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A little help please
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Chris Higbee
(uintafly) - F
A little help please on 05/25/2011 21:34:42 MDT Print View

Since this is my first post I will give full disclosure: In my 18 years of backpacking I have always thought the ultratight crowd was kind of crazy. :) Not really crazy but I have never really considered a 40-50 lb. pack as a hindrance. But now that my odometer has passed 30 and after a recent trip with some brutal scrambling and climbing where my heavy pack wasn't just exhausting but kind of dangerous I am having a bit of change of heart. I don't think I could ever get down to a 10 lb. base, but I would like to get into the 15-18 lb. range if possible.

I won't list my gear here but basically the only things I own that could be considered somewhat "ultralight" are my Neoair mattress (14 oz.) and my Marmot Helium sleeping bag (2 lb.) I usually spend between $100-$500 a year on gear so I figure I should be able to convert over the course of a year or two. So what would you guys start with? I'm thinking a tent (mine is 4 lbs.)and a stove (I have an MSR Whisperlight) would be a good start. My worry is that I spend some nights in pretty high elevations (10k-12k)and I am not sure how tents like the Golite or Tarptent would hold up in windy storms. But I guess people use em right?

Thanks for any advice!

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: A little help please on 05/25/2011 22:02:13 MDT Print View

A few ideas for starting out:

1. You'll want to know and track the weight of everything. Get a digital scale which weighs in tenths of an ounce. These can be found for around $20 online or in the kitchen utensils section of most superstores.

2. Your stove is easily replaceable with a Supercat or Fancy Feast stove. These are easy to make. I prefer the Penny stove, but it can be tricky to make:

3. In those conditions, I'd want a fully-enclosed shelter, like:
MLD Duomid or Supermid
Oware pyramid tarp
Tarptent Moment, Sublite Sil, or Scarp
(and many others which have been proven to hold up fine under your typical conditions)

4. Just bring less stuff. Leave the extra change of clothes and water crossing shoes at home. Repackage things into containers just big enough for what you need for the entire trip. One example of this is treating your clothes with permethrin so that you only need a tiny dropper of DEET or picaridin on exposed skin.

5. How heavy is your pack? If it's more than 4 pounds, you might save more weight by replacing it than the tent. That would only be comfortable if you could get your overall gear weight down some at the same time.

6. Get rid of the heavy footwear and use breathable trail runners instead. I use them even when I'm the family pack mule hauling 40-80 pounds in my 6 pound skyscraper-looking pack. :) I own a heavy pair of Gore-Tex all leather hiking boots which I have the option of wearing. I'd rather feel the ground and get my feet wet than wear those heavy, clumsy things.

Edited by AndyF on 05/25/2011 22:06:15 MDT.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Lighten up on 05/25/2011 22:14:17 MDT Print View

Its kinda hard to know where to start with out knowing what gear you have What seasons you travel? How big you are? Do you just need a solo tent? How you cook do you just boil water? Do you travel with others? A dog? How big of a dog? I would wait on the pack till you get every thing else down. How many days are you out for min/max? And I would research and not impulse buy? How long you been checking out this site?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: A little help please on 05/26/2011 01:10:47 MDT Print View

re tents and tarps

In the lowlands in summer with little chance of wind or rain, a small tarp may be fine.
At 3000 m in mid-winter in bad weather a small tarp may be little more than a prayer flag.

The sad reality is that when you start refining your gear, you have to have different gear for different conditions. Some see this as a great excuse for owning 5 of everything - shelter, quilts, packs, stoves, ponchos .... Others don't think 5 is enough :-)

Go slowly, read lots of reviews here at BPL, experiment cautiously, have fun.

PS: buy a digital scale!

Edited by rcaffin on 05/26/2011 01:11:23 MDT.

Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
RE: A little help please on 05/26/2011 01:42:32 MDT Print View

With $3-500 you should have no trouble getting to 10-12 lbs.

It's not even the weight, bringing less means less to deal with. Clutter, pulling things in and out, having to re-pack gets to me.

Clothes weigh a lot, and so do things like Nalgene bottles. I really like merino wool. You can get away with not bringing changes of clothing and still be comfortable.

As others have or will mention, not bringing things and the little details (like re-packaging into tiny bottles etc) is your best bet. That and a backpack that is max 24 oz.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: A little help please on 05/26/2011 06:01:17 MDT Print View

I agree with Roger. Don't get rid of anything for a couple years. It may still be usefull for partnered travel or group travel. And get advise from the UL people here, not the light weight people.

Concentrate on the so-called big three. As Scott said a 24oz or less pack. A 32oz or less sleeping bag and a 32oz or less tent. Generally, to get down to 10-15lb, you need to keep the big three below 2lb each. A tarp tent is a good option, I prefer a tarp with a removable inner net tent. A LOT will depend on where, when and how high you intend to hike. Roger likes tube tents(catipilar/hoop tents.) You may need a free standing tent...kind'a misnomer.

For cook gear, I prefer a SVEA. These are getting hard to find, though. The extra weight is often ofset by packing high density foods, dehydrated stuff. I usually enjoy cooking a good meal at supper. It may just be fuel to you.

Cloths are easy. No extra. An extra set of long johns for sleeping cloths, more to keep the sleeping bag clean than for warmth. A rain jacket, extra pair of socks and a good warm jacket should round things out for anything up to a week or so.

Aquamira and depending on where/when you hike, one or two 1 liter bottles for water.

Weigh everything. If there is a choice, choose the lightest.

My base gear goes about 9-11 pounds, depending where I am headed. Food, water, fuel, bear ball are added in as consumables. (I rarely need the bear ball.)

Deet, permethryn washed cloths, handles most bugs. The net tent handles sleeping at night even in mosquito/black fly season. A cigar makes a good black fly deterant.

carl becker
(carlbecker) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: A little help please on 05/26/2011 06:15:21 MDT Print View

Purchase a scale. Weigh everything and list it. Decide what you don't need and delete it from the list. Look at your heavy items and decide your best dollar per ounce to get lighter. For refference your 15 degree Marmot Helium seems pretty good at 32 ounces if you need to go that low, look at your other items. I would not change footwear until you get your weight down. It really is not to hard to lower weight as long as weather conditions are not to harsh.

Chris Higbee
(uintafly) - F
some info on 05/26/2011 06:41:49 MDT Print View

Thanks for the info. A few details: I try to get out about once month starting in March. I spend my spring hikes in Southern Utah (Cedar Mesa, Escalante, etc.) and my summer and fall trips in the high uintah's. I know I will need to get a new pack at some point because I currently have a 75 L. 6 pound beast. As far as food goes I am pretty much a boil water only person, nothing too fancy for me. 75% of my trips I would only need a solo shelter.

I have never heard of mosquito repellent treated clothes, how well do they work in heavily infested areas?

PS: My wife just told me she plans on getting me a ti cookpot this year for Father's day, any suggestions on good ones would be appreciated.


Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: some info on 05/26/2011 07:00:37 MDT Print View

I think you can do a good job of getting light and still allow one item that is heavier for special needs, like you tent. Some folk like a heavier sleeping pad, etc. If everything else is shaved down, one item isn't as significant. All the small items add up and are typically less expensive. As other's posted, do simple things like decanting all the liquids into the smallest possible containers for the trip. Leaving all the toys and gadgets behind is a must and helps get you into the mindset.

Your cookpot needs to work with your stove. If you use a butane canister stove there is plenty of leeway, but alcohol stoves have different flame patterns and are more sensitive to pot size. For solo use, something like the SnowPeak 700 is easy to find ( The MSR Titan is a little bigger ( When I'm getting really Spartan, I can squeak by with a 400ml mug, but that is for overnighters where I don't need to cook a big meal-- a little hot water for soup and coffee.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: some info on 05/26/2011 07:04:20 MDT Print View

I'll be a voice of slight disagreement here. You don't need a scale. Yes, you read that right. You don't need a scale. Heresy, I know.

You can significantly reduce your pack load and make backpacking much more enjoyable for yourself without the obsessive need to weigh everything. Research lighter options for shelter/pack/bag/cookset/etc. Buy what seems like it'll work for you. Almost every purveyor of lightweight gear includes the weights of their gear - that's more than good enough for your purposes. Of course, folks will loudly exclaim that sometimes they're off by a few ounces.


Big deal.

If I understand your post (and I may not), you're interested in getting lighter, not in becoming UL. Nothing wrong with that, I'm the same way. I don't weigh my gear because I don't care about its specific weight. I reduced my pack weight significantly, and I'm a happier hiker because of it. And I did it without ever weighing gear (until I sold it and people asked), and I don't have a spreadsheet with my gear (and never will).

So, if you don't care about being an ounce-counter, and you simply want to get a lot lighter from where you are, just do research and make intelligent choices. You don't need a scale.

A scale is, in my book, simply excess weight...... ;-)

Edited by idester on 05/26/2011 07:28:44 MDT.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
A little help please on 05/26/2011 08:11:07 MDT Print View

It might be helpful to check out the gear list forum and just read through a bunch and see what's on them and what kind of feedback people are getting. Check out the gear swap forum as well. That's an easy way to try out gear and resell if you don't like it. Just don't wait if you see something that looks interesting, things go fast. Buy your pack last after you know how much volume you'll need.

Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
I say do get a scale... on 05/26/2011 08:11:43 MDT Print View

but it doesnt have to be digital, and it doesn't have to go the the nearest .1 oz. I think the scale helps with the paradigm shift that happens when you transition for "traditional" to "light weight" backpacking. I joined up about 18 months ago, I don't think I will forget the day that I went to office max and bought a cheap (non digital) postal scale. I remember multiple things that I always thougth were just an oz or two and they turned out to be 5 or 6 or even half a pound. I removed, trimed, repackeded, deleted just over 3 pounds off of my base weight with only the true realization of what everything weights to the nearest ounce. I don't see myself weighing to the nearest gram, but I am considering changing from nearest oz to nearest half oz so who knows maybe I will be posting a SUL list for review in a year or so.

carl becker
(carlbecker) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: A little help please on 05/26/2011 08:17:07 MDT Print View

I just checked the listed weight of the Helium and it was 41 ounces. I all ready had a scale for another activity and have gone a bit nuts with it but still find it a useful tool to get my weight down. I am light enough now to carry four pounds of camera gear .....sigh....

Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
1 ) GET A SCALE! on 05/26/2011 09:00:17 MDT Print View


I'm repeating what others have said, but here goes.

1 ) GET A SCALE! No way around this one, it is absolutely essential!

Without the scale, you'll stumble around and ooze slowly along in mamby-pamby increments. But, with the scale, your pack-weight will plummet! Simply knowing the weight of an item helps enormously. You wanna invest in a new skill? Your first $29 should be spent on a scale!!!


2 ) Change your MINDSET about how you camp. The benefits of the light pack are wonderful, but the challenge will be entirely philosophical! The way you get your pack-weight down is to simply LEAVE STUFF BEHIND. This requires a little bit of mental commitment, but once you do it, you'll never go back.

3 ) Getting down to a 15 pound base weight is SUPER EASY. Getting down to 10 pounds requires just a little bit more attention, but it's easy too.

4 ) The ONLY gear that might seem expensive is (a) a light down bag (b) a light down parka (c) and a tarp. Everything else (pack, stove, shoes, clothes, etc) is ridiculously less expensive compared to "traditional" camping gear.

5 ) And while you are at it, get this really cool book! (see below)


And --- When you are ready - Make a gear list and post it here on this forum.

REVIEW my list as a template.

Edited by mikeclelland on 05/26/2011 09:07:03 MDT.

Marc Shea
(FlytePacker) - F

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re: A little help please on 05/26/2011 09:04:59 MDT Print View

From what you have said -

Pack - 6lbs
Tent - 4lbs
Sleeping Bag - 2lbs
Sleeping Pad - 1lbs

Total 13lbs

That means that the rest of the stuff that you are taking is weighing between 27-37 lbs. First, I would take a look at that 27-37lbs of gear and remove what you aren't using when you go out. Are there items that you currently have that could serve multiple purposes? I would focus on removing gear first before replacing it. Next I would identify those things that are necesities and try to replace them with lighter gear. Replacing a tent and pack are going to cut weight, but those are easy enough once you have pared down the rest of your gear. Buy a new pack last.

David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
A little help please on 05/26/2011 09:13:47 MDT Print View

+1 on the scale and spreadsheet.

You can chew up a lot of time making and maintaining a spreadsheet. Fun, fun, fun! What else do you do with your evenings?

And, always remember, don't pay any attention to Doug! ; )

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: 1 ) GET A SCALE! on 05/26/2011 09:24:19 MDT Print View

"1 ) GET A SCALE! No way around this one, it is absolutely essential! "

Chris, it's not. Regardless of what Mike et. al. say. It's not. EVEN WHEN THEY PUT IT IN CAPITAL LETTERS AND USE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!! It's not. It's really not.

Mike's a zealot. That's what we love about him. We need zealots to further the cause. But that doesn't make his particular way of doing things essential for anything.

If you want to be a zealot gram weenie, then a scale is probably essential. If you just want to lighten your load, it's nowhere near essential. Sorry to see that Mike seems to think we're all morons who can't make intelligent decisions without his crutch of a scale, but I'd prefer to think we can actually make intelligent decisions with information already available, and do so in a non-"mamby pamby" manner. It's really not that hard.

IT'S REALLY NOT!!!!!!! Buy one if you want a scale, if it helps you justify your obsession, there's certainly nothing wrong with it. And they can certainly be useful if you're trying to squeeze every last ounce/gram out of your pack. But a scale is simply not a necessity. And as far as I know, you're still allowed to be a BPL member even if you don't have one.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: A little help please on 05/26/2011 09:25:46 MDT Print View

"And, always remember, don't pay any attention to Doug! ; )"

Now you sound like my staff........

Hmmmm. And my boss, now that I think about it......

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
A little help please on 05/26/2011 09:50:57 MDT Print View

No, the OP NEEDS a scale. His assumption of the weight of his current gear is likely off, especially if he is using manufacturer specs. If you don't REALLY know where you are starting from, how do you know WHERE you are going.....

Doug - you NEED to buy a scale (of course you get around this by simply buying everything in cuben)

Al Nichols
(everready) - F

Locale: Sh!^^% Ohio
Re: some info on 05/26/2011 09:57:36 MDT Print View

Ti cook pots are cool but for me they're too superfluous. I use the Kmart grease pot. Very light, very cheap and it boils water just fine........