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Keeping it light for 5 night trek -- advice
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Mallory Caldwell
(mc1263) - F

Locale: Texas
Keeping it light for 5 night trek -- advice on 05/10/2011 12:07:02 MDT Print View

Hello all. I think this may be my first post. Looking forward to your help and advice.

I am leading a group of scouts and other adults on a 5 night back country trek this summer at the Blue Ridge Mountain Scout Reservation. We are planning now for a serious "shake down" to help the boys and adults lighten up for the trip. (We have done a series of practice hikes on our monthly campouts locally -- packs are heavy and the hiking is tough on middle school boys [not to mention aging leaders!]).

I think we have pretty good packing lists to work from -- so that is not exactly what I'm asking. But am curious your "strategies" for making those light packing lists work. For example:

1. Do you wear one set of clothes until they are too soiled to continue, or do you wash underclothes each night, alternating to the "dry" pair for the next day? Does east coast humidity dictate one strategy over the other?

2. How safely can you drop down to true "summer weight" gear in the blue ridge mountains? I personally think I could manage fine with only a coolmax sleeping bag liner (vs. insulated sleeping bag). But if temps really MIGHT drop to the 50s, is that too big of a risk for boys? Same with the one jacket? etc.

3. Advice on cooking gear & water . . .


Open to all suggestions. Want to be really buttoned up on advice we offer in the shake down.


Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Keeping it light for 5 night trek -- advice on 05/10/2011 12:20:19 MDT Print View

1. One shirt + one pair of shorts (or pants). I'd wash if the trip was long enough, but in my experience, 5 nights isn't. Humidity dictates what I wear, but not how much clothing I bring.

2. I'm not sure what you mean by "summer weight". My 30 degree quilt is ~16 oz, and is what I take on solo trips where I don't expect below freezing temps. I've never used a liner for anything personally. With current temps bouncing around like they are here, I'd take a light jacket.

3. I'd probably suggest canister stoves with large pots and gravity filters. Depending on where you'll be, a large pot on an open fire may work as well.

Convenient timing with your questions. I'm flying out to Montana in about 2 hours to teach lightweight techniques to Scout leaders. We have one leader coming from Boone, NC I believe. Where are you located?

Mallory Caldwell
(mc1263) - F

Locale: Texas
Texas on 05/10/2011 12:24:05 MDT Print View

Thanks Chris.

I am from Texas. I guess "summer weight" carries particular meaning here -- as anything less than airconditioning is too hot to sleep anyway.

Your seminar sounds fun. Hope you have a great group of attendees.

Jason Torres
(burytherails) - F

Locale: Texas
advice.. on 05/11/2011 16:40:12 MDT Print View

1. One shirt + one pair of shorts (or pants). I'd wash if the trip was long enough, but in my experience, 5 nights isn't. Humidity dictates what I wear, but not how much clothing I bring....

+1 - I might suggest a shirt and a light pair of convertible pants in leiu of both shorts/pants in case the temp drops (which should not be a problem when you are moving, but when you are in camp..adds very little weight for relative comfort) If it is humid you may want to wash but everyone is different

2. My 30 degree quilt is ~16 oz, and is what I take on solo trips where I don't expect below freezing temps...I'd take a light jacket....

+1 - again I agree. a liner will do little to help if the temp drops to 50. a light quilt and a jacket are your best friend should the weather turn.

Canister stoves will probably be the best option as they are relatively light and easy to use/trustworthy. The type of food you plan to cook will dictate your system. Do you need the stove to simmer? Dehydrated meals? How big are the pots you intend to use?

I am from TX as well. Good to see you are getting out there! I hope the trip goes well

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Clothes for five nights on 05/29/2011 16:25:56 MDT Print View

Wash socks, underwear, and your body on a regular basis. Daily is good. Otherwise, you risk crotch rot.

A handy and lightweight wash basin can be cut from a milk jug. They are useful for other things, too:

Some folks use a gallon ziplock as a washing machine. Put in the clothes, soap, and agitate. Rinse, repeat. I expect it works, thoughI haven't tried it.

Diaper pins are great for hanging socks from your pack to dry. They might be labeled "skirt pins", but they are huge safety pins. Check a local fabric store in the notions department.

I was staff at Worth Scout Ranch in 1977.

Edited by wunder on 05/29/2011 16:28:04 MDT.

Michael Sagehorn
(msagehorn) - F
Blue Ridge VA Scout Hike on 07/20/2011 23:31:23 MDT Print View

Clothing- suggest wear "hike clothes" and packing "camp clothes"

hike in shorts-athletic workout type with slash pockets, running shoes, socks, synthetic t-shirt.(Under Armor or many of the wicking T's sold in the sporting good stores)

After arrival in your campsite, change into dry "camp clothes"- a clean shirt, underwear, sandals, tracksuit- nylon training/wind pants, and a nylon training jacket and a beanie if cold. If the boys hiking clothes are stink and sweaty -let them dry or rinse them out and let them dry. The synthetic material drys fast. In the morning put back on the '"Hike clothes" and stow the tracksuit.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Places to shave weight early on 07/21/2011 08:13:13 MDT Print View

I suggest you look at a few areas (discussed really well in some articles linked on this site) for the boys to shave weight before they start:

--Methods of carrying water: eliminate any heavy containers, especially like those big round, flannel-paneled canteens some Scouts show up with. Get them to use plastic drink bottles, which weigh much, much less.

--Cook/mess kits: don't let a scout carry a single thing in their mess kit that they won't use, and therefore eliminate all the clamshell plates at a minimum. Consider some options such as: a) only the small inner, lidded pot, the little plastic cup that fits inside and a spork; or b) only a small, lidded margarine container and a spork; or c) only a long handled spoon/spork and the little plastic cup --- all presuming you carry one larger "boiling pot" for the amount of water you need to prep for hydrating food. If your boys go with A, they can use the little pots for heating and eating, B eating only and C eating out of the Mountain House Bags or a ziplock they transfer food to and then wash/clean for reuse. You can save a lot of weight and space this way.

--Sleeping Pads: middle schoolers don't need a 2.5lb Thermarest, when they can sleep fine on a 1lb foam pad or a $$$$ NeoAir, etc... The 1lb pads are 12 dollars at Walmart. Troop leaders need and deserve inflateables, unless they are mutants! Ha Ha.

The rest of your "if you don't need it, don't bring it" can be figured after the boys mule their gear a few miles and grunt under the weight. Then you can go back through their packs and help the newly-motivated Scouts analyze what's in their pack and how to reduce volume and weight.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
your trip is probably over, but... on 08/04/2011 09:23:30 MDT Print View

Some ways to lighten scouts loads:

our trips are in mountains in Idaho, nighttime temps in the 30s to mid 20 s each night, generally dry and low humidity in the daytime, but we sweat plenty on the trail.

we weigh packs before the trip, to identify offenders, and to build some incentive to lighten up. Some obvious ways to ligthten a scout pack are to...

eliminate duplicates: clothes. A shirt to wear, and one spare is plenty. Same iwth socks, 2 pair. They can rinse out or wash one per day, and wear it the next day. a clean pair to sleep in would be OK. I take a light weight dry bag as a stuff sac, and half fill it with clothes, water and a bit of soap. Then tumble it around for awhile, dump out water, rinse, and shirt and socks are pretty clean. If you have zip off pants, you don't need a swim suit. If you have nylon underwear, you don't need a swim suit.

if they have a rain coat, they don't need a wind breaker. If they have a rain coat and a fleece pullover, they don't need a heavy coat. Don't bring a heavy coat anyway, bring a wool hat and light gloves, a rain coat and a pile pullover.

lighten up: bring the small version of everything: knives, flashlights, sun block, tooth paste, camp soap, cooking oil, toilet paper. Bring close to what you will actually use.

Don't bring: big hunting knives, shovels, hatchets, saws, heavy coats, mess kits, canteens, MREs, books, binoculars, canned ham, spam,

Do bring: tiny knife, tiny flashlight, plastic bowl cup and spoon, light plastic bottle for water.

The best sleeping bags for our type of camping are $100 down bags, but if a kid doesn't have that, as light a synthetic mummy style bag as possible.

nylon clothing head to foot: zip off nylon pants, nylon long sleeve shirt, 2 nylon t shirts, wool blend socks, wool or fleece hat.

Michael Sagehorn
(msagehorn) - F
Nylon is taking over on 08/06/2011 21:48:24 MDT Print View

I like the idea of the nylon clothimg, but honestly the best piece of backpacking gear I carry is a wool sweater or a wool shirt. In the West I wear Carhart cotton shorts, wool ragg socks, and a wool or synthetic T-shirt. If you go to Salvation Army store or even Ebay you can find a wool shirt or sweater for a few dollars. With a wool or fleece USMC watchcap I have rarely been cold. The secret is don't get wet, wait out heavy rain showers under a tarp, and if you must hike in miserable conditions-have a set of dry wool clothes to change into when you stop for the night.