My first sub 5 lb trip!

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    Jamie Shortt
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Carolina

    Well I completed my first sub 5 pound trip (4 lbs 15 oz) this weekend. I spent 2.5 days in the Pisgah National forest covering 40.2 miles. Less than a year ago I started with gear that weighed around 27 lbs…. took it to 14 lbs then to 12 lbs then to 8.5 lbs. I admit that the previous weights will cover colder temps, but I did handle a 38 degree night just fine. Flying down the trails was a blast. The things I have learned from this forum have been invaluable.

    Many Thanks, Jamie

    Packing Up

    On the Trail


    George Matthews
    BPL Member


    Congrats! Impressive accomplishment getting there from 27 in less than a year.

    I've recently gone to 6 lb. I will go for sub 5 probably next month. That'll be about two years for me to have done so.

    BPL Member


    Locale: SE USA


    Congratulations on your milestone!!!!

    What else did you carry on the 5lb trip? Again, congrats and I miss that part of the country.


    Jamie Shortt
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Carolina

    Todd, What you see in the first pic is everything I used. To my right in a montbell thermal sheet (14.5oz zippered down quilt) and sleeping pad. I supplimented this with a Montbell UL down jacket (worn), the pack is a golite ion (9 oz). All other gear is in the two stuff sacks. The gray one contains food, cooking items (gram weenie stove, ti cup, etc) and personal items. The green stuff sack contains a montbell dri-tech bivy, a golite poncho tarp, stakes/line, extra socks, and a golite windshirt. Here are pics showing the details….

    Shelter and Clothes




    Food – 1 day example (some was already eaten – 21 oz/day)

    Personal Care Items

    Stowed items (ready to pack)

    Pack pad

    Pack bag
    load bag

    Pack jacket

    Pack shelter & clothing (one stuff sack)

    Pack personal items, kitchen, food & water (one stuff sack & one platy)


    Dave T



    Sam Haraldson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Gallatin Range

    Jamie –

    Your detailed photos are an excellent example of how a sub-five list is a real possibility for short trips like yours. How was your level of comfort having gotten out and lived it?

    – Sam

    Richard D.
    BPL Member


    Locale: Eastern Europe / Caucasus

    Wow, you've descended fast from 27 lbs! And it looks like you had a great time. There's only one thing I didn't see on the pictures… your camera!:) Did you include it in the baseweight?

    Paul Foreman


    I have two Ions, one in "grease" like yours and one in green. The "L" size sure does fit well.

    Sven Klingemann


    Great! Did your weight include water/food???

    Aaron Sorensen
    BPL Member


    Locale: South of Forester Pass

    Hey James,
    Congratulations on getting down to that weight.
    After this, getting any lighter is just a matter of obsession.
    Doesn't look like you are there yet?

    I would like to point out that with a Cuben tarp and pack you could drop another pound with the same comfort.
    It does loose some reliability though.

    Your gear is amazingly easy and has the ability to show just how anyone can do it.

    Jamie Shortt
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Carolina

    Wow thanks for all the replies and support.

    Sam – on comfort…I would say I was extremely comfortable. The only mistake I made was to drop my 1.5 oz fleece cap at the last minute. The weather called for nights in the 50's. I know better then trust weather for local conditions in the mountains. 38 degrees on the first night in a hoodless bag = cold head. I have learned that an insulated hat is an amazing piece of gear for regulating body temp. I almost dropped the down jacket, that would have been a huge mistake. The only other comfort item I missed was not having much for a pillow. Usually my raingear in a stuff sack makes decent pillow. I did stuff my ion with leaves the second night and this actually worked surprisingly well.

    Rick, I must come clean on 2 items not counted in base weight. These were the GPS (4.3 oz) and camera (3.35 oz). I did not include them because never did they go into my pack. They stayed in the pockets of my shorts. I did include every thing else you saw as it went into pack…even the rather useless cell phone (wife requirement) and the 2 oz backpacker book.

    Sven, My food was 21.5 oz per day (times 2 days), but I did not pack any for the last 1/2 day knowing that I would have a bit left over from each day. For water I always start with 32 oz then drink down to 0 and refill to 32. I use cl tabs so I try to wait 30 minutes before drinking. The sources I used should have been vary safe and water was extremely plentiful. Full pack including food for 2.5 days and 32 oz water weighed just under 10 lbs at the start.

    Aaron, Cuben is a great thought. That would be the next level in weight and $. I do have to say if anyone wants to experiment the golite Ion and golite poncho are not the absolute lightest but they are close, perform well, at a hard to beat price…both for under < $100. I do want to put a plug in for the Montbell Dry-Tech bivy. It is a waterproof breathable bivy that after 2 trips… 4 nights (22, 34, 38, 48 degrees) has had zero condensation inside. I wake up completely dry. It is under 100 bucks and weighs under 7 oz.

    Again thanks all, Jamie

    Jamie Shortt
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Carolina

    Sven, One other item to note. The small bottle in the food picture contains 1.5 oz of Everclear. I take 1.5 oz per day and was drinking it in the photo by the fire (mixed with lemon flavor drink mix).

    Sam, If there was any question about comfort the everclear removes all memory of any discomfort :)

    Last thing. My hike was solo all pictures are taken with my camera mounted on my hiking staff if they are self pictures.


    Adam Kilpatrick
    BPL Member


    Locale: South Australia

    James-just inspirational. I am nowhere near sub 5lb yet. But given how you have done it, and the fantastic pics, I will splurge on some more gear and have a crack at it soon.

    I think you can be forgiven for the GPS and Camera misnomers if the wife is demanding you take a cell-phone…she obv impaired your judgement!

    But yeah, wow! Well done, and great pics…prob the most useful SUL post ive seen on the site (for me)!

    Joe Westing


    I completely agree with Adam. This post more than any other I've seen on this site makes me want to go for (and feel confident doing) a sub 5lb base weight (the pictures help a lot).

    Jonathan Ryan
    BPL Member


    Locale: White Mtns

    Awesome post, I am going for my first sub6 in a few weeks and will post as well. Great to see what our peers are doing…

    George Matthews
    BPL Member


    James has raised the bar with the 'Visual Gear List'. Seeing is believing : ) Will be nice to see how we all 'show and tell' for our upcoming trips. Like Adam said – inspirational! The pictures really add tremendous value.

    I recommend that the James post be bumped up to BPL front page article. This is our shared vision. To get lighter and share our knowledge regardless of our experience. For example, I still run into backpackers that have over 20 years of experience, but they are still pretty much are carrying same type of load. Then there's James who goes from 27 to sub5 in a year and inspires us. BPL listen please.

    Brett .


    Locale: CA

    Awesome. I agree your thread should be made into a link from the homepage; something like 'pictorial example of an actual overnight 5lb hike'

    I was especially impressed with your choices of relatively inexpensive, yet good quality, light weight gear. For example the ION's suitablity in size and form factor for your sleeping mat, and your hike in general. I think you should post a packing list, and I expect it will be widely emulated.

    A comment on terminology.. I think you had about a 5 lb base pack weight. Total base weight as I've seen it discussed at BPL includes everything worn or carried which is not consumable. But wow, I'm just nit-picking because I'm jealous.. good job!

    Miguel Arboleda
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan

    I keep coming back to this thread to look at what you did. Nice job! You've inspired me to actually get out there and try it that light. Would be wonderful to see an album page with people posting their gear lists and photos of sub 5-lb trips. The photos, as others have said, make all the difference in giving people confidence that it actually works!

    George Matthews
    BPL Member


    I re-read Ryan's SUL article from 2003 (link on main page).

    His definition…

    Base Weight is herein defined as the dry weight of gear and nonconsumable supplies in your pack, excluding clothing worn,
    items normally carried (like trekking poles), and food, fuel, and water.

    Agree with Miguel that we should have an album of the visual gear lists for sub5 over the next couple of months. I plan to give it a shot next month and will do similar post.

    Kathleen B


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    James – what brand and model is your 3.35 oz camera?

    Rick Dreher
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northernish California

    Congratulations James, and well done. You look completely at ease out there, as though you'd been going SUL for years. The tipoff is your gear's all too clean ;-)

    Art Sandt


    I'm bookmarking this thread. Thanks for the pictures of your gear and how it packs up. You definitely show how a sub 5 pound trip is not only simple, but completely possible, even with lows down to the upper 30s. I did a similar length trip in similar conditions two months ago and my base weight was about twice what yours was. Although that's largely because I'm a cold sleeper and had to be prepared for freezing rain where I was going (though it never did rain), your pictures really illustrate how a poncho tarp, waterproof bivy, Golite Ion backpack, and Thinlight sleeping pad can work together to reduce a lot of weight. I'm always thinking that my backpack needs a waterproof liner and an outside pocket to store wet rain gear, but with a poncho tarp obviously there's no need for either.

    Jamie Shortt
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Carolina

    Thanks for all the kind replies. After reading post after post over the last six months and hesitating to post comments because everyone here is so knowledgeable I am grateful to be able to contribute. Every piece of gear I purchased was done so only after careful research here. You guys even helped me with sizing.

    I do want to say that the idea for the visual gear list was developed after reading a post by Derek Cox in the Gear List forum titled "photos of gear and setup". I had created the photos on my last night with the intent to post under his thread, but could not remember where it was so they ended up being posted here….thanks Derek.

    Kathleen, The camera is an Olympus FE-230 7.1 Megapixel. I purchased it because it was about the lightest I could find, but have been happy with it. I must have mistyped because the weight is 4.35 oz. The weight includes the rechargeable battery and a 1 gig card. I am really impressed how long the battery lasts. My guess is it lasts as long as 3 sets of double A batteries would last in my old camera.

    Rick, Yes I am at home in the woods. I turned 40 this year but have been camping and backpacking all my life… though I must admit I was afraid to sleep alone without a tent until reading about so many people doing it here. And yes almost every item was purchased since my last trip in January. Kind of a shame because almost every item for that trip was new….such is the price of learning. The gear list under my profile shows exactly what I used in January (8.6 lb kit).

    Again thank you all! Jamie

    mark henley


    I did my first sub 5 overnight about 18 months ago and nothing even comes close to the feeling you get romping down the trails with almost nothing on your back. And it's so hard to put the weight back in!

    Great job …… great job.

    Adam Rothermich
    BPL Member


    Locale: Missouri Ozarks

    Here's a list and pictures of my Sub 5 gear.

    Gear list

    Pack fully loaded.

    In the front pocket: Liberty Ridge windshirt,water bottles, TP, FAK, headlamp, and bear bag line.

    Opening the pack…

    From left: Driducks pants, extra socks, Smartwool beanie, liner gloves, DriDucks jacket.

    Next layer.

    Mesh bag: Guylines, soap, eyedrops, Aqua Mira, matches, compass. Cook pot holds: stakes, spork, tealight, stand, windscreen, fuel bottle, MSR packtowel.

    Solo, beaked spinnaker tarp and GG Spinnsheet.

    All that's left is Kinsman jacket, pads, and quilt.

    Pads are both packed against my back and the quilt is stuffed free in the bottom of the pack.

    Everything that goes in the pack.

    Total weight comes out to 4.97 lbs.


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