The Ultralight Backpacker Challenge

My experience with backpacking has come a looooong way.  When I think back to that first trip backcountry with Michael Fineman in 2002, I laugh at the naive boy I once was.  After going through Tom Neiman’s survival packing list (and ignoring the big disclaimer at the top that it was NOT intended to be an all-encompassing list, but rather suggestions to individually consider) … my pack for this first trip probably weighed 60 pounds.  Everything from jeans, to cotton sweaters, multiple swim trunks, water shoes, campground shoes, repair kits, extra fuel canisters (yes multiple) … you name it, I packed it.

Ah, what bliss these past 10 years have brought!  With each trip back to Montana, I evaluated the “necessities”, realized I never used those extra tent poles last time … and lightened my load considerably!  By my 2008 trip to Glacier Park with El Benno, Maximus, and BK Broiler, my pack weight was down to a cool 50 pounds.

And then Max set a challenge.

And as we all know, I do not back down from a Max challenge.

For our 2011 trip to Yosemite, Max and I were going to attempt Lightweight Backpacking.  Officially, lightweight backpacking refers to base pack weight (the weight of a backpack plus the gear inside, excluding consumables such as food, water, and fuel) of 20 pounds or less.  After months of preparation, weighing, cutting, weighing, filing, weighing, buying, sewing, and again weighing … I hit the trails with 24.6 pounds on my back and an additional 9.2 pounds in food/water.  I was 33.8 pounds lean … and that was for winter camping which included 4 lb. snowshoes!  If you subtract the snowshoes, I was at just under 20 pounds and it was fantastic.

But now a new bar has been set.

This summer Max, Gelperin and I will hit the trails again in a much warmer climate, and my base pack weight will be under 10 pounds as I attempt the Ultralight Backpacking experience.  I’ve been doing my homework, reading my books, and following the Gossamer Gear blogCome July 4th, I’ll be 10 pounds or less and running laps around Max. 

Bring it on.

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