Here’s my first attempt at assembling an ultralight pack. I’ll give you some insights into what kind of gear I chose and why I chose it.
During the last couple of weeks, I spent quite some time (and money!) putting together my first “complete” ultralight pack, i. e. including shelter, sleeping system, stove and so on for two weeks of trekking in the Scottish highlands. In my previous post, I mentioned I was still struggling to decide between various alternatives. I’ll go through each of the main items / major changes to my pack and give you some details on them.
Before: Deuter 18l, Northland 20l, Deuter 65l
Now: Osprey Exos 38l*
Alternative: frameless pack
- I needed a pack with a size in between those of the backpacks I had, that much was obvious. I didn’t want to risk not being able to bring enough food and water when using the 20l pack. And 65l is definitely far too much for an ultralight approach.
- I decided to still have a frame in my backpack for now. My 20l pack is frameless and I always hated how it sat on my back. Plus, as I opted for inflatable instead of foam mattress (more on that below), I wouldn’t be able to “imitate” a frame with a folded mat either.
- The Osprey Exos specifically I chose because a) it’s rather light for a backpack with a frame, b) it can easily be modified to become even lighter, e. g. the top lid and various straps can be removed, and c) it was available at a nearby store so I could try it on – I hate buying stuff that “needs to fit” more or less unseen online.
Before: some heavy and cheap 2-person tent
Now: Tarptent Notch
Alternative: tarp (plus groundsheet / bivvy and some kind of bug net)
- Taking my super-heavy 2-person tent – which wouldn’t even have fitted into my 38l backpack – was not an option. It had served its purpose on canoe trips or short excursions to the coast, but it’s definitely not made for hiking.
- I did look into tarps as they are indisputably the most light-weight option available. But having not much experience with camping so far, I really didn’t feel comfortable with this system. I can pitch a standard tent, but with the endless pitching options of a tarp, I quickly felt overwhelmed. I just don’t feel up to the task of finding a perfect campsite and pitching a complicated system, possibly in dark, wet and cold conditions.
- Another argument against the tarp for me was the fact that I don’t feel up to sleeping as exposed to the elements just yet. I know there are ways to pitch a tarp that protect you well enough. But I didn’t want to realize I can’t make it work in the middle of a thunderstorm.
- So I finally decided on the (admittedly very expensive) Tarptent Notch. It’s still light-weight, but it feels more like an actual tent. I can pitch it with my trekking poles instead of separate tent poles, and most importantly: It has a fine bug net that will (hopefully) protect me from the notorious Scottish midges.
Before: self-inflatable mat plus heavy sleeping bag with synthetic filling
Now: ThermARest Neo Air XLite* plus Cumulus Quilt 350
Alternative: foam sleeping pad
- Similarly to the tarp, I chose this option because of my lack of adequate experience. I believe if you are able to find a perfect campsite on soft ground, a foam sleeping pad would be perfectly sufficient. It would also be less prone to damage compared to an inflatable mat.
- Still, I decided on the inflatable mat because I expect to sleep much better on it. And for me, a good night’s sleep is extremely important.
- For the same reason, I chose a goose-down quilt, which should keep me warm at night. A negative point here is the danger of the quilt getting wet, decreasing its ability to provide warmth. But I hope my “almost-tent” will save me from that. Let’s wait and see what happens on the road…
Stove / Cooking System
Before: none (a borrowed Trangia plus some kind of gas stove at most)
Now: MYOG can stove, Snow Peak Single Cup 600ml* + MYOG aluminium lid, MYOG aluminium wind protection, Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spoon, fuel, plastic container
Alternative: no stove at all
- This was an easy part: I have close to no experience at all with outdoor cooking and cooking systems. So I made a tiny stove from a Coke can and completed the set with a cup, an aluminum foil lid and a spoon. I later added the aluminium foil wind protection – Scotland will probably be windy! I will also take a plastic container for rehydrating food (e. g. couscous or oatmeal).
- I also considered not bringing a stove at all and eating cold meals only. But it’s likely to be cold, rainy and windy in Scotland. I’m sure a hot meal or tea every now and then will work wonders to keeping motivation up and getting me warmed-up before bed.
Before: Hanwag Tatra GTX trekking boots
Alternative: Vivobarefoot Primus Trail*
- This is a gear change I hadn’t wanted to tackle this soon. But I made the “mistake” of giving my trekking boots to a sports store for repair and resoling. Unfortunately, they forgot to tell me about the maker’s three weeks of summer holidays. I will not get my shoes back before mid-September – so definitely after my trip to Scotland.
- I had to think about alternatives. Leather shoes were out of the question, as I would not be able to break them in sufficiently before the trip. So the decision on some kind of mesh shoe was made pretty quickly.
- In the end, I went for a La Sportiva trail running shoe. Initially, I had planned on “going all the way” and hiking in barefoot shoes. But unfortunately, none of the Vivobarefoot shoes I tried fit my rather narrow and long feet. Let’s see how my first hiking experience without actual hiking shoes goes…
(*): Amazon partner links, see Legal Notice