The Going Lighter Guide

OK, so the new project is getting ready to role. So, let’s set some ground rules.

Firstly, what’s this guide based on? Well, the guide draws on the posts on this site and also on many of the informed comments that others here have made. I will draw on the real experiences of hikers, either of those of my own or of those of people who I know have learnt to use the products safely and responsibly.

Light and Ultralight

I’m not going to get into definitions of what is lightweight and what is ultralightweight. Neither am I going to produce lots of lists that weigh things to the gram. There may well be lists produced to illustrate a point or two but there will be no recommended gear list.

The reason for this is that gear preferences are a very personal choice. You may like the cut of a certain jacket – or the design of a pack – where I find that it is not for me. And few of us rush out and buy a complete kit. We bring together our kit collections over time and prioritise the next purchased using many different criteria.

But there are some reference points to start us off.

The TGO Challenge Reference

My kit reference will be the TGO Challenge, and there are several reasons for this. Firstly, the Challenge is a multi-day backpacking trip and whether you’re walking for one week or three the principles are similar. Secondly, the Challenge takes place in Scotland in May. As such the Challenge backpacker needs to be ready for all weathers. One day we may be walking in glorious sunshine and the next in torrential rain. The nights may be warm or mild, but on every trip you can expect a night or two where the temperature dips below (and sometimes well below) zero.

A Challenge kit will require good waterproofs and – usually – some kind of change of clothes (the Challenge is, after all, a social event as well as a walking event!)

So, this is my reference. Of course, if you’re walking in colder, icier climes and terrain you’ll need to add an ice axe, crampons and, perhaps, more insulation. If you’re walking usually takes place in the summer, say on the Mediterranean, then you may well be able to save weight.

Using the Challenge reference should make it easier for you to vary the lists one way or another.

Guide Weight

My guide weight for a TGO Challenge kit list is around 8 kilograms. At 8 kilograms you should be able to walk safely and in comfort. Going lighter than this does often mean a compromise over comfort. But choose your kit carefully and there should really be not compromise on comfort at 8 kilograms. Of course, I’ll be breaking down this weight, in terms of a basic list, later on.

For many hikers 8 kilograms is light but do-able. For example, not only is 8 kilograms my guide weight for the Challenge – and the weight I carried on my first crossing last year – but it was also the weight that Chris Townsend was carrying this year. In all kinds of ways 8 kilograms is a sensible weight to aim for.

But for many walkers I appreciate that moving down to 8 kilograms is something of a challenge. I reckon a more normal Challenge weight – and one that is near the lighter end of the spectrum – would be around 12 kilograms.

Ronald Turnball has said – and I’m sure he’s right – that things change when you dip below 10 kilograms. Somehow, things seem a lot better below 10. It’s not only a physiological barrier; you really do notice the difference

Going Lighter Still

For the purposes of this project, super lightweight will be anything below 6 kilograms. Now, I know a lot of people will quibble here, but my point is this. To reduce your weight to 8 kilograms is relatively straight forward. But to reduce weight below 6 takes some real planning – a kind of law of diminishing returns kicks in here. And choices become more dramatic. Perhaps you can’t carry that change of clothes and, almost certainly, gear will be chosen for its versatility, its ability to be used for more than one task.

To illustrate the point about planning, consider my pack and weight for this weekend’s lightweight jaunt.

I was out for one evening only. But I wasn’t able to prepare with any real thought. I was up at 5.30 in the morning, simply throwing gear into my pack (you’ve been there I know).

I used my ULA Conduit pack (sub 600 grams), carried a tarp (sub 300 grams) and a Bushbuddy stove which was fuelled on wood collected on the trail (100 grams). This should have been a lightweight load but I just threw too many clothes into my main stuff sack and – while I didn’t use them – they took the weight up.

My base weight – without food – was 5 kilograms. With more thought and time it should have been nearer 4. But, I tell you, without going on about it, ad nauseam, there is a world of difference between 8 klilograms and 5 kilograms – far more (it seems) than just 3 kilograms.

Next time out it will be nearer 4 kilograms but I damned if I’m going to count every gram. Life’s too short!

What this project will focus on is the experience of shedding weight and the kinds of choices that you will have to make to succeed – at whatever your target weight is.

My aim to be of assistance, to provide practical help. Each post will have the facility for others to add thoughts, give us the benefits of their own experience and to ask further questions.

I shall begin – in a day or two – by looking at packs.

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  1. paul b says:

    Great Idea keep up the good work, must admit ive been thinking about this my self now and have an idea of what the kit list should be what type is a whole debate in its self

    liner for pack
    waterproof jacket
    waterproof trousers
    Sleeping bag
    Sleeping pad/matt
    100 weight fleece
    wind shirt
    insulation layer
    spare base layer
    spare socks
    sun hat
    winter hat
    Cooking pot/mug
    Lighter or fire steal
    Wind shield
    Swiss army knife
    Sponge to clean above
    Water carrier
    Water bottle
    Head torch
    Map holder
    First aid kit
    Wash kit

    I think thats it

  2. .. you’re bound to have missed something 🙂

  3. paul b says:

    Yes the new Golite Kitchen Sink

  4. Noticed the Technorati tags on hte bottom of your post…Anything you forgot to tell us..;-)

  5. Nope 🙂

  6. Robin Evans says:

    Looking forward to this. I think you’ve selected the right cut-offs. 8kg is an achievable target for most people. Below 6kg starts to involve some serious cuts (i.e. no spare set of clothes!). As I’ve discovered (to my cost), if you want to go light, you have to attack the main items: pack, tent, sleeping bag. If you can reduce those to 2-3kg, the rest is comparatively easy.

    I’m amazed at how few really light rucksacks there are. When they’re available, I’m going for a Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus (560g) as I don’t want a frameless rucksack. Much as I love my Akto, I may have to go for the Laser Comp (I see there may be an even lighter version out soon). The choice on sleeping bags (500-800g) is much wider.

    If I were a gear manufacturer, I would concentrate on producing packs weighing under 800g with a reasonable capacity (50-60L), with a lightweight frame system, or tents below 900g.

    I can’t see myself going below 7kg as I would prefer to add to my comfort if I save in other areas. I’m also a cheat because I wear my Paramo Viento most of the time ;-).

    Packs are a good area to start, but finding suitable ones below 1kg with a reasonable capacity is tough.

    Andy, if you want to look presentable in the evening in a hotel, try an Icebreaker Kent polo shirt. You can use it as a base layer for walking and it looks smart for the evening. It also has a collar, which is useful as protection form the sun (not applicable this year!). The thing I’m search for at the moment is a really light pair of sandals (

  7. Robin Evans says:

    That should be “from the sun” and “searching”.

    I need to learn how to type!

  8. Robin,

    Sandals are just the worst piece of kit for me to source – nearly every pair I try are too narrow!

  9. David says:

    I got inside a Terra Nova competition for the first time this weekend. I found it tight inside. I couldn’t completely stretch out in it. The vestibule seemd smallish too. Not sure I’d exchange my Akto for this, even for the weight saving I’d gain.

  10. I tend to agree David. And on the Scottish hills the extra space is a real bonus!


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