How long have you been backpacking and what's the longest trip you've taken?
I've started exploring the countryside about 28 years ago together with my father, strapped in a baby carrier on his back. Since then I've been to numerous trips every year but until this year I was never interested in hiking long distances. If it wasn't above the tree-line and there was no climbing involved, I did not care. But that changed and with the urge to be out for a longer period I started acquiring the necessary know-how and inspected the weight of my gear more carefully.
When did you realize that you needed to reduce the amount of weight that you carried in your backpack?
I did not really have a bad experience although a lot of my trips could have been much more pleasant had I given the contents of my pack a bit more thought. When I started adding up everything needed for 5 days on my own I quickly realised I had no intention of carrying a 40 pound pack. So I started investigating for alternatives and soon found myself reading Ray Jardines book. And that's when my journey started.
What is the total weight of your big three: backpack, sleeping bag/pad, and shelter?
- Backpack: Golite Pinnacle 2010, I removed the backplate and that brought it to 29.6oz
- Now, please don't be shocked, this is still my heavy stuff:
- Sleeping Bag: exped Waterbloc 600, comfortable to 25 Degrees 44oz
- Shelter: exped venus 2, 98.7 oz
Do you own a scale for weighing your gear? If so, what kind? How often do you use it?
Yes a cheap digital kitchen scale. I use it so much I wish I had a portable scale on my key chain, especially for shopping.
Where are you in the process of going lightweight? What have some of the notable weight reductions in your gear list been?
I am only at the very beginning! A very pleasant change was to exchange my softshell (17.6oz) for a montane featherlite smock (3.5oz) and a rab generator vest (8.1oz). It's more versatile, warmer and lighter.
How much has cost constrained the rate in which you reduce your gear weight? Can you cite an example?
I replaced some items and of course for all new stuff weight was a big consideration. Strangely I shied away from changing my sleeping bag and my shelter. When my budget was nearly reached I bought some textiles and started sewing my own stuff. So far I've sown fleece mittens, waterproof overmittens, a fleece beanie, waterproof pants and finally a really warm primaloft insulated hood. They even look passable as long as you don't get closer than 30 feet.
What was the largest amount of pack weight you dropped by replacing or eliminating a piece of gear?
For a single item, that must have been my pack, from 62.4oz pound to 29.6oz. I realise there are much lighter packs than the golite pinnacle, but it is good to start out with and will make a nice winter pack once I switch. I am keeping an eye on the cuben fiber packs but am not yet convinced.
What's your view on the trade-offs between the following types of backpacking gear, for your specific climate conditions and needs? Are you at the stage where you want to try different options or not interested and why?
Down vs. Synthetic sleeping bags?
I prefer down, it feels better and weighs less and with a bit of care it stays dry. When I am sure that I will encounter rain and humidity, I add a bivy bag. For winter use I read about using a synthetic quilt outside of the down bag, to catch the condensation and add warmth. That makes sense to me and I will try it out next winter.
Backpacks with an external frame, internal frame, or no frame?
Don't really care as long as it is not too heavy and feels good on my back. I do prefer some sort of stabilisation, I currently use my sleeping pad rolled up to give some shape to my pack.
Double walled shelters, single walled shelters, and tarps and bivies?
I've always preferred a bivy if the weather is nice enough. Right now I am learning a lot about tarps. As I have spent a couple of nights in a bivouac already I am not afraid of insects or snakes, so a tarp is really appealing to me. For two person use I will consider a double wall shelter, the weight can be divided between two people and I haven't convinced my wife of a tarp yet.
Full size sleeping pads vs. torso sized?
I sleep well on torso sized pads but if somebody prefers full sized pads I understand them. A good nights sleep is worth more than a couple of oz saved, in my opinion. Additionally, I stuff my empty pack under my feet, that works quite well.
Boots vs trail runners?
Personally I use light boots but I can see trail runners being nice for most terrain. Maybe once my boots are worn out I will consider trail runners, but right now they still work and I like them. I also own a pair of Scarpa Triolet boots which I love, with really stiff soles for crampons or snowshoes. And I enjoy sitting in the sun after a trip and washing the boots, it's just a small ritual I acquired.
What would you say are the biggest benefits of carrying less gear? Dig deep here. Have you had any spiritual or personal breakthroughs by going lightweight? Has it affected your relationship with nature, for example?
I work in the IT industry and in my work I've always preferred having a selected collection of small, no-nonsense programs working together. No functions duplicated and they can be combined to be more powerful. I realised I had been practising "lightweight" the whole time, just not in backpacking! Now I try to apply this to all parts of my life, with great results.
And the MYOG philosophy has opened up a whole new way of life for me. It is a really empowering feeling to make your own equipment, so don't be afraid! If you don't care to much about appearance sewing is very forgiving. And you will get better.
What advice would you give to someone else who wanted to start reducing the weight of their backpacking gear?
Don't try to change everything at once. And with all the number crunching and gear-checking, always make enjoying the trip your number one priority.
Is there anything else you want to get off your chest?
Please switch to the metric system already! There is so much great gear and info on the net and I always have to convert everything. And if you haven't done so yet, try taking along an umbrella, you might like it.
Backpacking Gear List
|in grams||in oz|
|Golite Pinnacle 2010||840||29.6|
|Liner Bag StS Ultra Sil 20L||54||1.9|
|Sleeping Bag exped WB 600||1250||44.1|
|Tent exped venus 2||2800||98.8|
|POE uber lite||217||7.7|
|12 carbon stakes MYOG||32||1.1|
|Caldera cone cook set||112||4.0|
|Victorinox swisscard lite||25||0.9|
|Primus foldable spork and spoon||12||0.4|
|Thermo cup MYOG||20||0.7|
|Pouch cozy MYOG||30||1.1|
|Anti Gravity Gear 3 cup pot||112||4.0|
|Meru campack towel||20||0.7|
|Hygiene Bag in ziploc||50||1.8|
|Mammut liner gloves||47||1.7|
|RAB Generator Vest||230||8.1|
|Salewa long arm shirt||195||6.9|
|Meru gaiters, small||54||1.9|
|Rain pants MYOG||150||5.3|
|Bomber Hat MYOG||50||1.8|
|First aid kit in ziploc||50||1.8|
|Camera Fuji F30||192||6.8|
|exped alpine trekking poles||370||13.1|
|GPS garmin e-trex h, lithium battery||128||4.5|
|2 Platypus 1 litre||46||1.6|
|petzl e-lite headlamp||27||1.0|
|Umbrella swing liteflex||226||8.0|
|Total in kilo||Total in lbs|
Note: Georg submitted this post in order to enter the Sectionhiker.com Gollte Ultralite Down Quilt Raffle. See link for full details.