New long trail hikers laugh when they hear the extreme measures veterans go to reduce the weight they carry. It doesn’t take long to become a veteran in the sense of weight reduction. For some it only takes the first day and the first 20 miles.
After a few days and the first 70 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, I took drastic measures. I cut off every label I could find on my clothes and attached to my gear. I cut off the extra length from the straps on my pack (I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to get bigger and need more shoulder strap or waist strap). I put extraneous gear in hiker boxes. I purchased lighter gear along the way.
Even with these changes, I trudged. I endured blisters. Then, in southern Oregon, I injured my knees and my journey ended.
A year later, and my knees were feeling better and I intended to walk the remainder of the Pacific Crest Trail through Oregon and Washington. I also declared, mostly to myself, that my load would be lighter. For initial weight savings, I looked at the big three again: pack, shelter, and sleeping bag.
I decided to change my pack from the ULA Catalyst to a ULA Circuit. The Circuit holds less by about 400 cubic inches (going from 4600 cubic inches/about 75 liters to 4200 cubic inches/about 69 liters). The smaller capacity should encourage weight savings because I just can’t fit as much stuff into the pack. Changing packs would be a savings of about 12 ounces.
I’ll be hiking with Jemma, my almost four years old labrador retriever. I don’t think she’ll be tent friendly in my Tarptent Notch. Dog claws and lightweight fabrics aren’t very compatible. Seems like most light weight hiking tarp manufacturers are several weeks out in being able to ship a tarp. I’ll need the tarp well before that. So I’m going to try a basic 10 ft x 7 ft tarp made by Bushcraft Outfitters. Easy set up and easy for the dog to go in and out. I have a headnet in case the bugs are bad. Total weight with stuff sack and guy lines is about 15 ounces. That’s a savings of 11 more ounces.
I’m actually pretty satisfied with my ZPacks sleeping bag, which weighs in at 16.7 ounces. The place to save weight is with my sleeping pad. I just don’t see myself trading in my Neoair, which weighs 16 ounces, for a foam pad. I tried it last year for awhile. The eight ounces of weight savings was nice, but the not so good night’s rest wasn’t. However, I’ve been looking at the Cascade Designs Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite women’s sleeping pad. I’m not tall, so it’s 66-inch length is great for me. It’s the same width as the men’s small and regular Xlites and weighs only 11 ounces. Another 5 ounces in weight savings.
My Marmot Precip rain jacket and pants weigh 22 ounces. I’m thinking of changing to just a Driducks jacket which weighs six ounces. That’s all Blaze carried last year. Driducks aren’t real durable. But it won’t get worn much. A rainjacket isn’t needed very often during the summer on the trail. We had a handful of wet days in 2012, and Blaze’s jacket and umbrella combo kept her warm and dry enough. I’ll keep the Marmot raingear in my bounce box in preparation for a potentially wet Washington in September. Another savings of 16 ounces.
I carried both a Marmot windshirt and a puffy down jacket in 2012 but only really wore the puffy jacket (and used it on top of my sleeping bag for extra insulation on cold Sierra Mountain nights). Each weighs eight ounces. I’m thinking of putting the windshirt in the bounce box for just in case, and only carrying the down jacket which will save me another 8 ounces.
The Weight Goes Down and the Fun Goes Up
With the changes above, I’ll have cut 52 ounces (3.25 pounds) from my pack. This will put my base pack weight under 15 pounds. I’ll be a happier hiker.