Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
It's a good time to review how we did in our efforts to lighten our load, lesson our impact, and improve our experience last year.
What were your biggest gains in gear and lessons learned on the trails in 2008?
What was the coolest piece of new gear you got or would have wanted to use?
What could you have done better?
I've only been a member here for less than two years now but I've learned a lot here about getting lighter in that time. Acting on some of what I've learned I managed to make some real gains this year.
I got a hammock and used it with a light plastic table cover as a tarp and lost several pounds off my pack.
I got a Katadyn Hiker filter and carried less water.
I made a "Pop Can" stove and lost close to a pound.
I refined my gear list and changed the clothes I brought.
I brought more dehydrated food.
For the first time I got my pack weight down to around 20lbs (less food, water, fuel) and I only spent around $100 on new gear. (Actually much less, the Byer hammock was a gift and the water filter cost was split with my son-in-law).
I still took more food than I needed, not enough water, and carried some things I didn't use or really need. But I did a lot better as a result of what I've learned here and didn't miss anything I didn't take while I was out in the forests.
This year I think I might give trekking poles a try. I've been a "Hiking Stick Only" snob for a long time now and I've never even tried trekking poles. (Maybe I'll ease into it by starting out with a two shorter, thinner, sticks
Loc: north carolina
Biggest lessons learned in 2008:
1. There are some pieces of gear that I can live without, but that I prefer to have with me. My headlamp, for example, and my camp clogs. After several trips where I saved weight by leaving them at home, they are back in my kit for good.
2. Don't go hiking in the middle of a family crisis. The "quick getaway" doesn't work at all, and in this case turned into four days of abject misery. (Exacerbated by painful feet and a dead Photon Microlight, see #1, above.)
3. I really like hiking with my wife. Didn't have much time to do that until we shipped our kid off to college this year.
Not much new gear in 2008. Bought a Tarptent Double Rainbow, sold the original Rainshadow. Good for trips with my spouse. Got a Maccat Delux hammock tarp for the summer trip, to replace the stock HH tarp. I like both purchases. Other than that, I think I'm using the same gear as the last few years. It all works pretty well.
1) Last Christmas my kids gave me a Bear-i-kade cannister. I love it and it is much lighter than the BearVault. 2) I washed out a few old plastic salad dressing bottles and am now using these for water bottles. They work great because of the flat shape, are fairly strong and weigh nearly nothing. 3) I am still looking for a lighter backpack but after trying several, did not purchase any of them because if the pack fit ME it did not fit the bear cannister!
I also walked more trail miles this summer than usual and forgot how easy it is to quickly walk 12-15 miles on a big trail but I still prefer off-trail travel.
I reconfirmed my preference of spending my last night out only a few miles from my car instead of arriving at the trailhead at dark and driving home half awake. No car camping is then required and I am a much safer driver for the trip home. (food in a car is a bear problem where I backpack). The down side is that I have to wait until I get home for my cold beer!
My pack weight (minus food and clothing worn) is now about 18#.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I went both ways on the weight this year--I added some and subtracted some. However, even with the additions, I potentially will drop two pounds from my base weight and about 1 1/2 pounds from my skin-out weight, even with the additions.
First addition: a 10.5 oz. brick in the shape of an ACR Microfix personal locator beacon. My family and friends have been on my case for some time because I normally hike alone (really with my dog Hysson, but he wouldn't be much help if I got messed up). Most of the time I'm on populated trails, but I do get off in some more isolated places, especially since I prefer isolated camping spots well away from popular areas, sometimes as much as a mile off-trail. I'm also taking longer trips (as I lighten up more) and doing some easy off-trail hiking. What really persuaded me to blow the money for the PLB was reading Wandering Daisy's Wind Rivers trip reports, which she repeated in the ongoing solo hiking thread:
We went over a pass this summer only feet away from a fellow who died up there. It is a loose boulder field and he dislodged a rock that pinned him down. He was 50 feet from a lake and but could not get to water....This is a really remote area and only a handfull of people even get in the general area each year. He wrote a journal as he died of dehydration. It was 7 days before anyone knew he was in trouble.
At least my friends and family are happier!
I also added back a heavier tent this fall (the Tarptent Squall 2 I bought back in December 2005), having found that the SMD Lunar Solo is just too small with not enough ventilation for me plus my 80-lb. dog for long trips in inclement weather. However, I plan to get a Gossamer Gear Squall Classic when they start making them again, so that will get me back to where I started from, although much lighter in the wallet.
I've gone through my gear list several times looking for ounces or even fractions of ounces to pare. I have found quite a few, and they do add up.
The biggest adjustments affect skin-out weight, not pack weight--I finally made the shift from boots to trail runners. I haven't completely tested these out yet, but so far, so good. I also found some "mid" hikers (i.e. just over the ankle) that fit and are not Goretex lined (I hate Goretex--once Goretex-lined footwear gets wet, it takes days to dry) that weigh the same as the Montrail Hardrocks I'm currently using. So whichever footwear I end up with, I've cut over a pound off my feet! I also bought a lighter pair of trekking poles. I realized that I had enough duct tape (wrapped around the poles) to tape down the whole wilderness, so I cut that by more than half. I don't need a 3.5 oz. headlamp for summer backpacks when I'm in bed and asleep before dark, so I'm getting a Petzl e+Light. In spring and fall when the days are shorter, I take shorter trips so the heavier headlamp will go with me then.
I've also been working on my clothing. The lighter socks with the trail runners help, as do using a lighter base layer and using the base layer top as my hiking shirt.
I'm continuing to refine and cut back on things like toilet articles and first aid. Taking two week-long trips last summer really helped. I made careful note of anything left over (like half a 1-oz. bottle of hand sanitizer) so I can calculate the amounts more accurately in the future. Interestingly, I calculated the food exactly right for those two trips. On previous trips, I just couldn't eat all the dinner so had to haul out a lot of wet garbage.
Another possibility is the upcoming much-ballyhooed Thermarest NeoAir. If it works for me, it will cut 1/2 lb. from my sleep system. I already tried the Big Agnes Clearview in an attempt to lighten up, but with 8 tubes instead of the 6 on my current POE insulated air pad, it is effectively thinner. I couldn't achieve a happy medium between having it soft enough not to create sore hip bones from the pad surface and having my hip bones hit the ground. I spent two very uncomfortable nights with it. I suspect that mine won't be the only body lying on the floor at REI when the NeoAir reaches the market! I'm not going to spend that much money, if it isn't at least as comfortable as my current pad.
I'm looking forward to hearing what everyone else is doing--hopefully you'll give me some more ideas!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
The only big change I made in 2008 was to decide I didn't really need to bring a chair kit - saved three quarters of a pound.
Toward the end of the year, I started playing around with slightly lighter versions of my main gear (Seedhouse SL1 v. Hubba, etc.) - if it pans out, I may save another pound or pound and a half; however, I'm also thinking I'll lose some convenience - perhaps more than the weight is worth.
One thing that did happen already in connection with the equipment replacement is that I replaced my clothing with some more functional pieces; no weight saved, but they give me more options and may let me expand my camping season by a month on either end. I also decided to add a little weight to my cold-weather load: 2 ounces of titanium cup, which lets me cook breakfast and have hot beverages. So, even if I don't swap out any gear or lose any additional weight, the experiment is worth it.
What were your biggest gains in gear and lessons learned on the trails in 2008?.
I spent some time hiking in sand and pebbly beaches. I've never *ever* carried extra footwear or camp shoes, figureing they were just surplus weight. I have changed my tune. next time I'm on beaches a pair of crocs is coming with me.
I lightened my summer load ever so slightly in the colder times by adding a new 800 fp bag instead of my primaloft based exped wallcreeper.
OTOH, I did add the "coolest piece of gear" that I hope to never use, so my base weight went up... A microfix 406 PLB bought for me by some good friends - which I am now forced to carry by my better half
My winter weight may have gone down, thanks to two things, my funky new DIY tent stove and modified shangri-la 3 tent, as well as possibly my funky new borde stove, but neither of these has been seriously tested for real yet. so I'll reserve judgement on that for '09
In fact, my gear choices actually increased my pack weight a bit. I've gone to mostly hammocking year-round, and the weight of the hammock, tarp, and underquilt for cooler weather use means an extra 2-3 pounds over the tarptent I so often carried.
But the quality of my sleep has improved so much that I am glad to carry the bit of extra pack weight.
Other than the hammock gear, I really haven't thought much about gear this past year. I'm spending too much time on the trail to worry about gear.
I made a poncho-tarp only to decide that I didn't really like it and switched back to my 8'x10' sil tarp.
I replaced my worn Marmot Precip jacket with Driducks. Much lighter and keep me drier both from the inside and out.
Bought a Caldera Cone set up for my mug. Its a little heavier than my previous alcohol set up, but the windscreen is much less fickle and the mug is a lot more stable. The ease of use is definitely worth the increase in weight.
I replaced my MS Phantom, which has been much too large for a while now, with a second hand ULA Conduit. That saved me about 2 lbs in total. I'm now completely converted to hipbelt pockets .
I bought a pair of Inov8 Flyrocs as my first dedicated trail shoes. I've previously just used other tennis shoes that I had around, which wasn't exactly ideal. I had also worn some Salomon Tech-Amphibs so the Flyrocs didn't take long to get used to.
I discovered how great merino wool can be as a garment in the form of an Icebreaker shirt. I don't think I took it off once on my week long trip in Colorado
On the more extreme end of things I replaced my aging P&S digicam with a Nikon D40 dSLR. I've always enjoyed nice photographs and was always disappointed with a lot of the pictures I took. I picked it up as an early Christmas gift to myself and I'm liking it so far. It hasn't made it on the trail yet, but judging from the 1400 or so pictures I've taken with it I think I will be much more pleased with the pictures I bring back from the trail. Its definitely a big increase in weight though.
I'm still trying to find a menu that I like. No matter how good something tastes at home, I always have trouble keeping my appetite on the trail. You can only live on Snickers and Pringles for so long...
Loc: Washington State, King County
I learned to not obsess about gear and gear weight so much. After hiking enough miles on a given trip, a few ounces here or there don't matter. Note, however that's after a lot of obsession last year to bring things down to a moderate (light, not UL) base weight.
A related item, I learned not to obsess so much about having the exact and correct set of gear for a particular trip. Assuming safety and basic comfort are covered, it's not a problem to improvise or live without stuff. For example, mini-scissors on my mini-pocket knife turned a black plastic garbage bag into a fine (if not breathable) windshirt at need.
On trail "menu": I did learn some minimal set of recipes I can create from what's available in a medium sized trail town store, but also that I don't need a ton of variety. If I can vary my breakfast shake from chocolate to vanilla and eat a different brand of trail bar, that's "variety"!
I learned that I can comfortably cowboy camp when conditions warrant so, for example, I'll likely just bring a poncho and very lightweight bivy for a Grand Canyon trip this coming March.
I learned that --- for me at least --- an MP3 player is worth carrying on a long solo trip.
I found out this year that my wife will not do a bivy/tarp trip again so we went back to our Squall. We did switch over to a gram cracker esbit stove and coupled it with a caldera cone and a SUL 1100 pot and it worked great. In the Winds this summer we averaged less than 2 tabs per meal. We also went to Ether Thermo 6 pads and won't go to anything that is not at least that comfortable. Our base weights are at around 12# and we are happy with the balance between weight and comfort (on the sunset side of 55) which is becoming very important.
I basicly did the same things that you did to lighten the load. First, I offed the heavy cheap tent and built a hammock, bugnet and large copy of the Clark optional fly. I DIY, silcoated the fly. I built several alcy stoves but decided to carry the heavier brass Trangia, homemade windscreen and heine pot for everything except a small aluminum frypan. I replaced my heavy sleeping bag with a 40degree NF. Funny thing is that I decided on a pack first. I know, get a pack to fit all your things. Not the other way around. So I bought the REI UL60 I think it's in the 3300 cu in. range and very comfey. I also tend to carry to much food but thats the one comfort and necessary luxury I carry. BTW I also use a staff or hiking stick. I'm happy with my setup and only do minor fiddling. Oh! I also replaced my multi-tool with a small buck knife. That's really all I need where I go.
I just started backpacking again after a 15 year absence. My first backpack of 2008 was in January. I carried about 35 pounds...gear I used back in the 90's. I am currently only going out for a night or two at a time.
I am now down to about 22 pounds in the winter and about 18 in the summer. I did spend a bit though...
-Walmart tent to Tarptent Rainbow -old Camp Trails internal frame to Granite Gear Vapor Ki -Hiker Pro water filter to tablets -Kelty 35 degree synthetic bag to Montbell 30 degree down bag **this is the coolest piece of gear I love the Super Stretch fabric...no more feeling like a burrito!!! -cotton long johns to Smartwool base layer -old Thermarest 3/4 length to Big Agnes full length...I think I still shaved an ounce to two off my weight and added alot of comfort -heavy MSR stove to homemade alcohol stove (though I will admit to using my Jetboil this winter)
These are the big changes I pretty much bought a new item every month or so. I still have to get better rain gear and a few clothing pieces but I'm fairly happy with my changes so far. Of course new items are tempting me to shave ounces here and there.
I've been out at least once a month all year long so I have been able to really tell the difference from one trip to the next as my items got lighter or more comfortable. I am now a UL convert and hope to get my base weight down to 15 pounds this year.
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