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Lightweight Gear for Long Distance Hiking: Four Months in Europe
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Benjamin Smith
(bugbomb) - F - M

Locale: South Texas
Lightweight Gear for Long Distance Hiking: Four Months in Europe on 04/17/2007 23:57:46 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Lightweight Gear for Long Distance Hiking: Four Months in Europe

Andrew :-)
(terra) - F

Locale: Sydney, Australia.
Nice article Roger on 04/18/2007 02:06:06 MDT Print View

Very thorough article mate.
You have really thought this out. My only suggestions would be: The plastic potty trowel and a tent peg could be ditched as you are carrying the ice axe. This can dig holes and would make a good peg or storm anchor for the tent. I suppose the hiking pole might replace another peg. 2 pegs and a plastic trowel are not much of a saving but, as we know, it all adds up.

I understand what you are saying about Sue's pack and comfort but I believe there is a possible 1.5kg to save there by making her a custom pack. Some other articles could serve a dual use in the new custom pack (sit mats, foam mats, table cloth).
Take your knowledge of MYOG, add a Sydney based Chiropractic student (also ex mechanical/manufacturing engineer) who loves light gear designs... Perhaps something could be made that will save weight and help with Sue's injury. Think of all the extra toilet paper you could carry. ;-)

Have a good holiday mate.

Adrian B
(adrianb) - MLife

Locale: Auckland, New Zealand
Macpac Minaret 4 season tent on 04/18/2007 04:03:36 MDT Print View

Interesting reading about your tent: I've been looking at the Macpac Minaret which is a 'lightweight' (2.6kg) version of the Olympus. Not cheap though.

Edited by adrianb on 04/18/2007 04:05:35 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Addendum to Gear List on 04/18/2007 04:12:28 MDT Print View

Yes, I could drop the plastic trowel and use the Helix, I know. But sometimes we prefer to be a bit more inconspicuous. :-)

More importantly, we have since decided to drop the two fleece jackets (400 g each, toal 800 g) and rely just on the Cocoons. That's a far bigger weight saving!

A lightweight pack for Sue - yeah, I agree, but several we have tried just did not work FOR HER. It will come, one day.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
great article, Roger! on 04/18/2007 04:50:21 MDT Print View

Great article, Roger. It was very informative. Your article was also a refreshing change from the "sub-X pound!" type posts where guys are going out with spandex, a foam mat, and an esbit tab. Yes, light is great, but going as light as possible sometimes must be tempered with a safety and comfort margin. Most deaths in remote areas are caused by exposure.

You did not solicit suggestions, but maybe you are interested.. Now that you have dialed in your gear functionality so well, maybe reduce parts count? You are carrying a very large number of items. Lean backpacking. (to modify a manufacturing mantra) An example is your cookset. I know you have an admirable system, but you could replace the plywood stove base, stove, radiation shield, windshield, 1.5l aluminum pot, aluminum lid, and and windshield (7 pieces), with a Jetboil 1.5L cookset; 4 pieces. Are those 7 items total really lighter than the Jetboil set after you account for a -5 grams/day fuel efficiency? But, somehow I think you've already done this analysis..

Another example is replacing your 3 sleeping bag stuffsacks and water carry bag with one SealLine Stormsack. Totes water and truly waterproofs your custom down bag. 45 grams.

One more suggestion. I do not know how much time you will actually be self belaying with an ice axe, but go find a big block of ice and try to simulate a self arrest swing with that potty trowel. It looks like an ice axe, but using a 200 gram axe on firm ice is like trying to pound a nail with a toy plastic hammer (except you only have one swing to maybe save your life). If you are expecting ice at more than the angle of repose, maybe carry a steel-headed Raven Pro. That will be a tricky decision since you must carry it for 4 months!

Your trip sounds amazingly fun and adventuresome. I hope you will report back after it's safe conclusion.
PS, I really enjoy your reviews over at geartest.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Re: Never mind the b ollocks on 04/18/2007 06:06:39 MDT Print View

As a guest in Australia, I was born in Italy and am a New Zealander, I find Roger's remarks about how tough it is to hike here a bit funny.
I have resided in four different countries, and stayed for some time in three others, and all of them have been the toughest/best/worst/. All of them had the worst Government/transport/electricity/telephone system/weather/working conditions and so on. I am looking now for a country that is just like all the other ones.

Indeed,as I do sometime, off trail bushwalking can be tough, but there are many established relatively easy trails.
I do agree with him, not that it is relevant , about the non Jet Boil use, his set up is a lot more flexible from my point of view. Also having a relative knowledge of the area he is going through , ( I have relatives there..) the potty trowel will do well for summer "established" routes.
For Roger : you lucky b stard (USA translation : I wish you well in your endeavor)
I enjoyed the article , as usual.

Edited by Franco on 04/18/2007 22:20:27 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Lightweight Gear for Long Distance Hiking: Four Months in Europe on 04/18/2007 08:29:06 MDT Print View

Sounds like you two will have a fabulous time! :-)
I don't normally carry a cutting board, but in the grocery store my eyes caught sight of a new one, a tiny very light, and flexible one. I think I may buy it! It would be nice for making sandwiches, cutting fruit, etc. It even comes with a plastic/lexan knife to cut with. Woo!

Jeff Sharp
(tsjeffery) - F

Locale: Blue Ridge
Re: Lightweight Gear for Long Distance Hiking: Four Months in Europe on 04/18/2007 09:37:11 MDT Print View

Hey Roger. Could you elaborate on the food you'll be eating on this trip? Great article. Sounds like an awesome trek. Enjoy!

Edward Ripley-Duggan
(edwardripleyduggan) - F
Taslan on 04/18/2007 11:14:37 MDT Print View

Thank you, Roger, for an exemplary article. Knowing your penchant for heading off into the brush, I found your Taslan comments interesting. We've briefly discussed bushwhacking gear before on BGT, but I was interested to read your opinion on Taslan. I might just give this a try myself. There are a few Taslan jackets available in the US, though I haven't (yet) found pants. Nothing as nice as your windsmock, unfortunately. Any particular weight of the fabric recommended as optimal for DIY?



Miguel Marcos
(miguelmarcos) - F

Locale: Middle Iberia
Yes, the food... on 04/18/2007 15:09:47 MDT Print View

Hi, Roger. Many thanks for such a great article.

Like Jeff above, I'd really like to hear about your culinary strategies (beyond the baguette, cheese and fruit), too.

All the best with the trip.

Edited by miguelmarcos on 04/18/2007 15:10:18 MDT.

George Earle
(georgelearle) - M
More, please, about food methods on 04/18/2007 17:28:18 MDT Print View

I too would like to hear more about your food plans. You said no freeze dried stuff, and fresh fruit when you shop. Mor details please. You said you will carry three days worth. How will you be able to shop every three days while in the Alps?
A great report on your equipment. Keep up the excellent work.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: great article, Roger! on 04/18/2007 22:18:38 MDT Print View

Hi Brett

> You did not solicit suggestions, but maybe you are interested.
Of course! That's why I published it. So ...

> Jetboil
I go by weight. The number of pieces doesn't matter imho.
The Jetboil PCS is too small to cook for the two of us, so you have to look at the Jetboil GCS. All weights in grams - sorry.

Jetboil stove: 208
Jetboil pot: 223
Pot base cover: 41 to protect the heat exchanger
Pot lid: 48 Jetboil one
Can stabiliser: 22
Total: 542
* But this does not include an adapter for the canister, without which the Jetboil is no use in France. The weight is below.
* The Jetboil system dies badly in really cold weather, up in the mountains, when the pressure in the canister drops. Lert the canister get cold, and it struggles. People have reported hand-holding the Jetboil to keep it going. Yeah, well...
* It only includes one pot, and I often use two pots when cooking for the two of us.
* You could replace the plastic Jetboil lid and save a few grams - true, but.

My system
Stove: 78
Base: 71
Windshield: 51
Rad shield: 10
MSR Titan pot: 125 with lid
MSR Titan kettle: 123 with lid

Could I take the Jetboil stabiliser instead of the bit of 3-ply? I tried this, but the crimp at the bottom of the canister varies slightly between brands. The Jetboil stabiliser fits the Jetboil canister; it does not fit some others.

Adapter for converting French CampinGaz canisters to screw-thread fitting: 39 g Needed for both systems.

It depends on how you do the sums, but a similar one-pot system of mine is about 335 grams. Even with two pots mine is still lighter. But my sytem can be used in very cold weather: you just take the radiation shield off the stove and let it heat the canister a bit. I have done this successfully in the snow. As long as the canister is just slightly warm to the touch all is wonderful. Not for beginners. You can't do this with the Jetboil - I tried.

The fabled Jetboil fuel effiency - yeah, well, it simply does not count AT ALL. We are resupplying regularly, and that includes buying fuel. A full canister (or a half-empty one) weighs the same, no matter which stove you use.

Sleeping bag stuff sacks: yes, a single stuff sack would be lighter than having the two sleeping bags packed separately. But Sue carries her SB, and I carry mine. And I decline to use my sleeping bag cover to carry water! Actually, there are two reasons why I decline: one is obvious, but the other is that I often get water from a little distance away for the evening *before* we camp. Bit hard to do this when the bag is still in my pack.

Helix Potty Trowel: this is NOT for use on ICE! Old spring neve maybe, but the stuff I am talking about is more like slightly consolidated corn snow. I know from previous trips that the Helix will have no trouble with it. No crampons, and light joggers! Frankly, I think the Helix could be overkill, but we have had neve on the passes before.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Never mind the b ollocks on 04/18/2007 22:20:46 MDT Print View

Hi Franco

> there are many established relatively easy trails. (in Oz)
There are a few, yes. But we are out almost every weekend, and mostly in fairly extreme country. One gets a bit tired of repeating the local trails all the time ... :-)

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Lightweight Gear for Long Distance Hiking: Four Months in Europe on 04/18/2007 22:27:19 MDT Print View

> Could you elaborate on the food you'll be eating on this trip?
Bought in the little shops in the little villages.

Breakfast: so far we have been able to get variations on Muesli, although towarsd the Med end of the Pyrenees in Spain I was reduced to the local approximation to Muesli bars ... Sue was eating small bread rolls or croissants.

Lunch: Local bread, butter, jam and of course CHEESE! You haven't lived until you have met good local French cheeses. That processed rubbish you get in supermarkets - it isn't even cheese!

Dinner: most times rice or pasta, with a local soup packet and either chopped up cheese, pre-cooked ham or similar, or some variant thereof. Followed by little French Madelaine cakes: extremely cheap but very good. The occasional bought Quiche or similar if we are camped near a larger town. Maybe even some French bread with a preliminary soup.

Snacks: stuff is available anywhere.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: More, please, about food methods on 04/18/2007 22:38:25 MDT Print View

Hi George

> You said no freeze dried stuff simply not available in little towns.

> and fresh fruit when you shop.
Ah yes, our indulgence. Two bananas and two small cartons of yoghurt ... Desert, if shopping after lunch. Yeah, I know, hardly SUL!

> How will you be able to shop every three days while in the Alps?
Good question, but you have to stand the question on its head. We will be using the French Grande Randonnee tracks, and many of these are DESIGNED to allow you to stay in a Refuge/Gite (aka 3-star hotel) every night. So they do pass through villages where we can shop.
Remember: this is not a constructed PCT type of track. The tracks we are using are maybe a thousand years old (or more). They were the routes over the mountains and between villages and so on for when people travelled on foot, and for when they took their animals up into the summer pastures each year. Some of the tracks are pilgrims' ways - sunk 2 metres or more below the surrounds.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Taslan on 04/18/2007 22:40:42 MDT Print View

Hi Ted

> Any particular weight of the fabric recommended as optimal for DIY?
Well, you could start with Quantum, but you know how fast that will shred ...
OK, OK, realistically - Taslan fabric about 150 gsm is a good weight imho.


Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Route and UL in Europe on 04/19/2007 02:33:35 MDT Print View

Would you share a summary of your route? Mid-may can be challenging in the high country yet but I guess you already know that. Don't know about the Alps this year but the Pyrenees got a lot of late season snow (after a very dry winter). Right now, the pack is unstable and avalanche prone but should be melting fast due to warm temps.

You mention you mean to stay high in the mountains as much as possible. The one thing I find disturbing about this kind of backpacking in Western Europe is the constant proximity of civilization. In this context, going light or ultralightweight only makes things worse; at least, psychologically: you assume some compromises and it gets increasingly difficult to say no to the siren call of a warm bed when things turn ugly and you have the choice. I find that when you have no choice, it's easier to just keep on and be fine with it. As counterintuitive as it may sound, UL feels trickier to me when scape routes are all over the place and stuffed huts all over the trail. I don't know how you feel about this but I think your comfort based strategy sounds so reasonable from this point of view.

Have a great trip

Carsten Jost
(Carsten010) - M
Thumbs up for your adventure on 04/19/2007 04:25:14 MDT Print View

I´m kind of delighted to be able to contribute to the

The Pyrenees are a great place to hike and there are some
things I´d like to add after a 400 Mile Hike in the
spanish Pyrenees on the GR11 in 2005.

Be flexible! There are three long-distance-hikes along
the spine of the Pyrenees and all offer great hiking.
The GR11 on the spanish and more weather-predictable
site of the Pyrenees, the GR10 on the french site and
the Haute Route Pyreenees (HRP) which is the most alpine
hiking route (for all those peak-baggers out there). So
check the maps and probably change your intended route if
you just get the feeling by talking to other hikers that
a certain stretch off your route might be cool.

Ordesa National Park e.g. on the spanish site is awesome.

Water purification. We carried Aqua Mira along the way but
never used it. The Pyrenees are pristine and even though
cattle and horses are sometimes grazing on alpine meadows
we never had any problems. Besides there are fountains in
every village you can safely drink out.

Food. Don´t plan your diet too much as local food is so
tasty. We carried local cheese, sausage and bread quite
often even though it added a lot of weight. But we just
wanted to experience not only the trail but the cuisine
of the land we walked through, too. Even though you´ll have
a hard time finding freeze-dried-stuff like Mountain House,
food like Lipton Noodles are easy to find.

Packs...I really do think that your wife´s pack is heavy.
There are a lot of comfy lighter internal backpacks out
there (ULA packs are among my and my girl-friends favourites).

Even though your whole gear list is not "ultralight" in
US-terms, it is still quite lite in european terms where
most hikers would usually carry much more for an adventure
like yours.

We wish you a lot of fun and if you didnt´stumble upon the
Guide Books from UK Cicerone Press, check out there books
on the GR11, GR10 and HRP.



Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Route and UL in Europe on 04/19/2007 04:39:03 MDT Print View

Hi Inaki

> Would you share a summary of your route?
Well, it's going to be very brief at this stage. From Merens les Val just near Andorra, over the Cevennes, using the GR7 a fair bit we think, to near Geneva, then south past Mont Blacc to Nice. Really, we have not planned it any tighter than that so far.

> it gets increasingly difficult to say no to the siren call of a warm bed when things turn ugly and you have the choice
I understand what you are saying, but it's not a problem. We are used to coping with bad weather in our tent. It is much more storm-proof than a tarp. We get plenty of bad weather here in Australia in the winter in our mountains.
This is our fourth major overseas trip. We don't use the Refuges because we don't like being in dormitories. We reckon we have just as much comfort in our tent. Anyhow, many of the Refuges are booked out months in advance by car-based tourists. Huh!
We do use the occasional camping ground in order to get a hot shower. Hey - we aren't entirely stupid!

Yep, the snow is melting fast. I have been monitoring a couple of web sites about this. Any suggestions of good web sites would of course be welcome.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Thumbs up for your adventure on 04/19/2007 04:45:17 MDT Print View

Hi Carsten

We have done both the entire GR10 and the entire GR11, and bits of the HRP.

Flexible? see previous posting about our route!

Local food - yep. Whatever is going. We eat well.

Cicerone - and FFRP. Good guide books. We speak and read French, so the FFRP ones are fine.

Pack - yes, I agree the Torre is heavy, and I would love to have my wife try out a few lighter packs. But we are in Australia. Not so easy. But ask which is better: a comfortable but heavy pack, or an uncomfortable but light pack? (For 4 months.)