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#163915 - 03/15/12 07:54 AM Is lighter always righter?
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
The recent discussions of base weight, whether a pack can be too light, and so on, got me to wondering: have any of you ever made conscious decisions not to cut weight? Let me give you an example of something I've wrestle with on and off.

About 5 years ago, my pack, fully loaded for a summer weekend in Ohio, weighed about 20 pounds. And I was happy with it; everything worked well, and didn't require a lot of attention during a trip. As tents with carbon fiber poles, NeoAir pads, and half-pound water filters came out, I replaced some things, and bought a smaller pack with a less robust suspension. My pack, loaded for that same summer weekend in Ohio, now weighs about 18 pounds. So, quantitatively, I've done well.

However, the new tent isn't freestanding and can't be pitched fly-first (a factor in Ohio rain), and I'm still not fully convinced of the durability of the pole; the water filter is much harder to clean in the field, and somehow seems more delicate; the NeoAir is more delicate and more of a pain to inflate than the old Prolite, and so forth. With the "old" set of gear, everything worked so well and so simply that gear sort of faded into the background, and didn't take much thought or time to deal with; none of it had ever failed. The "new" stuff has never failed either, so durability and function aren't issues. It comes down more to attention and convenience. The new stuff seems to have me spending a lot of time fussing with gear: instead of filtering directly from the stream, I now fill a nylon bowl and filter from that to minimize filter clogging; I spend a lot of effort blowing up the pad, and am reluctant to use it for anything but sleeping; and I'm a lot more worried about where I put the tent. I notice that the lighter pack, even with less weight in it, doesn't do as good a job of keeping the weight off my shoulders; I also have to cinch the more lightly-padded belt tighter to transfer the load. I find I notice the pack more when I'm walking, and do more fiddling with the straps and such, and that I frequently reach lunch or camp with tired (but not sore) shoulders and hips.

I've been toying for the last year or so with the idea of ditching the lighter gear and using the "old reliable" stuff again, even though it's heavier.

So, if you were in this situation, what would you do? I'm not looking for answers that bring additional variables, like different seasons or locales, or other planned activities, into the equation. Given that all other things are equal, is saving two pounds worth the additional fiddle factor? Is lighter always righter? How much weight are you willing to add for convenience?

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#163919 - 03/15/12 09:02 AM Re: Is lighter always righter? [Re: Glenn]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3571
Loc: Texas
I'd use what works, Glenn. When I first started the ultralight thing, I was rabid about cutting as much weight as possible, giving up some functionality along the way. Clearly some lightweight ideas don't hold up in all scenarios, for a variety of reasons, which you mention. I also came to the realization that there is no contest as far as 'the lightest pack' goes. It's more 'what I'm willing to carry'.
I always leave a couple pound "convenience factor" option in my pack weight.
With regard to pads, I don't use the inflatables anymore. A shortened Ridgerest or GG evasote does fine and I don't have to baby it.
_________________________
paul, texas KD5IVP

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#163922 - 03/15/12 09:30 AM Re: Is lighter always righter? [Re: Glenn]
ringtail Offline
member

Registered: 08/22/02
Posts: 2296
Loc: Colorado Rockies
For me there has always been a weight bounce. I could reduce my base weight to X, but it would bounce back up to X+15%. But the X+ weight has always been less than the orginal. Expect the bounce.

Some light weight gear has less fiddle factor than the heavy gear. My whoopies hammock suspension system is lighter and more convenient than the webbing it replaced. My alcohol stove is lighter, cheaper and more convenient than the MSR Dragonfly it replaced.

In Colorado the water is clear so I seldom use a filter, but when I do I use a Coghlans bucket to gather the water then hang it from a tree and filter in camp. I never learned the skill of sitting on a stream bank without getting wet.

Use what ever gear you need to create the experience you seek.
_________________________
"In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not."
Yogi Berra

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#163923 - 03/15/12 09:32 AM Re: Is lighter always righter? [Re: Dryer]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1730
Loc: Napa, CA
Or course. We each carry things that we don't "need" and add weight to our packs. My wife carries an extra foam pad, because she likes the extra comfort. It weighs 12 ounces. I carry fishing stuff, about 20 ounces. And we both carry a pair of Crocs that we wear crossing streams, and around in camp like camp slippers.

If we were totally dedicated ultra-lighters, we would leave all that stuff at home. And we would be less comfortable, and less happy.

Hike your own hike.
_________________________
balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#163946 - 03/15/12 01:36 PM Re: Is lighter always righter? [Re: Glenn]
aimless Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2859
Loc: Portland, OR
If all other things are equal, then lighter is always righter! cool

But of course all those other things -- like durability, price, features, terrain and weather -- are never equal. So, it's always going to be a matter of taking all the factors into account, with weight being just one of many.

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#163948 - 03/15/12 02:22 PM Re: Is lighter always righter? [Re: aimless]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2751
Loc: California
I would guess that all of us have a closet full of gear of various vintages and weights. I can put together an UL outfit, a light one, or go retro. I mix and match everything. To be honest, sometimes I take the heavier item because it is so familiar- kind of like leaving an old friend if I do not take it. And I will also admit that sometimes I choose a slightly heavier piece of clothing because I like the color- it just makes me cheery. The only time I am not happy with myself is when I return from a trip and realize that I have not used many items. Then I know I have gone overboard. Once I took a book and never opened it. I was just too busy having fun.

It is a trade-off ALWAYS. Take the tent, comfy at night, curse it on the trail. Leave behind the Crocks, happy on the trail, curse myself when I have to cross a stream. Get too conservative on fuel, cry over no hot cocoa at night, but do not even think about it during the day. I honestly do better as a minimalist on very long trips because I adapt better to the minimalist lifestyle.

The hardest part for me is just to go! I am standing under my hot shower and think, OMG, I am going to jump into ice cold water for the next two weeks! One day on the trail, and it is no big deal.

At some point, though, you DO cross the line with respect to safety of just plain having enough to enjoy yourself. Two weeks in survival mode is not fun.


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#163952 - 03/15/12 03:13 PM Re: Is lighter always righter? [Re: Glenn]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1146
Loc: Washington State, King County
I don't think it's any sort of all-or-nothing one approach or the other. For any given item of gear, decide which 'version' is best based on multiple factors, with weight (for me at least) being quite an important one. It also depends, for me, on where I'm going and at what pace.

So of the specific issues addressed:
Quote:
"However, the new tent isn't freestanding and can't be pitched fly-first (a factor in Ohio rain), and I'm still not fully convinced of the durability of the pole; the water filter is much harder to clean in the field, and somehow seems more delicate; the NeoAir is more delicate and more of a pain to inflate than the old Prolite, and so forth. With the "old" set of gear, everything worked so well and so simply that gear sort of faded into the background, and didn't take much thought or time to deal with; none of it had ever failed. The "new" stuff has never failed either, so durability and function aren't issues. It comes down more to attention and convenience. The new stuff seems to have me spending a lot of time fussing with gear: instead of filtering directly from the stream, I now fill a nylon bowl and filter from that to minimize filter clogging; I spend a lot of effort blowing up the pad, and am reluctant to use it for anything but sleeping; and I'm a lot more worried about where I put the tent. I notice that the lighter pack, even with less weight in it, doesn't do as good a job of keeping the weight off my shoulders; I also have to cinch the more lightly-padded belt tighter to transfer the load. I find I notice the pack more when I'm walking, and do more fiddling with the straps and such, and that I frequently reach lunch or camp with tired (but not sore) shoulders and hips."

Tent issues: I personally don't see the problem with tent pitch. For me, at least, it doesn't take so long to set up my not-freestanding tent that I would consider that as a factor. ? It rains a lot where I live too.
Durability of the pole: can't comment there, not enough data. Well, but one thing to consider is how easy or hard it might be to field repair if it broke. My own tent uses a little plastic ridge pole that is essential, and it's not a super strong thing. I can easily imagine it breaking. But I wrap it up carefully in the tent each time, and when it's not so-protected, it's in place in the tent under static (not dynamic) loading. So I'm comfortable with it.

Water filter harder to clean: consider using aqua mira drops, plus something to pre-filter if that's an issue for you (I have hardly ever had to do this). Not too expensive to try this out.

NeoAir: more of a pain to inflate for me is offset by "thicker, more comfortable, particularly on rough terrain". More delicate: bring a patch kit. I've used a first gen. neoair on two thru-hikes now and still use both of them; one is slightly delaminated at the head end and has one patch on it, but ... so what? They're not that delicate if you take care.

Pack putting too much weight on shoulders. I'm with you, if you can't fix that then I think you don't have the right pack. Though going the *other* direction (lightening up further) can mitigate that if it's not currently a big problem.

Consider this year doing one trip with your "new" gear, and then shortly follow it with a trip with nothing but your "old" gear. See how happy you are offsetting weight savings with mental and physical comforts.

For my own part, if I'm having issues with a piece of light gear, I don't think in terms of going back. I'm willing if it's the right answer, but generally the right answer for me is to figure out and solve the issue at hand.
_________________________
Brian Lewis
http://postholer.com/brianle

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#163955 - 03/15/12 04:56 PM Re: Is lighter always righter? [Re: BrianLe]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6399
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Aimless is right: Lighter is better as long as the lighter item works for you!

For me, it's not a choice between comfort on the trail (the lighter the pack the easier it is to carry) and comfort in camp (which I will not do without, especially warm clothing and sleeping bag and a nice thick, cushy, warm sleeping pad). I want both!

I've gotten really light versions of all these, but a few were a bit spendy!


Edited by OregonMouse (03/15/12 04:57 PM)
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#163985 - 03/16/12 08:22 AM Re: Is lighter always righter? [Re: OregonMouse]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
An associated question is "Is popular always right?"

Personally, I prefer external frame packs. Mine are about 25 years old. I don't know for sure as they were given to me. But they are at least 20 years old. They are simply more convenient.

I used to prefer cheap shoes. Now I like expensive boots. They are more comfortable for me and they don't get wet.

I've never used anything but cheap sleeping bags except for a few trips in the military. But this year will be a bit different. I stumbled on a couple good synthetic bags for free. That's a good price.

I've never used a pad, even in very cold weather. I doubt if I ever will. I can put a fleece under me if I want.

Cotton t-shirts are more comfortable for me. They smell better, too. I'm not a big believer in "Cotton kills." It's wet cotton that can cause problems.

Personally, I think I'm stuck in the late 70's. If I were starting out today, I'd probably get stuck in today. There is a comfort in using the same kind of gear I've always used. It's a lot cheaper, too.

I've made some changes. I have a hammock now. I haven't used it in the field yet. I also have trekking poles.
_________________________
http://48statehike.blogspot.com/

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#163992 - 03/16/12 09:23 AM Re: Is lighter always righter? [Re: Glenn]
topshot Offline
member

Registered: 04/28/09
Posts: 242
Loc: Midwest
Originally Posted By Glenn
I've been toying for the last year or so with the idea of ditching the lighter gear and using the "old reliable" stuff again, even though it's heavier.

So, if you were in this situation, what would you do? I'm not looking for answers that bring additional variables, like different seasons or locales, or other planned activities, into the equation. Given that all other things are equal, is saving two pounds worth the additional fiddle factor? Is lighter always righter? How much weight are you willing to add for convenience?
For all that you apparently changed for only 2 pound gain I'd go back with your old stuff since YOU are clearly happier with it. I started at ~19 lbs and am now < 12, but I'm happy with my choices. I hope to get to 10 when I can fiddle with MYOG more.

I would agree with what BrianLe said above. Pitching in rain is a skill; filters will always fail at some point - use chemicals, which are also lighter; I haven't tried it yet, but several fill their inflatable by using their pack liner as an airbag; your pack sounds like it is a size too small.

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#163996 - 03/16/12 11:50 AM Re: Is lighter always righter? [Re: Glenn]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2751
Loc: California
I have a gear spreadsheet and am playing with a way to quantify what adding extra stuff "costs" me. I tag my basic most minimalistic gear and its weight is "tax-free". A heavier alternative of an essential item gets "taxed" the incremental additional weight. For each non-essential optional item, a percentage of its weight becomes a "tax". For example, gear that adds safety or complies with regulation (ie bear can) gets "taxed" 20%, added comfort 50%, added convienence 60%, entertainment 80%. Fishing is entertainment, because honestly I am not good enough to count on it to really provide food and it plays second fiddle to my photography. Then I aim to limit my "tax burden" to 5 pounds. The spreadsheet is evolving. If I repeatedly take a "low value/high tax" item it becomes clear to me that it needs to be assigned more value and less tax. For example my camera has bumped up from the "entertainment" catagory to a higher value to me.

This helps me make sure the extra weight I am taking is worth it! I just add up everything I want to take on the spreadsheet and then look at my "tax". If it excees the 5-pound limit, then I adjust. Because each extra item has a different value, I can more quickly get rid of the extra weight by deleting a low value item. I do not obsess over lighter gear that I do not own. I just deal with the equipment that I own and what it actually weighs.

AND, the final step is to pack it up (including food and water), and put on the pack! There have been times when I have then said, no way! Something HAS to go! So when I eliminate stuff, the low value items are the first to go.

I would not go to all this effort if I did not actually enjoy developing spreadsheets or if I were able to do a similar exercise intuitively. It was not until I actually forced myself to assign numeric "values" to my stuff that I got a handle on reducing pack weight or really understand what was important to me.

So, the answer is YES, I do make a concious decison NOT to reduce weight (take extra items). But it is based on the value of each added item and I set a total limit so I do not go overboard. I also do not simply go out and buy new stuff because it weighs less. I wait until I need to replace something, THEN yes, I consider the lighter gear if it is within my budget.

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#164032 - 03/16/12 07:03 PM Re: Is lighter always righter? [Re: topshot]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
I guess I need to 'fess up: the decision on which way to go is one I struggled with. However, the timing of the post was intentionally misleading - I made the decision about a year ago. I simply resurrected it, after reading about base weight, FSO weight, and whether a lighter pack is always better. I wanted to focus on the idea of weight versus other things.

I ended up deciding that, for me, the lighter weight stuff was worth keeping. However, I also kept the older stuff, just in case. Over the year, my confidence level in the lighter stuff grew, and I learned some tricks that made them more convenient to use. To bring the thing full circle, I finally gave away the old stuff 2 weeks ago.

As for the pack, I ended up replacing it, and saving another pound. I'm now down closer to 16 than 18, and quite happy. But it's been interesting to read everyone's perspectives on the question of whether lighter is always righter.

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#164037 - 03/16/12 07:58 PM Re: Is lighter always righter? [Re: Glenn]
Kent W Offline
member

Registered: 10/15/09
Posts: 607
Loc: IL.
The answer to the Jepardy Question is What is net worth! Some things we have to have ,and will carry regardless. Cask Strength Scotch,"Phat"" Vodka" Kaw, My pocket shower, soon to be a gravity filter as well! I picked up a pound in my pack this year it was a pack itself. Now 2lbs 3 oz. Why? support for a longer food carry. I do not want to go to town for a mail drop. I will waste to much of my time. I am determined to push on. Sometimes the path of most resistence is lesser traveled. However, may be required to acheive?

It is better to try and fail than to never try at all!

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#164082 - 03/17/12 07:31 PM Re: Is lighter always righter? [Re: Kent W]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Sometimes I need the heavier piece of gear. I remember my first goretex coat - had to take it campin of course. Trouble was when I got my second goretex coat and couldn't take both. Same with sleeping bags and tents, soon I had to decide to leave 80% of my camping gear at home - stuff that I paid thousands of dollars for. I can't imagine having one set.

I would wear completely different clothes for a summer or winter trip to the same place in the mountains. If my pack weighed less than 22 or 23 pounds I'd add a steak.
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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