Jun 27, 20161261 views

Ultralight Works

A quick story...earlier this month, eight of us went out to hike Indiana's longest and most difficult trail, the Knobstone trail. Trust me when I say this state isn't all cornfields, this trail is ridiculous and is notorious for making people quit before reaching the 50-mile ending. Well, I was the only one who finished. Everyone else carried osprey packs with more traditional gear. Their starting pack weights were in the 30-40lb range, while mine was 17lbs. I realize that there are many other variables, including physical condition, but I strongly attribute these results to pack weight.
So...since there are a million different aspects to lowering pack weights, I want to focus on the one I feel is easiest and one of the cheaper options, especially compared to shelter, that's the pack itself. Two of the people who went are close friends of mine. I have tried to convince them to replace their Osprey's with something that can save them 2-3lbs and will still be comfortable. After trying on a couple of my UL packs, I lost the fight. They stand firm that their Ospreys are more "comfortable".
I want to emphasize that comfort in your living room or in REI is only face value. True comfort, in my opinion, is the one that balances low weight with living room comfort. I started with an Osprey Atmos, then went to a Gossamer Gear Gorilla (basic internal frame) and now to a fully frameless pack. Is the frameless pack as comfortable as the Osprey when standing in my living room? No way...but you can't stop there. The above hike was my first hike with my frameless pack. What I did notice was that I was a lot less tired. Let's face it, if you have ever done a truly difficult hike, the last thing on your mind is how cushy your pack feels, it's probably how tired your legs are, right? This is what you need to think about when picking a pack. Of course it needs to meet your requirements for volume and how much weight the pack can hold, but finding the lightest pack that meets those needs can save you weight and will actually be more comfortable in the long run. Fully frameless might not be for everyone but there is a middle ground (Gossamer Gear for example) and many of those packs show up here on Massdrop. If not, request a drop for one!
I would love to hear any insight or stories that other folks have to offer on their experience with switching to ultralight and what their experience has been.
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I'm from Southern Indiana (small world). The northern part of the state got flattneed by glaciers, rolls hills down south
While i agree that your pack is an easy way to lose weight, I think it should be the last thing you change out. No use buying a lightweight pack thats not up to the job of carrying your old heavy gear. Upgrade your sleep system and your tent first, then you can buy a pack to suit.
Or go nuts and change out the whole lot in one go :)
I would second raptelan's comment that comfort can be important, especially when you are getting into backpacking, or have to carry more weight, i.e. when mountaineering in the winter. I personally like a pack that has an option of a frame, large enough that it can handle longer trips (i.e., >65L, ideally more), and has a hip belt, but after all that, the less heavy stuff in it the better it feels. So yes, an Osprey might not be perfect, but as a person commented on another post of mine, I suppose the pack would be the last thing I upgraded. If the Osprey has light gear in it, it might seem just that much more comfortable to your friends. When you have a very heavy pack, more padding and a frame can be nice. I have noticed when I 'had' to overload my pack (which has an internal frame, but isn't padded like an Osprey), it was uncomfortable, and the straps were constantly coming loose. When loaded at moderate or lighter weights, it feels fine. At the end of the day, we all make gear choices that work for us, learn a little along the way, and sometimes get lighter.
Ha! Yea, she has a sports car and they have Cadillacs. I bet the seats in the Cadillac are way more comfortable but a sports car is always more fun. What do you want out of the trail?
Another area where I saved weight was the sleeping bag. I made a summer-specific quilt using Argon 67 and 2.5oz/yd2 Climashield Apex. This quilt is comfortable down to ~55* (for me) and only weighs 11.2oz. I modeled it after the Prodigy from Enlightened Equipment so it looks exactly the same as their offering.
I don't have any pics of myself on the trail but here are a few pics in general. I only have photos of my pack and shelter currently on my phone so I'll throw those up as well. Pack is a modified Zimmerbuilt quickstep with foam padded shoulder straps, 3D mesh hipbelt, and sitpad straps for sitpad/framesheet. Shelter is a Yama Mountain Gear Cirriform Single Wall 2 person shelter in .51 Cuben. The shelter weighs 25.2 oz and the pack weighs 14.4oz. Enjoy!





Newguy
Newguy - Awesome story, thank you for sharing. And the photos of gear are always appreciated. Especially when it's a semi-custom pack from Chris Z. Very cool. But your point is spot on - what you think is comfortable in the store may not translate well into the outdoors.

It's amazing the impact of going light has on your enjoyment of the outdoors. Here's a pic of my wife a few days into a 9-day trip in Torres del Paine, passing hikers on a 5-day trip. Who do you think is having more fun?
Sure thing, what would you like to see? Trail pics or pics of gear?
Newguy
Both! I need to buy a new pack soon and will likely be going the ultralight pack route. Would be great to see your pack and what you carried. And who doesn't like trail pics?
Any pics? :)
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