Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Backpacking Gear Test 2011

For last year's Backpacking Gear Test I had a base weight (without fuel, water, fuel) of 16 lbs and a total pack weight of 22 lbs. This year I experimented with some different equipment for a base weight of 14 lbs and a total pack weight of 19 lbs: a reduction of 11%.

Gear Weights

I took the 2011 gear on an overnight hike from Old Coast Road to Pico Blanco Camp in the Ventana Wilderness, 6 miles each way. This trail is NOT recommended, as it is very rough and difficult to follow.

Osprey Variant 52 Pack

This pack is slightly heavier than last year's Granite Gear pack, and should be more durable. With metal framing instead of just plastic, it better supports loads. It is actually intended for ski mountaineering/rock climbing, and was quite maneuverable when crawling over and under logs. The external gear attachment points were useful for boots for wading water crossings. The external pockets are too small for water bottles, so I carried all water and everything else inside the pack. This was important when crashing through tall brush. At 52 L the capacity is smaller than my other packs, but I was only carrying a bivy instead of a tent. With the expansion collar extended it has plenty of capacity for Jeep trips, though it isn't well balanced when packed that tall.

Marmot Alpinist Bivy

Sleeping under the stars was enjoyable in the bivy, though I might have a different opinion if it had rained. In the morning there was a small amount of condensation on the outside of the sleeping bag and inside of the bivy, and this condensation may have contributed to an early morning chill greater than the temperature warranted. Both did dry quickly once the sun rose.

As seen on the spreadsheet the other big weight savings was from omitting all the cooking gear and dehydrated food, and only bringing Powerbars. This is tolerable for an overnight, but would not be for longer. I may experiment next with other varieties of uncooked food for short trips. Hiking with the low weight was enjoyable, and this trail would have been even more difficult with my usual heavier load.

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