Persuade me to go light?!

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cipherdias

Settler
Jan 1, 2014
558
240
Wales
I have been camping for over 35 years and always used a tent but now I'm getting older I would really like to lighten up on my kit and am seeing the amazingly light setups some people get with bivvy bags and tarps.

I need some persuasion, pros and cons for real world use of going the bivvy and tarp route. What works for you, what didn't work for you?


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Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
5,607
4,980
Mid Wales
Are you walking, cycling, or canoeing? If not there's no reason to go light! There is no advantage in going light if you don't have to carry it.

I have multiple outdoor sets depending on my mode of transport and how much and how far I have to carry things but even my backpacking gear isn't the latest ultra-lightweight gear. I went on a trip with a friend a couple of years ago and, although all his gear is lightweight, my pack was two-thirds the weight of his just simply because I don't take a lot :)
 

cipherdias

Settler
Jan 1, 2014
558
240
Wales
Are you walking, cycling, or canoeing? If not there's no reason to go light! There is no advantage in going light if you don't have to carry it.

I have multiple outdoor sets depending on my mode of transport and how much and how far I have to carry things but even my backpacking gear isn't the latest ultra-lightweight gear. I went on a trip with a friend a couple of years ago and, although all his gear is lightweight, my pack was two-thirds the weight of his just simply because I don't take a lot :)

I will be hiking Broch. Usually 10-15 miles per day and sometimes more


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Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,361
1,350
Berlin
If you don't have to count regularly with strong wind and rain, like you often get it along the coast, I recommend to try a Defcon 5 poncho, (Italian Army issue, 350g) as poncho-tarp and a Snugpak Special Forces bivvy bag (340g, UK, US and AUS army issued)
I recommend to put that directly on a (original !) German army mat or multimat 4 XL (530g, UK issued) and in colder condtions on top of it a Klymit Inertia O-zone, grey. (You could of course use the British army closed cell foam roll mat as well.)

The mat protects the bivvy (and air mat) against thorns, stones and dirt. The folding mats have the advantage that you keep a clean side and a dirty ground side. Like this you don't need to carry an additional ground sheet.

I know that some people got a bit condensation water problems in the foot area of the bivvy bag if they used a different sleeping bag than the Snugpak Special Forces 1 or SF2 (UK, US, AUS issued) the reason could be a narrower cut of a civil sleeping bag that results in a larger space between bivvy bag and sleeping bag where the air can cool down.

If you use only Snugpak SF products you don't need to air out the sleeping bag every morning, what nevertheless is no fault of course if you have sunshine. But the system doesn't build up moisture even if not aired out during a week.

Until here we have a collection of the lightest available NATO equipment, and you can get it factory new.

Just the Klymit mat is a only civil quality product.

It's always interesting to read about private opinions of other civil users but if something is field tested that is a information of slightly different value of course. I used the stuff quite a bit and of course it works very well. Before such stuff is issued somewhere in a NATO army it's usually tested by special forces. No wonder that it can convince a civil user.

You tension the poncho with Edelrid Multicord SP 2,5 mm, that's orange and made in Germany by a well reputated climbing rope specialist. Buy a bit more of that than you think. You surely will not use anything else any longer when you know it. An additional 10 metres washing line for example might be a good idea.
This cord really weighs next to nothing but is incredibly strong.
The 2 mm version also would be strong enough but it's less practical to use because simply too thin.

I carry the SF1 in the SF bivvy bag in the 7 litres Ortlieb dry bag PS 10. (Made in Germany, 54 g). Ortlieb makes the surely best reputated bicycle and canoe bags. The stuff is extremely long lasting and incredibly well made. The summer sleep system fits in here very well and that's very practical.
You just stuff it in by hand and pull it out in one rush.
I use that equipment (SF1) wearing the clothing of the day without waterproofs down to the freezing point and recommend it until 5°C (without the additional clymit mat).

I doubt that you can get better and more practical stuff with that low weight.

Would you buy even lighter equipment you would surely pay much more but it wouldn't last so long and surely would be less practical.

If you order the Edelrid cordage I recommend to buy in one rush 3 of their carabiner hooks Micro 0 in a bright colour because with these light quality hooks you can speed up the plough point poncho shelter set up so much that you can think about leaving the rain suit at home if it's relatively warm and the weather forecast announces sunshine.

The trick is to tie in every poncho grommet with the fisherman knot a loop of 5 cm diameter for also in place carved wood pegs but to carry 3 lightweight aluminium tent stakes.

You sling a 1 metre cord around a tree , approximately head to chest high, and hook into the cord the first carabiner hook that was already tied into the end of the cord, tension that cord, put the second carabiner hook, that's in the other end of this cord, into the corner grommet of the poncho, tension the poncho diagonal to the other corner grommet, put in here the third carabiner hook that already is tied to a 30 cm tent stake line, put the first lightweight tent stake in the other end where is already a bow line hitch and stick it into the ground by tensoning the whole thing in one straight line between tent stake and tree.

Afterwards you set the other two tent stakes into the loops of the remaining corners and ready is your plough point poncho shelter. I can do that all in approximately one minute. Because I don't tie any knots out there.

I just carry very thin aluminium tent stakes for hard ground. They are usually big enough for this little sail surface.

Afterwards I put the folding mat onto the ground and the sleeping bag in the bivvy bag onto the mat and place the rucksack as a pillow and that's it.

The setup is incredibly light and practical.

Your main protection is the bivvy bag. That's why the roof isn't too small.

If it doesn't already rain when I reach the place, I just sleep on the mat in bivvy and sleeping bag with the rucksack under the head and just put the poncho over the boots if I am unsure if it will start to rain during the night.
Also in the open field the bivvy bag alone keeps me dry in every weather conditions.
 
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cipherdias

Settler
Jan 1, 2014
558
240
Wales
If you don't have to count regularly with strong wind and rain, like you often get it along the coast, I recommend to try a Defcon 5 poncho, (Italian Army issue, 350g) as poncho-tarp and a Snugpak Special Forces bivvy bag (340g, UK, US and AUS army issued)
I recommend to put that directly on a (original !) German army mat or multimat 4 XL (530g, UK issued) and in colder condtions on top of it a Klymit Inertia O-zone, grey. (You could of course use the British army closed cell foam roll mat as well.)

The mat protects the bivvy (and air mat) against thorns, stones and dirt. The folding mats have the advantage that you keep a clean side and a dirty ground side. Like this you don't need to carry an additional ground sheet.

I know that some people got a bit condensation water problems in the foot area of the bivvy bag if they used a different sleeping bag than the Snugpak Special Forces 1 or SF2 (UK, US, AUS issued) the reason could be a narrower cut of a civil sleeping bag that results in a larger space between bivvy bag and sleeping bag where the air can cool down.

If you use only Snugpak SF products you don't need to air out the sleeping bag every morning, what nevertheless is no fault of course if you have sunshine. But the system doesn't build up moisture even if not aired out during a week.

Until here we have a collection of the lightest available NATO equipment, and you can get it factory new.

Just the Klymit mat is a only civil quality product.

It's always interesting to read about private opinions of other civil users but if something is field tested that is a information of slightly different value of course. I used the stuff quite a bit and of course it works very well. Before such stuff is issued somewhere in a NATO army it's usually tested by special forces. No wonder that it can convince a civil user.

You tension the poncho with Edelrid Multicord SP 2,5 mm, that's orange and made in Germany by a well reputated climbing rope specialist. Buy a bit more of that than you think. You surely will not use anything else any longer when you know it. An additional 10 metres washing line for example might be a good idea.
This cord really weighs next to nothing but is incredibly strong.
The 2 mm version also would be strong enough but it's less practical to use because simply too thin.

I carry the SF1 in the SF bivvy bag in the 7 litres Ortlieb dry bag PS 10. (Made in Germany, 54 g). Ortlieb makes the surely best reputated bicycle and canoe bags. The stuff is extremely long lasting and incredibly well made. The summer sleep system fits in here very well and that's very practical.
You just stuff it in by hand and pull it out in one rush.
I use that equipment (SF1) wearing the clothing of the day without waterproofs down to the freezing point and recommend it until 5°C.

I doubt that you can get better and more practical stuff with that low weight.

Would you buy even lighter equipment you would surely pay much more but it wouldn't last so long and surely would be less practical.

If you order the Edelrid cordage I recommend to buy in one rush 3 of their carabiner hooks Micro 0 in a bright colour because with these light quality hooks you can speed up the plough point poncho shelter set up so much that you can think about leaving the rain suit at home if it's relatively warm and the weather forecast announces sunshine.

The trick is to tie in every poncho grommet with the fisherman knot a loop of 5 cm diameter for also in place carved wood pegs but to carry 3 lightweight aluminium tent stakes.

You sling a 1 metre cord around a tree , approximately head to chest high, and hook into the cord the first carabiner hook that was already tied into the end of the cord, tension that cord, put the second carabiner hook, that's in the other end of this cord, into the corner grommet of the poncho, tension the poncho diagonal to the other corner grommet, put in here the third carabiner hook that already is tied to a 30 cm tent stake line, put the first lightweight tent stake in the other end where is already a bow line hitch and stick it into the ground by mentioning the whole thing.
Afterwards you set the other two tent stakes into the loops of the remaining corners and ready is your plough point poncho shelter. I can do that all in approximately one minute. Because I don't tie any knots out there.

I just carry very thin aluminium tent stakes for hard ground. They are usually big enough for this little sail surface.

Afterwards I put the folding mat onto the ground and the sleeping bag in the bivvy bag onto the mat and place the rucksack as a pillow and that's it.

The setup is incredibly light and practical.

Your main protection is the bivvy bag. That's why the roof isn't too small.

Loads of information for me to read through here. Many thank for this!


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bigjackbrass

Nomad
Sep 1, 2003
497
30
Leeds
The reason I switched to tarps years ago wasn't so much wanting to go light as wanting to enjoy the camping more. Compromises are required of course (high, exposed plateaus are not the tarp's favourite environment, for example) but there are compromises in everything. Lying in bed looking out at the world, feeling the fresh air and watching the wildlife more than compensated.

Once you've made the move out of the tent into a good size, sturdy tarp such as those from DD Hammocks then shaving down the weight becomes an exercise in working out how low it's worth going. Cuben Fiber tarps weigh almost nothing but cost a fortune. SilNylon is a decently light, lower priced compromise. A smaller tarp is lighter but requires more skill to use when the weather turns. I wouldn't necessarily go to a tarp for the weight savings: it's a different way of experiencing the world than tent camping and if you'd prefer to be fully inside a nylon home for the night then it may not be one that suits you. A large tarp can give you a huge dry space, even letting you walk around under it if set high between trees, or you can pitch it differently to be an adequate tent substitute in really foul weather.

Try it on the cheap. Get a big polythene sheet and some midge netting you can hang under it. Make guy points with duct tape, or twist the sheet around a pebble and tie onto that. It won't be light and it won't be sophisticated, but why spend a lot to try it out?
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
5,607
4,980
Mid Wales
I will be hiking Broch. Usually 10-15 miles per day and sometimes more


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Ah, OK, that makes sense. However, where and in what season also comes into it. Assuming you're not planning a winter setup then reasonable weight savings can be made quite easily.

My 'overnight' light weight setup is simply a DD 3x3 tarp, my walking stick, a motorway service station waterproof picnic blanket (weighs next to nothing) and a 3 season sleeping bag but I can sleep on a bed of nails. If I'm expecting bad weather I'll take my British Army bivy bag. If it drops colder than expected I sleep in my clothes. Obviously, if you expect cold and/or need more comfort, you should take some form of sleep mat - the old Karrimat closed cell foam mats are still good in my book, very light and reasonable comfort. Cooking wise I still prefer to take my MSR multi-fuel stove; I know it will boil water in no time in wind, rain and sub-zero temperatures but there are very light single burner gas stoves out there now.

If you've already got a tent with a separate flysheet you could just use that. In the early days I used to do that with my Vango Force 10 (mk 3) flysheet and look out for a couple of suitable sticks as I was walking along :) The only implements I take will be a plastic Spork and my SAK, a single cooking pot and a mug.

My 'good weather' minimum pack is around 10kg; a bit more luxury and it will be around 15kg; lowland winter nearer 20kg - I don't do highland winter anymore :)

My overland trekking gear, on the other hand, is probably 500kg :)
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
5,607
4,980
Mid Wales
I should add (on reflection) that what you carry it in is as important - even 10kg can be painful on the shoulders after 15km. You may already have one but, if not, get a decent backpack with a good padded hip belt that loads the majority of the weight on your hips; the shoulder straps should effectively be just holding the pack upright :)
 

Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,361
1,350
Berlin
Roughly said, most equipment lost half the weight and volume between 1980 and 1995 and once more half the weight and volume until now.

Many old constructions are still produced for good reasons but if you can't carry your old equipment any more, it is worth to buy electronic kitchen scales and to put every single item onto it and to write the weights into the packing list.

Many new constructions are simply bad and a lot of the stuff that's offered every corner doesn't last very long and will disappoint everyone who is used to a collection of old European and US made high quality equipment. But of course there are between al the bad stuff also a few superior modern lightweight constructions.

The Hilleberg Akto for example is a storm resistant one man tent that weighs only 1,7 kg. And because it is a storm resistant mountain tent it is by far not the lightest one man tent in the world.

The Petzl e+lite head lamp weighs with batteries only 26 g including a emergency whistle.

The Suunto M-9 wristband compass weighs 16 g.

The Alpkit Kraku gas stove weighs only 45 g.

The DD Superlight Tarp 3 x 2,9 m weighs 460 g.

The Hilleberg Tarp 10 UL weighs 750g,
3,5 x 3 metres.

The Opinel No8 Carbone weighs 45 g, the No7 Carbone even only 35 g.

Victorinox Compact weighs 64 g, tin and bottle opener as well as nail scissors and other practical items included.

And so on.

It is worth to think about selling all the old stuff and buying all and everything new if one can't carry it anymore. Otherwise the beloved old stuff will usually stay for static camping, car and canoe use slightly more comfortable, but not so much that it is worth to haul it still around.

Depending on the personal income one can even thing about more expensive ultra light equipment. It tends to be rather fragile and not really long lasting. But if one has enough of money and noticed to become weak due to the age, one can buy nowadays a complete summer hiking equipment that weighs less than 5 kg without water and food!
 
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I have been camping for over 35 years and always used a tent but now I'm getting older I would really like to lighten up on my kit and am seeing the amazingly light setups some people get with bivvy bags and tarps.

I need some persuasion, pros and cons for real world use of going the bivvy and tarp route. What works for you, what didn't work for you?


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Making-Camp-full-REDUCED.jpg
Back-of-Shelter-1-REDUCED.jpg

Regards, Keith.
 

Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,361
1,350
Berlin
The photos above do not really show the most modern ultra light items.

But one thing can be learned from Keith's outdated equipment: The reduction to the bare essentials!

I always went pretty light in summer times although in my youth I exclusively used equipment that was technically on a WW2 level. We carried between 12 and 16 kg.
Nowadays I pack much more of modern equipment and reach around 7 kg. But that's mainly because I live out of this rucksack most time of the year, so I carry a bit comfort stuff.

Would I just carry what I carried when I was young but assembled with modern lightweight equipment, I would reach around 5 kg total rucksack weight without water and food or even less and that without investing a horrible amount of money. I think I even could manage it with military surplus from the nineties.
 
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My pack contents were put together based on a compromise between two principles; minimum weight & maximum self-reliance. My equipment weighs 9 Kg. I could lighten my load further, as I have the primitive skills to allow me to do this, & I may do so in the near future. There is not anything in my pack which is not sustainable.
Keith.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,277
1,026
Cumbria
Tarps can survive a lot if you know how to cope. I pitched a tarp into a cave type pitch. A frame at the front and dien to the ground at the rear. I used trekking poles and the second one lifted the back up a little TY n get foot room. Early in the night I moved the stress of the front out and lowered the trekking pole support. It made the tarp very streamlined. I did that because the wind was picking up. I knew rain was coming but we all didn't know how bad the storm was thing to be. I pitched very well near a wall and in a dip. It was on top of a lake lakeland fell and gale force winds. Read up to 70+mph winds!!!

I slept well from 9pm to 5am. I awoke to watch horizontal rain blow by my open tarp, perfectly comfortable and dry. A lass was in a hilleberg atko tail into the wind. I read amazed at how strong that tent was as the flysheet was blown down into the centre hoop such that you could see her open mouth through the flysheet blown flat against her face. Seriously true! The fly material even hit blown iinto her mouth to form a mould of her face and mouth. My tarp barely fit deformed due to location and aerodynamic pitch style.
 
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Athos

Full Member
Mar 12, 2021
129
99
East Sussex
The old adage is that any fool can be uncomfortable. Going light can be expensive. Cutting weight from your body and becoming stronger and fitter is free. My tuppence worth is to examine yourself before your gear. It is there to support you. Are you doing your part? Optimise your own performance and a few kilos here and there become negligible. Plus, you’ll save a lot of money.

Please excuse me if I’m out of line if that isn’t possible through age or disability.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,277
1,026
Cumbria
Sometimes getting out is a means to improve one's weight situation but we might all need a little help getting there first.

The best thing for cost basis is to work out GB pounds per 100 weight saved or weight per GB pound spent. Lower figure for the first and higher for the second.

You'll usually find shelter sleeping kit and rucksack are considered the first items to replace but you might have good options already. For example, reducing weight by not taking the bloat kit and buying the odd higher spec item will make your pack volume smaller. Items like sleeping bag that compresses a lot smaller for equivalent warmth. This means that instead of your big, heavy 65litre bergen you can use a 35 litre day sack that's over a kilo lighter.

I once tried using a basic drybag style sack from alpkit. Easily sub kilo bag but I left everything out that was not needed. Only extra was two methods of lighting my UL gas stove. Only an overnighter but it was little over 4kg base load with clothing. It meant I felt and moved like I was only carrying a day sack. This made me go quicker, was more agile and tired a lot slower. I was able to experience the outdoors more without the head down trudge from a heavy pack, especially towards the end of the day.
 
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Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,277
1,026
Cumbria
BTW I also applies weight analysis to foods. A higher calorie figure per 100g weight was preferable. I did have a cut off figure in my mind once. Can't remember what it was now. I know I carried plain peanuts (unroasted and unsalted in or near its natural state). That was great for a very last minute feast from inside your bed for the night to give that burst of heat from eating 20 minutes or so later. Great for colder nights out. High in fats and protein which burn slower and help you thermoregulate in the cold hours before dawn.

I probably haven't told you anything you don't know already though.
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
5,607
4,980
Mid Wales
The old adage is that any fool can be uncomfortable. Going light can be expensive. Cutting weight from your body and becoming stronger and fitter is free. My tuppence worth is to examine yourself before your gear. It is there to support you. Are you doing your part? Optimise your own performance and a few kilos here and there become negligible. Plus, you’ll save a lot of money.

Please excuse me if I’m out of line if that isn’t possible through age or disability.

I suspect that you are a 'younger man' :). I'm retired and, despite being reasonably fit, not overweight and working in woodland most days, muscular strength is deteriorating and stamina is lacking - I can't do a whole day in the hills with 40 or 50Lb on my back anymore. It happens to all of us I can assure you :)
 

Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,361
1,350
Berlin
Apart from rucksack, shelter and sleeping bag, the kitchen is the part of the equipment where one should look in relatively soon. Metal tends to have a pretty high density, or in simple words: metal is heavy! And a new little pot is cheap.

I noticed that the Alpkit Kraku (45 g) gas stove doesn't work so well with a titanium pot, because it burns on a single spot and the titanium doesn't transfer the heat fast enough, often resulting in a burned spot of food above the burner head.

I assume that a 750 ml steel mug with bail and butterfly handle is the best choice for most users, because it keeps the option open to cook over wood fire under tripod if you run out of gas, what means that you don't need to carry more fuel than you exactly calculated just to have a spare.

I don't know if the Lixada 750 ml steel mug and the TBS mug are the same or not. But I recommend to try out one of them.

The Lixada mug is a bit cheaper, the TBS mug surely would reach you faster.


 
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Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,277
1,026
Cumbria
Agree metal products are cheaper to replace but depending on what your start kit is you might still not get much bang for your bucks with replacing that.

If you're serious list your kit and weights. Delete what you can completely then look at what you can afford to replace. With the potential replacements do a cost benefit calculation, cost per 100g saved, then get what overall gives you the best average figure for your spend. I did that with every spare cash until I could get light enough for my backpack to feel like my old daypack load.

People also say a pound on the feet is like 4 pounds on the back. No idea how true but I backpacker many times in the UK hills anywhere from Wales too Scotland, especially including the lakes. I used to scramble with my backpack too. Up to grade 3.
 

Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,361
1,350
Berlin
I rather recommend to start with the replacement of tent and kitchen, later perhaps a lighter and more compact packing sleeping bag and afterwards smaller items. I think one should get the best available items and if necessary save up for the next ones.

And if you have figured out the new lightweight equipment and tested it well you buy in the end a new rucksack that fits it all.

I played around with a lot of lightweight stuff and returned in some cases to more robust equipment, because I found that some of the stuff that was currently in fashion simply didn't last long enough in my use.

My impression is that a lot of members in the ultra light trekking community mainly think about equipment at the writing desk. A lot of highly praised equipment is neither practical nor long lasting.

What may be usefull in California doesn't necessarily serve well in the Scottish highlands.

So, before you tested the new equipment you don't know which rucksack size you will need in the end. And of course it's the lighter the smaller it is.
 
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