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How Ultralight Is Your Pack?

How low can you go? That's a question ultralight backpackers love to debate when discussing pack weight, and one couple is offering its version of the answer by planning a 125-mile stunt hike from California's central Sierras to the Mojave Desert while carrying the barest of essentials.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, survival whiz Thomas Coyne and Hollywood stuntwoman Ky Furneaux depart Wednesday on a self-described Hike for Survival. The pair will carry almost as much electronic equipment (cameras, solar chargers and a GPS/SPOT combo for remotely texting updates) as standard backpacking gear. The two will carry no food or water; instead, they will collect all they consume in the field.

The Times reports the duo will carry just the following nonelectronic items:

• Pocket knife
• Water filter
• Waterproof/breathable jacket and pants
• Down jacket
• Sunscreen
• First-aid kit
• Emergency blanket
• Toothbrush
• Toothpaste

My question: Why tote toothpaste? Who needs toothpaste when you're counting every ounce? It just attracts animals to the spot where you spit it out. And depending on the weather forecast, I'd consider leaving the rain pants home, too.

See? Everyone's an ultralight critic. We all have varying standards as to what is essential for our own individual comfort. My recent REI Expert Advice article on Ultralight Backpacking stirred up a flurry of comments, some questioning the parameters that I outline (and either my sanity or credibility for even suggesting such ideas). Some say I go too low; others say I don't go nearly low enough.

So how low do YOU go?  I just completed an overnight hike with a pack weighing in at 22 pounds, and I added 2-plus pounds because I opted at the last minute to carry a larger tent and add some extra food.  I once hiked 3 days with 24 pounds on my back. That may sound light to some, but it's major tonnage to hardcore UL types. At those weights, I'd be laughed to scorn by ultraserious ultralighters.

What's the lightest pack you ever carried on an overnight backpacking trip? For 2 nights out? For a week? Name a few things you, in your ultralight mode, would never carry that you see other backpackers lugging around. Take a gander at our intentionally extensive Backpacking: Ultralight Checklist and see what you think. (Hint: Click the PDF link in the upper right-hand corner for a printer-friendly version.) En-lighten, us, please.

Posted on at 6:47 PM

Tagged: Ky Furneaux, Survival, Thomas Coyne, ultralight and ultralight backpacking

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Clavius Robinsky

I went on an 8 day trans-sierra trip a few weeks ago. Fully loaded with food and 3 liters of water I weighed in at 40lbs and 26lbs at the exit. I keep notes on what was needed and not each trip. I still need to remove some excess food. Steripen as a backup water purifier. Some unnecessary extra clothing.

The thing that always blows my mind on trips is seeing lawn chairs and big full size pillows strapped to the exterior of packs.

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Simplespirit

I taught a couple of courses on lightweight backpacking in the Bridger-Teton NF this Summer. On the longer 5 night trip no one carried more than 20 pounds including food and water. The average was more in the 15-16 pound range. I've done under 10 pounds with food and water on an overnight trip and known someone who has gone out on a 2 night trip in adverse conditions with less than 9 pounds including everything he was wearing. 15-20 is a pretty good range for trips up to about 7 days. Beyond that you keep adding food and fuel weight unless you resupply.

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chuckr

I've come to the conclusion that I am not nor will I ever be an ultralight hiker. Whether I'm out for a quick overnight or 4-5 days, I seem to always weigh in at 40-45lbs. I have spent extra $ to buy a lighter tent & sleeping bag, but I refuse to eliminate whiskey & pizza from my packing list. I'd rather work out harder to prep for a trip and/or take a shorter trip than not enjoy the fruits of my daytime labor during the evenings.

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chuckr

I've come to the conclusion that I am not nor will I ever be an ultralight hiker. Whether I'm out for a quick overnight or 4-5 days, I seem to always weigh in at 40-45lbs. I have spent extra $ to buy a lighter tent & sleeping bag, but I refuse to eliminate whiskey & pizza from my packing list. I'd rather work out harder to prep for a trip and/or take a shorter trip than not enjoy the fruits of my daytime labor during the evenings.

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heinzimhof

The weight of my pack always seems to be between 35 and 50 pounds and depends on how many days of food I have to carry plus the outside temperature. Cold weather hikes require heavier clothing, a warm hat and gloves. It also depends if I am hiking with a group or alone. In groups there is an opportunity to share certain items like water purifying pumps and stoves - so, getting organized with members of the group can save you a few pounds. I just came back from an 8-day Colorado Wilderness hike to find out that I took along 3 pounds worth of items that I never used.

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peaceful paul

Aptly described as a "stunt" hike, which is not my thing. Glad to see that not everyone is set to go out for a week with next to nothing except a bit of quality lite weight gear that can never be as strong and dependable as quality heavier gear.

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