I'd been doing a lot of alpine walking for over ten years circa. 1990 (and about ten earlier years of lowland trail walking) where my pack weight kept getting progressively heavier. As I learned more about what I didn't need and what I could handle up above treeline I began to take only essentials... a cut-down ridgerest instead of thermarest, the outer shell of a North Face Tadpole, fabric hiking boots... but even that was still too heavy. By 1995 I was using a Dana Designs Terraplane when hiking with my wife and groaning under the weight. My knees started going bad.
Then in 1999 I discovered Ray Jardine's "The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook". I must have read it fifty times or more. From that day till now (in the meantime of which I went on to buy Jardine's "Beyond Backpacking", discovered Michael Connick's Ultralight Backpacking Page, Adventure Alan's website, Joe's Ultralight Backpacking site, and two years ago joined this site) I have been continuously working on lightening my load and learning to make my own gear. I've made seven hammocks, five tents, four tarps, quite a number of stoves, and drawn innumerable sketches for lightweight gear ideas.
I'm now down to two packs, the Granite Gear Vapor Trail and the MountainSmith Phantom (similar to the Ghost, but top-loading and a little lighter, with mesh pockets on the outside), and am making a harness-style pack similar to the one Ryan is using in Alaska (I originally bought my POE Pneumo Mech drybag three years ago for this purpose but never got around to making the pack harness. I'm still playing with the idea of making a completely mesh pack into which I would insert the drybag). My shelter is either a SpinnShelter (which I also use as the tarp for my hammock, but that allows me to camp above treeline) or the TarpTent Rainbow. I use my hammock as both a hammock and a breathable bivy. My shoes are Inov8 Terroc 330's. My rain jacket a Montane Super Fly or, if I don't take a thinner insulation layer, a Paramo Cascada, which is the most breathable and versatile rain jacket I have used, though somewhat heavy. I don't use rain pants, since I don't mind my legs getting wet and the length of the Cascada keept my bum and crotch area warm and reasonably dry. My sleeping bag is a MontBell Alpine Ultralight Downhugger #4, supplemented by a MontBell Thermawrap Jacket. The base upper layer is the stretchy MontBell Sawa Body Zip Shirt, which was designed for shower climbing (sawa nobori... walking and climbing mountain creeks). And my sleeping mat is the new, torso-length MontBell U.L. Comfort System Pad, with inflatable pillow.
I'm hoping to learn to go even simpler, with less focus on thinking so much about buying gear and more self-sufficiency, thrift, and simplicity. One top priority is getting myself into top shape again and slowly re-conditioning myself to handle harsher conditions. Too much time has been spent letting myself get "soft". And WAY too much time spent on accumulating and thinking about ever newer gear. I want to learn to be "ultralight" in every sense of the word, including my mind.