Aloha everyone! I’m an avid long distance trekker who made a decision 7 years ago to go ultralight. I’m always looking for ways to shave off a few more ounces without sacrificing safety or comfort. My 3-season total pack weight is 20 pounds 4 ounces; add another 12 ounces for winter treks. Those weights do not include food and water (or snowshoes). I’d be stoked to share what I have learned and learn from others who share my enthusiasm for enjoying the wilderness without the burden of a heavy pack. Mahalo!
It sounds like I should be learning from you! My total pack weight could be reduced quite a bit if I was willing to sacrifice a bit of comfort. For example, I could shave some serious weight if I made the move to a tarp in place of my ultralight tent (or my hammock) or swapped out my sleeping bag for a quilt or blanket. But to me those comforts are worth the extra weight on the trail.
I started off with a heavy pack (army alice pack), heavy tent (walmart special 4 person), and heavy sleeping bag (synthetic). Those three were the biggest expense when I swapped out for lighter. I still don't have the lightest available, but with a moderate budget have the combined total for those items down to about 8 lbs. I simply can't sleep on a thin pad, so a thick air pad is a necessity for me that will only be replaced if I can find something lighter and just as comfortable. I give up a few ounces here and there for convenience, like a canister stove over an alcohol stove, but mostly my weight savings is from the "big 3" and simply not taking unnecessary items. One thing that most people don't think about when counting grams is whether they need to lose body weight. Yep, you're carrying that too. I started backpacking and could make around 6 miles/day, but I've lost 90 lbs and now normally plan aroun 15, but if necessary can easily do 20 or more.
First, congrats on losing all that weight! That’s an impressive accomplishment. You make a great point about the ‘Big 3’, which is exactly where the most pack weight can be reduced. That’s where I started as well. One of the obstacles for me going ultralight was the high cost of ultralight gear. There are work-arounds for sure, but I have made some pretty serious investments over time. I figured the cost was worth it to really enjoy something I love. You also make a great point about fitness. I started a substantial but not overly restrictive nutrition and exercise program a few years ago to make trail life easier and more enjoyable. I’m not training for the Olympics here, nor do I want to give up foods I love. I just cut back or eliminated the worst things in my daily diet and started biking and swimming regularly. While these seemed like small sacrifices at the time, I don’t even miss those things now.
The best way to start getting that base weight down is to set up a lighterpack.com list and dropping the 10 dollars or so on a kitchen scale from amazon. Weigh and list everything.
It sounds like you’re on the right track as getting that weight down is a serious safety and long term health goal.
Adventure Alan and Andrew Skurka both have some great info on their blogs to get going with.