Re: Light Packing

Posted by FrankP on Jun 10, 2004

I don't carry things to the extreme that Terry seems to, but in general think they are good ideas. I do have a couple of disagreements with Terry's suggestions however.

First, I think everyone should carry a first aid kit. See comments below and understand what I mean by personal. Separation from your group without a first aid kit can be ugly. Also, one piece of communication gear for every 3 or 4 people. Odds are this means only one for most groups, but some people travel in larger groups and these need more than one for the whole group. Personally I like the talkabout type radios for large groups. I think the benefit outweighs the weight issue.

I disagree (partly) with freeze dried food because of price. No doubt it's the lightest, but you can do really well with other options. Again, see comments below. I always carry both a lighter and matches, but use the mini-bic...good suggestion.

I also found the Usenet post I was referring to before. Here it is:

/begin quote All, I apologize for the cross post, but it seems germane to all groups and I've seen a couple of posters who might be interested that don't seem to subscribe to all groups.

Someone responded to a (in alt.rec.hiking) and said it would be good to get a lighter pack weight. I'm not sure it was a cry for suggestions, or comment, but here are my ideas about that.

The easiest thing to do is buy the lightest equipment you can afford. This is, however, generally very costly, but worth it if you can spend the extra money. The benefits are most notable in sleeping bags and tents in my opinion.

Other than that, I have a few suggestions that are pretty much general purpose and "common" sense (after some practice). I've tried to list them according to the most benefit for the most people. Some are more practical than others, but all are possible (and I've done them.)

1) Use gear that has multiple a reusable space blanket/tarp. This can be used as a signal beacon, a heat blanket, a drop cloth, or a shelter. For $12 at REI it's one of the most versatile items I carry. The bandana is perhaps the most versatile camp item devised: hat, sunprotection, towel, bearbag (in a pinch), bandage, cup (in a pinch), dishrag, snotrag, patch material, etc etc.

2) Don't carry a full cookset. Carry one pot (for every 2 or 3 people as appetites dictate) and eat from it. If you can, use this for drinking hot beverages as well. I don't bother with a coffee mug anymore. (Of course I don't mind food bits in my tea either...YMMV)

3) Pack your stove inside your cookset. This will reduce bulk, protect your stove, and allow for a smaller pack. If you use a white gas stove, buy the small fuel bottles and carry multiples (if you plan on cooking a lot.) These are easier to pack and can be split amongst your group (assuming you're not soloing.)

4) A change of clothes is only necessary if you've gotten wet. Why carry multiple pairs of underwear, socks, pants and shirts? These all add considerable bulk and a fair amount of weight, even the "lightweight" stuff. I carry 2 extra pairs of socks and wear the same clothes for anything less than 5 days (rotating my socks every day). Anything more than that, and I will add clothing appropriately. Of course, I carry one "middle" layer as well (which I use as an outer layer if I get too nasty), so keep that in mind.

Use your wind layer as your rain layer. I can't tell you how many people I know carry both a wind breaker and a rain jacket. Use one "waterproof" layer that also does a decent job of blocking wind. I personally use a ski shell that I spray once or twice a year to waterproof. I've worn it year round for the last 10 years (everything from hiking/backpacking to ice climbing, to rock climbing to snowboarding etc.) and it's still in good shape.

Another great idea, is the convertible pants. Almost all the pants I own these days are convertible...they're just more versatile than I can describe in words.

Another way to reduce extra socks and pants is by wearing gaitors. These will help keep your feet dry and warm, often replacing the need for a full (or second) layer on your legs.

Note: the above advice doesn't mean go without personal hygiene. You can be dirty but still not stink (or at least not too badly)... it may be hard to believe but it's completely possible.

Which brings up another option

5) Don't carry lots of personal hygiene stuff. For washing the grime off, use sand from a creek bed. Brushing your teeth can be done with a finger, or if you have campfires, leave toothbrush and toothpaste at home and chew on a piece of coal once the fire dies (but not if you pee on the fire to put it out.) This gives a "nice" squeek (like nails on a chalkboard) while chewing and lovely black spit but does a great job of cleaning your teeth. Rinse with water afterward and you don't even have the black spit anymore.

6) Don't carry a full first-aid kit. A lot of people overpack their first aid kit...this is meant to be a kit for you, not everyone you meet on the trail (unless you're a wilderness EMT). Yes, you should help people if they need it, but odds are you have more than you will ever use. My kit is too big and is only 4"x5"x3" and has a 100 page "pocket wilderness first aid" book for refresher info in wierd situations (none of which I've ever encountered.)

7) For warmth, nothing beats a hat and a light pair of polypro gloves. All the difference between a miserable trip and a joyous one. Both are small and easily packed and can often replace much bulkier items of clothing. ie wear a hat and gloves instead of a heavy fleece sweater.

8) This goes without saying but, repackage all your food stuff before going out (unless it's the freeze-dried "camping food"). Take any food and put it into ziplock bags (or something similar) with directions if necessary. Packaging adds a huge amount of bulk and a pretty good amount of weight to all the foods people use camping. Also dehydrate as much stuff as you can.

9) Don't use a full-length sleeping pad. 3/4 length is more than enough for comfortable sleeping and warmth (unless temps are particularly low). If you are comfortable with 1/2 length, even better. Both save a lot of bulk and weight. If you're using foam pad trim the width as well. Foam pads are generally made very wide and can have several inches shaved off the sides--especially for women who tend to have narrower shoulders. (Use those inches and some duct tape to make insulators for nalgenes in the winter.) Also don't carry a pillow. (I'm always amazed at the number of people who do.) Use your pack or some extra clothes stuffed inside your sleeping bag stuff sack.

10) Split weight between you and partners. (One person carry rain fly, one carry poles, one carry tent. One person carry cookset, one carry food etc.) The lightest camping I ever did was with several other people and we all slept under one large shelter built from two tarps. 4 (or 5?) people under the shelter in 40 degree, wet weather and we were all comfortable and well rested the next day. Each of us carried some part of the community gear (ie stove, cookset, tarps, etc.) I think the heaviest pack among us was about 25-30 pounds. That equates to some serious comfort, or serious mileage, whichever is your goal.

11) Try to learn how to camp using tarp shelters instead of a full tent. This will save several pounds. It also has more versatility for multiple uses (see item 1). Some people really frown on tarp shelters because of weather etc. They can be remarkably weatherproof, but no matter what anyone says (even me) they aren't as completely wonderful as a tent. That said, I'd rather sleep under a tarp any day that is above 30 degrees (fahrenheit) , and not a complete hurricane.

12) Back to multi-purpose gear...sleep in your backpack and dump the sleeping bag. This is generally an emergency thing, but I do know some hard-core types who do it regularly (for the practice they say).

Anyone else have suggestions?

/end quote


In Response to: Light Packing by Terry Mcadams on Jun 10, 2004