Posted by: Richard | May 13, 2009

Gear Selection

One of the hardest parts of preparing for a trip is gear selection.  It is also one of the most fun parts of the trip, as I get to play over a range of scenarios in my head for how much gear to take, what to take and balance usefulness vs weight vs necessity.  Ohhh, the combinations and planning make me giddy!

Over successive trips, I’ve dropped more and more gear from my pack to save on weight and make the trip more fun.  Many early trips would see me after a week at the local post office posting a shirt, a pair of pants and an ‘indespensible’ book or two home to save on weight.  Coming back, I would replace a heavy tent or sleeping bag with a breakthrough ultra light piece that would drop my pack more and more.  I’m at the point now where my clothes in my pack will be about 2.5 lbs and cold weather means I’m wearing every piece of clothing except for two spare sets of socks and spare underwear! 

Our goal is for Lynn and I to carry our homes on our back in about 18 lbs for Lynn and 32 lbs for me, both using 55 litre backpacks (by comparison, my first backpack was 85 litres and frequently filled to bursting).  This amount includes 6.5 pounds of water and 4 pounds of food!  While 20 lbs may seem light, it is still quite heavy and Lynn and are constantly reviewing our gear selection to drop weight.  As a background, my rule of thumb is that a nice backpack weight is 25% of body weight and that the weights we’re aiming for is closer to 20% of our body weight.

Right now, the biggest decision involves how we are going to live on the trek.  If we choose to stay in alpine huts, we can drop our tent, sleeping bags and sleeping mats, as well as a lot of our cooking tools.  All told, we are carrying over 10 pounds of living gear, dropping this weight would make the arduous daily climbs a lot more fun.  

Unfortunately, walking in the Alps in the summer means crowds on weekends, and there is 100% certainty that without a tent we will have several nights of scrambling looking for lodging and if we are lucky will end up  sleeping on the cool concrete floors of a hut or inn.  

For those who don’t get into the mountains, spending nights in the tent is heaven, with the cool air contrasting with the coziness inside our joined down sleeping bags while we are making notes from the days walk by the light of our headlamps. 

As it stands, I think we will bring our tent and aim to bivouac about half of our nights beside lovely mountain lakes and spend the other half of our nights in huts and inns when we are too tired to cook or won’t have access to buying food.

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