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The validity of going lightweight for shorter trips
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Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
The validity of going lightweight for shorter trips on 02/26/2012 07:31:19 MST Print View

As I have said before, due to school and family responsibilities, I am only able to take 1-3 day trips at the moment. In the future of course I fully intend on doing thru hikes, but for now I have to make do. I was able to get out for 18 nights in 2011, which is not bad, though it was not enough to satisfy me all the way either.

Anyhow, when I go out with friends or family, and they ask about LW/UL/SUL, I am happy to explain the point of it. Something that comes up often from skeptics of our whole methodology is: "But you only go on shorter trips, so big deal if you take 10kg of gear? It's only for a few days that you have to suffer the weight."

I suggest that it may be even more important to go lightweight for shorter trips than for say thru hikes. Because I have a very limited amount of time, around 24-72 hours, I want to do as much as possible while I am out in the woods. I want to go deep into nature, first of all, so I can see animals and get away from it all, for example. This requires longer hikes, which takes more time. When I pause, be it to make camp or just a break, I often want to fish, swim, gather natural food like berries and mushrooms, etc. This also takes a big chunk out of my time and energy bars. If I am exhausted because I am hauling 10kg up and down hills, I am not going to be able to accomplish my set out goals.

On a thru hike, in theory you have more time to spare, so you can have a zero day to devote to whatever you want, if you can afford to have a zero day that is.

A really nice plus of overnight trips is more flexibility to cut down on weight if the weather is ideal and you plan ahead. I will check the weather obsessively a few days before a trip to see if I can ditch my rain gear or not, sometimes ditch my shelter too.

Though I do envy you thru hikers, but I will be there soon enough. Which reminds me, I know about the Triple Crown of backpacking (AT, PCT, CDT)--but is there a Triple Crown for other continents? Like is there a European one?

Anyhow, do you go lighter or heavier for overnighters and other shorter trips? Why or why not?

ed hyatt
(edhyatt) - MLife

Locale: The North
weekend weight on 02/26/2012 08:22:57 MST Print View

I tend to taking more for single overnights.

Why I am not sure....but for a couple of days the 'mission creep' kicks in and a few extra (excess) items find their way into the pack.

I think I consider short trips as 'recreation' and my backpacks I regard as more 'serious' - often as I have a bit of an 'agenda' elevation gain, terrain, and distance-wise.

That said I'nm reconsidering this for my next single overnight - a fast push through easy (but lengthy) Scottish Glens; perhaps that is dictated by my new light shelter....why did I buy it if not to make the most of the weight reduction!

Here There
(cowexnihilo) - MLife
Re: weekend weight on 02/26/2012 08:43:18 MST Print View

I like going SUL on weekend/overnights for simplicity's sake so that I have less gear to tinker with and tie up my time on trail. It's much easier to keep out extras if you use a low volume pack, and only take the few things you'll -actually- use during that short time (shelter/sleep kit/food stuff, rain gear if needed).

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: weekend weight on 02/26/2012 09:39:50 MST Print View

Depend on the goal in mind.
Overnight 20+ miles, just the basics.
Overnight 8-10 miles, fresh food and luxuries.
As long as it feels like hiking and not hauling, your'e doing fine.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: The validity of going lightweight for shorter trips on 02/26/2012 12:21:34 MST Print View

"It's only for a few days that you have to suffer the weight."

I think that says it all. I don't have to suffer the weight at all because I'm carrying far less of it. My trips (all 1-3 day trips) I go lightweight (I'm not UL or SUL by BPL standards, and I'm quite fine with that). The rest of your post explains it quite well.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Re: The validity of going lightweight for shorter trips on 02/26/2012 13:31:05 MST Print View

"I suggest that it may be even more important to go lightweight for shorter trips than for say thru hikes."

I carry nearly the exact gear for an overnighter as I did for a thru hike. I do often carry less efficient food. I would completely disagree with your statement above though. The effect of an extra lb. will be felt for your entire multi-month hike. Even if you are capable of carrying the extra weight after a few weeks, there is much better weight to carry, like more food.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Re: Re: The validity of going lightweight for shorter trips on 02/26/2012 13:51:44 MST Print View

That's a good point. My focus was on time and energy constraints for those of us that cram a lot of activity into a very fun and active overnighter or weekender. With thru hikes there is can be more flexibility, because there is more time. Also keep in mind that you can mail stuff to yourself too that you might not need at a certain portion of the trip. Then again, I guess you could hike back to your car or to a town and pick things up there that you stashed, but that might not be as fun or convenient as mailing.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: The validity of going lightweight for shorter trips on 02/26/2012 13:58:16 MST Print View

I carry lightweight either way. The little luxuries differ though. For a long solo hike a book and a journal is a nice thing to have. For a short trip, I'm loving having two sleeping quilts and a cup of coffee in the morning. I might experiment more with gear, food or footwear on shorter trips, too.

I don't think you have to feel apologetic or inferior for doing short hikes. I get a huge amount of satisfaction from my shorter hikes. On the week long hikes I've done on the PCT I've been really happy knowing I don't have to stay out there when the weather is turning nasty. It's also fun to have hikes to look forward to, to plan and anticipate, even if they're only one or two nights. When it's your daily life it eventually feels like just another job.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: The validity of going lightweight for shorter trips on 02/26/2012 14:07:00 MST Print View

I concur with Greg that UL is more important for a thru hike because any base-weight pound you trim, saves you from carrying that pound for 2000 miles.

I like the OPs thought that UL on short trips leaves you with energy to do more miles or activities. I'd also point out that you can fine-tune your UL system on short trips with little risk or discomfort should something not work out. Then you'll be in a much better position due to that grater experience, when you are able to thru hike.

Hobbes W
(Hobbesatronic) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: The validity of going lightweight for shorter trips on 02/26/2012 14:18:34 MST Print View

"I suggest that it may be even more important to go lightweight for shorter trips than for say thru hikes."

I'm with you - even if I had the time, my personality is geared towards fast 4 day trips. Maybe it's the lifelong surfing - a good swell event lasts only 2-3 days max. So you screw around for an hour or so a few days a week in mush, in order to try & stay in shape while waiting for the day(s) that you put all your energy on the line.

I treat my solo hiking the same way. We do enjoy car camping where it's fun to hang out, drink beers, BBQ, etc. But when I'm solo I'm moving all day - I mean, what's the point of stopping and sitting around by yourself without a fire? (I stick to the high Sierra where fires aren't allowed above 10k.)

I've got limited time, but I want to see as much as possible in that time when the Sierra are "on" - you know, those glory days. In essence, I treat it like an extended day hike. That means all I take are things necessary to make it through the night: something to sleep in/on and something to protect against rain. Add the cookless, baseline food, and I'm good to go.

My typical pack weight is 12.5 lbs going in and 8 lbs coming out (ie 4.5 lbs food). Deduct 2 lbs for the bear can, and my base weight is 6 lbs. This includes pack, quilt, tarp, vest, etc. For those who are in the SUL range, they know you can really motor @ that weight.

Edited by Hobbesatronic on 02/26/2012 14:23:38 MST.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
re: shorter trips on 02/26/2012 14:27:29 MST Print View

@Piper: Good point about not having to deal with bad weather, on a thru hike you have to suck it up. Glad to hear I am not the only short tripper :) It's not that I feel apologetic or inferior, it's just that I crave more. I even go out in bad weather just to test myself, and plus, there is something very beautiful about a walk in the woods while it is dumping rain. The day backpacking feels like another job is the day I go home right away!

@David: Yeah, Greg is right, just thought the whole philosophy of doing LW/UL/SUL shorter trips should be explored. My current 3 season set up is about 8.5lbs, and that's if there is a high chance of rain. I imagine my thru hike set up would be similar, but I might throw in a few extra precautions. I doubt I would go over the 10lb mark, though. There is a shorter trial in the part of Sweden I live that is about a 3 to 4 week trip, which is like half a thru hike perhaps, and that is the first thru hike I'd like to do. I am seriously consider doing it SUL too, because I could time it in the middle of the warmest part of the year in the summer and save lots of weight that way.

Oh and thanks for the kind words, glad you liked the point of my OP :)

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Re: Re: The validity of going lightweight for shorter trips on 02/26/2012 14:36:36 MST Print View

12.5 total pack weight is pretty sweet, you really can move. I have done overnighters with total pack weight of not quite 10lbs and it was awesome. I bushwack a lot, so it's nice to be able to jump down off rocks and small hills with no problem--you forget the pack is there almost.

Sucks about the bear can! Glad I never have to deal with them, haha! Wait... I would like to do the PCT one day... so... crap! Well at least I don't have to worry about that here.

So even if you had the time, 4 day trips are your limit? That's cool, I can respect that and know what you mean. Who knows, maybe I will hate my first thru hike, but I doubt it. I can't remember the last trip I had where I thought it was too long... has not happened here in Sweden at least, and I have lived here for 6 years now.

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Weather and trip length on 02/27/2012 13:02:01 MST Print View

The issue about facing harsh weather in short vs long trips is twofold. On one side, as it's been said, a long hike will make you go through bad weather sooner or later, not necessarily on a short one. On the other side, on a long hike you usually have the option to take it easier in bad weather, wait the weather. On a weekend trip, you have to take it as it comes if you don't want to dramatically change the whole trip.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
The validity of going lightweight for shorter trips on 02/27/2012 13:35:17 MST Print View

I take the same pack whether the trip is one night or ten. I really don't need or want anything more than I regularly carry!

An overnighter gives the option to take fresh food, or a beer or two, while keeping total pack weight at a reasonable level (say the weight of a three or four day trip). However, I almost always have home-dehydrated meals to try out, and I prefer to save the beer for when I get home. YMMV!

While going farther/faster is not really an option at my age (it's more that if I weren't lightweight, I couldn't go at all), it certainly is important for a lot of people.

Besides, why carry any more than you have to? IMHO, comfort on the trail is just as important as comfort in camp. Maybe more so!

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Weekend Trips on 02/27/2012 15:39:46 MST Print View

I look at UL as most beneficial on a weekend trip. Many regular 20-25lb BW hikers I know hike around 10 miles per day while backpacking. That gives you a range of 15 miles before you have to turn around. This limits the number of trails you can do or if you aren't going as far the time spent at your destination. With a 10lb BW it seems to take half of the effort and I can hike at just under my day hike speed. A 20 mile day with moderate elevation becomes only 8 hrs of hiking. You add 50% to 100% to the maximum distance you can cover.

The biggest thing though is that you don't lose any comfort with a 10lb base weight. I am not sure what I would add back in other than heavy food and alchohol. There just isn't much fucntional difference between a 10lb BW and a 25lb BW.

Since I rarely get out for more than weekend trips these days having a lighter pack allows me to go much further than I could otherwise and take trips that many people need a week to take. I am also now pushing myself to get a better shape so I hike faster on the ups and run the flats expanding the range even further.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: The validity of going lightweight for shorter trips on 02/27/2012 16:07:40 MST Print View

"Anyhow, do you go lighter or heavier for overnighters and other shorter trips? Why or why not?"

Normally much lighter, unless I need to carry a lot of water, then a heavier pack is in order. Often I don't bring a shelter or rain gear on overnight trips if the weather is predicted to be good. Not unusual in spring or summer to be around 2 lbs base for a 2 or 3 day trip for mild weather a reliable water sources.

Anthony Miller
(Heirphoto) - F
UL For day hikes too on 04/08/2012 15:36:44 MDT Print View

I prefer going UL even for day hikes. I like heading out prepared for whatever the day may bring. Often it is cold in the morning in late winter, early spring, it might rain or it might jump up to 70deg. I don;t want to head home because the weather changed and I may wish to linger in the woods all day and draw or read or enjoy a cup of tea and just think. Going UL lets me take a full day's needs and still carry a pack that well, does not feel like I am carrying a pack at all. An 8oz GG Murmur, a super light soft shell or polyfill puffy layer, a super light rain or wind shell, a Ti cup and Gram Weenie stove, lunch and 2L of water and the pack still feels empty and because it all pack so small I feel pretty streamlined. I have room for a sketchbook, watercolors, a camera, a Kindle or whatever the day's mood decides.

I've done the same with a bulky, heavy 3lb pack, a heavier bulky fleece, a hard shell for rain, etc..... and the weight is double as well as the bulk. yeah, the weight is still very small but walking feeling unladen is just so much nicer.

I am more comfortable when well prepared but hate to carry a lot of weight. It is fun to spend the day without ever feeling the pack on my back.


Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: Re: The validity of going lightweight for shorter trips on 04/08/2012 17:41:00 MDT Print View

Cesar, the terrible secret of long distance hiking is that it doesn't make it feel like you've gotten "enough." If anything, it makes you want even more. Some friends of mine are heading out tomorrow to hike the CDT. I'm so green with envy. My little weekend of hypothermia didn't even bring me to my senses.

Justin Brennan
(jgbrennan) - MLife

Locale: Here and there.
Weekend vs. Thru on 04/09/2012 14:36:09 MDT Print View

When I acquired my first full set of hiking gear (ie: not borrowing from family members, friends, etc.) my base weight was around 25 lbs or so. I was happy with that, because I could carry it for 7-10 (shelter to shelter on the AT) miles a day on a 4-5 night trip, no problem. Since then, my base weight has dropped to right at about 10 lbs for a 3 season hike, and on shorter trips, I look forward to just going as far as I can each day vs. making a plan ahead of time. I am planning on thru hiking the AT in 2014 (tried in 2011, had to get off just past Pearisburg, VA for a family emergency) and I don't see myself making too many changes to my gear. If anything, I will try to shed a few more pounds between now and then.

Kevin J
(KevinJ) - F
Re: Re: The validity of going lightweight for shorter trips on 05/03/2012 11:31:13 MDT Print View

Hobbes: Seriously? 6lb base weight? I'm brand new to this forum and pretty new to backpacking in general so I am only starting to have SUL/UL come into view, but 12.5lbs for a 4-day trip is kind of mind boggling.

Would you mine running through a quick list of what you're carrying and general weights? I mean, I had no concept of UL when I started buying gear so nothing I have is optimum, but I'm almost at like 7lbs for just my pack (Kelty Redwing 3100) and bag (Mountain Hardware Extralamina 20)!


Edited by KevinJ on 05/03/2012 11:32:02 MDT.