Friday, January 9, 2009

New pack pushes base weight toward SUL

In my endless effort to cut pack weight, I have picked up a second-hand Z1 from Zpacks. That said, the pack is in mint condition and has two options: a sternum strap and a webbing belt. Each addition appears more for stability than load support or weight transfer. The Z1's base weight is 4.2 ounces, with the options the pack goes up to 5.29 ounces. The sternum strap is removable and I can cut off the waist belt. With some testing, I may remove one or both.

This is an effort to push my pack weight to a SUL base weight while maintaining functionality. To do this, it looks like I may need to revamp the majority of my gear to accommodate the goal. This will be a slow process, but I am looking to hit the definition of SUL.

The traditional definitions of SUL, UL and lightweight hiking (sub-5, sub-10 and sub-15/sub-20, depending on who you talk to) are seemingly arbitrary - definitions at five-pound increments are just convenient. That said, it is the community standard and thus my packweight will be judged by it in a post-modern analysis sort of way.

I will also be adding a bivy to my 3+ season arsenal of gear. I have looked at specs on the Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight bivy, the Titanium Goat Ptarmigan bivy and the Vapr bivies from BPL - in this analysis I have looked at fabric, zipper and net options and cost. The Vapr bivies are out because of their sheer cost, despite their quality fabric (Pertex). Split between the MLD and the TiGoat, there is little difference with a few exceptions: the zipper on the MLD is a partial side zipper and there is less mesh in the hood. To me, this means easier in-and-out access and more protection from spray. This will allow me to use a smaller tarp (read: weight savings) (speaking of which, I am seriously looking at picking up the BPL SpinnTarp X-Pro as a fantasticly-priced tarp that is light on weight and the pocketbook. Because of its size, a bivy would be required.)

That said, here is my current 3-season gear list. As the weather gets colder, I would add two things: poly pro bottoms and then Montbell U.L. Thermawrap pants and maybe some sleep socks. Those three things should allow the list to push to sub-freezing temps.

Clothes worn Carried Worn
LS Shirt
Headsweats hat
Zip-off shorts
Footwear Carried Worn
Nike Elite +4
ID Gaiters
SW socks
Clothes carried Carried Worn
Fleece cap 1.02
MLD mitts 1.09
SW socks 1.94
BD gloves 2.79
Montbell UL Thermawrap Parka (M) 12.77
Marmot Ion windshirt 4.59
Marmot Precip pants 7.48
Pack Carried Worn
Z1 Zpack 5.29
Pack liner 1.41
Shelter Carried Worn
Poly Cro 1.66
Easton stakes x 8 2.82
Poncho Tarp 10.58
Poncho Tarp cords
Sleeping Carried Worn
Marmot Hydrogen 23.35
Ridgerest (57") 8.08
Kitchen Carried Worn
REI Ti Pot 4.97
Alc stove; screen; pan 1.52
Hot Spark (on ribbon) 0.35
Fuel bottle (20 oz) 0.92
Lexan Fork 0.39
Hydration Carried Worn
Nalgene Canteen (1.5L) 2.22
Aqua Mira 2.93
Emergency Carried Worn
FAK; repair kit 3.70
Triptease (50') 1.34
Headlamp 2.75
Misc carried Carried Worn
Cell phone
Polaroid i1035
BD Spires

Silva Polaris Compass
ID; Ins; CC; DC; $20
Toiletries Carried Worn
Toothbrush 0.42
Contact case 0.28
Glasses case 1.62
Glasses 0.67

TP and Wet Wipes; hand sanitizer

Packing Carried Worn
S2S for sleeping bag 1.16
MB purple (food) 0.35
Ziplock sandwich (toiletries) 0.07
Aloksak 2 (cell; ID, etc.)
Aloksak 3 (map/compass)
Poncho sack for stove 0.32
Consumables Carried Worn
Food (weekend, 2 days)

Water, 32 oz

Alcohol, 2 oz

TYPE TOTALS Carried Worn
OZ 110.87 80.96
LB 6.93 5.06
TOTALS 6.93 11.99

As you can see, there is obvious room for improvement. I can identify a few obvious areas for inprovement: First, I will be going to a quilt, either synthetic or down. Synthetic is obviously cheaper and is easy to make. Down can also be easily made but the cost goes up. The issue becomes at what point is the cost savings outweighed by the increased quality of purchased final goods. I anticipate pushing the weight down to about 16 ounces. Also very tempting is going with a 2/3 quilt to cut further weight, similar to the MLD 2Thirds quilt and the Nunatak Arc A.T. One issue with sewing is that I can make a 2/3s quilt one of two yards of fabric where as I may need to purchase three yards of fabric if I make a full-length quilt. (The MLD quilt is 74" long - two yards is 72" and I would need to accomodate for seam allowances and draw cords. I also cannot order 1/2 yards from Thru-hiker. Ordering an additional yard of everything increases the cost by 50%. Currently the cost of the fabrics (not counting straps, buckle, toggles and elastic) is $82.16. This is about 2/3 of cost of the MLD 2Thirds quilt (with 5 oz Climashield vs. 2.5 oz). With these pieces the cost probably pushes the total up to about $90 plus time.

Second, I recently puchased a GoLite poncho tarp similar to the one Andrew Skurka used for his Sea-to-Sea hike and Demetri Coupeneous used on his unsupported hike of the Colorado long Trail. The weight of this poncho is about 10 ounces, and Mountain Laurel Designs makes a poncho tarp out of cuben fiber that tips the scales at 3.9 ounces. Cost is an issue as well as durability, and the poncho is a proven winner - I just need the skill with it.

Third, I want to replace my shorts - they weigh a ton and do not offer full coverage for my legs. I would love to pick up the BPL thorofare pants as a 4 oz full-coverage replacements.

Fourth, although this is a small change, I will be (hopefully) replacing my wind shirt to be used with the poncho tarp. I am looking at the GoLite Ether, Patagonia Houdini and the Arc'Teryx Squamish. This will probably cut an ounce but will increase breathability greatly.

1 comment:

Northlandiguana said...

Just an observation -- all that fancy gear doesn't seem to help much when you can't get through the snow. Here are a couple suggestions from a wilderness minimalist and anti-gear-head:

1. Footgear: Hiking the northern Arrowhead with 25" snowshoes??? I don't know who suggested that would be a good idea, but obviously they're deluded. I'm guessing they're the kind with a flat sheet of material as their center. Probably cost you $250 or more, didn't they?

I have a pair of wooden Ojibwes I built from a kit for $50. They're 54" long and laced, and they float like gliders on deep snow. They're big, true, but surprisingly easy to navigate brush with. I really like the tapered-tail design of the Ojibwes. I bought foot bindings with leather straps for about $25 more, which are great because they allow the toes to dig forward for traction on hills. For deep Minnesota snow, you really need big snowshoes--not racing ones.

2. Gear transport: Snowshoeing with a heavy pack isn't the best choice for ease of travel. I've done it, and I've also pulled a gear sled, and I much prefer the latter. When you get a good pace going, there isn't too much friction, and it's a lot easier to slog through powder without the extra gravity pushing you down. I've contemplated putting glide-wax on a sled to make it go even easier, but haven't had the opportunity to try it yet.

3. Clothing: News flash--you get warm hiking in winter, especially carrying or hauling weight. It doesn't matter if it's 20 above or 20 below; work that hard, and you're going to sweat. The trick is to pack the right amount of layering so that you can get down to a t-shirt without too much fuss and bother, and still be warm in camp at night. Below 15 degrees I wear polypro underwear under a shell; any warmer and I'm down to a cotton t-shirt before long (and I don't care what the experts say, I've never regretted taking winter trips with the Fabric of Our Lives). What I won't tolerate if I can avoid it is sweating into under-clothes I'm going to need to keep warm later.

So... get some real snowshoes and a gear sled and get your ass back out there.