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Kind of new to lightweight backpacking
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Craig Burton

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Kind of new to lightweight backpacking on 11/18/2007 17:00:17 MST Print View

Hi all:

I've always knew about lightweight backpacking, but I've always brushed it off as something that isn't for me. I've encountered BPL a few times, but I never extensively read around on the site until today.

I came upon here in search of a new backpack that apparently does not exist -- sacrifices will have to be made. I just realized a pack I was looking for does not exist (ie. ~3500 ci, under under 4.5 lbs, full, solid suspension, and comfortable padding). The closest pack I found to this criteria was the Arc'Teryx Naos 55 -- a pack I've eyed for over a year, but still well outside my price range.

Anyway, as I was saying, I stumbled upon here and discovered that the folks on this forum are by far some of the most knowledgeable outdoors enthusiasts I've had the pleasure of reading. The tips, tricks, recommendations, experiences, ideas, and advice I've read on this forum are far more advanced than anything I've encountered in my 3 short years of backpacking -- even more so than "expert" articles I've read.

I think I originally signed up on this forum today to ask a few questions; but now I'm more curious on what it's like to get into lightweight backpacking without taking things to the extreme.

I've found myself rebuilding my gear over the past month, as I've grown tired mostly of the bulk and difficult packing -- not necessarily the weight.

For now, I think I'll keep my 6lb bag and focus on minimizing my packed weight; but I would still like to enjoy the "traditional" forms of backpacking while keeping light. I still want to utilize my 3lb tent, and still pack the extra layers, and bring the extra pair of specialty shoes for secondary terrain.

In hopes of foreseeing futures problems, I'm curious to know what you all seem to think are common mistakes of people transitioning in to lightweight or UL backpacking that are reluctant to stray from "traditional" means of enjoying the hobby. Do any people like me ever truly achieve "lightweight" status; or is it more-or-less a game they play with themselves with minimal positive results?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Kind of new to lightweight backpacking on 11/18/2007 18:13:24 MST Print View

First of all, welcome to Backpacking Light! I think you will get your "money's worth" here. Second of all, that mythical pack is not a myth. There are several out there that meet your specifications: I will point you to two manufacturers that I have experience with: 1) ULA Equipment, URL is; 2)McHale Backpacks, URL is ULA Equipment is in your home state and has two packs off the shelf that meet your specs. I own one, the Circuit, and have seen the other, the Catalyst, in action on the back of a friend. Both are reasonably priced, well made, and carry very well. Dan McHale makes arguably the finest backpacks available, to order, custom fitted. They are pricey, but built to last a lifetime and carry like a dream. They are both worth checking out, as the backpack is the first place to start, IMO, in reducing your load. Others will soon be responding to your post with lots of additional ideas about packs and other areas you mentioned, so stay tuned. Best of luck!

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Some Suggestionsfor New UL Backpacker on 11/18/2007 18:36:10 MST Print View


I doubt that I could say anything that hasn't been said better by others here, but here are a few suggestions.

- Lay out your current equipment and weight it. Think about what you can leave behind.
- After each trip, make note of what you didn't use (candle lantern, extra food, book, etc.).
- Transition to lightweight at a comfortable pace. Take a poncho/tarp along with your traditional tent so you have a bailout plan.
- Camp in the backyard when a rainstorm is predicted or take a 4-day loaded pack for a day hike to try it out.
- Don't buy the cutting edge cuben tarp or pack to start with.
- Use the Gear Swap to upgrade slowly and cheaply. you can always resale the item for the same (or slightly lower price) if it doesn't work for you. First thing...look for a new bag--6 lbs?!?

There are lots of stories by the gurus of lightweight backpacking that detail their early hikes with 60 lb loads (Alan Dixon, Glen Van Peski, Andrew Skurka, Tom Clark, etc.). If we can move toward the light, so can you. ;-)


Ryan Faulkner
(ryanf) - F

Locale: Mid atlantic, No. Cal
Re: Re: Kind of new to lightweight backpacking on 11/18/2007 18:47:11 MST Print View

ULA and Mchale packs are definatley worth considering.

also check out, they have a couple big, yet lightweight internal framed packs, bombproof packs, but lightweight., Wild things makes lightweight mountaineering packs again, extremely durable lightweight backpacks. they have a couple packs that meet your demands. prophet packs..

There are alot of great packs out there, definatly not that hard to find one under 4.5lbs. at 3500cu. in.

Ryan Faulkner
(ryanf) - F

Locale: Mid atlantic, No. Cal
Re: Some Suggestionsfor New UL Backpacker on 11/18/2007 18:55:35 MST Print View

I think you will find, that if you get your pack weight lower, you will have a much more comfortable/enjoyable experience.

It really is not that difficult to go truly ultralight (base packweight under 10lbs.) but still be comfortable.. there are many ultralighters that carry a inflatable sleeping pad, and even a hammock.

you will find that you dont really need a heavy stove to cook your dinner, and a 1oz homemade stove is enough 90% of the time.

there are infinte amount of ways you can lower your pack weight, so I will make no attempt to list them all here. I recomend Just looking at others gearlist, and reading some good books, and ask as many questions as you can here.

specifically about the pack.. I havent used a framed pack for the last few years, even with pack weights up to 40lbs.. I have loved my Golite Jam/pinnacle packs. if you lower the bulk and weight of your gear kit, you wont need the frame of your pack.. personally, I think framless packs are much more comfortable

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Kind of new to lightweight backpacking on 11/18/2007 19:32:48 MST Print View

Welcome Craig.

Keeping a "traditional" approach bur lightening up quite common in the backpacking community at large. It's what a number of my friends do. It's possible to drop base weight down to something like 15lbs for 3seasons, maybe 25lbs winter if you are able/willing to spend the money and/or willing to do some sewing to swap to light forms of whatever gear you currently carry. Making a few changes to backpacking style it's very possible to drop to 10-12lbs three season and less than 20lbs for winter/snow trips.

I have written up a few suggestions on suggestions for dropping pack weight.

As to packs to recommend... a lot depends on how much of a makeover you think you gear is going to get in the next couple of years. If it's going to major, then I would suggest continuing to use your existing pack until you have changed the rest of your gear and you know what you actually need. If you aren't expecting a make major changes, or you are willing to buy a pack now, and one once you have finish changing things, then there are a number of packs which you should check out. One of the best packs for someone transition from traditional backpacking to light weight is the Osprey Aether 60. The current model is ~4lbs, holds 3900ci... but compresses REALLY well... 2000ci loads are just fine as well, and is the most comfortable carrying pack I have used for loads of <=40lbs. There are a number of other excellent packs includes those mentioned from ULA and McHale. I would also recommend the Nimbus line of packs from Granite Gear. If you need a little bit less of a pack (3200ci volume, carry 30lbs or less) then my first recommendation would be the 2lb Granite Gear Vapor Trail.

For general suggestions about gear... I have compiled a number of web pages which combine my experience and links to other folks observations in my recommended outdoor gear pages.

Edited by verber on 11/18/2007 20:06:00 MST.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Kind of new to lightweight backpacking on 11/18/2007 22:38:54 MST Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/24/2015 00:08:32 MDT.

Andrew Richardson
(arichardson6) - F

Locale: North East
Re: Kind of new to lightweight backpacking on 11/18/2007 22:58:34 MST Print View


I only began backpacking seriously a few months ago. Before then I went out often for climbing trips, but little hiking was involved and their was always a car close by. I started off as lightweight, so I can't speak about the transition, but I will say a few things..

Firstly, I would seriously recommend the Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian. It weighs 3.8oz, has a lid, and is a top/panel loader. You can strip the lid off and it weighs in at 3lbs. It is claimed to carry loads of 35lbs or less and I haven't ever had it over that much so I can't attest to it carrying more. It is extremely comfortable though and has a great compression system! It is also well padded and a has a great suspension system. It has 3800 cubes.

The Osprey bag suggested would also be a good choice. It is heavier, but it can carry more which may make it just right for the transition. Also, because it compresses so well you it can handle you cutting down on bulk.

As for minimizing your pack weight, what do you have in mind? What kind of cooking setup do you have now? You mentioned cutting down bulk which can be accomplished with a cook set that nests. This way you can put your stove and utensil inside your pot and the pot can either be held closed with a rubber band or the like, or the whole thing can be placed in a stuff sack.

You mentioned a 3lb tent..How many people does it hold? I assume it is a double wall tent. 3 lbs isn't that bad if your tent is a sturdy double wall, no need to rush out for a new tent in my opinion.

What is your sleeping system? Do you use a down bag or a synthetic? Down has a much better weight/warmth ratio. Are you using a closed cell foam pad? A self-inflatable? Air mattress?

What is your clothing setup like? Where do you hike? What time of year to you generally hike in? How long do you go out for? All of these answers can help hone in your clothing system.

So getting into lightweight backpacking is really fun! I've had a great time learning about techniques and gear. It's been fun researching everything and the people at this forum have been so helpful to me! I would say everyone here will definitely help make the transition enjoyable.

People like you DEFINITELY achieve "lightweight" status. If you want to, you will. It's not hard, it just takes some learning and the right attitude. Buy a scale, weight all your gear and keep track of what you use and what you don't. You'll eliminate useless items and replace them with amazingly useful pieces of gear.

Most of all, and sometimes this is hard to keep in mind, have fun! Don't jump in and sacrifice comfort because others say it works for them. You decide what works for you!

Kyle Purcell
(dufus934) - F

Locale: North Texas
Re: Kind of new to lightweight backpacking on 11/18/2007 23:21:49 MST Print View


First off let me echo everyone else and say welcome! The lightweight and UL backpacking worlds are both fun and exciting. I have been a UL backpacker for almost two years now and I have no idea how I managed before. I was one of those people who tried to car camp in the middle of no where, and a lot of the time I was carrying 50+ lb loads for weekend and three night trips. Needless to say it was miserable and I almost quit backpacking altogether. However, my saving grace was UL backpacking. This approach not only lets you lighter, it also allows you to go farther faster and (as I'm sure many of the people here would agree with me on) its more comfortable.

When I started lightening my load, the best advice that I got was to take a checklist of everything that I had in my pack. Each night before I went to sleep in the tent, I looked at the list and put a check by everything I had used that day (I also did this when I got back from the hike too). If I didn't use it, it didn't make the next trip. This was an easy way to see what areas I was over packing in. A few other things that I suggest you do are:

-Find multiple use items. Finding something that does double duty saves you from having to bring two separate pieces of gear.

-Be careful about food portions. If you're like me, this is where you bring way to much weight. I eat, and eat a lot, and I found that this didn't transfer well to the trail. My eyes were almost always bigger than my stomach and I found my self packing out a lot of both cooked and uncooked food. Not only did this transfer to more weight on the trail, but it was also more hassle when I would go to make my bear bag for the night in bear country.

-Try some Make Your Own Gear projects (MYOG). I thought this was something that I could never do, but these projects really are not that hard. I have made countless stoves, and next trip I will be taking a tent that I made myself. These projects are extremely fun and very light and cost effective. On my website there are links to a lot of MYOG sites.

Finally, make the transition slow. There is nothing to deter you from light weight and UL backpacking like a bad trip. So, take you time and be smart.

Let us know if there are any questions and feel free to PM me with any other questions.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Kind of new to lightweight backpacking on 11/19/2007 01:53:28 MST Print View

Welcome to lightweight backpacking. You wondered aloud if this is for you. If you do enough backpacking, you will develop the motivation to make it happen. You might even start to enjoy the gear discussions enough to appreciate a good piece of 'kit' just on its merits alone, with actual use coming later.

I suggest an iterative process, reducing the heaviest items with lighter ones which still fulfil the necessary requirements (temperature rating, water resistance, etc..)
Leave your backpack replacement for one of the last items in the first iteration.. but when that time comes I also recommend a Granite Gear pack. Ive owned three of them. The suspension is so comfortable an extra lb of weight in the pack compared with lighter packs will make the entire load feel more comfortable, while still having a good volume/weight ratio.

First step IMO, buy a scale and create a spreadsheet of your hiking goods, sorted by weight and group. Remember your clothing and footwear.
You can make good progress by replacing a heavy sleeping bag, tent, sleeping mat, and THEN, your pack. Then start working on reducing the NUMBER and weight of items you carry.

See great lists here at this site, and lists at individuals profiles. I for example have a light, but not UL, list at my profile.

If you reply to these posts above you are certain to get more assistance with details.
See you around the forums...

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Kind of new to lightweight backpacking on 11/19/2007 20:05:17 MST Print View

Welcome Craig,

You have come to the right place to lighten up. I can't begin to compare where I am now to the "old days."

I can tell by your comments that you will learn to love lightening up! It does take some time so, don't be in too much of a hurry. It is a gear intensive hobby which means money can be wasted if you are too hasty.

As others have suggested, I highly recommend a scale and a spreadsheet. With those tools, you will really know what you are doing and the cost will be returned in the form of wise and frugal decisions. Besides, it's all part of the hobby; it's fun! Here is the one I have which can be found on sale for around $30 or so.

Also, you don't necessarily need to buy a bunch of expensive gear. I have never previously made anything beforre coming to BPL a few years ago. But, I got inspired by all the many fine, talented and helpful people here, so I went to Walmart and bought a $80 Brother sewing machine and now you can't keep me off of it!

So, once again, "Welcome."