Base weight vs. pack weight: things overlooked in an UL cooking system
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 David Poston (dgposton) - F Locale: Texas / Colorado Base weight vs. pack weight: UL cook system as a case study on 05/25/2013 12:28:12 MDT Base weight is a good number to throw around to give an idea of how much weight someone is carrying at any given time. But often this weight is deceiving. For instance, in the realm of the backcountry kitchen, ULighters and SULighters will often brag about how light their cooking setup is, without accounting for the weight of all the plastic they carry for freezer bag cooking, and without accounting for loss of stove efficiencies which entail larger fuel consumption. I ran across a post on a blog here which is pretty telling:http://www.mountainultralight.com/2011/01/heavier-is-sometimes-lighter.htmlIn the past, I've always done freezer bag cooking, but never accounted for the weight of all that plastic in my base weight. And I'm probably safe in assuming that no one else does either. But one has merely to weigh all their trash at the end of a trip to know that it adds up. Here's some basic math: A boil-in-bag from packitgourmet.com http://www.packitgourmet.com/CookIn-Bags.htmlweighs 13 g for a large, which is the size I use for an entree (for my wife and I). 13 g = 0.46 oz!Now Mike Clelland has posted before about the use of produce bags from the grocery store to package his food:http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/quick_healthy_meals_with_an_ultralight_cook_kit.html#.UaEEKKKsiSoI'm assuming he used his pot to cook as of writing that article, but I'm not sure).I weighed a produce bag the other day and it clocks in around 1 g(!). That's a 12 g (0.42 oz) weight savings per large entree!Here's some basic math that applies to the style of hiking my wife and I do:Breakfast: Couscous, oatmeal, grits, etc. = medium bag = 10 g (0.35 oz)Lunch: Hot meal = medium bag = 10 g (0.35 oz)Dinner: Entree + side = large bag + medium bag = 23 g (0.81 oz)TOTAL / DAY: 43 g (1.52 oz)Now let's say we skip a hot lunch. Then we are still at around 33 g (1.16 oz) of plastic per day. On a 3 day trip, this is 99 g (3.49 oz). Note that this doesn't include the weight of water and excess food particles trapped in each bag. I'm guessing that this is easily equal to the weight of the bags themselves. So let's say 3.49 x 2 = 6.98 oz. This is 7 oz of base weight that goes unaccounted for on a standard ULighter's base weight list. I think an additional story could be told with regard to UL water treatment systems. For instance, an ULighter utilizing ClO2 tablets or AquaMira instead of a lightweight gravity filtration system will publish a lower stated base weight (but do they include the weight of the dropper bottles or tablet packaging in their base weight?). Now I personally use (or have used) a homemade gravity filtration system using a Sawyer Point One filter that weighs in around 6.25 oz. But while I'm carrying around that extra 6 oz or so over a chemical treatment system, I'm also carrying less water. Here's some basic math:1 L of water = 1 kg = 35.3 oz.Using a filtration system, I'll usually filter (which takes all of 5-10 minutes), then drink about 0.5 - 1.0 L, and then carry around 1.0 L. Were I using chemicals, I'd likely carry 2.0 L and wait for a considerable bit of time (perhaps 4 hours, depending on what you want to kill) to drink. Assuming I'm carrying an extra liter of water, that equates to an extra 29.0 oz of carried weight over the filtration system I use. That's 1.81 lb! With my 6.25 oz filtration system, I only need to carry 0.18 L less water to break even. That's 180 mL of water, about one big gulp. I think a more informative number rather than base weight (or perhaps in addition to) is average pack weight carried per day. Being a ratio, this number won't change from day to day on any given trip, and will remain relatively constant regardless of trip length. Just some food for thought... Edited by dgposton on 05/25/2013 12:51:00 MDT.
 Stephen M (stephenm) - MLife Locale: Mind your own business Re: Base weight vs. pack weight: things overlooked in an UL cooking system on 05/25/2013 12:45:26 MDT Fair point David.
 Brian Lindahl (lindahlb) - MLife Locale: Colorado Rockies Re: Base weight vs. pack weight: UL cook system as a case study on 05/25/2013 13:09:19 MDT As always, technique and knowledge will allow you to go lighter.Here's how my numbers come out:4-pack of Aquamira Tabs (one 4-pack per day, +1 extra) - 0.08oz eachFreezer Bag Packaging (two per day): 0.35oz eachCozies for freezer bag cooking are completely unnecessary.I use one 4-pack of tablets per day. I boil my water for dinner, so no tablets used there. I use one tablet for 2L of water overnight (8 hours). I drink about 0.5-1L in the morning and heat about 0.5L for breakfast. That leaves 3 tablets for 3L for the rest of the day. I typically carry no more than 1L of water on me at a time. If I'm going to be above treeline for a while, with no lakes (i.e. traversing ridgelines), I'll carry more. I only wait 30 minutes. I'm not concerned about cryptosporidium where I travel. When I reach a water source, I drink the rest of my water, refill and pop a tab in. No waiting, no filtering, no faff. In 30 minutes, I can drink again. I've never wished for a shorter treatment time.I would have to be out for 36.5 days for the Sawyer Squeeze to be more weight effective.At .7oz a day, I'll easily take the hit to get more calories per ounce from freeze-dried/dehydrated foods. Saves me the hassle of actually cooking, also.I do think you make a good point for fuel. A canister stove is definitely more weight-efficient than alcohol on some trips. I prefer Esbit, which makes a canister stove almost always a less weight-efficient option. The hassle of packing a large enough sturdy windscreen for a canister stove (very high off the ground) makes that option very unappealing, as well.On a side note, I could easily carry a large gallon ziplock with oatmeal or cereal and reuse a single freezer ziplock for breakfast. I could probably do this for dinner, also, but it'd be trickier. Either way, I prefer carrying a single bag per meal, though. Less faff. For me, being UL is just as much about simplicity as it is about weight. Edited by lindahlb on 05/25/2013 13:24:08 MDT.
 Bob Gross (--B.G.--) - F Locale: Silicon Valley Re: Re: Base weight vs. pack weight: UL cook system as a case study on 05/25/2013 13:29:44 MDT Brian, where do you purchase your faff?--B.G.--
 Mary D (hikinggranny) - MLife Base weight vs. pack weight: things overlooked in an UL cooking system" on 05/25/2013 13:54:42 MDT I'm just curious how anyone can weigh the food they are taking without weighing its containers! I've always weighed my food as packed, which necessarily includes the plastic bags in which it is packed, and I frankly don't know anyone else who doesn't.Admittedly, I never have weighed the garbage I have when I come out. I do know it's a lot lighter than the food I take in, though, simply because my pack is far lighter even the second moring. You could, of course, save the weight of the garbage by leaving it behind, but I hope you never do that! I suppose, to be technical, you should include the weight of those plastic bags as base weight, which you could easily do by counting the number of pint freezer, quart freezer and sandwich bags you use for your food and weighing the equivalent number/size of clean bags. I prefer to focus on skin-out weight, though, since that's what my knees and feet have to carry. For those who can stand the flavor, such as it is, and the effects on their bodies, of commercial freeze-dried food full of preservatives (yech!) or of chemically treated water (double yech!) fine. I'd rather carry an extra ounce or two of dehydrated home-prepared food and a Sawyer Squeeze. If I'm going to vomit up the food or water, I have to carry at least twice as much! You don't need a cozy if you don't mind food odors on your knit cap, jacket or whatever else you use. Of course, in bear country you'll have to put the cap, jacket or whatever in your bear bag. Personally, I'd rather wear my cap or jacket at night and carry the extra half ounce of cozy. Of course if you prefer your food cold, then you don't need a cozy or a pot or a stove, and that will definitely save weight!We could get into this sort of hair-splitting with every system. For instance, I should leave out the weight of the dry flies inevitably left behind on trees and bushes out of the base weight of my fishing gear, putting them in consumables. Or the 1-2 bottle caps I used to lose on each trip when I was using Platy bottles (I switched to Evernew 4 years ago because their caps connect to the bottle so I don't have to take spares). BTW, I have never seen either camera or fishing tackle listed in anyone's published gear list. I can't believe that nobody takes either, particularly when they publish pics of their trip and talk about the fish they've caught. Just how complete are these published gear lists?As long as every item is included in the weight, what's the difference? What happened to simplicity? Edited by hikinggranny on 05/25/2013 14:14:49 MDT.
 Eric Blumensaadt (Danepacker) - MLife Locale: Mojave Desert FB weight v.s. nutrition on 05/25/2013 14:57:02 MDT Being very intolerant to high sodium foods (inner ear problems) I MUST use FB cooking for my trail food. And to ensure fully cooks meals I use a light fleece cozy to fit my 1 qt. freezer bags.Face it, freeze-dried food bags have weight too. And they have VERY unhealthy (for anyone) doses of sodium - except for most Mary Jane Farms meals.So I lighten up on saving fuel with an efficient burner, a good MYOG windscreen and a low, wide aluminum 3 cup pot & lid.As you can see I'm not a gram weenie amd far from SUL but I DO try to save ounces when possible. Still, health and comfort come first."COMFORT ITEMS":FB fleece cozyTT Moment tentProlite full length mattresseVent rain/wind parkaMerrill Moab Mid GTX boots or Moab Ventilator low cutsREI Cruise UL 60 internal frame pack
 Brian Lindahl (lindahlb) - MLife Locale: Colorado Rockies Re: Base weight vs. pack weight: things overlooked in an UL cooking system" on 05/25/2013 16:00:04 MDT > You don't need a cozy if you don't mind food odors > on your knit cap, jacket or whatever else you use. > Of course, in bear country you'll have to put the cap, > jacket or whatever in your bear bag. Personally, I'd > rather wear my cap or jacket at night and carry the > extra half ounce of cozy. Of course if you prefer > your food cold, then you don't need a cozy or a pot > or a stove, and that will definitely save weight!If in bear country, bring an odor-proof container (your bear box or Op-Sack works). Poor the water into the ziplock. Place the ziplock of food into your bear box or Op-Sack, and put that under your sleeping bag. Pretty simple. I would think most people in bear country bring either a bear box or an Op-Sack already. Edited by lindahlb on 05/25/2013 16:00:44 MDT.
 David Poston (dgposton) - F Locale: Texas / Colorado Re: Base weight vs. pack weight: things overlooked in an UL cooking system" on 05/25/2013 18:06:07 MDT Mary,I agree with the spirit of your post. My "hair splitting" was done with regard to making two points:(i) A good number (the majority?) of UL backpackers ignore their plastic when calculating their base weight. Given that they are accustomed to weighing items on the order of grams, this is somewhat surprising. It also surprising given that UL backpackers (wisely) discuss the weight of systems (items working together in concert to achieve a goal), and said plastic is certainly part of one's cooking/eating system.(ii) An UL approach which considers only base weight without regard to total pack weight is a bit shortsighted. Average total pack weight is also a useful figure to have on hand, as it indicates what one is actually carrying on their back at any given point in time.I do think that the weight of the plastic one carries *should* be factored into one's base weight. This plastic is going to be constant throughout your trip (assuming you are packing out your trash, as you should). Thus, I see no reason why it is excluded while the weight of one's pot is factored in other than that it is inconvenient to make these calculations. Since I've moved away from Mountain House freeze dried dinners towards DIY meals, I'm much more conscious about how much everything weighs since I'm putting it together myself. But in doing so, I've discovered that plastic "freezer bags" (again, I don't use Ziploc bags because they aren't designed to accomodate boiling water and they are inconvenient as a food container since they lack a gusset at the bottom) are simply another item to transport one's food--just another pot, so to speak, but a collapsible one. If we are going to weigh our water bottles / bladders, it makes perfect sense to weigh our food storage plastic as well. It also makes sense to think about whether utilizing one's pot to eat one's food rather than a freezer bag might in the end save weight. And given that this would make it a multi-use item, it wins points for simplicity as well. Which is what UL hiking is all about.I would like to hear more from people who have pondered this issue and reached a satisfactory conclusion with regard to one's cooking routine. Mike Clelland's idea of using produce bags to store bulk amounts of food was a revelation to me. Freezer bag cooking is convenient, admittedly, but convenience isn't always supposed to win out for the dedicated UL hiker, or am I wrong? Edited by dgposton on 05/25/2013 18:14:11 MDT.
 David Poston (dgposton) - F Locale: Texas / Colorado Re: FB weight v.s. nutrition on 05/25/2013 18:16:07 MDT EricI agree, all that sodium is terrible for our bodies, but is there a particular reason why this entails freezer bag cooking? Have you thought about rehydrating your home-dehydrated meals in your pot?
 Pete Staehling (staehpj1) - F Plastic on 05/25/2013 18:33:32 MDT I consider ziploc bags for freezer bag cooking a consumable like food, water, and fuel and therefore not part of base weight. I agree that it can be little misleading, but whatever way you count it won't be perfect.
 Mary D (hikinggranny) - MLife Base weight vs. pack weight on 05/25/2013 22:12:25 MDT Ok, this is the accountant in me coming out: I divide my pack contents into two parts, fixed weight and variable weight. The first, of course, is items that are the same regardless of length of trip. The second are items that vary directly in proportion to the length of the trip. Plastic food bags, along with the food they contain, are most definitely in the second category. A couple of things about FBC: First, by the time you get the pot of boiling water off the stove and get ready to pour the water into the freezer bag, the water is no longer boiling! Especially at higher altitudes, it's probably no more than 180*F. Second, one of the steps in home freezing of veggies (I used to dp a lot of that) is blanching them in boiling water for a couple minutes before putting them in the bags and then quickly chilling them. Plastic freezer bags are designed for exposure to hot water! This method shouldn't be called Freezer Bag Cooking but Freezer Bag Rehydration (sorry, Sarah!).By rehydrating my food in plastic bags, I have no dishes to wash. This is important to me--I hate washing dishes! Even more, I hate scouring pots! Especially when I'm on vacation! Edited by hikinggranny on 05/25/2013 22:14:04 MDT.
 Nick Gatel (ngatel) - MLife Locale: Southern California It is all silly on 05/28/2013 17:53:00 MDT "Base weight is a good number to throw around to give an idea of how much weight someone is carrying at any given time. But often this weight is deceiving. For instance, in the realm of the backcountry kitchen, ULighters and SULighters will often brag about how light their cooking setup is, without accounting for the weight of all the plastic they carry for freezer bag cooking, and without accounting for loss of stove efficiencies which entail larger fuel consumption."How many people finish a trip with zero water, zero food, and zero fuel? Sort of makes the whole base weight think silly. Total pack weight is most important. I only know what my base weight is because I built a spreadsheet that calculates it among other things. I only care about how much everything weighs. The spreadsheet's primary purpose is to be used as a checklist so I don't forget anything. Once I have checked all the gear I need for a particular trip, what the base weight is - is what it is. I have chosen the gear that matches the conditions of my trip. I am not going to switch out gear to get to a certain threshold.Some examples...
 Hiking Malto (gg-man) - F Really on 05/28/2013 18:38:37 MDT People weigh their trash??? What's next, a UL scale to weigh poo?
 M B (livingontheroad) base on 05/28/2013 19:29:39 MDT base weight is base weight.It is the things you can really control to affect how heavy your pack is.You have to carry your food, you have to carry your food packaging, and your trash. Nothing deceiving about it. Some burn their trash, every night.Some dispose of it every other day, some every 5 days, just dependsI dont know anyone who claims the only wt they carry is their base weight.They might figure their average is between base + avg water and fully loadedSo they are off by 1 lb of trash, so what, its not worth thinking about.
 M B (livingontheroad) base on 05/28/2013 19:30:17 MDT base weight is base weight.It is the things you can really control to affect how heavy your pack is.You have to carry your food, you have to carry your food packaging, and your trash. Nothing deceiving about it. Some burn their trash, every night.Some dispose of it every other day, some every 5 days, just dependsI dont know anyone who claims the only wt they carry is their base weight.They might figure their average is between base + avg water and fully loadedSo they are off by 1 lb of trash, and average 16 lbs instead of 15, so what, its not worth thinking about.I include the weight of all my food packaging, and freezer bags in my starting weight.I dont care about anything else after that point, it will be less unless I have a long water haul with 6L or something. Edited by livingontheroad on 05/28/2013 19:32:02 MDT.
 Dustin Short (upalachango) - MLife Re: base on 05/28/2013 19:51:49 MDT If you hike in the desert all the weighing of base weight and such becomes worthless. Having to carry a gallon or two of water at a time quickly makes gram counting a nearly futile activity."Hey guys, I got my baseweight below XX grams!!""Awesome dude, here's a gallon jug of water for the next twenty miles of dry hiking!""I hate you..."Hence FSO weight is more important. The baseweight calcs are really only useful as an exercise in minimalism (which is worthwhile) and as Nick says, as a checklist for trips so you don't forget anything while packing.
 Dustin Short (upalachango) - MLife Cleanup on 05/28/2013 20:03:21 MDT I should also add that I will forever be a FBC advocate (when I even decide to bring a stove, M&Ms for dinner anyone?). The main reason is convenience that fits well with my disposable consumerist lifestyle. Simply: I hate washing dishes in the woods.Since I live in the desert I don't have the luxury of camping near water often so lugging extra water for dish duty is a pain. Also when I am near water I'm particularly observant of the sensitivity to maintaining watersheds so I like to get the requisite 200' away from any water source. In the canyons or thick prickly scrub found in my region, this is quite a chore. Therefore it's beyond convenient to just boil a dinner, eat it, then seal up the bag and throw it in with my trash. My gf washes out ziplocs when in civilization (and I never use them at all in city) so I figure that offsets the consumption a little ;)
 David Poston (dgposton) - F Locale: Texas / Colorado Re: base on 05/28/2013 20:43:11 MDT "So they are off by 1 lb of trash, and average 16 lbs instead of 15, so what, its not worth thinking about."I suppose my aim in bringing this point up is to get people to rethink their cooking systems. If I am packing out 8 oz of additional plastic, I might think twice about carrying that Heiny pot in the first place and swap it out for a bigger pot. An extra 1-2 ounces in one's pot could save weight over the long haul and reduce one's trash at the end of the trip. To me, it's a win-win situation--you get to eat out of your pot as well as take home less trash. At least that's the theory! I suppose I'm looking for people to rebut my claims and show me where my argument has gone wrong. :)
 Craig W. (xnomanx) - F - M Base on 05/28/2013 21:01:00 MDT Whether or not you're doing FBC or eating out of a pot, your food is typically going to be packaged in something, so I don't see what the issue is...packaging trash is packaging trash.What bothers me about freezer bag cooking is that it creates dirty trash. I'd rather wash a pot and carry a bag of dry wrappers/bags than not wash a pot and carry messy trash that could leak. Washing a pot isn't a big deal to me. I also despise eating out of plastic bags...but that's just me.I haven't weighed the contents of a pack in a pretty long time anyway, so what counts towards base vs. total vs. skin out is irrelevant to me. I carry what I need depending on the trip; my kit is dialed in enough that it'll be a light enough load to accomplish whatever I want to do regardless of what gear I take.
 David Poston (dgposton) - F Locale: Texas / Colorado Dry vs. wet trash on 05/28/2013 21:09:34 MDT CraigI concur with your post. But did you take a look at my numbers above? If cooking in the pot, one can afford to bring the lightest bag that will adequately hold the food without tearing. A produce bag will do this fine for just about 1 g of weight. Not to mention the fact that if repeating meals such as oatmeal for breakfast, one can simply aliquot the necessary amounts for each meal into one's pot using less bags overall.But probably the most important reason why I'm now favoring (or at least considering) the pot-method instead of FBC is, as you point out, all that wet trash. Water is heavy! A dry plastic bag weighs almost nothing--a wet ziploc with food bits left behind weighs alot. I personally don't have a problem cleaning my pot--a low, wide pot is especially easy to clean vs. a freezer bag, and I camp near water sources most of the time, this is a non-issue for me. Others may have different requirements.Again, all this hair-splitting and gram-counting doesn't appeal to many. But to someone trying to shave every fraction of an ounce off their pack and is willing to spend hours poring over gear lists (as I myself am wont to do from time to time, I am afraid), it's an effort well spent. If people are willing to spend \$500 on a cuben tent to lose 5 oz off their shelter, why not consider the weight of their plastic? Edited by dgposton on 05/28/2013 21:12:46 MDT.