June 13, 2011 at 11:19 a.m. (EDT)

FYI, Philip's second article is now up:

Lightweight Backpacking: Shelter Makeover

bheiser1
REVIEW CORPS
1,245 reviewer rep
1,314 forum posts
June 15, 2011 at 10:14 p.m. (EDT)

Like a couple people in the thread above, I too have the Copper Spur UL 1.  Compared to my 8lb Mountain Hardwear Skyview 1.5, this tent is amazingly light and compact.  I've only used it a handful of times so far, and only in calm dry weather - but so far I love it.  I think I only used the fly on one night, because it sprinkled out ... and there's nothing like the feeling of waking up in the morning with all that open netting overhead and around me ... yet still protected from the skeeters :).

 

petekandu
0 reviewer rep
4 forum posts
June 16, 2011 at 6:55 a.m. (EDT)

I have always been a light weigh camper but at 74 years I took a real plunge into weight reduction so I could do the John Muir Trail.  I dumped the tent and used a sill tarp and mosquito net, one pound total it was good for two people.  After 10 straight days of torrential rain we were still sleeping dry. I use a Big Agness insulated sleeping pad, I do need a good nights sleep, also a Western Mountaineering ultra light sleeping bag at one pound. With a twelve day food and fuel load my pack topped out at 30lb, that included 1/3 of a fourth persons food load, minus food and fuel pack weight was 12lb.   We completed the trail in 24 days with one resupply at Camp Muir.  I have used the tarp while dog sledding at temps down to 23 below zero and slept warm not in the light bag however.

philipwerner
130 reviewer rep
130 forum posts
June 16, 2011 at 7:00 a.m. (EDT)

Awesome story. How did you learn about the different options available for going even lighter?

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
June 16, 2011 at 7:45 a.m. (EDT)

pillowthread said:

I want to know why. Why go UL?...Why do you practice lightweight backpacking techniques?

 X2

_________________________________

    ~r2~

gonzan
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
658 reviewer rep
2,149 forum posts
June 16, 2011 at 10:11 a.m. (EDT)

Robert Rowe said:

pillowthread said:

I want to know why. Why go UL?...Why do you practice lightweight backpacking techniques?

 X2

_________________________________

    ~r2~

 Robert, are you meaning you would like to hear people's responses to this query as well?

petekandu
0 reviewer rep
4 forum posts
June 16, 2011 at 11:11 a.m. (EDT)

Why go UL? Well, that's easy I cannot carry the load I once could, plus I want to enjoy the walk not slog along with sweat in my eyes, especially for a month long trip with about six mountain passes up 13000 feet and an over 14000 foot finish on top of Mt Whitney.

   I had looked at UL before and thought it was an uncomfortable way to go but with some modification and deciding where you want some comfort it is possible.  A good nights sleep is important to me hence the Big Agnes, you however may elect to use a foam pad and take extra food or fuel.

I never use a tent any more, even here in mosquito heaven, Michigan. I have a net that hangs from the peak of my tarp and tucks under the ground cloth. I use the tarp in Michigan on winter camping trips, and if there is a blizzard just put up a snow wall around it. I also have used it summit Mt Rainier, Baker, and Olympus

As to how I decided what to use, I had over the years from time to time used most of the items before, just not on a long trip nor all at once. So I had a good idea how they performed. As to cost It is not expensive to cut down like this.  A tarp is about $100 my sleeping bag was around $150 the alcohol stove I made from a Budwiser can.

   A great deal of the weight saving is done by being careful about what you take with you.  You cannot carry stuff for every eventuality so when the unexpected does pop up you have to be resourceful and use what you have creatively.  I dehydrate all my own food, cannot stand the commercial stuff gives me the most appalling gas. I pack the meals in freezer bags and add the appropriate quantity of boiling water directly into the bag which I then place in a gold foil pack from a Honybaked ham to retain the heat.

As to the lad who was camping in Scotland, I have camped, hiked, rock climbed, mountaineered ,winter, and summer, all over Scotland in the 1950s and If I could go back to that time I would do it with a tarp rather than the really good at the time tent I owned back then. I once carried a pack of over 100lbs across the Cairngorm's, cross country to the top of the Pap of Glen Coe, mostly canned food. Certainly wish I had legs like that now.

Snipps Whispers
0 reviewer rep
6 forum posts
June 16, 2011 at 11:47 a.m. (EDT)

CWF said:

Why do I trek UL?  Apparently to anger people from Scotland.  It wasn't my intention (should have added a smiley face) - sorry about that.  I know a lot of folks from Scotland (including my ancestors) and they always tell me how a good day is windy and rainy.  My response is always the incredibly cold winters we have here.

 

You didn't anger me CWF and no offence was taken by your comments. This seems like a forum where we all share a mutual appreciation of the outdoors and any advice on how to get out there and enjoy it better and lighter is welcome.

UL is a frame of mind that IMO applies in degrees to all of us. I'd love to go out on a 2/3 day trek with a 20lb pack but my bones and my age just won't put up with the kit :).

Mentalfloss1
269 reviewer rep
54 forum posts
June 16, 2011 at 2:49 p.m. (EDT)

I've been reducing the weight of my gear over the past few years.  There's a lighter tent (Big Agnes Flycreek 2), titanium pot, lighter pack and sleeping bag, and a few other items.   Lighter gear, when you already have gear, costs money and because of my job I get big discounts.  Still costs money.

But I enjoy the little luxuries, like my MSR Whisperlite, netting and fly on the tent, comfy pillow, 1/3 foam pad to sit around camp, a book, camera, and so on.  I get a kick out of the UL crowd who disdain me for my choices.  "You carry that!?" 

A few years ago in the Canadian Rockies after 3 days of unrelenting rain and sleet we saved a UL guy from hypothermia when his clothes, bag, etc. got soaked and he had no way to warm himself.  But his pack weighed under 18 pounds!!

I know a woman who won't carry sunglasses or sunscreen.  She repeats the mantra, "Everything weighs something."  I guess that's a Ray Jardine maxim.  It's true, but so what?

What I see in here is a willingness to agree that that there's a happy medium and that spot is different for us all.  I share that point of view.

whomeworry
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts
June 16, 2011 at 11:39 p.m. (EDT)

Mentalfloss1 said:

..What I see in here is a willingness to agree that that there's a happy medium and that spot is different for us all.  I share that point of view.

You mean like everything in moderation.  I'll agree, but in my usual inside-out countrapositive way, as long as there is room for excess in moderation, vesus moderation in excess.

Ed

Mentalfloss1
269 reviewer rep
54 forum posts
June 17, 2011 at 10:24 a.m. (EDT)

  UL folks don't believe in everything in moderation as far as I can tell, and certainly not in excess.  I'm insulated from them for the most part, and vice-versa.  Time in the wilderness is not measured in miles, at least in my book.  They can race on while I plod and I'm happy and so are they.

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
June 17, 2011 at 11:07 a.m. (EDT)

gonzan said:

Robert Rowe said:

pillowthread said:

I want to know why. Why go UL?...Why do you practice lightweight backpacking techniques?

 X2

_________________________________

    ~r2~

 Robert, are you meaning you would like to hear people's responses to this query as well?

  Yes.   Am reading the responses.  

I am ambivalent regarding the issue.   Some good things to glean from the UL'ers ... some not that noteworthy, if not inane.

I can't seem to understand the obsession with UL'ing.   I hike for the enjoyment and pleasure of just being in "Mother Nature's Creation".   I would never rush the process, nor delight in going another couple miles trekking each day.

I can hoist / tote a pretty substantial weight, given my size.   I do not punish my body, either, keeping pack-weights moderate.  Why spend $100 to save a pound-or-two ????

Stop The Insanity ! -- Susan Powter, fitness and diet 'guru'

_______________________________-

 ~r2~

petekandu
0 reviewer rep
4 forum posts
June 17, 2011 at 2:51 p.m. (EDT)

Robert I do not go UL to go faster I go UL just to be able to go, period.  As you age you will understand, you reach a point where you train like hell just to maintain where you are currently at and no matter how hard you work out you do not get stronger.  In fact you do loose strength every year I can feel the difference from 2 years ago. If this continues I will have to take up Lama packing or helium balloons

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
June 17, 2011 at 7:26 p.m. (EDT)

petekandu said:

Robert I do not go UL to go faster I go UL just to be able to go, period.  As you age you will understand, you reach a point where you train like hell just to maintain where you are currently at and no matter how hard you work out you do not get stronger.  In fact you do loose strength every year I can feel the difference from 2 years ago. If this continues I will have to take up Lama packing or helium balloons

 I'm already "there".

However ... I am presently reading a book, "The Life Plan", by Jeffrey S. Life, M.D., Ph.D.

The author is on the cover -- a 73-yr old doctor ... and, he is ripped !

He claims the effects of aging on the skeletal and muscular systems are reversible.

From what I am reading (and, I'm only a chapter-or-two into the book), it is possible.

__________________________

~r2~

newfiebound
76 reviewer rep
28 forum posts
June 23, 2011 at 10:02 a.m. (EDT)

UL backing really depends on two things equipment and the area. If you pack right well you can have comfort with light weight. Planning is the key I spend upwards of 3 to 6 months in planning a ten day hike. My pack runs about 55 to 65 lbs with many extras including SLR camera. The gear is no more expensive you just really need to do homework on it. Safety is always the concern when I hear about this as so many trim size and anticipate everything will go exactly as planned. Every experienced hiker tries to factor in some unexpected this should always be figured on but see many taking the risk. Goes back to planning. Planning and research are the keys to lighting up to have more fun!

grimstuff
0 reviewer rep
13 forum posts
June 24, 2011 at 7:50 a.m. (EDT)

Forgive me if I'm flat out wrong, but I feel like UL backpacking basically amounts to what you can get away with during summer, in benign country, if your trip goes perfectly. Any other time, and I couldn't imagine being in the backcountry without adequate shelter, warmth, and food. It's not a matter of planning--it's a matter of taking basic precautions. In the high Sierra, for example, there's never a time when you aren't just one summer thunderstorm away from hypothermia, at the least.

Alcohol stoves are nifty, but useless with any amount of wind.

A tarp is probably not going to be adequate shelter in inclement weather more than a little rain.

No change of underwear? What if you get caught in a storm and are soaked to the bone?

Only exactly enough fuel to last you the anticipated length of the trip? No thanks.

These are just a few reasons why it seems like UL backpackers too often play with the possibility of disaster. Certainly, there's a limit to what we can bring to be prepared, and you have to accept a degree of danger when you venture out into the wilderness, but I think UL hikers obsess over weight while ignoring the very real possibility of minor accidents/unexpected events.

philipwerner
130 reviewer rep
130 forum posts
June 24, 2011 at 8:36 a.m. (EDT)

Most UL hikers who actually hike (and don't just sit around and comment on UL forums) would probably agree with you (I'm have a 15 lb gear list and don't consider myself a UL hiker). In fact, most of the ones that I know carry extra gear when they venture into hazardous conditions that pushes them way above the 10 pound UL threshold. When you add in food, these folks are carrying 20-30 pound packs like everyone else.

Ultralight is just a buzz word. Focus on what makes you comfortable, safe, and happy.

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
June 24, 2011 at 10:56 a.m. (EDT)

grimstuff said:

Forgive me if I'm flat out wrong, but I feel like UL backpacking basically amounts to what you can get away with during summer, in benign country, if your trip goes perfectly. Any other time, and I couldn't imagine being in the backcountry without adequate shelter, warmth, and food. It's not a matter of planning--it's a matter of taking basic precautions. In the high Sierra, for example, there's never a time when you aren't just one summer thunderstorm away from hypothermia, at the least.

Alcohol stoves are nifty, but useless with any amount of wind.

A tarp is probably not going to be adequate shelter in inclement weather more than a little rain.

No change of underwear? What if you get caught in a storm and are soaked to the bone?

Only exactly enough fuel to last you the anticipated length of the trip? No thanks.

These are just a few reasons why it seems like UL backpackers too often play with the possibility of disaster. Certainly, there's a limit to what we can bring to be prepared, and you have to accept a degree of danger when you venture out into the wilderness, but I think UL hikers obsess over weight while ignoring the very real possibility of minor accidents/unexpected events.

 

There are shaped tarps that do just as well or better than a tent in wind and rain.  In fact, the only thing waterproof about any double walled tent is the fly, which takes the brunt of any inclement weather.  What do you thing a tarp is?

 

There are always going to be extremes.  Those that choose UL and end up sacrificing safety.  But there are also traditional hikers that bring 18" knives into the bush for an overnight trip for a 'just in case' scenario.

www.andrewskurka.com

4700 miles across Alaska with a tarp.

Have a look at the link I posted about the MLD Trailstar tarp.  It has been deemed more wind worthy than the vaunted Hilleberg Akto and is being used extensively by trekkers in Scotland and England (www.outdoorsmagic.com).

Why would you get 'soaked to the bone' with UL gear?  My OR Gortex rain jacket weights 8oz (XL).  My Golite Reed waterproof pants weigh 5oz (L).  I use a synthetic puffy jacket that has an R-value (based on CLO estimates) of 3.1.  It has a hood and weighs 10oz (XL).  I have similar pants that weigh 8oz.  Why again would I die in the backcountry?

philipwerner
130 reviewer rep
130 forum posts
June 24, 2011 at 11:54 a.m. (EDT)

What's between your ears is more important than what you wear. Doesn't matter if you go UL or not.

Skurka, BTW, carried a pack with gear weighing in the high teens on his alaska trip. Not UL at all. Even UL guys don't go UL all the time. He cites risk as one reason he brought more gear. I'm reading this in a preview copy of a book he's writing.

Mentalfloss1
269 reviewer rep
54 forum posts
June 24, 2011 at 12:31 p.m. (EDT)

The idea of a tarp is fine IF you manage to not have water run under it and if the wind direction doesn't shift to an open side.   The difference between a tent and a tarp is the waterproof bathtub floor and the mosquito netting.

Having some sort of a way to switch to dry clothes is a good idea too.  Waterproof/breathable membranes can and do fail.  Stuff happens.

I've taught classes with a UL friend.  We bring our packs for the average fall trip in the Pacific NW and we unpack them and talk about why we carry what we carry in our packs.  After class a certain segment comes and talks with me and others talk with her.  Some talk to both of us.  We both have our good points and our, perhaps, silly points.  I think she's silly for not taking sunglasses or sunscreen because "everything weighs something".   She thinks I'm silly for taking a plastic brush for dishwashing because it's too heavy at 2.5 ounces.  {I take the brush because I can wash my dishes in boiling water and I do that because I've been sick in the backcountry from poor dishwashing.}

Anyway, I hope this is all in good spirit because when it comes down to it when we backpack we get what we deserve.  If we decide to carry very little we get the advantages that brings.  If we decide to haul a load then we get those advantages.   It's entirely a personal decision that affects no one but ourselves.  But don't look longingly at my hot coffee on a blustery, icy morning in the Wind Rivers. 

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
June 24, 2011 at 12:48 p.m. (EDT)

Did you actually look at his gear list?  He carried a 6lb Alpacka Raft.

His pre-edition is good (already read it) but the finished product will be better (due in January).

 

"The idea of a tarp is fine IF you manage to not have water run under it and if the wind direction doesn't shift to an open side.   The difference between a tent and a tarp is the waterproof bathtub floor and the mosquito netting."

Bug netting is taken care of by a head net at 1.5oz.  As far as the wind shifting, have a look at Golite's Shangri-La tarps and / or Mountain Laurel Designs Mids to see that shifting wind is no problem for shaped tarps.  They even do well with snow.

With respect to a bathtub floor - if you camp in a depression you will have a problem.  The trick is to not camp in a depression.  The modern tent with bathtub floor is a 60-65 year creation.  How did our forefathers make it in the backcountry without a bathtub floor and mosquito netting?

gonzan
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
658 reviewer rep
2,149 forum posts
June 24, 2011 at 2:15 p.m. (EDT)

CWF said:

Bug netting is taken care of by a head net at 1.5oz. 

 This is a question of comfort and pracitality, which are very much dependant on location, night temperature, and humidity. Few people are going to want to wear clothing on 95% of the body thick enough to protect against biting insects in 80+ temps at +90% humidty. Thin clothes or sleep bag will not do the trick.

 

As far as the wind shifting, have a look at Golite's Shangri-La tarps and / or Mountain Laurel Designs Mids to see that shifting wind is no problem for shaped tarps.  They even do well with snow.

 Without an enclosed chamber, or bathtub floor at the very least, even a shaped tarp is not going to keep all the snow and rain out if it is coming down hard and being driven by strong wind. Maybe the ammount that would penetrate in most  conditions would not be that much. But it shouldn't be shocking that many people want a fully enclosed, secure space to retreat and sleep away from the elements. A shaped tarp can do this in many, but not all conditions.

 

With respect to a bathtub floor - if you camp in a depression you will have a problem.  The trick is to not camp in a depression.

I personally have set up on an ideal sloped raised location and still had significant water run underneath me. Unless you have a raised level spot that is exaclty the size and shape of your shelter, It is physically impossible to prevent water from running underneath you in most locations in a heavy downpour. Finding such a perfect spot is extremely unlikely while camping in permitted locations and following LNT practices. Now, granted, it is only infrequently that you have a heavy downpour, but many don't want to deal with that when it does. But to say the solution is to merely "not camp in a depression" is an entirely simplistic answer.

 

The modern tent with bathtub floor is a 60-65 year creation.  How did our forefathers make it in the backcountry without a bathtub floor and mosquito netting?

Very uncomfortably, and by carrying unbelievably heavy loads, using pack animals, suffering from disease, and ultimately having short life expectancy. 

 I'll trade carrying 30lbs of modern gear in place of that, thank you.  

gonzan
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
658 reviewer rep
2,149 forum posts
June 24, 2011 at 2:27 p.m. (EDT)

BTW, I enjoy and am willing to go very minimalist in camping. My wife, however, is not. Nor are many others I know.  

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
June 24, 2011 at 2:56 p.m. (EDT)

Gonzan,

-the approach is UL backpacking so a headnet is sufficient. Have you ever used a Mid?  Mosquitos will glom to the top of the shelter where most of the hot air will rise.  They will leave you alone.  Additionally, getting into a mid quickly avoids the buggers making any significant presence in your shelter.  A few made it?  Fine.  Kill them.

-if you want more coverage, add a 5oz bug bivy.

-You did not set up in an ideal spot if you had rain water flooding your campsite.  You could also sew a PU coated or silnylon floor with a bathtub floor as an additional 5-6 oz of protection.  It will still be much, much lighter than a tent of comparable size.  If snow is an issue then build a snow wall.

- BTW, you can pitch the mids right to the ground in a case of hurricane winds.

-I have never seen a connect between sleeping without a bathtub floor and not having bug protection directly related to disease of our ancestors but I anything is possible.  Remarkably, they did not pack as heavy as you assume because there simply wasn't as much gear available to haul around.  But if you can provide a link, I am all eyes.

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
June 24, 2011 at 4:22 p.m. (EDT)

gonzan said:

BTW, I enjoy and am willing to go very minimalist in camping. My wife, however, is not. Nor are many others I know.  

 

BINGO !

:Your comments ring true, especially regarding wives, g/f's, companions, family-members.

The UL'ers are probably a lonely lot.

I don't think many of us will switch (to UL'ing).   I'm a semi-minimalist ... sometimes a total minimalist.  I do draw the line, however.

"FITNESS" is my mantra.   It has enabled me to schlepp some substantial loads ... but, I ALWAYS had a great time.

I can do "Lightweight Backpacking".   No sweat.   But "Ultra-Light" is beyond my needs.

UL'ers will remain dedicated to their muse.  

That's why we have vanilla and chocolate ice-cream flavors.

Also, rednecks drive pick-up trucks ... NOT sports cars.   Ever notice?  .\_______________________________________/.

   ~r2~

gonzan
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
658 reviewer rep
2,149 forum posts
June 24, 2011 at 5:05 p.m. (EDT)

CWF said:

-the approach is UL backpacking so a headnet is sufficient. 

 First, who said that is the approach? That isn't the title of the article, and UL certainly isn't the end-all be-all of backpacking. That kind of inference is precisely that to which many take exception.

It feels like you're being intentionally contrary: these issues mentioned have been exactly becasue they make an entirely UL approach untenable for some/many people or in some circumstances for all. If sleeping that way is not acceptable to someone, then the UL "approach" to that aspect is not acceptable.

 A few made it?  Fine.  Kill them.

 Yeah, that isn't gonna fly with my wife. Some might say " then you shoulda' married someone else." My response? That wasn't the most important thing on my list of who I chose to marry and why. Also, hows about we stay out of each other's personal lives...

 

-You did not set up in an ideal spot if you had rain water flooding your campsite. 

This is presumptious and completely wrong. It was the ideal spot from what was available. It does not sound like you have ever been out when it has rained inches in an hour. It is simple physics: The only way it would be possible to not have any rain run underneath your shelter in a heavy downpour, as I've already stated, is if your shelter has no surface at all around it that does not slope away at a notable angle. Such perfectly sized and proportioned spots are not always or even usually found within allowed camping areas.

 

\If snow is an issue then build a snow wall.

- BTW, you can pitch the mids right to the ground in a case of hurricane winds.

It does not sound like you have been out in a many of the various conditions that multiple people have used as examples, nor undersand the difficulties presented by them. Pitching a tarp flush with the ground is not going to keep out huricane, gale, or blizzard force winds and the precipitation it carries. To suggest such is ubsurd.

As has been mentioned repeatedly, the question is not just about what is survivable or even manageable. I have stated I am willing to sleep and or travel in a minimalist manner. That is not the issue.

 No one is attacking you personally or your willingness to endure certain conditions within reasonable and survivable bounds and your methods while doing so. The inverse does not seem to be true of your position.

 

-I have never seen a connect between sleeping without a bathtub floor and not having bug protection directly related to disease of our ancestors....

Your memory of your own words and subsequent reading comprehension of them is very poor. You stated:

How did our forefathers make it in the backcountry without [....]mosquito netting?

 They most certainly died, en masse at times, of insect borne diseases, due to lack of protection from netting. Even today in many places around the world not owning netting to sleep under is directly correlated with  disease  rates.

 

 Remarkably, they did not pack as heavy as you assume because there simply wasn't as much gear available to haul around.  But if you can provide a link, I am all eyes.

It is not an assumption, it is what has been stated in every account I have read of the expeditions of our "forefathers." Look up the list of recorded items from the expeditions of explorers and settlers of those time, Lewis & Clark, etc. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lewisandclark/resources.html

What are your sources that people traveled in the past so lightly and by their own feet?

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
June 24, 2011 at 5:31 p.m. (EDT)

Well, there was Grandma Gatewood:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandma_Gatewood

Pretty UL by even today's standards.

Your reference to desease spread by mosquitos is an interesting one, but likely not valid for North America 100 plus years ago.  Diseases like malaria would not even be a consideration in these climes.  West Nile Virus is a new fact. Aboriginals were in North America for thousands of years.  Strangely, they used floorless Pyramids which a strikingly similar to the Mids used today.

But I do need a link that supports the diseases transported by mosquitos that ravaged our forefathers.

I trek in the Canadian Rocky mountains and the Southern part of the North West Territories.  I have trekked in climes and conditions that might shock the uninitiated.  I now attack these conditions in UL fashion and it works....very, very well.  And even in those conditions, I have never had water flood under my tarp.

gonzan
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
658 reviewer rep
2,149 forum posts
June 24, 2011 at 11:52 p.m. (EDT)

I wouldn't quite place someone who lived into the 1970s in the category of forefathers, at least not the way most people think of the term.

deSoto's expedition was no stranger to insect borne pathogen. deSoto himself died of malaria contracted most likely near present day Memphis, TN.

I guess I'll just have to say that many people have a different set of priorities and perspective, and leave it at that.

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
June 25, 2011 at 12:52 a.m. (EDT)

This is quite an interesting thread.

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
June 25, 2011 at 4:47 a.m. (EDT)

Rick-Pittsburgh said:

This is quite an interesting thread.

 Interesting?

Perhaps.   It seems to have evolved ... errr ... make that devolved.

In the words of that  (in?)famous American mediator, Rodney King, 

   Cain't we all jest git along ?

Also, this brings to mind another Southern  ... (see?  I know regions ... and didn't use any dreadful acronyms)  expression:

    'Ya cain't polish a turd !

Oh, well ....  ( *insert roll-of-the-eyes smilie* )

____________________________________________

   ~r2~

Support bacteria --they are the only culture some people have ....

Mentalfloss1
269 reviewer rep
54 forum posts
June 25, 2011 at 9:40 a.m. (EDT)

Regarding mosquito-borne diseases in the USA.  This is one article:  http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2706   During the Civil War, malria, as well as yellow fever, were serious issues.  Yellow fever is also mosquito borne.

On a related note, there's a new mosquito here in the NW that arrived from Asia and is aggressive, operates in the daytime (not common in the lowlands here), and carries diseases.  Dang.

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
June 25, 2011 at 3:56 p.m. (EDT)


ms.jpg

Pig Pen
21 reviewer rep
12 forum posts
June 29, 2011 at 2:22 p.m. (EDT)

I have been light packing for years and use the Tarptent, Designed, and Made in the USA, very high quality, fantastic customer service.  Beats Big Agnes and must other tents, on cost, weight, space, and ease of set up.    I have owned and field tested many other light weight tents, by far this is one of the beat product out there tarptent.com also take in the picture gallery and other cool features on the web.

whomeworry
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts
June 29, 2011 at 11:02 p.m. (EDT)

CWF said:

..Remarkably, they did not pack as heavy as you assume because there simply wasn't as much gear available to haul around.  But if you can provide a link, I am all eyes.

By fore fathers I assume you mean the path finders and explorers who first settled the west?

  • No gas stoves, so they hauled axes.  Even a hatchet weighs more than my stove and fuel.
  • They had pots though, cast iron ones...
  • They sometimes carried tents; big heavy oil cloth canvas ones.
  • They carried good ole hemp rope (nice and heavy).
  • For warmth they had wool, and animal skins; not exactly light as 800 fill down.
  • They had no food drops and grocery stores were far apart; so they carried week’s worth of provisions at a time.
  • They carried guns and ammo to supplement their pantry, and also for protection.
  • Their kit and caboodle weighed such that they didn’t hike it, they used pack animals. 
  • Even john Muir usually traveled on horseback and was usually equipped with a lot more than the oft cited coat with a few bread crusts.

In case you were referring to the likes of Bradford Washburn, a forefather to modern American mountaineering, instead of Jeremiah Johnson, men of Washburn’s era toted very heavy kits; on longer treks they often used sleds, and required multiple trips between camps to move everything from one stop to the next. 

I suggest you merely read some good history books, and perhaps some trekking and mountaineering accounts by early twentieth century adventurers. A more recent adventure thuroughly documents its manifest in the book: K2 The Savage Mountain - Charles Huston and Robert Bates - The McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc, 1954.  This book includes a detailed manifest of what was required to pull off this remote trekking and climbing expedition of K2 in 1953. Or perhaps if you wish to review what our fore fathers did (in their own words) peruse the full text of the Lewis and Clark Journals.

Ed

philipwerner
130 reviewer rep
130 forum posts
June 30, 2011 at 6:45 a.m. (EDT)

I'd also recommend Forest and Crag by Guy Laura and Guy Waterman. It is a meticulously researches and very readable account of the origins of hiking and hiking trails in the Northeast including the White Mountains, Adirondacks, Catskills, and Green Mountains (before we had a west.)

Back then hikers carried axes and created semi-permanent shelters from pine branches and downed saplings that were reused by subsequent by other hikers. They also wore sneakers instead of boots. Very interesting stuff.

Forest and Crag was just republished in Kindle format for $10. Well well worth it.

Mentalfloss1
269 reviewer rep
54 forum posts
June 30, 2011 at 10:13 a.m. (EDT)

John Muir was the ultimate lightpacker.

gonzan
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
658 reviewer rep
2,149 forum posts
June 30, 2011 at 11:08 a.m. (EDT)

Thanks for the tip on Forest and Crag! I hadn't heard of it before, but sounds like the kind of book I'd love. I found "Not Without Peril" absolutely engrossing.

Dylan T
0 reviewer rep
10 forum posts
June 30, 2011 at 4:05 p.m. (EDT)

Love this. Am showing this thread to my wife who can't go to the store and back under 50 pounds.

whomeworry
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts
July 1, 2011 at 9:11 a.m. (EDT)

Mentalfloss1 said:

John Muir was the ultimate lightpacker.

So says the urban legend.  He had plenty of gear, such as an axe and a ten pound coat/sleeping cover, and other stuff too.  Nothing light weight about these items.

Ed 

Mentalfloss1
269 reviewer rep
54 forum posts
July 1, 2011 at 9:17 a.m. (EDT)

No kidding?  I'd like to read that if you'd please direct me to the source.  I'll always admire Muir, even though I suspect he was a difficult person.

 

As for free shipping ... for REI members all orders over $50 are always free shipping.

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
July 1, 2011 at 1:14 p.m. (EDT)

I think it is very presumptious to assume that everyone who posts here is American and whose ancestor were the the likes of John Muir.  But I digress.

There appears to be a real fixation with axes.  How much did these axes weigh? I know 'ancient' machetes were actually quite light.

Your examples focus on Explorers who blazed new trails.  Literally.  And the examples continue to point to a couple of early such explorers but really nothing else.  There were aboriginals that did the same and used much smaller, lighter instruments to cut and hack.  In fact, it could be argued that you would need an axe to cut larger areas to permit the pack horses to get through.

Thanks for the American History lesson on a couple of early explorers.  I guess.

I also think it is vital to not specify mosquito borne illnesses that increased in Georgia during the Civil War.  The lack of sanitation and inability to dispose of rotting bodies was one of the issues.  But hey, lets not paraphrase.

(side note:  The so-called forefathers of American mountaineering were actually copying that of the British, who moved to heavier, more substantial gear with the belief that it was required.  It wasn't until the Swedes set them straight that they slowly changed their ways.  With respect to modern UL climbers, I recommend studying the feats of wonder of Ueli Steck (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ueli_Steck) who, ironically, follows the gear approach of his ancestors.)

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
July 2, 2011 at 7:18 a.m. (EDT)

CWF said:

I think it is very presumptious to assume that everyone who posts here is American

 

Aren't you a NORTH-American ?

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
July 2, 2011 at 2:32 p.m. (EDT)

No.  You?

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
July 2, 2011 at 9:39 p.m. (EDT)

As you are listing your information, as residing in Canada ... one would think (?) a Canadian might realize on what Continent the country is located.

Then, again ... perhaps not.   Really does not matter, in the Grand Scheme of things.

~r2~

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
July 2, 2011 at 11:01 p.m. (EDT)

??I know where I reside, but your question implied where I was 'from.'

No need to be a smart arse.

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
July 3, 2011 at 6:52 a.m. (EDT)

Ahhhh ....   I see, now.   An alien.

trouthunter
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
998 reviewer rep
3,505 forum posts
July 3, 2011 at 12:28 p.m. (EDT)

I am going to be a presumptuous American and presume that CWF may consider himself a proud Canadian.

Maybe I'm right, maybe not, but I believe you can be proud of and dedicated to your own country, as well as being a member of the global community...or continent or whatever.

f_klock
110 reviewer rep
762 forum posts
July 3, 2011 at 3:39 p.m. (EDT)

Ok. I'm gonna jump in here for a sec. to set things back on the proper glide path.

Where someone is from (or resides) is irrelevant to the topic at hand which, as you may remember is a discussion about "An Introduction to Lightweight Backpacking " Let's keep the conversation civil and non-personal. No need to "alienate" anyone.  Everyone's welcome to air their own opinion here, no matter what planet they're from. ;-)

Franklin

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
July 3, 2011 at 10:41 p.m. (EDT)

I like turtles. :)

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
July 4, 2011 at 8:31 a.m. (EDT)

Robert Rowe said:

 ...  Really does not matter, in the Grand Scheme of things.

 

x2

whomeworry
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts
July 4, 2011 at 11:08 a.m. (EDT)

Mentalfloss1 said:

No kidding?  I'd like to read that if you'd please direct me to the source. 

Start with his autobiography.  Wiki his name; there is lots of references on that sight, including plenty images of him on horseback

Ed

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
July 4, 2011 at 9:40 p.m. (EDT)


2010-09-17_18-52-17_561.jpg

What better light weight model than one with a built in shelter. :)

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
July 4, 2011 at 11:46 p.m. (EDT)

Uggghhhhh, the JakPak. I know all about this thing. I had a pretty good discussion with Michelle from JakPak in regards to the design on this system awhile back. Definitely not my cup of tea lol. For the price I could get an OR bivy. For a lil more I could get the ID bivy I am planning on getting.

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
July 5, 2011 at 12:53 a.m. (EDT)

Which ID bivy?  I have three so might be able to provide some perspective on them.  I also have the first generation Big Agnes Three Wire.  I love bivvies but tend to use them less and less given where solo shelters have gone (light and roomier).

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
July 5, 2011 at 1:19 a.m. (EDT)

I am looking at the Uni(not the classic.) I am primarily gonna use this in the winter.

http://www.integraldesigns.com/product_detail.cfm?id=776

I have a BA Copper Spur UL1 I use for 3 season solo use.

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
July 5, 2011 at 2:51 a.m. (EDT)

I am also looking at the ID Wedge bivy although I am not sure that I like a shelter that the entry point opens from the top.

Could pose a problem in bad weather.

Who knows, I may just end up buying another Hille Akto to replace my old one. I really liked that tent.

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
July 5, 2011 at 9:09 a.m. (EDT)

Rick ~~

I might have a N.O.S.  (a dreaded acronym for, "New Old Stock") O.R. (another dreaded acronym)  bivy, if you might be interested.

I bought two ... and, have only used one.

Now ... if I could only FIND the bloody thing! 

(I've moved threeeeeee times (3!) in the past 2 years).

~r2~

Mentalfloss1
269 reviewer rep
54 forum posts
July 5, 2011 at 11:14 a.m. (EDT)

  I've read his autobiography plus several other books by him and about him.  They're on the bookshelf just behind me.  I do know that he rode a horse occasionally, including the time spent with Roosevelt.  Also that he would occasionally eat like a bear.  But I also know that he said that he would head into the Sierra with a pocketful of bread and little else and stay out there for days after he'd run out of bread.  He didn't fish or hunt but just endured.

   http://www.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/life/john_muir_menu_j_parker_huber.aspx

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
July 5, 2011 at 11:40 a.m. (EDT)

I have the Unishelter in eVent and condensation has been minimal to nonexistent on the eVent fabric.  However, I have had some on the floor given that it is non - breathable 70D PU coated nylon.  It is really easy to get in and out of, but in the rain you have to be very, very quick...; )  Fo winter use it is great but snow will accumulate on the main body and could limit the lofting of your sleeping bag.  For winter use, I have the eVent over bag that is 100% eVent.  I have not experienced any condensation yet.  And it's lighter.  No zipper but fairly easy to climb into.  If I was only looking at poled bivvy shelters, I would consider the Big Agnes Three Wire.  It has better ventilation options than the Unishelter and it has a better 'awning' so that you can open it up a bit in the rain.  It is also functionally freestanding and requires no pegs.

I do not have the Wedge but have looked at it again, and again.  It would be incredible in windy conditions because of the low profile but as you indicate, the Akto would be just as good and has a built in vestibule.  You can also sit up in the Akto.  With the Wedge, you would definitely want the additional vestibule.  There is a review of the Wedge @ backpackinglight.com and it was highly rated.

What about a 'Mid' for winter use? 

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
July 5, 2011 at 12:17 p.m. (EDT)

Rick - here is a link to an interesting viewpoint on bivy fabrics:

 

http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/the-bivy-condensation-conundrum/

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
July 5, 2011 at 12:48 p.m. (EDT)

Good link CWF. Thanks alot. On the Akto Hille actually has a mesh inner that can be purchased for it so who knows. I may end up getting another one w/the inner and might sell my lil Spur down the road. I dunno. I kinda like the lil Spur, Alot. :)

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
July 6, 2011 at 1:33 a.m. (EDT)

I can't seem to find the mid.

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
July 6, 2011 at 1:12 p.m. (EDT)

Here is a link to the various 'Mid' designs (Solo, Duo, Super, etc).  These designs have been used in all weather but excel in winter conditions.  Various fabrics - from Silnylon to Cuben.

http://www.mountainlaureldesigns.com/shop/index.php?cPath=47

Wolfman (Wolfgang Greystoke)
119 reviewer rep
456 forum posts
July 15, 2011 at 1:37 a.m. (EDT)

Hi all, Quite the intersting little thread going here.  I am faily new to the form so I have a lot of catching up to do. 

CWF; Question how is a 8x10 tarp at $100, or less, inexpensive?  My 9 x 11 cost less then $5.00?  Yes it is blue, but it works fine.  :) 

As for the UL vs. Light vs. Medium vs. Heavy, Well I would like to be lighter, and I do drop things from the list if I don't need them, but I have no idea how I could ever get to 20 or 25 pounds for a 4 or 5 day trip.  Last trip I went with my son (9) to the coast (Washington State) for a 4 night 5 day trip, his pack was 15 pounds, his bag, clothing, eating stuff for both, line, pad (blue foam) and a few personal items.  My pack was 35+ ( I think closer to 40) Bag, tent (2 person walrus arch - Light) clothing, dishes, stove and fuel, hatchet, grill for the camp fire, water filter, fire kit, first aid kit (Need to rework that) water containers (no water) Food, tarp, sleeping pad, toilet kit, and personal stuff, like a camera, head lights, and a paper back.   Oh yea and a 5 gallon bucket for the food, Racoons will tear the bags up.  I could drop some stuff, but it would be less enjoyable if I did

I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the articles, and getting more ideas on how to cut down on weight.  One thing I would like to point out though, I personally, don't consider the shelters that are shaped and have a pole or two holding them up a tarp, to me a tart is a square piece of material the is flat, the other type to me is just a tent with out a floor.  When I started camping back in the late 60's and early 70's that is how tents were made, at least all the kinds that I slept in.  If it was going to be wet, as it often is in the Pacific NW, then you just took another tarp to put under the sleeping bags. :) 

Anyway, thanks for the great thread and look forward to reading more in the other threads.

Wolfman

whomeworry
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts
July 15, 2011 at 8:29 a.m. (EDT)

Mentalfloss1 said:

  I've read his autobiography plus several other books by him and about him.  They're on the bookshelf just behind me.  I do know that he rode a horse occasionally, including the time spent with Roosevelt.  Also that he would occasionally eat like a bear.  But I also know that he said that he would head into the Sierra with a pocketful of bread and little else and stay out there for days after he'd run out of bread.  He didn't fish or hunt but just endured.

   http://www.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/life/john_muir_menu_j_parker_huber.aspx

Yes, that bread quote was something he stated to Ralph Waldo Emerson. a popular author of their time, who apparently shared this quote with many others, judging by its popularity.  But Muir lived pragmatically, and that quote was as much a description of how poor he was at that time as was a reflection on his mode of trekking.  When he had the means, he gladly availed himself to foood as well as horses, mules, and even automobiles to make his way through more remote areas.  But such is not the fodder that makes for good legends, and we tend to ignore it because it sullies the heroic image we have in mind when dreaming of a poster child for the ecology movement. 

Ed

denis daly
87 reviewer rep
1,087 forum posts
July 15, 2011 at 8:48 a.m. (EDT)

Wolfman said:

Hi all, Quite the intersting little thread going here.  I am faily new to the form so I have a lot of catching up to do. 

CWF; Question how is a 8x10 tarp at $100, or less, inexpensive?  My 9 x 11 cost less then $5.00?  Yes it is blue, but it works fine.  :) 

As for the UL vs. Light vs. Medium vs. Heavy, Well I would like to be lighter, and I do drop things from the list if I don't need them, but I have no idea how I could ever get to 20 or 25 pounds for a 4 or 5 day trip.  Last trip I went with my son (9) to the coast (Washington State) for a 4 night 5 day trip, his pack was 15 pounds, his bag, clothing, eating stuff for both, line, pad (blue foam) and a few personal items.  My pack was 35+ ( I think closer to 40) Bag, tent (2 person walrus arch - Light) clothing, dishes, stove and fuel, hatchet, grill for the camp fire, water filter, fire kit, first aid kit (Need to rework that) water containers (no water) Food, tarp, sleeping pad, toilet kit, and personal stuff, like a camera, head lights, and a paper back.   Oh yea and a 5 gallon bucket for the food, Racoons will tear the bags up.  I could drop some stuff, but it would be less enjoyable if I did

I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the articles, and getting more ideas on how to cut down on weight.  One thing I would like to point out though, I personally, don't consider the shelters that are shaped and have a pole or two holding them up a tarp, to me a tart is a square piece of material the is flat, the other type to me is just a tent with out a floor.  When I started camping back in the late 60's and early 70's that is how tents were made, at least all the kinds that I slept in.  If it was going to be wet, as it often is in the Pacific NW, then you just took another tarp to put under the sleeping bags. :) 

Anyway, thanks for the great thread and look forward to reading more in the other threads.

Wolfman

 Wolfman  when I stated my intentions of packing the AT. Many light weight enthusiats gave me websites of alternative gear manufacturer's( cottage industry) It was also Pillowthread who on another thread to someone else mentioned Henry Shire's( Tarptents). I never heard of him . then I started searching on other firums that I am a member of and asked alot of questions. Like Philip is saying your Big 3 is where you start. Pack,  sleeping bag, shelter, then look into what you truly need. what can be multi purpose? Rain gear? can be a parker with other layers. Bandana? Instead of a hatchet how about a japeanese folding sawlike you use in the garden for small limbs? Doesn't weigh as much as a hatchet? just little things slowly then you will figure what works for you and doesn't..

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
July 15, 2011 at 9:36 a.m. (EDT)

Mentalfloss1 said:

t he would head into the Sierra with a pocketful of bread and little else and stay out there for days after he'd run out of bread.  He didn't fish or hunt but just endured.

   http://www.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/life/john_muir_menu_j_parker_huber.aspx

 If it was ... in fact,  bread dough, and perhaps a little more yeast and flour ... that can go a loooooong way .... as far as "enduring" might be considered.

_______________________________________________________________

                                                     ~r2~

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
July 15, 2011 at 10:39 a.m. (EDT)

Wolfman - the difference between an 8x10 silnylon tarp and your blue 9x11 tarp is going to be the fabric.  An 8x10 silnylon tarp can weigh as little as 10oz.  Your tarp is probably closer to 3lbs.  Maybe you could weigh it?

If you want to get lighter, the first thing you do (the very first thing) is buy a quality digital scale and start weighing your gear.  Forget manufacturers specifications as they usually overstate.

Remember that going UL means employing a system, not just buying a bumch of lightweight gear.....

Wolfman (Wolfgang Greystoke)
119 reviewer rep
456 forum posts
July 16, 2011 at 3:57 p.m. (EDT)

CWF said:

Wolfman - the difference between an 8x10 silnylon tarp and your blue 9x11 tarp is going to be the fabric.  An 8x10 silnylon tarp can weigh as little as 10oz.  Your tarp is probably closer to 3lbs.  Maybe you could weigh it?.

 Well I don't think it is 3 lbs, but it would not surprise me it it was close to 2lbs.  And I do end up replacing it most years, they just don't last.  That said, I would really like to have a nice high quality tarp that I could use as a shelter, or sun block or wind screen deepening on how it was set up.   I watched some Hamitic You-Tube videos, quite funny but also quite informative. But right now I just don't have the funds to spend on something like that.  The house payment comes first. 

I may try my hand at making one, I use to be able to sow, not to sure about a sowing machine though.  I don't even know if the one out in the garage works.    I know that their is a good fabric store in Seattle, Seattle Fabrics, that is suppose to have different kinds of fabric for camping, any one know how expensive Silnylon is?  And or fabric layouts?

As for the Pack and bag, they are very new, just a couple years old, and seem to work fine, the pack is probably to big, but I don't have to fill it, right?  :)  And I have several bags for different temp ratings so I normally try to take the lightest bag I think I will need. 

Wolfman

gonzan
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
658 reviewer rep
2,149 forum posts
July 17, 2011 at 11:26 a.m. (EDT)

Silnylon ranges in cost from $6-$14.

If I can manage the time, I am thinking about making my own pyramid shelter. It will probably be less than perfect, but I think I can make one for around $50 in materials.

Mentalfloss1
269 reviewer rep
54 forum posts
July 20, 2011 at 12:24 a.m. (EDT)

  I'm sure that Muir did take advantage of broader food sources and transportation.  But my original statement was that he hiked more simply than the lightest of the ultralighters.  And he did do that.  He went to places were no horse or even mule could get to.  And if being poor meant that he carried little in the way of food that doesn't, to me, lessen the feat.  Because he didn't live on the edge with every trip doesn't mean that he didn't do what few of us would care to do.

android
183 reviewer rep
100 forum posts
August 27, 2011 at 2:22 p.m. (EDT)

First question- are you a hiker or a camper?

I walk all day as far as possible, boil some water, wolf down some freezedried, rack out, sleep decently, get up at the crack of dawn, and do it all again (yes, I hike alone!) This type of hiking will automatically make your pack lighter.

If you are a camper, and walk maybe 5 miles to a campsite and have to entertain yourself for 12 hours, then your packing list will reflect this.

I have buddies that are more camper than hiker, and you should see the difference between our packs.

I cannot imagine a casual hike to a babbling brook and breaking out a novel until sunset.............I would lose my mind.

Anyway, not all backcountry excursions are equal, so the "mission" will dictate the pack.

Tom D
MODERATOR
38 reviewer rep
1,757 forum posts
August 27, 2011 at 2:56 p.m. (EDT)

I second F Klock's admonition to keep things civil, otherwise, your post will disappear in its entirety. No one wants to edit for content, so don't expect us to do that. We will use the Delete button.

As for UL, there are plenty of websites devoted to UL. I help moderate one of the most comprehensive ones. There is a whole range of UL gear in all price ranges for those concerned about cost.  A fair amount of UL gear can be homemade or from kits. Ray Jardine is a big proponent of UL and sells kits for quilts and other UL gear.

As CWF said, you can make an alcohol stove for next to nothing. There are plans on the net for dozens of soda can and cat food can stove designs and videos on YouTube on how to make your own stove. I have made several with total cost of almost nothing, not including drinking the soda. I bought a tube of JB Weld and that was about it. I already had the tools I needed (a matte knife and pair of scissors). I've seen entire stove and cook kit set ups made from various cans and inexpensive bowls you can find at a dollar store.

Yes, UL isn't for everyone and every environment, but lightening your load is as much about choosing what to leave at home as it is about buying high tech gear.

Family Guy
2 reviewer rep
699 forum posts
August 28, 2011 at 11:21 a.m. (EDT)

android said:

First question- are you a hiker or a camper?

I walk all day as far as possible, boil some water, wolf down some freezedried, rack out, sleep decently, get up at the crack of dawn, and do it all again (yes, I hike alone!) This type of hiking will automatically make your pack lighter.

If you are a camper, and walk maybe 5 miles to a campsite and have to entertain yourself for 12 hours, then your packing list will reflect this.

I have buddies that are more camper than hiker, and you should see the difference between our packs.

I cannot imagine a casual hike to a babbling brook and breaking out a novel until sunset.............I would lose my mind.

Anyway, not all backcountry excursions are equal, so the "mission" will dictate the pack.

 You sound like Mike Clelland....; )

Mentalfloss1
269 reviewer rep
54 forum posts
August 28, 2011 at 1:29 p.m. (EDT)

  Hmmm....   I do day hike.  But when I backpack I go from 6-8 miles a day.  Never in a hurry.  I spent 50 years hurrying.  I set up a camp, away from the "normal" camping spots.  I often go for an evening hike or scramble and/or a morning hike or scramble, someplace off trail. I carry a little ultralight day pack for that.   I read at night in bed by headlamp ... one of my life's great pleasures.

   We're all different.  Thank goodness. 

This post has been locked and is not accepting new comments