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Switching to Light Backing .. Guide me Plz ;)
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Nathan Dennis
Switching to Light Backing .. Guide me Plz ;) on 08/26/2012 17:58:19 MDT Print View

I just returned from a weekend trip with son ...

I learned a few things ..
My recent knee injury will not stand up to a traditional backpack load any longer ...
I have no idea how to Backpack light ..

Anyway, I was reading through the forums here and there is a tremendous amount of information, but I'm struggling with where to start ... what gear should i immediately start looking for ... what are some of the best cost effective solutions for buying light gear for two ..

If you folks could point me to a few threads that address this or give me some pointers I'd be much appreciative ..

Thx in advance!

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Switching to Light Backing .. Guide me Plz ;) on 08/26/2012 18:25:24 MDT Print View

Just the tip of the iceberg for information here.

The classic

A forum assisted guide

Take a look at what others are taking for similar conditions. Check out Community Gear Lists over to your right.

Let us know where you go so we can give some more specialized help. Post a list of the gear you have now. What type of backpacking experience do you have?

Ask questions, Answers are usually not in short supply.

Edited by kthompson on 08/26/2012 18:27:03 MDT.

steven franchuk
Re: Re: Switching to Light Backing .. Guide me Plz ;) on 08/26/2012 18:44:18 MDT Print View

The first thing you could do is to get a scale and start to weigh each item you carry individually. Then once you know what your heaviest items are you can start looking looking for lighter weight alternatives.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Re: Switching to Light Backing .. Guide me Plz ;) on 08/26/2012 19:41:00 MDT Print View

The biggest weight savings will probably come from simply not bringing things you really don't need. Extra shoes, camp chairs etc....That said your second biggest savings will come from the big three, Shelter, Sleep System, Backpack. I think the best thing may be to start by looking at some gear lists of people that have base weights in the 10-15lb range. I wouldn't jump to people's lists below 10lbs because it may just scare you away from doing anything.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Switching to Light Backing .. Guide me Plz ;) on 08/26/2012 20:06:44 MDT Print View

Consider laying out all the items you took on your weekend trip, and then write them all down. All of them. Weigh them if you have a scale and add the weights to your list. Copy/paste your list to a post here. Plenty of folks would be happy to pick apart your list and offer lighter alternatives (and what you might consider leaving out altogether) for you. This way you get very specific advice instead of general advice. FWIW.

Nathan Dennis
Thx so far! on 08/26/2012 20:17:25 MDT Print View

Thanks for the input so far!

Probably the first thing i need to do is get rid of my old Dana Design Terraplane X and our Marmot Zoom Tent ... For the most part I will always be with my son ... so I know I need a two person tent ... I'm guessing there are some light options out there ..

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Thx so far! on 08/27/2012 01:27:28 MDT Print View

I liked Mike Clelland's book, Ultralight Backpackin' Tips when I switched to UL. Andrew Skurka has a great one too. The more information you can gather before you start buying the better.

Don't be afraid to try things out and to come back to the drawing board. If you're careful and if you educate yourself, you can get away without spending exorbitant sums of money.

Also, I'd get a BPL membership for the articles. Don't bother with the MLife (no real return for that investment), but you'll save that much cash and more just with the wealth of information available to you there.

Welcome to the community.

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
Re Switching to Light Backing .. Guide me Plz ;) on 08/27/2012 12:44:35 MDT Print View

As a fellow newbie to attempting to go UL- my recommendation is to study the links and read the books BEFORE you buy ANYTHING. I got all excited about going UL and started buying some things after reading for only a couple of weeks only to find that within a few more weeks I was no longer satisfied with my choices because I learned about better ones through my study (esp. reading the gear reviews here and on similar sites). It's going to cost me in one way or another- either I will use my less-than-optimal gear until I wear it out all the while wishing I had the better gear, or I'll buy a second set of gear that I now wish I had and will have overspent by buying the first set. So be patient, read and learn, THEN buy. :)

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
flik lock trekking poles on 08/27/2012 15:50:50 MDT Print View

Nathan, I've found no one single item better for knees than using good trekking poles, adjustable, like black diamond trail ergo cork, you can find those online usually in sales for 70 or so. Flick locks are a stronger design than the twist lock, and easier to adjust. These last forever, so it's a one time investment, you can get new tips, but shouldn't need them for hundreds of miles, many hundreds. Once you learn to walk with them, you take a huge load off your knees in almost all circumstances, particularly down hill, but really everywhere, I find. Except long flat trails, but I don't usually see those in the real world I am in.

Once you get your pack weight to about 20 pounds minus food etc, which you can do for very little money, carrying less stuff, replacing a few of the main items with good, cheap, but lighter, stuff, you are pretty much there.

When you start getting under 15 pounds for the pack minus food/water, consumables, it takes more work and learning, and a lot more either time or money, and after that point you enter into what's known as diminishing returns, at least that's what I find, but it is fun to chip away at the gear as a hobby, as long as you don't get too carried away with it. But for your knees getting that pack to weigh under 30 pounds total for a trip is the key, with trekking poles I think you'll find your knees much happier, mine have voted and will not let me go for any hike at all without them. I live in an area where everything involves hills if I'm hiking though.

There's always threads here about how to do it, if you just filter out the ul and sul guys and just look for basic good ideas on how to drop weight to a nice light backpacking level, you'll find your trips and knees happier.

Edited by hhope on 08/27/2012 18:47:27 MDT.

Nathan Dennis
My Current Gear on 08/28/2012 09:03:29 MDT Print View

This is what I currently have for my main gear ... again I'm just starting backing again after 10+years away

Dana Design Terraplane X = 7lbs
Marmot Zoom Tent (for 2 of us) = 6.5 lbs
Sleeping System (north face bag, Sol lite z) = 4.5 lbs

I know I can easily shed some lbs with a newer bag, tent, and a down bag

John Almond
(FLRider) - F

Locale: The Southeast
First, shed what you don't use. on 08/28/2012 10:24:09 MDT Print View

Start with a winnowing of the gear that never gets used on trips.

Did you bring anything on this last trip that didn't get used, or only got used because you brought it? If so, try going without on the next trip. Don't count your first aid kit among this gear, though.

Next, you've already taken a look at your sleeping gear and backpack. Great! However, don't rush out and make a purchase just yet.

Start by looking at lightweight options for your shelter. What kind of weather do you usually face on trips? Are there lots of bugs? Would you be happy with a tarp tent set-up, a pair of hammocks, or even something so minimalist as a tarp and a pair of bivvies? That'll start you looking in the right direction for the conditions expected on the majority of your trips. For me, since I live in Florida, an hammock (to keep me off of the ground, away from the bugs and the swamp water) was a good call: it doesn't get cold for the majority of the year, so the "cold backside" problems that others face are actually a plus in the sweltering heat.

Next, look at lightweight options for your insulation. Here, you need to make the call on whether you want one sleep system for all of the weather you may encounter or if you want multiple systems geared to the summer, shoulder seasons, and winter. Summer trips (depending on location) can be really lightweight, while deep winter means more weight. Are you willing to use a pad and a top quilt rather than a full bag? You can shed weight that way. Or do you want the draft blocking capabilities of a full mummy bag? You can avoid carrying extra clothes that way.

Next, take a look at your clothing system. What sort of temperatures are you looking at for your trips? For warm weather (above 50 F at night), I don't carry extra clothing except for a set of fresh undies (helps with hygene issues in hot weather). For colder trips (40 F to freezing), I carry a longsleeve baselayer, a pair of socks, and a wool cap for sleeping in. For colder trips (down to 20 F), I add a fleece and a pair of long underwear rather than the regular compression short undies. My top quilt doubles as a puffy layer, so I've also got that for colder temps in the morning around camp.

Next, look at your rain gear. This is an essential part of your clothing system and temperature management system. It can be a windbreaker layer for when the temperatures are lower, allowing you to leave a dedicated wind shirt home. How light is it, and how much rain protection are you getting from it? Personally, I like a poncho since it vents better than most jackets and doubles as a pack cover (eliminating that weight from my pack). However, again, I hike in warmer weather than most of the country.

Next, look at your miscellaneous stuff. Is there a lighter way to treat your water? Is there a lighter stove option out there for you? Are your ditty bag items (headlamp, firestarter, knife, etc.) heavier than they need to be? Etc.

Finally, and only last, should you be looking at a new pack. Once you've got the rest of your gear dialed in, you can choose the right pack for it. That way, you know what weight you're going to be carrying most of the time and what volume it's going to take up. This allows you to decide on how burly a pack you need and how large it needs to be.

Hope it helps!

Edited by FLRider on 08/28/2012 10:25:48 MDT.

chris Mcfarland

Locale: baba yaga's porch
welcome! on 08/30/2012 20:39:21 MDT Print View

Get a scale and weigh everything! When you decide to remove or replace a piece of gear, do it slow and safely. Don't change your entire kit and then go on a 6day-make your mileage or starve- trip. Some of the most insightful changes to my kit came to me on short 24 to 36 hour trips. Its no big deal to leave early when you where going home tomorrow anyway right? And try to remember that LW, UL, and SUL backpacking are skill sets developed on the trail not just sets of gear.
UL backpacking is an obsession of mine, but i love it because it makes backpacking more fun for me and i get out more because of it.
Most importantly have fun. And if you get the bug and go ul or sul, remember that not everyone cares if you cut your tooth brush down to 2grams and can still use it as an effective tent stake... while brushing... but we will :)

Gregory Allen
(Gallen1119) - M

Locale: Golden, CO
Great advice so far on 08/30/2012 21:15:41 MDT Print View

My wife and I started the summer with 30 and 42 lb packs respectively. We hadn't hike much in years and after that first outing we were miserable. Fortunately for us, we were passed on the trail by a guy and his 16 y/o son who were doing a thru hike on the Colorado Trail. They had these tiny packs and were doing 470 miles over 4 and a half weeks! I read the Clelland book and became inspired! I lurked on this site and made one simple post similar to yours, and it only took 48 hours before I joined. The advice you have gotten so far is excellent and from many of the same people who gave me initial advice. What you have seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg. The discussion and articles have been invaluable. We are now setting out with 12 and 15 lb packs and have enjoyed ourselves so much more. I haven't really spent a lot of $ either, mostly just removed stuff we didn't need or use. A digital kitchen scale and a spreadsheet will become your best friend.

I echo the advice to not go out and start buying right off the bat. Start slow and buy/replace when you want or are able. We still haven't replaced our shelter and that will probably cut at least another 1-2 lbs each. I was tempted to buy a new lightweight tent, but now am considering a MYOG option. We have be fine tuning all summer with just 1-2 night trips and I likely won't do anything longer until next Spring. Our feet are happy and blister free. Our backs aren't screaming for ibuprofen. We have so much more confidence...confidence by education and experience.