Ideas to help bring the weight in my pack down
Hi, I am looking for some ideas on bringing the weight of my pack down. Have recently finished a three night, four day tramp in the Nelson Lakes District and struggled which wasn't fair on my group. As well as working on my fitness I want to bring the weight of my pack down and make it more enjoyable not only for me but also the group I go with. It's probably more to do with equipment rather than food - but will be working on that too! Look forward to your replies and ideas, thanks! We go where there are huts if that makes any difference to your suggestions.
I doubt there is much that I could advise on keeping a pack light as I usually have the heaviest pack on the trip too. But something that worked for me on one trip was to have a "pack audit". Before the trip we spent an hour or so where everyone unpacked their packs and checked what everyone else was taking. I was able to eliminate a few items and often the difference in weight between an acceptable and uncomfortable pack is actually quite a small amount. Often 2 brains working on a pack is better than one.
Everything is a trade off. Lighter products are often more expensive and don't necessarily last longer. You can only ever use one sleeping bag or rainjacket at one time. You can however own more than one but it will cost you more. If you discard something you might well need it later or at least wish you had it. The inexperienced tramper would benefit from the lighter load but they don't often know how much use they will get out of a product and therefore second guess the purchase. Remember it shouldn't be primarily about the cost. The cost of not having it in an emergency could be greater. I've heard people say at the end of a trip that THEY did it and it only cost $....... Of course nothing went wrong on the trip and the conditions were perfect. There is no better solution than to condition yourself to carry a load.
I started out with a heavy pack and over progressive trips whittled it down to very meager but what i considered comfortably safe load of about 10 to 12 kilos including food and water for two to three days. Then as is typical Ideas kept leaping out of these pages and i find the whieght slowly creeping up. A debrief after each trip is the best idea keep your core items and add or subtract for comfort. or you could just do a pmcke and get a bigger pack and carry everything just in case. Personally i hope he's around when i need something. I remember seeing a photo pmcke posted of a tramping friend with a small fold up saw which i thought was rather neat. I duly bought one and found a corner in my pack for it. Its really nifty, really sharp and im sure if i ever need to cut firewood clear a track or hack someones arm off to prevent gangrene it will come in handy until then it whieghs about 250grams and fills a whole that really didnt need filling.
This site will help you quite a bit with getting your pack weight down. The $25USD to join (and see certain member-only articles & reviews) is well worth it, although you can surf most of the forums for free. http://www.backpackinglight.com My wife & I each had already cut our pack weights in half over a number of years, but I learn several new things from BPL every year. Less weight = less injuries = more fun on the trail...
Lots of great suggestions so far. The North Americans do seem to be leading the charge in this area, but it's worth keeping in mind that the weather in much of the US is a lot more predictable than what is experienced here in NZ. The core of the problem is that anywhere on the tops in NZ conditions can rapidly change from benign to horrendous in a very short period of time, anytime of the year. In order to pack safely you need the experience to have some feel for the range of conditions you could experience, how your chosen equipment will cope... and what degree of discomfort you are prepared to tolerate. It's not a simple trade-off to determine. The best way is to approach the problem gradually. Afer each trip, no matter how short, have a good think about what you took, how useful each item was, how well it performed.. and what options are open to improvement. The three big items to start with are always pack, sleeping bag and parka. (Exclude items like tent and common party equipment for the time being... as these choices may initially be outside your control.) Often a slightly smaller 55-60L pack is a good way to not only reduce weight, but imposes a real upper limit on what you can take. This size pack should be ok for 2-4 day trips in a group. You should be able to loose at least 1kg this way. Consider your sleeping bag as part of a total system. Include all the clothing you can wear at night, and the effect of various grades of sleeping mat. You may be able to cut down from a 2kg bag to one closer to 1kg without sacrificing a decent nights sleep. Consider your season carefully...it's likely that you will finish up with several bags for different trips. Parkas are often a large, bulky item weighing close to 1kg that spend 95% of their life in your pack not doing much for you. There is no one answer here, but I've been getting good results from a Cioch Direct Glamaig (a made to measure item ordered from the UK that uses the infamous Paramo material.) It's not super light or ultra-tech like Event, but it can be worn as a normal garment, at least 50% of the last two trips I was on. That extends it's usefulness enormously. (It's turns out to be even robust enough to roll through leatherwood in.. much to my surprise.) After going through a merino period I got sick of how long it took to dry, which I found to be a major chilling hazard. Again I've been trying out EarthSeaSky's new product First Layer, which is a silver impregnated polyester. Nicely warm and fast drying and can be worn a week or more without the pong...which is a significant consideration if your are sharing huts with other people. I found it quite practical to finish the day by pulling on my old 200 fleece and Glamaig jacket over a damp First Layer and dry off completely within an hour or so. This wouldn't work with wool.... and it cut down significantly the amount of spare clothing. After these items most people then look to their cookset. One small teflon lined billy, one mug and one lexan spoon is enough. Burners are a matter of choice. Personally I still go for white fueled MSR stoves, but lots of others will go for gas stoves. Each has it's merits, just avoid the heavyweight 'camping's stoves...small is just fine. Some folk get results from small alcohol burners, or even ones that burn twigs. All well and good, but try them out on an overnighter a few times before committing to them... they demand more effort, skill and time to use successfully, a resource you need to cultivate. The modern tramper also has an array of electronics to consider, EPIRB's, GPS's, Digital Camera's, Mountain Radio's, Cellphones and AM Radios. The whole bunch could add up to a kg, and although each has it's place and can in the right circumstance be vital... you inevitably are not going to be carrying tall of them. (Besides being very expensive.) An intelligent compromise will be necessary. After this, ruthlessly cull things that do not get used, no matter how small. Or look for the lightest possible alternative. At the same time there is a safety balance to be struck. Speed across the ground in itself contributes to safety, yet if caught in bad spot a bivvy shelter is vital. Also consider that the more fat you trim out of you load, the less margin for silly mistakes there is. If you have no candles for instance, loosing your only headlamp can have consequences. This means rigorously checking each and everytime you move, that nothing has been left behind. It's possible to get to a base load (no food, no group kit, not including normal day wear) of well under 6kg, but you shouldn't try to get there on the first, or even second trip. It might take a year or two. I know some kiwi trampers can do this, but I'm more comfortable around the 9kg mark for most conditions and especially if I am on my own. Then add in about 600g of food per day, and maybe another kg for a tent or some other large group item... and most trips should be able to get away in 14-17kg. (Then of course there is the 5-10kg of spare tramper many of us cart about.. but I guess that's another thread.)
Maybe the north americans are leading the charge because they have a lighter pack. But will they win the race?
PhillipW .. a great post there. I must go through that process myself. The thing though is not to get obsessed with weight, you don't want to compromise safety or the enjoyment of your trip. As I am thinking of replacing my old MacPac Canyon pack I have it well in mind that the heaviest single item that I have in my kit is the pack itself. I have looked at some of the modern packs and they look quite fragile, I have been assured that isn't so. I guess I will have to give a smaller lighter pack a try.
Just bought a set of scales, right, it's a-weighin-time. Pack liner = 250 g. Assorted pack cells, dry bags, etc, = 250g. If I've dry bagged...why am I pack lining? I'm going to weigh absolutely everything I pack and get ruthless. I thought 16kg including water and food for an overnighter was ok - obviously i'm in the dark ages and in knee-blow-land. I did start making some of my own gear to keep weight down, fleece jumper, fly, dry bags... I agree that the pre-walk audit and post-walk review are the most valuable techniques I know to keep weight down. "Why did I take this? Do I need it?"
pcmke, Suggest a look at Aarn Tate's FloMo packs. I've got two of them now, a 55L Featherlite Freedom and a 75L Natural Balance and both are the best packs I've ever carried by a substantial margin. The bumph on his website is not hype... they do work exactly as advertised. Althought there is a lot more to his packs than than just the front balance pockets, they are the best feature. I try and get all the dense, heavy items into them, and the resulting change in posture and balance is genuinely noticeable. Nor do they get in the way. A few weeks ago I spent several hours battling Tararua leatherwood and they didn't cause any noticeable hangups. If anything the front pockets can keep the height of the backpack below shoulder level, which helps bushcrashing a lot. The only time they cause any issue is on the odd moment when stepping high, they can get caught between gut and thigh momentarily... but that's usually because I've let the straps get slack and they're hanging looser than they should be. The other cool thing about his packs is the removeable liner... which is totally bombproof. Never a hint of a leak, even after an extended packfloat. Disclaimer: Aarn is not my brother-in-law :-)
PMCKE -have you seen the article in this month's Wilderness, where the writer laments have to replace his pack, ends up repairing it?
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