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Heavy Weight Beginnings
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Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Heavy loads on 12/24/2008 20:54:22 MST Print View

I can't remember my first hike ... sorry!

I do remember spending 3 weeks walking in extreme country in SW Tassie with a 70 lb load, but that included full rock climbing gear - which we used. I was young then ...

And I do remember carry 100 lb up a mountain on a hut building weekend. Apart from my own gear, there was a sack of cement and a 6' length of 6" square red gum (hardwood) for a foundation post. It was a bit heavy ... When I got to the hut site I was a bit short on energy, so I **drank** a cup-full of dry sugar. I felt much better after that.

Memories ...


Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Heavy First Trip on 12/25/2008 14:19:51 MST Print View

I only started hiking 5 years ago, but I have traveled for longer and knew about the joy of traveling light.

My problems fitting myself up the first time:

1. I shopped at REI -- bad mistake.
2. I was cheap -- I kept falling into the trap of settling for a pound heavier in exchange for a hundred dollars cheaper

All my "fairly light" gear bought at great value summed up to a heavier load than I liked -- 24 lbs base weight.

After two overnight trips, I returned / sold almost everything and started over -- becoming a full disciple of UL backpacking (but not SUL).

Edited by ben2world on 12/26/2008 11:01:25 MST.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Another clueless neophyte on 12/25/2008 17:34:18 MST Print View

My 3rd backpacking trip was into the Upper Kern Basin via the standard Mt Whitney trail. Everything I had was "bombproof", from my 6+ pound Kastinger mountaineering boots to my 6 pound Camp Trails pack and all articles in between. I was even wearing Levi's. When all was said and done, I was carrying north of 70# and by the time we got to Consultation Lake the first afternoon, I had a text book case of AMS. My girlfriend put me to bed and thoroughly hydrated me and by next morning I was good as new(amazing what the young can get away with). We were going in for 17 days and food was by far the heaviest part of my load. Since then, I've lightened up everywhere but have probably paid more attention than most, judging from food related threads here, to lightening up my food and the fuel required, or not, to cook it. It turned out to be the most memorable trip I have ever taken, to this day-the Kern is a magical place-but man did I ever get sent to school.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Heavy loads on 12/25/2008 18:46:22 MST Print View

AT, 8 days in 2004: 8 lb pack, 3 lb bag, 4 lb tent, too many clothes, too much food, too much water, even attached a coil of rope to my pack. Good learning experience.

Afterward, read Beyond (Jardine) and switch to Breeze pack, light down bag, tarp, less clothes, less food, less water, no rope. Got better.

Eventually, read BPL bible and joined BPL - Life is good, but life is 'gooder' lighter!

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
RE:"Heavy Weight Beginnings" on 12/25/2008 19:14:01 MST Print View

I just pulled this out of my BSA Journal from 2 years ago.

This is just basic stuff, I never made a detailed list.

Weather: Summer, 70% chance Rain

2days,1 night

First Backpacking Trip Gear Weight Specs:

1.Clothing - 7lbs.,4 oz (Extra set of clothing, Rain gear, gloves, Fleece Hat, Swim trunks ,etc.)

2.Shelter - 5lbs., 12 oz. (part of the tent, groundcloth, repair kit)

3. Cook Kit - 4lbs., 6 oz. (2L pot, Stove, Fuel, Windscreen, Spork, Washcloth, Soap, Stuff Sack, Stove Repair Kit)

4. Sleep System - 4lbs., 5 oz. - (30 degree synthetic bag, Full Length closed cell foam pad)

5.Extra - 5lbs., 4oz. - (BIG) can bugspray, (BIG) bottle of sunscreen, (BIG) towel, trowel, (BIG)roll of TP, etc.

+ a bunch of other junk "just threw in there" thinking "its just a couple more ounces" after I wrote this in my journal - apx. 10lbs. LOL... Seriously!

Total Base Weight = apx 36 lbs., ALOT for an 11 year old to carry...

But wait there's more!

3L Water = 6lbs.
Food (32 oz a day) = 2lbs

Like I said this is just a basic list, alot of things I didn't write down.

Total Weight of all that Garbage I carried (not including the monster of an external pack which I don't have anymore since I converted to Lightweight) - 44 pounds, ALOT for an 11 year old to carry...

After that trip my parents had to take me to our chiropractor for an adjustment.Not kidding!


Edited by edude on 12/25/2008 19:21:44 MST.

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
RE:"Heavy Weight Beginnings" on 12/25/2008 19:31:50 MST Print View

First Day Hike - felt like I was about to die...

Location: Chilco Mountain, Rathdrum, Idaho
Length: 10 miles
Weather: Sunny

1.(HEAVY) Hiking Boots
2. Extra Set of Clothing (Old-fashioned Boy Scout Idea)
4.(HEAVY) Survival Kit - ?????? (Cursed it the entire way)
5. Raingear
6. Flashlight - ??? (Wished I dropped it off a cliff)
7. Sunscreen
8. Bug repellant - ???

Plus 2 quarts water and Lunch

When I went to weigh it... 20 LBS. And I thought that was average!

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Heavy Beginnings on 12/26/2008 10:08:45 MST Print View

My first backpacking trip was when I was 10 (and a half!). The packing list in the Scout handbook at that time was written by a true miscreant. It "suggested"/mandated that you carry lots of "spare" things. It also included items such as washcloths and towels. Combs. Full set of silverware. Lots of stuff. The Scout motto, of course, is "Be Prepared."

That first backpack, then, had not only a bath towel, but a spare bath towel, since the first one probably wouldn't ever dry out on the trip. I had a pair of underwear and a pair of socks for every day out. I had camp shoes, and a spare pair of lightweight hikers in case my other boots got wet. I'm serious! My sleeping bag was one of the "4-pound" (fill weight only!) rectangular sleeping bags. I need not embarrass myself further (a friend and I took 9 cans of refried beans on a subsequent trip...). My pack frame reached down to my knees and well above my head. We hiked maybe five miles. It was hard work, but I loved it.

In more recent years I've done quite a bit of lake country canoe tripping. Many people see canoeing as an excuse to carry more weight; not so. With two weeks of food for remote wilderness travel with no trails out (if a moose steps in the canoe, as once nearly happened), you're stuck... and in early spring/late fall, temps to below freezing and wet, my pack weights were 70-80 pounds with food (and whisky). Okay, so that's a horrible weight. But the first time you hit a trail you also have to carry a canoe. My ultralite Kevlar skin boat weighs 42 pounds. So first-day portages were 110-120 pounds, although only up to a mile. My pack weights have been coming down over the years, a fair bit the last couple years, dramatically more so since I became involved with the forums here at BPL. My base weight last time was 22-25 pounds. Threw on the canoe for a 4-mile portage and it felt great! This spring I expect a base of ~15 pounds.

Edited by 4quietwoods on 12/26/2008 10:11:23 MST.

Simon Wurster
(Einstein) - F

Locale: Big Apple
Re: Heavy Weight Beginnings on 12/28/2008 14:07:23 MST Print View

My story is a bit different...

Although I camped with my family as a small child, my first foray into heavyweight camping revolved around bicycling in the mid-80s, and I did that for many years. Of course, a light load on the bike was considered 40-45 lbs., and even though it was suggested even back then to keep the weight closer to 30 lbs., no one could see how. Traveling lighter didn't really come into play even though I had nearly wasted one knee and damaged the other. After six years and five big (over 10 days) trips, I "retired" from bicycle trips specifically and bicycling in general.

Back in those days backpacking was considered more work than play, and full of pain and discomfort (and proven true based on other posts here!), while bike touring was considered more civilized: you could go further and see more. "Credit card touring" was the ultimate, if you could afford it.

For some reason, I took an interest in backpacking in 1996, but failed to get anywhere. In 2002, after I read a lot about "go bags" after 9/11, I suddenly found myself researching sleeping bags and backpacks, albeit without the insight of lightweight traveling. In six months I had a 5.5 lb. backpack, a 2 lb. mattress, a 3 oz. baseplate compass--even a gnarly 1.5 lb. water filter. About the only jewel in the kit was my Marmot Hydrogen. A year later for a summer car camping trip I loaded everything--including my giant MSR bath towel, AA solar charger, silk tops and bottoms, fleece bag liner, and aluminum trekking poles--into my 4500 ci backpack, and found not everything fit! I did (barely!) manage to weigh it on the bathroom scale: 55 lbs.--ouch!

So here I am five years later, and most of that gear has been sold, given away, or is (mostly) languishing in the different corners of my home. Thanks to BPL and everyone here in the Forums, my 3 season baseweight is down to 18 lbs., and falling. My new quest is not necessarily to drop more weight, but--like others here on BPL--to reduce the fiddle-factor: reducing complexity and amount of equipment taken on trips.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Beginnings... on 12/29/2008 02:40:07 MST Print View


Edited by skopeo on 01/22/2013 00:35:02 MST.

Justin Chaussee
(judach) - F

Locale: Earth
Re: Heavy Weight Beginnings on 01/12/2009 23:48:51 MST Print View

Hahaha, this topic brings back warm memories...

I used to backpack with my dad back in the day when the norm was canvas tents and coleman canvas rectangular sleepingbags. the tent/sleepingbag alone probably weighed in at 10 lbs easy...

When I got out on my own and started doing my own backpacking trips, I remember the first backpack I bought was a K-cliffs 7000 cubic inch backpack that I filled with everything from a 2 person tent to a hatchet to 3 different survival books. I had all kinds of cups and lighters and junk hanging off my pack with carabiners and such. haha.. that backpack probably weighed 70 lbs. I remember going a few times by myself and thinking, "man! I must really be out of shape!" I was the steriotypical gadget happy heavy weight overkill backpacker...

I think of the things I used to pack in my HUGE pack and can't help but laugh. I'm glad I got some sence in me at some point...

Dan Cunningham

Locale: Land of 12,000 Loons
My first trip on 01/24/2009 22:54:34 MST Print View

I don't know the weight of my pack on my first trip, but here are some of the items I find ridiculous. I had no idea what I was doing.

- 6.25 pound Mountainsmith Pack
- jeans, cotton T's, cotton socks and undies for every day
- 3 man 7 pound tent... AND the 3/4 pound footprint
- 2 pound Coleman lantern (Glass!?)
- 3+ pound slumberjack rectangular bag
- a FULL 22oz MSR white gas fuel bottle... for 3 days of backpacking
- my kitchen was 4 pounds (not including fuel)

Also, I was carrying 5L of water to hike 5 miles, where I was camping by a mountain lake and stream. I also passed that stream 3 times on the way. I had a filter, but I just had to have all that water. :)

Ironically, my sleeping mat was lighter than what I use now - I had a ridgerest. :)

Phil Brown

Locale: Traverse City MI
Re: Heavy Weight Beginnings on 01/24/2009 23:40:42 MST Print View

I could go back to when I was a teenager and an avid backpacker and talk about how heavy my pack was... but my thoughts are completely eclipsed by the ridiculous loads I carried for multi day operations in the military. A packing list (all the personal equipment to set a multi day OP) would look something like this:
Large ALICE pack w/straps
DCU uniform
combat boots
Kevlar helmet
Kevlar flak vest w/ceramic rifle plates
sleeping bag w/goretex bivy sack (which for some reason was not waterproof)
Ghillie jacket
day/night laser rangefinder (weighed a TON)
weapon w/optics, plus suppressor and bipod in ruck
over 350 rounds of ammo combined (heavy...)
MBITR radio and spare batteries
Night vision optics and IR strobe
1 claymore mine and 2 frag grenades
MREs (pre-hydrated heavy food) for 4-5 days
bottled water at ~3 liters a day... I don't even want to think about how heavy that much water is.

Basically it was ridiculous, had to have been close to my body weight. After humping that junk around, you either want to never hump anything again for the rest of your life or go out with a sub 10 pound pack. So here I am :-)

Edited by pbrown19 on 01/24/2009 23:43:18 MST.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
My story of heavy beginnings on 01/26/2009 21:27:54 MST Print View

I've never been all that strong so I've never carried anything so heavy as many of you. But in the olden days when I was a kid, there wasn't much that was light and I remember my pack being oppressive.

My embarrassing story of heaviness was when I went to Nepal. I brought way too much stuff and had to watch little tiny porters carry it for me. I was so embarrassed and felt really bad as they labored with sweat rivulets running down their faces and sponges on their foreheads where the tumplines pulled. They didn't need so much crap, why did I?

I learned a lot about not bringing extra anything anywhere after that. Just bring the bare minimum.

My pack is still pretty heavy. 20lb without food and water on the PCT. I can go lighter in my neck of the woods by leaving a lot of things home and choosing routes near water so I don't have to carry so much.

Jim Yancey
(jimyancey) - F

Locale: Missouri
Heavy beginnings on 01/27/2009 21:38:19 MST Print View

My first backpacking trips were in Boy Scouting. Canvas, frameless rucksack with a cotton sleeping bag (!), jeans, cotton tees, big aluminum pots and skillets, cooked everything on an open fire. Later, I "graduated" to a large Jansport external frame pack that I would load to the gills! I often carried several SS pots and pans, a MSR XGK stove with a large bottle full of fuel, a heavy synthetic Snow Lion bag (probaly rated to 15* F that I carried year-round!)lots of changes of clothes, and several iterations of tents, all the way up to a Eureka 4-person A-frame. I frequently carried a hatchet or small axe, as well. I never actually weighed my pack, but it had to have weighed close to 75 or 80 lbs, especially in the winter. Other than the oppressive weight, backpacking at least gave me an intense love for being footloose and unfettered (well, at least not fettered by the trappings of day-to-day life and modern civilization.)

I still have most of that early gear in the dark recesses of storage, but I now have several lightweight packs (Mountainsmith Phantom, ULA Conduit, some experimental MYOG packs, etc.), some lightweight sleeping kit (TNF 2 lb bag, MYOG quilt, etc.), and various tarps and tarp shelters (SMD Gatewood cape is my current favorite) as well as a light kitchen (the requisite titanium stuff; MSR Titan kettle, SP 600, etc.) SP Giga, MYOG alky or BPL Esbit stove, and suitable synthetic clothing. My base pack weight (3 season) is now around 10 to 11 lbs. I still have the same feeling of freedom, but can now enjoy it without the burden of an oppressively heavy pack. I sometimes miss the feeling of novelty and discovery that I experienced on my early backpacking trips, but I don't miss the pain and discomfort of carrying all that weight. Viva UL!

Michael Landman
(malndman) - F

Locale: Central NC, USA
Re: Heavy beginnings on 02/05/2009 15:56:42 MST Print View

My earliest camping trips were with my father, nearly 50 years ago. We would go on canoe trips in upstate NY. He grew up near Star Lake, rather rural back then, still is by and large. I remember one on the Oswegatchie River. We paddled upstream (he mostly) and camped out on two nights. We made the return in one day and I was thrilled by the "rapids". Being in a canoe, we did not care too much what we took, but I do remember a portage.
By 1968, I was camping in the Presidentials. I had an external frame Kelty, Seva 123, solid hiking boots, a Sig of white gas and one for water (untreated, right from the stream), lots of rice and gravy mix with a tub of lard for extra calories, and a 60 LB pack. I could just march from Crawford Notch right up the Webster Cliff trail. We were REAL men then, we did not need switchbacks! HA! GRRRRRR!
2 miles or so and 2500"+ climb, top out on Webster mountain and the whole world starts to opens up around you.
I remember going one summer, around '72, camping with a friend who had broken his leg the year before in a rock climbing fall. We had come up Boott Spur and were heading towards a camp below Franklin, I believe. Once we were on the flats above tree line, his leg started to give him trouble and the weather started to turn. I off loaded a lot of his gear into my pack (those Kelty packs sure were BIG!) and we beat feet down the Davis Path to get below tree line. I really over used my legs trucking 90+ pounds to get us down to safety. I still tend to get shin splints, after all these years.

Raymond Estrella
(rayestrella) - MLife

Locale: Northern Minnesota
Heavy Weight Beginnings on 02/18/2009 19:38:15 MST Print View

While I had been camping from grade-school on I only dreamed of backpacking until my first trip, a 2-nighter when I was 14. We had just moved to 29 Palms so it was in Joshua Tree National Monument (later made a National Park).

The only way I knew to cook was to make a fire so I carried a bunch of fire wood along with 2 gallons of water. I had an Army surplus pup tent that I had dumped the poles and just used as a super heavy tarp that I slept on. (I carried it for four more years…) On top of it went my huge flannel lined rectangular sleeping bag that took half my pack, a Camp Trails Fire Fighter style with the L-shaped frame and full length removable great sack.

We brought canned food for dinners and eggs in a plastic holder for the mornings. I bet I was around 50 lb starting out, and I weighed probably 120 at the time.

By the late 70s and early 80s I had switched to better gear but still just carried way too much of it. I had a Lowe Special Expedition pack with the optional full length side pockets that would be just crammed full for a four or five day trip.

Paul Wozniak

Locale: Midwest
Heavy Weight Beginnings on 02/19/2009 09:42:59 MST Print View

First serious trip was a month on the AT, late spring 1974.

Colin Fletcher's "The Complete Walker" was the bible. It got me thinking hard about weight. Bought a Jansport pack that weighted UNDER 5 lbs! Danner boots. Some hi-tech synth bag, probably around 5 lbs.

I was proud to be under 60 lbs. First day northbound out of Damascus I started looking in the bag to see what could go. Estimate I sent home about 10 lbs (Pearisburg?). Best we did was a 22 mile day, mostly 15'ers.

Great trip.

For me the light bulb went on when I bought Jardine's book. That book has dog-ears and margin notes and no, it's not for sale.