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Base Weight
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Laurence Beck
(beckla) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Base Weight on 02/02/2009 16:01:14 MST Print View

What items in your pack do you include as your "base weight"? I have always considered it to include everything that is NOT food and water. I see people talking about 10 lb base weights but I have worked to get my base weight down to around 25 lbs for an extended late summer alpine trip. This is remarkable for me given that I hiked the High Sierra trail with a base weight of about 40lbs 4 years ago. Below is my gear list condensed. Any and all comments appreciated,


76oz Pack - Osprey Aether85
42oz Tent - Big Agnes SL1
33oz Pad - Prolite 4 Large
35oz Bag - REI Sahara 30 deg
68oz Clothing - Precip, Down Inner, 1 shirt, 2 socks, 2 underware, sandals
30oz Cooking - Pot, Fuel, Stove, utensils
44oz Garcia Bear Cannister
19oz Water Handling - Bladder, Tank, Klear Water
14oz Personal - TP, Soap, Dental, Bug Repel
16oz Safety - Headlite, FA, Compass Knife
16oz Misc - Pack Cover, Clothes Line, Pillow Case

Laurence Beck
(beckla) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
BTW: I am wearing pants... on 02/02/2009 16:04:01 MST Print View

I did not list pants... I only take one convertable pair of pants so I don't include it in the list because I am wearing them.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Base Weight on 02/02/2009 16:21:57 MST Print View

Hi Laurence,

The places to start to reduce weight are:
* pack... yours is twice the weight that even lightweight hikers would consider. What about a ULA circuit or a granite gear vapor trail? Both should be just as comfy at half the weight.
* pad... again, about twice the weight that most BPLers would consider. How about a Big Agnes inflatable or a POE Ether thermo?
* bag... heavy again, but maybe expensive to replace. Look out for some sales. You should be able to get a 30 deg bag for under 25 ounces, even in long size.
* Clothing... don't need the sandals surely? Precip could be replaced by a lighter alternative (driducks?).
* Cooking... better specify what you are using here, it seems extremely heavy!
* water handling... again, what exactly are you using?

If you can provide a more detailed list of what you are using (eg. which pot, which stove etc) then we can offer up some alternatives.

Suffice to say there are many much lighter alternatives. And they are not all expensive, and do not necessarily involve any sacrifice of comfort. You have got plenty of room to move from "normal-weight" (where you are now) to "lightweight" (about 10-15 pound base weight) without even considering getting into the sub-10 ultra-light realm!

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
What Base Weight includes. on 02/02/2009 16:23:55 MST Print View

You're pretty much on target. Base weight includes the pack and everything in it except for "consumables" such as food, water, and fuel. This isn't a contest so don't worry that those in other areas may not include bear canisters.


My baseweight used to be 30 to 35 or more pounds- all made of supposedly lightweight gear. On a weeklong trip I would generally start at about 50. Last summer I got the base down to about 17, and under 30 for a week. This summer I want to knock a few more pounds off and add a tent. For last year's hike I replaced my pack, rain parka, rain pants, and cooking system to save 10 pounds. Beyond that the weight saving was by reducing my kit list. Thanks to REI's recent sale I have cut 2 more pounds with a new bag and pad.

The pack is tricky. You can get a somewhat lighter pack to carry a 25 pound base. That wouldn't be the same pack you would want for a 15 pound base though. From my research it seemed that the ULA Catalyst and Six Moon Designs Starlight were good for a 15 to 20 pound base including the bulky bear can. (I have the Starlight) These packs are bigger than needed for 10 pound base weight and no bear can.

ADDED on another EDIT:

Since I'm a recent convert I'll go into some details. I always used to laugh at the "gram weenies" but the grams do add up to ounces and the ounces add up to pounds.

Cooking. Eliminate any redundancy. I cut my kit from about 3 pounds to 20 ounces and the UL folks think I'm way heavy.

Clothing. Your list looks heavy. Save weight by eliminating spare items. Choose non-stink fabrics and wash them mid-day then put them back on to hike dry. For the Sierra with a warm sleeping bag I was fine with shorts & polo shirt for hiking, wind pants & light fleece pullover for lounging, Marmot Pre-cip & ULA rain kilt for rain, one spare change of socks and underwear. My carried clothing and raingear was under 40 ounces.

Stuff. I cut, and cut, and cut at the little items. First aid kit had been over a pound. Lights, repair stuff, etc. was over a pound. For blister care/prevention I have switched to Leukotape, which is also my bandaids and gear repair tape. The packaging, zippered first aid kit, multiple stuff sacks and ziplocs added up too. Eventually I cut the 3+ pound pile of misc. items down to under a pound. At least this exercise didn't cost much money.

A great benefit of cutting weight from your pack is then you get to cut down on your footwear because it doesn't have to support all that extra weight. I never wanted camp shoes because my shoes are comfortable.

Edited by jimqpublic on 02/02/2009 17:12:29 MST.

Laurence Beck
(beckla) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Additional Details on 02/02/2009 17:04:08 MST Print View

Ashley and James,
Thank you for the feedback. Here some more details about my cooking Equipment. I guess I have included the fuel in this which should not be added in as base weight.

5.8oz Pot - Evernew Titanium 1100cc
3.9oz Stove - MSR Pocket Rocket
1.8oz Cup - Titanium
0.9oz Stove Shield - Bozeman Mountain Titanium
0.9oz Utensils - Titanium Spoon (long) and plastic fork
0.7oz Plastic cup - For dipping hot water
0.4oz Plastic funnel
11.4oz MSR 8 oz fuel cannister
4.0oz - Bag to hold it all.

Regarding sleeping bag: I just replaced my 50oz Blue Kazoo (+15 deg) bag with a 35oz REI Sahara. There are much lighter 30 deg bags as you mention but this one I got for much less than 1/2 price off of Craigslist. Kind of a tradeoff I guess.

Laurence Beck
(beckla) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Details on "Water Handling" on 02/02/2009 17:13:34 MST Print View

First of all I use XiniX Klear Water to purify. I usually carry a 30ml bottle which weighs about 3oz. I carry a 6L MSR Water Tank to hold stream/lake water which can be treated overnight with a single drop of Klear Water. I use a 3L bladder (which I normally fill only to 2L).

3oz Klear Water
6oz 6L Water Tank
8oz 3L Bladder

Total: 17oz

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Additional Details on 02/02/2009 17:16:41 MST Print View

What's the funnel for?

That 4oz bag has got to go! It weighs more than your stove! Just use a plastic bag. The rest of the kitchen setup is ok (though do you really need 2 cups?), since it includes a fuel cannister.

The biggest weight savings come from the heaviest items: tent, pack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad. I reckon you could lose 4-5 pounds there easily. Might need to do it gradually, because of the cost though.

Check out other peoples gear lists. My favourite is this one from Alan Dixon. Read it and you will see how it's possible to get a sub-10 baseweight without doing "crazy" UL stuff (eg. sleeping under a tarp). Compare each of the items to the ones on Alan's list and it will give a good idea of where you can make the easiest weight savings.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: Additional Details on 02/02/2009 17:19:43 MST Print View

The fuel canister generally isn't considered part of the base, though the empty canister could be. It's a consumable.

The 4.0 ounce bag is a good place to cut!

Sleeping bag- I'm with you. My Blue Kazoo is 52 ounces in its stuff sack- replaced last month with a 31 ounce, 15 degree "Sub-Kilo" at REI's sale. Mid-August on the JMT last year I had lots of frost on several nights. I think a sleep system for the Sierra should be comfortable to 30F in mid-Summer and to about 15F for September. Hopefully your "Sahara" and the jacket you listed will get you there.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Details on "Water Handling" on 02/02/2009 17:19:56 MST Print View

Ditch the water tank and the bladder! It's kind of nuts (no offense intended!).

A lightweight and cheap option that many of us here use is to simply carry one or two empty soda bottles (eg. 1.5 litre). They weigh only about an ounce each, are durable, and very cheap.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Re: Additional Details on 02/02/2009 17:24:19 MST Print View

14oz Personal - TP, Soap, Dental, Bug Repel
16oz Safety - Headlite, FA, Compass Knife
16oz Misc - Pack Cover, Clothes Line, Pillow Case

As James says, you can probably just get rid of many of these "misc" items. Surely don't need a clothes line. What do you *really* need? You can save a lot of weight by repackaging heavier items into lighter containers... eg. bug repel, sunscreen etc

Many people don't bring a knife, just a razor blade (in a cardbox holder) instead. What's a 'FA'?

Laurence Beck
(beckla) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Response to feedback on 02/02/2009 17:44:00 MST Print View

Let's see if I can keep up with you guys... :)

I am using a 2 gallon zip lock bag to hold the equipment. I guess I could just use a grocery store plastic bag.

I use the Water Tank to process water overnight. Do you treat your water? I admit, I have gone a week in the Sierra's without treating the water. I did NOT get sick.

The funnel. I actually have never used it. Sometimes my hiking buddies use it to pour water into one of those small mouth bladders though. I like your idea about using the soda bottles though. I guess I would have to keep the funnel if I go with the soda bottles.

Like you say, the biggest area to save is the pack and sleeping bag/pad. I have to be careful about buying stuff. My wife will have me committed. I will take a look at Alan's list though.

James, I have definately seen sub freezing temps in late Aug early Sep on the JMT. I am hoping my +30 bag with the Montbell Down Inners will do the job when that happens.

Laurence Beck
(beckla) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
FA is First Aid. on 02/02/2009 17:45:19 MST Print View

FA is First Aid. I carry a minimal first aid kit that weighs about 7oz.

Joe Westing
(pedro87) - F
Re: Details on "Water Handling" on 02/02/2009 17:55:57 MST Print View

The water tank seems like it has more capacity than you would need. Do you really want to carry 6L of water in your pack at a time unless it is absolutely necessary? If you absolutely need 6L of storage, then there are definitely lighter (not too expensive) options other than the MSR. Check out the Platypus Water Tank 6L which is only 3 oz (

Also, that 3L bladder seems insanely heavy. I have had good luck with soda bottles (as mentioned previously), Platypus bottles, and gatorade/propel bottles which are quite durable and have a slightly wider opening. Another great option is the Nalgene Cantenes, which are soft sided but have a wide-mouth opening. The 1L version is out of stock here but the 3L is available (

Good luck on your quest to toward lightening your pack and hope my suggestions are helpful. I am by no means UL but I am constantly learning and working on lightening my kit but money remains an obstacle. I need to learn how to sew...

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Base Weight on 02/02/2009 18:02:11 MST Print View

Hi Lawrence

I can see your problem. It is not the small details but the basic strategy. You are clinging to the old heavy-weight 'just-in-case' strategy. Understandable, but it is blocking you from reducing your pack weight.
(By the way: this is not meant as a personal criticism, but as a way forward. We are very familiar with your problem.)

A good way forward is to read as many gear lists here at BPL as you have time for, and to put them beside yours. There will be so many places where you might say 'well...', but when you add them all up, then it becomes clear.

One thing you should keep in mind while doing all this. Many of us travel with these UL kits, safely and comfortably. It is possible - but you need to progress down the weight scale a bit at a time, gaining confidence as you go.


Edited by rcaffin on 02/02/2009 18:03:45 MST.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Re: Base Weight on 02/02/2009 19:00:04 MST Print View

I had been composing something along the same lines of Roger, but he said it better.

One other suggestion is taking a systems approach. An easy (and cheap) place to start is your water system (collection, treatment, and storage). Do I need a funnel to fill a water bottle? Maybe I can use your cook pot to get water and carefully poor into your bottle. My system is on the heavy side for what most hear use at about 7 oz. That would be a 12 oz savings.

A little more effort is your cook system. You could make your own alcohol stove from soda cans, use an aluminum foil windscreen, and get a lightweight pot for < 8 oz. Again a huge savings. Do you need a separate plate? (I'm just assuming based on the 30 oz weight, but I could be wrong.) Don't forget the titanium spork. They're just too cool!

At some point if you stick with it, you'll probably have to pony up some dough to get a new shelter, quilt/sleeping bag, pad, and clothes. That's one system. Read up on this. There's too many options.

Save the backpack for last. The more you lighten up everything else, the smaller, lighter, cheaper pack you can take. Oh and don't forget your shoes.

That's the process as I did it. Well, except that I had to repeat the steps many times and have a garage full of gear to show for it.

Laurence Beck
(beckla) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
30% savings on 02/03/2009 14:15:43 MST Print View

The original 30oz cooking equipment number also includes a full 8oz fuel cannister which weighs 11.4oz itself. Also, by taking the advice from the feedback I have gotten from this forum, I now have this following:

5.8oz Evernew Titanium 1100cc pot
3.9oz Pocket Rocket
0.9oz Titanium Stove Shield
1.8oz Titanium Cup
0.4oz Long Handled Titanium Spoon
12.8oz Total

This results in a savings of:
4.0oz Bag
0.5oz Plastic fork
0.7oz Plastic Cup
0.4oz Funnel
5.6oz savings which is a 30% savings

Although this is definately significant, the real savings will come with a lighter pack and sleeping pad.

Laurence Beck
(beckla) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Garage on 02/03/2009 14:46:14 MST Print View


I also have a garage full of equipment which chronicles my journey to a lighter backpack (which I am still on obviously). There was the 90's with the 50-60lb backpack for a weekend trip, then the mid 2000's at 40-45lb for a weeklong trip, and now I am at about 35 lbs for a week but I need to keep working on getting those last 5 lbs out. This forum is definately helping.

Maybe I should have a yard sale... :)


Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
"Packing your insecurities" on 02/03/2009 15:40:11 MST Print View

I resemble the garage remark. I have enough tents to house a small circus.

I just listened to a podcast interview with Brian Frankle of ULA. He was talking about packs and used the term "Packing your insecurities". I definitely relate.

Not just insecurities, but packing items because you think you should. They're essentials of course! Also wanting to have your backpack trip life follow some set daily routine may affect what you carry.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: 30% savings on 02/03/2009 15:57:16 MST Print View

Good work Larry!

You pretty much need to do the same thing with each area of your gear. You can probably save 30% or more on each area without making any compromises. That would take you from a 25lb baseweight down to about a 16-17lb baseweight.

You should keep your eye on the gear swap here at BPL... you can probably pick up a pretty good deal on a sleeping pad which will save you 10-15 ounces. Same for a sleeping bag.

Anyway, as others have mentioned above, it's really a mindset as much as anything. I can't emphasise strongly enough how useful it is to read other people's gear lists. That will help put your current list in perspective and give you some great ideas for how to drop 10 pounds or so from your baseweight.

Happy hiking!

Edited by ashleyb on 02/03/2009 15:57:46 MST.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Re: 30% savings on 02/03/2009 16:02:35 MST Print View

Can you break down your clothing for us? That is, the clothing you're carrying in your pack? (with weights if possible).

I reckon if we tackle each area here one at a time we'll be able to get a few people chipping in with good suggestions.

Also, let us know what your budget is for spending on gear at the moment. If it's not much, then we can probably still come up with some suggestions that don't cost much (or anything!). If you have a little to spend we can help you decide what's best to spend it on.