‘You haven’t started weighing all your gear have you?’ said Jack. No, no, of course not, I lied. My original plan had been to hike Te Araroa with all my existing gear: no need for fancy upgrades, I’ll just use what I’ve got, I said. But after being tempted into comparing my gear with other trampers, I couldn’t resist. Out came the scales. I was shocked to find my stuff weighed in at 6kg above the load that the others had carried, and I decided I wanted to get closer to their weight. I aimed for 18kg as a maximum full weight, at the start of the longest section of trail, once food, water and fuel are included. That meant I had around 3kg to lose. Within a couple of days, without even intending to, I’d memorised the weight of every piece of gear I owned, and thus my transformation to an irritating gear-weight-obsessive was complete.
There are three ways to lighten the total weight you’ll be carrying on the track. The first is to keep your gear the same, but eat fewer pies in the lead-up. Obviously since my trail was to begin just after Christmas, this wasn’t an option. The second is to bring less stuff. This sounds reasonable, up to a point. I definitely need only half a toothbrush, for example. But a whole ukulele? That’s essential, obviously.
The third way is to spend loads of money. Sometimes this involves spending more to get lighter stuff that is warmer and hardier. Other times it involves spending to get stuff that is less warm and way more fragile. Like crazy thin tents with single walls that you could put your finger through or merino vests made of single layers of fibre.
Most lightweight hikers suggest focussing on the three biggies first: pack, shelter and sleeping bag. An untimely broken zip unexpectedly provided the means to upgrade (downgrade?) my long-suffering pack to a lighter model, thanks to Osprey’s awesome lifetime guarantee against faults. To shelter me from the elements on the nights I won’t be staying in huts, I bought a second hand Terra Nova tent on eBay. For a sleeping bag I wanted something lighter and cooler than my previous 3 season bag which is too toasty for all but the frostiest of nights. The good folk at Tundra Sleeping Bags came to my rescue. These three upgrades reduced my base weight (everything you carry on your back before food, water and fuel) by 2kg.
For the third kilogram I scrimped savings from the rest of my gear, by jettisoning many items, by making-and-mending-do, and, I confess, by making a few purchases that were almost certainly not within my deemed acceptable cost-per-gram-saved ratio of 30 cents/g, but I just wanted them.
So on day #1 my base weight is just over 10kg which I think is a decent effort. It remains to be seen whether it all fits in my pack and whether once I get started I find I am riddled with superfluous items.
A whole page of geeky gear chat can be found here for those that are so inclined, but not for Jack.