Many years ago I used to go fishing, and it was said that a lot of the gadgets on sale in tackle shops were designed to catch anglers, not fish. I don’t think things are quite like that in outdoors equipment stores, but caution has to be applied. Do you really need lightsticks, multi-tools, special bags and wallets? There are sets of cookware, different sized pans that nest together, sold complete with detachable handles and a storage bag. These are fine if you are in a base camp, but they are not for carrying with you. All I need is just one little pot to boil water in! Again, weights vary, with aluminium ones lighter than stainless steel, while titanium is lighter still (but unfortunately rather pricey as well).
Why are tents or other items such as stoves for example listed in some stores or featured in magazines without including any weights? This is one of the most important points! Some suppliers that do list the weights do not stock any that I would regard as particularly light, while others claim theirs are light when they are anything but. It suggests to me that they have not seriously considered this side of things or, worse still, that their main interest is taking your money. After all, they will not be the ones carrying it. Do remember that you will be.
Virtually every single thing I carry has been chosen with light weight in mind. Before you buy some gear you fancy, stop and ask yourself if there is a lighter alternative. For example, plastic flasks, plates and cutlery are lighter than the metal ones which are available, but even the plastic ones vary in weight. Use one of the little bars of soap you find in hotels; look online for tiny tubes of toothpaste or ask a dentist for a little sample tube. The tiniest knife will cut open your foil food packs just as well as a big one. I weigh on scales the exact amount of muesli I will need, and I count out the number of spoonfuls of dried milk and energy drink powder to take with me, while I found that some brands of instant soups are a bit lighter than others. Even the sewn-on labels have been removed from my rucksack and the surplus ends of its straps have been shortened. Don’t laugh when you hear tales about backpackers who drill holes in the handles of their spoons; these guys know where it’s at, honestly! Every individual bit of weight saved adds up to an appreciable amount.
If you don’t have some good kitchen scales you can pick up digital scales for weights up to 5kg for less than five pounds on Amazon and eBay.
As I said above, everything in my kit is as light as I can get (within my budget). Between 2014 and 2015 I went through the list to see how I could reduce the weight further. Below is how I cut it by nearly a kilo in total:
- Nalgene wide necked 1 litre water bottle, 180g, replaced with a Nalgene Cantene 1 litre collapsible bottle, 62g. Saving = 118g.
- Tent peg pusher: a modified 1″ plastic waste tee, 9g, replaced with a modified 3/4″ nylon tee, 5g. Saving = 4g.
- Tent peg bag, 9g, replaced with a spinnaker fabric bag, 4g. Saving = 5g.
- Nail file, 4.5g, removed from wash kit altogether. Saving = 4.5g.
- Swiss Army Pocket Pal penknife, 23g, replaced with a Stanley disposable craft knife with the handle shortened, 5g. Saving = 18g.
- 1 pint aluminium billy can & lid, 156g, replaced with a 1 pint titanium pot with lid, 79g. Saving = 77g.
- Gas lantern, 130g, plus small gas cartridge, 175g, replaced with a Black Diamond Orbit LED lantern, 132g. Saving = 173g.
- Alkaline lantern batteries, 45g, replaced with lithium ones, 31g. Saving =14g.
- Snugpak Softie 10 Harrier synthetic sleeping bag, 1750g, replaced first with a 950g down bag that wasn’t warm enough for me. I quickly sold it on and then bought a down Vango Venom 600, 1200g. Saving = 550g.
I don’t take the tent bag – when the tent is wet, which it usually is, I keep the other contents of my pack dry by putting it in a heavy-duty black bin bag that doubles as something to sit or kneel on in the tent porch. Nor do I take my ground mat’s elasticated bands and stuff sack – when the mat is deflated, rolled up and flattened, it sits in my pack quite happily without them.
New for 2016: My latest weight saving has been to replace my worn out Snugpak Sleeka synthetic insulated jacket, which weighs 691g. I now have a Haglofs LIM Essens down jacket that is 203g in my size. Saving = 488g.
Since then I have also replaced my trusty old plastic mug, 60g, with a plastic measuring beaker, 38g, that is also useful for the correct amount of water for freeze-dried meals. Saving = 22g.
At the present moment, I am wondering about leaving out my little battery shaver to save 150g, however my face feels itchy unshaven and also it is psychologically good for me to set off in the morning with a smooth face.
My total pack weight, including food, is now down to around 9kg. At one time it used to be between 12 and 13kg. A noticeable difference is that it is no longer the struggle it used to be to pick it up and get my arms in the shoulder straps, while overall my trips are more comfortable and pleasant, without the feeling that my feet are sinking into the ground half an inch with each step..