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Posted: 15:02 08-31-2016 1302
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
Day 6 - Out of the Mountains
A short, brisk hike down the mountain and we were back in civilization, taking showers in Buffalo, WY. We had the afternoon to explore the small town that just happened to be holding its "Crazy Days" event - basically a sidewalk saddle. My highlight was meeting this real, live, Wyoming cowboy selling lemonade with his little brother! It was a super week with great weather having storms only at night, fun people, plenty of wildlife, and majestic views.
Posted: 7:19 07-31-2016 1290
Day 5 - Seven Brothers
We spent the morning fishing after another night of intense lightning and rain. The fish were off and we caught very few but the scenery was terrific. We packed up in the afternoon and hiked out to Soldier Park for our last night in the wild. It was a nice hike since it was almost all downhill. We left the official wilderness after our water crossing and then camped at a very overused spot. It was a strong contrast with the more beautiful wilderness settings.
Posted: 16:57 07-28-2016 1289
Day 4 - Over Ant Hill
Our intrepid crew hiked from Elk Lake over a 10600 foot saddle behind Ant Hill then across a creek and up a hillside to the Seven Brothers area. This was our longest hiking day with the most elevation. On the trail, we passed both of our other groups going the other direction. Our new home is a VERY impacted site since this area gets heavy use. We had horrendous lightning last night.
Posted: 16:53 07-27-2016 1288
Day 3 - Rest Day
It managed to drop below freezing last night and get frost again. We're camping at the same spot tonight so there was no required hiking. One group hiked up a ridge for the views and I hiked to another valley for done fishing. We hiked 1.5 miles to a mountain reservoir full of trout. We lost count of the fish we caught on flies and spinners over the 6 hours we fished. Mostly brook trout, but a few rainbows and cutthroat, too. The group decided on an early dinner since storm clouds were building and rolling past. We never did get any rain, but it was nice to eat early. Tonight, the mosquitos were pretty bad. We saw a fisher exploring our camp and a moose across the lake.
Posted: 6:50 07-26-2016 1287
Day 2 - Elk Lake
Our second day was great. I saw a Couple elk near our campsite when I woke up. But before that I enjoyed a wonderful view of the big dipper over the mountains when I had to get up at 1:30am. We got on the trail at 9:30 and had a few miles of pretty tough uphill to a beautiful lunch spot on three tip of a pass. From there, it was a rocky but easy walk down to Elk Lake whee we eventually found a decent spot to camp. We saw the mouse on the lake and a herd of elk run by. The rocky mountains make for a wonderful backdrop across the lake. Mac and cheese for dinner, but the chili ramen was spicy. There was frost on the grass this morning but tonight seems much warmer even though we are 1000 feet higher at 9800 feet.
Posted: 17:18 07-25-2016 1285
Day 1 - Triangle Park
Our first day of hiking and camping was a great opportunity to get a rhythm going. We only covered about 3.5 miles from Hunter trailhead to Triangle Park, but we had a couple water crossings, tough trail, and dust. The crew found a very nice campsite secluded just in the trees with a nice view across the meadow. It's really hard to see that we are here. Our first dinner and clean up could have gone better but it tasted great and Mrs. Dude and I did the dishes. That's Mrs. Dude crossing the stream, too. Just a gorgeous day with a few puffy clouds, nice breeze, no humidity, and few mosquitoes this evening. A couple guys fished in a tiny creek. One guy helped fix my fly pole. :-) Didn't see any animals except horse. Really to bed and the temp is dropping so we should sleep well.
Posted: 16:50 07-24-2016 1283
Into The Mountains
Heading into the mountains of Wyoming for a week of backpacking this afternoon. This is our campsite in Buffalo last night with the Bighorns in the background. A forest fire on the west side made us change route but weather should be great, so it's all good.
Posted: 7:08 07-24-2016 1282
C 2 C - By Bike
Well, tomorrow his wheel hits the Pacific!
My Eagle Scout son completes his Atlantic to Pacific solo bicycle ride from Boston, MA to Anacortes, WA. It has been fun following his progress from sea to sea, covering over 3800 miles, on his blog at BikingDude.com This is his starting photo and I look forward to seeing its twin posted soon.
I now understand a bit more how family back home feel when I'm out hiking for a month. It was a bit stressing when he didn't blog a few days after getting used to seeing his report each day. We were helpless to assist when he had mechanical problems. I could only imagine how much work it took to climb mountain passes, how hot it was across the prairie, and how close traffic came on narrow shoulders. It's a lot easier being the one out there doing the thing than it is being home.
The most enjoyable part for me was to hear how he met many friendly, helpful people just as I often do on my long hikes. A long excursion makes the world a bit smaller and shows that there is certainly a lot more good out there than we usually hear about.
He still has more road to ride. He plans to bike down to San Francisco to visit friends and then see what's next. You'll have to check out his blog to see what happens.
My next (much smaller) adventure starts tomorrow. I'll be leading a group backpacking in the Cloud Peak Wilderness of Wyoming for just a week. It is forecast to be a super week with great weather, fishing, hiking, mountains, wildlife, and as a special treat - my wife will be on the trek. She's not been backpacking in many years, so my fingers are crossed that she'll catch the bug to go on more adventures.
Posted: 21:40 07-22-2016 1281
Besides doing some morning hikes in preparation for leading a week-long trek in the Wyoming wilderness in a couple weeks, I've been living vicariously through my oldest son's bicycle trip across the country. He has my Spot device to track his progress, and I created a website for him to blog about his travels.
If you'd like to check in on an Eagle Scout riding from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans, just check out BikingDude.com and leave him a comment of encouragement. Today, he's halfway through Montana, having started in Boston!
Posted: 21:35 07-09-2016 1280
My Little Friends
The animals along the local trails are so nonchalant about humans, it's scary. This deer couldn't care less that I walked by no more than 15 feet from it. I almost stepped on a rabbit before it decided to saunter, not hop, rocket, dodge, bolt, scurry, or run, but just saunter off the trail. Yesterday, two squirrels chased right across the trail, no more than 3 feet in front of me, just playing games and oblivious to my ominous presence.
People don't feed these animals, but the trail corridor is a nice green space for them and they are just used to humans walking by. Bicyclists also use the trail and I expect to start seeing some "trailkill" soon as the little critters ignore the danger. Now, if a deer doesn't get out of the way, that will be something interesting!
This is a great time of year for seeing how many different kinds of animals you can find. I routinely count 10 different kinds every morning.
So, who has the right-of-way when a human, bird, and deer all want the same space? :-)
Keep your eyes and ears open for animals when walking, riding, or driving. The young'uns are growing quickly and exploring away from protective parents, so you might get to see some closer than usual - and maybe too close if you're not careful.
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Posted: 10:21 06-03-2016 1278Previous Posts
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