Many times, the less weight you carry, the easier it is to backpack.
Less weight on the back to schlep means it is easier to get to that lake, view, or next ridgeline.
But sometimes you need or want to carry more gear.
Winter, in particular, makes for a difficult time to backpack. Skis, heavier and bulkier clothing, larger packs, sometimes specialized shelters…ounces that all add up.
But I am confident with my skill set, experience, and the power of Da Google, I can put together a Super Ultralight (SUL) kit, for the winter months.
In fact, I did! Check out my LighterPack link!
Here’s a quick summary for the skeptical:
You’ll find a Gossamer Gear Murmur, a light pad, a minimalist shelter, and so on.
Still not convinced that I can put together a sub-3 lb base pack weight for the winter months?
Well, I did not say where I’d backpack. Did I? 🙂
Well, looking at the forecast if I intended to backpack in Hawaii along the Kalalau Trail, my sub-3 lb gear kit has no thick thermals or a puffy. And I’ll be using a 50F quilt and rocking hiking sandals. The sub-3lb gear load seems just fine!
Which is the point. If a bit of an exaggeration for my example.
People in their quest for the lightest pack often pick out gear ala carte and not think of such things as the place, terrain, type of weather, or even hiking style. Gear works best in a system. A minimalist backpack with light material does not necessarily work off-trail. And a foam pad is very light, but is bulky and will not work with the minimalist pack, etc. And often there is not the experience to make use of the system correctly, either. Continuing with our foam pad theme, these type of pads work best if a person has their site selection skills dialed-in.
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On a similar theme, many people will look at these ultralight lists online without knowing the person’s background. Are they a Cam Honan, Heather Anderson, or Andrew Skurka and with hundreds of bag nights in all kinds of terrain? Or are they a Dog Park Hiking Expert with a dubious amount of Top Ten lists, unboxing videos, and an extensive collection of lightly used gear?
At either extreme, just copying a gear list and using it won’t be too beneficial. The first group of people has a large amount of experience to dial-in their gear kit system. The second group? Well, as shown by my LighterPack link above, it is effortless to post a spreadsheet of some sort, display an impressive pie chart, and voila! I am now a SUL expert.
Except, I never backpacked in the tropics in my life, I am only vaguely familiar with hiking in sandals, and a 1/8″ foam pad is masochistic even for me.
And to make a further point, though I am not lying when I state this list is for the winter months, I am misleading on purpose. Winter in Hawaii is different from winter in Colorado, the southeast Appalachians, or even Big Bend National Park.
At the less extreme, someone may be advocating a 40F quilt, a tiny pack, and a light puffy for something like the Southeast Appalachians in late April. A place and time where a sub-5lb kit is straightforward to dial in and be comfortable. That same kit would be amusing in April for Colorado mountain backpacking.
So look at gear lists. Take some lessons from what other tools people use and, more importantly, how they use their tools. But be conservative when you apply that gear to your needs. And be sure to keep in mind how that LighterPack listed gear is being used in the field. If at all.
In the meantime, for my hypothetical trip to a kickass place in Hawaii, I am not sure I’d buy that much new gear for the trip. I’d take fewer pieces of equipment with me instead. The key to going light is not what gear you bring or what gear you buy, but instead what you don’t carry.
And I’d have more money for awesome coconut themed drinks, too!