Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How low can I go?

I'm looking at a solo trip this summer. Call it fastpacking, call it fast and light, I'll call it light and efficient.

Here's what I'm thinking - how low can I get my base packweight taking into consideration Minnesota weather? I've set a goal of a five pound (2.27 kg) base weight for a solo trip, with a max weight at any given time would be 20 pounds (2.4 liters of water and 10 lbs of food). This is figuring an average of 135 cal/oz, 3000 calories per day. It gives 7.2 days of food, enough to do a significant amount hiking. (The food total is also dependent on its volume)

Again, this is base weight. Here is what counts:
  1. Everything carried in the pack
  2. All clothes except minimum (minimum being: socks, spandex shorts, zip-off nylon shorts, short-sleeve shirt, shoes, gaiters). This creates a sort of fiction, as I will often be wearing more than this. The idea is to have the largest base weight with all gear I would be carrying)
Here's what doesn't count:
  1. Food, water and fuel i.e. consumables
  2. Clothing worn - everything but the minimum
  3. Gear carried i.e. trekking poles, emergency gear carried (navigation, cash, cards, etc)
Here's some guidelines, however.
  1. I need full rain gear. This includes parka, pants and gaiters. I will, however, use non-waterproof shoes.
  2. I like to eat hot food - This means I will carry a stove, pot and a utinsel.
  3. I will carry a fully functional first aid kit
How am I going to do this? Well, I have some areas I can significantly improve, really, three: sleeping system, pack and rain gear.

Sleeping system - I currently have one bag and three pads at my disposal. The Marmot Hydrogen weighs in at 21 oz. I am thinking about replacing this with a two-thirds bag a la MLD. This would cut something like 12 oz off. I can make it for about $80 with materials from Thru-Hiker. It would take about two hours or so. I would include the straps and probably buckles to accomplish closures. I would then sleep

Pack - I currently have three packs: REI Morningstar, GG Vapor Trail and Homemade Sil-Nylon. Their weights are, respectively: 68, 32 and 17 oz. I'm looking at adding another, a ZPack, probably one of the Cuben Fiber packs, either the Blast 18 or 26. I'm leaning more toward the 26 because I carry a pretty thick (but light!) pad in a 3/4 Ridgerest, and it is also taller to accomodate more vertical space. I'm not going to pull the trigger on this one until after I try out my Sil-Nylon. I have a problem with the sil-nylon, however. Due to an error in production, the pack's torso is too long, and the bottom of the pack does not rest on my sacrum like it should (this puts more weight on my shoulders).

Again, this needs to tryouts - I used the SilNylon with too much weight last year and I know I need to crank down on the weight. Hence the push to cut base weight.

Rain Gear - This is a little more difficult and it more costly to replace. I have a precip tops and bottoms. This weighs in (conservatively) at 15 oz for the jacket and 9 for the pants. This will be tough to cut down while retaining waterproofness. I'm thinking mostly I can get a jacket around 10 oz, maybe 11, so I'm not thinking this is worth it. The other idea is to go with a poncho, this would eliminate the need for pants. It would also cut weight down to about 10 oz. I don't really want to do this because of wind and the use of trekking poles. So full gear it is. I'm getting a scale to accurately measure the Precip's weight.

I have also made a minor improvement with shelter - I ordered a polycro ground sheet from Gossamer Gear. It is 40" x 96" and weighs 1.5 oz. It is much lighter and more waterproof than tyvek.

Other improvements have been made with respect to cooking. I now have a better 5 cup pot and a small 1.5 oz 12 oz mug to use with my alcohol or canister stoves.

Right now, Its looking like I can get under 6 lbs with the above gear replacements. Not too shabby. We'll see after some testing.

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