Whether you are just getting into backpacking, or looking to improve your experience, choosing from the ever increasing universe of gear options can be daunting. It’s all compromises, as any experienced packer knows. I was reminded recently of the well known thru-hiker wisdom – “Hike your own hike.” The same applies to gear selection – “Pick your own stuff.” In fact someone’s gear list is probably a good clue to their backpacking personality. No gear will hit the sweet spot for all aspects, but some might come close. Continue reading
This spring I am helping with our outdoor club’s courses on wilderness travel and backpacking. To practice what I am preaching and prepare for an upcoming trip, my wife and I took a leisurely backpack up a wilderness river valley in Olympic National Park. Snow remains in the high country, but we had spring flowers, fresh bear scat just before camp and evening Harlequin ducks feeding in the river.
Since this was just an overnight family outing, I felt I could pack some extras. I even brought a small can of chicken! Still, playing Sherpa, my walk-away-from-the-car weight was only 28 lbs. and my wife carried 15. With two people, this was a trip for the Bilgy2 tent. We had a large camp site all to ourselves and were joined at supper time by another couple who set up on an adjacent river island.
Well, maybe not that fast. But once you have slashed the weight of your multi-day gear, you can carry less for day trips as well. With both Washington’s Cascades and Olympics in day trip range, I have many wilderness outings available. But it is wilderness and in a day you can get just as far away from trail head as you might on a short backpack. The 10 Essentials still apply.
Last summer one of the authors of a new epub “Guide to 100 peaks at Mount Rainer National Park (not including the big one)” introduced me the wonderful world of all the other places in the park. While some of these 100 peaks are well known favorites, many don’t get visited often. The guide takes you to parts of the park that lie in between the popular entrances. Some of the peaks are hikes. A few are technical climbs, but most are what get called “alpine scrambles”, like Barrier Peak shown in the photo. The route may be a boot track or simply cross country. Early season, there may be snow, and sometimes rock scrambling happens. A 3,000 ft. elevation gain is typical, so lightweight gear is good. I have gotten seriously hooked on these peaks. Barrier was number 41 for me.
“You pay a lot for what you don’t get.” This has long been my advice to people confronting the higher cost of lighter weight sports equipment. At some point I wondered if there was a representative price for the privilege of shaving off pounds. I looked at a couple of cases comparing lower cost, heavier items with their high-tech cousins. $100 per pound saved looks typical. This order of magnitude number seemed to work whether the weight savings were a pound or a few ounces.
Of course it makes a difference whether you are choosing between two items to purchase, or buying something to be lighter than what you already own.
Replacing my pack
I owned a pretty good Gregory internal frame pack, weighing 3 lbs. 3 oz. I replaced it with a Ray-Way pack kit with a finished weight of 12 oz. The kit cost me about $80 with extra parts. That’s a savings of 2 lbs. 7 oz. If I don’t charge for my labor, that’s about $33 per pound saved. Looks like a good deal. If I couldn’t or didn’t want to make a kit, I would need to look elsewhere. Continue reading
I have been surprised at the difference between pack weights of 35 to 40 pounds and 25 pounds and under. It is a journey well worth taking. After my first long trip in decades, I felt the need to rework my gear to get to a much lighter base weight. I gathered a small library of books, notably Trail Life, Ray Jardine, 2009; Lighten Up!, Don Ladigin, 2005; and Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips, Mike Clelland, 2011. I continued to prowl the Internet for ultralight sites and forums. Gradually I added lighter versions of a lot of my equipment and found I could leave some items at home. Other posts cover the details of various systems, but this one summarizes the results.
My week-long trip in Hornstrandir, Iceland in 2010 was done with a base weight of about 26 lbs., plus some extra equipment to deal with the sub-arctic environment I was traveling in. Now my comparable base weight is about 16 lbs. I accomplished this as follows: Continue reading