21 Sep 2010

So You Want To Go Light?

Many trampers "talk" about going lighter and they tinker around the fringes. If you are seriously thinking of carrying less weight (and who doesn't) then first concentrate on the big four and go from there.
  1. The Pack - Why carry 2.5Kgs on you back before you even start to load your pack! The bigger the pack to more you put in it. For most trips up to a full week 35 to 40 liters in more than enough. I never need anymore than 35 liters. Make sure you have good outside storage, rear and side mesh pockets and bungy lacing. I can recommend Gossamer Gear's Gorilla pack and Ultra Light Adventure's Conduit or Circuit. Dyneema fabric is light and bullet proof for bush bashing.
  2. Your Boots - It takes a lot of energy to lift 1.5kgs of weight on every step for 4 to 6 hours! Boots were the last heavy piece of equipment I gave up - should have done it first up. Good trail running shoes will have you flying along and if you are doing a lot of river crossings you won't be lugging around another kilo of water in those wonderful Gortex waterproof boots. As for "ankle support", I'm sure that's a marketing ploy by boot manufactures. Mountain runners subject their ankle to more stress than us trampers and they fair OK. Try any good brand of trail running shoe that had good toe cap and extended side protection - I use New Balance 410 (out of stock now), Inov8 330, Montrail make a couple of good shoes. Most of these shoes weigh in at 600 to 700gms. I loved the old Montrail Vitesses but they stopped making them at the height of their popularity with the light weight community. Insane!

  3. Sleeping Bag - I have two - one for 2 to 3 season and the other for 3 to 4 seasons. I basically tramp 3 seasons. You can get some very good bags between 450 and 700kgs - My favourite is Western Mountaineering I would recommend the WM Summerlite for a "go to" bag. For winter conditions try the WM UltraIight. I have a MacPac Adventure 300 bag for the 3rd season - It's waterproof and the added weight (700gms) is OK, as I don't need the bivy for water splash protection under my tarp. I also have the WM HighLite as my 2/3 season bag (455grams), great combined with my Oware bivy under my tarp.

  4. Tent - Once again dependent on where and what season you are using your shelter in, but I am a tarp or tarp tent man now. You can pitch these in many ways and combined with a light weight bivy bag you will get great protection. I have the Oware eVent bivy at 284gms - a shitty website, but great gear. Checkout Mountain Laurel Designs for good bivys. I have just invested in the new Hexamid tarp with some special additions Joe is sewing in for NZ conditions - extended beak - more on this in future blogs. My 2 person shelter is the old Henry Shires Squall Classic at 700gms. Do your homework. There are hundreds of blogs and lightweight sites you can research. Checkout Six Moons (solo enhanced) and Mountain Laurel Designs tarp. They have some great tarps and tarp tents. The Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn is also a winner.
 You can cut 50% off your weight with these four items alone and that's just the beginning! My pack, sleeping gear and shelter come in at under 1.5Kgs!! Use to be 5.75Kgs!!!

Hexamid cuben fiberTarp - 86.6gms
Oware bivy bag - 284gms
WM HighLight sleeping bag - 455gms
Gossamer Gear Gorilla pack - 685gms

You are an adventurer in paradise, not a pack horse!


  1. Hi Rob. I found it interesting to read what you wrote about boots and trail running shoes. Most arguments I've seen for shoes have come through people either based overseas, or recently arrived from overseas, and I've been uncertain how well the claims have been adapted for typical New Zealand conditions.

    Do you ever find yourself in outdoor situations where you'd much prefer to be wearing boots than shoes?

    I'm guessing boots may be better for warmth in some situations -- I was out with someone once and we changed plans from walking up a river to walking along a sidling track, because his feet were getting very cold. (Boots in contrast seem to hold the same glob of water sheltered around a foot give it a chance to warm up.)

    A fear of mine with trail runners, though, has been that one day I'd get my foot trapped or crushed under a rock in a river, or something similar, and I think decent boots help give me much more confidence in that kind of situation. Not having really tried trail runners seriously, though, I don't know how justified it is.

    Cheers. Mike.

  2. Mike - Sorry for delay in reply - I some how never got your alert?
    Mike, boots were the last thing I dumped having similar views to yourself. I wished it had been the first!!
    I've been on some pretty tough and rough trips over the years and I have never wished I had boots on - ever!

    Yes, if you are tramping in mid winter or intend to trudge through ankle deep snow then LIGHTweight book would make sense - I use Salamons with instep crampons. However trail runners are ok for snowy saddles.

    Make sure you get ones with a good toe wrap. Checkout Inov8, Salamon, New Balance. New models on the market from Cairn, Nomad and Keen are good but a bit too heavy for my liking. May be a good place for you to start

    Re rivers - I've had no problems and the water drain immediately - my tramping boot buddies end up carring another 1kg on top of their base 2kg boot weight, I'm still at 785g! I'd rather lift that every step for an hour than the latter!

    In any three season trip I can honestly say I have never has cold feet, I use possum or x-socks. Some guys wear seal socks for snow (waterproof). There's a conflict here, waterpoof spells feet that can't breath.

    If you are fearful why not start small, say a mid summer trip and build from there.

  3. I've recently tramped up the Cobb Valley in the Golden Bay area, and came across a tramper who wore "Vibram FiveFingers". I was very intrigued by the idea and he absolutely swore by them. Unfortunately I don't know what model he was wearing, perhaps the "KSO Trek Sport"? They weigh in at 370g a pair. You can check them out at www.fivefingers.co.nz

  4. Hi Helaku
    Just back from South Island - weather was not so kind this year.

    Re the Toe Shoes. Hmmm, I know these, but not prepared to venture down that track. OK for well defined paths/tracks, but I wouldn't want to go bush-bashing or scree climbing in them.

    I do use Injinju toe socks - they are wonderful!

  5. Just a bit more on those "toe shoes". Just got my latest edition of "Backpacking Light" - go to www.backpackinglight.com
    They have a great review on the vibram toe shoe.
    Also see www.vibramfivefingers.com


Hey, thanks for you contribution - I monitor my blog weekly. I will reply with comments, ideas and suggestions ASAP - In the meantime, remember, hiking is an outdoors experience to enjoy, not an army boot camp training exercise!!