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On My Way
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Douglas Hus
(Hustler) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
On My Way on 01/13/2007 01:55:22 MST Print View

Ok, I'm on my way.
Just finished reading R. Jordan & R. Jardine book.
I have (started too) cross over to the light side.
All of my, aging gear is heavy. Over the next little while I plan to replace it with some what lighter gear.
As I rule of thumb I am looking at each piece of my gear, weighing it and replacing it with a new piece that is less than half its weight. (how far off the mark is this).
...Now where do I start?



Edited by Hustler on 01/13/2007 01:56:21 MST.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: On My Way on 01/13/2007 10:47:05 MST Print View

Doug, there are many sources on this site to help you get started.

My experience has been that Ryan Jordan's advice to take a systems approach works very well. There are 3 key systems that play together to take weight out of your pack -- sleep system, shelter, and pack system. Oh, and clothing works together with these as well.

I have been through a few iterations now but have taken much more than 1/2 out of my initial weights on each of these.

Sleep system - was a 3 pound synthetic bag. Now a 1 pound down bag bolstered by insulated clothing when needed + a 6 ounce bivy bag

Shelter - was a 1/2 of a 7 pound tent. Now, a 10 ounce poncho/tarp with the bivy bag mentioned above.

Pack system - was a 7 pound full featured pack now with several 1-2 pound options that fit different trips.

Other large gains have been made in my kitchen moving from a white gas stove + 1 liter SS pot (about 2 pounds total) to an alcohol stove + Ti cup/pot (about 5 ounces total). My clothing has changed significantly as well.

As many others have described in their experience on this site it's fun to make the transition. You don't have to do it all at once.

Finally, Brian Frankle at ULA Equipment describes several of his packs as being ideally suited for someone making the transition to lighter gear. You can simply take the stuff from your "Dana Terraplane" and move it into one of his packs and get started on the road to a lighter kit. That worked well for me.

Edited by flyfast on 01/13/2007 10:52:19 MST.

b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
Re: On My Way on 01/13/2007 12:46:54 MST Print View

Being somewhat next in line to you at starting up on going light to UL to SUL, I would offer the following advice (with the caveat that half the fun or more, and in fact a necessity, is that you find the right gear at the right price for you). That said here are a few things I learned in the last year.

Number one, on thinking about it, has to be shoes / boots and sock combinations to keep your feet happy. That, aside from hand / glove / mitten fixtures for extreme cold may be the most important issue that I lucked out on. Because I went to a good and sometimes pricey mountaineering shop I got fit with both a pair of low tops and mid tops that fit beautifully and were extremely comfortable. That meant walking was no longer a "macho" sport event. I happen to like the mid top Tecnicas that I got with expedition weight merino wool Patagonia socks. It is so easy to walk in. But, to really get lighter I took a leap of faith and went low top with some Montrails and lighter socks, and it was also extremely comfortable at much less weight. I still go between the two, but I am forcing myself out of the habit of taking the heavier gear -- it is psychological for me, security v. the unknown. Couldn't be happier than with the advice gleaned here at BPL.

Second, the sleeping bag I chose after looking at a bunch, was the Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 F at 1 lb. 5 oz. Now there are many good and wonderful bags at less weight and even lower temp ratings, but because I was transitioning I bought the Phantom at REI, who guaranteed me they would take it back if I was unhappy after testing it -- imagine that.

Third, the pack had to be resolved and again I bought an REI UL 45 and an Atmos 50 to try. I never quit using the REI because it worked for me, I needed the framing for my back but it weighs 2 lbs. 8-10 oz. without cutting junk off. It works, got and kept me out there so it is still my go to pack. I also ordered and then returned a lot of frameless packs but was not ready for them. You need to get your feet ankles and body ready for UL gear if you are not in the younger flexible body group. But, it does happen over time -- so now I am waiting to try the Whisperlite at 3 oz. or so.

Fourth, the cooking system can be whatever you want. My go to stove is a SnowPeak Giga with a small cannister, supplemented now with esbit tab light weight stove from the BPL gear shop and a woodburning Bushbuddy for the season when you can have fires.

Carrying too much food is something the sage ones here all talk about. It is a mental disorder of our society. I have still never carried too much food, even though I feared starvation and death looking at the few granola bars and small sack of food I was going to carry. Ditto for too much water, in my case. I learned to carry a .5 L Platypus after checking on the availability of streams and lakes or snow. Also, out of safety I carried a Katydyn ProHiker, went back to a Timberline and am now going to work on using aquamira. That cuts lots of pounds, not just ounces, out of a pack weight.

Clothing is again, like shoes, really personal and took another gradual trust building series of tests -- but "Dr.J" pj and all the others are right on. Food and clothing are expendable items if you pick the right base, mid, and shell layers.

It takes a long time to even begin to get a basic go to system put together, for a tent I go to the Squall Classic or an old MH Tri-Lite 2 w/o the fly in good weather. I am now working with tarps and trying to learn to pitch them, otherwise I use a Tarptent when my partner doesn't insist on the Tri-Lite. Bivy's is a whole nother world and fun.

But, not to go on forever, it is fun to see someone going through the process -- it is entirely enjoyable if you don't make a mistake in shoes and socks, or underdress for cold, or don't take some kind of wet weather gear and get rained on. for some reason, I don't think anybody carries too little food or water, so I wouldn't worry about that unless it was water in a desert or long trek without a lake or stream. Bottom line: the people here at BPL are right on and aren't messing around with newbies, like me. And, they even make their own gear which I wish I had time to do. Anyway, that is kind of where I am at and what I have done being in line with you. bd

mark henley
(flash582) - F
hummmm ..... on 01/13/2007 15:24:20 MST Print View

Where do you start?

Man ... what a question.

The question I would ask back is this ... what are you comfortable with? How light is light for you? How much money do you want to spend?

My first recommendation is to go to and order Glen Van Peske's Lighten up DVD for $5. This DVD is Glen taking a traditional hiker and helping her cut her base weight from 35 lbs to 8 lbs with some very stratigic gear replacements.

Then, if I was starting all over again I would pick Ryan Jordan's SUL gear list out of his book, and Glen Van Peske's gear list off of Gossamer and put them into a spreadsheet along with the weights of each item. Put your gear into the same spreadsheet along with the weights of each item. Then put together a "wish" list of what your ultimate gear list would look like.

Modify Dr. J's gear list, or Glen's gear list, based on what you're comfortable with. If you really need a tent to sleep in, then look at a Spinnshelter or a Spin Tarp Tent. If you need more insulation because you sleep cold than their 16 ounce bags, then look at the no snivieler quilt from Jacksrbetter and use it as a jacket and sleep system. At this point you're just playing with numbers on a spreadsheet and playing games of "what if" in your own head.

1.) Then, assemble the lightest kit that you can, based on what you see that Dr. J and others are carrying, out of the gear that you already own. It's ok to carry a little extra weight at this point to ensure your safety or comfort level.

2.)Make an Alcohol stove and a beer can pot. Try them out on an overnighter near home. Also switch to freezer bag cooking. This alone can cut 3 to 7 pounds off your gear list by itself.

3.) Head out on the trail with your "too heavy" kit with a local club, or people in your area that you meet off of BPL or, or solo if you have to. Car camping at this point, with reserve gear in the car, is fine.

4.) Experiment with different techniques, at least one new technique each overnighter or weekend trip that you make. For example, you can take a $20 bookbag instead of your old pack, even if it does weigh a pound and a half ... but the volume will simulate a SUL pack. Take some 6 mil plastic and make an 8x10 tarp and see if you like sleeping under it while your tent is set up nearby if you should need to switch during the night, try leaving your extra layers in the bottom of the pack and try to see how just a subset of your gear during the weekend will work for you, switch to minidropper bottles for all your liquids. Try out a Nightlight pad instead of your thermarest, but have the thermarest nearby if you can't sleep. Make a bivy out of $1 a yard nylon from Walmart and duct tape, just to see if you like it. Make a "test hammock" (google it) from the instructions on Risk's website.

The important thing is to try to find ways to rent, borrow, or cheaply try out different techniques without investing a ton of cash. Once you decide that you like a particular technique, then pick out the piece of gear that best meets your needs, and your pocketbook, with an eye at targeting your "Wish" list and the weight you are trying to achieve.

This way you can minimize your investment to "try" out gear, and maximize the use of your $$$$ twords gear that you like that support the techniques that you prefer.

Also remember that this is a journey, not a destination.

Lastly ... keep reading, keep asking questions, and keep talking to other ultralight hikers to see what they're doing, but remember that a particular technique may not be comfortable for you.

As an example ... I have found that I really love using a Ti goat style bivy, but I prefer a 30 degree bag to a quilt for sleeping. I have found that I prefer sleeping under a tarp and hardly ever carry a tent anymore. I have found that I don't like sleeping on Walmart blue pads but the Gossamergear Nightlight is not bad for a decient nights sleep. Over time I have tried out new techniques, one at a time, until I figured out what works best for me. Over two years I have gone from a 35 lb base weight to 25, then 15, then 12, then 7, and now 5 lbs without compromising safety or comfort. Now I'm working twords sub 3 lbs for warm weather hiking and making quite a bit of my own gear.

We're always here to answer questions and don't think that anything is too silly or foolish to ask about. The experience on this site will help more than you can believe.

Edited by flash582 on 01/13/2007 15:34:02 MST.

Laurence Daniels
(GNR) - F

Locale: Boston
I would start with a spreadsheet on 01/13/2007 16:17:04 MST Print View

Helps keep you organized, gives you a chance to have a wish list of sorts, and helps prioritize, based on your columns, things like price, weight, and other characteristics of our gear that you find important.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: I would start with a spreadsheet on 01/13/2007 17:48:13 MST Print View

I agree about starting with the spreadsheet. Take a look at the spreadsheets BPL members produced in the spreadsheet contest.

Keep in mind that the major weight savings are with the sleeping system, the shelter, the kitchen and finally, the pack. It is probably better to wait to replace the pack until you get your other gear worked out.

Doug, Is that your boat? Are you a solo paddler?

Edited by vickrhines on 01/13/2007 17:49:15 MST.

Douglas Hus
(Hustler) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
On my way on 01/14/2007 08:05:20 MST Print View

Wow, most excellent help. I'm just trying to keep up with all of this.
I have to confess that I have been moving to the lighter weight gear over the past few years. Since starting (scout) camping as a kid I am now on my 5th stove (snow peak ti auto lite). Not sure of the alcohol stoves yet.
Reading the above mentioned books has re-lit the need to go lighter.
I guess for me I need to determine "how light do I want to go"?
My first love is canoeing. Years of portages have made me count every gram (oz.).
My canoe in the avatar is my 3rd (not so light cedar strip) it is a solo stripper called an Osprey ( ). Photo is from an Ontario Provincial Park called Killarney.
(A pretty lake should have a pretty canoe in it)

All the best,

...I think I need a scale!


Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: On my way on 01/14/2007 16:51:07 MST Print View

Digital postage scales that go to 5 pounds are the best.

I'm a paddler, too. I make my own cedar stripper solo canoes using the form and staple method. It's a fine way to get out and one of the last frontiers of ultralight. But a sub-30 pound boat with an ultralight pack can make single carry portages much more comfortable. I have my eye on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, the new canoe trail from NY and Vt and Maine.

Stephen Nelson
(stephenn6289) - F

Locale: Sunshine State
2 cents on 01/14/2007 21:42:22 MST Print View

I recently converted too. I started by examining weight savings to dollar ratios in a spreadsheet to see which item would save me the most weight per dollar. The main word of causion is to not exceed one's experience level or (as mentioned earlier) try to use something outside a functioning system. ex: using a tiny poncho/tarp without a bivy in a bad storm would be bad. I decided to hold off on replacing my pack, even though it had a huge weight savings because I knew I'd need smaller and lighter gear to be able to se it (and I have been waiting for the Jam2). I did, however, replace my sleeping bag, clothing, and miscelaneous items rather quickly. For you, I would recommend also reading Lighten Up by Don ladigin. It really helped me to think light. And I would recommend starting out by tossing the unnecessary items mentioned in all three books stated.

Kirk Beiser
(kab21) - F

Locale: Pic: Gun Lake, BWCA
What I'm doing to lighten up and some of my horror story (60 lb pack) on 01/14/2007 22:54:24 MST Print View

I recently have gone thru the traditional to lightweight backpacker transformation. Actually I bought a bunch of gear and thought that I was as strong as ox. I don't even want to go into the details of what I brought... Okay I'll mention a few things: a whisperlite, a 2L and 1.5L stainless pot, blue jeans, a 8oz petzl duo headlamp and a minimaglite (4oz), eggs (and egg carrier), camelbak bladder and nalgene, 2 4oz knives, teva sandals and way too much food. Even though I was strong as an ox, I was exhausted after 5 miles and 2000' of elevation gain. It was a great trip however, what an adventure. The pack probably weighed 60lbs total, but it felt like 100lbs when I packed out. Now I'm at a much more reasonable base weight of 15lbs for the PCT.

The first step is to make a list of everything that you bring and start getting rid of stuff you don't need or is redundant. This has been mentioned previously.

1) I like the previous poster's comments about trying different shelters with MYOG. I tried a tarp and didn't like it. I also wouldn't like a bivy, but may be interested in a hammock someday. I'm most comfortable in my tarptent (2lbs).

2) I had no idea that I would enjoy an alcohol stove so much. Your friends/family will think you're crazy, but they work so well. I use the hiknakd stove (reviewed here at BPL and available on ebay).

3) Water filtration is another area that you can save some weight. I haven't switched over from a filter yet, but I'm looking at some of the different options. Some great articles/threads on here about the effectiveness of different methods. I do like the gravity filter at ULA.

4) If you're cooking solo, you really only need a .9L (maybe even smaller) pot. You can a wal-mart grease pot or a titanium pot at around 5 oz. A pot cozy might make your stove more efficient and use less fuel (for example one of the anti-gravity gear cozies).

5) Clothing is one of the toughest systems to get perfect at minimal weight. Cotton is a big no-no. I still have 5.5 lbs of clothing (including what I'm wearing, excluding shoes).

I have a T-shirt, long sleeve sun shirt (also for bugs), light fleece (9oz), wind shirt, orange poncho (2 oz) and a used cocoon (thanks to a BPL member). I have shorts, sun pants, light fleece pants (9 oz) and wind pants. To round out the list I have a stocking hat, powerstretch gloves (1.5 oz), BPL sun hat, bandana, 2 prs socks, headnet and an umbrella (for the sun).

I could easily take a 1-2 lbs out. T-shirt and shorts (1/2 lb combined) aren't really needed, but can be used for hiking, sleeping, and swimming. And I probably have a little too much insulation but I'll just have a really comfortable pillow if not needed.

7) You can probably find a trail runner to work for you, but make sure that it works for you. The soloman XA series fits me real well. I portaged a 50lb canoe with my trail runners and they are great since they drain water so well. But carrying a canoe might be pushing the limit on trail runners depending on the individual and the terrain.

8) You don't need a lot of knife. I have a 2" gerber LST at .6oz.

9) It may be difficult to go low-tech and use a plain water bottle (like aquafina or gatorade), but they are definitely the most weight effective. The nalgenes and hydration bladders are quite heavy.

10) Choose your gadgets wisely. There are lots of fun toys out there that can add up quickly in weight. And batteries are also quite heavy.

11) You can try a foam pad to replace a thermarest style pad, but it's not for everyone. I find myself comfortable on the 3.7oz 3 section pad from gossamer gear with my pack under my legs.

At the end of all of this you can select a nice 2-3lb 50-60L pack (or even smaller).

These are just some of my details on my transition from traditional to lightweight backpacking. Alot of this stuff you probably already know, but I did not. There are many good articles on BPL (and other websites) to get info on some of the different items and techniques that can be used to lighten your load.

Also be sure to visit some of the lightweight manufacturers websites to see what items are available. The BPL store, ULA-equipment, gossamer gear, anti-gravity gear, and montbell are some of my favorites. And some of these sites have several links to other similar sites.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
re:On My Way/ another way on 01/15/2007 01:42:36 MST Print View

I made many mistakes when going lightweight in the past year. Most importantly, I thought spending more could get me lighter gear..not always necessary. I wasted [censored] dollars on small incremental reductions in weight. If I had just waited and cooled my jets I could have made more educated decisions later in my education process.

Here are my top two lessons learned..

1. You can find LW bargains, or use recycled/alternate items (pepsi can stove with aluminum windscreen is a good example; here are many more..)

2. You can really go light if you reduce the Number of items carried, as well as their weight. I bought many many light weight items until I had a 60 liter pack full of them! Going LW to me now means going Minimum; and I still struggle with the risk of not being prepared for every eventuality!

Perfection is reached not when there is nothing more to add; but when there is nothing more to be removed. So, think dual or multiple use whenever possible.

The above posts are great summaries of what is on this site. Start by reading all the features and formal reviews..

Edited by Brett1234 on 01/15/2007 01:45:15 MST.

mark henley
(flash582) - F
Most important piece of gear on 01/15/2007 13:35:33 MST Print View

Remember that your most important piece of gear is between your ears .... the more you learn, the lighter you can safely go.