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Conversion from Military Heavweight Backpacker to an Ultralight Enthusiat
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Lachlan Craigie
Conversion from Military Heavweight Backpacker to an Ultralight Enthusiat on 08/27/2013 16:40:54 MDT Print View

Hi all,
I come from a military background where the emphasis was on carrying as much as possible just in case we would ever need it (as well as the 'man up' factor regarding loads going well into the 60-80+ pound range). Although we did use tarps, thin foam mats and cowboy camps, we would often carry things like 10 litres of water, ration packs full of cans (nary a dehyd in sight), and incredibly strong, incredibly heavy reinforced cordura gear.

After a few hikes as a civilian I realised I just wasn't getting much enjoyment out of it, and started my conversion to an UL philosophy, so different to what I'm used to.
I have ditched the expedition backpack and heavy boots, dumped the 2 man tent and large synthetic sleeping bag, frying pan and portable speakers.

I've put together a rough gear list with the new set up I've built over the last few weeks. I'm going to try it out on the 6th of September on a 6 day hike through the Blue Mountains in Australia. Temperatures go down to a little above feezing at night, but the week should see relatively very little rainfall.

It's probably a bit late to make any major changes, but I would greatly appreciate any advice on last minute changes / additions to improve my setup. A lot of cottage gear like HMG and Katabatic is unfortunately unavailable to myself due to lead times, so I had to make do with the best off the shelf gear I could get delivered in time.

Thank youWeight Table

Sara Marchetti
(smarchet) - MLife
Re: Conversion from Military Heavweight Backpacker to an Ultralight Enthusiat on 08/27/2013 17:00:23 MDT Print View

If you can be more specific (e.g. first aid, toiletries, stuff sacks...these things add up) and provide a column in oz. that would make it easier for us Yanks that don't do grams very well.

If you are sitting at 11 lb base weight you are looking good! Seems like you have a few luxuries like the Jetboil Sol Ti (they'll have to pry mine from my cold dead hands before I go back to my lightweight stove), pillow, sock liners, compass (if you'll be off trail), headlamp (as opposed to a led), camelback (I use Smart Water bottles which weigh practically nothing). So if you are looking to trim, those are some places to look.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
my list. on 08/27/2013 17:30:11 MDT Print View

Here's my gear list:

It's somewhat of a mess right now but it will give you a sense and might give you some ideas.

I'm at about 7.5lbs base weight right now.

My goal is to get to 5 lbs by next year with some gear upgrades.

I'm a hammock camper so it's hard to get as low as some of the SUL geeks here but I think it will be possible.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Conversion from Military Heavweight Backpacker to an Ultralight Enthusiat on 08/27/2013 17:44:28 MDT Print View

You see, if you were backpacking in California, you might need to protect your food from black bears, which is why many of us use a big plastic bearproof canister.

For Australia, you might need to protect your food from drop bears.


Trace Richardson
(tracedef) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Weight ... on 08/27/2013 20:18:29 MDT Print View

If you're around 11 pounds, that's great! Here's a list that I use that goes between 9 to 12 pounds for reference ... might give you another perspective .... once I got to 9 I started adding back in luxury items .... well worth the extra weight .... happy if it's below 12 .... :)

@Kevin: Arc Blasts are typically about twice your 8 ounce listed weight ... did you modify yours or perhaps it's a zero?

Edited by tracedef on 08/27/2013 20:23:57 MDT.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
11 pounds is very good! on 08/30/2013 07:48:51 MDT Print View

I have to agree- 11 pounds is doing very well, Brother! At this point the best advice I can give is to do your Blue Mountain hike and just pay attention to what you DON'T end up using (with the exception of the first aid kit) and leave it at home the next time.


Do you need to carry three liters of water? I have no idea how dry the Blue Mountains are, but making do with two saves a whole kilogram.

I understand that you couldn't get cottage products easily, but you can find sub-1-pound packs that will carry that load well. That said, the Exos series has a great reputation, and I use mine as a heavier-load pack.

being an alcohol stove guy I guess I have to advise losing the Jetboil, but as demonstrated above some people have an irrational attachment to them... :) But it IS dirt cheap to try a Cat Can stove on some trip to see if you like it.

That's all that jumps out at me. Don't let the 5 pound packs of the fanatics give you an inferiority complex. I'd wager than more than half of the folks who post here don't quite break 10 pounds.

Edited by acrosome on 08/30/2013 07:52:25 MDT.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Conversion from Military Heavweight Backpacker to an Ultralight Enthusiat on 08/30/2013 08:36:24 MDT Print View

Unless you don't have regular water sources, I would take less water carrying capacity. Even if carrying a large amount of water, I would look at platypus or evernew bags as a lighter option. The Blue mountains don't look like dessert, so you may be able to carry a lot less water. Where I normally hike, there are regular water sources, so I typically carry less than a liter. That Camelback full of water is like carrying a concrete block. Even empty, its a brick.

I did not see any water treatment on your list. Popular options are aquamira drops, tablets, Sawyer Squeeze, or Steripen.

I would consider a light puffy jacket for those temperatures.

Several other things can be lighter. An alcohol or esbit stove can save you some weight. You can save an ounce on the knife. There are much lighter poles to be had. And you could save up to 2 pounds with a light pack. But I would probably save these options for later trips.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Conversion from Military Heavweight Backpacker to an Ultralight Enthusiat on 08/30/2013 08:38:15 MDT Print View

Like a lot of other people said, 11 lbs is really good. After the monster load you carried before its going to feel like nothing. My usual baseweight is usually between 8-10 lbs but I mostly do weekend trips and don't mind sacrificing a little bit of comfort to save a little weight, pack space, or expense. I've been down the road of cutting weight to an absolute minimum and have been adding some weight back into my pack for the sake of comfort and simplicity. I think you'll find a lot of folks here have similar stories. I've been as low as a sub-5 lbs baseweight and time on the trail was enjoyable but time spent in camp wasn't as much fun. My tarp was fiddly to set up, my 4oz form torso pad was only comfortable if I found a rock-free campsite or took Tylenol PM, and I never had pictures because a camera was too heavy. For me the ease of setting up a pyramid, comfort of a TR Prolite, being able to share my adventure with friends and family justify the added weight. And if I bring my DSLR kit, it adds another 5 lbs to my base weight, which I also don't mind because I love taking pictures and it makes the trip even more enjoyable.
It looks like you've got a great set of gear that should work very well. I'd say use what you have this time and then decide whether you don't like any of it before replacing anything.
If you really want to save weight my 2L Platypus bladder is only 104 grams vs your 200 g Camelbak. Smart water bottles are even lighter. If you want to get "creative" you can count your trekking poles as "clothing worn" and drop another pound from your baseweight, they're not exactly in your pack, are they?. And if you carry the pocket knife in your pocket your base weight just dropping below 10 lbs. :D


Lachlan Craigie
Thanks for the thought out advice on 09/03/2013 05:53:53 MDT Print View

Thanks for the replies, everyone.
Although I'm staying with my jetboil sol ti for now, I did swap out my thermarest alpine blanket @ 700 gms for a Rab Infinity SL top-bag around 450gms.
I think I will only fill up my 2L camelback, and keep my 1L platypus unfilled and see how that goes - water sources are guaranteed at least once a day, so I was/am just a bit iffy stretching 2L for up to a possible 12 hours.

What are the thoughts on taking a gortex shell for my pants? I'm guessing most UL packers just rely on keeping the core dry and having quick drying pants, but does anyone take them?

I weighed my compression bag with all my spare clothes and found that was the single biggest/heaviest item (almost 1.3kg/2.6 pounds!)
1x fleece jacket (300gm) for camp wear/sleeping/pillow
1x spare merino Socks
2x Coolmax sock liners
1x spare merino briefs
1x lightweight merino shirt for sleeping
1x midweight merino leggings for sleeping
Any idea what should be good to cut from the above? Maybe replace fleece jacket with a down vest in the future?

Edited by Harkk on 09/03/2013 05:59:43 MDT.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
GTX rain pants on 09/03/2013 12:36:26 MDT Print View

I only carry my GTX PacLite rainpants in the Rockies due to the afternoon thunderstorms and the Sierra Nevada later in summer for the "monsoon" season.

Otherwise only my eVent rain parka goes along to double as a windshirt and rain parka. As you mentioned normally you can depend on polyester or nylon pants to be fast drying if they get wet.

In winter I always take GTX or eVent rain pants. They mostly are used for wind protection and to keep snow melted by my body heat from wetting my lower legs.

i.e., take 'em when the weather dictates 50% or greater chance of rain or snow. That's my rule of thumb.

Edited by Danepacker on 09/12/2013 11:39:24 MDT.

Lachlan Craigie
GTX Pants on 09/03/2013 14:36:28 MDT Print View

Okay.. September is the 2nd driest month with 7 wet days out of 30, I think I'll drop them and save another 300gm but keep them on the table for later months.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Conversion from Military Heavweight Backpacker to an Ultralight Enthusiat on 09/04/2013 11:25:56 MDT Print View


I don't know why I remembered this, but take a look at the first photo in the post-trip thread:

This was a particular kind of trip in a particular kind of place, but here are some guys who almost all had base weights around 11 lbs +/-.

I've gone to a few fall Trinity Alps GGG trips and it's nice seeing that, while there are a few SULs, most people just bring gear that's light enough to travel with ease and provide some comfort; I'd guess most around 9-11 lbs.

Lachlan Craigie
Too light? on 09/04/2013 14:54:39 MDT Print View

Thanks for the interesting link.
I've already encountered the idea of 'stupid light' firsthand last week when I tested all my brand new Terra Nova carbon fibre stakes.
They ALL broke (at different points) within two separate attempts of trying to peg down a tarp into soft-medium ground pushing with only my hands and feet.

I went out and got 8 MSR groundhog stakes instead. A LOT heavier (over 100 gms compared to 27g) but now I don't have to worry about improvising/repairing stakes from Day 2. I've stress tested the crap out of them and they've all held up very well.