The Quest to Lighten Up my Gear Continues!
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A few months ago I wrote a guide to gradual upgrading your gear to lighten up the load. I have realized that instead of writing another “edit” in that post, I should just write a post describing where I’m at on this quest to shed weight off my back.
I needed to start with the big items – that’s where you see big differences. If I can shed 1 kg of weight with a different tent, there is really no sense obsessing over a 10g lighter spoon, right?
The first tent I used was a Vango Blade 200. I really liked it and for a budget tent, it wasn’t too heavy (about 2 kg).
It served me well but before the summer I upgraded to an ultra-light Double Rainbow by Tarptent.
The decision was not an easy one. I was agonizing over the various options and types. I couldn’t afford to make a mistake because I simply can’t buy another one.
I kept hours comparing numbers, reading people’s reviews and watching photos online.
I didn’t go with the lightest option. I always consider other factors, like personal comfort, enough room for my gear, protection from elements, being able to spend in it a whole day in case of bad weather, etc.
The Double Rainbow weighs about 1 kg so I halved the weight of my shelter. I could have bought much lighter ones but I felt this one provided more room for my gear.
It was big enough that if I ever wanted to go with someone else camping, I should have no bigger problems.
I used this tent during my hiking trips in Canada and Iceland and am really happy with it. It is really spacious and provides great ventilation.
A year ago I used a Vango inflating mat. It was fine, but much too heavy. Recently, I purchased the best of the best in the world of sleeping mats: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite.
It was not an easy choice.
Not out of concerns about its quality – I had read enough positive reviews to not worry – but it was simply really expensive. I took it with me to Quebec and Iceland and I couldn’t be happier.
It’s crazy light (only about 350 g) and very comfortable. To make my life even easier, I got a tiny pump for it, so I don’t have to go lightheaded from blowing the air in. I also hope to minimize the amount of moisture gathering inside of the mat.
That was the first thing I got to lighten up. This sleeping bag isn’t ultra-light but is ultra-warm. It’s a custom made to fit my body and needs.
Filled with 800 g of the best quality 850 cuin down, is sure to keep me warm even in sub-zero temperatures. No matter how cold and nasty it can be outside – I can get myself into this warm cocoon and get heavenly comfy.
Just recently I got another down bag, also custom made by Robert’s. This time, I went with only 300 g of down and requested no hood. This is to be my summer sleeping bag. It can be compressed into a really tiny ball of down.
For over a year I’ve been using Deuter AirContact backpack. I really love it and it’s perfect for carrying heavier loads providing superb support. But the downside is that it’s on the heavier side – it weighs about 2,5 kg. That’s a lot.
I wanted not only to get a lighter backpack but also a smaller one. When you have a big bag you will fill it with unneeded stuff.
Now that I have a smaller sleeping mat and bag, I need to try and do with a smaller bag. I had my eyes on a few different backpacks. I didn’t even think about the extreme ultra-light options as I want to have a back support and proper hip belt with pockets.
I didn’t need something that would weigh less than 0,5 kg. Cutting 1 kg off my current 2,5 kg would be already amazing.
Thanks to a sale in an online store, I decided to get Gregory Maven 45. It weighs about 1,4 kg but has back support and very comfortable hip belt. I have had a chance to test in hiking just yet, though. I hope to take it for my January trip to Crete (or another southern destination, haven’t decided just yet).
Around the camp
There are a few smaller items I own that are pretty lightweight.
- MSR Pocket Rocket – a really tiny, high-quality burner. It folds down to hide in your palm. There are a few other great options out there but this kind of burners is probably the best options for people who wish to shed some weight.
- GSI backpacker mug. Instead of a very expensive titanium mug, I got myself this hard plastic cup with a foam insulated sleeve. I absolutely love it! It’s very light, it holds the temperatures for a while and there is a very small risk of burning your lips as it is with steel mugs.
- Sea to Summit long titanium spoon – my only utensil. It’s simple and perfect. The extra-long handle is really valuable when eating directly out of a pot or a bag of instant meal pockets. I don’t need a fork and I find sporks silly.
- Hardened aluminum pots. It came with my old Esbit set of solid fuel burner, which I retired for the MSR pocket rocket one. It’s the perfect size for a solo hiker. Big enough to boil water for a coffee/mug and a soup or oatmeal. If you are not a camping gourmet chef, this is plenty enough for a backpacking trip.
- Platypus bottles – I have two of them and it’s been a revelation. They are light and can be rolled up when empty. I carry one (or two when there is no access to natural water) in the main compartment and fill up my smaller side bottle during breaks. I have a small roll-up bottle by Keen (got it for free when I bought their sandals) – to drink along the trail. It works fine for me.
- Mini Sawyer water filter. It’s tiny and in an area with natural water sources can help with the amount of water you have to carry with you. Water is pretty heavy so it’s a must! If I know there are streams or rivers on my way, I carry only 1 l bottle in my backpack and it’s enough.
- Sea to Summit coffee dripper. I love coffee and I've been trying to get something light and affordable that would provide a decent drink in the Outdoors. I used to use those Starbacks' VIA pockets, but I just prefer the taste of real coffee. I got this drip just recently and haven't had a chance to test it during an actual backpacking trip. I hope I can give it a ride soon!
- Light clothes. I try to pick clothes that are made of high-quality fabrics which tend to also be rather light. Instead of bulky and heavy thick fleece, I take an insulated jacket which is easy to stuff into the backpack.
- Sea to Summit ultra-sil dry stuff sacks. I have multiple ones in a variety of sizes and colors to pack all my clothes, first-aid, food, documents, and electronics. They keep your things dry and organized.
- Sea to Summit e-Vent Compression Dry Sacks . For the past few trips I used a thick waterproof bag for my down sleeping bag. It was definitely protecting my bag from moisture, but there was no way to squeeze it properly so it took a lot of space in my backpack. Now I got two of those in two sizes to not only the sleeping bags are protected from moisture but also can be compressed as much as possible.
My hopes for updating in the future
- Jetboil Minimo – this one is actually not exactly to shed the weight but to make cooking in the wild easier. I saw how fast people had their water boiled when using such cookers. It saves energy and time. I had some serious problems with boiling water in cold and windy conditions so this kind of burner might help.
- Titanium pot – One pot of about 750 ml would be just perfect. Titanium is expensive but lasts for years. I don’t need a whole set of pots and pans – just one is enough so I might get there soon.
- Down sweater/jacket. I have a thin insulated jacket by Salomon that I absolutely adore and wear it all the time. It is perfect to add just a bit of warmth without over-heating. But sometimes it’s just not enough. I would love to get myself a light down jacket with a very high quality fill, so it’s warm but also small and light.
So, here you go. I am pretty happy with the state of my gear at the moment. I have almost all I want and need which means I can spend more money on actual travels instead of gear. I am always on the lookout for sales and promotions.
I also check for second-hand hiking clothes. Actually, most of my hiking clothes are second-hand. Their quality is so good that there is really no sense to buy only new, in my eyes.
I much prefer buying clothing second-hand and have more money for a better piece of gear that I prefer to get new.
From my very rough calculations, it seems that I probably cut around 3 kg of weight off! Now, if only I could somehow cut on food's weight as much... ;-)
How are you doing with shedding weight off your load?
What are some pieces of light hiking/camping gear you are particularly happy with and could recommend to others?