Lightweight backpacking. I’ve trekking now for a couple of years and having done a couple of decent and quite long treks. Here are some tips. I see many people making the same errors that I made, so hopefully this post might help
A couple of years ago, 2017. I thought I would do some hiking or trekking here in France where I live.
Late 2017 I broke my left ankle while out trail running and three days later because of this accident I lost my hearing. This putting a halt to these ideas basically before they even started. Except I had already started buying equipment.
September 2019 I’m basically fit again. Even if the left ankle is still not right.
As for my hearing, well that has complicated things.
I’m now totally deaf in my right ear. I now wear a cochlear implant. This enables me understand people talking to me if they are close up and with no ambient or little sound except them.
In my left ear. I’m 70% deaf. I can still hear sounds with it, but it no longer understands or comprehends spoken words. Complicated ….
I’d bought some equipment in 2017. Basically, a tent, rucksack, sleeping bag, cooking stove, sleeping mat, etc. I had no idea about the weight or quality of these items. I just bought what looked good to me. To be honest, all was mostly good stuff, but most of it not very light. As you will learn by reading on.
In July 2019 with all the equipment. I tried two different one-day hikes. Well I was hoping for two days hikes but just didn’t make it….
Here was some of the equipment I had at the time and tried out :
Man was it heavy.
Rucksack Osprey AG65
Tent Nemo Hornet 2P + Footprint
Sleeping mat Thermarest Neo Air Light
Down Pillow Thermarest
Stove JetBoil Minimo
Sleeping Bag Valandre swing 700
Water bag 3L
Spoon & Fork, Plastic, cup & plate
Frontal lamp Petzl
Pocket Tool Leatherman Ti
and loads of other stuff that I’ve already forgotten. Over 15 kilos
My first hike
My first hike was 25 kms. I managed and did my very first wild camping (bivouac in French). But the next morning. I had no water left. So no breakfast or coffée fo me. After walking another 10 kms and not finding any water on the way and with still 15 kms to go still to get home. I cheated and hitchhiked the last 15kms back to home.
The next day my thighs were killing me. I felt like I had just finished running a marathon. Just like in 2015 when I had actually ran one.
A month later. I tried my second hike. I managed to walk further than I had expected. 35 kms to a campsite. So this time water wasn’t a problem. But the next morning blisters on my feet meant that I grabbed a taxi to go home as couldn’t walk. My feet were killing me. Since then I have changed and bought better walking boots.
So after these two rather hopeless attempts. I decided I’d better read up a little more and learn more about hiking and trekking. As obviously it wasn’t as easy as it seemed. I wanted to learn more as I a plan in my head for a trek that was about +220 kms long. Or rather a choice of treks, at that time there were three here in France that appealed to me and looked fun to do. An old man with a boy’s ideas.
These were the three that interest me at that moment
GR107 Chemin des Bonhommes, Foix à Berga en Espagne (I have now done this) https://bit.ly/2YckYUb
GR367 Chemins de Cathare, Port la Nouvelle à Foix
GR70 Le Stevenson (I have now done this, but haven’t written about it)
I started reading up on trekking, as usual for me on the internet. Especially Reddit, I came across several Reddit groups noticeably one called ‘Ultralight’, Of course, I immediately jumped in the deep end and started asking questions. Several suggestions and many critics later (Reddit’s do tend to slag you), I understood that I was carrying far too much stuff of which I didn’t need and more to the point was far to heavy.
I was often asked to ‘fill in’ a LighterPack page on the web and post the results. I found out what was this was as started using it. It’s just like an Excel sheet but on the web. You note everything down and I mean everything. Even the toilet paper, tooth paste and of course the weight of each and every item.
Here’s mine at the time. It gets modified as I go along, although at this date 2019 it’s mostly finished but knowing me, it will be probably changed by the time you read this post. At the beginning it was completely different.
I change and update LighterPack continually, so since writing this post there will be changes. New rain vest and tent ordered and arriving soon for instance
2021 you can see the difference I’ve made in just two years
So here we are now a couple of months later, middle of September 2019. almost a thousand Euros spent, please don’t tell my wife. I have a decent and a lighter setup, thanks to the Reddit questions and the answers or suggestions, plus the critics and the slagging that I received (Nothing nasty, just goodish humoured slagging).
Since the two previous attempts I have changed (just about everything ….) the rucksack to a slightly smaller one and half the weight, an Osprey Exos 48, since then I’ve changed it again to an AtomsPack, model ‘The Mo’ (Cottage industry in England) also to a quilt rather than a sleeping bag.
A Quilt basically only covers the top of you. Like your quilt at home. The sleeping pad is meant to keep you warm underneath, a sleeping bag actually doesn’t keep you warm when compressed so the bottom part doesn’t do much at all, all technical stuff. I didn’t even know about that until a while ago. All of it lighter, more expensive.
When I say everything, probably the only lightweight product that I got right the first time around was the Nemo Hornet 2P tent. This weighed in at about 1 kilo, it’s great for one person even though it says two. To be honest two would be a squeeze.
Since then I have changed the Nemo tent for a Tarptent StratoSpire1, same weight just a better tent. It’s a 4 season rather than a 2 / 3 season for the Hornet. Both weigh about 1 kilo each.
One of the items I got slagged about every time on Reddit was my Garmin 64s, weighing in at 266 gms that I use to follow GPX traces “just use the phone”, they’d all say. For me it’s too expensive and fragile and the battery doesn’t last long enough.
The Garmin is built for this and I love using it when walking, it’s sturdy just hangs from my belt so that I can see at a glance where I am what’s around me, as I have my route planned on it, where I have planned to go, water points so that I can fill the CamelBak. Where I think I’ll sleep. Camping sites or gîtes, so although heavy I’m keeping it. I have now changed this for the Garmin 66i model https://bit.ly/2WDlrOw basically the same but with Inreach capabilities for security reasons.
Sleeping bag or Quilt ?
Concerning the Quilt and the sleeping bag, this was quite a change. The Vesper 20 quilt has a comfort zone temp of 0°C. The ‘Valandre swing 700’ is -5°C A big difference if it’s cold.
The problem with the Valandre is, it’s double the weight at 1241 gms and almost twice the size (when compressed) The Vesper weighs 615 gms.
In 2021, I sold the Valandre, and bought another quilt. A Cumulus model 450 + 50 gms of extra down. The Vespar was not quite warm enough in cold weather, it’s 850 gms, It’s heavier than the Vesper but warmer, its between the Vesper and the Valandre size when compressed. In warmer weather the Vesper is great. In cold weather the Cumulus is perfect. I no longer need a sleeping bag, quilts are perfect.
In the photo, you can see the difference in size between the Valandre and the Vesper, in a rucksack the difference is enormous.
Other things I changed were, for example, the cooking items, I had bought a Jetboil Stove, model Minimo. This worked fine for my previous two outings, heating water for the lyophilisé food which I often eat. Just heat water and add it to the packet.
But I found out after that a Toaks 650ml pot (a titanium casserole) a super dinky small stove BRS3000T. A 200 gm gas canister and the stove fits neatly in the Toaks. All together, gaz, stove and pot about 192 gms against 415 gms for the Jetboil . Again smaller as well. Just as easy to use and setup. For heating water its perfect.
In the pan, you can store the gas, the BRS3000T stove, a small Bic lighter and I even added a Esbit Ti mini solid fuel stove with some solid fuel tablets and even a Ti wind shield cut down to fit in the pot, (the Esbit is just in case I run out of gaz)
I changed my Frontal lamp, a Pretzl Reactik+ weighing 110 gms, the Nitecore-nu20-rechargeable only 52 gms, Just as good, basically only need it for reading in ‘bed’ or going to the loo in the middle of the night etc. Half the weight & size as can be seen in the photos.
Get rid of useless or heavy equipment
I dropped loads of stuff thanks again to Reddit’s suggestions : all were being carried for nothing 🙁
Sheath knife, (shame it was hand made for me, its a one-of model),
Pocket Tool Leatherman Ti (changed it for a Swiss army knife S14),
Plate (I eat out of the packets or in the pot)
Torch & lamp (after all I’ve a frontal, so don’t need three light sources) Compass (got one on phone & the Garmin)
The Kindle I changed for an ebook Boox Poke2 , half the weight and size of the Kindle
So that’s about all the changes. All the equipment weighs under 13 kilos which is still a lot and some will say still not Ultralight. But this is with 5 days of lyophilisé food, plus water.
So here I am, ready to do my first trek. With all the new equipment ready to do the following. Le chemin des Bonhommes October 2019
I hope that this is a helpful post if you are trying to go trekking and want to do lightweight backpacking. Below is a list of my latest equipment that I use in 2021
Here is a list of my equipment up to date – 2021
Tent Tarptent StratoSpire 1
Mattress Thermarest NeoAir XLite
Down Pillow de Thermarest
Sleeping bag liner Thermolite Reactor Compact Plus
Gossamer Gear Thinlight Foam Pad
Cumumus Quilt 450 + 50
Pan Toaks Toaks 650 ml Pot
Bic lighter Bic mini lighter
Gaz 100g can Primus
Plastic collapsable cup Sea to summit
Spoon Toaks long handle SLV1
2L Source camelbak Source
500ml water bottle collapsable
Esbit Ti stove + 12 tablettes fuel
Polycryo / Tyvek Tyvek Footprint & PolyCro
Rechargeable battery Ankar 10000
Knife Swiss army knife S14
Frontal Nitecore NU20
Rain over trousers NH500 over trousers
Rain Jacket HAGLÖFS L.I.M
Doudoune / Vest Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whispere 800 down