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Newbie questions on gear (lightening up)
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(Schado6) - MLife
Newbie questions on gear (lightening up) on 02/02/2013 19:07:57 MST Print View

Greetings all. Have been lurking and reading up on multiple items as I'm trying to trim some weight (not necessarily to be ultra-light but much lighter than I am now). Currently hauling about 40lbs on a backpacking (3-4 day weekend) wanting to be lighter than what I have now. Google led me to this site so for the last few weeks I have been perusing it daily. I have been through a lot of the searches and reading about the big 3 (tent/sleeping bag/backpack). I have been to vendor sites (tarp tent, big sky, etal) names i never heard about before reading forums here. I want to thank you all for your contributions as newbies come aboard (ie like me!).

Not to turn this into some previous 'which 2p tent should I get, etc' (read many many pages of forums but some are dated) but when its all said and done I guess it is.... want to ask the following:

a) On tents, I currently have a Nemo Losi 2p, its for me, I solo when out (once a month over weekend)I love the Nemo as it is bombproof in storms. I ENJOY bug free/dry 'home away from home'. But it is weighty.... Want to lighten shelter space up but still have a true 2p tent if needed.I have looked at Scarp2, Big Sky Evolution and others. The more gear forum articles I read the more confused I get (read one, ok thats great will get that, read another, go dang maybe that one is better...) For comfort it has to be a true tent not a tarp (ie mesh/bathtub floor) and I want it to hold up in severe thunderstorms (common in SE) I don't really care if uses hiking poles or has poles with it. I am not a fan of building my own, I don't sew and have no desire to learn.... I am not large in any direction and just want a comfortable dry home away from home. I truly have spent weeks reading through past posts and youtube videos and can say I am more knowledgable but no closer to knowing what to purchase. Have seen several Losi's on this site in the for sale forum so wondering what you prior Losi owners switched to.

b) Sleeping bags - I have a Kelty Down 20degree bag. Like it but again, heavy as I do more research. It suits me but looking for lighter. I don't want a quilt, read through all of that (again, not necessarily uber UL just want to significantly LIGHTEN my load - I don't care if I am carrying a few more ounces than someone else). Have seen some nice posts on 850 and 900 down filled bags that intrigue me but wanting to make sure I am not spending extra $$$ on marketing/names that I don't need to. I liked what I read about the zpacks bag but I prefer a mummy bag rated to 20 degrees, no current plans to hike in Antarctica or Alaska so I think 20 if fine, can sleep on top of it in summer, if bring it at all...

b) Finally,once have the above two nailed down can determine the pack, I have an Osprey 70L it is comfortable, big and heavy, but have read up on ultralight packs, bought and read Andrew's Ultimate hikers gear guide, I'm leaning towards a zpac depending on tent/sleeping system.

I have read numerous threads for background on these topics, but I hope you experienced backpackers can appreciate my questions above and point me in the right direction.

Kudos to forum staff, great site, I signed up tonight after a bit of time of free browsing time to research forums, am grateful that option was available as I'm sure many new to 'Light/UL' will affirm, we don't know what we don't know.


light but not UL on 02/02/2013 19:41:08 MST Print View

Since you are only committed to going lighter, not lightest, you probably should avoid anything that is really UL.

As a "cant - go - wrong" combination, you might consider:

ULA circuit
WM Ultralite
Big Agnes Flycreek or Easton Kilo

With these you can definitely get your pack in the 20-25 lb range total for 5 days including 2L water.

This combo used by lots of AT thruhikers.

There really isnt a better 20 degree bag.

The most you can save on the pack and tent with other setups would be about 2 lbs, unless you go to small frameless CF sacks and tarps.

That 2 lbs buys you more reliable freestanding double wall shelter, and a durable pack with 35lb carry capacity for when you need it.

Disregard what mfgs say their pack max is. If it doesnt have a good hipbelt and stays, think 20 lbs as max comfortable carry wt.

Honestly, if you are carrying 40 lbs for 3-4 days, your Big 3 are not most of your problem. Once you get that under 30 lbs, THEN look at replacing the Big 3.
You are not ready for a zpacks pack.

Edited by livingontheroad on 02/02/2013 20:11:35 MST.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: light but not UL on 02/02/2013 20:11:22 MST Print View

i pretty much agree with MB.

Personally I would either keep the Kelty bag, as its a rated 20* and fairly compressable and good for now. (althought IMO a tad much in the temp range for SE)

I'd look at shelter and pack first. Ardy got the 2man?- go with a one man or single wall 2man. Get a single wall that you can guy out and that has ventilation since you are SE. My pops has the Rainbow. The Double is only 2.5lbs Cricket? Learn to pitch it properly and it'll handle all but the freak storms down there.

Don't know, but I'd put money on the fact that you carry a bunch of extranneous(sp?) 'junk'. Review other people's gearlists. Its tedious, but that's what this site is based on: Tedium

I bet you could simply leave some nonessential gear and drop a bit.

Weigh your clothes- you'll vomit.

Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
big 3 on 02/03/2013 06:19:18 MST Print View

Kevin, do you mind going with a single wall shelter and periodically having to deal with condensation (e.g. taking 5 mins in the morning to wipe down the walls with a handkerchief before packing it up?) If thats worth the weight savings to you (as it is for the vast majority of us), then look at tarptents. I honestly think they are the more affordable and traditional UL shelters out there (specifically look at either the rainbow, contrail and the stratospire 1 (which is actually is still a 2 wall shelther). Although they are 1 person tents, you can possibly squeeze in another person depending on size. If you want a dedicated 2p tent than look at the tarptent double rainbow, stratospire 2 or squall 2. The SMD lunar duo has the most space but doesn't look that wind stable to me.
The tarptents will weather any storm as good as a heavy nemo, marmot, tnf, mhw, or whatever else you can find at REI. Big sky tents look nice, but if you do enough searching, they've had a bad rep in the past...I'm unsure how that's changed since then.

For the pack, I agree with others and say to get a ULA and be done with's one of the more traditional packs (meaning super supportive, tough fabrics, nothing to fuss over) while still remaining light. Get a lighter cuben fiber pack later when you really commit to UL as there is no point in getting one when you are still hauling 30 lbs. My ULA is one of the most comfortable packs I own, and I own a lot of packs from sub 10 oz packs that I use for overnighters, to a ULA catalyst meant for month long trips. Look at the Circuit or Catalyst by them.

For the sleeping have a lot of options...I agree that you cant go wrong with Western Mountaineering, but don't forget feathered friends. The most budget friendly ultralight bag you can probably get is the sierra designs nitro 30 (which is conservatively rated and more like a 25 degree bag). They should be on clearance now that SD has discontinued that line. (it's $200 on the right now...PM if you need an invite).

Edited by Konrad1013 on 02/03/2013 06:30:04 MST.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Newbie questions on gear (lightening up) on 02/03/2013 08:21:24 MST Print View

If you haven't done the "spreadsheet" exercise yet, that's where I'd start.

You can probably shave that first pound or two simply by *not* taking things you don't need or consolidating/simplifying things, like emergency kits. I saved a lot of weight to start by re-thinking my clothes and single-use or "backup" gear items. I also did some simple low-cost things, like replacing stuff sacks (or consolidating multiples.)

Once I'd cleaned up my current gear list, it was much easier to see where I wanted to spend the bigger dollars, and in what order. I don't have a big gear budget but I was able to get exactly what I wanted and needed because I didn't have to purchase everything at once.

FWIW, I'm at the heavier end of UL and I take luxuries like a real pillow, Kindle. My 'big 4' are ULA Circuit, Feathered Friends bag, NeoAir XLite and I recently ordered an MLD cuben Trailstar (DIY silnylon tarps until now.) I also have a Lightheart Solo when I want bug-protection. Packweight for 3-4 days in moderate conditions is typically around 20lb.

Edited by DetroitTigerFan on 02/03/2013 08:23:08 MST.

. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 02/03/2013 09:24:02 MST Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 06/19/2015 10:38:42 MDT.

(Schado6) - MLife
Re: Newbie questions on gear (lightening up) on 02/03/2013 10:28:20 MST Print View

All, thank you for the great information. I should have clarified as was pointed out, I am carrying too much 'extra stuff'. In process of going through everything I typically carry and weighing it so I have a baseline and then based on my research eliminating all non-essential stuff/getting more efficient/lighter required gear. I'm shooting for less than 20lbs (less food) by the end of my first go round. As an example I have been carrying around a SOG FastHawk Tactical Tomahawk @20oz, never needed it, it's gone. Same for my uber first aid kit, etc. So, yes I am reviewing all of that and will make radical deletions to my current 'all but the kitchen sink' mentality. Same for my clothing, realize I can achieve some incredible weight savings in that department on everything from insulation layers to my bulky and heavy outer layers.

Thanks again for the great feedback and suggestions, will share my before and after information as I get it all together (or in many cases removed) from my typical packing list. Fully understand that this is a journey and not an end state :)



Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Newbie questions on gear (lightening up) on 02/03/2013 10:50:48 MST Print View

You can just write down the weights of all you items and add them up. A spreadsheet is convenient, but not a show stopper. The key thing is to weigh EVERYTHING. An investment in a digital scale will serve you well--- $25 or so on eBay.

Buy your pack last.

The Nemo is a nice tent. You could use it in fly/footprint mode as a single wall shelter while working on other things. The best of the single wall shelters will be lighter, but won't be any more weatherly. If you want to try tarp camping, buy an 8x10 poly tarp and go for it. If it works for you, then you can throw more money at it.

I think a 20f rated bag is a good choice ifvyou are going to own one bag. I don't know what your current bag weighs, but it's really just deciding how much weight reduction you are wiling to pay for. Go for quality regardless, so you just buy it once.

As others said, it sounds like your total weight issues go beyond the Big 3. Clothing was the hardest for me to nail down and as expensive as any of the Big 3, in fact I include clothing and consider the Big 4. From there it is picking away at all the little things and making sure you aren't loading up on "what ifs". That is where weighing everything and writing it down will help.

Common mistakes:

Too many spares, like clean clothes for each day, lots of spare socks and underwear, etc

An uncoordinated clothing kit, typically with one big heavy layer or stuff like cotton sweatshirts

Too many gadgets and toys.

Heavy tools like big multi-tools, large knives, axes or shovels

Big cook sets with multiple pots, fry pans, heavy water bottles, etc

Big first aid kits.

Heavy sleeping pads.


Large quantities of items like sunscreen, insect repellent, deodorant and the like. You want to use small containers with just enough for the planned trip.

The core ultralight principles:

You have control over the weight of your gear.

Weigh EVERYTHING, write it down and add it up.

Take only those items that you will actually use

Seek out multiple use items.

Seek out the lightest, highest performance gear you can afford.

Learn the principles of layering clothing and use those principles to greatest advantage.

Understand how your body works and do not fear nature. Fear causes us to over-equip.

Leave fashion and hyper-cleanliness at home. How you look isn't important and a little dirt won't hurt you.

Edited by dwambaugh on 02/03/2013 10:52:12 MST.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Newbie questions on gear (lightening up) on 02/03/2013 11:15:48 MST Print View

In general, don't take things you never use.

Except, you want to take a modest first aid kit, a little more clothing than you think you'll need in case it gets colder than you thought, and a little extra food in case you get stuck out longer than planned.

And usually you don't have to take a lot of (heavy) water. I take one pint (one pound). That's enough for all day if I start out hydrated, know there's a water source ahead, and it's not super hot. When I get to the water source, I may be a little de-hydrated so I'll drink a pint, and then fill pint bottle for the next leg of the trip. You could oviously carry this too far - but it works in many cases.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Weighty problem on 02/03/2013 11:25:21 MST Print View

I think you're probably carrying a lot of unnecessary stuff. Look at gearlist others have put together. Then look at what you are carrying extra. Then decide if you really need the extras. Probably not.
I think its also good to let go of ideas of what you think you have to have. A lot of experienced backpackers here will tell you you don't really need certain things. For example, a quilt can be more versatile than a bag in many ways. It vents better in hot weather so you can have a broader range of comfortable temperatures. Also, don't assume a tarp wont handle SE storms. Many will likely fare better than your existing tent. I'm not saying you necessarily need a tarp or a quilt. I just think you need to be willing to try something that is outside your comfort zone.

(Schado6) - MLife
Excellent Customer Service on 02/10/2013 12:33:48 MST Print View

On my quest to significantly lighten up, I had the most pleasant customer support experience from ULA. Had a few questions on harness and hip belt and late yesterday evening was in an email exchange with Chris M. at ULA who answered my questions promptly, provided additional advice and I'm now awaiting my ULA pack! Absolutely amazed with the incredible customer service I received from them! The quest continues, I'm researching quilts today! Thanks again for all of the comments/suggestions and advice above!


David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Less water (on your back) on 02/10/2013 14:01:09 MST Print View

I agree with everything Jerry has said. I tend to down a lot of water when I can and not carry nearly so much on my back. As you go to lighter, frameless, sometimes unpadded backpacks (which your lighter gear will allow), it's nice to minimize that dense, 2-pound quart of water. You may still have the platy bladder or old Evian bottles to carry 1 or 2 liters for a long dry stretch, but that's the only time I carry it. Caveat: it might be on my back for 20 minutes while the Iodine treats it, but then I down it.

1) it carries more comfortably in my stomach than on my back

2) it does me no good on my back; when in my stomach, I am hydrating.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Common Offenders on 02/10/2013 14:25:10 MST Print View

The "spreadsheet exercise" means going through everything and cutting away the fat. I would do it. I spent $200 on a shelter, $30 on a fleece sleeping bag, and $100 on an air mattress and then camped all the way across four states on a bike tour with a 9lb baseweight. I lived out of a single Sea to Summit Dry-sack, and it was a medium.

So, your problem is likely not your stuff but rather how much stuff you've got.

I second the recommendation for the Big Agnes Fly Creek, although to all reviews I've read (I have reviewed 1P tents extensively, though I am no expert) the Big Agnes Copper Spur is a small weight penalty to achieve the "bombproofness" you're used to with your Nemo. It's free-standing and very tough, and almost as large as some 2P tents.

As for sleeping bags, the Western Mountaineering bags ARE hard to beat. They are very light, reasonably durable, and most importantly, very aggressively costed. if you spent $250+ here on a 30ºF bag from them, it would last you the next decade (likely).

As for your backpack, most Osprey bags are pretty minimalist built. I doubt yours weighs more than 4-5lbs. I would stick with it, actually, until your base weight drops to 15lbs or so.

So what else are you carrying to make it to 40lbs? Here are some common offenders that weren't explicitly mentioned already:

Winter Jacket: Replace a heavy ski jacket with a down jacket, a lightweight fleece, and a lightweight rain shell

Heavy Duty Pants: replace anything thick, heavy, or overbuilt with a pair of rain pants, a light insulating baselayer like Smartwool, and a pair of running shorts for warm weather. You get bonus points for a skimpy cut!

Stove: Go with an alcohol stove or a lightweight canister stove like a Pocket Rocket.

Cooking Gear: a 700ml titanium pot with a titanium spork is all you need. They make some with a frying pan lid if you've gotta have fried stuff.

It's a little dated, but here's a spreadsheet I made for my trip last summer:

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Newbie questions on gear (lightening up) on 02/10/2013 16:09:33 MST Print View

"You can just write down the weights of all you items and add them up."

LOL. Maybe addition isn't taught in schools any more.

But yes, add it up. Or use your phone, calculator, beads, abacus, etc.

(Schado6) - MLife
As of Today 4/3/2013 on 04/03/2013 18:09:52 MDT Print View

Based on a lot of recommendations, research on these forums, and some shopping - base weight is now 14lbs 7oz (excluding carry/wear/food/water). I still have some trimming to do, have highlighted several things on my spreadsheet to replace and now have Mike Clelland's book Ultralight Backpackin' Tips that came in tonight, to refine my first aid kit, repair kit, couple of other items. Awesome videos by the way Mike!

I commandeered the garage for the weekend to lay everything out, weigh it and pack it for this weekend, I have a very large stack of stuff that is going to be sold or given away now based on my quest to lighten up. hehe

A question that has been bothering me this week is to find a pair of hiking pants that have built in liner that are lightweight. I have a pair of Columbia's (zip off/no liner) that weigh less than all my other hiking pants but looking for pair with built in liner to shave a few ounces of additional underwear. I have read *many* threads on them but many dating back to '06. I am leaning towards one pair normal, one pair zip off and be set for any circumstance. Quality > Cost. Thoughts?

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: As of Today 4/3/2013 on 04/04/2013 03:24:49 MDT Print View

Congratulations! Under 15lbs is a fantastic light weight setup to start trimming base weight (or to simply live in luxury).

+1 on the WM Ultralite. It is the gold standard of a 3 season bag. Although for the SE it may be a bit too warm. I feel it's too warm usually for my SW and it's really just a shoulder season bag now unless I'm making a trip to some high country.

A pack is very personal. Many are learning comfort is the number one priority followed closely by weight. I still use my Osprey Talon because it just carries so well for me, even though my baseweight is under 10lbs and full pack rarely 30lbs even with a gallon of water. The extra weight doesn't matter because it is so comfortable. Hopefully the ULA will treat you well like they have so many other hikers.

As for pants/underwear I'm a big fan of running shorts for underwear. They're light weight with built in liners, pants can be lighter because you don't need convertibles anymore and just go commando in the pants if your trip is long enough to necessitate washing. Personally I've been using some Arc'Teryx Ramparts (8oz) with heavy 6oz Golite running shorts (12" inseam since I'm thigh shy ;). If weather is cooler or lots of sun exposure I stick to my exofficio boxer-briefs since I avoid shorts. This saves on sunscreen weight which can be as much as my total base weight to protect my alabaster mexican skin.

The ramparts are probably the best pants I've ever owned. On their own they hold up to desert scrub better than anything I've seen and they also happen to be the lightest full pants I have found. Pricey but they just don't wear out.

Good luck, and as you said, enjoy the journey of enlightenment.