On my journey to a lighter bug out bag, I've done a LOT of reading about what ultralight backpackers do, and I want to make a sort of list, because if I had stumbled across something like this before I began purchasing backpacking gear, I would have saved myself a ton of money. As it stands, I'm having to re-buy lots of stuff to get lighter and better versions. And hey, you don't have to follow this advice, but if like me you either have some medical condition that stops you from carrying heavy loads, or you just want to be able to travel twice as far every day and gain lots of mobility while reducing the chance of injury, then read on!
As an additional disclaimer, I've always lived in countries highly prohibitive of weapons, so I realize that guys who plan to bring an arsenal with them may face somewhat different requirements. Still, if you are bringing heavy weapons, doesn't it make sense to lighten the rest of your gear as much as possible?The Backpack1. Lighten your backpack!
Okay so, screw 1000 denier Cordura. I'm serious, 9 times out of 10 that stuff just isn't necessary, and it's heavy as hell. There are siliconized Cordura materials nowadays that are just as (or almost as) strong, but weigh several times less.
I began with a Maxpedition pack, as I'm sure many have. Now I realize I can get a backpack with triple the volume, greater comfort, and all for less weight. Is it as durable? Probably not, but there's a trade-off between weight and durability, and going all-out on durability is usually unnecessary.2. Reduce pack volume
If you follow the advice in this thread, you're going to have less and more compact gear, which will take up less space - and that means you can go for a smaller, lighter backpack.3. Think multi-purpose
There are backpacks out there, such as those made by Gossamer Gear, that use sitting pads or whole mattresses as the foam back, thus saving weight. Some of their packs even have the option of using spare clothing (such as socks) as padding in the shoulder straps and hip belt. Is that going too far? Maybe, and I'm not sure I'll do that myself, but if you start paying attention to every ounce, soon enough you'll be saving pounds.
The pack I'm thinking of getting right now is the Granite Gear Crown. It's a 60 litre pack that weighs about 960 grams, significantly less than my Maxpedition Falcon II 24 litre pack. And the Falcon doesn't even have a proper hip belt.The Sleeping BagDo sleeping bags even make sense?
Consider using a quilt instead. Quilts are built similarly to a sleeping bag, but have no bottom. Instead, they just attach directly to your mattress. Since down or synthetic insulation works only when it's lofted up, and since insulation that your full body weight is pressing on can't loft up much... well you're carrying useless insulation.
Not sure if quilts are the best idea for very cold climates, but most people can probably save weight here. I haven't moved to a quilt yet, and probably won't until I destroy my current down sleeping bag, because I spent a fortune on it and it's not about to collect dust
Once again, had I known about the quilts before I purchased a sleeping bag, I could have saved both money and weight.Down beats synthetic insulation every time
My first sleeping bag was a 1 season bag made of crappy synthetic insulation. I bought it because it cost very little. I slept so cold in it, and the ratings were such a lie, that I couldn't even use it during the summer. My current down bag weighs just as much, but is good down to -9c. It also takes up less space.
Not all of us have the money for a good down sleeping bag. It took me over a year of saving up to get the money for it (I was a student at the time), but wasting your money on anything else you'll just end up regretting... probably. The compressible nature of down also allows for smaller backpacks, which, again, saves weight.
It's true that if it gets wet, down is useless, but if you store your sleeping bag or quilt in a drybag, and use a waterproof or water-resistant bivy on a groundsheet and underneath a tarp-tent, then you should be fine.You don't need a liner
Instead get some wool baselayers. They'll weigh about as much (for a given increase in warmth), but can also be used when you're up and about.The Shelter
Tents aren't actually necessary most of the time. My first tent was a Hilleberg Akto. This is probably the most durable and metaphorically bomb-proof solo shelter in existence, but it weighs 1.9kg (with the groundsheet). It is a 4 season mountaineering tent that can withstand gusts of wind up to 80 mph (it's on youtube).
But is that really necessary in a bug out? Are people really going to bug out high into the mountains, or can we just spend a little more time looking for a place out of the wind?
At the moment, I'm carrying the outer fly of a Shangri-La tent, which with stakes and stuff sacks weighs about 560g, or almost a quarter of my previous tent. In addition, I'm about to get a groundsheet that weighs 69g, and a bug bivy that weighs another 200g. The Shangri-La saves weight, amongst other things, by using my trekking poles; and since it can be suspended from trees, it's basically as good as a tarp for cooking under in rain, etc. And hey, this isn't even considered ultralight.
Gossamer make a similar single wall tent that weighs half of the Shangri-La. They use Spinnaker fabric to make something called the SpinnShelter
Another thing you should consider is that in a bug out you might end up using some kind of a shelter semi-protected from the environment, like the ones along the Appalachian Trail. In that case, you'd only need the bug bivy for full protection from insects, so carrying a heavy tent that might not be used every time doesn't make much sense to me; and relying exclusively on a tent that needs to be staked out (not free standing) hampers your versatility.
I've not personally tried using hammocks, but there are many proponents of them. However, I don't see hammock camping to be a big thing for ultralight people, because whenever you're in a hammock you need to insulate the bottom of your body a lot more, which adds weight. From what I can tell, insulated hammocks are heavier than a similarly warm setup with a tarp and bivy.
Obviously in very cold climates, some kind of a tipi-stove combo might be necessary and going ultralight might not be possible there.The Kitchen
Your cook kit probably has a gas stove with canisters, or an alcohol stove with fuel. Maybe you use esbit cubes.
I've saved on carrying fuel with me by going with a wood stove. There are few inhabited places on earth with no wood. Even urban areas have sticks or branches that can be broken off. Hell, you could even destroy wooden furniture if you want. Here's my cook kit
. It's not really ultralight though - I could easily shave off more ounces by replacing the pot lid, and getting rid of some of the cutlery.
You could, in addition and in case of really wet weather, carry a tiny esbit stove with a few cubes. That will set you back about 2 ounces, as insurance.Hydration
I see almost everyone using nalgenes or various metalic canteens. Even an aluminium Sigg with a volume of 0.6L weighs over 100g. Nalgenes weigh over 120g. A soft, collapsible water bottle by Platypus with a 2 litre capacity weighs a mere 35g, and from using mine for a while, they're no less durable.Filtration & PurificationLiquid drops or tablets for purification
These are usually made of either chlorine or iodine. Iodine has negative health effects when used for more than a few weeks, and either method runs out fairly quickly. While many ultralight backpackers take just these, I don't suggest this. These are great as backups, especially in case you can't or don't want to (for tactical reasons) make a fire but still need to make water potable. ALso a good backup if your main water filter, which I suggest having, breaks.
100 of these
tablets are good for 100 litres, and only weigh 10 grams. They're also good for long-term water storage, and have a use-by date 4 or more years from when you buy them.Ultraviolet rays
i.e. the Steripen.
Great concept, but not a big fan because:
1. While they appear lightweight at first, one must either lug around lots of batteries, or a solar charger, and then you're looking at the same weight as a conventional 0.2 micron filter. This still kills viruses, which filters generally do not filter out, but if you suspect viral contamination, just use tablets or boil after filtering out particulates, bacteria, and protozoa.
2. It's an electronic item, meaning it is more likely to break for no good reason.
3. Won't work in an EMP.
4. Doesn't filter out particulates, and particulates will also prevent the UV rays from fully purifying the water, so you still need to prefilter with something or let water sit for a while so that the sediment is all at the bottom.
Steripen recently came out with a hand-crank version that doesn't use battery power. That might be worth looking in to!Pump filters
These are great, but sometimes heavy. Make sure you pay attention to the filter pore size in the (usually) ceramic filter. 0.2 microns is considered safe up to bacteria level. Viruses are smaller.
From my research into this a while ago, the filter pore size manufacturers give is based on average
hole size. Meaning that some holes will be bigger. This is why they always say 99.99% effective, and never 100%. If you're going to spend a lot of money on a filter, and they can get very expensive, ask them in an email what the absolute
rating is, i.e. the biggest guaranteed pore size.
Pump filters also have moving parts, which could break. Some pump filters
are designed to be field repairable. Not very ultralight though.
What I've currently settled on is theGravity filter
These save weight by not having a pump mechanism, and provided you do your research and buy a reliable one, it should be easy to backflush and clean to make sure the water flow doesn't stop. The reservoir these come with can also be used for hauling more water.
1. Some makes and models get stuck quite quickly and can't always be backflushed well.
2. Still not really ultralight.
3. Unlike pump filters, they don't have a long tube that can plunged into difficult-to-access water.
4. As with pump filters, cannot be frozen. That means in sub-zero temperatures you have to keep it on your person while hiking (e.g. in a jacket pocket), and keep it in your sleeping bag at night.
Make sure to use a prefilter (most have one built in) to preserve the life of your filter cartridge, same as with any filter really. Filter pore size argument above also applies here. I use this
. Be careful, that filter actually weighs 14 ounces, not 10 as advertised.Straw filters
Definitely ultralight. With some thought these can also be converted into makeshift gravity filters. I believe the Aquamira frontier pro also has some charcoal. The disadvantage is that it won't last as long.Boiling
Requires no extra weight providing you have a cookset with you. Obviously advantageous if you use a wood stove, since you're not restricted by lack of fuel. Problem is you're not getting rid of any of the particulates, which can be pretty nasty.
Boiling (especially with wood) is also going to:
1. Create some smoke, which you may which to avoid doing if you're trying to evade someone.
2. Be harder to do when everything is wet after prolonged rain.Activated charcoal
So far we've only talked about filtration and purification of living micro-organisms. Well, particulates (stuff floating in the water) will be filtered out too, but chemicals and heavy metals won't be. Depending on your prep scenario, you might have water sources contaminated with a chemical spill from a nearby factory. Activated charcoal does a good job of getting rid of some of the chemicals that are otherwise dissolved in the water, but the best way to do this is...Distillation
Not always easy to do in the field! I haven't tried yet, but I think it's entirely possible. One can either use the sun (and a couple of connected water containers, there's a thread
on here somewhere that has pictures), or you could boil water and collect the steam (another reason why having renewable fuel is a good idea).
Be careful, this is also not foolproof, because certain chemicals have a lower boiling point than water
. (Don't ask me which ones.)Boots
My main boots are made of full-grain leather and are Goretex lined. They also weigh a ton.
There's a saying that a pound on your feet is equal to roughly five on your back. Now, why did I go with such heavy boots in the first place? Because my backpack was heavy, and I figured that my ankles needed protection from the heavy load. The padding in heavier boots is also more suited to a heavy backpack.
But by going for lighter gear, and aiming for a total gear weight (with food and water) of under 30 lbs, or a maximum of 35 lbs, are such heavy boots really necessary? My current gear weight with three days food is 29.8 lbs. That's with a bunch of stuff that only a prepper would carry (like a flu mask, heavy leather gloves, huge trauma kit, year-round clothing, big knife, etc.). I predict that if a backpacker looked at my gear and customized it for a three day hike, they could save 9 pounds on gear alone.
And I haven't even implemented all of the weight-saving suggestions yet. So if you can reduce your gear weight, you can go for lighter boots too, perhaps with less ankle protection, but that are going to let you cover a lot more ground in far less time.Stuff sack weight adds up
While stuff sacks and dry bags may seem light individually, overall they add up quite a bit. By consolidating gear into bigger stuff sacks, going with lighter materials, or just organizing things better (e.g. rather than individual drybags for various things, why not have lighter stuff sacks and one big bag liner?) you can save some more weight.
I'm going to keep updating this thread as I remember or read more stuff. If anyone wants to add other tips I can update the list with them.
I hope I've helped someone out there!
(Oh, and if I've been stupidly wrong on something, please point it out. Quite a bit of the advice I'm giving is based on stuff I've read, and not always stuff I've had the opportunity to test out yet.)
edit: added a water section.