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October 2019 Issue
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Lighten the load

Fully packed for a five day tramp, Jo’s pack is both small and light. David Norton

I love reading about the lengths people will go to lighten their pack. I find it fascinating, mostly because of what I imagine to be the miserableness of the trip some people willingly endure in order to carry a lighter pack.

We’ve all heard how cutting your toothbrush in half or wearing trail running shoes instead of boots can cut grams from your pack weight. But true ultra-lighters (and I even know a couple) don’t pack stoves or cookware on their multi-day tramps. They just eat cold food and if the hut doesn’t have a fire and spare billy, they can’t even enjoy a hot cup of tea. They’re such weight scrooges they probably don’t even take tea bags in the first place. Where’s the joy in eating muesli bars and scroggin and sipping cold water at the end of the day?

I’m definitely of the view that any tramp, no matter how good or bad, can be improved by a few ‘luxuries’. The joy you get from a simple warm meal, endless cups of tea and reading a book on a pit day adds to the experience.

True lightweight trampers would never pack such items. They are like creative geniuses who must suffer for their art.

That’s not for me, thanks. But over the years, I have refined my gear to the point I’m now carrying significantly less weight than I once used to. And now I know I can go even lighter without compromising on the few luxuries I do pack, thanks to Jo Stilwell’s story ‘A weight obsession and it’s not my body’. In it, Jo explains how she reduced her pack weight not because she’s an ultra-lightweight fanatic but because she wants to keep tramping for years to come. A lighter pack is easier on her body.

According to Jo, everyone can do it – it’s just a matter of refinement. Retire a bit of gear, swap out a heavy item for a lighter alternative, eat carefully-planned homemade dehy meals, but always pack coffee and a Kindle.

Jo admits she’ll never be inducted into the lightweight tramping hall of fame, but who’d want to be if the savings in weight mean sacrificing your favourite gear, good food and cup after glorious cup of tea?
Maybe there’s something else about being an ultra-lightweight tramper that I’m missing. If you’re experienced at it, please let me know.