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[pct-l] Lightweight Backpacking--I'm a Believer

This concerns:
Message: 2
Date: Sat, 7 Sep 2002 20:23:18 -0700 (PDT)
From: Thomas Griffin <griffin@u.washington.edu>
To: pct-l@mailman.backcountry.net
Subject: [pct-l] Lightweight Backpacking--I'm a Believer

Hello Tom:

It's music to my ears to read of your plunge into lightweight
backpacking as this idea has also gripped me - an old hiker who gave it
up some years ago when I just couldn't hack the shoulder and hip pain!
I'm a little bit your senior, Tom, being a fifth of a century older than
you (but not wiser!), and I only wish I had continued on a "going light"
path when I was your age. Then, the packs and other items had to be big
and strong and heavy, and that was that! (strangely, pack weights
weren't published usually but people did pay attention to the weight of
their sleeping bag!)

I'm on a modestly revolutionary course now, and I capitalize on some
equipment already on hand. I use a Kelty top-loading soft pack designed
to fit under an airline seat. There is enough safety in the clothing and
emergency gear that it contains to handle storms of three-season caliber
on both the PCT and the CDT. Backpack weight is 27 pounds minus food and
water (two one-liter bottles in belt pouches hang on the pack waist
straps). Strapped vertically outside the pack is a long skinny stuffsack
containing a RidgeRest full length pad along with an easily accessible
fleece sweater and the wonderful Mauldin rain pants and parka.
Additional clothing items inside the pack include an insulated mountain
anorak, mittens, balaclava, nylon "sport pants", and a medium weight
Patagonia underwear top and bottom.  After arriving in camp, this long
sleeve top is what takes the place of the damp hiking shirt since no
"extra" usual clothing is carried. A pair of board-walkers is tucked
under a compression strap to be worn when crossing streams and/or in
camp. I carry a Walrus one-person tent (no ground cloth) AND a Gore-Tex
bivvy. The down sleeping bag is a 30-degree Kelty of no particular
distinction, and this along with the bivvy is all I've had to use so far
during a limited test CDT backpack (two weeks ago during August monsoon

The main enabler for the lighter weight is a total absence of frills. I
now leave out the binoculars and the long-lens camera (a Canon digital
Elph camera is kept on my belt), and I have no stove and fuel! Verily, I
found that I can live without my usual morning coffee or hot food (or
evening wine even!). In fact, I have little appetite on the first day
out, but as the appetite grows I stifle it with "Flyin' Brian"-style
junk food. 'Cept I depend upon a large bag of sugary cereal like Sugar
Frosted Flakes, for eating by the handful both on the trail and in camp,
and without the dry milk. There are some tasty high-carb oat and corn
cereals out there now! Space is still available in the pack for canned
items, one per night) like large Campbell's chunky soups which taste the
same whether hot or cold. Butterfinger bars and those Oriental rice
snacks round out the food selection for three nights out. After four
days I come down the trail with an appetite which is strongly focused on
the first Tex-Mex restaurant I can drive to! But in experience, I also
end up with a little food left over.

I don't want to leave the impression that all the stuff can be tossed at
random inside a 2,500 cu-in pack! My pack is small, but it depends upon
a packing technique which is truly marvelous. It calls for systematic
and careful fitting, with exertion of appropriate downward pressure on
its precisely sequenced layers of contents. It is so system-atized that
the Summer pack contents are identical to the off-season pack contents
I'm afraid, 'cause I can only remember the details of this one packing

So, for a limited range of three to four-day section hikes, I'm with it
again, and I apologize for reporting herein at length on some rather
obvious points. But to be  on the trails again is a true thrill to me.

Cheers to one and all, forever the PCT