November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
"Light" gear list to shoot for?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Doug Smith
(Jedi5150) - F

Locale: Central CA
"Light" gear list to shoot for? on 12/07/2013 14:47:50 MST Print View

Hello all, I'm using the winter months to get my gear in order for summer Sierra backpacking. Let me start by saying I have nothing but respect for people in the 5-10 lb base weight bracket of UltraLight backpacking. I envy the weight they carry and their confidence to go into the wilderness with so little gear.

I'm coming from the 40-50lb pack weight (for a 3 day trip), and am trying to get down considerably lower, but I have to be honest with myself that I'm never going to get into the "ultralight" category. For starters, where I hike a bear canister is required. I use a BV450 (I've at least toned myself down from a BV500 haha). I also take dog food (2 cups/ day), because my dog is getting older and I don't want her carrying it. and finally, I take photography gear since I get so much enjoyment out of it. I've come down a lot in weight on photo gear, and now am at about 1.9 lb tripod, .7 lb ball head, and camera .75 lb. So because of these "essentials" of bear vault, camera gear, and dog food, I'm already at the point where I am wanting a framed pack, since my base gear and food will be added on top.

What I'd like to hear from you folks, is what is a good weight I should be aiming for to get me into the "light" (as opposed to UL) category for say a 3 or 4 day trip in the high Sierras?

I'll start it off with some of my known items:
Pack- Kifaru "Late Season"; 3,400ci pack at 4 lb 10 oz weight. Kifaru loves their webbing, and I will be removing some excess, so a hair will be shaved off the total weight. Pack comfort is very important to me, and I know from past experience that their packs are exceptionally comfy for my body shape. This is one of my few "won't change" items.

Quilt- Kifaru "Doobie"; 2 lb 2 oz. This is my other must have. For safety reasons/ peace of mind, I simply won't use down for insulation. I'm not stubborn about many things, but this one of them

Bear- BV450; 2 lb (ouch)

Pad- Thermarest Ridgerest SOlite 48"; 9 oz

Stove- ezbit Ti folding stove; .4oz (not including fuel tabs)

Tripod- Giottos carbon fiber MG8240B; 1.9 lb

Camera- Sigma DP2Merrill; 13 oz

Ball Head (for tripod) Gitzo GH1780; 12.3 oz

Tent- Hilleberg "Unna"; 4.5 lb. I am open to other considerations, and I know this is not very light for a shelter system. But here is my reason for it so far...the tough construction and materials means longevity with my dog's claws (she sleeps inside), and with the rough granite of the Sierras. I also don't use a groundsheet/ footprint due to the tough floor. I hate bugs, so tarps are out. Finally, the price, since I already own one (hehe).

This is obviously not a complete pack list, and I'll fine tune this and the other stuff some more. I just wanted to include some of my items to give people an idea of the kind of thought process I have, and gear I like. I want to point out once more, I love this site because it helps me get more towards the right mindset, but I am shooting for light, not ultra light.

At this point, I'm thinking under 30 lbs total weight should be doable, but I'd really like to shoot for under 25. I know that seems like tons to many of you here, but it would be a huge improvement from what I'm used to.

Thanks in advance.

Edited by Jedi5150 on 12/07/2013 14:59:30 MST.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: "Light" gear list to shoot for? on 12/07/2013 15:16:55 MST Print View

It's hard to tell what your intentions are, trailwise. However, just looking at your two heaviest items, I would say that there are some pounds to be lost. Your backpack and your tent are each much heavier than what is probably necessary. I'm not saying that they are bad products, but they are just much more heavy-duty that what you need, assuming that you are getting your base weight down around ten pounds for your main gear.

Wildlife photography is a major intention for me, so my load splits up something like this. Ten pounds of base weight, ten pounds of food and consumables, and ten pounds of camera gear (long lens, mid lens, tripod, etc.). Within my ten pounds of base weight, I also have a bear canister (typically a BV450).

For most trips, if I think I might stay out a couple of extra days, I end up taking a few extra pounds of food. Then I end up returning with the extra food and also more on board.

Now, if you intend to cover more trail miles, then maybe you won't have the time to use very much good camera gear. So, leave the excess at home and take only the camera essentials.

You might want to consult with the dog and find out what its preferences are for shelters.


Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: "Light" gear list to shoot for? on 12/07/2013 15:23:59 MST Print View


You can go quite a bit lighter without making any fundamental changes to how you backpack by replacing some of your existing items with lighter versions. Ultimately however if you still want to get lighter you'll have to revise your assumptions about what exactly you are not willing to change. For instance, how about a floorless shelter with perimeter bug netting? No worries about your dog puncturing the floor, and it will still keep the bugs out. A MLD DuoMid with perimeter netting would save you 3 lbs off the bat. I highly recommend that you read Mike Clelland's book "Ultralight Backpackin' Tips" which will show you how you can make some of these changes without giving up any comfort or safety margin. I can tell you that even with a bear can and a cushy internal frame pack you can get your base weight (total pack weight minus consumables) to 10 - 11 lbs without making big sacrifices. That frees up a lot of room for camera equipment and dog food.

Doug Smith
(Jedi5150) - F

Locale: Central CA
light gear on 12/07/2013 15:46:45 MST Print View

Thanks Bob and Andrew, I appreciate your thoughts so far. One thing I've already considered is exchanging the Unna for an Akto, if I really decide I need a Hilleberg for summering in the Sierras. That is slightly over a pound off, right there.

Andrew, I've thought a lot about floorless shelters. For winter, I could actually really see getting one...especially with a stove :-D
The thing is, I'm an arachnaphobe, and flying bugs aren't the only ones that concern me...the crawly ones equally so. Sorry if I sound really wussy for the outdoors, but bugs are kind of my nemesis. I've been about 25 feet from a mountain lion at night in the woods and we looked at each other for a while. That didn't scare me, but the idea of spiders or crawling insects in my sleeping bag sure does. Still, your point about no floor damage from dog claws and weight saved are valuable. I'll keep giving them some thought. Another benefit of keeping with a floored shelter is keeping the pooch in. She critters like there is no tomorrow, and keeping a 60 lb Malinois inside a shelter when she wants to chase something outside, might be problematic with a floorless shelter.

As for intentions, I try to plan for roughly 10 miles/ 3,000' elevation gain or so per day. I'm not a hard charger, and that leaves plenty of time for photos, rest breaks, etc.

Edited by Jedi5150 on 12/07/2013 15:49:31 MST.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: light gear on 12/07/2013 16:42:17 MST Print View

"That didn't scare me, but the idea of spiders or crawling insects in my sleeping bag sure does."

I will not recommend that this is the way that it _should_ be done, but it is simply the way that it was done many years ago when I was a young man in Army training. Due to the heat and humidity in Louisiana, we did not use much for sleeping. We would simply spread our poncho down on the ground and then plop down on it. The thought of crawling insects did occur to me, and I had some spray insect repellent. So, I simply sprayed a perimeter on the ground just outside my poncho. That's all I had, so that was all that I could do. Nothing ever got me, so I guess it worked.

As for the dog... I thought that most dogs just want some warm food and a dry pad to sleep on. Once trained, they will head to the pad every time. If it gets cold, then a piece of an old synthetic blanket would be handy, over the top.


Sharon J.
(squark) - F

Locale: SF Bay area
tarptents and dogs on 12/07/2013 19:09:52 MST Print View

A while back I posted similarly looking for a fully enclosed, sub-3lb shelter to share with my dog. I was sent this thread on Tarptents:

Though with a Maligator, maybe you do need something tougher!

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: "Light" gear list to shoot for? on 12/07/2013 19:59:22 MST Print View

I think you should focus on three ways to lighten up your gear:

(1) Replace heavier gear with lighter gear. This can (and should) happen over time as you decide what kind of gear you need. The Kifaru gear is nice but you can find lighter options. The Hilleberg just seems too heavy for a solo + dog shelter. I realize you favor synthetic insulation, but California seems like a ideal place to use down, where it is relatively easy to keep items dry and you'll have (relatively) reliable sunshine. Seems like you could save 1-3 lbs here. Also, if you must carry a bear canister on every trip, a Bearikade might be worth the added expense. I use a Bearvault but don't have to carry one that much in the PNW.

(2) Weigh everything you already own, compare and choose deliberately. This is a very important to lightening up. If you replaced 16 items (clothing, cooking gear, water containers, hiking poles, dog gear, whatever!) with items weighing just 2 oz less each, you'd save 2 lbs without buying anything. Once the "Big Three" items are replaced above, this is the area where the most weight can be dropped. Don't forget to consider calories/weight of the dog food, too. I realize it isn't easy to switch out food for animals but it could be worth it to look at.

(3) Experimentation. Try to borrow a large tarp with a solo net inner for an overnight trip. Leave something behind that you usually bring and see how it goes. The knowledge gained can really help you decide what to bring and what not to bring. You may find that lines you didn't want to cross before (synthetic vs. down, tarp vs. tent, etc) will change.

Good luck!

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
"Light" gear list to shoot for? on 12/07/2013 21:30:52 MST Print View

Doug, you are going to have to give some ground if you want to lighten up. Also consider having the dog bring some gear, even though it is getting older. My dog bped up to the time he passed away,(cancer) and carried his own food and my trash. Depending on where you are going, a bear can may not be needed. My dog always warned me of a bears presence. You're not giving folks anything to work with.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: "Light" gear list to shoot for? on 12/07/2013 21:50:29 MST Print View

The whole concept of lightening up your load is not a one-step process. It is more of a descending spiral. You start with a high load weight. Then you knock out a bunch by just attacking the two heavy items. Then you knock out a bunch more with some medium items. You keep up the process as you descend in overall load, and finally you will find yourself drilling holes in your toothbrush handle. The point of this is that as you descend the spiral, you find other economies along the way. Once your total load gets below twenty pounds, you don't need a heavy duty pack anymore, and a skimpy little thing might suffice. Once you cut down the cooking and stove stuff, you sure don't need the heavy duty pack. In fact, along the spiral you will find that using _compact_ gear will help you out almost as much as using lightweight gear, because compact gear often doesn't require the high volume pack.


Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: "Light" gear list to shoot for? on 12/07/2013 21:56:37 MST Print View

Make a list of every item in your pack. If you haven't used it in the past 10 trips get rid of it. The exception is bandaids. If an item needs a battery, consider that you probably don't need it. A small light might be an exception.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Re: "Light" gear list to shoot for? on 12/07/2013 22:04:21 MST Print View


If you are brave enough, put up your entire, detailed list and let these guys work it over. :)


Doug Smith
(Jedi5150) - F

Locale: Central CA
lighter gear on 12/07/2013 22:36:07 MST Print View

Wow, thanks very much for the helpful and insightful replies. It gives me a lot to think about. I used to be much more concerned with redundancy, so that is one area I've already saved a lot of weight (at least it seems so). I used to carry three flashlights, now I'm down to just one small headlamp and I used my Nook glowlight as an even more efficient flashlight for hours on end. I used to carry a leatherman and two knives, now I only carry one knife, and so on.

Billy, I'm more than happy to post my entire gear list and have it mulled over, but two things are preventing that from happening right now. One is that I'm still waiting on a couple things (such as the pack), and the other is that I need to get a digital scale. I was researching those today on other threads here, and I think I'm going to go buy a food scale this week. By next weekend I should be able to put up a fairly accurate list of my current gear. Although I imagine I ought to start a new thread so that it can go in the "gear list" subforum.

Nick, excellent suggestion to make a list of the stuff I haven't used. I plan on doing that.

Duane, my apologies for coming across obstinate and asking for advice at the same time. I do appreciate the suggestions, and possibly my frame of mind is in need of a change. I know that the synthetic vs down argument will go on forever, and this is probably not the appropriate forum for it. That said, Steven makes a good point that the Sierras might be a decent place to get by with down. Deep down I think I was hoping that the "big 3" would not be the areas I'd have to focus on for weight savings. Maybe I could allow myself the luxury of the Kifaru pack as a reward for lightening up my sleep system and shelter a bit. hahaha

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: lighter gear on 12/07/2013 22:51:43 MST Print View

You should hold off on that pack. What others beside that Mchale you got rid of have you tried? Post what you have, regardless if you have a weight on it or not. People here know what most things weigh anyway.

Edited by kthompson on 12/07/2013 23:16:39 MST.

John Abela
(JohnAbela) - MLife

Re: "Light" gear list to shoot for? on 12/07/2013 23:08:10 MST Print View

summer Sierra backpacking

If you are doing summer Sierra backpacking, there is not a single Hilliberg shelter in their catalog that warrants the weight of one of their shelters in the Sierra during the summer season. You can save yourself between 2.5 and 5+ pounds just by ditching the whole idea/concept you need a Hilleberg. Plenty of other shelters out there that will give you the same "bug/crawlers free" protect you indicate you want... and probably be less expensive.

Camera gear is what it is... heavy. Just have to accept that fact and move on.

Nothing wrong with wanting to use synthetic over down for a sleeping bag... just try not to pick one of the heaviest ones on the market.

Nothing you can do about a bear canister except accept the fact they are all heavy, even the lightest one out there.

You have not yet listed your clothing... going to guess you have 4+ pounds of clothing (??). If so, need to totally rethink that as well. 2 pounds MAX for Sierra in the summer.

Keep at it and keep reading and asking questions. Try to ask more questions than you do buying gear. A sub 20 can be totally doable, even with the "must have" items that you indicate you are unwilling to switch up. Too many folks getting into the L/UL world from the HH world buy too much gear too quickly without really asking around and seeing what works with what. So, keep asking and learning!

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: "Light" gear list to shoot for? on 12/08/2013 08:11:48 MST Print View

Hey Doug,

I also do a great deal of backpacking with my 80# pooch, and after hundreds and hundreds of miles in various tents (he also needs to be enclosed with me), I've never had him puncture a tent floor, even cuben fiber.

My current favorite with him is the tarptent stratospire 1. The duomid with a solo inner works great for me, but I do have to be careful about how I pitch it in order to keep CharlieDog inside with me (the door could be wide open, but that darned dog STILL wants to run under the tarp). So until I figure that out, I mostly take the stratospire with us. There are MANY tarp tent combos out there that will work with your dog...

As far as the pack goes, honestly there are some seriously comfortable packs out there that are. Much, much lighter, I'm talking POUNDS lighter.

I think the big key for you right now is keeping an open mind. I think many of us started off saying we would NEVER do something, only to find we actually like it better. I was hugely resistant to most things UL until I actually tried them. Now I'll never go back........

Good luck!

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
"Light" on 12/08/2013 08:25:16 MST Print View

I think it's quite possible to drop major weight without changing your style, or at least not changing your style too abruptly.

Cutting off some stuff with save weight on the Late Season. Getting some composite stays will save more without degrading function. There are lighter packs which should provide similar load carry (I'm finishing an article on the Paradox Packs Evolution right now), but they'll cost a lot. Something like a ULA Catalyst might be worth considering if you do make substantial reductions in weight.

I'm not sure how the Doobie gets so heavy with relatively little insulation. For comparison, the Enlightened Equipment 40F Prodigy also uses 4oz/yard Apex and weighs around 20-22 oz depending on size.

You could cut your shelter weight in half with something from Tarptent or Big Agnes, but to be blunt you'll be taking a pretty heavy hit in material and construction quality. I'd encourage you to try tarping with an inexpensive silnylon flat tarp and some manner of net inner with a floor. Weight savings is only one reason I like using a tarp as often as possible, and you might learn something.

Clothing is a big one you haven't addressed. I'm assuming you probably have a lot of heavy extras. Cut the fat there, and give yourself a safety margin with skill and judgment rather than a bunch of stuff.

Edited by DaveC on 12/08/2013 08:28:09 MST.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: "Light" gear list to shoot for? on 12/08/2013 09:40:14 MST Print View

the tent sort of depends on the size of the dog.
unna vs akto (i've owned both, and either is overkill for california), you'll simply Go Faster with an akto. the setup/takedown time is so much less.
if the dog is one of those more reasonably portable midsize units (like a scottie), the akto would be fine.
more : it all works together. once you run hillbeerg, you will be able to run down insulation and not have dampness issues. so you pick up some ounce credits there. real wt of an akto is 52oz. check our Shire's Moment DW. it's more than a full pound off that. being quite a s sissy in such matters, i prefer a real tent as well.

more : i did not see anything about sewing your own stuff sacks and such. that is a critical skill in following bob's "It is more of a descending spiral." mindset. you'll need to ramp up the sewing abilities to be in control of your gear. it's a handy thing to have in life. there's no reason not to become proficient. it's cheap as heck to get started. it frees you from dependency on others, and allows you to give more back to your friends.
at any rate, with either hilleberg, you'll still be wanting a better window (much, and Very tricky, sewing)

once you are bang'n out custom sized sacks (the material is very inexpensive), you'll be on that spiraling path towards goodness. then you'l start looking at trinkets, even cord locks, with a more practiced eye. and that's "the trick". there's weight to be saved, but one needs to be able to see it.

best thing is that since you can already tote 60#'s, heck, it can't really get a lot** worse ! so everything you do, even just thinking about less weight, will move you in the proper direction.


** - well yes, certainly it can. but that's another form of madness.

Doug Smith
(Jedi5150) - F

Locale: Central CA
more light on 12/08/2013 13:05:49 MST Print View

Thanks again for all the great advice, folks. I'll try to address each in turn.

Jennifer, your advice to keep an open mind (others have alluded to it as well), is something I'm trying very hard to work on, and perhaps making gradual progress. ;-) I read through that link that Sharon put up about traptents and dogs, and I am more open to that idea now. That said, a thought that did occur to me about 4 season tents like the Unna and Akto, is that I know first hand how very warm they are. I have winter camped in a Hilleberg and the inner tent felt an easy 15-20* warmer than even the vestibule. I could probably drop the weight of my sleep system by a good pound using a Hilleberg, which would help offset the pound or so heavier that they are than other shelter options, while still retaining their bomb-proof benefits. As Peter even mentioned, down might be more likely for me to try out with a bombproof shelter. Still, I'm going to follow your advice and not rule anything out.

John, I noticed that even the lightest bear canister out there (the Bearikade Scout, I believe), is barely lighter than my BV450, and incredibly expensive. That may be one area that I am better off eating the bullet on the extra 4 oz or so and saving a couple hundred dollars, since I already have the BV450.

Several people have mentioned clothing already, so I'll address it. I'm sure I'm a bit heavier than most, but not outrageous, like I used to be in the clothing regard. What I took on my last summer backpacking 3 dayer in the Sierras was a frog toggs UL rain jacket (no rain pants, I figured if it was unbearable I'd set up my tent anyways), balaclava, Arcteryx Bravo softshell jacket, felt Akubra hat, smartwool lightweight wool longjohns (top and bottom), and 1 extra pair of socks and skivvies. Obviously that doesn't include the stuff worn constantly, like my 511 pants, long sleeve REI nylon shirt, etc. That amount of gear worked fine for me, both while hiking, sleeping at night, and even during several thundershowers. As I said, I can probably save some weight in this area as well, but at least nothing was outrageous or excess (in my opinion anyways). I used to pack two pairs of gloves, Gore-Tex ECWCS parka and pants, etc. I've downsized a ton in the clothing area already.

Peter, could you clarify one point you made about the Unna vs Akto? You mentioned "go faster" with the Akto. Are you simply referring to the weight being a pound lighter, or set-up, takedown, etc? I was surprised by this comment, because that is why I chose the Unna over the Akto. The Unna, with just two poles (stakes almost optional), it is probably the fastest/ simplest tent I've ever set up. The Akto (never seen one in person) only has one pole, but WAY more staking/ guying out hassle it looks like. You've owned both, so I'm happy to take your word for it, but could you explain it a little more to me?

Thanks again everyone. I'm sorry, I know I'm missing some of the good comments to reply to, but there is a lot of good info I'm absorbing.

Edited by Jedi5150 on 12/08/2013 13:22:13 MST.

gear on 12/08/2013 14:21:59 MST Print View

You cannot get significantly lighter without changing your heaviest items.

It IS possible to have a 10-12lb base wt, + 3 lbs camera gear even with the bear can. But you have to WANT to change and get lighter.

You dont. You make excuses why you want to keep heavy stuff.

Money is a good excuse.
Fears are not.

When I hike the JMT next summer, Using a "heavy" pack (circuit), my base will be about 11 lbs with the bear can. Thats plenty of gear to be dry , warm, and safe.

Edited by livingontheroad on 12/08/2013 14:48:49 MST.

Doug Smith
(Jedi5150) - F

Locale: Central CA
ultralight on 12/08/2013 14:51:05 MST Print View

Thanks MB. I'm afraid you might have missed the spirit of this thread, though. I consider a 10-12 lb base weight to be ultralight for a 3-4 day trip at high elevations. I'm looking for suggestions to get me into the 20-25lb range. In fact, if I could get down to a 20 lb base weight I'd be thrilled...mission accomplished as it were. You are quite correct that 10 pounds is not an idea I am open to. I simply have no need of going that light. I'm not trying to be rude, but I made a point of explaining at the beginning of this thread that I am not shooting for an ultralight gear list. Just as I have a hard time wrapping my head around a 10 pound base weight, I know there are many here who can't reason with a 20 lb weight. I won't try to talk you into being a 40 lb packer. ;-)

The replies so far have been very helpful, and in the spirit of what I was aiming for. Nobody so far is suggesting that I wear a T-shirt and shorts and carry a 1 liter bottle and a tarp. But at the same time, they are offering tips to get my weight under control, and how to think lighter and be open minded. That is exactly what I was hoping for. I really would have titled the thread differently if I simply wanted folks to hand me a 10 pound gear list without taking any of my personal opinions into account.

I'm not a young man any more, and I've seen the pendulum effect enough throughout my life to know I want to avoid it. I'm looking to swing from the heavy end to the middle, not all the way to the other side, only to have to come back again. That is the best way I can describe it. I've got to add that it is a little unfair to say I am not willing to change the heaviest items. Just in the last couple posts I've said I am considering changing both my sleep system and shelter. I consider that gaining ground.

Edited by Jedi5150 on 12/08/2013 15:00:44 MST.