First, Buy a Smaller Pack
May 18, 2020 at 7:44 pm #3647987Backpacking LightAdmin
@backpackinglightLocale: Rocky Mountains
Internet pundits often insist that new lightweight backpackers should buy a pack last, so that it will hold all their new gear and a week’s worth of food. Sometimes the advice is to buy the pack first, a little larger in volume than the backpacker thinks they’ll need. But both approaches can misfire, and I think there’s a better way.May 18, 2020 at 8:47 pm #3648001Monte MastersonBPL Member
@septimiusLocale: Changes Often
Very well written article. I like the philosophy. but the 2 variables that could create a problem for a smaller pack are of course bear cans and/or desert travel where there’s long distances between water resupply.
When I do stealth camping (backpacking not boats) on stream fishing trips, I often don’t know where public and private lands begin or end. I try to camp on islands where there’s not likely to be any discrepancies, but that’s not always possible. Anyway, I often may have to walk past people in state parks or whatever so I use a 25 liter daypack because if anyone sees me I don’t want to look like I intend to do any overnight camping. I wear a 600 ml water belt and a shoulder sling water bottle and that opens up more space in the small pack. It’s forced me to get very creative about decreasing pack volume. Of course this happens in warmer parts of the year where I can use a 40 or 50 degree quilt that packs down very small, along with an SUL 7d tarp w/MLD Bug Bivy, Klymit Inertia X-Lite pad, and very dense foods.
I totally agree with your small pack philosophy. I can’t stand the way a big bulky pack carries.May 18, 2020 at 9:10 pm #3648008Monte MastersonBPL Member
@septimiusLocale: Changes Often
Here’s the MH Splitter 20 (actually 23L) thread I started a few years ago. That trip didn’t require stealth, but I still use the pack for my stealth fishing missions, so I don’t attach the ccf to the outside of pack and use an inflatable Klymit sit pad instead. Nothing says “I’m camping out” like Ridgerest.May 18, 2020 at 9:25 pm #3648013
Good article. True mostly regarding buying a smaller bag. For 5 to 6 days a HMG 2400 is more than enough.
In the time of COVID where you want to minimize resupply points, you may want a bigger bag. I actually have the HMG 3400 which scrunches very well to 2400 size. (I have also used it as a day pack when climbing Mt St. Helens in Washington). I am planning on 9 day resupplies this summer on the CT which will necessitate a bigger bag – sure I can strap it on outside on the HMG 2400, but it is not ideal. Another issue in a smaller bag is when you tend to cram it, it tends to barrel more. I think HMG 3400 is the Goldilocks size:-)
I have not ever taken more stuff because the bag is bigger – just gives me more flexibility in packing/resupply strategies/bear can packing. With 9 days, my TPW is around 31 lbs, 2L and with 5 days, 2L, it is 24 lbs.May 18, 2020 at 11:06 pm #3648024Doug CoeBPL Member
@sierradougLocale: Bay Area, CA, USA
Rex—Is that external frame pack in the first photo a Trailwise? I still have mine in the closet.
In the Sierra, I figure on needing a bear can for most trips. So, I’m working on a myog pack that is definitely bigger than a HMG 2400!May 19, 2020 at 1:36 am #3648034MandarinBPL Member
Could you strap your bear can top of your small pack.May 19, 2020 at 4:21 am #3648041
Rex, well done. Coincidence or Calculation? But, when I recommend buying a small pack first, it is 3000ci or 50L. Frameless or internal framed usually helps to keep the pack weight low. It is large enough to use bargain basement gear for an entire trip and small enough to handle weekend trips. It is usually around 2pounds, more and it isn’t worth buying, less and it is not durable enough. I still have my internal 3000ci pack from the 70’s. It cost me a whopping $45. However, now I use a Murmur (2100ci or 35L) for trips less than a week. The Murmur is a perfect size for shorter trips. I use an HMG Southwest 2400 for trips up to two/three weeks and find that most of the time this is larger than I need. About the only difference is an extra food bag. Between it and my canoe, I rarely carry more than 45 pounds. But the HMG’s really have excellent hip belts for up to 30-35lbs.
I really enjoyed your article. It has been a few years since I read such a memory invoking piece…it seems nearly every paragraph reminded me of my younger days.May 19, 2020 at 8:25 am #3648068Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
short shorts : )
that makes a lot of sense – start with 50 liter packMay 19, 2020 at 8:35 am #3648073
James – I have read your posts on other threads where you say you can go for 2 to 3 weeks without resupplies in your Murmur…that is amazing. How do you do that? How much food do you eat per day and where do you stash stuff that you are not able to fit into your Murmur? or are you able to fit it all in?
Do you have a lighterpack you can share or just your gear list….want to know how you do it. Thanks!May 19, 2020 at 9:01 am #3648079
Yeah, I have in summer: Lean-to rescue for a week, two weeks on the NPT for example.
I only pack 1 pound of food per day, ie, ~2300C/day. The other 2000C per day comes from body fats…I usually have an extra 20 pounds off my body to spare! So for three weeks I cary about something less than 20pounds of food (assuming first day is only supper and final day is only breakfast.)
My total summer pack weight is about 8.5pounds per trip.
So, the total, without stuffing my pockets, 8.5 + 20 or 30.5pounds. For two weeks it is
8.5 + 13 or 22.5 pounds.
Trick, you have to eat enough to not over-do your fat metabolism…Max is about 2000C from fats per day, otherwise you get really tired/exhausted easily.
Trick, you have to be an UltraLight packer.
Really there is no big secret about this.May 19, 2020 at 9:11 am #3648083
Interesting. Even with 1.75 lbs/day (close to 3700 calories), in 3 weeks of backpacking and averaging 17 miles/day, I lost weight by the end of the trip….so, 1 lb/day is out of reach for me. I am skinny at 5’10” and 145 lbs – not much to lose. Maybe my metabolism is higher….May 19, 2020 at 12:28 pm #3648137
Ha, no you have to be an old man always on a diet because weight goes on easier than it comes off. My brother was very similar. He ate 6-7 times a day and never put on a single pound. Hiking, he used to carry 2 pounds per day. Depends…May 20, 2020 at 1:25 pm #3648362Elliott WolinBPL Member
@ewolinLocale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Rex: I used to dress the same way, including the short shorts and fishnet top, except that I wore really high cotton socks. I’ll have to dig out a picture one of these days.
Concerning cotton-blend fishnet, there’s a pretty good market for that on eBay and Etsy. I’ve sold a bunch of my old fishnet that doesn’t fit anymore for hard to believe prices. I don’t think they want it for hiking or backpacking, I can only speculate what they use it for.
For me the revelation came with Beyond Backpacking, Jardine’s follow-on to the PCT Hiker’s Handbook.May 20, 2020 at 1:35 pm #3648364
Rex – in that picture with the external frame pack – was there a hip belt? I don’t see one or maybe it is under your shirt?May 20, 2020 at 5:12 pm #3648395Mike MBPL Member
years ago I bought a Golite Ion- 25 liters and decided I could make do with it for a 3 day trip, with some wrangling of gear- I made it work
now I use a 45-ish liter pack for most 3 day trips :)May 20, 2020 at 8:35 pm #3648422Rex SandersBPL Member
@septimus I’ve carried a Wild Ideas Bearikade Expedition bear canister under the top straps of that HMG pack on several occasions. Didn’t like the extra weight, but it worked. Mostly I carry an Ursack where I can now.
@sierradoug Sharp eye – yes, that’s my old (and long gone) Trailwise backpack from 40 years ago. My last external frame pack!
@mchinnak My hip belt in that photo is the dark band barely visibile over the red shorts and under the fishnet shirt, with the tail of the belt hanging strategically just below the hem.
Everyone – thanks for the kind comments.
— RexMay 21, 2020 at 2:15 pm #3648490Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
I DO understand the “smaller rather than larger pack” idea. In the ’90s I used a Gregory Wind River internal frame pack with about a 50 liter capacity. THEN in 1998 I went to a 7.5 pound Dana Designs Terraplane thinking “bigger is better” and not yet into UL backpacking. Soon after getting it (and selling the Wind River pack) I realized my expensive mistake.
Upon moving from northwestern Pennsylvania to southern Nevada in 2004 I found this website and got schooled. So a couple to REI FLASH backpacks and now with an Osprey EXOS 58 I’ve learned a lot and mostly thanks to folks on BPL..
That “UL enlightenment path” includes 2 different models of TT Moment tents and now a new TT Notch Li, REI FLASH Insulated 3 season R 3.7 air mattress and a WM Megalite down bag. So my pack is getting lighter along with my wallet but hey. I’m worth it.May 21, 2020 at 2:44 pm #3648498Ben CBPL Member
Rex – right on!Jun 25, 2020 at 12:40 am #3654565Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
Rex, Your 1980 photo was taken in the same summer that I was working as a professional trail builder (teachers always have summer jobs) on the Snow Creek section of the PCT building it from scratch. We camped at Snow Creek, one mountain north of Palm Springs.
I got the job B/C I met one of the trail building company owners/brothers who worked with me as a Nordic ski patroller at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics.
I slept in my Jan Sport wedge tent and cooked on my SVEA 123 stove morning and evening. For lunch I packed 2 gallons of water and a lunch in a day pack. Plus I carried tools down for working on the trail, sometimes a gas powered Swedish rock drill for drilling holes for explosives. It was always a tough job, every hour of every day but we were paid $12.90 an hour which was good pay for 1980 laborer’s wages but the California law.. That’s why we were worked so hard.
I’ll never forget that summer, one I ended as tough as nails.Jun 25, 2020 at 11:09 pm #3654729AK GranolaBPL Member
Good article. After several years of downsizing and reading this forum, I think I’m about the lightest I’m willing to go, especially here in Alaska, with a 60L, 2 pound pack. It might be 75 F and sunny setting out, and end in 35 F and steady cold drizzle and high winds for days, never mind the forecast. More than once I’ve gone to sleep in sun and woke up in fog, the kind that doesn’t burn off. All of the things you all take out of your packs – rain pants, baselayer, fleece balaclava – I have to keep in, just in case. Not packing my fear, packing my experience, which tells me how not to freeze to death! I keep reading and lightening a little, but I’m not sure how much more I’ll be able to minimize. It all depends…Jun 26, 2020 at 12:57 am #3654734Roger CaffinBPL Member
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
I know your problem. We had gone once to visit an old goldminer’s hut nearby with a bright blue sky (3-season). Only about an hour away. Half way back and the clouds moved in and it hailed, hard.
Perhaps, for your conditions, you have already minimised as much as it is safe?
CheersJun 26, 2020 at 7:37 pm #3654871Rex SandersBPL Member
@danepacker Funny you should mention the unfinished Snow Creek section of the PCT in 1980 …
Many PCT sections were incomplete in 1980, especially before the Sierra Nevada. Most of those miles were unmarked or “suggestions” in the guide books. For example, we walked over 120 miles on desert highways and city streets through Lancaster, Palmdale, and Mojave to reach the Weldon Post Office.
But it was somewhere in a maze of dirt roads dropping down San Jacinto’s Fuller Ridge where we decided “when in doubt, head north” – and that became our unofficial motto until we bailed out a month or two later.
So thank you for helping build that segment of the PCT. Though I have a scary second-hand story about Snow Creek to tell sometime, too.
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