My Attempt at Ultra-light Backpacking

I think I am done choosing and preparing the gear that I will ultimately use for my 2018 Spring Hayduke Trail Thru Hike.  What I am about to blog about now is essentially my final gear choices.  Before I describe some of the gear I will be using, I have a disclaimer.  As much as I try to lighten up my load, I will be the first to admit that  I am no ultra-light backpacker. I have come to terms with the fact that by base-weight (all my gear on my back minus food and water) will never be under 10 pounds (4.5 kilos). My base-weight goal for Hayduke was 15-18 lbs, and I am some-what sad to report that my base-weight is about 22-23 lbs. Yes, I know……I know that perhaps many a few die-hard ultra-light backpackers are cringing and scoffing at my 22 lbs base-weight.  But fortunately, I have an old saying that absolves and redeems me, “Hike your own hike.”  Yes, I said it.

Either way, I did not thru-hike the PCT with an ultra-light base-weight, and despite the fact I was sill able to average 22-27 mile days, some days hiking as far as 32 miles.  I would say my base-weight for the PCT ranged anywhere between 18-25 lbs, with me adapting my base-weight to trail and weather conditions as I made my way north.  With the Hayduke Trail, I will adapt my gear just as accordingly to the conditions.  While I may be starting at a base-weight of 23 lbs, that does not mean I will stay with that.  I may do some adjustments as I go, perhaps getting rid of gear that I am not or just barely using.

In choosing my gear for the Hayduke Trail, I took into account the climate (time of year), terrain, trail conditions, and remoteness of the trail.  We will be hiking the Hayduke trail from mid March to mid-May.  Spring conditions in the Colorado Plateau can be very erratic. We can expect night time temps in the teens F and daytime temps in the 80s.  In other words, we have to be ready for winter and summer conditions.  Because of this, I am bringing extra layers that I otherwise would not bring on a summer hike.  Also, I am bringing along 50 feet of 0.5 inch webbing for lowering or lifting our packs as there will be parts of the trail (route) that will entail scrambling up or down class 3-4 cliffs. Because I will be blogging-journaling, photographing, navigating with phone, etc, in a very remote area with little options for resupply, I had to take into account my power sources. I am bringing a heavier (13 oz) 22,000 mAh Anker battery brick and a solar charger.  Essentially, since we will be food caching significant portions of the Hayduke, there will be little chance to find a power outlet to plug-in and charge our electronics.  Places to plug-in and charge will be up to 11 days apart, maybe even more. Because of heavier Anker brick, it was the electronics, as you will see in my spreadsheet, that contributed to my high base-weight.

One of the biggest modifications I made in my gear was in choosing my big four (pack, tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad).  I decided to try the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest  4400 backpack.  Some of the biggest reasons why I decided to choose this pack was because of the claim that it can carry up 70 liters of volume and 60 lbs comfortably (I hope not to actually carry that much).  This is an important feature for me on a trail like the Hayduke where heavier food supply of up to 8 days and water carries of up to 10 liters are expected. The other feature I like about the pack is that it has a roll top closure like a dry bag.  The pack is also almost water proof since it is made of Dynema fabric (aka Cuben fiber). While I would not let it get submerged in a river without internal water-proofing redundancies,  I know I would not need a pack rain cover when it rains.

I decided to also try out a sleeping quilt instead the traditional sleeping bag.  For the PCT, I used the 1 lb, 14 oz  Western Mountaineering 10 degree F Versalite . For the Hayduke Trail, I went for a custom made 18.95 oz, 10 degree F, 950 fill down quilt called the Engima by Enlightened Equipment.  This will be my first foray in using a quilt, so we shall see how it fares on this thru hike.  I did get to try it on a three day section hike of the AZT this winter where it only got down to the upper 30s, and it felt warm enough in those temps.

While I did end up buying a new 22 oz one man tent, the One by Gossamer Gear, for the Hayduke Trail, Cuban B and I decided to ultimately share a 44 oz two man tent, the Big Agness Copper Spur HV UL 2.  Dividing the weight of this tent in half, we will each be carrying the equivalent of the One tent by Gossamer Gear.

Everything else was pretty much is the same gear I used for the PCT, except for different shoes, a new down jacket, lighter rain jacketa and different stove. Because we will be scrambling much on the Hayduke, I decided to use the very comfortable and trail tested La Sportiva TX3 Approach Shoe.  These are the shoes I have used for technical canyoneering and have great sticky rubber, even on wet rock.  I have hiked up to 23 miles in them in one day and found them very comfortable due to the wider toe box compared to other approach shoes that scrunch your toes tight.  I decided to ditch my 9 oz down jacket for the 4.6 oz Montbell Plasma 1000 Down Jacket .  I can attest that this jacket is even lighter than Mountain Hardwear’s Ghost Whisperer.  For cooking, instead of the 16 oz Jetboil MiniMo that I used on the PCT, I decided to switch to an 11 oz MSR Pocket Rocket with a titanium stove set-up. My sleeping pad set up is the same as the PCT.  I am still using the same Thermarest NeoAir Xlite combined with the Thermarest Z-Lite (Short).  Why two mattress? Well, good sleep is a priority for me and having a foam pad as a back up in a desert with sharp pointy cacti is important for me.

So without further ado, here is the spread sheet and picture of my gear.

Hayduke Gear List

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