Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ultralight here I come

My next 2 big adventures are skiing related. First Japan in February for 3 weeks skiing and one week sightseeing in Kyoto. I'm pretty well researched out on that trip, just need to get the body into shape. Hmmmm...

Then July I'm off to NZ again, for 3 months in Wanaka, skiing at Treble Cone and maybe a little ski touring, then return to Australia to do some long distance trekking on the Bibbulman Track from Perth to Albany.

That's what I'm actively researching right now. 11 months away but you just can't start planning too soon. Walking in the wilderness for 2 months does require a little preparation, something I've actually been doing for some time. In fact I bought the guidebooks a good two years ago.

As those who've been following my blog know, I've been trying to reduce the weight in my backpack for some time, to allow me to travel easily without the discomfort of heavy bulky gear. Wishing to bring a laptop, a quality camera and other peripheral electronics, means making some really hard decisions about what to bring and what to leave behind. Then decide to go walking in the wilderness with the need to be self sufficient and things start getting really interesting.

So I have been slowly and carefully researching and purchasing choice items for my dream system. Since I have a well paid job, price isn't necessarily a sticking point. Lucky for me. Though not everything has to be expensive. I still haven't found a better raincoat solution than a cheap $6 plastic poncho that only weighs 49g!

Yeah, I'm pretty nerdy when it comes to that sort of planning. Even before I read books on ultralight backpacking I'd begun using the kitchen scales to measure the weight of all my gear. Those books, however, have encouraged me to start hacking away at the extra cords and doodaddles on my backpack, remove extra weight by ditching superfluous items, and getting even more minimalist on the clothing I bring. Having done a fair bit of travel out of a backpack now, I've a pretty good idea of what I really need, vs extras just in case.

However, wilderness walking is quite a different scenario, because carrying enough food between towns is a limiting factor. Carrying less superfluous stuff means more consumables can be taken for the same weight. And your backpack gets lighter as you consume them!

I'm pretty keen to make my own dehydrated meals for the trip, and have been researching recipes and instructions for dehydrating vegetables, fruit and meat. There's absolutely no need to purchase prepackaged meals at $18 - $20 a pop when some time spent cooking and preparing can see you sending off some packages of home prepared meals to your food drops along the way. Australia Post offers parcel post for $17 up to 5kg, which I can send to myself at post offices along the way.

The longest stretch is 13 days between towns, if I take it slowly and stay at each hut. But if I travel lighter I can walk further and carry less food as a result. 10 days seems a good compromise, and there is a roadhouse enroute if I'm desperate.

For the record, the definition of ultralight backpacking is base weight of less than 10lb. This is 4.5kg in my lexicon. That includes your backpack and everything you carry on your back, excluding consumables (food, water, fuel), and doesn't include the clothes you wear. And since you carry it continuously, unlike sightseeing backpacking where your backpack stays in your hotel most of the time, there is no point taking anything unnecessary on an extended walk through the woods.

Over the next few months I'll be discussing what's going into this backpack, why, how and what it weighs. I know I won't make it under the 4.5kg mark with a laptop and a solar panel array (now there's a teaser for you!) but I'm going to give it a damn fine try!

I'll also be test driving some of my gear, especially those purchases I've yet to take out into the field.

I hope you'll enjoy following the journey with me...


  1. When we were in WA I dreamt of walking the Bibbulman Track. But sadly it will have to remain a dream, I should've thought about it years ago... So I'll look forward to the cyber travel with you. I promise not to add any more weight to your pack... lol

  2. never too old Pauline. I'm under the impression a fair percentage of the walkers are seriously senior in years. you can always consider just doing a few days of it.