"...I knew I could ask them for some food. They were weekend hikers and they always carry too much stuff..."
Taken from a journal of a person thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail
There is a lot of wisdom in the above observation. People who hike for a few days tend to carry far too much gear. It is very easy in your mind to think a few ounces here, a pound there, but suddenly those few ounces have your pack weighing 45, 50 or more pounds. You're not climbing K2, it's a weekend trip!
There are a number of things you can do to lighten your load out on the trail. Here are some tips for shedding extra pounds:
Tent: Over the last ten years tents have been growing a little fatter. A four-man tent might weigh in around seven pounds, when the same tent a decade ago might have weighed in at six. The reason? Product reviewers pan tents not built to last so tent manufacturers overbuild. The solution? There are a number of lightweight options available if you do some research. Sierra Designs makes a tent, the Clip Flashlight that will sleep two and weighs a mere 3-1/2 pounds. Not bad for a tent that costs under $200. Some teepee style tents, that don't have a floor, weigh as little as 1-1/2 pounds and their center pole doubles as a walking staff. If you are going out into a tepid climate you might want to consider not bringing the tent at all. A hammock with a tarp will keep you off the ground and dry under most conditions. Finally if you're not claustrophobic and will experience harsher elements you might want to consider a bivy sack. A bivy sack has enough room to fit you, your sleeping bag, and not much else. They weigh less than two pounds, cost around $250, and do an outstanding job of protecting you against the elements.
Sleeping Bag: It is very tempting when picking out your equipment to buy a lower cost sleeping bag. The temptation is to look at the temperature rating and not consider the weight of the material the bag is made out of. If you are camping in normal three season conditions, do you really need a sleeping bag that will keep you warm to 5 degrees? Consider the material and the weight as part of the equation when making a buying decision. Three season sleeping bags that will keep you warm down to 20 to 25 degrees can be found weighing less than three pounds and for under $175. When looking for a sleeping bag give special consideration to those filled with Polargard 3D or down, they provide some of the best warmth for both weight and bulk.
Cookware and Stove: Another area where the pounds can quickly add up. If you're going solo on a weekend trip you don't need to bring that two-quart pot and extra lids with your cookware set. Cut weight by bringing just what you will need, one pot will serve the needs of most people over a few days. There is no need to bring that big heavy stove either. If your stove won't fit in a one to one-and-half quart pot, it's probably too big. Make sure you're not carrying excess fuel. About one ounce of fuel for each ten minutes you run the stove is more than adequate, and closer to twenty minutes per ounce if you're using compressed gas. Finally leave the steel plate, fork, knife and spoon kit at home. For just $2 you can get a Lexan set that weighs practically nothing and is almost equally indestructible. Instead of a plate, just eat out of the pot.
Flashlight: If you have one of those big lantern flashlights put it in a closet to use for an emergency or when the lights go out. The new breed of flashlights last longer, cast more light, and weigh less than ever before. The Princeton Tec Tec 20 flashlight costs under $15, weighs a mere 3 ounces, and that includes the batteries! Despite it's tiny weight this marvel throws an incredibly bright beam and will last two to three hours on one set of batteries. Change the bulb out and you can stretch that battery life to 20 hours. That is more bang per pound than four D cell batteries can offer.
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