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Four Point Five Pounds.
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Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Four Point Five Pounds. on 02/07/2013 10:50:33 MST Print View

I've been thinking about gear a lot lately.
I'm considering the Sierra High Route as a semi-fast solo in summer of '14, an endeavor which I'd likely start training for throughout the coming year. I want to make sure that the gear I take into the Sierra this summer reflects the gear I'll likely carry on the SHR to give me plenty of time to dial it in.

So I'm thinking about my gear and can't help but laugh at myself in the process, as well as laugh at the process itself. The difference between my fairly spartan, UL gearlist and my "luxury" list?

Four point five pounds.

Four pounds means the difference between a framed vs. frameless pack, an super comfortable inflatable pad vs. a thin piece of foam, a double-walled freestanding shelter vs. a minimal tarp or mid, a canister stove (fast and easy) vs. alcohol or esbit, and a Paclite hardshell vs. a driducks top and trash bag skirt.

A 10.5 pound base (including bear canister) vs. a 15 pound base.
And then there is the factor of using a better pack with a better frame to carry that extra weight.

Four point five pounds.
It seems a very silly number to worry about.

While I understand that the SHR is a very demanding route and the weight I carry will be a factor, I'm also considering the psychological aspect of gear selection. Four point five pounds does not sound like much of a penalty for gear that will extend my comfort margin...which in the end, might be more important than weight alone. I've been on solos before and have hit some pretty low points, psychologically speaking, and know that it's in those moments it's really no fun to be roughing it, to be crawling under an inadequate tarp, to be wearing raingear that is marginally working, to be getting a poor night's sleep.

It's very hard to imagine not being able to make up for an extra four point five pounds in training.

I suppose this ties right back into the timeless argument about pack weight and the point of diminishing returns.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Four Point Five Pounds. on 02/07/2013 10:59:08 MST Print View

yup, there are diminshing returns, but the return curve is different for each of us.
(oh my gosh !! never thought I would be implying HYOH, I hate that term).

for me, solo, off trail, I would be erring on the side of safety, whatever that means in your gear. comfort is secondary at most, given the voluntary thrashing you are subjecting yourself to.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Four Point Five Pounds. on 02/07/2013 11:11:44 MST Print View

I've been doing a lot of thinking and gear research also. Partly because I've been pretty sick and have been home a lot these last few weeks. Partly because it's the winter doldrums. Partly because I too am planning a trip.

I haven't really looked at my gear weights recently, even though I've acquired new stuff over the past couple of years, so I started wondering if I've let my pack weight balloon without realizing it. At an initial glance, I could maybe shave off 8-10 ounces tops before I hit that wall where I'd need to drastically change my kit. I hover around the 9lb base pack weight, and it never seems worth the monetary or comfort sacrifices to try to go much lower.

4.5 pounds. Silly? Depends on what you're going after. Is the weight penalty on the trail enough to outweigh the comfort gain in camp? If you're using a supportive enough pack, then it's much easier to say no. But gasp! Isn't the point to look for ways to Lighten your load!? Depends if the diminishing returns have in reality turned into zero return.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Four Point Five Pounds. on 02/07/2013 11:26:09 MST Print View

I think the psychological aspect of the gear you carry is something that some people underestimate though, especially solo.

I've been in the Sierra with a 7lb. base, only to find myself cramped under a tiny tarp pitched 2' off the ground in pouring cold rain, getting my bivy sprayed, and going without a hot dinner because it just seemed like too much of a pain. When that's happened to you for your second or third night...pretty depressing, especially alone. Easy to want to bail out early. On that trip I did.

Did I survive? Sure. But repeating experiences like that on the SHR, alone and tired, seem like a surefire way to lose the mental battle and bail out early. I question how much comfort and rest are either over or under estimated in these scenarios.

I guess it's all a balancing act, of course.

I'm personally wagering that, in the grand scheme of things, 4.5 pounds isn't much, especially if I go into training planning on carrying the weight.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: Four Point Five Pounds. on 02/07/2013 11:46:21 MST Print View

"I think the psychological aspect of the gear you carry is something that some people underestimate though, especially solo."

I agree. But it's not an all or nothing, really. A good night's sleep and a quick hot meal/drink can make up for a lot, perhaps including marginal rain wear and the lack of a double wall tent. If you wanted to compromise at all, I'd recommend adding the comfy air mattress and canister stove back in first, and see if that doesn't ameliorate the need for the other items.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Re: Re: Four Point Five Pounds. on 02/07/2013 12:09:44 MST Print View

"But it's not an all or nothing, really."

True enough.

I guess I'm just not as worried about the weight as some others might be given I plan on doing some serious training if I commit to this hike. I'll likely shed 10-15 pounds of fat in the process, so it's difficult to look at an additional 4 to 5lbs. in the pack and think it'll have that much of a negative effect.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Four point five on 02/07/2013 12:12:01 MST Print View

Like Travis, I'm carrying about 9 pounds base weight, maybe 8 in summer. An extra 4.5 pounds seems like quite a bit to me. I'm not sure what luxury items I would take. I have a big tarp, warm quilt, and a cushy mat. Especially if I am doing big miles(by my standards), I'm not sure what else I would want to bring for luxury. I'm comfortable enough with my alcohol setup that I actually prefer it over a canister. Outside of that, there is not a lot else I want in camp. I do like to take a little drink for the trip but I think that's about it.

Mike V
(deadbox) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
"Four Point Five Pounds." on 02/07/2013 12:22:24 MST Print View

I have heard many times from many reputable experienced ultralight hikers that the goal of ultralight backpacking is going as light as you can without compromising comfort or safety. Skills, specialized equipment and personal comfort levels determine how much this will weigh for the individual. If you find yourself unable to stay warm, protected from the elements or well fed then you are not going ultralight, you are just being a masochist. = )

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Blasphemy... on 02/07/2013 13:27:16 MST Print View

Granted, 4.5 pounds is a 50% increase to packweight if you're only carrying 9, so in those terms, it's big.

But I think everyone on this site (including myself) tends to lose a degree of perspective here (blasphemer!)...a 15 pound base is still pretty friggin' light, especially if carried by a fit person.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Re: Blasphemy... on 02/07/2013 14:05:04 MST Print View

4.5lbs might feel significant at the trailhead loaded up, but will be imperceivable a day or two into your trip once you settle in.

Gear/weight deliberation can be a bit silly, considering that weight alone will not be a deal breaker in completing your trip. What is a deal breaker are the specific contents within and the skill required to use them, such as having too little insulation, or skimping on food and settling into a calorie deficiency and the onset of fatigue, having poor coverage in your shelter because you wen't with the 4x8 flat tarp to save weight, etc... A few shakedown trips before your departure and you'll probably look back at this thread and laugh.

What do you mean when you say "training"?

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
4point5 on 02/07/2013 14:32:14 MST Print View

How about 4.5 pounds on top of your 15 pound pack for a total of almost 20 pounds? Its the same 4.5 pounds extra. At some point, it seems like a lot of weight.
To me, the extra pounds mean quite a bit on a long day of walking. If I am with a slow group, I don't mind carrying it as much and I spend more time in camp anyway.
At this point, though, my gear is pretty light. I've learned there just isn't that much that I need or want to carry out there other than a good shelter, food, and warmth. I'm curious what you guys like to bring as luxury items that up your weight a bit.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Four Point Five Pounds. on 02/07/2013 14:43:26 MST Print View

Highly biased opinion:
4.5 lb by itself is meaningless. What matters is your perception of the load you are carrying and your comfort factor. And not your perception when at home, but a day or two into the walk.

The reason for my comment is that the number by itself ignores completely two things (at least).

The first is the advantage of the pack frame. Having a framed pack will make carrying the pack so much easier. If the weights you are talking about do not include food, then the load on your shoulders will be significantly higher, and you will really feel that with a frameless pack. A framed pack will let you carry the load much more easily and even faster.

The second factor you have covered - psychology and physiology. Having a decent shelter and being able to cook a decent meal in comfort - they are not mere luxuries. They can be vital to your enjoyment of course, but they will also significantly improve your ability to keep going. A good nights sleep on a good dinner - oh yes.


Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Four Point Five Pounds. on 02/07/2013 15:01:05 MST Print View

My base weight for the High Route was 11.5 lbs. I took a framed pack (ULA Circuit) and a full-length NeoAir.

The trip will be hard enough that you may occasionally find yourself looking for excuses to bail. Don't make it easy to quit by being miserable. I took enough gear to be comfortable, which allowed me to mentally recharge each night and be fresh for the next day's challenges. I was also in the best shape I had ever been - that's way more important than an incremental difference in pack weight.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Four Point Five Pounds. on 02/07/2013 15:50:11 MST Print View

"The trip will be hard enough that you may occasionally find yourself looking for excuses to bail. Don't make it easy to quit by being miserable."

That's along the lines of what I'm thinking; I've been there before on lesser trips. I know my fitness and I know what sort of loads I'm comfortable with. I don't think the extra weight will as potentially detrimental to success as not having certain gear to make the experience simpler and more comfortable.

But that's what I'll be figuring all of this out over the coming months for...

I've been thinking about the SHR as a long term goal for a some time now, but typically haven't given myself enough training time to do it yet. A year or more out will be plenty. I sort of see it as the culmination of a year of ultrarunning, peakbagging, and fastpacking. I'm getting excited about upping my mileage again, having taken a pretty good long break from trail running. I think the SHR will be a nice goal to keep me looking ahead and beyond local 50Ks and 50 mile+ races and solo runs.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Four Point Five Pounds. on 02/07/2013 15:51:43 MST Print View

Ive been thinking along the same lines lately. Part of it is just the way even mainstream gear has improved. I remember the first MYOG I did. It was a 1 LB 8x10 tarp with a 1 lb net tent straight from "Beyond backpacking". That was seen as real light and fringe at 2 lb~ Today I can walk into REI or EMS and buy a 2.5 lb freestanding or semi-freestanding double wall tent. That is only half a pound more for a proven conventional tent design. Inflatable pads are around one pound, about half a pound more than old full length foam pads but more comfortable, far more packable, and warmer. The same thing goes for packs and framed packs.
In other words today for a small increase in weight you dramatically increase comfort and even safety.
Some of the problem here is possibly that our egos don't like that we would be officially lightweight and no longer UL or SUL. Even though our enjoyment and safety in the outdoors is increased with little to no negatives.
I don't think I would notice the increase of 4.5 lbs especially after you get your trail legs back. But I have come to believe that good sleep and good food are important for health and safety, being fresh enough to make good decisions and having the strength to do the miles you plan on.
After all it doesn't take any skill at all to be cold, hungry and tired in the woods, but to be well feed, comfortable and well rested in even bad weather? thats experience and skill.
No doubt I can still have fun seeing how light and minimalist I can go over a summer weekend, but for the most part I like to sleep warm, eat well and enjoy myself. Hiking is about enjoying nature not living up to arbitrary measurements that girls aren't even the least impressed by.
15 lbs is light and if your fit its not going to hold you back but the increase in comfort and improved rest will benefit you so enjoy yourself, you know your limits and you have the experience to make that judgment.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Four Point Five Pounds. on 02/07/2013 17:45:38 MST Print View

"But repeating experiences like that on the SHR, alone and tired, seem like a surefire way to lose the mental battle and bail out early. I question how much comfort and rest are either over or under estimated in these scenarios."

On a route like the SHR, where you'll be out something like 12-14 days on pretty rough terrain in places, comfort = rest = safety. The last thing you want is to be negotiating a loose talus slope at the end of a long day that you went into tired because you didn't sleep well the night before, and the one before..... I'd recommend erroring on the side of safety and carrying that extra 4.5#, especially since you're going solo where your margin of safety is very thin to begin with. Then there's the novel idea of enjoying yourself while you're at it. ;0)

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
SHR on 02/07/2013 18:20:50 MST Print View

Usually I agree with Tom but this time I will offer a counterpoint. On the high route I would go as light as possible without going, as skurka said stupid light. If I left tomorrow I would take the exact same gear as I took on the PCT, base of eight lb. I think a light pack is much more important on the high route than when hiking on trail. The climbs and bushwacking become easier with a small and light pack. Agree on the comment about a good night sleep but I would go light on the high route.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
kit on 02/07/2013 18:53:48 MST Print View

the SHR requires carrying quite a bit of food at a stretch and the weather is often unpredictable and hostile which equates to a hardier shelter and more insulation in clothing/bag/pad- this starts pointing towards a framed pack vs unframed imo

it is possible that the 4.5 # could be mitigated/lowered somewhat by looking critically at each piece and see what other options are out there that could fill the same bill w/o sacrificing comfort or safety

solo on the SHR- safety is going to trump all other concerns for sure

<-- SHR is definitely on my bucket list :)

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: kit on 02/07/2013 19:22:22 MST Print View

Well, if I bought some new gear, I could pretty much carry the same stuff, but for a gain of 2.5 pounds instead of 4.5.

It would mean buying a shelter to save another pound, as well as a different pack. Which brings in other considerations- is it worth spending hundreds of dollars to save two pounds? WWJMD? (What Would John Muir Do?). He'd probably go with the gear he had. :)

But I'm not decided on this by any means, that's sort of why I'm thinking publicly here and listening to others thoughts.

Greg, I fully understand your point; I'm thinking real heavily about the effect of packweight during long stretches of talus and snow on the steeper passes. From my experiences doing XC in the Sierra, talus is probably the riskiest solo stuff out there next to snow bridges. A misplaced foot, a shifting block, and you could be down for the count.

I'll likely be going in late June/early July, so I fully expect to be using crampons and an axe, especially early morning when everything's still solid. Thought it's likely faster than talus hiking madness, I don't like the idea of goofing around in spikes with extra weight on my back either. These are the factors that make me second guess the other strategy and want to go as light as possible.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: SHR on 02/07/2013 19:28:42 MST Print View

Ultralight hikers that the goal of ultralight backpacking is going as light as you can without compromising comfort or safety.
This is the definition of Fast Packing.

I too am looking at a solo SHR but this year.
I just received the SHR Ropers book in the mail and he states that you "should" use a frameless pack.
The frameless pack allows the weight to move independently from side to side while navigation through the hardest areas.

You also have to look at 10.5 vs 15 in another way.
Take off 4.5 pounds.
Have a better smaller pack.
Move faster because you have less weight.
Take a days less food out and hike even faster (or easier), still more miles per day any way you slice it.

I am going to try to get my base down to 8 pounds (with the bear can)
This will allow me to go out with 5 1/2 days of food at the start or 10 pounds.
Trying to keep the total weight carried bellow 20 pounds at the start.
A pound in the pack at 11,000' feels more like 3.
That and any more wouldn't even fit in my Salomon 1900 ci pack.

My pack items are similar to Andrew Skurka's on his SHR pack list, but most items will be lighter from him sticking with Golite gear.
I will be brining a lot of homemade gear and will ditch most of the items he mentions he wouldn't bring again.

I would like to know how much your total pack weight will be at the start?
Would your total weight with a 10.5 pound base then be any different than just 4.5 pounds?
Loosing that 10-15 on you will make a huge difference too.

Edited by awsorensen on 02/07/2013 19:32:34 MST.