10 Lightweight Tips
Here are 10 simple, safe, comfortable ways to cut 15 pounds or more from what you take on your next backpacking trip:
- Lose Nalgenes - (save 1lb) The Nalgene bottle is ubiquitous to backpacking and Scouting. There are at least 5 different styles available in my local Scout Shop. Each of them weigh at least 7 ounces so a scout carrying 2 has almost a pound of plastic. A 1-liter Platypus water bag weighs 0.9 ounces and costs about 75% of a Nalgene. But, a disposable soda or water bottle weighs about the same and costs <$1. The argument for Nalgene is "indestructibility" - I challenge you to break a disposable soda bottle. It's hard work! And, I did have a scout say to me, "See, it won't break" as he threw his Nalgene at a pile of rocks and then watched it shatter.
- Make Quilts - (save 2lb) Sleeping systems rely on loft for warmth. The part of a sleeping bag underneath you is compressed and has lost its loft, resulting in very little insulation. Your quilt or bedspread at home just lays on top of you, so use the same idea outdoors and cut out that compressed weight. It is a very easy sewing project to make a quilt from two layers of nylon and a layer or two of polyester insulating filler, for about $80 or $90. I've made two, one 2lb. and one 2.5lb - the difference is 1 or 2 layers of insulation. The 2.5lb quilt keeps me warm below freezing. A $25 sleeping bag can work down to that temp, but will weigh more like 4 or 5 lbs. A down quilt will weigh less, but cost a lot more.
- Make Backpacks - (save 4lb) Once you've cut the weight of what you're carrying from 50+lb down to <30lb, you can cut out the weight of your framed pack. My JanSport pack weighs 5lb and can carry an elephant, but I made my own 1lb pack for $40 and it can carry about 35lb. But, with my lighter packing, I never need more than 30lb, unless it's winter. Quest Outfitters have some very inexpensive plans and material kits so you can make packs for a group inexpensively.
- Carry Less Water - (save 3lb) I can't count the times I heard "Better fill up. We don't know when the next water stop will be." Water is the heaviest, and most important, item you will ever carry. Every liter you carry from one water source to another without drinking is 2.2lb of weight you didn't need. By using maps maps to plan water stops, you can carry just what is needed. The fear of running out of water is valid in arid areas, but the vast majority of places you'll hike will have plentiful water often. Drinking your fill at the water source, and then carrying 2 liters instead of 4 liters saves 4.5lb of excess weight.
- Water Filters - (save 1lb) Pump-action water filters, such as Katadyne and MSR, are obsolete. Sawyer Squeeze filters are light, fast, and they don't break. If every pair of scouts had one of these 3-ounce filters, you would have fast filtering, redundancy, and simplicity for a lower price. You fill a dirty water bag, screw on the filter, and squeeze, or hang and let gravity do the work. On the trail, you can just fill the bag at the source and then do the filtering whenever you want.
- Tarps & Nets - (save 4lb) Self-standing tents are easy and great for scouts. A silnylon tarp with a bug net hung underneath provides the same protection, better ventilation, and more flexibility at a greatly reduced weight. These lightweight shelters tend to cost more than tents, but DIY plans and materials are available. Quest Outfitters have a Bilgy Tarp Tent kit that is reasonable.
- That Darned Pocketknife - (save 4oz) I take a tiny 0.5oz folding knife with a very sharp blade on my long hikes. It has done everything I've needed. The everything but the kitchen sink pocketknife or multi-tool weighs a lot and is seldom used. If you really need that awl or saw, take it, but I've never needed them.
- Boots vs Shoes - (save 2lb) The discussion about wearing boots or shoes is usually very short. It's either "wear boots" or "wear shoes" with very little listening or changing of opinions. I used to wear boots, but have not since 2011. The most common reasons for wearing hiking boots that I've heard are "ankle support", "waterproof", and "durability". I invite you to search the 'net for more info, but I've worn light shoes with much more comfort, safety, and flexibility since changing my view on the topic.
- Food - (save 2lb) Most people take waaaaay too much food, and they take inefficient food. On a 3-day trek, taking 6 days of food just in case is very heavy. You already have 3 days of food just in case, so take just 1 extray day of food if you're really concerned with emergency needs. The types of food you choose also make you carry more weight for an equivalent amount of calories - ritz-style crackers have twice the calories as tortillas; olive oil is the most calorie-dense item you can carry and a few ounces of it in that dehydrated meal tastes good; nutella and peanut butter feel heavy but they have more calories by weight than many other foods. I've discovered that Aldi stores are good places to find high-calorie, low-cost backpacking foods.
- Take a Phone - (save 8oz) Cellphones are not just for phone calls, and you already know that. That 4oz pocket-sized electronic device is a camera, map, clock, alarm, info resource (first aid, skills, plants, ...), compass, gps, and much more - all while it is in airplane mode with no network connection. So, even in the backcountry, a handheld device is very useful and can save weight by leaving redundant items at home. Educating your group about how the devices should be used weighs nothing and takes only a little time.
With a little effort and $, you can cut that weight from ~50 pounds to ~30 pounds and still be comfortable, safe, and well-fed, but it's up to you.
Posted: 18:28 08-19-2016 1294
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