View Full Version : My 20lb pack philosophy...

05-10-2015, 23:48
Thought I'd share my load-out here, it's by no means anything special but I figured there would be a few people with interest.

I've spent some time researching gear, using the numerous posts and information available through the boards and other information web sites, including YouTube. I've then done a number of short hikes, usually 3-5 days long, as gear shake-outs to see what works, what doesn't, what probably needs to be changed. What I've come up with is what works for me, it's by no means an ultralight setup, but it's also (in my opinion) a pretty decent list. There are a couple items that could easily be replaced with lighter, or smaller items - or even left altogether.

My basic concept for hiking is I need a comfortable pack, and I need a comfortable sleep. You spend most of your waking moments carrying the pack, and if you don't get a decent sleep the next day just sucks. Other than that, cost-comfort-weight - you usually get to pick two of the three for a piece of gear.

I tend to select gear that will work March through Octoberish, so 3 seasons.

So here's my (thru-hike, or any-hike) packing list!

pack - Osprey Atmos 65 AG EX. REI purchase, comes with an ultralight rain cover, and a 3L wet bag. absolutely the most comfortable pack I've ever put on. I dropped the lid, because this pack has a second integrated flap that works very well as a lid, and I've found I don't really need the space from the lid. I also use two compactor bags for weatherproofing - one for the main compartment, and one for the sleeping bag compartment. I separate the two just for organization; I like stuff where I can find it. weight:68oz or 4.25lb

shelter - I switched to a hammock system about 4 months ago, and will probably not sleep another night in a tent for the rest of my life. The hammock is a Warbonnet BlackBird XLC, which is an 11 foot, really comfortable hammock with a zip-on bug net. The tarp is a Warbonnet SuperFly, which is a very nice silnylon tarp with doors to keep out the weather. I also have a couple light aluminum 54" poles that pull out the sides, and 8 pegs. weight is hammock: 34oz, tarp: 23oz, poles and pegs:8.9oz. So total shelter weight is 65.9oz, or a bit over 4lb. For as much comfort as I get from this setup, I will gladly carry the 4lb.

sleep - I recently ordered a HammockGear Incubator 20 underquilt as the primary insulation for my gear. I can loosen it and it's usable in warmer weather, or close it up and it should (with the right top insulation) get me to around 20 degrees, which is probably colder than I'll be out in. Because I have a solid UQ, my top insulation is just a Ozark Trail Cocoon 250 sleeping bag, which realistically should carry me to around 40-45 degrees. The sleeping bag is probably the next (and last major) thing to get replaced, but I have a number of sleeping bags that I can use for top insulation so I haven't really been antsy trying to get an actual top quilt. I was using an air mattress for a while, but the one I have is an older Neo Trail and weighs over 2lb, so I really wanted to get rid of it. weight is UnderQuilt:22.8oz (long version), sleeping bag: 27oz. total sleep system is 49.8oz - so around 3lb.

For cooking, I recently switched from wood burning to alcohol burning - a huge improvement. I do use a Trangia burner instead of a cat-can-stove or other DIY, because I've found that the Trangia stands up really well in the wind etc, and I like the flexibility of the simmer lid, and the screw lid to store unused fuel. I do have a 'wind screen' that's actually some wire mesh with aluminum attached to it, and doubles as a pot stand, and triple's as a heat-funnel thing. I came across it on YouTube, and it really does work. It basically reflects / channels the heat up back to the pot, instead of letting it flow out the sides, and cuts some time off boiling water. it works really well, and is pretty light. I carry a pot with a lid, a coffee cup, and a Mountain House cozy that can double as a seat made from reflectix. the MH cozy is pretty awesome and well worth it's weight. so here's the cooking kit list;
Trangia - 4.2oz windscreen - 1.2oz
17oz GSI outdoor coffee cup - 3.5oz 900ml Snow Peak - 5.6oz
MH Cozy - 3.7oz 16oz ziplock bowl with screw lid - 1.4oz
MSR pot gripper, MSR pot scraper, TOAKS long handled spoon - 2.7oz
firestarting kit - matches, ligher, fire blocks - 1.2oz
total weight of cooking kit: 23.5oz

For water, I primarily rely on a Sawyer Mini water filter. thing works great so far. I do have a couple purification tabs in the first aid kit as backup, but overall the Mini has been awesome. I do use a plastic 32oz juice bottle for primary drinking water when hiking, it's pretty durable and could be replaced with a gatorade bottle very easily. I also carry a 32oz Nalgene bottle; originally I was carrying two gatorade / juice bottles, but the Nalgene gives me the flexibility of boiling water, putting it in the Nalgene, and using it as a hot water bottle for colder nights. I hate being cold. I imagine during summer I will drop it, but in the scope of a 20lb pack, a couple ounces for a water bottle really don't matter (yes, ounces add up to pounds - I got it you die-hard gram-weenies!) I also carry a 96oz Nalgene Canteen for camp in the evening, and 2 32oz flat bottles for 'dirty' water. I've actually had one of these fail on me in the past, so carrying an extra really to me isn't much of an 'extra'
Nalgene water bottle - 6.3oz 32oz juice bottle - 1.9oz
sawyer mini, 96oz Nalgene Cantene flat bottle, 2x32oz flat bottles - 5.9oz
total weight of water:14.1oz

My repair kit consists of some gorilla tape and a micro gerber. the micro gerber has pliers, scissors, tweezers, and a couple other useful features. The tape is wrapped around an old credit card; I've seen people put this around water bottles or their trekking poles, and the tape just gets wrecked. putting it around an old CC lets me carry enough to use for first aid as well as repairs, and lets me store it in my pack where it lasts forever.
I also carry a Black Diamond Spot headlamp, a bandana, a 3ftx6ft piece of Tyvek for ground cloth, a 12" microfiber towel, and a Mora knife. I am retired (retiring - last day July 1st) military, so having a knife for me is like having socks, I just really need to have one. I could make do with the little 1oz flimsy things, but this is a pretty lightweight, awesome knife that if I needed to cut something a bit larger than a toenail it would do the trick.
My first aid kit includes an asthma inhaler, some sting stuff, Gold Bonds powder, mole skin, bandages and tape. My Hygiene kit is pretty heavy, but has a pack of baby wipes in it (16-pack) that should last a good week. To me those are worth the weight. There's also some Bonner soap, toothbrush and paste, chapstick, toilet paper, fingernail clippers, hand sanitizer, couple other things. I could cut a bit of weight from this, but it's one of the things I'm still tinkering with.
Black Diamond Spot headlamp - 3.5oz bandana - 1oz
first aid kit - 7.8oz tyvek sheet - 3.7oz
hygiene kit - 12.5oz microfiber camp towel - 1.5oz
Mora knife - 5.3oz insect repellent, sunscreen - 1oz (extracted from larger containers)
repair kit - 3.4oz
total misc gear: 39.7oz

I do carry my iPhone 6 with me. it's in a LifeProof case and I use it quite a bit. It definitely fills the function of multi-use; it's my map program, compass, gps, journal, camera, and phone in one device. I do use / rely on two apps - Guthook's AT Guide app, which is beyond amazing for anyone on the AT, and the AWOL AT guide in PDF. Guthooks' app will show you where you are, where the next water point is, how far to the next shelter, how much of a hill you have left - pretty much any question you want to ask, it will have the answer for. Just for awareness on water points alone it was worth it to me. I also use the AWOL AT Guide in PDF format, but I rely on Guthook's app much more than that. Either way, I don't carry books or paper maps. I figure in absolute worst case, I am without for a day or two on the trail and just make sure I pay attention to blazes. But I haven't had any sort of issue yet. Also, since I have available weight due to multi-function and not carrying any books etc, I carry a 10oz, 10000ma battery pack that will charge my phone like 4-5 times. I pretty much run my phone in 'airplane' mode, and additionally disable wireless and bluetooth so when I take it out of airplane mode to check a GPS coordinate, it doesn't start searching for WiFi and BT. If I get somewhere that I need those features, I enable them for that period. Doing this, and using the GPS probably 30-40x a day for 30sec-1min at a time, I usually run out about 25-30% of the battery in a day. So between the rechargable 10000ma battery, and paying attention to my usage, my phone should easily make it between recharge points. And being in a LifeProof case, I've dropped / submerged it a number of times with zero ill effects. Yes, electronics do fail - and tornados hit houses, doesn't mean I'll start living under a bridge. My line of work I tend to rely on technology, and I have yet to have my phone fail significantly on me. ever.
iPhone in LifeProof case - 5.6oz
10000ma battery - 10oz
misc recharge cables, wall adapter - 2oz
total tech weight:17.6oz

For my Bad Weather gear, I have some pretty generic stuff. I also count my sleeping gear in this group, it's really just extra weight, but I like crawling into the hammock in clean clothes if possible, so I carry some shorts and an extra shirt. I could easily drop a pound from here with some investment, but it's worked for me on a few hikes and I haven't really gotten spun up about replacing this stuff just yet
Osprey Pack rain cover - 4.1oz Columbia Glennaker Lake Rain jacket - 11oz
C9 long sleeve shirt - 8oz Army polypro pants - 5.6oz
fleece PT cap -1oz Seirus lightweight gloves - 3oz
Army PT shorts - 5.5oz C9 short sleeve shirt - 6oz
SmartWool socks - 3.4oz
total bad weather gear weight: 47.6oz

So all of that becomes the following -
pack - 68oz
shelter - 65.9oz
sleep - 49.8oz
cooking - 23.5oz
water - 14.1oz
misc gear - 39.7oz
tech gear - 17.6oz
bad weather gear - 47.6oz
total gear: 326.2oz, or 20.38lb

So overall, 20lb for a lot of comfort, and the luxury of an iPhone with a 5-charge battery with it seems pretty decent to me. A couple hikes ago I started with a 35lb pack - not counting food or anything, just gear like this 20lb one here. Cutting this down to 20lb was actually pretty easy, and I imagine I could lose a couple more pounds - but I have no disillusions about getting to sub-15lb weight. I value my comfort higher than that will allow - which means my shelter / sleep / pack will be about what is shown here, around 11lb. The upside of it is I've carried this pack (with a 35lb load) 14 miles in one day, and it wasn't the pack that was hurting me, but my feet were just plain tired. I've slept in some pretty nasty storms in this rig, with water running in a river underneath my hammock while I was nice and dry, protected from the winds, and had no trouble at all. And the iPhone, it's probably the most multi-functional single piece of gear I have. I'm tempted to carry my OLD iPhone as a backup, and then I could just pull the SIM card out of the iPhone 6 if it ever had issues - but with it being in a LifeProof case, I really haven't had any problems, and I've put it through some pretty harsh paces.

anyway, hope this write-up helps someone view hiking from a little different perspective than the 'I have to go light as possible' that seems pretty prevalent these days. While I haven't done a thru-hike (yet) I feel that I've had enough experience with this gear that at least initially - it's a pretty decent start to the list ;)

05-11-2015, 05:16
It was very helpful, thanks. I will start my maiden journey on the AT with my son this July. We are only doing a 40 mile hike this time. Have been focusing on the gear and your information came at the right time.

05-11-2015, 08:24
I've got a very similar story, and a surprisingly very similar setup now. I'm a ground dweller myself, and dropped a little coin to shed some weight, but I started heavy, realized I could do it but didn't really want to, and ended up sub 20 and am better off for it.


Thanks for sharing.

05-11-2015, 09:29
First off.... HYOH and all that. Everyone has to make their own choices and what is "right" for one isn't for another.

If I were going to recommend a way to choose a set-up to people who haven't done a long hike before I'd tell them to look at the FINISHED gear list of a group of people (not one or two) to see what they carried the entire trip. The Internet is great but it will skew your perspective on gear. You can do very well by looking at the final list for a section of PCT & AT hikers and choose just among those items. Once you have done a long hike you won't need such a list but until you have..... I think you are better off copying what others have successfully used for the entire distance.

You should easily be able to get your base weight into the 15lb category without sacrificing comfort sleeping and it will certainly help your comfort and safety during the day by shedding as much weight as possible. If you don't.... 20lbs isn't that bad. I bet you will shed a few more pounds after the first 500 miles but most of us went through that kind of experience to get down to 12-15lb base weights anyway.

05-11-2015, 12:11
My load out is about 13lbs.....add another 2lbs for misc and clothes....Still should come in around 15lbs.




BA pad

REI Flash 65

Sawyer w/ pouch

UL Stove

Canister Full


Evernew Pot


BD Head Lamp


Para Cord

Pillow SS

Stuff sack

Compression sack

Fire tin



trash bag