After a long arduous day on the trail, my partner Jon and I were in our tent contemplating ways to make our packs lighter. I joked to Jon that we should cut all the tags off our gear to save weight. Jon didn’t catch my sarcasm and approved the idea because he read about this technique from a couple of backpacking blogs. However, he never found an exact weight savings, but hypothesized he could shave an ounce off his pack weight. I bet $20 against him. Once back in town, since ski season was right around the corner we used Jon’s ski touring gear as the basis of the experiment.
Ski touring in the winter time means lots of layers and heavy packs. With each additional layer come more and more tags. We gathered Jon’s gear and started cutting off every flappy tag in sight, attempting not to accidentally cut or destroy any of the gear. Because of this, we decided not to cut all the tags that were sown flat onto the garments. After cutting the first tag, Jon hurried to weigh it, but was disheartened when the scale couldn’t make a reading because it was too light. Still determined to win the bet, he continued cutting tags for approximately ten minutes. When the scissors stopped clipping, he had collected 50 tags from 19 separate pieces of gear totaling 0.5 oz (14.1 g). For comparison a sandwich bag weighs 0.09 oz (2.4 g), a snack sized Snicker bar is 0.62 (17.5 g), and a single AA battery is 0.85 oz (24 g). By cutting 0.5 oz from the pack, a hiker that weighs 155 lb carrying a pack weighing 35 lb over a distance of 1,000 miles with no elevation gain/loss, will save approximately 367 kilocalories (Ze), or about four and a half snack sized Snickers.
Jon was disappointed he didn’t save an ounce like he had hoped, but he took comfort in having no more scratchy tags against his skin. He also didn’t have to worry about the large and obnoxious tag on his sleeping bag anymore. Jon’s joy was short-lived when he realized he didn’t know how to wash and care for his gear without the instructions provided on the tags. The disappointment continued when he was trying to dry out his gear after washing it, as he realized many of the tags doubled as hanging points. These were only minor setbacks compared to not being able to differentiate his gear because he labeled his initials and numbered different pairs of identical underwear on the tags.
Given the minimal weight and caloric savings, we feel there are more effective ways to save half an ounce, unless you are attempting to go super ultra-light (less than a 5 lb pack weight). Jon admitted reluctantly, “I would rather have one less snack sized Snickers, than have trouble rotating my underwear in the field because I cut off my numbering system.” With that being said, Jon wishes he would have never cut off any tags. Since the tags are already gone, Jon can eat away his sorrows with one extra snack sized Snickers while I enjoy my new running gloves.
Ze [n.d.]. “Re: Calculate Calories Burned.” Hiking Science. Blogspot. 22 Mar. 2010. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.