Not terribly long ago, in land close enough to make it not entirely remarkable, I went hiking for an overnight in the Ouachita National Forest. The plan was to hike a section along the National Recreation trail which runs through it. It was about 6 miles over all, going over Section 8 from Route 27 to the Bill Potter Shelter. it’s about the halfway point in that segment, and there were some interesting notes in the shelter logs. The Potter shelter needs a new notebook, by the by, if anyone is heading there soon.
The 3 of us in the Unit all packed our things, and went on our way, but I have the vast majority of the skills and equipment for the group. I was carrying about 48.5 pounds for the overnight. Admittedly, there was a lot of extra weight: Half a gallon of cider, and a 2.5-pound extra dry-bag full of granola bars and other snacks to share that never got touched are good for starters.
Long story short, though, I need to cut my load down before I embark on my major adventure next year. Those 48.5 LBS is my target for my 5-day Initial Approach Load. Even when accounting for the 7 pounds I didn’t need to bring, I intended to load up more than necessary for the trip. The hike requires training on the ups and downs of the mountains and hills, and there’s no better place to test that than on hills and mountains. Each day, of course, the load will go down by about 3 pounds of food and a little extra in the way of other supplies being used (Soap, foot powder and toothpaste all come to mind, in very small quantities), so at the end of the 5 days, I should have much less than 30 pounds on my back. Of course, that’s going to take some serious cutting from my current load.
So, therein lies the rub: What to cut? Well, first off, how ’bout those Carabiners? There’s 4 of them on my kit, which were great for the trip where we did some rope-work. But, they’re not a routine necessity. There goes a pound. Cider and barter-bags gone as well, alongside a few other small things, and could save me about 10 Lbs off my load from the most recent trip. The problem is, that’s still not as light as I’d like it to be.
So: How do you cut things even lighter, without spending billions on fancy gear? Use lists like these, or These, from armies of the past. The Infantryman, of any time period, doesn’t want to carry anything useless or heavy, and there’s good reason for such sentiment. These loads are especially light when you strip them of the weapons, ammunition and other combat supplies carried for wartime. I certainly hope I won’t need those, unless the Mountain-Lions Show.
If the Mountain Lions do show, I’ll have to counter-hunt them Ancient Persian Style, with a knife. A really lightweight knife. Or, more likely, a stick with a pointy bit on the end.
Looking through those lists, though, and many others like them, there isn’t a lot you really need, and there are several pieces of equipment that can be acquired now which are lighter and superior to the historical items. They’re also not terribly expensive either. Given these conditions, I have cut my theoretical load down, on paper, to just under 20 LBS without food or water. That gives about 15 pounds for food, and 3.75 for water, or a grand total 5-day load of just 38.75 Pounds.
Ten pounds is a big damn difference, especially at mile 12 each day.
I’ll let you know how the next expedition with the lighter pack turns out. Hopefully I won’t be complaining about carrying too little instead.