5 Items Including Food & Water

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    I’ve decided to challenge myself a bit with a few overnight/24hrs hikes (and kayak trips) were I will have only 5 items on the gear list, apart from what I’m wearing (+kayaking gear). It will be interesting to see if I will enjoy the hike/paddle less than with more stuff, if it will feel mostly like a survival excercise. Gear list:

    1. Ponchotarp (with strings and stakes)
    2. Large foam mat with backpack straps
    3. Sleeping bag (in waterproof bag)
    4. Katadhin Filterbottle (in belt pouch)
    5. “Superstew” in bigmouth Nalgene bottle

    Nope -no spork, kitchen, extra clothes, books, cameras, anything like that. But I’ll have hard to do this without bringing my keys to the home & car and bus/train pass, not included in the “5” list.

    The foam mat will act as the backpack, within it I will have the sleeping bag and food bottle. It is a fairly heavy and large closed cell foam mat. The sleeping bag will be a luxurious “Marmot Helium Long”, plenty warm for this purpose. If I get cold while hiking/paddling I will either hike/paddle faster or retreat to the sleeping bag under the tarp.

    The “Superstew” will be made of chili con carne, with added boiled potatoes, olive oil, and pulverized vitamins and caffeine pills. Edible without spoon in the expected temperatures of a couple of degrees above freezing point. The good thing with this season is that fresh food keeps well, just like in a fridge.

    I will wear synthetic underwear, thin thermal set, thin softshell jacket and softshell pants, thin fleece hat and fleece mittens. mid-wight wool socks and lightweight mid-high goretex boots. (Waterproof thicker gloves for the paddling)

    Expected weather will be a couple of degrees above the freezing point (2-8 Celcius), possible dipping just below 0 C in the night. Windy, some rain, possibly a bit of snow. Terrain will be forrest trails for hiking or fairly sheltered waters on a large lake with lots of small islands.

    Total pack weight will definately be sub-5 pounds, but I’ll pass on the exact figures. It’ll be light enough.

    I’ll probably hike something like 2×30 miles or a bit less, or paddle at least 6 hours on day 1 and on day 2. I’ll eat lots of food before heading out and after coming back home.

    Any comments on this project? Have you guys done similar things?


    Glenn Roberts


    Locale: Southwestern Ohio

    Please don’t take this wrong; I’m a firm believer in “hike your own hike” (or “paddle…”) I also realize that, without folks like Coup and Ryan pushing the bleeding edge, we’d still be carrying 50-pound loads in our Dana Terraplanes. So I don’t intend this as criticism of your plans.

    But I’m curious: why do you feel it’s necessary to try such a trip? I readily admit that I’m a weekend backpacker, strictly recreational, and far from being an expert at this stuff. But, when I go, enjoying myself is a main motivation. (For me, “enjoyment” means traveling simply, thus my 14-pound total load; however, I’ve never been tempted to forego a hot supper, or a change of socks, just to see if it can be done.) So, I can’t relate to the kind of trip you describe – but am quite interested in knowing what makes it so appealing to you.


    J R


    Well… Anonymous….

    I say GOOD!

    Ive been toying with a similar idea. A throw back to my old “wilderness survival days” back when I was reading Tom Brown and Larry Dean Olsen books.

    I used to be big into raw wilderness survical, joined the army and got into the “I can carry more in my ruck than you” mindset, and am now on a bit of a kick trying to sort the two out. Its often easier to carry in the stuff I would otherwise end up making in the bush, and its ALWAYS lighter to do so if I plan on carrying anything for any distance.

    I dont feel my skills are up to date enough to go “native” in the woods at this time of year, but next summer I want to head out with the barest of modern “nessesities”. Im thinking military poncho, poncho liner, mini bushman knife, and some sort of water carrier. I like the idea of the filtered bottle. I wouldnt carry any sort of food unless I expected not to have any food available at all… However thats not very common. Many plants are edible and no small number of them can be had “on the move”.

    As for the appeal……. there needs to be a logical reason for going out into the woods and seeing how much you can do with so little?

    David Lewis
    BPL Member


    Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada

    There is a difference of course between backpacking and survival. Where the line is, I’ll let others decide. But heck… if you’re just going overnight… what’s the worse that could happen? In late September… for example… with no bugs and warm nights and a clear forecast… heck… you could just go out with a blanket, a water bottle and your pockets full of food if you wanted to :) I don’t know if that would count as ultralight backpacking though.

    Since you’re going to have a pad, bag and shelter… I’d say it’s not survival… but I don’t know if I’d call it backpacking either. Not that it matters what you call it… as long as you enjoy it and / or get what you want out of it… and no one gets hurt :)

    paul johnson


    Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest

    a short response to David Lewis’ post:

    ah,…a wise man writes among us. good words, David. thanks.

    Ron Bell / MLD
    BPL Member


    Locale: USA

    RIGHT ON! I agree it’s not backpacking. It’s adventure pure and simple. It’s the type of pesonal challenge that reconnects us to our genetic roots of hunter- gatherers. It’s not for everyone and in the end the only true answer as to why do it, much like a zen koan, is “Because It’s There” or more traditionally- MU! On your list of five, maybe ditch the sleeping bag and add a nice bright headlamp that allows night travel. Safer a litle extra wearable (clothes) weight than a sleeping bag. Roll up in the tarp and take a nap until you wake up cold and then start walking. Only a few short naps are needed to cover long distances for time periods under three days. Love to hear how it goes. **As pack base weights contuinue to drop, sub 2 lbs for some, maybe calling this type of thing wilderness travel is sufficient.

    kevin davidson


    Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson

    Sounds right out of the Team MLD play book. Maybe should be employed in the next Trans Borneo Outback Western Subaru Ecco Viagra Primal‑ Cry 500 Kilometer ESPN Challenge. ;-)>

    paul johnson


    Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest

    Mr. Bell,

    i love to hike in the dark. when solo, i usually break camp b/t 0230-0430. never thought of “Roll up in the tarp and take a nap until you wake up cold and then start walking”. i’m gonna’ have to give this a try. many thanks for suggesting this.

    oh…BTW…here is a translation of an actual Zen Ko-an (perhaps appropriate for a “moving” meditation while hiking in the dark??):

    “The obstacle is the Path.”

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