From 30lb to 13lb, or how I cut my pack weight

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Welcome to my first post. I originally planned to write on all things ‘outdoors’, including my cycling – sport, leisure and adventure – fell walks, backpacking and wild camping trips, in the form of a diary. But I realised that, from your point of view, it will be a lot more useful – and probably less dull – if I share some of the knowledge I’ve gained about gear selection for backpacking and wild camping, to save you making the same mistakes that I have.

We’re brainwashed by advertising into thinking we need all sorts of fancy, expensive kit. In some cases this is true – in fact, you couldn’t survive without it – but there are other times when something simple and homemade, recycled, adapted and very often staring you in the face will do just as well, if not better.

Yes, there are thousands of blogs out there that touch on these topics, many written by people far more expert than me. But I aim to make this one slightly different. Some of what you read will be obvious to experienced backpackers and ultralighters, but I hope it will still provoke comment and discussion – and be helpful to anyone who chooses to drop by.

I want to start with some examples of gear I’ve built up over time, spread over several blogs – bite-sized chunks if you will.

In a recent Facebook post, Philip Werner of Sectionhiker.com put the ‘transitional threshold’ to become an ‘ultralight’ backpacker at a total pack weight of 10lb (4.5k). I’m still very much in the ‘lightweight’ category, as my base weight ranges from 13 to 16lb.

My reduction process from 20-30 plus has been a two-year journey so far, with what I expect to be many more miles to follow. Currently, I have no need to be ultralight, as I can comfortably carry 13 to 16lb all day. The TGO Challenge (the annual self-supported coast-to-coast walk across Scotland) is still on my bucket list, though, so who knows. Watch this space, as they say.

I’ve trialled, tested, built, re-built, sewed, trimmed, bought and sold and swapped many items of kit. I’ve listened to my peers, learned from my own uncomfortable and sometimes painful experiences, both physical and financial, but, above all, I’ve found the courage to accept when I got it wrong – and this is what I plan to share with you.

My biggest lesson learned is that there will always be better, lighter or smaller just round the corner – if you want it. Want and need are, of course, entirely different animals. More on that later!

Next post: Review: Trekkertent’s 2015 Stealth 1