Mar 29, 2012 at 5:47 am #1288003
a buddy asked me about backpacking the AT and what gear he would need. i told him the first thing to buy was a scale. he looked at me very confused and asked "why would i need a scale in the woods?"
i then explained to him that he needed the scale to weigh his pack and everything that went into it. he replied "that's um, well, yeah, that's pretty anal." i then asked him to guess the weight of some items he might take… he was way optimistic with his numbers, like a 1/2 pound sleeping bag and 1 pound 2 person tent.
i told him the weight of some of my items (is it sad i just know them) and i could see the gears turning. it was rather amusing to see him realize his estimated weighs were no were near realistic as i told him the numbers for my setup.
the conversation ended with this gem:
"well, it doesn't matter how much it all weighs, i just need to be able to carry it a few miles to to campsite. then i can get a hot shower and fill up my water bottles"
i have no idea where he thinks he's going to find hot showers on the AT a few miles from each other, but more power to him.Mar 29, 2012 at 5:54 am #1860869
@matthewbrownLocale: Blue Ridge Mtns
"i just need to be able to carry it a few miles to to campsite"
With this daily goal he will easily finish in just under two years. Watch out Katahdin.Mar 29, 2012 at 6:45 am #1860875
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
We still tease my daughter about asking what kind of showers they had on the Olympic National Park beaches. The answer was "rain" of course. The raccoons got her makeup. If you see a raccoon with red lipstick and mascara, it's her fault ;)Mar 29, 2012 at 10:13 am #1860970
I don't own a scale. Haven't felt a need for one. Most gear sold nowadays has a weight listed for it anyway.Mar 29, 2012 at 10:37 am #1860984
>>" i told him the first thing to buy was a scale."
Good advice. And the second thing to do is set up a spreadsheet.Mar 29, 2012 at 10:46 am #1860988
Ben 2 WorldParticipant
@ben2worldLocale: So Cal
Just to reinforce what's been said… I set up a spreadsheet before buying a scale. For all kinds of reasons known and unknown, it wasn't until I purchased a digital scale that I was truly able to zero in on the ounces and grams!
I highly recommend that you to buy a scale — there are plenty of inexpensive ones on Ebay (which is where I got mine). Two reasons:
1. Many (if not most) catalog weights are understated — less of a problem with the boutique UL gear makers but a big problem with almost all of the popular brands!
2. As above, a scale can help you focus more and better on shaving weights.Mar 29, 2012 at 11:00 am #1861002
"I don't own a scale. Haven't felt a need for one. Most gear sold nowadays has a weight listed for it anyway."
if you had a scale you'd see how much more weight you are really carrying. those numbers from the manufacturers aren't exactly correct all the time (REI i'm looking at you)Mar 29, 2012 at 11:10 am #1861007
I have and use a scale and definitely find it helpful, but I wouldn't say that it's necessary. If I didn't have it, I think I'd bring pretty much all of the same stuff that I do now. Sure, there's a few decision I might make differently and my pack might be slightly heavier as a result, but probably not by much.
Regarding manufacturers weights, as long as they are in the ballpark and I can compare relative weights then that's enough for me. My sleeping bag is about an ounce over the listed weight, but knowing that doesn't change my decision to take it with me or make me want to return it and buy a different one, it just makes my spreadsheet more accurate.
I guess my point is just that they are helpful, but not essential.Mar 29, 2012 at 11:42 am #1861020
why do you bring what you do and own what you own? you have benefited from the experiences of others in that your mindset is one of reducing weight. for those, like my buddy, who don't look at an item and consider it's weight as a factor of it's utility or necessity, they are the ones who benefit from a session with a scale and their gear.
the scale is important because it doesn't lie or rationalize an item, it simply shows it's weight. when you look at the weights relative to each other you start to realize that those eight 2oz items add up pretty quickly.
the scale for the new would be backpacker forces the mindset, esp. after dismissing the weight and lugging crap around you never use for 4 days.Mar 29, 2012 at 12:22 pm #1861038
When I first started lightening my load I didn't have a scale. I just listed all my stuff and compared it to other people's lists to see where I could replace or eliminate stuff. I noticed a lot of people were carrying tarps, tarptents, etc. while I was carrying a double walled tent. Comparing the manufacturers specs of my tent to some of the more popular options around here, I saw that I could eliminate a couple pounds there. The exact amount of ounces wasn't important to me. Same thing with my pack, sleeping pad, and other various items. The spreadsheet also made me think about every individual item and realize I didn't need a bunch of the stuff I was taking regardless of the weight.
But yeah, I have benefited from the experience of others and when I did get a scale it definitely helped me trim some more weight, mostly with the little stuff. I just think the spreadsheet alone got me pretty close to where I wanted to be — the scale then helped me get a little further.Mar 29, 2012 at 12:41 pm #1861055
"if you had a scale you'd see how much more weight you are really carrying. those numbers from the manufacturers aren't exactly correct all the time"
I know it goes against the religion here, but a couple ounces over an entire pack weight are really a lot less important to me than other gear performance characteristics. It's all tradeoffs though, and I can't argue with weight being a factor when choosing gear – but rarely does it become the tiebreaker between two pieces of similar gear. Almost always, I find one has a performance advantage over the other that makes it more desireable to me. One could argue the same thing substituting the word "cost" for "performance" though. But unfortunately for my wallet, I don't seem to fall into that category very often.
I know this thinking is against the grain here, but it's my opinion. I understand others feel differently and I can understand their reasons why. I am open to any and all criticism, and like to think I'm open minded enough for someone to convince me that I'm wrong.
Oh and I sort of lied about not having a scale. I do weigh my pack from time to time using a bathroom scale for a rough figure. I then typically add as big of a container of wine or whiskey (or a 6 pack of coca-cola once as a surprise when hiking with a friend and his kid) as I can comfortably carry.Mar 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm #1861078
I've generally found weights to be relatively close to advertised, and so I could understand from that perspective not needing a scale. However, a couple things that you definitely need a scale for:
–weights are often not stated on clothing
–things that don't have a weight listed anymore (e.g. I love my old Opinel pocket knife, but how does it compare to new options?)
–food – depending on your metabolism and the trip, you could need between 1.25 and 2.25 pounds per day. Without a scale you're going to have a hard time dialing in and fine tuning your food quantity.Mar 29, 2012 at 1:25 pm #1861090
@tylerdLocale: SE US
I think one of the most valuable lessons I learned that pushed me towards lightening up was to just put a pack with 40-50lbs on my back. I had an old pack laying around 7.5lbs), I have done a lot of camping so I figured I had most of what would be needed to go backpacking. As I started assembling stuff I thought…'huh this looks like it might be kinda heavy, I better put it on and see'. WHOA! I was basically done with traditional backpacking about half way through the power lift maneuver it took to get that bad boy up to my shoulder. I put it on and every step felt like I was walking like Frankenstein. As it settled in I figured it was doable but certainly wouldn't be enjoyable.Mar 29, 2012 at 1:43 pm #1861098
Kier — Excellent point on the food. Having a scale has definitely made my food planning much better.Mar 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm #1861114
If a friend of mine asked about backpacking, first I'd be excited to have another potential backpacking partner, then I'd invite them out with me or offer to lend some of my extra gear to see what they like and didn't like. I might remind them that they could be carrying all the weight for a long time and to keep that under consideration, but recommending a scale first is kind of holier-than-thou and that's part of the reason people think ultralighters are obnoxious.
Some people just want to have fun outdoors — not be indoctrinated in BPL dogma. While weight is a consideration, for the vast majority of backpackers it is not the primary concern.Mar 29, 2012 at 2:09 pm #1861116
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Besides, the scale is a multiple use item. Cooking with European recipes (they measure ingredients by weight, not volume, definitely more accurate for baking), dieting, even checking postage (for which mine was originally designed). I take mine along (it fits in my purse) every time I visit REI, much to the horror of the clerks who see me weighing an item and then putting it back on the shelf in disgust. It's almost worth the price of the scale to see the expressions on their faces!Mar 29, 2012 at 2:38 pm #1861125
while a scale is useful … there is no need for a beginner to own one quite yet … they can use their bathroom scale to start if they want
while manufacturers gear weights can vary … overall i find that they arent awfully off … except for BPLers where even 10g off 500g will produce an "OMG OMG OMG im not SUL anymore, im gonna die from all that extra weight" …
what is important is for someone to get gear that is reasonably light, reasonably durable, reasonably well priced, and have a reasonably good time using it
they arent elite athletes like yr typical BPLer … no reason to get all caught up in the numbers ;)Mar 29, 2012 at 3:00 pm #1861140
Yes, for Joe Six Pack, a scale might not be the best first choice. But note the OP – this friend wants to hit the AT. That's a different endeavor.Mar 29, 2012 at 3:14 pm #1861149
Plus the scale is fun and will make you sick at the same time. I weighed a Nalgene bottle first, then everything.. Was really eye opening. Plus it is multi use. Use it for food, like others have said. Weigh those partial canisters, etc… And if you are doing MYOG or buying custom gear. Or want to ship something. You see where I'm going.
How many quarters do I need for a decent shower along the AT?Mar 29, 2012 at 3:20 pm #1861153
"How many quarters do I need for a decent shower along the AT?"
Would 2 dimes and a nickel be lighter?Mar 29, 2012 at 3:21 pm #1861154
hhmmmm … is that part of the AT or the entire thing?
i wasnt aware that everyone who does it uses a scale … mea culpa …Mar 29, 2012 at 3:22 pm #1861155
@kalebcLocale: South West
My scale is important to me, i like to use it during my MYOG projects, I like weighing the pieces as it comes together. On the other hand, I once hiked up Mt. Shasta in January with a couple of buddies and at 9K feet at camp my buddy pulls out a Bocce ball set, no joke, must have weighed 7 lbs. Some people don't care about weight.Mar 29, 2012 at 3:24 pm #1861156
There has been some commentary about beginners not using a proper scale. In my opinion, it should be the first thing they buy. I wish I would have had one from the beginning in my journey to lightweight backpacking as it would have saved me some money and pain.Mar 29, 2012 at 5:17 pm #1861223
@whiskyjackLocale: The Canadian Shield
You could give an aspiring hiker far better advice on gear than "get a scale". It makes ultralight backpacking seem unnecessarily esoteric and complicated. What is someone who's just getting started going to put on a scale anyway?
The only benefit I gain from a scale is when picking between two very similar items from my excessive pile of gear. Someone who's getting set up with new equipment doesn't need a scale. I don't buy new gear, weight it, then never use it because of what the scale says. Make meaningful purchases, get the right piece of gear from the start. If you need something, bringing it. If you don't need it, leave it at home, regardless of what the scale says.Mar 29, 2012 at 5:37 pm #1861229
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
I think a scale helps a lot. It really causes you to focus on weight.
Often a person will have one piece of gear, let's say a backpack. He doesn't really know what it weighs. He sees lots of backpacks offered for sale, and he sees a weight listed for each one, but he doesn't know whether he should replace his existing backpack for weight reasons.
Starting thirty years ago, I used three scales. They were all analog in those days. I used a postal scale for little items under one pound. Then I used a baby scale that went up to 20 pounds, and it was very effective for weighing a loaded backpack or else the heavy items. Lastly, an ordinary bathroom scale was effective at weighing me and then me with the backpack in order to check the result of the baby scale.
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