To some, obsessing about every gram of weight in the pack isn’t just a means or a hobby; it’s a way of life. This is no alternative. It’s cutting straps off of packs, pulling stickers off packaging, trimming unneeded corners off maps, sleeping under a tarp, and eating dry granola for breakfast. To me, that’s not backpacking. To some, it is the very definition of backpacking.
I like to pack light. We all do. I don’t know anyone who purposely throws extra weight into their backpack just because they enjoy the power of the Earth’s gravitational field pulling down on them. Everyone wants a lighter pack, but there are limits. This lead me to the question “How light is too light?”.
In my eyes, everything you carry should provide two things: safety, and comfort. If you’re cutting weight, and you start to reduce either of those attributes, you’re defeating the purpose of carrying those items in the first place. What’s the point of carrying the extra weight of a sleeping pad if it’s not going to make you comfortable once you reach camp? Are you not simply making yourself less comfortable since you’re now carrying extra weight that doesn’t really help you sleep? Is a tarp going to protect you from a surprise storm that could blow through sideways, or is it going to leave you soaked, cold, and covered in mosquitoes? This, to me, is when you cross the line.
For this reason I carefully inspect my pack contents before and after every trip. I remove anything that isn’t going to help me survive, keep me warm, dry, or help me sleep better. Most of my pack weight, I’ll admit, goes to a good night’s sleep. A lux sleeping pad, sleeping bag rated 10 degrees below my expected lows, and an 8 ounce down pillow (the Kelty Luxory pillow) that would send chills rolling down the spine of to any ultra-lighter as they rolled up dirty socks and a jacket for a headrest. Wadded up clothing is not comfort and I’ll never resort to such desperation, but I’ll let it slide because there is no extra weight involved in re-purposing something you’re already carrying into something else.
So, the next time you’re cutting a foam sleeping pad in half or leaving your pillow at home, consider this; is what I’m packing enhancing my experience, or hampering it? Is leaving that 3 ounce pillow at home going to help me more than a good night’s sleep, or am I instead going to collapse from lack of rest before I hit camp on day two? Of course, the answer to that depends on the individual, and that’s the beauty of it.
In the end, do what works best for you. Hike your own hike, and step away from my ridiculous pillow. I’ll see you in the morning.