As a part of the continuing process of honing and fine-tuning my ultralight hiking kit, it's good to take a close look at the gear taken on trips me that performed well, failed, or just wasn't used. By doing this you can reduce weight more, perfect food rations, and make your experiences on the trail more enjoyable. Personally, I want to do this now so I can make some decisions about what to take on a rapidly approaching trip to Halti in July.
It's common practice amongst ultralighters to make a precise gear list, in which every item, no matter how insignificant has been weighed. However, knowing your base weight and full weight is only half the story – the other half is told at the end of a trip. What about the return weight?
For last week''s trip to Aakenustunturi I had the following pre trip-statistics:
- Base Weight (all non-consumable items): 5426g
- Full weight (including food etc.): 6980g
When I got back I weighed the pack to see find out what the difference was:
- Return full weight: 5890g
This shows a difference between pre- and post-trip weights of 1090g, which, in theory, should be accounted for by food and consumables.
To check this, I compared the pre- and post-trip weights of my food bag:
- Pre-trip food weight: 1547g
- Return food weight: 507g
- Difference: 1050g
This shows I consumed 1050g of food during the trip, which compares well to the overall difference of 1090g. The remaining 40g can safely be put down to other consumables and minor discrepancies produced by my highly nono-technical IKEA and Clas Ohlsson scales!
What this also reveals is that I carried 507g too much food. Let's look at why...
Here is a list of the remaining food at the end of the trip:
- 1 Bla Band meal *
- 2 Nescafe espresso sachets *
- 1 teabag *
- 140g GORP
- 3 Nuun electrolyte tabs
- 1 Nestle fitness bar
- 1 Energy Gel sachet
What can we learn from this (other than I had a disturbingly high proportion of evil Nestlé products)?
For starters, items marked "*" were taken to cover a potential additional night. When I left I was a little concerned I'd be too tired to drive home at the end and would need to stay near the trailhead for 1 night. In the end this wasn't the case.
The GORP is something I'm working on. A
fter this trip,
I now know that I need about 2 x180g servings of GORP per day. I typically eat one in the morning, and one in the afternoon as I hike. Now that I know this, it's likely that I won't have any extra at the end of my next trip.
The Nuun tabs I didn't bother to check before I left and just took what was left in the tube I happened to find in my food box. On longer trips I'll take a couple per day. They're a bit of a luxury item, but I like to think they keep my muscles well-oiled.
The Nestlé fitness bars I will leave out in future. I took two with me, and ate one but didn't really need it. On this trip I wanted to try eating protein bars for lunch, and this worked very well. They gave me more than enough energy and calories to continue hiking for the rest of the day. They are simple, light, and no-fuss.
The energy gel sachet is more of an emergency item. I occasionally get a sugar crash, so this covers that contingency. I've never needed one on the trail, but if I ever do it I'll be glad to have it.
Lastly, water. On this trip I was filling a simple .5l plastic bottle with unfiltered water form the streams. I switched the lid of the bottle for a "Mehukatti" flip top spout so I wouldn't have to bother unscrewing it all the time. This worked very well, and it fit much better into the huckePACK side pocket than the 1l Platypus bottle which I also carried, and which I thought was going to be redundant until a
occurred: I dropped the Mehukatti cap while sitting on the steps of a ski hut, and it rolled deep down into the rocky foundations. So I was left with a bottle without a cap. Not so useful.
As I was running around screaming in panic, I remembered I had the platy bottle.
The lesson to be learned there? I'm not sure... Carry two bottle caps? Create a MYOG cap retention system? We shall see...
I took my
this time, and as usual it performed very well. Will I take it To Halti? Probably not. Much of the terrain there is above treeline, which makes things more problematic (not impossible, but more challenging at least). I've made a cat can stove as an alternative, but it needs further testing. I feel a stove comparison post coming on...
was excellent – perhaps a little too large for the amount carried. I used a cuben liner bag to keep everything dry, and it worked, even in the heavy rain and with an uncompressed quilt. So no wasted weight there. Both will come with me to Halti, where the additional food should help pack out the bag a bit.
I took the
with me, but as I stayed in the cabin I didn't use it, so that was 614g carried unnecessarily. Add to that the 182 grams for stakes and additional cord, I could have saved 796g.
use – inside the hut
. There were enough mosquitoes (at least one – I saw it!) sneaking in whenever I opened the door to bother me at night, so I played it safe as I wanted a good night's sleep. I know, it's pathetic. But me and mosquitoes, we have history. A bit like the English and the French.
Will I take these (the DuoMid and bivy, not the French) to Halti? I
save some weight and take the SpinnTwin, but I've ordered an
inner for the DuoMid as I anticipate I'll be using camping more. The 'Mid gives me better shelter if it's crappy weather, and the inner gives me more
living space to move around than the bivy (which I won't be taking as the inner makes it redundant).
With the shelter it's hard to say for certain that I wouldn't need it, but on trips like Aakenus, I should have just taken the basic tarp.
My GoLite quilt (quick,
!) was perfectly adequate, but I start to feel that it's a little on the heavy side. This time I simply stuffed it into the bottom of the pack liner bag without compressing it. This helped fill out the pack, and the liner kept it dry.
I still need to put some silicon on the base of the POE Ether Elite (now
) pad, as I still slide around a lot at night.
down jacked went unused, but I'll be taking it to Halti with me as I anticipate some chilly mornings.
The same goes for my microfleece hat. Didn't use it, but we gentlemen of the bald persuasion need to keep our heads warm so we can think properly, so this comes with me.
windshirt also didn't see any use, mainly because I used my rain jacket instead. I'm torn as to the usefulness of taking both along with me. It might get left behind. It's a tossle, as my wife says.
is still doing fine as my UL raincoat. Sure, it's not a Haglöfs Ozo, but it breathes okay and keeps me dry. No need to upgrade just yet, and it'll go with me because it wouldn't be a Finnish summer without some heavy rain.
For the first time I took the
with me. I really didn't think it'd be useful, and I felt it was a bit of a fad among ultralighters. However I found myself using it on several occasions in brief showers, or while waiting to find out if the brief shower was going to become a prolonged shower (which was often the case). I was surprised how dry it kept me. Only the very bottoms of my trousers were getting lightly rained upon, so, ridiculous as it may seem, I call it a winner. I probably will not take it to Halti though. It's pretty exposed and rocky, and better suited to "proper" rain gear.
As for rain pants, I did use them, and they did the job. However, I also just walked in my quick-dry Columbia hiking pants in the rain. They got soaked, but dried so quickly I didn't even notice. I'll have to check the weather conditions before we leave, but I'd like to leave them behind. The rainpants, of course, protect from wind too, but I rarely find cold legs to be a problem.
I didn't face enough challenge from the insect department to turn to my headnet for assistance, but I'll definitley be taking that with me to Halti as I anticipate raging swarms of mosquitoes to be hatching as I write this.
My bandana saw multi-usefulness as a pot grip, oatmeal heat protector and insulator, BushBuddy relocation tool, hand towel, and bumble bee removal implement. It's already in the pack.
Now, my shirt(s). This is an area I've yet to perfect. On day one I wore a Haglöfs synthetic tee under a Didricksons micro-fleece (
essentially it's a Patagonia R1 type of thing without the hood – worth checking out)
. I hoped that the synthetic tee would wick sweat away to the mid layer and keep me nice and dry, but this was not the case. Either I'm an excessive sweater, or the tee wasn't wicking fast enough. The tee remained wet, and took an age to dry. The Didrickson top was dry as a bone.
On day two, I tried just wearing the Didricksons top. It too got damp from perspiration, but dried quicker. So, I'll be leaving the Haglöfs top behind (and consigning it to the DO NOT USE box) and looking at my other gear. I think I'll take the Disricksons top though. A "mid-layer" works as a very good base layer in Lapland unless it's unseasonably warm.
I didn't use my shortie gaiters. I never use my shortie gaiters. I will not bother to take my shortie gaiters with me again.
Socks. I wore a cheap pair of runner's ankle socks while hiking, with the intention of letting them get wet. They dried fairly well while walking
getting wet, but when I got to the cabin they took forever to dry out completely even right next to the fire. I suspect there is a high cotton content in them, even though they claim to be "dry-fast" (hmm... maybe that's "dry-fast" as in "dye-fast"). I'm on the lookout for an alternative pair.
In camp (well, around and about the cabin) I switched to my SealSkinz dry socks, and, although I read a lot of complaints, I though they were fantastic. Even outside in the slushy wetland area the cabin was located, they kept my feet dry and didn't wet out. They're not light, but they're coming with me.
I also took along a couple of plastic bags in case I needed to put them over wet and cold feet as a VBL layer, but didn't use them. I'll probably take them though as they weigh very little.
Sleep socks. What can I say? The joy of putting on a pair of fluffy, soft socks for the night is a luxury anyone in their right mind would enjoy and not want to go without.
s, as I've mentioned elsewhere, were ideal for this trail. The additional cushioning (compared to the
s) was nice on the rocks, and while it affects drying time a little, I found they dried perfectly well. The soles offer sure-footed grip on wet rocks and duckboards, and don't pick up quite so many little gravel stones as the 330s. There is a little wear and tear appearing on them, but I think they'll hold up for a while longer. They'll definitely be on my feet in Halti.
Lastly, the pair of liner gloves I took were adequate, but not really warm enough for a trip further north.
In my first aid ziploc lots of stuff went unused, but all of it is essential, so I'll leave it alone.
In the ditty bag there was also a lot of unused bits and bobs: sunblock, talc, matches, repair kits, lip balm, insect repellant. I suppose I could skip a couple of items (sunblock, talc), but I think I'll take them and reassess after the next trip.
I didn't use my
. To be honest, I could have used a bigger knife while preparing wood for the BushBuddy. So I might return to my trusty puuko for future wood-burning trips. For Halti though, it'll be a different stove I think, so the Micra will be adequate.
s continue to be my faithful companions, helping me up the steep bits, and joyfully light enough to slip under an arm on prolonged duckboardery. I'm very happy with them (although one of them is a bit stubborn to lock – the rubber thingy is a tad too small I think). But these are great poles. Having them took a lot of strain off my lower back. To Halti they will go.
I took my
with me. I
took my Nikon D300, but changed my mind at the last minute. The GF1 continues to be my go-to camera for quick trips. The new
s look like very nice successors to the GF1, but I have no need to upgrade a camera that works perfectly well.
One thing I was very happy with was relocating the little
bag from my belt to the left shoulder strap of the huckPACK. This was very clever of me (pat on the back, Mark). It was easier to access the camera, didn't get in the way of the waist straps, and was less prone to bouncing around and potentially falling off. Well done, Mark. Gold star.
Potential Weight Savings
So, looking at all that, how much weight could I shave off my load.
Here's a list of everything not used:
I use Bento for gear list management, in case you were wondering.
And here's the shocker: that comes to 1501g. Or 1.5kg (see, I'm good at maths!)
If I'd not taken all that I'd have had a full weight of
less than 5.5kg
However, let's be realistic... I don't think I can get away with not taking everything on that list to Halti with me.
Let's instead look at the things I said I won't take with me and see how that might reduce my pack weight:
Those come to a surprising 1091g – so I can save over a kilo of weight in just six items. Even considering that I'll need to take some kind of alternative stove, I'm still going to save some considerable weight. (I left the Bristlecone Bivy off this list as it will be replaced by a customized OookWorks DuoMid inner, which is roughly the same weight.)
I think this is a clear example of how a few items easily add up to a not insignificant amount of weight in your pack. Those few grams here and there really do add up, so it's truly worth weighing gear and carefully analyzing what you could shave off your pack weight. Because if you can knock 1kg off of an already firly light load of 6kg, that's a pretty decent weight reduction. It may not be
just yet (see, for example,
), but for a chilly Lapland summer in the height of mosquito season, it's n
ot bad at all.