Articles tagged ‘ultralight’

Making Light ~ the “2-Day” Rule

Over the old Roman bridge on the trail from Lyon to Le-Puy, France 2009

“What if I need it?”

One of the hardest hurdles for some novice ultralighters to overcome is mastering the art and discipline of “leaving it behind”. They worry over lists of gear and supplies that they might need, even though they think (and hope) they probably won’t. “But I might! And what if I do?”

For example, ”What if I catch a cold? Maybe I should take some cold medicine. Just in case…” “What if there are mosquitoes? Maybe I should carry repellent. Just in case…” “What if etc., etc,. etc…” (more…)

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Making Light ~ Clothing

Even St. Nick uses a light load whenever possible. On the trail from Lyon to Le-Puy, France 2009

Take only as much as you need

It may seem obvious that if you want to minimize your pack weight, you shouldn’t carry any more of anything than you’re likely to need. (Congratulations – if you’ve read this far, maybe you’re hooked on the idea.) But how much is that?

Here are some tips to help you answer that question when it comes to clothing.

Study the climate, weather, terrain (especially elevation) of the route and season of your walk. Consider how you plan to deal with inclement weather. (more…)

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Modifying Gear

tools of the ultralight trade - scissors and single-edge razor blade

Trimming the fat

Here’s an example of taking an off-the-shelf piece of clothing and making it more suitable for its intended use. I like wearing a vest on the trail to distribute the weight of my gear and to keep certain things at hand, like my camera, trail guide, compass, etc. It’s nice to have a few pockets for organization, but too many just complicates things — “hmmn… where did I put the lip balm this time?

Here’s a snapshot of a vest I found on sale at an Army Surplus store. It has 14 pockets, inside and out, including one in the back that’s not much use when I’m carrying a pack. It has all sorts of zippers, flaps, velcro closures, snaps, epaulets – everything! Beside just adding weight, the extra layers of fabric make this vest hotter to wear. In size Large, it weighs 432 grams (over 15 oz.) off the rack. But after a pleasant half hour in the garden with my trusty scissors and single-edge razor blade, the new, streamlined vest weighs only 277 grams (less than 10 oz.)! That’s a weight reduction of 5.5 ounces (155 grams) from a single piece of clothing that now better fits my needs and is more comfortable to wear.


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Why stop at “ultralight” backpacking?

longwalking escargot demonstrates efficient backpacking technique on Grande Randonnee trail in France

There has been a rising chorus for years about switching from traditional (HEAVY) to ultralight (even “hyperlight”) backpacking. I admit it, I signed on years ago, as soon as I was granted the right to spell “obsession” in all caps. I’ve enjoyed all the benefits of lighter loads across thousand of miles of walking trails.

So it made me wonder, “Why Stop at Ultralight?” How can we make it easier to just float down the trail? I mean, do you know how much it hurts to drop a sub-kilogram base weight on your big toe?


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Weights & Measures – part 3

walking across France in Spring-budding Champagne vines...

Expendable Weight: weight that declines toward zero at a relatively constant rate over the course a known period of time. This class of weight declines at a steady pace over the whole span of a walk. With a bit of time and forethought, the rate of decay can be calculated for supplies such as vitamins, medications, toothpaste, toiletries, razor blades, foot care kit, batteries, film and fuel.

It’s always beneficial shift one class of weight to another to a higher (more temporary) one. Trail guides, for example, don’t have to be static or temporary weight, but can be expendable, if you remove pages as you move along the trail. These are excellent candidates for minimizing weight, partly because paper can absorb quite a bit of moisture, and water is heavy.



Weights and Measures – part 4

walking across France - irises along the trail beyond Auxerre...

Insurance Weight: weight of safety and emergencies gear and supplies you hope will never be needed, such as a first aid kit, emergency rations, whistle, signaling mirror, etc.

Exactly how much of what you carry “just in case” can be a vexing question. Nobody likes the expense of insurance, but is always happy to have it when disaster strikes. Just as with automobile or home insurance, a balance needs to be struck. How lucky do you feel? How confident are you that you can make field repairs or reach safety in case of emergency? Are you a MacGyver? We can assume that all weight slows us down, so minimizing it means we can move to safer ground or reach the next village quicker, but it would be foolhardy not carry a few essentials such as a flashlight and whistle.



Weights and Measures – Weighing an Ultralight Load

...turn left at the old iron calvary (cross)...

Here are a few definitions and ways of considering different aspects of the loads we carry on backpacking trips. You don’t have to wait for your next long trek to practice and plan for the lightest possible load. Any trip, whether weekends away with a suitcase, or a daily commute, is an opportunity to test your ideas and practice the concepts of ultralight travel.

A key goal of longwalking is to carry the lightest, most efficient load consistent with achieving your purpose. (more…)


Weights & Measures – part 5

walking across France on the Grandes Randonnees GR 654

Temporary or Accumulated Weight: weight added and carried for a brief period and then removed, sent home, left behind, or disposed. You don’t have to be a packrat to find you have more stuff at the end of a day than you started out. I constantly acquire various guide books, maps, souvenirs, brochures, post cards, receipts, food packaging and the like as I make my way from village to village. Tourist offices offer a ton (well, almost) of materials about the local region. A lot of it is useful, at least for a while. But soon, it becomes a substantial burden that needs to be managed, which means disposed of in one way or another.



Weights & Measures – part 2

walking across France...on through color that never ends...

Body or “Skin” Weight

Body weight or “skin” weight is simply the naked weight of a person. Just shed your clothes and hop on a scale and you have it. For ultralighters, it’s one of the standard figures used to calculate the total weight of everything that’s planning to walk down the trail. The more you weigh, the more energy it takes for you to travel a given distance. That translates into calories, which means fuel for you (food), and possibly, fuel to cook it (alcohol, gas, etc.). All fuel weighs something.

Body weight is an important factor in fitness, and creates the single heaviest load on your joints. Depending on the speed and slope that you’re walking, every pound of weight above the knees, exerts 3 to 5 pounds of force on your knees. Anyone with arthritis below the waist should be especially mindful. Even a 5 or 10 pound reduction in body weight is beneficial for helping to ease these effects. If you’re feeling a little portly and are planning a long walk, get out and start training today.


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