OK, I’m going to get all geeky on y’all this morning. I taught myself some rudimentary spreadsheeting and drew up a list of what I might take on an ultralight campout. None of this has actually been tried because I’m a complete rookie at this stuff, but the gear is there and should work provided the temperature remains above, say, 35 degrees. For now I want to go with what I already own without having to buy more gear (which goes against all that I hold holy, of course).

Here’s a list covering shelter, sleep system and cooking suppllies.

Gear weight (oz)
Black Diamond Winter Bivy 9
REI Quarter Dome footprint (ground cloth) 9
Integral Designs 5×8 silnylon tarp 7
12 titanium stakes, 50 ft. of guy line 4
Marmot Pounder Plus sleeping bag 36
Thermarest Prolite 3 sleeping pad 20
Gregory G Pack 48
MSR Pocket Rocket stove 3
8 ounce fuel canister 13
Titanium spork 0.6
MSR Titan Kettle 4.2
Petzl Zipka light 2.3
First aid kit 3.5
Canon A510 camera 9
Katadyn water filter 12
REI 1 liter bottle 4.5
Total: 11.58 pounds 185.1

I feel like I’ve got the basic-survival test — avoiding hypothermia — covered so long as the temperature stays above freezing. My Marmot sleeping bag is rated at 25 degrees and has synthetic fill that’ll insulate if it’s wet. It also has a water-resistant outer fabric. The Black Diamond bivy is certainly not 100 percent storm-proof but it’s pretty close. The tarp is something to stow gear under and keep the rain out of my face — coupled with a bivy it’ll be fine but I’m dubious of using it alone if there’s any chance of rain in the forecast.

I met a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker last summer who told me he was carrying 15 pounds of gear, not counting food and water, which sounds like a nice goal for a rookie to shoot for. So I’ve got another 3 pounds for clothing, rain gear, camp tools, toiletries, maps and other assorted doo-dads.

I know all the “extras” could go over 3 pounds with no more effort than falling off a log, so where could I shave weight without giving my Mastercard a workout?

  • Substitute a couple Hefty garbage bags for the tent footprint.
  • Make a soda-can stove and carry only enough fuel for the length of my trip (an eight-ounce canister has about an hour’s worth of fuel, enough for a five-day solo trip).
  • Sleep on the cheap, lightweight closed-cell pad I took snow-camping.
  • Use a chemical water treatment instead of a filter.

There are really only two points I’d prefer not to compromise on: the water filter and the sleeping pad. I like the taste of filtered water, and I sleep rough enough on my Thermarest. The other options are worth looking into, though I’d probably take my tent footprint along out of a stubborn sense of wanting to get some use of the money I invested it.

Now all I need is some weather worth camping in. As that song in “The Crow” went, it can’t rain all the time.

(More weight cutting tips at simplehiker.com)