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#197386 - 01/13/17 01:54 PM Metal-less Ultralight Gear Setup - Possible?
DavyGTN Offline

Registered: 01/13/17
Posts: 4
Loc: USA
I have recently been working towards replacing my backpacking gear with ultralight stuff. I have been doing a lot of research and trying not to spend much money. With all the space-age materials and everything plastic these days, I decided to see if it is possible to go completely metal-less. It likely sounds silly but I was surprised to find it is basically possible. Although the metal-less options I came up with are not always lighter, they usually were. I have concluded that I can reasonably get to about 95% metal-less by weight. Below is the original list I came up with, pricey options are marked $$ and below it is the list of gear I have acquired and used on my first ultralight trip recently.

Original Research List

Fire - Strike anywhere matches
Backpack - This Hyperlite one is light and cheap.
Shoes - These Inov-8 Terroc’s. $$
Alt These Crocs are only 16 oz.
Clothes - Clothes with plastic zippers and buttons.
Knife - A Ceramic paring knife Or this ceramic tactical knife. Only 0.5oz more than the Swiss Army Classic SD and bigger! Alt Cold Steel has these neat plastic knives > 1oz!
Light - Glow stick small/flexible
Cookware - Silicone oven-safe bowl by To-Go Ware and cook over fire or pack food that needs no cooking/heating
Alt MRE heater bags
Utensil – Wildo Plastic spork
Navigation - Topo map w/o compass
alt survival style navigation or location with labeled trials
Shelter – Outdoor Research bivy (no stakes)
Alt Any ultralight tarp tent
Sleeping bag – SOL Escape bivy
Alt no zipper bag by Feathered Friends $$
Pad - Foam sleeping mat
Trekking Poles - Carbon fiber poles. Use the rubber boots and remove the metal tips. $$
Water Purification – Sawyer filter
Alt coffee filters and iodine.
Sun glasses – Sport Eyz glasses or none!
Pillow – stuff sack and extra clothes
Trowel – Coghlan’s plastic trowel
Rain gear – Frogg Toggs ultralight poncho
Water Container – Camelbak Bladder
Communication – None!
Car key – None!

Actual List Used (* = metal present)
Fire – Bic lighter*
Backpack – Zpack carbon fiber Arc pack $$
Shoes – New Balance trailrunner shoes
Clothes – Synthetic clothes* (pants had metal zippers)
Knife – CRKT Minimilist* (have not purchased a ceramic knife yet)
Light – Princeton Tec Scout headlamp * (ok so glow sticks are impractical)
Cookware – Plastic microwave safe takeout bowl. No cooking or heating done.
Utensil – Light My Fire spork
Navigation – Topo map, trail blazes, and Suunto Clipper compass * (the compass needle has metal in it but I found I only used it a couple times and could have done without it because of the blazes, especially in a place I was familiar with)
Shelter – Outdoor Research bivy $$
Sleeping bag – SOL Escape bivy
Pad – Thermorest NeoAir mat $$
Trekking Poles – Wooden hiking stick (one of these weighs about the same as my two metal trekking poles. And I had no money for carbon fiber poles.)
Water purification – Sawyer filter
Sun glasses – Sport Eyz
Pillow – stuff sack and extra clothes
Trowel – U-Dig-It Folding trowel * (In TN where I live all the clay, roots, and rocks will break a plastic trowel quickly)
Rain gear – Frogg Toggs poncho
Water Container – Camelbak Bladder
Communication – Cellphone* (my wife made me take it)
Car key – Left in a magnetic hid-a-key on car.

While this was primarily an experiment, I concluded that going 100% metal-free is a bit impractical. I realize there are certain metal options that may be more practical, like in the case of a headlamp (with batteries) vs glow sticks, a lighter vs matches, or the Sunnto button compass. There is hardly any metal in these items. So a bit of metal is still necessary. However, I think that going 95%-99% metal-free by weight is beneficial for reducing weight. I found it was not hard nor much more expensive in most cases. Ultralight gear manufacturers are going metal-less with much of their gear through material like carbon fiber. Finally, I do not believe this philosophy is for everyone but it was a fun experiment non-the-less! I am interested to hear your feedback!!

Edited by DavyGTN (01/13/17 02:11 PM)

#197388 - 01/13/17 03:21 PM Re: Metal-less Ultralight Gear Setup - Possible? [Re: DavyGTN]
aimless Offline

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2964
Loc: Portland, OR
As an intellectual puzzle, this is mildly interesting, but I can't figure out why anyone would have practical, philosophical or moral objections to carrying some metal as part of one's gear. Then again, you seem to have solved the puzzle successfully, so congratulations... I guess. grin

#197389 - 01/13/17 04:13 PM Re: Metal-less Ultralight Gear Setup - Possible? [Re: DavyGTN]
Rick_D Offline

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2803
Loc: NorCal
Fun thought experiment. Certain items such as compass and everything electrical must necessarily contain metal and doing without means leaving at least a critical item or two at home. Cookless non-metallic bowl and cup are fine but cooking over silicone seems ill-advised at best and quite inefficient for your troubles (silicone being an excellent insulator).

Be forewarned ceramic blades are quite brittle. Sharp though.


#197391 - 01/13/17 04:53 PM Re: Metal-less Ultralight Gear Setup - Possible? [Re: Rick_D]
DTape Offline

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 662
Loc: Upstate NY
I see it as an academic exercise, and not so much for practical reasons. The example of a glow stick I suppose technically qualifies as light, but does very little to illuminate surroundings to actually see something else. I might suggest a candle instead. They don't illuminate much, but still more than the glow stick.

Also the mre heaters utilize an exothermic reaction to generate heat. The materials used are magnesium and iron, both of which are metals.


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