While lightweight backpackers are not necessarily seeking to reduce the weight as much as possible once they touched an arbitrary goal, a mountain-hunter is always seeking out advantages since it is cheaper to cut grams from gears than it is from optics and guns. 6-8 kg (13.23 to 17.64 lbs) may not mean much to a hiker, but trying to trim back on a 15-20 kg (33 – 44 lbs) base-weight does matter a quite a bit to a backcountry hunter who is hauling quarters out of the bush. Focusing on the objects which remain in the backpack becomes crucial since compromising the durability of clothes is not an option.
So, once in awhile, it is good to take a look at our options and see how weight can be reduced even more. Sometimes the weight reduction are not always for the better, as noted, while other times there is nothing else to do but replace certain tools.
Once all the big items are reduced, there’s nothing else but to start counting grams. The weights shaved are insignificant on their own, but once tallied up then the accumulative effect becomes known.
There is a saying in the backcountry hunting community: “cheaper to buy gears than to buy guns”. So, let us take a look at the individual items from my gear-list (incomplete) and see what can be done to reduce the weight and compare the cost of the combined equipment to the cost of the firearms. Let’s put the mantra to the test.
ZPacks Flat Tarp
It’s quite difficult to go any lighter than a floorless pyramid tent. To go even further, it would require venturing into the realm of flat tarps and square tarps.
5’x8′ and 7’x9′ are popular amongst solo-hikers. These dimensions have been endorsed by experienced woodsmen such as Horace Kephart as early as 1916. 8’x10′ is the smallest dimension which offers full protection for two people without bivy-sacks. The only way to go even lighter is to use Polycryo which has durability issues. For the time being, cuben fiber is the lightest durable fabric.
ZPacks offer cuben fibre tarps of weight of .51 oz/yd². There are lighter setups of 0.48 and 0.34 in the Make-Your-Own-Gear sector or by request from the manufacturer. Other competitors such as Hyperlite Mountain Gear and Mountain Laurel Design tends to offer 0.74 for bombproof durability. The 7’x9′ comes in at 150 g (5.3 oz) and 8.5×10′ comes in at 190 g (6.7 oz). The unorthodox 5’x9′ weighs 125 g (4.4 oz).
The obvious disadvantages to tarping are: the reduced ability to shed wind, and more conductive heat loss without a bivouac sack. With a bivy-sack, it doesn’t make much sense to tarp in the shoulder-season when a pyramid tent weighs less than the combined set up.
In warm weather, tarping is still lighter than bivying with a tarp-tent; and a lighter option during warm bug-free seasons. It doesn’t hurt to have a few sitting in the closet and change out the shelters in accordance to time of the year and predicted weather.
Weight Saving: 140 g (7’x9′)
Cost: $215 USD
The e+Lite (27 g) is one of the lightest and most widely available head-lamp on the market. The saving is much more significant than the head-lamp as button-cell battery is lighter than AAA.
Its application is limited to summer-time use as the TACTIKKA Plus would have longer battery life and better visibility. The latter is better suited for winter-hiking.
Weight Shaving: 47 g (1.7 oz)
Cost: $29.99 USD
While I could go even lighter with Gossamer Gear LT4 (238 g / 8.4 oz), they do not fold down or becomes more compact. So, Leki and Komperdell are the most viable manufacturers in this niche of collapsible trekking poles. BackpackingLight used to offer excellent poles, but no longer produce them.
The downside of carbon fiber, even though it is lighter and stronger than aluminum, is its vulnerability to lateral stress. To improve on its structure, some manufacturers use spider-like weaves to give more strength. At home, one can wrap the pole in duct-tape to reduce blows. The best way to prolong the lifespan is to build better trekking techniques.
Weight Shaving: 338 g (11.9 oz)
Cost: $139.99 USD
Kestrel Ti Ultrathin Skeleton EDC
Havalon Piranta is the sharpest skinning knife on the market. On the other hand, the scalpel is prone to breaking. At times, it is nicer to have a fixed-blade.
Alternatively, there is the Ultrathin Ultralighter (9.5 g / 0.34 oz). The Skeleton EDC (13 g / 0.46 oz) seems to be more popular with hunters. The knife will seldom require sharping as titanium-carbide coating lasts 300 times longer than steel, and 5 times longer than ceramic. The sheath itself is around 10 g.
Weight Shaving: 100 g (3.5oz)
Cost: $109.99 USD
MSR Mini-Ground Hog
The stakes weighs 10 g (.35 oz) each for a total of 80 g (2.8 oz). The weight-saving comes from shortening the stakes from 9″ to 6″. 9″ has more holding power than 6″, but the type of terrain such as swamps which warrants longer stakes are limited. For most places, shorter ones suffice.
While it is possible go even lighter with a shepherd’s stake at 5.4 g (0.19 oz) each, the utility is limited by geography since skewers perform best in regions with hard grounds. A heavier Y-stake is much more versatile.
Weight shaving: 33 g (1.2 oz)
Cost: $23.93 USD
ZPack Stake Sack
While it is not necessary to store tent-stakes in a separate bag, it is handy for organization as it is very easy to lose gears in the field. ZPacks produce tent-stake sacks weighing only 2.5 g (0.09 oz) out of 1.43 oz/yd². The weight is so tiny, the scale barely picks it up.
Weight Shaving: 18.5 g (0.65 oz)
Cost: $5.45 USD
ZPack Medium Stuff Sack
There are several stuff-sacks from ZPack. There is the Small (3.5 g / 0.13 oz) for 1.7L, Small Plus (4.8 g / 0.17 oz) for 3L, Slim (5.7 g / 0.2 oz) for 4L, Medium (7g / 0.25 oz) for 5.6L, Medium Plus (8.5 g / 0.3 oz) for 8.5L and Large (11 g / 0.4 oz) for 12.3L of space.
Of course, there are a number of other competitors such as Mountain Laurel Designs and Hyperlite Mountain Design. Some of them are lighter, and some are more durable. This particular one is chosen at random from different brands to see how much can be saved.
Weight Shaving: 59.5 g (2.1 oz) (Medium Plus)
Cost: $16.95 USD
Mountain Laurel Design Pro Bear Bag System
A bear-bag is pretty much the essential must-have in any backpacking community except in Europe. While there are lighter ones like Ursalite bear bag system (56 g without odor-proof liner), the one chosen for this discussion will be slightly heavier for durability.
While bear-proof bags such as Ursack exist, the chances of rodents such as squirrels, chipmunks and mice chewing through the bag is much higher than a bear tearing through a bag.
There are several options available for rodent-proof bags such as FoodSack, Outsask, GrubPack and Ratsack. Man7 users of cuben-fiber bear-bags reported their system are just as efficient of warding off rodents; albeit with slight damages.
Mountain Laurel Design offer one for 76 g (2.7 oz) and ZPack offers another one for 85 g (3.0 oz).
Some argues bear-bagging is not necessary nor effective. Instead, what is being advocated is campaing away from high-traffic areas, using an odor-proof super-duty sealing bag such as LokSak OPSak or LiteTrail NyloPro, sleeping with it or caching it in a hard-to-reach area.
Weight Shaving: 75 g (2.64 oz)
Cost: $55.00 USD
ZPack Cooking Pot Sack
The choices in after-market stuff-sacks for pots are limited since there are a large variety of pots out there. It is probably easier to make one at home from scratch. For comparison stake, there is one available for Evernew 0.9L which weighs 3.4 g (.12 oz).
Most of the cottage-industry manufacturers online probably will be able to do a custom-made stuff-sack for a service fee of 5-20% extra.
Weight Shaving: 15 g (0.53 oz)
Cost: $10.95 USD
Fire Maple FMS-118
Technically, the 3-season stove is optimized with a Fancy Feast cat-food can stove, but some data shows otherwise. There is a bit of debate about the weight of fuel versus consumption. Certainly, there are lighter alternatives to the cat-stove for long-distance backpacking once the consumable weights are calculated. Allcohol was ultimately picked for its availability almost everywhere in the world.
For winter-camping down to -20°C, it was recommended to purchase a Kovea Spider (172 g / 6.1 oz). A Chinese company by the name of Fire Maple produces a model called the FMS-118 which is only 146 g (5.2 oz). The downside is the company tends to use more plastic components in their production compared to their competitors, so the performance at low temperature might be affected. The principle is the same, so the performance should be similar.
There’s some uncertainty about the stability of the pot-stand some prefer to go with the Kovea Spider.
Going even lighter would require access to a fabrication shop or paying someone handsomely to fashion one.
Weight shaving: 26 g (0.9 oz)
Cost: $49.99 USD
Mountain Laurel Design 475mL Titanium Mug with Ruta Locura Carbon Fiber Lid
The default is a 900mL pot which is enough for cooking with in the summer. To reduce weight we can trim it down to 700mL for basic cooking, and down to 500mL if one is only planning on boiling water.
FireLite used to offer the original titanium 475mL mug (47 g) which is an imitation of the trapper’s or cowboy’s mug which were once made of aluminum. Mountain Laureal Design still offer their own version (39 g / 1.3 oz). Such small volume is sufficient for rehydrating meals.
The lid (6 g / 0.2 oz) will have to be ordered in separately from Ruta Locura which brings the weight of the cooking set to 45 g. While the Foster Can mug is lighter at 20 g with the lid, which can be made at home or ordered from Zelph for $17 USD, the choice of titanium is made because it does not retain heat as long as aluminum.
The downside is taller pots are not as fuel efficient as wider pots. So, the total weight saved on a gear list does not necessary translate to long-term weight-saving once fuel efficiency is calculated. Some of the 500-600 mL wide-bottomed pots come to about 60 to 70 g, which is still 19 to 29 g less than a 900mL pot both without handles. However, taller pots pack more easily.
Weight Shaving: 44 g (1.5 oz)
Cost: $27.00 USD + $18.00 USD
Gossamer Gear Nightlight
Therm-A-Rest are more widely used due to their availability. They are easy to find and easy to replace. The most compact they have is the Z-Lite which once cut down to torso-length weighs 170 g (6 oz). Gossamer Gear sells a similar pad called the Nightlight which is more durable, but not as rigid or stiff. The manufacturer cannot guarantee exact weight, so the specs outline 129 to 139 g (4.55 – 4.90 oz). Once cut down to length, it weighs only about 95 g (3.4 oz).
The egg-crate pads are not as warm as the RidgeRest. So, that is one thing to consider. The nice thing about them is they fold up more easily and can be used as a rigid frame instead of the burrito-style.
Weight Shaving: 82 g (2.9 oz)
These are not necessary representative of the changes which will be made to the gear-list. Instead it is more about listing possible options to make changes. Not all of these are practical, but a matter of number-crunching.
It is still important to sit down and make these lists so we can think about whether or not these gears will improve the quality of the hike or the quality of the hunt.
As we can see, spending $726.24 USD is much to trim off 978 g (34.5 oz) is much more affordable than dropping $1 799 USD on a 2.35 kg (5.2 lbs) Benelli Ultralight semi-automatic shotgun in exchange for 2.54 kg (5.6 lbs) 20-gauge Baikal MP18 “Junior” single-shot shotgun; or $2 040 USD for 2.18kg (4.6 lbs) Kimber 84M Mountain Ascent in exchange for a 3 kg (6.8 lbs) Sako L579 Forester.
The downside is some of these gears have limitations, and must be used within those limitations. It is really up to the user if they would spend less by choosing gears and take greater care with their equipment, or spend three to four times more on a rifle as a long-term solution for all weather and all terrain.