David — fellbound.co.uk — raises some interesting issues in the discussion on my gear list article. How easy is it to really reduce pack weight? And why does fully packed weight always come it around the same mark?
David’s experience is that his pack — loaded with supplies — is never much less than 14 kilograms:
I love a good kit list! I understand the concept of base weights but what did you eventually have to lug, all in, ie what was the weight at start with food and fuel added, Andy? For the TGOC this year mine was 14kg and without lots of expenditure eg on a new pack, I doubt I could ever get much below that! So in my head that is what I have decided is a comfortable carry, as that is what I will be carrying, if that makes sense.
This makes a lot of sense to me. On something like the TGO Challenge my own starting weight is probably 12 kilograms and it is different to get the weight much lower than that.
First off, you can reduce you basics as much as you can and this includes shelter and pack. This is usually something achieved over time because of the costs involved. You are limited to some extent by the train you are walking through. I wouldn’t use a tarp on the TGO Challenge and I would always have a bug nest in the midge season. For overnights and simple weekends in the summer I can get away with lower weight kit and less gear buy the lower weight goes you are into an area of reducing returns. My tarp is really not that lighter than my Duomid.
What really add weight is food and especially fresh food. For a couple of days I can exist on trail mixes and so on but on longer walks, such as the TGO, I need more proper food. I think this has become more important as I’ve got older. I tend to take bread roles, pitta bread and so on and eat with a block of cheese. If I can take some fresh fruit I will.
I am not a hiker who likes to stop for long, I prefer shorter breaks. But I have noticed that when the weather is so bad that you can’t really stop that I really begin to notice the food gap. I take eating during the day far more seriously than I used to do and I’m also far more likely to have a bigger meal than I used to in the evening. On my first few TGO Challenges I think he wasn’t eating enough. I prefer my backpacking in places like the Pyrenees where it is very easy to pick up really good fresh food and in many ways that is easier to prepare and carry! Mountain sausage lasts forever in your pack, is relatively light and really gives you an energy lift! Haggis doesn’t quite work in the same way!
On the TGO Challenge I do use food drops and the most I will walk without resupply is four or five days (and I always carry a spare day of food). On my first few Challenges I found myself throwing food away towards the end some I am not more careful in planning drops — I will use more drops rather than less.
My next trip will be to the Highlands in October when — depending on old weather — Kate and I will walk from Mallaig to Netwonmore and then, hopefully, on through the autumn Rothimurchus Forest and down to Ballater. This is not an adventurous trip although there will be some long days. Kate is spending most of her time on a Masters Degree at the moment and hasn’t walked anywhere for 12 months, so we will amble through the landscape and just enjoying it.
I want to keep the weight low during the trip and have planned it to do that.
We shall start by camping for a night in Inverie and eat in the Old Forge. Then we have one wild camp in Glendessary and the next next we will be in a B&B. So we will probably only carry two days worth of food. Then we go through the forests to Fort Augustus where we will pick up a food drop. We will then head up to Glen Doe along the new access road and spend three night wild camping in the Monadliath and this is where our load will increase. Then we spend a night at Sue and Ali’s hostel. If we move on I guess we will eat and maybe stay at Glenmore Lodge and from there it will only be two days to Ballater. We will use the Caldera Cone system for cooking as this is probably the lightest and most efficient cooking/fuel system I have.
As there will be two of us some of the load will be distributed more easily. I will wear the same kit as I used with Humphrey in the Monadliath last year — which weighed less than the kit I took out last week. The Chocolate Fish Merino Possum jumper allows me to take less layers.
In general there are some other ways that are guaranteed to help you save weight in provisions:
- Don’t consume hot drinks — means less stuff and less fuel;
- Eat trail mix and nuts during the day _ a very compact source of energy and one that avoids lots of bread, pitta, cheese and so on. Also can replace chocolate bars and on during the evening. They can even replace a cooked breakfast
- You will be using less fuel and with a system like the Caldera is is quite easy to calculate more or less exactly how much field you will need so eliminating waste.
- Use a good pot cozy to cut down on cooking time and therefore fuel.
There are other tricks that you can use. Sometimes I do this, particularly during shorter summer trips. I’m quite happy entertaining myself with the views and observation of nature and don’t have to take books, Kindles and so on. If I stop early I’ll stroll around with my camera. I don’t always take a camera at all — and didn’t carry on educing last winter’s trip to the Monadliath last year. But then I wished I did have a camera when I returned home!
But you have to trade off the experience. In the Scottish Highlands I want a hot meal and I want lunch! Cooking a good meal in the evening is part of the wild camping experience and that, for me, is a big part of the attraction of the Challenge.
Reducing pack weight simply gives you more choices. Yes a lighter pack is more comfortable but a good meal at night is more pleasurable! I weight up the options depending on the trip.
So, on a short solo trip in the summer I can really reduce pack weight dramatically but on something like the TGO Challenge my starting weight will be around 12-13 kilograms. Mind you. I do really enjoy carrying that pack from Braemar onwards !!!