Friday, August 5, 2016

In Which I Become a Gram Weenie

Although I always vow to never let any purist tendencies creep into my Hiking, my recent troubles with my back have made me take yet another look at my pack contents and their weight.  So I have entered the realm of the Gram Weenie.

I have been constantly conscious of my pack weight, usually accepting what the scale said as my destiny, but I would make a gear change here and there to not only use something more functional, but also hopefully lighter.  Since my back went out, (and is pretty much healed), I have started to once again take a hard look at what I have in my pack and trying to finds ways to make the overall pack lighter.  They say, cut the ounces and the pounds take care of themselves.

So I have cut out what I can (or should).  Asking myself again and again: Do I really need this?  Will I be just fine without it?  Is it an emergency item, or are your fears filling your pack?  

They say that you carry your fears in your pack.  The more you fear, the more your pack weighs.  That is why my pack's name is Phobos.  

I think I'm at a point where I'm carrying just what I need.  There are probably still one or two things that I can drop, one that comes to mind are my small camera tripod, stick pic and clamp for my phone.  That's about 3.6 ounces.  But I do have a very small pack umbrella that I would like to bring, which weighs about 6 ounces if I remember correctly.

I go back and forth and play with this and that.  I have been weighing my stuff for quite a few years though and up to this point I was halfheartedly recording it on a website called GearGrams.  It works well, but I have never fully committed with a detailed rendering of all my gear and its true weight.  A couple of weeks ago I saw a new site that does the same thing, but with a cool graph and some better features and since the reality of our Thru Hike is now sinking in, I need something to do to pass the time until we can hit the trail.  Yesterday I started playing with the new site and about three hours later, I had everything listed and most of it freshly weighed.  What I saw as my base weight didn't satisfy me.

After making my first list and then refining that with the latest gear drops, I came up with a base weight of about 24 pounds.  That is still a little too high for my liking, so I started fiddling with some what ifs.  

I'm at the point that any further gear exchanges that cut weight are not going to be cheap.  For a while now, I have been wanting an underquilt for my hammock setup.  I do have a DIY underquilt made from a military poncho liner (commonly referred to as a Woovie) that does work, but weighs in at 1.6 pounds.  I also would like to replace my Big Agnes sleeping bag with a top quilt and the Blackbird Warbonnet hammock is on my "want" list.  If I could afford all three of these, it would only cost a mere $680 for a 2.2 pound reduction in pack weight.  If Lisa wants to upgrade too, that makes it $1,360.  

So, a full upgrade probably won't happen just yet.  But, If I can pick one, it would be the top quilt, which would shave off 1.5 pounds.  That's a start.

As I continue to tweak.  I play with the website and try different ideas.  My old pack weighs less than my Osprey.  Should I go back to that?  I always did like it, but had always wanted an Osprey and when we found a great deal at EMS, we bought two. 

To cut some of the 4 lbs that this comfortable pack weighs, I have removed the "brain" part of the pack (6 oz) and now use a Sea to Summit Dry bag as my "removable brain".  It will always sit at the top of the pack for easy access, just like the old brain did, so that helps cut the weight a little. 

The other day, I cut off part of the head strap on my headlamp saving an amazing 0.7 of an ounce.  Every gram counts, dammit.  I have become a weenie extraordinaire. 

Every gram counts, dammit.
Next, I went into my Osprey and cut out the small flap that sits near the bottom between the sleeping bag space and the upper compartment.  Since I load everything from the top and don't use the divider, I don't need it.  This reduces the pack's weight by another 1 oz. (Actually 30 grams sounds even better).

Another easy and cost effective change out would be my blue 24 oz nalgene.  I have had that since around 2003 and I really like its wide mouth which makes it very easy to gather water in challenging places.  That is the main reason I have continued to carry it, despite its 5.5 oz weight.  If I can find something from GatorAde or some other product that has a wide mouth, I could save a few more ounces.   
So, as the days slowly trickle by, moving towards our Hike Date at glacial speed, I will continue to tinker, and emit strong hints for some specific birthday gifts, and tinker some more.  It will never be perfect.  I turn my favorite earthtone of green everytime I see someone else's base weigh figure sitting at a (to me) unbelievable number that is disgustingly low, like ten or twelve.  I know I will never get there, but I will always strive to get close.  

For now, I would be happy with a big four (pack, shelter, sleeping bag and pad) of under 10 lbs and a base weight (everything but consumables, food and water) of 20ish.  I'm getting close, but I'm not quite there yet.

Here is a link to one of my lists.  I will continue to update it as I tinker some more, but for now, this is "What's In My Pack".


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