reducing pack weight

Lighten Your Load / Tiny jars are not just cute.

I've been looking for tiny little jars to replace my already small travel size containers because what's considered "small" in a carry-on rolling suitcase is actually quite large, heavy, and bulky when it's on your back for 50 miles. Plus, you usually don't need a whole 3oz of sunblock. It's simply too much, unless you plan on wearing a 1" thick layer on your face. 

To my absolute delight, I recently came across a few options I'm excited to try. There's one in particular I want to highlight today, simply because of how brilliant I'm feeling about the find. (Haha) Seriously. I feel like a total geek bad-ass. (We'll see how it works out on the trail, but for now, I'm very pleased!)

Tiny "sample" jar
Leak-proof (see pic below)
Weighs 0.1oz
Holds 0.23 fl oz
Perfect for: lotion, sunscreen, toothpaste/powder, etc

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What essential item would you use this container for in the wilderness?

Lighten Your Load / Have you considered a kid's toothbrush?

Have you heard those stories of OCD people cutting off the handle of their toothbrush to shave some weight? Those crazy cats!

Well, I'm one of them.

Except not anymore, not really.

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I use Preserve toothbrushes on the daily, so one time, I chopped off the handle and took my severed toothbrush backpacking. I wasn't impressed. It was too short and awkward to hold so I ended up dribbling down my mouth and hand. It became a mess. (Maybe it was the operator and not the tool.) Regardless, the Preserve Jr. toothbrush is a great alternative to sawing your toothbrush in half. It works fantastically well and it's 0.3oz LESS THAN the adult size one. WooHoo! EVERY OUNCE COUNTS SISTA!

What do you use? 

Lighten Your Load / Water Bottle Consideration

People use all sorts of water contraptions to carry water. I've always carried 3-liter (3L) Camelbak in the past, but it weighs 7.3oz! That's a lot of additional weight! It's also something that I find quite cumbersome to take in and out of my pack. It's so annoying that I often just say, "Ehh...it's okay, I don't need more water." That's Lazy Liz talking. No, it's not okay to be short on water or not drink enough because it's a hassle to fill. Sounds like it's time for a new solution, right?

Well my first water bottle consideration is a plastic 1L bottle. It's drawbacks include being less durable, but it's only 1.3oz. I'd carry two of these, which would make it 2.6oz. This still gets me a 4.7oz drop in pack weight. I'll even cut off the little plastic pieces since they're unnecessary and "every ounce counts" (not because I'm anal or anything). 

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Okay, the plastic ring thing doesn't weigh anything. (But everything always weight something, right?!) Well I weighed two of those plastic rings and it considered being 0.1oz for a split second before settling on 0oz. Good to know.

Stay tuned for a little trick on how to keep the cap attached to your bottle. It would suck to lose such an important aspect of your water bottle.

What do you use as your water bottle?

Lighten Your Load / Classic BIC vs. Mini BIC

My packing mantra is: Every ounce counts.

When you're packing for a trip, it's important to scrutinize every single item you're thinking about taking. Know exactly why you're taking it and make it worth the weight (i.e. is it multi-purpose?). We'll cover this topic more as the #100daysofwilderness project progresses.

For now, here's a simple way to reduce some weight and space with one kind of fire source: lighters.

Classic Bic lighter vs. Mini Bic lighter
WEIGHT COMPARISON

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Classic Bic lighter vs. Mini Bic lighter
SIZE COMPARISON

Bonus Tip: Choose bright colors so it's easy to find when you put it down. Forget camo. You want your lighter to be found. 

Question: How heavy should my backpack be?

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Here's an unsatisfying answer: It's different for everyone.

There are a lot of recommendations out there for what weight your backpack should be. And if you've spent any time researching online, you might feel like you're still not sure how all that info translates to you specifically. Honestly, I don't know what's optimal for you either, but I do believe you're smart & savvy enough to figure it out.

But first, let me offer an alternative to reframe the question. Instead of asking how heavy your backpack should be, what if you asked: What pack weight will make my experience easier and more enjoyable?

Here are a few simple tests that might help provide some information to answer that question.

  1. Load & Test (Low metric accuracy, but highly experiential)
    Load up your pack with everything on your checklist (including food + water) and take it on a local hike. If you don't have time or access to do that, find some stairs and walk up and down 10+ flights of stairs and then around the block a few times. Notice how your pack feels on your hips and shoulders. Pay attention to how tiring or not it is to move around. This test will get you the closest to mimicking life on the trail. It'll be telling. 
     
  2. Jump on the scale (Medium metric accuracy, non-experiential)
    Jump on a scale without your pack and note your weight, then jump on a scale with your fully loaded pack. Find out how much your pack weighs. If you gasp at your sudden weight gain, go through your pack and examine every single item and its purpose. Remove everything that's extraneous. 
     
  3. Calculate (High metric accuracy, non-experiential)
    Load your pack and weigh it using test #2, or if you want to be more accurate, weigh each item by ounce and calculate the total. (That's what I do.) Then calculate what percentage of your body weight you'll be carrying. For example, my pack weight is about 19.4% (26 lbs) of my body weight (134 lbs), and I find that weight to be very reasonable to carry. 

    Let's look at someone who weights 140 lbs for reference:
    10% of body weight   =   14 lbs (Bowling ball)
    15%   =   21 lbs (A average sized car tire)
    20%  =   28 lbs (Microwave)
    25%  =   35 lbs (Six gallons of water)
    30%  =   42 lbs (5-gallon jug of water for a water cooler)
    35%  =   49 lbs (Large bag of dog food)
    40%  =   56 lbs (Large bag of dog food + 5lb bag of sugar)
    50%  =   70 lbs (A labrador)

      
  4. Imagine yourself... (Low metric accuracy, non-experiential, but FUN!)
    I just made this one up and it cracks me up, but I think it's worth trying. Imagine you have an annoying blister on your ankle, your hips are feeling tight, the sun is beating down on you, you haven't been able to poo in two days, and you turn a corner only to see what seems to be a thousand switchbacks. "OMG, please God no!" With your current pack weight, would you be able to prance up the mountain or would you have to slowly trudge along in this scenario? 

It took me over two years, multiple trips, and some honest(ly embarrassing) feedback to figure out how to get my total pack weight down to 26 lbs. There was a ton of trial and error in this process. 

I encourage you to think of every backpacking experience as an opportunity to learn. Take note of what works and what doesn't on every trip, and implement those lessons learned the next time around. The lighter your pack, the easier and more enjoyable your experience. Remember, every ounce counts