Thursday, May 22, 2014

Losing Weight: No Wonder Backpacking (Used To) Hurt

I'm planning at least one solo backpacking trip this summer - solo as in no Davo, solo as in I carry all of my own gear.  Typically, we split the "group gear," like the tent, stove, bear can, food, etc.  Knowing that I'm usually exhausted, even when splitting the group gear, I had no idea how I could manage on my own.

So, I did what I usually do when I'm trying to figure out a problem:  I made a list.

I listed every single item I would usually carry on a backpacking trip.  I weighed each of those items on my little kitchen scale that's accurate to 0.05 oz.  And I totaled up the weights.

Not including any clothing worn on my body, not including any consumables (food, water, fuel), not including variable weights (maps)... base pack weight would be 32.65 pounds.  Remember, that's before 2 x 2 lb liters of water and 2-3 lbs of food per day.  If I didn't change what I was carrying, I could conceivably end up with a ~45 lb pack.  That's approximately 35% of my body weight.

No wonder backpacking hurts.  My pack needed a serious diet.

huuuge packs in the boundary waters...  (it's mostly sleeping bag, shhhh)

Fast forward 2 months and around $150.

My base pack weight is now 14.51 pounds, assuming it's not winter AND I don't need to carry a bear can AND I'm going to be slightly colder than usual.  Not ultralight, but a huge improvement for very little investment.

I cut down my pack weight by considering every single thing I used to carry and asking the following questions, in order:
  1. Is this necessary?  (med kit = yes, inflatable pillow = no)
  2. Can something already in the pack perform the same function?  (e.g. bandana = filter for water floaties)
  3. Can I carry less, repackage, or literally cut off the bits I don't use?  (e.g. bye bye, toothbrush handle)
  4. If not, can I make another DIY version that's lighter?  (introducing the cat can stove!)
  5. If not, can I find a commercial version that is within my (very small) budget?  (only my tent stakes and hammock pad made it this far down the list)
What does this look like in practice?

From this (Dave has most of the pack weight on the last day - imagine me carrying 50% of his stuff):
i still have that scar on my leg, too...
To this:
yes, that is actually my backpacking pack.  plus blue sleeping pad, seen standing on floor
Pretty cool!  I'm looking forward to taking it out for a test hike this weekend.  I'm especially proud of my hammock/ shelter and stove, so I'm going to show them off in their own posts.

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