In my quest to prepare for the PCT, I have found myself getting sucked into the game of shedding weight wherever possible. Recently I read a great article by Andrew Skurka “Stupid light”. Andrew’s article gives some great examples of omitted gear that ultimately proved detrimental to his comfort and abilities on particular trips. I thought I would give a few examples of my own to further illustrate weight savings, not safety compromise.
As I have been preparing for the trail, water treatment has been one of the areas that I have seen my strategy slowly evolve. I originally intended to use a chemical purification product called AquaMira. I used this product on a NOLS semester course with success. In addition to its ability to make questionable water safer to drink, it had no unpleasant taste that I could detect in addition to being simple to use and light weight. Unfortunately it is rather cost prohibitive at $11 (which treats 30 gallons). I anticipate drinking more then 200 gallons of water during my PCT hike. This works out to a cost of roughly $75 for enough Aqua Mira for my entire hike.
I felt that I could do better then $75 so I looked to my Steri Pen Classic. I bought it for $50 on sale at REI. Some benefits are the fact that it is chemical free and more compact then most filters. Upon researching this product however, I found that it will only purify roughly 100 liters (under ideal conditions) on one set of lithium batteries ($10). This would cost roughly $80 for batteries in addition to the cost of the pen itself for a total of $130 for chemical free water purification for the duration of my hike.
Although I had entertained the idea of using bleach, which is highly cost effective and lightweight, I still have a hard time willingly putting chemicals in my body (even though chlorine is used to purify municiple water supplies…). Before I invested in a dropper bottle and bleach, I was lucky enough to come across the Saywer Mini water filter. This little gem is compact, easy to use, and for $25, will purify 100,000 gallons. Also, in my quest to shed unnecessary weight, this filter comes in at 1.5oz less then the Steri Pen including a collapsible water bottle, straw attachment, flushing syringe and stuff sack. If I leave behind a few of these accessories, I can get the weight down to 1.6oz, almost 5oz less then the Steri Pen! This is a rare instance where the lighter option is also much cheaper (unheard of when shedding ounces) and is actually simpler to use without sacrificing function.
After having so much success in reducing my gear weight with water treatment, I reevaluated my stove – the MSR Microrocket. This little piece of metal is already light, weighing in at 4.5oz including all the accessories. These additional accessories include a hard plastic case as well as a piezoelectric igniter. Separating these items and putting the stove back on the scale revealed a weight savings of 1.75oz. Leaving behind a plastic case and igniter (redundant items since the stove can stow in my cooking pot and I will still carry a lighter) is a safe move that doesn’t jeopardize my safety or comfort, two important factors to consider when taking items out of your pack.
One last example of weight savings is my choice to forgo a long sleeve shirt. I initially planned on bringing a wool tshirt as well as a long sleeve shirt. While it would be nice to have to two layers, I came across my biking arm warmers. I substituted the arm warmers for the long sleeved shirt – a moderate weight savings which doesn’t sacrifice my ability to cover my arms for added warmth or protection from the sun.
With all of these substitutions and omissions, the main question I asked myself was, ‘am I threatening my safety?’. In all of these examples the answer was no, allowing me to make these weight saving changes without threatening my well-being on the trail. I recommend using the same criteria when making decisions about your own gear choices – good luck and happy hiking!