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New to Lightweight Backpacking
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Garth Dickerman
(garthd) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
New to Lightweight Backpacking on 06/25/2008 18:08:48 MDT Print View

Hello! I am new to the site, and to the world of lightweight backpacking. I have been backpacking for quite some time, and my more recent purchases have been more weight-conscious, but I am looking to shed some pounds. I live in New Hampshire's White Mountains, and am out almost every weekend (US Forest Service Wilderness Ranger). I've been looking around the site, and some manufacturers' but it is a daunting task. I am hoping some of you can help.

My lighter gear:
-Feathered Friends Hummingbird (cold sleeper) 2 lbs.
-Osprey Aether 60, around 4 lbs.

My middle of the road weight:
-older Thermarest Guidelite full length, around 1.5 lbs.
-Jetboil Stove, 1 lb.
-Patagonia Microburst Shell 13 oz.
-Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man unknown weight
-Camelbak 70 oz. Reservoir
-Sierra Designs Light Year 1, 3 lbs.

Dana Designs Alpine AV: 7 lbs.
Mountain Hardwear Light Wedge 2: 6 lbs.

So basically, I am looking for some suggestions on lightening up. I will have to carry around some heavy stuff for work, but I've been looking mostly at my shelter for weight savings. I've looked at hammocks, tarps/bivies, tarptents, and tents. I am a stomach and side sleeper, and bugs and condensation/humidity are concerns for me.

In addition, I'd like to find out some info/suggestions about going lighter with my girlfriend. I really appreciate the site, and any help!

Jonathan Duckett
(Thunderhead) - F

Locale: Great Smoky Mountains
Re: New to Lightweight Backpacking on 06/25/2008 18:19:50 MDT Print View

You ought to consider getting the book from this site. That is where I started and I'm sure it would help tremendously in your search for lighter alternatives. There are simply too many suggestions to list about gear, so you might get more responses if you asked specific questions about a particular item. Or, surf the forums. They are a great help to find answers about losing pounds from your pack.

Garth Dickerman
(garthd) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
More Specifics on 06/25/2008 19:11:10 MDT Print View

Hammocks: I was looking at the Hennessey Hammock, and I was curious about how comfortable it is to sleep on one's side, or stomach.

Tarptents: I am concerned about condensation, and mugginess inside. Is this a big problem in the northeast?

I've looked around a bit at the forums too. Thanks for your reply.


Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
New to Lightweight Backpacking on 06/25/2008 19:22:24 MDT Print View

lose the Ospery pack. There are many packs that have the same volume as that pack and weigh two pounds less. I use the Granite Gear Vapor Trail. Sleeping bag is fine, as well as your pad if you desire some comfort. Nothing wrong there. 70 ounce bladder is a tad much maybe. Is there alot of water sources in the White Mountains, if so, go down to a liter of water??? Jacket wise, Montbell makes awesome down jackets that weigh less. Ditch the Jet Boil and get either the new Snow Peak cannister stove that weighs in at 1.75 ounces or so and get a titanium mug. If it has no lid, use tin foil. Works just fine. Keep in mind this more of one pot meals.

Buy the book on this site and try out what you have read. The more you go out lightweight, the more confidence you will have in your ability and the better you will get at deciding what you need and what you don't.

Good luck!

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
New to Lightweight Backpacking on 06/25/2008 19:24:38 MDT Print View

also, lose the tent. Six Moon Designs has a poncho tarp with a Serenity net tent that can double as rain gear to. Two use in one, that save alot of weight. If you feel uncomfortable about that, look at Henry Shires Tarptents, MLD Designs tarps, or Gossamer Gear tents. You can lose a few pounds just from doing this!

Jaiden .
(jaiden) - F
Re: More Specifics -- hammock info on 06/25/2008 19:28:30 MDT Print View

for hammock specific info:

IMO, it's tough to get comfortable on my stomach in my HH, but my side is OK most of the time. sometimes I wake up with a sore shoulder and roll over. On your back is best, with something under your knees and something as a thin pillow. I love my HH, but there are many other choices, and there is definitely a learning curve even for an experienced backpacker.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: New to Lightweight Backpacking on 06/25/2008 20:18:57 MDT Print View

If you are a cold sleeper, then I wouldn't mess with your bag.

The Aether 60 is a great pack as you transition to a lighter weight style since it compresses very nicely. Hold on to it until you have settled into a light weight approach. Once you are there, you will most likely want to switch to a lighter (.5-2lbs), smaller volume pack.

For the midweight stuff:

If you don't mind sleeping on closed cell foam make a switch and save close to 1lb. If you can't handle that hold onto your thermarest if it's working for you but keep your eyes out for the 13oz thermarest inflatable due out next spring.

I would lose the jetboil and switch to a small alcohol stove and a .9l evernew pot or a titanium mug if you want to be really minimalist. This will save you more than 1/2lb and if you sell the jetboil you might make some money :-)

Patagonia Microburst --> DriDucks... save almost 1/2lb for a cost of $15.

Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man Fleece... you could save maybe 1/2lb with something like the montbell inner down or thermawrap jacket.

Camelbak... I think they are overly complex and heavy. Switch to platypus, or use some 1L gatoraid bottles.

Sierra Designs Tent... lots of options which could drop this down to near 1lb if you are willing to spend the money.

As to where to get ideas, this forum and website has lots of useful info. I have a fair number of recommendations with links to lots of other sites on my recommended gear page

Edited by verber on 06/26/2008 10:24:43 MDT.

Scott White
(sdwhitey) - F

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Re: New to Lightweight Backpacking on 06/25/2008 22:17:25 MDT Print View

I learned alot from studying other people's gear lists. Many of the articles available on this site include gear lists. Some members have a gear list posted under their profile (Ryan Jordan's is a great place to start)

I would recommend buying a pack last. When I made the transition to UL I bought a pack first (a granite gear vapor trail) Its a great pack but by the time I got my base weight under 10 lbs I didn't need the capacity or the cushioning of the vapor trail. I ended up switching to a golite jam 2.

Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Re: New to Lightweight Backpacking on 06/26/2008 07:38:50 MDT Print View

I agree, buy Ryan Jordan's book. If nothing more, it is inspirational and really changed the way I thought about things. Check our Ray Jardine's stuff too. In the end, clear your mind of conventional backpacking principals and all the stuff mass marketing has put in your head. You can have the same gear and remain safe, you'll just do it lighter.

As you'll figure out quickly, lightening up is terribly freeing, but it requires you to make very specific gear choices and you really need to focus on everything. Let me repeat - EVERYTHING.

The Osprey is a great pack, but you can go lighter. Check out Granite Gear, ULA-Equipment, Gossamer Gear, etc....and keep in mind that you likely can get a much smaller pack then you think because most of your gear will be lighter and smaller.

Your sleeping bag isn't too bad in weight, but much like with everything, you can go lighter. You can buy quilts from this site, Jacks R Better, and several other places. If you want to stick with a bag, I'd go with the Western Mountaineering Highlite which runs slightly over a pound and many people on this site will tell you it is a tremendous bag. If you don't think a 35 degree 850 down bag will be enough, wear some extra clothing instead of investing in a heavier bag which won't have as many uses.

I looked into hammocks too and spent a ton of time and money trying to find one that worked. In the end, I didn't find them comfortable, they had no real place to store anything, and other options were lighter and offered more space. You could get a tarp (Gossamer Gear SwinnTwinn is my favorite) or a tent of all shapes and sizes. Henry Shire's Tarp Tent is popular on this site, but I chose the Six Moon Design's Lunar Duo because it offers my tall frame more length.

You mentioned condensation. Well, you'll get condensation in nearly everything, even a tarp. One of the quickest ways to mitigate condensation is to get something waterproof and breathable. Check out the bivy's sold on this site which will keep your bag drier then without it for just a few ounces.

If I can suggest one thing, it's LOOK before you buy. Study gear lists from others on this site, ask a ton of questions and you'll learn that there are a lot of options out there. The people on this site are invaluable to the lightweight backpacking community and each offers amazing insight, skill, experience and study to even the most mundane topic. My biggest mistake was buying before I fully appreciated this market because I was blinded by the fact that there was more then just mainstream marketers of backpacking equipment. The reality is, the "good lightweight stuff" is offered by small shops who don't offer their products to large vendors such as REI, EMS, Dick's, LL Bean, Cabelas, etc. Many are represented on this site. Basically, do you homework, ask for suggestions, weigh EVERYTHING as you'll be suprised how quickly a few ounces can add up when you discard their value for several items. After you knock out the big three (shelter, sleep system, and pack), you'll need to focus on lightening your other stuff (stove, clothing, water bottles, pad, etc.).

Good luck!

Christopher Holden
(back2basics) - F - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: New to Lightweight Backpacking on 06/26/2008 08:08:13 MDT Print View

As James mentioned, you will see your biggest weight reduction in "the big three". The only problem with that is the big three are usually big ticket items. If you're on a tight budget, go after the cheaper things:
Get a small alcohol stove and an aluminum or titanium mug. If you're happy with their performance and weight reduction, sell the Jetboil to help offset the cost or to pay for your next upgrade.
Replace the Camelbak with a Platypus tank or a pair of used plastic water bottles. Gatorade jugs work well too.
Consider replacing your full length pad with a 3/4 pad (48" long) or maybe even foam instead of inflatable. I use foam and inflatable. Foam for the warmer months, then use both in the colder months. Bot are 3/4 pads, but I can put a pack or jacket under my feet for insulation.
Multi-use items are a bonus.
Don't sell off your old gear until you're happy with the new stuff. If you don't like your new gear, you can go back to what you used before or find another. I went through about a dozen stoves until I finally settled on one.
Reading is free. There's a ton of info online. Read others' gear lists, gear reviews, trip reports... all good stuff that will tell you how the gear performed, whether it be loaded with features or limitations.
Best of luck.

Garth Dickerman
(garthd) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
Re: New to Lightweight Backpacking on 06/26/2008 19:02:33 MDT Print View

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. I really am looking forward to shedding pounds from my load!

Brett Grizzle
(bdgriz) - F

Locale: Northeast GA
Re: New to lightweight backpacking on 06/29/2008 22:44:27 MDT Print View

First off... you're a USFS ranger in the White Mountains?! What a dream job, where do I sign up, What qualifications do I need? (I am at least half serious about this question)

As to your gear questions, Lots of good advice already mentioned. I'll add that a hammok is probably not the best choice for your situation. You mentioned that you are a cold sleeper and warmth is one of the hammok's weak points. Also I don't have to tell you that at higher elevations in the Whites it could be a little tough to find suitable trees to hang it from (I know people who have used hammocks there, but it could limit your options) A tarp/bivy combo would offer the best weight savings and versatility, use them together in rainy weather and on clear nights the bivy will keep dew off your bag if you want to sleep under the stars on one of those glorious White mountain ridgelines. (heaven)

Garth Dickerman
(garthd) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
Re: New to lightweight backpacking on 07/01/2008 16:23:11 MDT Print View

I've worked in NH for the State Parks, and for the Forest Service in Colorado. I grew up in the Whites, and volunteered some last for the USFS, and got lucky!

I think I've abandoned the hammock idea for now. I'm looking bivy/tarp combos, but would like one more comfortable (read: face pole thing to keep fabric away). Those seem pretty heavy generally. I've also thought about bug bivys. Does anybody have any experience with those?


Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: New to lightweight backpacking on 07/01/2008 17:19:38 MDT Print View

bug bivys are great combo. I used the A16 bug bivy which has to be combined with your sleeping bag. Worked great. Very easy to use and freestanding so you can use it in shelters as well. There are others which are more "tent" like with integrated bottoms. They can also work well.

Joe Westing
(pedro87) - F
Re: Re: New to lightweight backpacking on 07/01/2008 17:41:27 MDT Print View

I second the recommendation for a bug bivy. However, even the lightweight bivys w/ poles (like those by Mountain Laurel Designs) usually have a hang loop that ties to the top of your tarp and keeps the fabric and mesh off your face. Take a look at the MLD Superlight Bivy - very light and many features at a reasonable price (at least compared to the rest of the MLD stuff!). If you are looking to save some cash, take a hard look at hte A16 bug bivy for warmer weather.

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Heavy use? on 07/04/2008 10:44:03 MDT Print View


I have to agree, that's a great job to have! Were I in your position, I'd be concerned about one thing- given the heavy use that your gear will most likely see, I'd factor durability into every decision. I'd stay away from cuben fiber packs, etc. A few extra pounds might be worth the added durability and peace of mind sturdier gear will give you. There are still plenty of options for UL gear that will hold up to a lot of use.

Garth Dickerman
(garthd) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
Heavy Use on 07/14/2008 08:00:44 MDT Print View

Yeah, I have been considering that, hence the Monkey Man jacket, and burlier packs. Thanks, everyone, for your advice!