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Start w/ survival kit
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Kurt Thompson
(katphood) - F

Locale: Bay Area, Calif.
Start w/ survival kit on 11/28/2009 12:23:27 MST Print View

New here, first post.

I come at UL backpacking from a different angle than most, I think. I start with a Personal Survival Kit (PSK). Like any survival kit, its tuned for the Sierras where I spend most of my BP time. I took my poncho last time only because it was late September and I wanted to be prepared for rain / snow. Turns out it was unseasonably warm and dry and I didn't need it.

I'm starting to get into bushcraft and am doing with less stuff as my skills increase (long way to go there).

Notes: I usually sleep in the open or with a MilSurp poncho as a shelter if needed. If its really cold, I build a fire. I take extra layers, not extra clothes, so I smell like hell when I come out. I make things I might need: tongs, chop sticks, even a "spoon" (forgot one last time), and the only cooking I do is over a small fire and just enough to boil a couple of cups.

Also, I tinker with the list for every trip. The list that follows is from my last trip.

So here goes (all weight in grams; 1 oz. = 28.5g, 1 lb. = 454g):

Pack: ULA Catalyst 1204g
Sleeping bag: 1274g
PSK: 1489g
Extra clothes: 1344g
Poncho (MilSurp): 480g
Sleeping pad: 440g
Camera gear: 2371g
Food: 1792g

Total: 9965g = 22.24 lbs.

Here's the list of PSK items. Sorry for not listing the weights.

Leather gloves
First Aid / Repair kit
Space blanket
Fleece cap / balaclava
Canteen cover
Buttpack (ALICE MilSurp)
compass w/ lanyard
whistle w/ lanyard
rod & striker
flint, steel, cloth, rope
tinder, film canister
mag. glass
lip balm (petroleum jelly)

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Re: Start w/ survival kit on 11/28/2009 12:40:27 MST Print View


In case you didn't know, traditionally people post their gear lists to have them critiqued. So don't take any of this personally. "You asked for it", per se. :o)

Three different fire-starters seems excessive (rod & striker, flint & steel, magnifying glass). How about a Mini-bic and MAYBE the fire rod as a backup?

Why both a backpack and a buttpack? If you can get your base weight down a bit you won't have to "base camp" and leave most of your stuff at your camp, so you won't need the buttpack as a day pack.

Do you really beat up your hands so much that you need leather gloves? Just some wool gloves and maybe a shell for bad weather would probably work.

I'd have to know what kinds of conditions you're targeting before I can intelligently critique your sleeping bag. Likewise, what is the length of time that 1.8kg of food is supposed to last you? (2 pounds a day is a decent target.)

Why the space blanket? You have a sleeping bag. Have you ever really needed it? I might carry one day-hiking when I don't want to carry a sleeping bag, but not if I just use the bag.

A 15-oz (ish) sleeping pad sounds like a full-length ThermaRest. Depending upon conditions you could change to a closed-cell foam pad, cut to less than full length. (There are reasonable MilSurp ones available.)

I'm assuming that photography is your thing, and that you count that weight as your "luxury item." If not, brother, get a lighter camera.

Is your canteen MilSurp, too? Why do you need a canteen cover? There are much lighter water containers. Heck, just an empty PET soda bottle will work, and weighs 1/5th of what a Nalgene bottle weighs. Or, the flexible bottles or hydration bladders are very light for their volume. Evernew makes decent (non-fanatical) ones.

Can you break your clothing out by item? That would help us. Likewise what kind of headlamp is it and how much does it weigh? What is in your first aid and repair kits? What kind of compass? Is your cup a canteen cup? I don't know how much those weigh (if I weren't lazy I'd go weigh one of mine) but they seem terribly over built to me. If you really like the whole canteen cup idea there are light titanium pots made to fit over Nalgene bottles (though the bottles themselves are heavy, as I mentioned). Vargo and MLD make models that come to mind.

Basically, break out your whole PSK by individual item with weights, if you can.

In case you can't tell, we tend to obsess over minutiae, here.

I'm impressed that you make a lot of stuff as you need it. It looks like your emphasis is on "basic" rather than "light", though, and your pack just got reasonably light as a side-effect. All the more power to you! HYOH.

And, I suppose re-using all the MilSurp stuff is pretty green, eh?

Edited by acrosome on 11/28/2009 13:07:53 MST.

Larry Dyer
(veriest1) - F

Locale: Texas
Taking it further on 11/28/2009 13:12:19 MST Print View

Continuing with the idea of making what you need from your surroundings you should learn some more primitive fire making skills like a bow drill. This way you'd still have your 3rd line fire making method and still cut down to a flint/firesteel and a bic.

I assume the rope and cord you have listed next to your flint is jute cord and then you have tinder listed after that. You can probably cut back here if that's the case and further simplify your kit.

Also a silnylon poncho tarp weighs about 9 oz and can be had for a reasonable price. They're probably more flammable than the milsurp version though.

What type of knife do you carry to make your chopsticks and such? I'm assuming something large enough for processing wood.

Edited by veriest1 on 11/28/2009 13:13:50 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Start w/ survival kit on 11/28/2009 13:29:32 MST Print View

I think what you call a PSK is what most of us would just call 'gear'. There's room to lighten it a bit too.


Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Start w/ survival kit on 11/28/2009 13:47:23 MST Print View

Your "PSK" is over 3 lbs!

All the items in it are basically just essentials/first aid.
You should be able to get it under 10 oz. easily. I'm guessing the buttpack, canteen, canteen cover, leather gloves, and the contents of your first aid/repair kit are what's pushing your weight too high.

Why carry a space blanket if you're carrying a sleeping bag and shelter?

"rod & striker
flint, steel, cloth, rope
tinder, film canister"

Couldn't you just carry one firesteel/striker and a little tinder?

Why leather gloves?

Magnifying glass?

You're also carrying a 1 lb. sleeping pad, nearly 3 lbs of extra clothes, and a nearly 3 lb. sleeping bag.

I guess the real question is, where are you going and what are you doing for how long?
Are you trying to go lighter?

j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: Re: Start w/ survival kit on 11/28/2009 14:12:37 MST Print View

Can you list out your sleeping bag and your "extra clothes"?


Kurt Thompson
(katphood) - F

Locale: Bay Area, Calif.
thanks on 11/28/2009 14:36:38 MST Print View

I'll try to answer all your thoughts:

- Multiple methods of fire starting. Like I said, I'm getting into bushcraft, so I practice with all methods. Next up is a primitive bow / drill set.

- Sometimes I set up a base camp and go out with just the buttpack and camera gear. It also helps keep all the little stuff organized. The pack has three outer mesh pockets but nothing internal.

- The camera is 1 lb. the rest is the tripod and ball head. Yes I could cut a lot of weight here, (like all of it), but I'm also cheap and cannot justify $300 + to save 1/2 lb.

- The MilSurp poncho is heavy, but being a cheapskate, the $11 I paid for it (used / ebay) doesn't compare with the ridiculous prices out there for UL shelters. The ultimate UL shelter is to find / make what you need. I've slept under downed trees before with various brush used for cover.

- Space blanket: when I set up a base camp, I don't leave w/o the PSK which includes the space blanket. I don't want to risk a bear ripping my other gear to shreds while I'm out. It can also double as a rain cover or like last year a snow cover.

- the sleeping bag is rated about 35 degrees. It's an REI model.

- Clothing: fleece hat, shemaugh, light fleece jacket, extra wool socks, extra liner socks. If I expect cold weather, I take more.

- the knife is a fixed blade Finnish beauty I splurged on. Very similar to a Mora knife and perfect for bushcraft and pretty darn good for carving chop sticks and tongs, or firesticks.

- I may cut the repair / first aid kit down a lot.

- Food: I did some research some years ago, just comparing weight to calories. In short, trail mix, meat, and freeze dried dinners all come out to the neighborhood of 120 calories per ounce. I also take a couple of freeze dried dinners when out for more than 4 nights. The weight I listed in my post was for a 5 night trip.

I should have mentioned that I usually go solo, so I go a little heavy on some items, like multiple means of fire starting.

Oh, forgot to list a couple things: small 1 oz. bottle of tincture of iodine for purifying water (not usually an issue in the high Sierra) and doubles for treating cuts.

Last time out, I also added a breakdown fishing rod, reel, and a few ounces of gear. I didn't weigh it but I figure that added about 1.5 lbs. I supplemented my food supply with a nice rainbow last trip out.

Thanks for the replies.

Edited by katphood on 11/28/2009 14:40:06 MST.

Joseph Morrison
(sjdm4211) - F

Locale: Smokies
Re: Start w/ survival kit on 11/28/2009 15:30:21 MST Print View

Just to let you know P.S.K. stands for Pocket Survival Kit.

All military surplus equipment is far too heavy for backpacking.

Leather gloves are quite handy for picking up hot pots off the stove or fire and stand up to alot more abuse than fleece or nylon. May I suggest Deer Skin gloves. They are lighter, more flexible and comfortable than cowhide. I wish I had a pair last night as I tried to find something to lift the pot of the stove.

Unless you are using the space blanket as a ground sheet you should leave it at the house.

I had my flint, steel, char cloth and jute twine with me last night. I find it very entertaining to use and see how fast I can go from spark to flame. I am down to about 10 seconds.

Buttpack? I don't see any point in having any extra bags. Its just uneeded weight.

The rest of the stuff seems like pretty basic backpacking equipment.

Oh, I don't see a knife anywhere in your list?????????? EDIT: never mind


Edited by sjdm4211 on 11/28/2009 15:45:34 MST.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
lots of room to lighten up on 11/28/2009 16:39:26 MST Print View

my poncho/tarp weighs 9.1 oz (add ~ 2 oz for guys/states) it's a Integral Design that I got used for $35, I've seen GoLite used ones go for $25; $25-$35 is not too expensive for a shelter AND rain gear :)

a three pound sleeping bag has lots of room for improvement- again look used- you can cut the weight in half for very reasonable- I saw a Marmot Atom recently sell for under $120- 850 fill down, just over a lb for example.

I also carry an extra pack, it's a Marmot Kompressor- weighs 9 oz and doubles as a stuff sack (there are lighter ones yet)- more than enough room for exploring/fishing/summit bagging/etc

I also carry a PSK on my person (pocket)- it weighs 5 oz, not a tiny altoid tin either- has a AMK heatsheet, AMK signal mirror, a 4x magnifier, a 1 quart water container, sparklite w/ 5 tinders, mini-bic, 10 micropur tabs, 12x12" heavy aluminum foil and 20' of ss steel snare wire (makes a nice bail handle for the aluminum foil pot!)- it's all carried in a 4.5x7" aloksak

My FAK is also carried on my person- it weighs under 3 oz and feel it's very complete

around my neck is a Landi PSK full tang knife, a Photon Micro light and a Fox micro whistle- wrapped around the kydex sheath is ~ 20' of 200# Spectra cord, underneath the cord are two fire straws and a small firesteel. The neck carry setup is under 5 oz

I feel comfortable that I can start a fire, build a cozy debris shelter or lean to, purify water, tend to wounds and signal for help if need be if I'm separated from my pack.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
fire for warmth on 12/01/2009 20:02:55 MST Print View

"If it's really cold, I build a fire". This concerns me. It takes a lot of firewood to keep enough of a blaze going to keep you warm for hours at a time, such as through the night. It is not the most efficient way to keep warm. Clothes and a warmer sleeping bag are easier ways. The part of me facing a fire stays warm, but the other side of me is quite cold. Move a short distance from the fire and one is quickly cold again. Fall asleep and the fire will soon be out.

In short, I would select my gear depending on the coldest temperatures I might encounter.

Fuel to keep a long term heating fire going may not be easily found above tree line. Fire are also not permitted in the Sierras at certain altitudes, at least along the JMT.

Edited by rambler on 12/01/2009 20:04:12 MST.

Joseph Morrison
(sjdm4211) - F

Locale: Smokies
"Start w/ survival kit" on 12/01/2009 21:29:35 MST Print View

To properly use a fire to stay warm at night you must make a reflector wall on the opposite side of the fire and make a lean-to behind you that will block the wind. A E-blanket on the inside of your poncho tarp is a good idea. The fire must be built with hardwoods that will burn slowly, good luck to you guys out west. I have had fires go for several hours with little tending from me. Of course I was using a wool blanket and slept about a foot away from the fire.Reflector wall and debris shelterdebris shelter

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Ultralight and survival gear on 12/02/2009 09:42:36 MST Print View

I've been blending the bushcraft/survival and UL principles for some time. I'm very much a proponent of Leave No Trace, but I do like to travel with enough tools and skills to support myself if necessary. I find that many gear lists go too far in eliminating "essential" items. My challenge has been to find the lightest, multipurpose components for my survival kit using the same criteria I would use for the rest of my hiking gear, except taking only what you will actually use.

Areas where I diverge from most UL gear lists:

First aid kit. I carry an Adventure Medical .5 kit with some added medications. I have a lot of first aid training and really want more than a couple band aids and some Body Glide.

Redundant fire starters. Mini Bic for general use, mini Firesteel for backup and some REI Storm Proof matches in a K&M match case that also provides my back-up compass. I also have a spy capsule with tinder-quik tabs.

UL survival tip: your alcohol gel hand cleaner can double as a fire starting aid.

Mini fishing kit with pre-tied leaders, split shot and some Spiderwire Spectra fishing line.

A full-featured sighting compass (Suunto MC-2)

Adventure Medical Heatsheets bivy sack. I use a poncho for rain gear, so shelter is covered.

A small flat pack of duct tape.

UL survival tip: your bear rope covers spare line carried in many PSK's.

Redundant lighting. Headlamp and a AAA LED flashlight. Micro lights don't cut it for me any more--- too hard to replace batteries, not water proof, etc.

Cutting tools. A Swiss Army knife with a saw, or a decent folder with a locking blade (Benchmade Griptilian), or a fixed blade like a Mora (new Mora 2010 model is great). In extreme cases, a folding saw like a Gerber Sportsman (3.5oz). I always have a Victorinox Classic on the same key ring with the mini firesteel, whistle, and Fenix AAA flashlight. There are two single edge razor blades packaged in clear shipping tape in my first aid kit.

Carry options. A one liter Sea to Summit stuff sack, or I have a super light silnylon fanny pack. The stuff sack can be carried with a piece of parachute cord. The best option I've found for day tripping away from camp is to use a drawstring backpack for my bear bag-- take the food with you :)

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
agreed on 12/02/2009 12:43:26 MST Print View

Dale said "I've been blending the bushcraft/survival and UL principles for some time. I'm very much a proponent of Leave No Trace, but I do like to travel with enough tools and skills to support myself if necessary. I find that many gear lists go too far in eliminating "essential" items. My challenge has been to find the lightest, multipurpose components for my survival kit using the same criteria I would use for the rest of my hiking gear, except taking only what you will actually use."

this pretty well sums up my outlook as well,

they are not mutually exclusive- in fact just the opposite