When I started backpacking I was on the smallish side (4'4", 65 lbs), so I had to watch my overall pack base weight. With some parental help and custom (because manufacturers were not making youth equipment), smaller-sized gear, I had a base pack weight of around 13 pounds. As I grew and added amenities (pad, stove, etc.) my base pack weight ballooned to around 21 pounds. But then I started to make a game of reducing weight. Of course, excess body fat has been my biggest (and a fairly recent) single cut (about 15 pounds), and it was the hardest to implement. Otherwise, I first cut weight by leaving non-essential items behind. Then I look for multipurpose opportunities (e.g. pad for sleeping and pack frame, tarp for shelter and rain gear, poles for trekking and shelter). Finally, I populate my Christmas and birthday wish lists with lighter versions of my basic gear items so family and friends contribute to incremental improvements every year.

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Most of my trips are for 3-7 days in the Appalachians with temperatures from the low 20s to the low 80s, and rain always a possibility (probability?). I go prepared to be comfortable in worse weather than forecast, and I always take some emergency (first aid and survival) gear. The most common adjustment is to the insulating layers I pack. Spring through fall I may leave the gloves at home, and in the dead of summer I don't pack an insulating layer.

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Here is a snapshot of my gear list, after 50 years at the game /:

Category Gear Selection Weight (oz) Details
Packing Custom silnylon Gossamer Gear Pack 4.3 see photo above
Sleeping Gossamer Gear Nightlight, perforated 3.6 Perforated to be lighter and softer
Zpacks 20 degree with dry bag 19.8 I don't carry a pack liner as I have my sleeping bag in a dry bag.
Shelter DIY Cuben Fiber Tarp 3.8 Dual use as a poncho as it has a zipper and snaps
Groundsheet, Stakes, Cord 3.6
Packed Clothing down sweater/hood/stuff sack 10.8
Tyvek shell 3.8 More information here
Possum Down gloves 1.4
One Pair of Extra Socks 2.4 Stored in a Ziplock
Cooking Pot, Lid, Stove, Stand, Windscreen, Lighter, Spoon 3.0 see photo below
Food Bag-spinnaker w/mouse deflector 1.0
Hydration 4x0.5L bottles 1.3 Read about the strategy here
Small Essentials Ditty Bag 4.8 Hygiene/first aid/survival in ziplock
Weight Summaries Ounces Pounds
Base weight (not including items worn and consumables) 63.2 3.95

I try at least one new technique or piece of gear on every trip, and more if required to maintain a complete system. Not all turn out to be good ideas. But some are twofers: lighter and more comfortable. And if you see me on the trail, you might notice that I will have already evolved from this gear list to something even better!

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This post was by long time Gossamer Gear customer John Potter and Editor.

February 02, 2015 — Brian Fryer