How To Think Like An Ultralight Backpacker
By Steven Gillman
How does an ultralight backpacker think? A
reporter for a backpacking magazine asked me this in a recent
interview. I've gone backpacking in winter conditions with as little
as eleven pounds total on my back, so I do think light. In fact,
there are some basic questions that seem to automatically come to
mind when I am either planning a backpacking trip or looking at
gear. I suspect other lightweight backpackers ask themselves the
1. How do I make it lighter?
Habitually ask this of every item you bring. Foam
sleeping pads can be trimmed, a stuff sack could be left behind if
the sleeping bag can just be stuffed directly into the pack.
Shortening a toothbrush and cutting the edges off maps won't lighten
the load much, but modify enough different items, and the weight
savings can add up to a pound or two.
2. Is there a lighter alternative?
This is where you really save weight, especially
if you start with the "big three;" sleeping bag, shelter and
backpack. Buying new gear may be necessary, but you can also find
the lightest choice among the things you already own. Pick out your
lightest t-shirts, for example, or take your light tarp for a short
trip, instead of a tent. This can make a big difference in how light
you go. Many years ago, I went from a 88-ounce (5 1/2 pound)
backpack to a 14-ounce one, and from a three-pound sleeping bag to a
3. What can I leave behind?
"Do I really need to bring this?" Ask that of each
item. One shirt may be enough, for example. Ask, "will I use it?"
For several trips I carried a small chess set, but never used it. If
with a group, see if someone else in the party has an item you are
considering. A group of three only needs one stove. Not sure if you
can leave something behind? The last three questions may help you
find an answer.
4. Are there multiple-use items I can use to cut
If I cook at all (unusual), my pan is my bowl, and
my spoon is my fork. Some ponchos can be used as a shelter. A
trekking pole can be the support for a tarp shelter or even some
tents. The stuff-sack from your sleeping bag can be filled with
clothing to use as a pillow. Find ways to use the things you have
for more than one purpose, and buy things that have multiple
purposes. This is classic ultralight backpacker thinking.
5. Are there strategies can I use to lighten the
An extreme example: eat a low-carbohydrate diet
for a few days, then load up on pasta the day before a trip. In this
way you can store up to a couple pounds of extra carbs in your body,
so you won't need to carry as much food. Called "carbo-loading,"
it's been used by endurance athletes for decades. Another strategy:
plan according to the weather report. If no rain is predicted, you
can leave the rain gear behind, or bring just the top. In an area
with many water sources, you can carry just a one-pint plastic soda
bottle, if you fill it up every time you come to a stream or lake.
6. What skills and habits can I work on?
This is partly about learning survival skills.
Why? Because being at home in the wilderness makes it safer to go
lighter. If, for example, you know how to make a warm bed of dried
leaves and grass, it's safe to try that light sleeping bag which
otherwise might not be quite warm enough for you. Being able to
identify and eat wild edible plants makes it safer to carry less
food. In fact, if with sufficient survival skills, an ultralight
backpacker can be prepared for almost anything.
Copyright Steve Gillman. To get a free ebook for "Ultralight
Backpackers", and to see photos, gear recommendations, and a new
wilderness survival section, visit: http://www.The-Ultralight-Site.com
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Steven_Gillman
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