The Superlightweight Challenge 1 – The Gear


Following on from wild camping on a budget, I was after a new challenge. Instead of the gear cost, this time I was going to be both limited in weight and have to make use of the world’s lightest day pack – Sea to Summit day pack to stow all the stuff in. So my mission, if i choose to accept it, is to ultralightweight in Snowdonia. With that sort of packweight, something has to be sacrificed; be it cooked food, comfort or a lot of money. I’m determined to do so without spending a fortune as I could easily buy a sleeping bag 300g lighter than mine and I value my sleep and my food too much so this isn’t going to be easy.

Looking online for a rough definition of what pack weight is classed as I found the following. Under 9.1 kilos is lightweight (this is probably around what i carry on a winter camp!),  up to 4.5 Kg is Ultralightweight and up to 2.3 Kg is Superlighweight. These are base pack weights – so they include all your carried equipment (shelter, spare clothes, stove etc.) but exclude what you’re wearing and any consumables such as food and fuel. Of course, one can wear all of the clothing and cook the books in that way (unless you leave the stove at home). Walking poles are often counted as ‘worn’ as well – so there’s a lot of number juggling involved.

Shelter: I could buy one of those newfangled Terra Nova tents, but at over £600, that’s a lot of cash. Instead, the Golite Poncho Tarp will double up as my top layer waterproof and my shelter. I can then take a groundsheet or a bivvy bag for further protection. This falls down to the Rab Survival zone, pretty hefty at 350g, or the Thermolite bivvy that’s water resistant but weighs in at under 200g. A groundsheet may well be an extravagance, but if there’s weight going spare, this’ll be a definate extra item.

Sleeping: The choice of sleeping bags falls to the Pipedream 200 half bag at 450g or the PD 400 at over 800g, but the halfbag needs a down top which then weighs 320g, leaving very little weight savings. The sleeping pad decision is between 100g of cut down foam, or the new Klymit sleeping pad. Not easy!

Cooking: This one’s easy. I’ve fallen out of love with meths, so an MSR Pocket Rocket and Titan Kettle without the lid, a poly cup and a spork will do the job. Unfortunately, my Ti mug doesn’t hold enough water for my double size dehydrated meal! One flexible water bottle will have to be carried as well. Food will be kept simple, with only hot water needed to be addedd.

Clothing: I’ll not be carrying spare clothing. The conditions I’ll travel in, and the clothing I’ll be wearing will keep me comfortable. I’ll probably need a pair of waterproof trousers, unless I wear my Paramo Velez Trews, and the lightest I’ve found ar the Montane Atomic pants at only 150g. The tarp will be the upper waterproof as well, though I may well be wearing a lightweight paramo anyway.

Extras: I’ll still need to take a minimal first aid kit, a Black Diamond Ion torch (only 30g!) and a map and compass. It’s necessary to print off the map from Tracklogs and laminate it, or cut the map down to size (NOOOO!!! I’m not going to put my maps to the blade!) I might even take my mp3 player as a luxury item.

So what will the final gear list look like?

Item

Weight (g)

Black diamond ion torch

30

Silva E4 compass and Harveys Mountain Map

100

pegs x 5 ang 6m guy line (5.5g per peg, 15 g guy line)

40

sea to summit 20l daypack

68

Golite Poncho Tarp (Heavy 2008 model)

280

MSR Pocket Rocket

80

Titanium Kettle

118

Light My Fire Spork

9

2 litre platy

35

Thermo lite bivvy

195

Alpklit PD 400

800

Klymit Sleeping pad

258

Extras – Lighter, MP3 player, spare tee,

2013

Weighing in at just over 2 kilos, without the overnight luxury extras, is pretty impressive. Any luxuries will just have to come in at under 300g. That includes a full length sleeping mat and sleeping bag, so comfort levels should be good. The only thing overlooked is that the pack isn’t waterproof, but the poncho is designed to double as a pack cover so that’s sorted. I’ll also need to get my consumables in there:

  • 100g gas canister
  • Coffees, drinks and water purifying tabs
  • One Mountain House dehydrated meal (large 2 portion size!)
  • Chocolates and snacks
  • Flapjack or Complan for breakfast
With all the gear and food in there,  the pack barely scrapes over the 2.3kg mark, so I throw the groundsheet in there as the ground will probably be damp.

OK – so what’s the catch?

  • I’ll be wearing some items such as a light jacket, but there is a full waterproof shell included in the weight.
  • The conditions in which this sort of setup is safe is going to be limited and so i’ll need to know what my gear’s capable of.
  • Some comfort will be sacrificed – either with the pack being less comfortable, or with the sleeping mat. In this instance I went with the sleeping mat as part of the challenge insisted that I use the world’s lightest pack.
  • I can take whatever weight I need in food! So I could carry tinned food – although that would be against the spirit of it and I probably wouldn’t fit them in the pack.
  • Likewise, my clothing worn doesn’t count. I’m ‘wearing’ the walking poles around my wrist, so they’ll not be counted 😉 If I was in a forest, then I could pitch my tarp from trees without any problem, but you don’t get many wild camping spots in the hills with this sort of convenence.
  • I’ll probably make sure the forecast is pretty benign!
Next week – Superlightweight Challenge Part 2 – On the Hill…

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader.
Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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5 thoughts on “The Superlightweight Challenge 1 – The Gear”

  1. Jonathan Quirk

    I use the PHD Minim Ultra sleeping bag at 345g with an Alpkit Hunka bivvy bag at 404g. I recently squeezed everything necessary for an overnighter into an Aplkit Gourdon 20L dry bag/pack and came in at 4.5Kg.

    1. Hi Jonathan,

      I’ve used the larger Gourdon, but missed the inability to put stuff on the outside of my pack. Looking at the 20l variety, I can see how that would make a practical overnight pack with the gear I carried. I would have been able to stow my waterproof on the outside and been much more comfortable! I think I feel a purchase coming on as I need a smaller day pack!

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