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Jaeagle

To ultralight or not to ultralight...that is the question

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Jaeagle

Ok so this is a battle I have been having with myself and with no true backpacking friends I have no one to discuss it with. Ok to start I love big miles. Nothing makes me happier then coming to work and bragging out I did 60 miles in a weekend...not that any of them care. So to start my first trip I OVER!!!!!! Packed. We are talking a 45 lb summer pack and it was hell. On day two of that trip I vowed to never carry that heavy again and thus started my weight loss journey. I got home and weighed it all. And stared losing lbs. from synthetic to down, From steel to titanium, I let go of weight and with it comfort items. Who needs a change of clothes everyday let me be stinky. So i was down to a 11lb base weight and 20lb wet, the PCT is not nice! But I gotta say that was the most miserable trip I have ever taken. I was so worried about weight I forgot pleasure. So I almost died. Like water sources were dry or contaminated and the water I should have been carrying were extra weight so I shed it. I was carrying 2 ltrs but at times I was 10 miles between sources. So I have upgraded my pack so I can carry weight (osprey atmos 50) but I just hear about these ultralight people who are at 8lbs and killing the miles. Is it worth it and how did you cut weight? Sorry for the long read 

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Aaron

I think you just have to find the balance that works for you and is the right combination of gear and weight that results in a successful and enjoyable trip...and if you're like me once you get to that point you'll then always be adding a comfort item and taking something else away, so to some extent it's always a bit of a work in progress!

I'd agree that no change of clothes is needed, but I'd either tank up or carry that extra water to stay safe. Hard to answer if those lightweight, high mileage trips are worth it....sounds like that's something you enjoy so if that's the hiking aspect you like the most, and that's the number one goal, you can definitely work to make it happen. I like more flexibility; I'll still hike long daily miles,...but when I feel like it and I'm more out there to experience the outdoors vs. an athletic / competitive approach. If the only issue on the lighter trip you took was water, then by all means go ultralight with all your other gear and just make sure your pack can comfortably handle the weight of that gear, plus the longer water carries when they come up. And an extra empty Platypus only weighs an ounce or two...and you don't always have to fill it. :)

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ppine

Always a balancing act between comfort and weight.  Or sometimes mileage and weight.  It depends on your mood also.  Ultr-light removes some of the margin for error.  You have to be more careful.  I would suggest you hike with some other people.  They probably won't go as hard as you do, but will teach you all kinds of things. 

Edited by ppine

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Jaeagle

I wish I could find some solid people to hike with. I have a few guys that I will go out with at times but they don’t share the same passion and cravings like I do for the trail! The time I had water issues was my first solo trip. I loved 90% of it but I doubt the wife will let that happen again. I love the idea of the empty plat just Incase I need more water. 

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Scallywag

As with everything, moderation is the way to go.  I had not really worried about weight too much until a couple of years ago (I'm afraid my personal "tempus" is "fugiting" way to fast these days).  I had a week in Montana doing a 50 mile or so circuit.  This was not a "must do x miles a day" trip, but a stop and smell the roses (and catch the fish for breakfast and dinner) kind of trip.  Accordingly I had a lot of extra's - fishing pole, fry pan, camp seat etc etc.  I do not know what the weight was but it could easily have been approaching 50+ lbs fully folded and watered.  Whilst this was "ok" for the trip, it was clear that I would have been really struggling on a thru-hike.  This last summer I did the Colorado Trail.  Absolutely fantastic!  I felt so good at the end that I just wanted to turn around and hike back to Denver.  In sorting out my kit I knew I had to lighten up a bit.  Tent and backpack were two of the big three items I changed, as well as some clothing.  I had aimed for 15 lbs knowing I would not hit it, so really aiming for 20 lbs or less.  Base weight came in at 19 lbs, so with food for up to a week at a time plus max water I was probably carrying between 25 and 35 lbs.  This was very doable.  It was not really light, but I had everything I wanted and not much extra (based on experience I can probably shed another 2 or 3 lbs next time so getting closer to the 15 lb base weight).  I did meet a few people with 10 lb basewights and below, but whilst liking the idea of shedding an extra 10 lbs, I did not like the idea of having to put up with the down side - the prime example being observing one such hiker turn up at the Ravens Rest in Lake City.  I had crossed Snow Mesa that am in a severe hail storm, but with waterproof, rain skirt (trash bag), Tilly hat and gloves, was battered but fine (you know the hail - technically graupel -  is coming down hard when it stings through a gortex jacket and shirt underneath!) and got down into town early afternoon.  The weather had continued poor with wind and rain.  About 4 pm the lightweight hiker turned up in shorts and shirt, soaked and shivering at the door.  I took note and decided it was not for me.

As a matter of interest I compared my new kit with some old kit.  My new tent was a ZPacks Duplex (loved it) and a Hyperlite Southwest 3400 pack (ditto).  Back in the stone age (mid - late 70's) as I was starting out I had a Saunders Backpacker II and a Karrimore Haston Vallot pack.  Compared to my more recent Osprey pack and Rei dome tent, my originals weighed about the same as my new kit.  The third part of the Big Three - sleeping bag was exactly the same weight as I am still using the Mountain Equipment Lightline down bag I bought when I was 18.  

In summary, yes lighten up, but beware of going too far unless you are a real "big milage" wannabe.  Moderation is the key for most of us I feel, and the joy or one or two "luxuries", far outweighs their weight.

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ppine

I started backpacking in 1961.  We went heavy in those days and through the 1980s and 90s.  It has taken some effort to lighten up but it has paid large dividends as I have aged.  Backpacking until age 75 seems possible. 

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ppine

You lost me at bragging. 

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IPv6Freely

For me personally, I try to shave weight wherever I can so I can afford to have items that may otherwise be heavier than I'd like. For example, I went from a Gregory Baltoro backpack to a Zpacks Arc Blast. That significant weight savings meant bringing a camp chair wasn't too bad. 

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