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!