pack weight

Lighten Your Load / Repackaging your products

It's all those little things, those micro moments, micro seconds, micro bottles, that really matter in life. ;-P That's why you should repackage what you can.

Case in point
On the left, I have a bottle of REI's travel sized sunblock. I bought this years ago and have refilled it for my backpacking trips. It weighs 2.2 oz (for a bottle half full) and even that amount is plenty to last me a few trips. Way to go Liz! 

But wait, what's that on the right weighing only 0.6oz?
It's sunblock, repackaged into a tiny container with just what I need plus extra. In fact, it was more than I needed! The awesome thing about repackaging the sunblock was that it's more likely to fit inside the waist belt pocket of your pack (assuming you have one), which means you're more likely to apply it at the frequency you need.

Let's look at another example. 
I reused an old micro bottle of hand sanitizer and squirted some castille soap in there to use as toothpaste and anything else I'd need soap for (there isn't much). As small as this bottle is, it was overkill for the amount I needed. I only use 1-2 drops of soap as my toothpaste to avoid over-sudsing. Next time I'll use an even tinier dropper. Can't wait.

Next time you get a tiny bottle, consider saving it and reusing it to repackage for the trail. Doing this will give you such an appreciation for how little we need, and of course, a lighter pack. 

Lighten Your Load / Trash compactor bag vs. Rain cover

First, apologies for my long pause of #100daysofwilderness. I went on a trip to the Bay Area and then spent the last week processing a decision not to go on a reality TV show. It was kind of emotional! Excuses excuses...really I just lost motivation this past week, but I'm back now! 

Okay, so I'm all about shaving ounces and tenths of ounces off my pack weight, so let me share why I'm a 99% trash compactor bag lady convert (that doesn't roll off the tongue very easily). This information is great for beginners so you don't waste money on a rain cover when you can use a trash bag!

Below is my REI rain cover (4.2oz) versus my trash compactor bag (2.3oz). That's a 1.9oz difference!

First, definitions.
Rain cover - A cover that goes over your backpack to protect it and the contents inside, from rain (or other moist elements).
Trash compactor bag (TCB)- A plastic bag that tends to be thicker and more durable than a traditional trash bag, hence less chances of leaks/rips/tears.

If you dig around on ultralight/lightweight sites, you'll notice many people recommending trash compactor bags instead of buying a rain cover. Have you noticed that yet? Well, when I first saw that suggestion, I was like..."Eh, I don't want to get the outside of my pack to get wet....everything's going to be messy in my pack....I don't believe in wasting plastic bags....etc." Really, what I thought was that it just looked cooler and more official to have a logo-ed rain cover. I admit, it was a bit naive of me to think but hey, it was what it was!

Why I'm 99% converted
Trash compactor bags are awesome because of the durability, weight, and effectiveness. It's compact and slides in nicely into your pack and does it's job. After you insert it, just roll it up on top and everything inside it will stay dry, granted you don't open it wide open in the rain. There are things about a rain cover that I'll miss, like the fact that it covers my entire pack, not just the core of it, or how I can access the bottom of my pack with the zipper. (But why would I need to access my sleeping bag during a rainy hike anyway?)

Why I'm hesitating that 1%
With the way my pack is designed, the TCB only protects the stuff in the main compartment of my pack. What about the contents of my brain (that's the top large pocket that usually flaps over, not my literal brain)? You can mitigate that issue by carrying an ultralight umbrella, keeping brain contents inside a large freezer ziploc bag, or getting a backpack that only has a one main compartment. 

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Would you try this? Why or why not? 

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 / Why I always carry duct tape

There are thousands of ways to use duct tape, aren't there? Plenty of those include using it in the wilderness. For example, if you get a tear in your clothing, duct tape it! If a small critter eats through your tent because you accidentally left food in there, duct tape it (and don't do that again)! If your buddy breaks an arm and you're improvising a split, duct tape it! If you need to bandage someone up, but don't have medical tape, duct tape it! You get my point. Duct tape it!

I used to carry just a tiny bit of duct tape around my sharpie pen, but after taking my Wilderness-EMT course, I feel way more aware of the dangers of getting injured while out in the backcountry. Having a sufficient amount of duct tape feels more pertinent now, in case of an emergency. Don't get me wrong, duct tape probably won't save anyone's life in it of itself, but if it's going to aid me in trying my best to help someone, I'll take it. (In fact, I'll share more about my evolving attitude toward first aid kids in a later post.)

With that said, I'm still interested in minimizing weight and packing efficiently. So here's a tiny tip on duct tape: Buy a small roll, take out the inside cardboard roll and squish it. It saves me 0.2oz, flattens down nicely, and it's a good supply.

I learned this trick from my friend Trenton, who taught my WEMT class some awesome gear-related tips. I'll share more as the days go, but for now here's Trenton-tip #1.

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Do you carry duct tape? What have you used it for in the backcountry?

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?