View Full Version : When Lightweight Isn't Lightweight
Here's a thought: You see people spending a lot of time reducing their base weight -- dropping big cash on titanium pots, 800-fill-power down bags, etc. But then they stick all that gear into a 5 lb Gregory Reality pack or something. That's f-ing ridiculous! :)
Also: "My 25 lb load isn't the same as your 25 lb load." I'm an average-sized man with a fighting weight of about 170 lbs. If you're a tiny waif, or alternately a 6.5 foot monster, 25 lbs is going to affect you differently than it does me. So think about your total pack weight relative to your body mass.
When you're changing over from traditional backpacking to ultralight, the pack is often by necessity the last thing to change. If you buy an ultralight pack, you then have to immediately buy everything else ultralight as well, since that pack will only be able to carry up to 25 lbs comfortably. If you're in transition, however, your weight is dropping gradually, so you'll need to keep your pack until your total weight is low enough to switch.
Your 25 lb load may not be the same as mine, but it's hard to get much lighter than that. If you weigh 170 lbs and your pack is 25 lbs, does that mean that if I weigh 135 lbs my pack should only weigh 20 lbs? The slight difference in clothes sizes isn't going to make up that difference. Does that mean that a 200 lb person who has a pack weight of 25 lbs is more efficient than you are, or does it mean they just have the same gear as you do? Sure the gear to body weight ratio is different, but that just means my 140 lb body won't need as much food as your 170 lb body (actually that's not true, since my metabolism forces me to eat constantly. I have no idea how I'll eat enough on the trail since I have a hard enough time not being hungry all the time off the trail).
I had a pack that weighed 8lbs empty, I could have fit a small hiker in it. After my knee went out for the first time in my life I lightened up (not ultra, just light) and got a 4lb pack, with all the lighter equip to go in it. After 25 miles up and down those hills, every ounce does count.
All I know is I'm 44 years old, over 200 lbs, my pack weighs around 40 lbs.+-, and I can out hike 140 lb., 20 year old hikers with 20 lb+ or - packs. Consistently. You weight weenies have no better chance of making it to Maine than the hiker that starts out with 60 lbs. or so. Bet on it.
I was that other hiker that started with 60lbs or so:D We can't all be leathernecks ya' know! 35 or 40lbs including water and food is just right for me. It's just like hot rodding a car, you need to find the weight to power to efficiency ratio.
met a hiker not long ago who said he was an ultralighter, i got to heft his pack and instantly knew it was far heavier than mine and I am an ultralighter....so I ask him what was up and he told me that all the weight was in his photo gear..he explained that he went ultralight in his backpacking gear so he could carry more camera stuff-his passion, made sense then to me that he was cutting down one area to expand another....so that is what I thought of when i saw the thread title.
I've gotta support Haiku on this one.....As I was making my transition to lightweight/ultralight my pack was the last thing to change. I couldn't overload a pack that was designed to handle a 25 pound load when I couldn't get mine below 30. Now that I've got my base weight in the teens, I bought a new, much lighter pack.
I completely understand the other view though. How many journals and gear lists do you read where the person has an eight pound two person tent cause it's "so roomy"....then drill holes in their toothbrush handle to save weight!! Go figure!!
Thanks all, lots of good points.
To clarify, my thought was that if someone chooses to go lightweight, he should consider his gear as a whole (a personalized system), and not just as components in isolation. "See the forest for the trees," you know? Trim weight where it can be trimmed most efficiently and economically...
Titanium pots and the like are fine if you can afford them. However, if a person gets caught up in chasing all the latest high-tech stuff, he might miss genuinely practical/sensible ways to cut weight. Lightweight, to me, is about changing our thinking -- not just building the same old ***** outta new material.
Anyway, hike your own hike, right? If you can carry 60 lbs for 20 miles, I envy you. Likewise, if you can slash your total pack weight to 20 lbs and not freeze, starve, or dehydrate. You're hardcore. :D
And when you can have what you need to be reasonably comfortable and happy with 25 lbs instead of 60 lbs you will definitely increase your odds of completing a thru-hike.
The laws of physics apply, that's why the best distance runners are skinny little twigs with very few exceptions, and that's why you don't see many ultra-marathoners wearing Converse All-Stars.
ANYTHING can be overdone, including ultralighting. I ran into a guy in Virginia who shivered night after night trying to go light on his sleeping bag and clothing. The funny thing is that he was carrying at least 10 days worth of food when 3 would have been plenty.
For every case like that there's one or more where a hiker was unable or unwilling, mentally or physically, to put up with an unnecessarily heavy pack and through in the towel early.
I second the motion on using a big pack that will still support your "gear in transition" setup. I have a tentative 13.5lb dry weight (as soon as I finish my down blanket) and use a GoLite Breeze (pack included in wt ttl). But while I was dropping pounds, I used my 5lb LL Bean Pack.
But bring what makes you comfortable. No point in being miserable. I still carry a 1.5lb camera and fresh heavy foods.
There is also an issue of intent. By using a lightweight tent, a lightweight sleeping bag, a lightweight stove, by shaving weight where practical on some items it allows me to, for instance, carry a book or other "luxury" item.
I have a 5 pound pack because it is comfortable, and comfort as much as anything will determine my success on the trail this year. I have a lightweight tent, bag and a few other things because it allows me to use that comfortable pack and still keep my load with food, fuel and water below 35 pounds.
It's not to attain some kind of lightweight patch that can be sewed onto a backpack. Rather it is to assemble a set of equipment that best balances weight, competence and comfort.
You really have to find the style that suits you. Some people's bodies are more suited to a lightweight style, while others can carry more and it doesn't bother them. I usually carry around 25-30, because I choose to. I've carried those huge packs, didn't care for it much. Lone Wolf, you were shall we say "conditioned" to carry loads like that since you are one of
Uncle Sam's Misguided Children (Semper Fi). Besides, experience also counts....you know how to hike all day with your gear since you have been doing it so long. Some people don't have that ability.
I agree that the pack should be the last thing you switch out, that way, if you don't get all the "lighter" stuff you can still go hiking. 30-35 lbs isn't all that much (weighs about as much as deuce gear eh LW?) and if you don't hike your self into the ground you should be fine with that weight. And just for the record, I am one of those short, skinny 135 soaking weight guys....but I prefer the term "lithe"!! ha ha ha
I'm 6'1 230lbs, and carry a 30lb pack including a weeks worth of food and water. I personally enjoy walking upright with a lighter pack & faster pace.
But Hike your own Hike.