The Gear Diet

It’s All About Weight

As hikers, we think a lot about our pack weight. We’ve met only one hiker who said he prefers having comfort than to worry about weight. To me, it’s a challenge I enjoy to work at how much weight I can reduce.

Two years ago when we started my base weight was around 12 pounds. Now it’s 10.5. Lynn’s base weight started at around 16, and now it’s about 14 pounds. I know it doesn’t sound like much but every pound, especially hiking up those mountains, makes a difference. When I can get my pack under 20 pounds with food and water, it feels light.

So here’s what we’ve got figured out so far:

We have a list of luxuries that weigh up to 16.5 ounces, depending on the route and what we decide to bring.


We just started bringing the cards. I brought a book at first but that was a joke. You really don’t have much time to read on the trail. The pen is extra. Lynn feels more comfortable having pepper spray. The bag is heavy plastic but it helps to keep our cups and sporks clean. A regular Ziploc keeps breaking. The black camisole and leggings I like to sleep in. It’s amazing this thin article can keep me warm. Other items include our blog cards, a nail file, because I can’t stand split nails. It’s just my thing. We give the glow sticks to people on the trial along the way.

Some of the stuff we might bring depends on the length of the trip and the weather. This includes ponchos, long johns, bug spray, gloves for cold or rainy weather. The rest of the items depends on the length of the trip – amount of toilet paper carried, for instance, and extra socks, shirts, the solar charger and carabiners to attach it to Lynn’s pack. If it’s a shorter trip, like less than three days, we don’t bother with the stove and just plan cold meals. Same thing for the Icy Hot, or tiger balm. If we think we might hike at night, we’ll bring the head lamps. I have knee braces if I know I’m doing big ass hills. Sometimes I have to admit I’m aging.


What we no longer bring weighed 7.5 pounds. We have learned that to save weight, you need to try and double purpose as much as possible. For instance, as a nurse I was mindful to bring a first aid kit complete with band aids, steri-strips (like paper stitches), gauze, ace wrap. Now I just bring duct tape. I can make steri-strips or a bandaid with a bit of toilet paper and duct tape. Duct tape can also fix just about anything. Instead of a trowel for a cat hole, we use a stick, the heel of our boots, or our poles. My over-sized bandana I use as a pillow cover. I stuff all my clothes I’m not wearing in the center and just tie the ends up. I use it as a scarf for cold days. I use the tent sack as an extra pillow between my knees. We use our emergency blanket as a foot print for the tent saving at least half a pound there. The toe warmers and coolie neckties are a joke. Seriously, don’t waste your money. I have a nano now instead of the old iPod. Some may consider music a luxury but I find it tremendously helpful in getting up those hills. The flashlight was heavy too, so now we have this cool little lantern/flashlight we recently got thanks to Skirt in the Dirt, Katie! It gives us a lot more light in the tent at night. I leave my pole tips at home now. Lotion is not needed either.

I think I’m about as light as I can get without changing the gear, which we will do when it’s time to replace. Our sleep pads are as light as it can get. But we can improve on the tent, sleeping bags and my pack.

Our next challenge is food. It is so frustrating to carry food we don’t eat. I was packing breakfast, lunch, dinner, and lots of snacks, way more than I usually eat. We find ourselves not very hungry when we are out. Some meals we really force ourselves to eat. We stopped cooking breakfast so that saved some weight. This last trip we prepared meals ahead of time that just needed hot water to soak in a cozy. We also found that cooking hot meals for lunch was more enjoyable than cooking at night in the cold and dark. We over-packed some meals though, and we ended up throwing away cooked foods. We have some learning to do!

Other Stuff

On our trip from San Jacinto to Ziggy & the Bear’s, we had cold foods packed for eating at night. We barely touched much of it. The 6-oz package of salmon, the mini bagels, PB & J, and more we all left over at the end of our hike. All total, we brought home six-pounds of food!!! ARGGGGG!

Next I need to work on Lynn. Terrie Anderson told us she can always tell a hiker’s worse fear by looking for what he has too much of. Lynn must fear being dehydrated because he almost always carries too much water.

We are currently planning and preparing for our longest hike yet, a 9-day, 110-mile route in the shadows of the Southern Sierra’s. So excited to be getting back out there on the trail.




8 thoughts on “The Gear Diet

    • Hi, Therese. We do have to find a way to get together. We continue to talk about your idea for the Boundary Waters but we haven’t moved forward. Whatever we do, it would be fun. Best to you and Randy.


    • Hello, Elena. Thanks. Just getting back from our hike mentioned above. Despite getting our base weights down as we did, I ended up starting with 45 and Patti with about 30 pounds in our packs when we started. It’s a real challenge to hone down. We seem to want to error on the side of caution, but then do that two-times more just to be sure. We need to trust our instincts and relent on our fears.


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