Friday, June 3, 2011

Overview: Minimalist Backpacking Load-Out Refined

Overview: Minimalist backpacking load-out refined

Earlier back in February I posted about a minimalist backpack load-out that I planned on fielding in the warmer weather. Well, here we are in May and I’m happy to say that I did just that. Prior to fielding this load-out I assessed its contents on necessity and trip circumstances; I was surprised what I ended up with.

Allow me to elaborate on my thoughts while packing. I had a 6 mile in 6 mile out route planned with moderate terrain mapped out so the terrain and distance wouldn’t be an issue. I did this purposely because I was taking out a friend who had never backpacked before and another who had this trip as his second time backpacking. The fact that I was taking out inexperienced people who may have possible problems with comfort, be it on the trail or at camp, convinced me to pack light. The logic behind this was that if they needed me to take weight from their pack and put it into mine it was possible and if they were uncomfortable with their shelter conditions they could look over to me in my “minimalist” shelter and say, “Well, that nut-job has it worse then me, so I can suck it up.”

So there I was, standing over this strange load-out that I breathed life into. I was half impressed and half shocked.

I began with my father’s military issue web gear. It looked very trail-commando, but it was just what I was looking for. For those unfamiliar, web gear is a term used to address the Load Bearing Equipment (LBE) that the military uses to supply service members with a system that can hold ammunition, rations, and basic supplies on their person and readily available.

On the LBE I had:

  • A canteen pouch holding my canteen cup, canteen, and some chlorine dioxide tablets for secondary water purification.

  • A canvas pouch designed to hold M16 magazines. I used this to hold my wallet, cell phone, and car keys.

  • A butt pack that contained a first aid kit, change of socks, water filtration pump, and my General Preparedness Kit. Underneath the butt pack I had a poncho for raingear/poncho shelter with two 50ft lengths of paracord. On the side I had lashed my Becker-Ka-Bar BK11.

  • My food was stored in a stuff sack that was then lashed to the top of the butt pack.

  • A small pouch with my camera on the left shoulder strap

Altogether the whole system weighed 14 pounds. That is a huge difference in comparison to my original minimalist backpacking load-out that weight 23 pounds without food.
Items cut from original load-out:

  • Medium ALICE pack

  • One 1-quart canteen

  • 100ft rope and stakes

  • Trowel and toilet paper

  • Change of clothes

  • Sleeping clothes

  • Wool blanket

 The LBE makes this very comfortable, so comfortable that you barely feel any weight at all. When you begin to get tired the LBE load-out has one small problem: since the butt pack has the most weight and your muscles are sore, you feel as if someone is gently pulling down on the back of the LBE belt. As I stated, this is a very small problem that is easily ignorable.

Close up on the main part of the system: the butt pack.

The benefits of the LBE load-out far outweigh the drawbacks. Not only is it lighter than a framed backpack, but it provides a greater and more comfortable range of motion as well. Hiking with the LBE was much easier on my shoulders, back, knees, and ankles than hiking with a framed pack and I had everything I needed right within arms reach, opposed to having to stop and dig into my pack. When taking breaks I actually chose to keep the LBE on. I did this not because it was more comfortable, but simply because it felt as if you’re weren’t wearing anything at all once you sat.

As a “minimalist” shelter I used my rain poncho and paracord to construct a lean-to. I did this by tying a line between two trees that passed through the top grommet holes in the poncho and staked the bottom two grommet holes out with sapling branches. Possible thunder storms were forecasted but did not come so I cannot report on how it would have performed in rain. It did fine in moderate wind once I anchored down the middle of the bottom portion between the stakes.

Tempur-Pedic my butt, this is real comfort.

To keep me insulated from the ground I used a bed of dry leaves which worked quite well. Being that it was warmer I decided that I would sleep in a fleece and leave the sleep system’s home. As luck would have it, I forgot my fleece at home and I spent the night with sporadic shivers and turning to press each part of my body into the warm leaves. I fell asleep around 11:00pm and woke back up at 12:40am. From 12:40am to a little after 3:00am I sat up, watched the leaves blow in the trees, and enjoyed the peace. After falling asleep a little after 3:00am I woke back up at 4:00am and dozed in and out of consciousness as I watched the overcast sky grow into a shade of dark blue and listened to the faint chirping of birds that seemed to get closer and closer. Eventually I got up, got a nice fire going, and watched the fog lift off the mountains in the distance. Lack of sleep aside, it wasn’t a bad night.

1 comment:

  1. Forgetting your fleece, Thats what you get for not bringing me...