Sunday, August 10

Gear list and backpack weight pruning

From my recent on-line preambling I see that the oft thorny topic of backpack weight is once again getting its semi-regular airing.

"Kaffee: I want the truth!
Col. Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!"
(A Few Good Men)

Those who've been down this path will know that the start point is the initial breakdown of gear by component. Before any weight saving is identified its important to recognise the various elements that go into making up the total. Which is where a Gear List comes in helpful.

Despite often being quoted on Outdoor Forums in mind numbing detail, as if the minutiae is some sort of membership badge, they do serve a purpose.

What - you have a wild urge to spend a few hours battling with a set of kitchen scales? Well why not start with this free download of what must surely be The Definitive Gear List spreadsheet and adapt it for your own requirements.

It may help you to understand where all the weight is, and where to prune it to the most effect.

Remember - Measure; Monitor; Modify; Repeat;

But try not to get so immersed in the exercise that you forget its true purpose!

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I have a quote from Roman Dial (see Backpacking Light issue 10 )on my blog. He said it to me in a forum chat once. The point is what I don't need to bring. On pack weight it is and I do say this a lot...Comfort Vs weight. We don't need a air mat. I have been fine many a night with a bit of foam and would survive with out it. A bivy bag or tarp will fend of the rain pitched up low down in a glen. But would it be comfortable and enjoyable? That is the part where each backpacker needs to decide for themselves. I could go very light in the hills. It is just that I like a comfy sleep and a roomy tent to spread my kit out.
Air bed / mat hmmmmm interesting point on weight vs comfort. Last months trail magazine had their chap stating that a good night's sleep is so important and as such justified the carrying of an air bed (downmat of one breed or other). I have since experienced people being very foward in stating the same thing, light bag and heavy mat.

Welll I have a downmat 7 - it gives me back ache and no noticeable thermal advantage! I find the best night's sleep comes from my prolite 3 short even during colder months.

Does forking out £100 on an air / down mat mean that people say they are great and the weight is worth it?

Or are they just the emporers new clothes.

Sorry John

Probably detracting from your theme a bit there. But still appropriate.

Of course after the pruning comes the adding. I sit there with scales and chuck out so much nonsense. As the weeks go by I add this and that and the other in the fond belief it will add to my outdoor experience.

So I guess a regular prunning is a good thing
(no problem Shamus - happy for feedback to follow its own logic as it may)
Both - I'd agree - the main thing is not so much pruning but more keeping on eye on what it is, why its there, and whether it remains relevant as needs change. Whether that is need or comfort.
I've probably lost more weight by dropping gear than I ever have by revising it.

A perspective - I've a mate who occasionally goes on motorcyle rallies. He uses a tent and a sleeping bag. And thats it!
No cooking gear. No sleeping mat. But then he's usually 'quite cheery' on those occasions when he can actually find his tent to sleep. Not an approach I like, but it works for his need and level of comfort I guess.
For me my avearge pack weight comes in at around twenty eight pounds, (11/12 kilo)that includes food and fuel. . By necessity I have to carry a few extra personal items which boost the overall weight. Pack weights vary though according to season. Travelling on public transport effects weight too. In the past I have travelled in my trekking clothes but much prefer a change of clothing to travel in. Really though it comes down to personal preferences and what is going to be involved on the actual trip. next Tuesday for example I am heading north once more. Hopefully my diet will be supplemented by foraging the seashore. Thus I am packing a heavy knife = more weight. At the end of the day one has to carry their kit and should know their comfort range for carrying.
I have a OK pack load in that I don't go above 25lb in the pack normally. I use at the moment a EXPED air mat and down bag, I sleep well. It is easy to carry a 900g air mat I have found after a good nights sleep than a 150g bit of foam after a bad nights sleep.

My view is good shelter (not a bit of plastic made into a tarp) Good sleep mat, pad and jacket for warm were in camp are the basics that make backpacking enjoyable for a multi day walk. You will get knackered and need to be able to rest and recover for the next day. No sleep, being cold and having poor protection from your shelter will take its toll over A week.
I totally agree with Martin on this one Shamus - I have a full length Exped Downmat 7 and carried it all the way from Land's End to John O' Groats - and wouldn't have contemplated a less comfortable night's sleep - the sleep is what sets you up for the next day's walking and the day after and the ...etc etc.

However - I love the look of the new Cascade design's NeoAir - full lenght at about 370 grams - so I will be in the queue when that is launched!

Like Martin, I would never contemplate a tarp / bivvy solution when I can have a stormproof tent in my bag for 1200 grams and be snug and happy!
I backpack to enjoy the hills and wilderness as I see it. I want to go light and be comfortable (my choice)I want to focus on the hills and views not my aching feet and shoulders. I want to get to camp and relax, and be comfy, and to enjoy it as the effort to get there should not be rewarded by blisters and feeling so shattered with the only comfort is to slither low under a tarp - just getting sleep and being uncomfortable all night as it threshes in the wind. I am not at war with the Mountains, I do not battle with them. I seek their company and to spend time walking amongst them enjoying the walk and a comfy wildcamp leaving nothing - taking only good memories. So any pack weight pruning needs to achieve my goals and aims in backpacking brining me back to comfort Vs weight.
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