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419 Ultralight Backpackin' Tips - Review 2011-06-15

Ultralight Backpackin' Tips book

I know, I just did a book last week, Lighten Up, which discovered the joys of hiking with a pack weighing less than 20 pounds. Well, I actually purchased Ultralight Backpackin' Tips by Mike Clelland first; but then decided to read and review the predecessor (Lighen Up), to keep things in order.

Mike Clelland is the great artist whose illustrations are seen in many outdoor books. He is also a professed ultralighter. As a story line for the book he has the reader go on an imaginary ten day backpacking trip in the northern Rockies and only carry 25 pounds total. The weight of the pack's base weight was under ten pounds and the consumables added the additional weight. I am not sure; but we might own a sleeping bag that weighs ten pounds!

The book has 153 tips. Some tips are pages long, while others are just a couple of sentences. As I read through the book, there were some tips that I thought, "hey, that was a good idea, I could do that and save a few ounces" and other times I merely scoffed at the ideas.

There were no chapter divisions in the book; but when searching for a topic I noticed topic divisions in the table of contents in the front of the book.

I chose ten interesting tips. Some I practice, or will practice, and some that I might try. All of the tips were good information. I realize that I would probably never try some of the tips; but that's okay.

The list (tip number) ...

Get a scale (1) - Years ago I bought an electronic scale. It was fine but it was very expensive and the smallest increment of measure was a quarter of a pound. We bought new scales, it weighs to 0.1 of an ounce (a tenth of an ounce). It is so much fun. I have been weighing everything, including this book.

There's no such thing as "just in case" (20) - Either you need something or you don't. Never put anything in the pack to use just in case something happens. Well, one exception might be a back brace, because if you pack enough just in case items you will find out why you needed the brace!

Mosquitoes and karma (37) - Instead of swatting at a mosquito, gently brush them away. By killing mosquitoes, you start a battle and even more mosquitoes will come. I don't know about that ...

Travel techniques (68, 69, 70, 71, 72) - What is a camp? Clelland redefines camping styles because with a lightweight pack you can walk all day. You wake, break camp, and start walking. After warming up, take a breakfast break - stop and cook breakfast and a cup of joe. Start back walking and if you are tired, move off the trail and take a nap. Return to walking and when dinner time comes, stop and cook dinner on the trail. Walk for a while longer and then stop, pitch your tarp, and go to sleep.

Thwart blisters with Hydropel (83) - My feet are sweaters. If they stay wet from sweat, weather, puddles, or crossings they turn into prunes and become blisters waiting to happen. Hydropel is supposed to cure the prune feet problem. The product is expensive. It cost $20, for a two ounce tube! I haven't used it yet, but plan to this summer.

Stealth camping as a skill (92) - When choosing a sleeping spot move off the trail and out of sight and sound from the path. You will be alone. In Shenandoah National Park there backcountry policy used to be that you could pretty much camp anywhere, just not in sight of the trail. It made stealth camping the norm; but it was hard to find spots at times.

How much water should be on your back (101) - If you still have water in your pack at the next water source, then you carried too much. I carry a small hydration bladder. I like because I can sip without stopping. I also carry a collapsible Platypus one liter container. I try to judge the fill of the Platypus by the water sources. With the bladder I start with 32 ounces; but most days I do not run out of water.

Rain skirts: the functional fashion statement (110) - For the well dressed packer, a simple rain skirt will keep the rain at bay in fashion, if you have the legs for it! The book has an illustration of the simple design.

Pooping in the wilderness (116, 117) - Pages are devoted to this section. Clelland advocates not carrying toilet paper. Is he crazy?!? I am not sure; but at least there are some tips for that chance time you ever run out of paper. The tip on cleaning was also interesting. His illustrations look like it would be so much fun!

Stoves and cooking-keep it light (118) - Stoves should be light. I have tried quite a few stoves throughout the years including an alcohol stove, a wood burning stove, lightweight canister stoves, and heavy duty MSR stoves. Our favorite stove system is the JetBoil Ti Sol. I know that the alcohol stove is lighter; but I can get two cups of boiling water in less than two minutes (my test at sea level showed about one and a half minutes.) The alcohol stoves are fine and if I was hiking solo I might consider using one; but with sharing the weight, my wife and I pack the JetBoil. So, there is another reason why I am not a ultralighter - I like hot water, fast!

The book is truly filled with tips. Even though you might (like me) shake your head and say, "fine, but I am not going to do that" - the idea might start you thinking to a lighter alternative that will work for you. Every backcountry user could learn a few new tricks and be entertained from the short read. You might even be able to hike for ten days carrying only 25 pounds.

In closing the last tip is: Ultralight Skills Can Simplify the Rest of Your Life. Simplifying leads to a more "rewarding awareness" while you are traveling in the woods or living in the city. That is a mighty good thought to ponder.

The book weighed 10.2 ounces, I thought that was a little heavy for 133 pages! Ha!!!


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