KIT: The big three

This post is another in response to a question I’ve had: (Slightly Paraphrased)

“Do you really fit a weekends worth of wild camping gear in 5kg?”

The answer is Yes, I do. But before I go into details of what makes up the bulk of the 5kg, I should qualify things. Firstly, that 5kg is dry weight, so that doesn’t include water, food, or fuel. Secondly, that is the summer bag. In winter I use a heavier sleeping bag and a heavier bivvi bag, making my dry pack weight nearer 6.5kg.

The big three is a term coined by Ray Jardine. They make up the bulk of the weight of your pack. So what are they?

  • Backpack
  • Sleep system
  • Shelter

In non ultra light hiking it’s easy to pile on the pounds with these three items. Before I started aggressively lightening my pack the big three were:

  • Backpack – Berghaus Vulcan + PLCE Side pockets – 3.2kg 110L
  • Sleep system – Snugpak SF 2 sleeping bag + Highlander self inflating sleep matt – 3kg
  • Shelter – Vaude Hogan – 2.9kg

You can see that these three items alone are over 9kg. Having 110L of backpack then encourages you to take more stuff, after all you’ve got the space in your pack… This resulted in my lugging 25-30kg backpacks round Europe on various trips before I decided that there had to be an easier way of doing it.

So what are my current big three?

  • Backpack – Osprey Tempest 30 – 0.85kg
  • Sleep System – Mountain Equipment Lamina 35 sleeping bag (1.02kg), Exped Synmat 7UL (439g) – 1.459kg
  • Shelter – AMK SOL Escape Bivvi (240g), Miltec Flecktarn plane tarp(543g inc pegs + guys) – 0.783kg

Those of you good at mental arithmetic will be able to quickly sum that the total for the big three is 3.092kg. Giving me around 2kg for all the other bits an pieces.

I mentioned before that this is my summer bag. What changes in winter?

  • Sleep system – Mountain Hardware Laminina 20 – 1.55kg
  • Shelter – British Army XL Goretex bivvi bag ~0.9kg

This adds 1.3kg on to the weight of the summer bag. The only reason I change bivvi bag is because the AMK SOL Escape bivvi bag is a bit tight on the hips, causing compression of the loft, resulting in cold spots. I am thinking of getting an Alpkit Hunka XL for next winter, saving me about 400g.

So you can see, a simple yet light big three, with the best part being that the most expensive single item was the sleeping bag (£93 for the Laminina 20, and £85 for the Lamina 35). Going ultra light doesn’t need to be that expensive.

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4 Responses to KIT: The big three

  1. skeldof says:

    Hi quixoticgeek,
    That’s really interesting, thanks 🙂

    I’m going backpacking with a bit of wildcamp for a week and looking to lighten the load. Not sure I could fit a week’s worth of stuff into a 30l pack though.

    Have been looking at the Montane Grand Tour 55 (1345g) or 70 (1652g).
    Only recently replaced my “summer” sleeping bag so don’t really fancy that expense again (Snugpac SF1 @ 1150g). It would have to be a seriously lighter option to change my mind.
    Will be replacing the sleep mat. Probably Thermarest Neo Xlite reg @ 350g.
    Also have a habit for a sleeping bag liner which seems like a good idea when we won’t be washing properly for a week. But the cotton is 300g. Could halve it by going silk.

    55l bag + silk sleep kit comes in at 2995g. Damn.

    Shelter-wise we are planning to split a 2.5 person tent, so 2.6kg somehow split between two. I’m not hugely keen on the bivvi idea and ULW 1 person tents are silly money.


    • quixoticgeek says:

      The Montane grand tour comes highly recommended, I’ve not tried it myself but it is well regarded. Consider also the Exped Lightening 45/60. It’s about 1kg, and has a very good back system.

      Be aware that the temp rating on Snugpak sleeping bags are a bit creative, I have an SF1, and have given up on it, it’s just not warm enough, even in summer.

      Tent wise, have a look at the temps that sell, there are some around 1.5kg that will take 2 people, and cost under £200.

      What stove setup are you using?

      And, the more important question: Where are you going?


      • skeldof says:

        Montane Grand Tour is what a couple of friends have. Seem quite nifty and low weight for the size.

        Exped Lightning is a lot of money for what’s basically a tube with backpack straps. Unusual design!

        I’ve had trouble being chilly in the SF1 before. Found it ok in soggy France at the start of May, with a liner. Not sure what the temp at night was though. Trying to remember whether I took the SF1 or SF2 with me on my previous wildcamp back in April. I was warm at night when it was near freezing, which suggests the SF2. SF2 is far too bulky. Maybe if I suffer for this week of walking I’ll then buy something sensible.

        Don’t really want to buy a tent as this time. Spending enough money >.<

        Stove: I have a Jetboil Mini-mo.

        Joining Jonathan for a week on his walk around the South-West Coast path. So where exactly depends on how far he has gone

  2. Jonathan says:

    Thanks again for sharing your tips and details of your gear. My hiking backpack is still going strong after almost a decade, and it’s fairly comfortable, but I’m starting to get annoyed with how heavy it is. Once I’m set up with all my other stuff (I am hoping to be able to afford a tarp next month) I will start looking around.

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