Cutting Weight

CT and CDT

Where the CT and CDT share a common path in the woods. We’ll be seeing those signs again next year.

No, we’re not getting fatter; we’re getting lighter. While I’m sure our bodies could always stand to lose a few pounds, our real focus this winter and spring is getting lighter for the Continental Divide Trail in the summer of 2013. It’s the final trail to complete our triple crown of long-distance hiking, complete with the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail, and we want to start with the lightest packs possible.

We recently upgraded two items of gear and cut a significant amount of weight, so we’re excited to share our steps towards lighter packs. First, we both purchased G4 Ultralight Backpacks from Gossamer Gear, a company known for its high quality, lightweight gear; yet, we’ve never owned anything from them. We ordered these packs last Friday morning, only to receive a call from Gossamer Gear two hours later. I thought they were going to deliver the bad news that the packs were out of stock, but instead they said they just had a meeting about putting the packs on sale for $25 less than what we bought them for. The Gossamer Gear guy cancelled our order, put the pack up for sale, and we went right back to their website and ordered the same packs, only we saved $50! Talk about fantastic customer service.

The best part about the packs, and the real reason we bought them, is that they weigh a feathery 16.5 ounces. Our current packs weigh 37 ounces, so we just cut almost 21 ounces! Another great feature? They can hold up to 30 pounds, which is the max weight we’d ever want to carry, and a good 6-8 pounds more than we expect to carry on a normal day. One of the common drawbacks of these light packs is they can’t hold much weight before the seams start splitting, and that just gets ugly out on the trail, so we’re happy to have balanced a lightweight pack with the strength of a heavier one. Below is a picture of the pack. It’s not the prettiest pack in the world, but as long as it gets me from Mexico to Canada next summer, I don’t care what it looks like.

We stumbled upon the next piece of gear after I put a post up on about looking for lighter gear. Someone emailed me a list of companies to check out and one of them was Enlightened Equipment. They make sleeping quilts, yes quilts, not bags, and they are much lighter counterparts to our down-filled sleeping bags. The idea behind a quilt is that when a person is inside their sleeping bag, they are essentially crushing all the stuff beneath them, thus making it just useless cloth that never actually benefits a hiker, but gets carried around as extra weight. The hiking quilt drapes over you as you sleep on your sleeping pad, which is the real source of warmth between you and the ground, and eureka!, you can cut the useless weight from the sleeping bag. Thanks again to Andrew Skurka for enlightening us about quilts.

We ordered these quilts on Friday, and they take several weeks to arrive because they are handmade on demand. The ones we ordered are good just below 30 degrees, and they weigh 19.5 ounces, a drop of almost 13 ounces from our REI Subkilo bags. My favorite part about the quilts was the ability to order them in fun colors. I ordered a lime-green bag with a yellow inside (that won’t show dirt, right?), and Matt ordered a yellow bag with a lime-green inside. We just might have to change our names to lemon and lime. Ha! Here’s a picture of one of the quilts.

So there you have it. We’re cutting weight and super-stoked about preparing for the CDT next summer. Those were the big ticket items we needed to buy, and which cut the most weight, for a total of 33 ounces per person, which equals 2 pounds! When I updated my spreadsheet of gear (yeah, I got geeky like that), my base weight was 10.4 pounds and Matt’s was 11.2. Fantastic, and we still have more weight to cut out once we examine our gear a little closer. Things are looking good for the CDT.

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