Weight saving tips

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Jan 23, 2012
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Most articles you find about gear lists and weight savings have more to do with what goes into your backpack than what to leave out. Now don’t get me wrong, buying light weight gear and managing your packing list is important, but this article is going to cover what to leave out as much as what to put in.

The “maybes” and “what ifs”
Pulling out the “what ifs” and “maybes” is going to be the toughest step you will face when starting to cut pack weight down, and the idea of leaving something behind that you may need on the mountain will be tough to do. The issue with preparing for anything is that you’ll “maybe” yourself into an 80lb pack weight and be ready to come home before you even get to the top of the mountain.
Here are a few things you may want to consider leaving out of the pack, or at the very least, cutting some of the weight down.

First Aid Kit
This has always been something that I don’t put to much focus on and duct tape and a few painkillers are about all I bring. I’m not saying that you should follow my lead on this, but what good does a 3 ounce first aid kit really do for you? I’ve had a few guys come along with me that have a full 2 lbs in first aid equipment, but the first thing I think of when I see that is “wow, that’s an extra days food”, so keep that in mind when you’re reading this! The other thing about first aid kits is they have several pills inside that you may not even need and if you’re a decent woodsman, you can figure out just about anything on the mountain.

You won’t need scissors if you brought a knife, so you can leave those at home.

A band-aid isn’t a bad thing when you cut yourself at work, but duct tape serves several purposes whereas a band-aid only serves one. So you can drop all of those.

The idea of an actual splint is great when you’re not packing it, so learn the field expedient method and leave the real thing at home.

If you have allergies, prone to diarrhea or go into anaphylactic shock when stung by a bee, take the pills or injections needed, but if you aren’t prone to any abnormal issues, than drop every pill that doesn’t apply.

I’ve stitched myself up before, but it took a good amount of pain to finish the job, so since then I’ve been using duct tape and surgical glue and the glue can serve several purposes when needed.

My first aid kit (Duct tape, mole skin, vicoden, ibuprofen, surgical glue)

Clothing
I talk with several hunters each year and one of the first things they tell me about the hunt is “I packed way to much clothing”, so here’s a few pointers about backpacking clothing.

If you’re not hunting in Oregon, Alaska, Washington or Northern Idaho, you can get by with lightweight rain gear. Something like the Cabelas Space Rain Gear will have enough durability and get you through the occasional mid day squall. This type of rain gear won’t stand the test of time for sure, but it packs down to the size of a coke can and weighs next to nothing.

Another thing to consider with rain gear is using it as an outer layer. This means dropping the 4 way stretch jacket and using a heavier type rain jacket in its place. Kuiu’s Chugach jacket is what I use and when the weather forecast is calling for rain but mild temps, I will leave my standard jacket at home and take the Chugach instead.

Merino wool base layers are a backpack hunters dream come true, allowing you to wear the same base layer for multiple days without any odder build up. This means one Merino wool layer for the entire hunt.

Take Merino wool socks is another advantage and 2 pair will serve you well for several days in the field. I have had great luck with Darn Tough socks and all I do is rinse my extra set out every day and hang dry while wearing the other set.

Insulating jackets like the kuiu Spindrift are a must have on any trips. This 17.5 oz piece of clothing is crucial in your layering system and will keep you warm when the weather goes south.

ESSENTIALS
Things like headlamps, GPS units or locater beacons should all use the same batteries. This helps simplify the battery situation when packing and the lesser-used batteries can be swapped to your headlamp in survival situations.

Always use lithium batteries in electrical devices; they last twice as long allowing for less pack weight.

Taking a Havalon knife is going to save you 4 ounces of pack weight for $39, allowing you to leave out; sharpeners, extra knifes and even a saw. I bring a Havalon Piranta and Benchmade folder for every hunt.

SHOWER KIT

Sea to Summit makes dehydrated soap that will work well enough to clean your body for a few days in the backcountry. These way next to nothing and take up as much space as a pack of gum…so leave the heavy soap at home.

When you pack a camp towel, make sure it’s made of the shammy type material. This material is very UL and dries off in minutes.

You can cut your tooth brush handle off, but that never made much sense to me, so buy a small tooth brush/tooth past combo kit and take a small amount of toothpaste. You’ll probably forget to brush half the time anyway.

Wet wipes are nice to have, but if you’re trying to cut weight…leave them at home.

OPTICS and TRIPODS

If you’re packing a spotter, there’s no need for a set of 10 power binoculars! Save the weight and bring 7 or 8’s

Buying a $600 tripod for backpacking is cool and all, but if it weighs 4 lbs, you got screwed! Make sure and check the weight of the tripod and its total payload. Just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it backpack worthy!

When you’re really looking at cutting weight, you can take the neoprene covers off the tripod legs to save an extra ounce in pack weight.

BACKPACK MODIFACATION
Almost every backpack on the market today can be modified to save weight. Cutting off a few inches of webbing from the belt, compression straps or shoulder straps is the first place to look, but it will be up to each individual person to decide what they may or may not need on their pack.
In my case, I always cut out the sleeping bag divider on any pack, but here are a few other tips for dropping weight from a pack.

Cut off pull-tabs and zipper tabs and replace them with 550 cord.

Load the pack as full as you can and cut off any extra webbing you may not need. Just be sure that you take every situation into account before doing this.

If the top lid of your back has a belt or shoulder straps, cut those off completely (unless you plan on using them).

SLEEP SYSTEM MODIFACATION (Shelter, sleeping bag, sleeping pad)
Without getting into a lengthy conversation about what’s the best UL shelter, here are a few tips for dropping ounces off your sleep system.

If your tent comes from the factory with aluminum poles, check into swapping them out with carbon. This can be somewhat expensive, but it will save a decent amount of weight.

Swap out all guy lines with a lighter weight material. Kelty TripTease is a great option.
The tent stakes that come from the factory are usually not the lightest on the market, so look around for better options. The Vargo titanium stakes are about as light as you can get.

Taking a foam sleeping pad and cutting it to form around the body will save you at least and ounce, but make sure you’re not going to regret it later.

Modifying an air pad isn’t an option, but you can buy a shorter pad that only covers your upper half. This will save a few ounces as well, but make sure this is comfortable for you before purchase.

When using a bivy sack, you can always add 5-10 degrees to your bags actual temp rating, so keep that in mind when picking out your sleeping bag. I always use a 20-30 degree bag in place of a 15 when bringing a bivy sack.

COOK KIT
You won’t find any better way to drop weight from your cook kit better than using titanium, but get ready to spend some money, because titanium is always expensive.

Check how many boils you get from a 100grm Isobutane canister. Once you have that figured out, so the math for the amount of potential boils you will need for the day and pack accordingly. There’s nothing worse than lugging around extra fuel you won’t be using.

FOOD
This is a trial and error process, but packing to much food seems to be standard for most backpack hunters, you don’t want to starve yourself while you’re out there, but make sure you have a decent idea of how many calories you should be taking in each day and pack accordingly.

Every food item in your pack should give you 100 calories per ounce of weight, so the more you tip that scale in your favor, the less weight you’ll need to bring.





TIPS TO REMEMBER

Anything you put in your pack should have multiple uses, so when you have everything laid on the floor in front of you, make sure you’re not overlapping one item that could take the place of another.

Always use lithium batteries.

When picking out your food, make sure everything you bring has at least 100 calories for every ounce of weight.

Implement Merino wool in your clothing as much as possible, this will allow you to take less weight without stinking.

Leave all non-essential items at the trailhead trailhead! There’s nothing like seeing a guy drop $500 on a sleeping bag to save 3 ounces of pack weight and throw twice that weight back in with his keys and wallet.
 
B

bearguide

Guest
nice article/i check the gear in my pack after a trip to see if there are things that were not essential, that could be left home on my next trip
 

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Brandon Pattison

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I have a Gerber LMF (original) and a Ti Leatherman Charge. I don't like the idea of parting with either. I have thought about having a blood groove milled into my blade to lighten it up via the old man's Bridgeport. I see a lot of guys using the disposable knives but mine is like a tool, full tang and all. I can stab, quarter, debone, filet, split wood, chop, etc with it. Any suggestions?
 

aggieland

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N.E. Texas....
Two things I noticed from your ideas.. First you mentioned not to bring wet wipes because of the weight, I saw a guy post on another site one time that you can open the package of wet wipes and let them dry about 2 months before leaving. Then just add water once you arrive in camp! Not a bad idea. Second you mentioned cutting off webbing from your packs. I have the timberline and the XLT lid what would you remove from the lid if anything? thanks
 

larryschwartz

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aggieland,

I think that Aron is talking about cutting off excess strap length here. So, if you fully stuff your pack so that the straps are at their maxiumum length, you can cut off the part of the strap you DON'T need to grab the strap and tighten it down.

Also, if there is MOLLE webbing that you know you will NEVER EVER use, then you might consider that.

Larry
 
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Aron Snyder
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Jan 23, 2012
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Aggieland,

It's all a personal choice on what to cut off a pack or gear to save weight...only you can answer that. The Timberline doesn't have much to cut off since I did a lot of trimming in the design process.

The wet wipe thing is another personal choice, but if you hunt and scout as much as I do, you better dry out a bunch.
 

ohhiitznik

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Feb 24, 2012
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Rochester Hills, MI
Heres another tip for guys bringing mountain house and other types of food like that into the back country. Only bring 2 mountain house packages, put everything else into zip lock bags. You can save a lot of weight by cutting wrapping and other materials from your food.
 

Owens

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Feb 25, 2012
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Colorado
I get rid of all the mountain house packages and go with ziplock freezer bags. I haven't had any issues putting boiling water directly into the freezer bags. Ziplock bags are less bulky and easier to eat from because they are shorter. Just make sure to use the freezer bags and go with the old zip style, those slider style bags don't stay closed as well.
 

shanevg

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Lynden, WA
Any suggestions on tripods? I'm still looking for the best tripod to take with me into the back county that can support a Swaro spotting scope or my video camera or even my DSLR during scouting trips.

Thanks!
 

ohhiitznik

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Anybody have any good suggestions for a Lighter spotting scope? I was looking at the Vortex Nomad/Leupold Golden ring 50MM. Anybody have any experience with these?
 

Matt Cashell

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Anybody have any good suggestions for a Lighter spotting scope? I was looking at the Vortex Nomad/Leupold Golden ring 50MM. Anybody have any experience with these?
I have used both a lot. I owned the Nomad for a while, but its optical performance wasn't what I was looking for. Two of my buddies have the GR, and it is pretty nice. I actually prefer the less-expensive Minox MD50 to the Leupy. I now backpack solo with the king of tiny spotters, the Nikon ED50 and MCII zoom eyepiece (for 13-40) magnification. This spotter is so nice with this eyepiece (I don't like the 13-30 MC eyepiece as much), I don't feel handicapped glassing even long distances. Of course a quality 65mm or 85mm spotter will be noticeably brighter in truly low light conditions. A smaller/lighter spotter allows for a smaller/lighter tripod.

If I go with a partner, we split the load with a full-size spotter, usually my Vortex Razor HD. I take the glass, he takes the tripod (SLIK).
 
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Daniel.Liss

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Feb 26, 2012
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I got my 3 day pack to under 20lbs but when I rough it I rough it I only bring what I need not maybe need. So Before I and or when you go out on your next trip ask yourself if it can stay in the truck until later! Great Stuff Aron!
 

Gman

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Feb 15, 2012
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Colorado baby!
Any suggestions on tripods? I'm still looking for the best tripod to take with me into the back county that can support a Swaro spotting scope or my video camera or even my DSLR during scouting trips.

Thanks!
I've been running a Promaster 525 carbon - comes in at just about the same weight as the Outdoorsman's medium and I actually like it better. I had a chance to pick up an Outdoorsman's at a fair (not cheap!) price and decided to keep my Promaster. You can find them $200-$150 which is nice as well. I put a Jim White pan head on this and it's great. Not saying it's the only way, just another option to throw out there. I also picked up a used Outdoorsman's pistol grip and bino attachment and will be testing those out come spring.
 
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