Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Top 3 Weight Loss Challenge for Long Distance Hikers

One thing I agonize over is watching hikers lugging pounds of gear in backpacks and having a miserable time. They struggle along a trail that is supposed to invigorate them. This is especially true of those beginning their AT adventure come springtime at Springer Mountain in Georgia. A good many quit by the time they get to Neels Gap.

I know. I was one who lugged heavy gear for nearly half the trail.

Finding the right kind of gear to do a long distance hike can be a challenge. While I once accumulated gear in an attempt to have what I needed for my first AT long distance hike, I realized more and more through hiking info web sites, forums, and getting out there for weekends with sore aching muscles and back the necessity of going lighter. The need to get your pack weight down as much as possible so the hike is less painful and more enjoyable. So that has meant revamping the gear list of the big three.

The gear I had hoped to hike the AT with would have been -

Lowes backpack - 6 lbs
Kelty Zen Tent - 4 lbs
Marmot synthetic sleeping bag 15 degree - 3 pounds, 5 oz

Total: close to 14 lbs with the stuff sacks, etc.

The pack I began with at Springer in '07
The pack. I was given the Lowes Alpamayo for a Christmas gift. How can one say no to a thoughtful person who is trying to be helpful in supplying gear for your dream? I thought this was the pack I needed. I did carry it for part of the hike, but it became increasingly tough to haul, and it hurt like crazy. A few times I wanted to quit. Not good! Eventually I reduced the weight by close to 3 lbs and went with a Gregory Jade. Now I have reduced it even further to my pack of choice - the ULA Catalyst.

The sleeping bag. My synthetic Marmot sleeping bag I carried for the first part of my AT hike was a large monster. It was synthetic as I had heard horror stories of wet down bags putting your life in danger. If you take care of your bag by putting it in a good dry bag (check out the Z packs line of waterproof cuben fiber ones to reduce weight and while you are at it, get a liner for your pack too), you can carry a down bag that will make it through the nastiest rain. And take off 1.5 pounds for a 15 degree bag. I've used Montbell and Marmot and Western Mountaineering. Much depends on your budget (they can get whopping pricey), but I think saving money to reduce weight if hiking is your passion is a good investment. Check out used gear forums for those selling, you can save a lot.

What about tents? When I got my Kelty Zen, it was one of the lightest weight backpacking tents out there. Ten years ago. Now with sil nylon and the way manufacturers are cutting out weight on tents with lighter fabrics and pole technology, it is a thing of the past. I now have a 2 man double wall tent that weighs just over 2 lbs in the Big Agnes Flycreek UL 2. There are also tents with single wall and cuben fiber fabric that makes them even lighter. See my blog on tents for the differences in fabric and single vs double all tents.
My Flycreek UL 2

So what is my new weight totals for the big three?

ULA Catalyst backpack (small) - 2.7
Marmot Helium down bag (3 season) - 2.6
Big Agnes Flycreek UL 2 tent - 2 lbs

Total: 7.3 pounds

Savings - over 6 pounds

Wow that feels a lot better on my shoulders, back and legs.... Worth the effort and the investment for a good time.

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