Signpost: May 2000

The Great Featherweight Face-off
In the ongoing "How light can you go?" debate, two contenders up the ante.

Many hikers obsess over their weight -- pack weight, that is. Follow the lead of "traditional" minimalists like Ray Jardine and you'll lose weight by whipping up your own gear at home and replacing high-tech equipment with inexpensive household items. Gear addicts like Web site creator Charles Lindsey (aka The Lightweight Backpacker) shave pounds by buying the newest, lightest gadgets on the market, then chopping off tags, severing extra lengths of cord, and hollowing out tooth brush handles. Here are some highlights from these two schools of featherweight thought. 

  The Ray Way
The Lightweight Backpacker 
(gear addict)**
Raingear Umbrella ($12.99, 9 oz.) Frogg-Toggs rainsuit & Outdoor Research rain mitts ($114, 15.2 oz.)
Backpack Homemade 2,600 cu. in.($11, 13.5 oz.) 4,000 cu. in. Mountainsmith pack Mountainlight ($239, 41.87 oz.)
Water Bottle Empty 1-liter soda bottle ($.85, 1.6 oz.) Two Platypus 1-liter bladder bags ($7.90, 2 oz.)
Tent Tarp and 8 aluminum tent stakes ($20.98, 30.6 oz.) Bibler Regular Bivy ($200, 20 oz.)
Sleeping Bag Homemade PrimaLoft 2-person quilt ($34, 49 oz.) Western Mountaineering Iroquois sleeping bag ($205, 24.73 oz.)
Total pack weight
 (excluding food & water)  
8 lbs. 7oz. 13 lbs. 9 oz.  (see Comments below)

Sources: *Beyond Backpacking: Ray Jardine's Guide to Lightweight Hiking , by Ray Jardine (Adventure Press, Box 804, LaPine, OR 97739;; $19.95). **The Lightweight Backpacker Web site,       -Susan Newquist

Reprinted with permission from BACKPACKER magazine (c) 2000 Rodale, Inc.

Comments From The Lightweight Backpacker

The Lightweight Backpacker is grateful for being mentioned in the backpacking periodical -- Backpacker Magazine. However, to some extent, the short article was misleading and in effect was comparing .... apples and oranges .... although the mention of the two different philosophies, IN TERMS OF EQUIPMENT ONLY, was roughly accurate.

Here are a few comments regarding the "Total pack weight" listed above which were not mentioned in the article:

Firstly -- and probably obviously -- the "Total pack weight" is not the sum of the five items listed in the matrix (raingear, backpack, water bottle, tent and sleeping bag). Interestingly, those five items totaled 6.48 lbs for both Ray and Charles.

Secondly -- contrary to what it says in the matrix -- Charles' pack weight DOES include food and water. Ray Jardine's pack weight DOES NOT include food and water.

Consequently, subtracting food & water from Charles' packweight reduces his total to: 13 lbs 9 oz (18lbs 1oz minus 4lb 8oz)

Furthermore, the above DOES NOT consider the fact that Charles packs solo while Ray does not. Ray shares items with his wife. Some items are included in Charles' pack weight but not in Ray's pack weight because his wife carried them (e.g., 8.3 oz aluminum cookpot & stowbag)*. Ray's pack weight also does not include the items that he carried while hiking in Washington State (Charles' home turf). Namely, fleece jacket & w/b hat, wool/polyester hiking socks and wicking pants* -- all items included in Charles' pack weight. On the other hand, items that Ray carries like the 2-person quilt might be lighter if he were traveling solo.

The bottom line here is to point out that the comparison of philosophies and the cost and weight of individual gear items is interesting, but the "Total pack weight" is out of context and incomparable.

I might also add that the Backpacker editor probably was not intending to elevate one philosophy over the other. Also, she stated that the "food and water" weight error was, indeed, an oversight and will be corrected in a forth coming issue of the magazine -- ie. correcting Charles' pack weight to 13lbs 9oz. (followup note: although the correction was never made, I appreciate the acknowledgment, in any case.).

Again, TLB thanks Sue Newquist and Backpacker Magazine for the article. (It's much more fun than serious, by the way!!)

* Information taken from "The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook", by Ray Jardine.

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© Copyright 2000. Charles Lindsey & The Lightweight Backpacker™