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Ultra Light Camping

Well one thing about getting older, parts of your body starts to break down.  We can no longer carry the gear that we use to when we were in our 20s. It is either our back or knees, ankles that just can no longer take the heavy weight.  Instead of hanging in the towel rethink your gear selection

Due to my back  all of my gear is in the ultra light category when it comes to backpack camping. I had to rethink and reinvent what camping would look like. The only thing i knew  is that i had to start over from scratch

 I started with an ultra light Jansport internal backpack that weighs under 2 lbs . It is no longer in production but at the time it was the lightest backpack i could find at 50l.  Compared to my Dragonfly external frame backpack i save 2+ lbs of weight

Next i switched from a tent to the ENO Junglefest hammock 400 lb capacity, another 3 lbs of weight saved

Dropping my D battery LED lantern for the Black Diamond Icon 700 graphite headlamp or the Princeton Tec Apex led headlamp,  saved me another 1  1/2 lbs.

Nixing my stainless steel mess kit for either my coleman ultra light aluminum mess kit or my GSI or MSR titanium mess kits,   saved almost   1 1/2 lbs

Switching from old school sleeping bag insolation fill to ultra light ultra compact sleeping bags with synthetic  and down fill versions saved me a whopping 5 lbs and it was a crap load less bulking of a backpack setup

I nixed all the carrying totes, bags, boxes , containers that all my gear  came in saving another 1 lb. yea  they looked good in their own travel containers but  those containers add up in weight.

So by this point  i had already taken off 14 lbs of weight from my backpack. 14 lbs is a lot of weight not to carry around  but  I didnt stop there.

  Now was the time to nickels and dime it ( a term where you are counting your pennies  or in this case weight) replacing all the camping gear/tool items I had for lighter versions  and gear that had multiple functions vs individual gear with only 1 function

SO i swapped the following for much lighter versions

Military compass for a lightweight upgraded boy scout flat map compass

knives and forks and spoons for a titanium folding spork

stainless steel canteen for an aluminum canteen

My camo pack n bag for a hydration bladder bare bone

Tarp to an ultra light rain fly

Ka-bar BK2 companion to the Tops Mil Spie 3 knife

Torche wind proof lighter to a Bic lighter

my camp gear repair kit and grooming kit (leatherman multi tool, tent repair tool kit, Allen wrench, portable scissors, multi bit screw driver, nail file, nail clippers, pen, dental floss, tweezers) swapping them all for my Victorinox Swiss army SwissChamp knife

switched from rope to paracord

with all said and done i dropped an amazing 20 lbs with my new camping setup but i didnt stop there

Now it was the time to start getting  lighter attire and foot wear. I shopped at REI  EMS  and NRS for their clearance sales and got the lightest jackets with zipper vents, ultra light wicking thermal underwear and wicking outer layers, ultra light hiking boots and socks and even ultra light trek poles

All now that was left was changing how i handled bringing food.

I bought a dehydrator to remove the water weight form all the food i was bringing so that i could rehydrate them when needed, switched form bringing breads to wraps, put all my spices into straws that i heat sealed closed on both ends, brought freeze dried dehydrated foods

At the end of the day from changing all my gear ,clothing, footwear and food changes  i dropped over 30 lbs including the weight of clothing i was wearing from my backpacking setup and my back is all the better  for it

 

 

 

Good ideas. 

Keep going out there no matter what. 

What is your base weight now?

Base weight = everything you carry in/on your pack, including the pack itself, minus consumables (food, water, fuel, but not the containers/packaging that hold your consumables).

The base weight depends on

which season 

how long a trip

how many people coming with me

and wear/equip

Summer base weight I'd say is about 14 lbs w/kaito crank solar world radio /usb charging station which weighs ~1.5 lbs

guessing 20.5 - 22 lbs  for winter( w/radio) ultra lightweight wicking thermals, socks and additional layers and additional sleeping bag layers

on the heavy side still but my set up has like telescoping fishing rod and spinning reel , and some redundancy gear, Recorder flute for me to jam on, carabiners ,climber pulley, figure 8 and paracord

When you got a bad back  being able to lift more then your back can handle is the key so i jury-rig some contraptions  on the trail

i only carry fuel tabs so not much weight there since thats the backup stove main is the ~6 oz wood burning stove

probably be at the 11.5 lb mark if not for the climbing gear and radio 

 

 

If you want to go lighter and have good gear I would suggest reading most of JRs reviews he up to date on alot of UL gear and a UL hiker I learn alot from JR and ask him questions hes turned me on to gear I had no idea was out there and like hes asking base weight...A good dite to use and keep track of your gear in phases and what you have is lighterpack...Categories your gear and you can post your gear to anysite for  someone to make a reccomedation to Eaither update a piece or just eave it home for a trip..

I’ve been going lighter on a gradual basis, usually going with 2nd tier gear that may be 3-4oz heavier than tier 1 but 50% or less of tier 1 pricing. The one thing I haven’t been able to go UL on is a pack, none of the UL models I’ve tried were comfortable so I’ll stick with my Ospreys. They feel like part of my body when I pack correctly. 

denis daly said:

If you want to go lighter and have good gear I would suggest reading most of JRs reviews he up to date on alot of UL gear and a UL hiker I learn alot from JR and ask him questions hes turned me on to gear I had no idea was out there

 Thanks!

Phil Smith said:

I’ve been going lighter on a gradual basis, usually going with 2nd tier gear that may be 3-4oz heavier than tier 1 but 50% or less of tier 1 pricing. The one thing I haven’t been able to go UL on is a pack, none of the UL models I’ve tried were comfortable so I’ll stick with my Ospreys. They feel like part of my body when I pack correctly. 

 Two of my big pieces of advice for those migrating to UL:

1) Think hard about how far down the UL rabbit hole you think you will end up going -- not just today but in the future -- and then buy that gear now. What many people do is go to (to use Phil's terminology) 3rd tier lightweight gear, then they realize how much better it could be if they upgraded to 2nd tier, which they do, and then of course they finally get that 1st tier gear. This approach ends up costing you more money in the long run, and it delays when you will benefit from having a truly ultralight pack. If you had just bought that 1st tier gear in the first place, yes the cost would be painful, but you would pay that once without also paying for 2nd tier and 3rd tier along the way, and also your pack will be sooooo much lighter starting now, not starting at some point years in the future. Phil, in your case, if 2nd tier UL is where you think you'll end up then your approach is fine, but if you foresee any of that gear going through another cycle of upgrades in the future I respectfully suggest that you'll save money by biting that bullet now.

2) Get your pack last. If you get your pack before you have your gear assembled, including upgraded/replaced gear, then you'll be trying to fit your gear into a pre-defined amount of space. Instead, wait until you have your gear and then get a pack that's the right size to hold it. This is true whether you are going UL or not, but is especially relevant for those migrating to UL. And, if you get a UL pack now before your gear is as migrated as you're willing to go down the UL rabbit hole, then your gear may be too heavy for a UL pack and it will be uncomfortable. Your pack needs to fit your gear not only in size but also in weight capacity and comfort, and if you get your pack last then you will have the best chance of finding a UL pack that rides comfortably with your gear. 

Thanx Denis for your post.  While I was bed ridden for 3 months waiting for my back surgery 7-8 years ago, I spent I spent my days researching ultra light gear. I would spend hours reading the top ultra lightweight gears in each category.  My next step was to contact the manufacturers directly and speak to their corporate sales teams and experts.  These were not the sales reps that you would get when you were placing an order to buy their products. They were the corporate sales reps that dealt primarily with retail companies, experts in their fields and hired for their knowledge and experience in the field.  (CEO of a consulting company got my foot in the door) So for 3 months 10-12 hours a day researching ultra lightweight out door gear in every category.

Now that I was able to walk again my next step was to explore and fiddle with  every single gear piece i could find in the ultra lightweight gear range. I would spend the entire day (6-8 hours) and some times  days at REI , EMS, Dicks Sporting Goods, BassPro shops, Cabelas, and even Army Navy Surplus stores. It got to the point that I would be correcting the store's reps  on their comments of the  gear that they sold. I was still researching online everyday too even to this very day.

By this point and time Denis I realized that i was up to date on all the high end ultra light gear on the market and if I was going to shed any more pounds off my pack it would have to be through modification of the gear I had.  So it was at this point I started researching how the gear was manufactured , how to repair and rebuild the gear from scratch.  

I started 1st with my backpack. Removing straps, clasps, buckles, the frame, support belt and misc attachments.  I then used lighter versions of the above that I bought online or took from other backpacks i owned and with some heavy duty nylon thread and a sewing machine and some done by hand I created my vision of what a lighter backpack should be.

The finished result was so much lighter while remaining durable that I continued to do this with my other camping gear. Other then my winter sleeping bag and winter jacket which I could replace with lighter versions, all of the rest of my gear is so light that it would cost several thousand dollars to replace everything for less then a pound of weight reduction some of which would be custom job builds of the gear. 1/4 an oz here 1/2 an oz there and so on (again this is other then sleeping bag and winter jacket for reducing gear weight as i know i could reduce weight with a high end jacket and sleeping bag)

Keep in mind that I am referring to gear that I would actually use.  I am aware of the gear that one would bring to climb Mt Everest like ultra light camp stove with fuel canisters that can be used at extreme elevations and cold temperatures. I do not use those kind of stoves at all and tend to shy away from fuel canisters other when i go campsite camping and i have 14 different stoves for that type of camping ( propane, white gas, fuel tabs, alcohol burners, and gasoline stoves) same with lanterns.

I have challenged the local camping gear stores to find a setup that weighs lighter then my camping backpack system and i have yet found one that they  put together in a backpack filled with similar gear that weighed less. I would bring my backpack fully loaded and  a luggage scale (base weight only no food or water & only a few fuel tabs) and asked the sales reps to work together to create a lighter version of what i got but without eliminating anything (ie  i have a backup stove, knife, headlamp etc. so the redundant gear had to be present)

Once you get to the point like i did where you are cannibalizing your gear and stripping it down and Macgyvering it ( modifying it yourself) to make it even lighter then you are in a totally different ballpark with your gear

A good chunk of the added weight i carry are luxury items: telescoping fishing pole, solar crank world radio and cell charger, Record flute for me to play music, and some basic climbing gear that allows me to jury rig contraptions to aid in lifting and moving stuff on my adventures ( ~ 4lbs)

sorry typo " Recorder Flute "that separates into 3 sections. 

Phil I totally agree with JR .  Think of the future not the present. We are only getting older not younger and for this reason planning now for the gear that you will need later will in the long run save you a lot of money.

Also realize that a Tier 1 gear today  will years later be replaced with another Tier 1 made of a lighter material that may be only 1/4- 1/2 oz lighter then the previous ultra light model but still lighter. But don't fret as the tier 2 models  will always be heavier then either of these tier 1 models 

That is the boat that i am in where a lot of my tier 1 gear now has newer model gear that is 1/4 -1/2 oz lighter.  It may not seem like much until you multiply that times all the gear you carry including clothing which can add up to almost a pound

I find when you hit that point and time the cost of the ultra light gear just to save 1/2 oz is not cost effective. (again referring to same tier of gear)

For a sleeping bag for example i noticed that a replacement that was 4oz lighter was going to cost me about $100 per oz (specific example, other bags and or gear could be less $$ per oz)

JR & Michael,

Thats actually what I did - got all my UL gear over the past few years and just bought a new pack this spring (Osprey Kestrel 38.) Previously I’d been using an Osprey Manta 36 AG, which put the weight just a little too low and far back. The Kestrel is a little taller so I can put heavier stuff higher off my hips and closer to my back. It‘s even comfortable with 2 1l water bottles in the side mesh pockets, which really pulled back on my shoulders with the Manta. Although, I’m getting away from carrying water and just using my BeFree bottle to get water from a stream, pond, or runoff when I start getting thirsty. 

The only stuff I still have to replace with UL is rain gear, which will make some room in my pack but I bought the pack with the plan to do some multi-day trips eventually. Even with 3 days of freeze-dried food the pack isn’t stuffed and the compression straps keep it nice and close to my back. 

I also plan on replacing my Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 sometime, but will be getting something that’s about the same weight and volume but not head entry. I call the BA 2nd tier because you can get lighter but they tend to be 150-200% more expensive. I save weight once bug season is mostly past by just using the fly & footprint. 

While I have not really switched to ultralight gear for most things (i occasionally hammock instead of tent), i have dropped nearly 20 pounds over the past year and a half. However you cut weight, it can have a pretty significant positive impact on your joints, legs, back. Moving more of my cardio training to cycling and swimming vs. hiking helped too, less impact often means less wear and and tear.  

leadbelly2550 said:

While I have not really switched to ultralight gear for most things (i occasionally hammock instead of tent), i have dropped nearly 20 pounds over the past year and a half. However you cut weight, it can have a pretty significant positive impact on your joints, legs, back. Moving more of my cardio training to cycling and swimming vs. hiking helped too, less impact often means less wear and and tear.  

 The cheapest UL gear you can buy! 

Technically speaking, the price of healthy food probably costs more then Tier 1 gear  lol.

I think of that every time I buy Quinoa/organic food, and look at camping gear in the same day

Gratz on the weight loss  great achievement 

Michael -Survival Intuition said:

Technically speaking, the price of healthy food probably costs more then Tier 1 gear  lol.

I think of that every time I buy Quinoa/organic food, and look at camping gear in the same day

Gratz on the weight loss  great achievement 

 I was thinking of eating less food, not more expensive food!  LOL

October 27, 2021
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