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Trying to get down to 20lb pack need advice.
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Brian Kelly
Trying to get down to 20lb pack need advice. on 09/20/2012 06:57:38 MDT Print View

I am new to the forum and to backpacking light in general. My last trip i carried 38lbs and the wife carried 27 lbs. I would like to get my pack (and hers but just dealing with mine for now) down to 20-25 lbs. From what i have read the fastest and best way to cut weight is to lighten my big 3: pack, sleeping bag and shelter. I currently have the rei half dome which is just over 5lbs i think the Gregory bontaro 75 and my sleeping bag was a marmot saw-tooth.
I want to go to a 2 person tarp system with a bug net bc my wife needs one when she goes with me. something like this for example.
Also i was thinking of going to a pack like the ohm2.0 or one from hyperlite and lastly i was thinking of going to a quilt.
What i am asking from you guys is some options on those items that i am looking for and other opinions on how best to cut the weight.
i hope i was easy to understand i tend to ramble on thanks for all your time and advice in advance.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Trip Conditions on 09/20/2012 07:40:22 MDT Print View

What are your trip conditions going to be like. Temperature, Bugs, Rain, Bear Cans?and Length of trips.

Assuming a generic 7 day trip with lots of accessable water you would want to target 1.5lbs of food per day plus 2.2lbs of water. This totals 12.7 lbs plus another 1/2lb for fuel gives you 13.2 lbs of consumables so you need to target a base weight of 10 to 12 lbs.

Assuming freezing as the minimum temp you will want to get your self a sub 2lb bag at a minimum and perferably sub 20 oz. Bag or Quilt is up to you but check out Mont bell, Western Mountaineering, Marmot, or feathered friends for bags. I don't know much about quilts but Enlightened Equipment seems to be pretty popular around here and low cost.

For your pack again look at the sub 2lb range (I have a ULA circuit which is 2.5 and 25% of my baseweight but it carries so nice I think its worth it)

For a tent target 1.5lbs per person or less. Check out tarptent, I really like them and they have a wide variety of options in single and double wall tents.

For a sleep pad keep it under 1lb

Clothing is a big area that is probably the easiest to cut just by leaving things at home. In my opiniom the max pieces of clothes that should be packed is the following

Sleep shirt
Long underwear
Sleep socks
Insulating jacket
rain pants (I don't bring any but others like them)

Any thing else is a luxury item and really the sleep shirt and extra socks are a luxury on this list as well. If you notice there are no changes of clothes. You hike in the same thing everyday. Target 2.5lbs for all of your clothes. Also not on this list is Camp shoes. (another hot topic and a personal decision)

Cook kit - single pot, freezer bag cooking and spoons is all you need. The entire kit excluding fuel should be under 1/2 lb for both people.

Following these targets you would have about

So following the above totals you would have 9.25 lbs of gear, the above targets will allow you not to sacrifice any comfort compared to what you are currently carrying. Adding in 1 - 2 lbs of miscellanious stuff brings you into that 10-12 lb range. Once you have made your initial cuts to your list post in on the gear list part of the site if you want it torn apart.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Trying to get down to 20lb pack need advice on 09/20/2012 07:44:22 MDT Print View

I think the easiest way to get your weight down is to carry less stuff.

As far as the possibilities on your big 3, I would also look at options from Zpacks and Mountain Laurel Designs regarding packs and tarps. I would consider Enlightened Equipment for a quilt. I would also consider some of the fully enclosed shelters from Tarptent and Six Moons if you are always going to have an inner with a tarp. Lots of people seem to like Big Agnes too if you need full enclosure.

Edited by alexdrewreed on 09/20/2012 09:04:35 MDT.

Harrison Carpenter
(carpenh) - M

Locale: St. Vrain River Valley
Re: on 09/20/2012 07:47:39 MDT Print View

Rambling is what hikers do, Brian. :-)

I don't feel comfortable making gear recommendations, since I'm not much of a reviewer. But I can offer you a few ideas about the process of "going UL." In fact, everyone in this forum can offer you some ideas; we've all been in your place.

Focusing upon the "big four" (pack, shelter, bag, pad) is the right thing t do. Replacing the bag/pad combo is the easiest. Replacing the shelter is also easy, but it involves some kind of investigation, and/or testing. The choice of packs often flows out of your choices of bag, pad, and shelter, since those three things take up the bulk of your pack's volume (less consumables, of course).

Essentially, that is the procedure I followed-- replacing a rather heavy synthetic bag with a down-filled one (with the same temperature rating), replacing a self-inflating pad with an inflatable one, replacing a 4-1/2 pound solo shelter with a 1-1/8 pound option (that makes use of my trekking poles, hase a similar interior volume/peak height, and storage vestibule volume). In all cases, I thought hard about my typical trekking routine (hike through the Rockies, at moderate/subalpine elevations, in summer/fall, for 3-7 days). I tried to make my choices in consideration of what I'd learned I needed in order to make those treks successful.

I've heard/read several times that, if you have the time, it's best to start by replacing the pack. The argument is that by cutting down to a lower volume/lower weight option, you're forcing yourself to analyze the packed sizes (and therefore the weights) of the rest. I think that makes sense, but still, I think it's still important to seriously consider how, where, and how long you usually hike. Everyone's needs are different.

Tom Lyons
(towaly) - F

Locale: Smoky Mtns.
Lots of options. on 09/20/2012 07:51:44 MDT Print View

I think you're on the right track.

There are lots of options in all the categories you mentioned.
The Echo 2 is nice, but there are also many other nice double shelters, even ones made of cuben like that one, in lower price ranges. The most popular are the "mids" which are modified pyramids, and beaked partial pyramids. However, if you like the Echo and you can both fit inside it okay, then that would do fine to reduce your 5 lb tent weight. I'll leave it to others to make brand recommendations.

As for the quilt, that's a rather individual decision. The basic concept is that the down under you(when sleeping) is crushed and has very little insulation value in that state, so the quilters just eliminate it entirely and leave the back open to save a few extra ounces. Some like this, and some don't. It can get drafty. I think you have to try it before you decide to buy one. Some really like it.

Don't forget to lose some weight in the sleeping pad. The sleeping pad is probably the heaviest item outside the Big 3, and could be heavier than some of your Big 3. You should be able to find good warm comfortable pads below a pound each, if you study. This can really carve off some weight.

Get lighter clothes to wear and carry, with high-compressibility. At this point, after you deal with the Big 3 and the sleeping pad, then you are getting into the zone where you try to "nickel and dime" your way to lower weight, by eliminating a few ounces from as many items as possible. This adds up. Don't ignore it. You can drop a pound or more by paying attention to this little stuff.

Mike Feldman

Locale: SE USA
Easy to do but pace yourself on 09/20/2012 07:54:38 MDT Print View

Brian, in 8 years largely influenced by BPL my base weight before food n water has gone from 15-18 pounds( depend on season/trip), to 6-8 lbs., 10 w/bearcan on recent 9 day Sierra trip.Read the gear articles here, reviews, and postings.. You can save weight w/the big 3, a lot for you on the gear you cite at current use! Before you spend a lot of money on tarp shelters, if it was me find a used 8 by 10' Silnyon tarp, see how you and your wife like that. I tried the tarp/bivy, or just tarp, didnt work for me. Just too much fiddle factor!! There are a number of fully enclosed setups- way less than your REI 2 person tent! You will pay a lot for Cuben shelters.. For a one person shelter I currently use a Gossamer Gear, the One..For years used a TT Rainbow. Oh get your new pack last, after you decide on your shelter, and bag/quilt. You can save a lot of weight by not carrying extra clothes..Finally, you can buy a lot of the gear used on this forum( gear trade)..If it doesnt work turn around a sell it to someone on BPL..Welcome to BPL..

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Trying to get down to 20lb pack need advice. on 09/20/2012 08:10:45 MDT Print View

>> From what i have read the fastest and best way to cut weight is to lighten my big 3: pack, sleeping bag and shelter.

Not sure that I agree. Might be the case for the hiker who's already trimmed his gear down but if this is your first real effort to reduce weight, I would first look at your *complete* gear list, as in get a spreadsheet and actually write it all down with their weights. If you haven't done this yet, it's a worthwhile exercise that may surprise you.

Decide which items *always* get used and which items you take "backups/just in case". Your big 3 are going to be in the "always" column. Most of your weight is going to be in the "backups/just in case" column. Make sure you break it down sufficiently... 16oz for "toiletries" in the 'always' column is no good.

No point in looking at UL packs until you have your gear in the right weight-range for one.

Mike Feldman

Locale: SE USA
Also get a digital scale on 09/20/2012 09:10:26 MDT Print View

You should before anything get a digital scale. That is when for me other items other than the big 4 starting dropping in weight. Before the digital scale my first aid kit would weigh8-10 ounces, now it's 2 to 3 ounces for most trips. For me a little here n there ended up being several or more pounds. Then you may decide on a 2-3 day trip, do I really need camp shoes like 12-14 ounce crocs when I can just loosen the laces on my trailrunners, ect..

John Almond
(FLRider) - F

Locale: The Southeast
Re: Trying to get down to 20lb pack need advice. on 09/20/2012 09:11:38 MDT Print View

Been hacking at this for the last couple of months, due to a bad experience on my first trip to the mountains. I discovered that my 30 lb FSO weight was not going to let me cover ground like I wanted to. So, I started working on both my waist and my pack seriously.

The four biggest tips I can offer to anyone who wants to drop weight are:

1.) Don't carry things you don't use.

With the exception of your first aid kit (which shouldn't contain more items than you know how to use), don't carry anything that you wouldn't use under normal trail conditions. Example: if you're going to be hiking (or biking, or...) long distances solo, don't carry a second tarp. Your poncho (or other rain gear, whatever) will do for when you're cooking dinner, if you know how to set up your stove in the rain (which, honestly, you should know how to do if you're going to be out there alone, as a safety issue, anyway).

2.) Get a scale and weigh everything.

Knowing your gear weights is the second-most important thing you can do. Once you do know them, you can start making a good run towards finding lighter gear.

3.) Think about your gear as a system.

Once you start thinking about your gear as an intricate system, in which certain items support one another, instead of thinking about it as stand-alone gear, you can make certain compromises that allow for lighter gear. Example: instead of using an heavy, large tarp to keep you dry on long solo hikes when you're in your hammock, you can use a smaller tarp and an undercover that doubles as a poncho, thus losing weight. Another example: instead of bringing a base layer, fleece layer, puffy layer, wind shell, top quilt, and rain gear, bring a base layer, fleece layer, a top quilt that doubles as a puffy layer, and your rain gear.

4.) Substitute experience for gear.

It's essential to have experience out on the trail. You never know what you'll wind up running into out there, and the single greatest survival tool you can ever carry sits right between your ears. Over and above that, though, is the fact that you can sub experience for heavy gear. If you know how to use a wood stove even in soaking conditions, you can delete the weight of fuel from your pack. If you know how to take advantage of terrain features to cut wind, you can carry less insulation and rain coverage. Etc., etc., etc.

Those are the four greatest insights I've had so far as to lightening my pack. The trick, however, is to ensure that you are still safe while doing this. I know my limits; know yours before you go out there.

Before you decide to go out and purchase gear, think about the sorts of trips you want to make. If conditions are going to be above freezing, don't bring a zero-degree bag; bring a twenty-degree or even a thirty-two-degree bag (but, if you go the latter route, make sure you know how to make a survival fire!). If you're going to be in the desert, make sure you bring enough water (including the storage equipment for it). Etc.

Backyard (or car camp) testing is essential before you hit the trail. Short-mileage overnighters are also a wonderful way to get your feet wet before winding up thirty miles from the nearest road with freezing conditions and no way to make a fire.

Hope it helps!

Brian Kelly
thanks for advise on 09/20/2012 09:38:57 MDT Print View

First id like to say thanks to all the fast and very informative helpful responses. I was shocked to see so many replies already, especially since they all look like everyone really put some time and effort into them. So thanks i need it lol. That said I knew Id forget to tell you guys something important. The where and when. Well i am from western Pa and most of our trips will in the Pa area. Probably down into Wv too since we are close to that area too. We also will go to Colorado once a year for a trip and we wont go more than 7-10 days id have to guess.
I have one more question many of you seem to like taprtents which arent they just a single walled tent that u use trekking poles for? If so i have read that single wall tents get a ton of condensation build up and u can wake up soaked from that, is that in accurate? IF it matters im 5'8 and wife is 5'4

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Tarptents on 09/20/2012 09:52:48 MDT Print View

In my experience, tarptents do tend to get condensation. You can get it on double skin tents and even a tarp too in the right(wrong) conditions. I think a tarptent tends to have more problems with condensation than other options. That being said, I still think they are a good option if you want full enclosure. On clear nights, you can usually open one up enough to prevent serious problems. On rainy nights, the condensation can feel like rain coming through as a fine mist, but I think its really just that the impact of the raindrops flicks the condensation off as mist. Its a little annoying but has never caused a serious problem for me.

Will Webster
TarpTent (R) on 09/20/2012 12:16:02 MDT Print View

TarpTents by Henry Shires (the brand) are available in both single and double skinned versions. Double skin keeps the condensation (and the flying bloodsuckers) away from you.

When my wife and I transitioned to lightweight backpacking a couple years ago we bought a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent at about half the weight of our old Sierra Designs tent. It's a good tent for a couple IF you don't have to spend too much time in it and you don't have to get in and out while it's raining too hard. We recently bought a TarpTent Stratospire 2 which is marginally lighter, much roomier, and doesn't let rain in when you open the door.

We live in PA also and agree with your wife that a bug shelter is mandatory for much of the year in this part of the country.

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
Pack and other stuff on 09/20/2012 14:29:24 MDT Print View

RE Packs:
Get a new pack last. If you haven't finalized your gear yet, how do you know how big and how supportive a pack you need?

Also, most lightweight packs are (a lot) less supportive for heavy loads. Your Baltoro is a tank, but it will comfortably carry a lighter load, you can't carry a heavy load comfortably in a light pack.

Indeed try out very cheap nylon tarp first, to see if you like it and how big you need, before you spring for a Cuben one. You might like a mid, or one of the new lightweight tents better.

Indeed, get a scale and start weighing stuff.

The basic process for me is this:
Previously I would think:
Will this be usefull? Is it lightweight? Well, you know what? A backpack full of usefull, lightweightstuff is still very heavy. :-)
For light and ultralight packing think:
Can I leave this behind?

Again, think in systems. This might not be obvious if you haven't done it before. So here are some examples:
1 I used to not take a pillow, but use some spare clothes. Now, I take a thinner quilt and expect to wear all my clothes at night, so I bring a 1 oz pillow.
2 for my upcoming trip I am concerned about dust storms, so I am contemplating a fabric inner for my Mid shelter. Besides block dust, it also makes it warmer in the tent, perhaps allowing me to leave my down pants behind for sleeping. (I will put my legs in my quilt during camp time).

So there you see how shelter, clothes and sleep items all act together in one interconnected system.

There are many technique articles on BPL, regarding condensation, packing a frameless pack, bearbagging etc.

I can also recommend Andrew Skurka's book Ultimate Hiker's handbook
PS. that title refers to becoming an "ultimate hiker", not that is is the ultimate book

Edited by Tjaard on 09/20/2012 21:02:15 MDT.

Brian Kelly
Great advice guys, thanks. on 09/20/2012 19:42:44 MDT Print View

thanks again i got lots of advice from all you and i will defiantly be putting all your advice to good use. Also i already read that book it was my step one in switching to light and ultra light backpacking.

John Abela
(JohnAbela) - MLife

Re: Trying to get down to 20lb pack need advice. on 09/21/2012 00:05:10 MDT Print View

Hello Brian,

First welcome to the website!

So many people said so many good things above that there is not a whole lot left to say, and most of what I will say is just reiterations.

Obviously there are two aspects to making that initial jump from a heavy setup to a lighter one: First is to acquire lighter weight gear, and second is to carry less stuff.

I think a good start would be:

Backpack: pick up a couple of ULA Backpacks. They are considered by most hikers to be the most comfortable backpacks out there and they are the de facto backpack on the PCT for many many years (one hiker this year on the PCT said over 80% of the packs he saw other pct hikers using were ula packs).

Shelter: The catalyst and the circuit are ones you will want to look at. I have loved the HMG Echo shelters since I first bought mine. I have called the HMG Echos "the most bombproof cuben fiber shelter" out there, and it is. However, as Will Rietveld and myself and others have addressed it is not a very tall shelter. If you and your wife like room to move around inside you are going to want to look to other shelters. The Mountain Laurel Designs DuoMid and insert has been discussed above as a possible alternative. It will give you a lot of headroom and a double-wall system (like the HMG) when it is setup with the bug net. I would also offer up for suggestion the Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo as a rock solid two person shelter.

Sleeping bags:

Than in regards to staying warm at night... the Western Mountaineering SummerLite and the Western Mountaineering Alpinlite are considered by many to be top end sleeping bags. The SummerLite would give you a good bag and the Alpinlite, though heavier, would give your wife the extra warmth that they need and a bit of extra wiggle room that women seem to want. Personally, I will stick with the MontBell U.L. Super Spiral Down Hugger #1 and #3 because even though it weights more, I have truly fallen in love with its design.

That pretty much covers my advice for those looking to make the big step into the UL world.