|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – August 2001
How light can you go? Six friends face off to determine whether carrying less gear makes you half as macho, or twice as smart.
Some heavyweights might prefer getting to camp early and enjoying the benefits of the extra weight they've carried by sipping coffee, reading a book, and overlooking the scenery from their comfortable camp chairs. In the case of our heavyweights, though, it's envy that registers. "I wanted to join you," says Marc, " but I was spent." The Lightniks take the round.
Lightniks 6 Heavies 4
Eventually, we intersect the trail bordering the White River. Steve and I want to know how quickly we can comfortably cover the 11 miles separating us from the cars. Two hours and 15 minutes later, after combining slow jogging and fast walking, we have our answer. More than an hour faster than the closest heavy, the lightweights take the round.
Lightniks 7 Heavies 4
And The Winners Are...
The real test of this showdown would be whether the members of one side defected to the other side, and in the end most of the Heavies were swayed. Marc wasn't sure he could halve his pack weight, but felt certain he could shed 15 to 20 pounds. Margareta was impressed with our footwear and commented, "I think light shoes were the biggest item in making travel easier. I'll probably switch." Chris had studied our techniques and technology more closely than anyone else, and at trip's end announced, "I'm not going out there with a heavy pack again."
Meanwhile, even though our route was far more rugged than the average backpacking trip, Steve and I found nothing lacking in our lightweight systems. A week later, carrying the same kit (minus 5 pounds of climbing gear), he completed Mt. Rainier's 93-mile-long Wonderland Trail in 3 days.
See Light Loads, in sidebar at right, for the complete list of what the Lightniks carried. See Related Articles, at right, for reviews of the lightweight gear featured in this story, as well as other reviews and feature articles.
Put Your Pack On A Diet
|Use This... (bring)||Insteed of this... (don't bring)||Saving (lbs., oz.)|
|Downsize||film canisters to carry toothpaste, sunscreen||original packaging||0,4|
|a 3/4-length sleeping pad||a full-length model||0,6|
|a smaller pack (3,000 cu. in.)||a 5,000 cu. in. pack||2,0|
|duct tape, sticks for splints, a bandanna, a limited supply of painkillers, innovation||adhesive tape, moleskin, bandages, splints, elastic bandages, and a pharmacopoeia of drugs||0,8|
|Double Up||boxer shorts w/fly sewn shut||shorts and swimsuit||0,8|
|stuff sacks for knickknacks||camp shoes (slip sacks over socks)||0,9|
|wear your coat to bed and carry a lighter sleeping bag||sleeping bag rated below the lowest temperature you expect to encounter||1,8|
|Leave It Out||camp chair||1,2|
|extra cook pot||0,7|
|long underwear bottoms||0,6|
|trash: discard all extra food packaging at home||1,0|
|extra food: return home empty||2,0|
|Substitute||ultralight tent (4,0 w/stakes) or silicone-impregnated nylon tarp (1,8 w/stakes and groundsheet)||average two-person tent (6,8 w/stakes)||2,0 (min.)|
|small, streamlined rucksack (3,12)||internal frame pack w/metal stay (5,4)||1,8|
|canister stove (0,3)||white gas stove (1,0)||0,13 (w/o fuel)|
|water bladder (0,1)||Lexan water bottle (0,5)||0,4|
|iodine tablets or chlorine dioxide drops (0,2)||water filter (0,10)||0,8|
|extra pile hat (0,2)||extra fleece shirt (0,10)||0,8|
|approach shoes (2,0)||leather boots (4,8)||2,8|
|ultralight raingear (0,15 for top and bottom)||mountain stormgear (3,0 for suit)||2,1|
|titanium 2-liter pot (0,61/2)||stainless steel 2-liter pot (0,91/2)||0,3|
|professional-quality point-and-shoot camera (0,7)||SLR camera and lens (1,12)||1,5|
|MINIMUM SAVINGS: 22 pounds 4 ounces|