Monday, 4 January 2010

A sense of scale

Here's a confession- the one item that no dedicated ultralight hiker should be without has not featured in my gear closet. What is it? A set of digital scales. For anyone who is interested in cutting weight in terms of single figure grams, this is a "serious" omission. I owned a set of traditional scales but these only measure in 25 gram increments. To be pefectly honest, I saw no real need for the extra accuracy- I could use the published weights, gamble on my small size (published weights are often for a medium), get a ball park figure using the scales and when I weighed the whole pack it came in pretty much at where I expected it to be. Realistically, if you only buy the lightest possible items and get rid of anything that you don't need then your weight will be cut drastically wheteher published wheights are accurate or not. Unfortunately my calm acceptance of the status quo was thrown into disarray when my brother in law bought me a set of scales for christmas- cue a great deal of christmas period drunken weighing and lamenting over my spread sheets. It was similar to the angst caused by my realising that my equipment weights also needed to include stuff sacks. Hmmm. Actually it was quite good fun weighing my boxer shorts and getting an accurate reading.
So who are the winners and losers? Losers: Rab windshirt-published weight 70g, actual 80g, PHD minim ultra sleeping bag, published 345, actual 389- winners:PHD minim ultra vest, published 150g, actual 138g and that's pretty much it. Why? because the vast majority of my gear actually comes in at the published weight. My theory for this is that the cottage industries where I get most of my gear from make their name based on their sales to a group of weight obsessed fanatics who are very much in contact via the internet and therefore they have to make sure that the gear matches the weight. This may well be the reason that Thermarest, despite having a reputation for innaccurate weights came up with the goods for the neoair (mine is spot on the published weight) Overall winner, however has to be Joe from Zpacks. As far as I am aware (and I am available for correction) mine is one of the a very few packs of this size with these features isn't a standard option and yet it came up exactly on the weights published for the options on the site (125g if you're interested).


Shuttleworth said...

I read this just after weighing my new neoair (the second smallest size) on teh sclaes in the lab at work, and it weighed exactly what it said on the box.

John Davis said...

I did buy a set of scales and put my results into a spreadsheet - which I never use!

My first attempt to be anal foundered when a careful weighing and gear selection session failed to give the anticipated low pack weight. I had the stuff the on-line ultralighters say they use but my pack was much heavier than theirs - allegedly.

Of course, I had put water in the water bottle, included a map and put in a meal. I had everything in the rucksack, because in Britain you could end up in running shorts only at almost any time of year, so I did not have a separate list for stuff worn. Everything I needed was in the weight and it was depressingly greater than five pounds.

I gave up being anal after that. Also, I was heartened by Francis Tapon's rant about the way ultralighters omit things, such as cameras and/or phones, when totalling their spreadsheets. Even his own pretty scrupulous, published lists don't give the full ins and outs of the gear he changed and lost during his monster yo-yo of the CDT.

In the end, given my sweaty back, I reckon if I can one-shoulder the pack, it's light enough. Even up around the 14 pounds all in mark, I cover much more ground in much more comfort.

I really like your blog because, along with Eddie Meechan and Colin Ibbotson, you seem to be more rigorous than the rest of us in trying to apply cutting edge methods to backpacking. Keep up the good work.