Going Ultralight, Well, Trying At Least

Earlier this week I attended an Ultralight Backpacking seminar at REI. REI is not known for their UL gear, so I was interested in what I was going to learn. Would they be showing some new gear, or just talking ideas? It turned out to be kinda both. There was some gear that they sold, that does fall in the UL category, but mostly it was about using gear you have, or finding ways to shave weight.

Ever since I’ve been home from my bikepacking adventure I’ve been thinking about ways to go lighter. Having said that, I thought that I was already pretty light. I mean, I knew I could go a little lighter, but boy was I wrong. I have so far to go, or to lose, depending on how you look at it.

The hardest thing to get used to is that in most of the weight that you carry, is comfort. Comfort comes in different forms. It can be a thick or full length sleeping pad. It can be in the form of walls, like a tent. Or it can be the amount of clothes you carry to stay warm or dry.

I’ve started weighing all of my gear and entering it into a spreadsheet. This is the easiest way to see not only what a specific piece of gear weighs, but also how that piece of gear affects your total weight. It may only be a few grams, but a few grams over multiple pieces of gear can easily, and quickly, add up to a pound.

Today, while cleaning out a closet, I found sunshade for my truck. I haven’t used this in who knows how long. However, at the REI seminar the two speakers each used a sunshade for their sleeping pad. I use the term sleeping pad loosely here as they aren’t that thick. In the seminar they talked about using “found” items for UL gear. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and you may be able to make some of it yourself. So I did just that.

I laid out my Thermarest Pro Lite pad and traced the taper of the pad. Then I cut the length of the sunshade down to make it a 3/4 length. In no time at all I had an UL pad, that can also be quickly used as a sitting pad while on the trail or a pad inside my backpack.

Most importantly I saved some weight! My Thermarest weighs in at 16oz, or 1 Pound. My new UL sleeping pad weighs in at only 5oz! That’s a saving of over 1/2 a pound. Of course the real test will be using it on the trail. In saving 11oz I gave up a lot of comfort. However, maybe it’s enough to get some sleep and then get up and back on the trail. Either way it will be fun to trail test it and see how it works!

  • nice. working on this a bit this coming weekend. bike trip / shakedown next week, and i’m not sure what i’m taking yet.

    any chance you’ll do a TD gear wrap up?
    curious what you’d change, and how that dyno light worked out. love mine for rando, would like it for bikepacking – but curious what someone with field experience would say.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, thanks for the reminder. I should do a gear wrap up. The thing is that it’s always evolving. Maybe a post about what specific items I’d change would be better.

      As for the dyno, it was great! I would do it again for sure. I love mine for rando rides too, and TD is really just a bunch of 200k or more brevets strung together. Without it, you could build a lighter front wheel of course, but that would be offset by whatever light/battery/charger system you went with. So many variables I don’t know how you’d compare it.

      • thanks, yeah, love the eDeluxe and SON for rando events. actually had a disc hub that was ordered and built into a wheel for me by mistake. traded it for a regular hub when they replaced the dyno under warranty. wish i would have kept it. that will likely be a pricey TD expense next year. figure i’ll go supernova light for that.

        • Anonymous

          Why was your hub warrantied?

          • something about older seals… original shop i had build it up ordered the disc version. i needed it, so had them build up my rando wheels with it. 2 years on it started crunching, so peter white offered to replace the core, or replace the whole hub, but he didn’t have a disc version in house. so… in a lapse of foresight i had him replace the hub, that disc offset always bothered me on my road rig.

            anyway, new one has been working great. 24h fleche with 12h of rain, constant abuse, etc.

          • Anonymous

            Yep, I’ve ridden through lots of rain with mine and I’ve never had a problem. I wouldn’t hesitate to take one on the TD. I’m a believer.

  • Very clever, I’ll be curious to hear how this works. Personally, I have trouble sleeping even on my inflatable Big Agnes pad, so I’m not sure if this would work for me, but it’s certainly better than nothing.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, we will see. I can sleep on my back most of the time so it may be ok. I can see that sleeping on your side, where your weight is concentrated on only a couple spots, may be an issue.

  • i’ve decided it will be hammock for me this weekend. simply need to find a nice spot within the wild forest and tuck into the woods. or even hang at a designated campsite. will likely be gossamer gear 1/4″ foam pad + big agnes bag (might be too warm) + hennessy hammock. test pack this week.

    i’ve tried the stuff you get from builder’s supply. no thanks.
    i do want to make a tyvek tarp / bivy.

    • Anonymous

      What’s the stuff from the builders supply? Tyvek?

      • the foil backed bubble wrap. not comfortable, probably similar to your windscreen.

        how do you pack that on the bike? seems awkward, at best.

        • Anonymous

          The pad can be folded in half and fits in between the drops. Or I can put it in my backpack and use it as a back pad.

          I’ve never seen that foil backed bubble wrap. I use aluminum flashing for my windscreen.