A light day - my way

Teori-praktik Here is the second installment among the articles summarizing how I use my light equipment during an ordinary day. Of course, there are no ordinary days. And I'm not saying that my way is the best. In fact, I seem to continually change how I do things, always trying to improve on my (never ending) road to perfection. So perhaps how I do things today might give you, as well as me, inspiration on how to improve your gear and the use of it tomorrow. And since this is a forum for lightweight backpacking I've included the weights of much of my gear in the narrative. In case you wonder. An article about a "light" breakfeast is found here.
By Jörgen Johansson
It usually doesn't take me long to get into gear after leaving camp. On the average day, that seldom occurs, I'm wearing mesh watersport shoes, thin nylon "ladies" socks from the supermarket on my feet. My legs are covered with homemade synthetic pants made from a sweat pants pattern weighing around 160 gram. Under these I wear merino wool boxer shorts, preferably without a fly, like those from Backpackinglight. The lack of a fly makes me less self consciuous while using them as shorts in hot weather.

My torso is also covered in delightful merino wool, a Icebreaker Kent is a long time favourite, weighing in at 220 gram in Large. On top of this I usually need a light windshirt most mornings. I prefer one with a hood, since the hood adds an awful lot of warmth in comparison to the extra weight. The one I currently use is a Marmot Ion, which is very symphatetic to my wallet, albeit a bit short and wide at the waist.

Now, since this is a pretty chilly morning, only a couple of degrees above freezing I also wear a pair of thin fleece gloves (34 grams) and my extra merino long arm hoody. This one is from BPL and it's zipped up to my chin with the hood up. On top of the hood I have a particulary ugly baseball cap I've made myself. It is made of Pertex Equilibrium which makes it fairly windproof and very fastdrying. I handkerchief size piece of Equilibrium is usually tucked into the crown, but can be let down to protect ears and neck. On top of all this is the hood of the windshirt.

With double meriono shirts and the windshirt on top I warm up pretty fast once I start moving. After about fifteen minutes I can take both hoods of and continue hiking in my cap. After thirty minutes I take of the gloves and slip them into the belt pouch of my pack. These pouches come from Gossamer Gear.

After about fiftyfive minutes of hiking like this I'm getting really warm and it's time for my usual hourly break. Since the ground is a bit damp and cold I take the cellfoam sleeping pad from underneath it's bungee cords on the outside of my pack, and spread it to sit on. This gives me a chance to stretch my legs out with the pack for a pillow/backrest. It also gives me a chance to slip of my shoes, but only after filling my mug with water in the nearby stream.

Now it's time for the luxury of stretching out completely, relaxing every muscle that comes to mind and taking a couple of deep breaths. To empty my mind of everthing, except how the clouds are slowly drifting across the sky, and the tinker bells of the little brook. After about a minute I rouse myself and eat some chocolate, raisins and hazelnuts while I'm drinking my cup of water.

After five or ten minutes of this (after all, why hurry, I'm on vacation) I put my cup away and roll up my pad. I just slip it under the elastic bungees, which is faster than strapping it in place. The bungee cords are also lighter than ordinary packstraps.

Since the day is warmer I can take off my merino hoody and put it in the waterproof drybag at the top of my pack. There it will probably rest until I put it on before going to bed. I suspect that the windshirt will be tucked into an outside pocket of the pack in 10-15 minutes as well.

All morning I follow a valley gently sloping down towards a river. Every hour I take a break and drink at least one, sometimes two cups of water. I never carry water if I can avoid it, and in Scandinavia you can most of the time. Other areas are drier and if you have to cure your water in order to drink it you can't avoid carrying some. But water is heavy and I try never to carry more than 500 ml. With that I can take two of my hourly breaks. If I want to drink between breaks I simply dip my cup in a stream in passing, without taking my pack off.

Around noon I come to the river and after a short while find a place where I think I can ford it. But I might as well be tanked up and rested before I do that, it looks kind of deep, and the water moves swiftly.

The autumn chill in the air makes it really nice to roll out my pad in the sun and pull out my cooking gear. A short walk and I can fill my collapsible water bottle with 1,5 liters in the river. This will be more than enough.

I prefer the stove on my left side and most of my gear, except the utensils and what I'm cooking right now, on the right side. But that's not so important. A handy rock or tree trunk to rest my back against is more important, but sometimes the pack serves as well.

The piezo igniter fires up the canister stove faster than a pig winks. Half a liter of water in the pot, a piece of foil as a lid and some titanium foil as wind break are rapidly added. From my pack I dig out my spoon, cup and a plastic bag with some dried home dried meat and powdered potatoes. All set. This gives me the chance to relax, pull of my wet socks and put them out to dry, and pull my cap over my eyes for a couple of minutes.

When the water is boiling I take it from the stove and pour some hot water in my cup for spare. I then add the meat and potatoes to the pot, stirring with my spoon. It's swelling and becomes a bit too thick, so I add some of the water from my cup. Perfect. I pour out the remaining hot water on the ground and add cold water to the cup.

While munching I contemplate the river. Wonder how cold it is? If it's really cold and deep enough for me to have to swim parts of it, the chill could be risky. You loose energy really fast in cold water. Maybe there is a better place to ford upstream.

After having packed my gear I dip the thermometer into the river and it says 8 Centigrades. That is not tempting. I've waded and swimmed colder water, but only for 5-10 seconds. This river is wider and there is really no telling for how long it's deep enough to force me to swim instead of walk. Better to play it safe and follow it upstream for a while. That is in the general direction of where I'm going anyway.

I find no place to ford all afternoon. The river is getting narrower, but the water is moving faster, which is not a good combination. Every hour I take my break, eat my nuts and chocolate and drink the water I need.

Around four o'clock in the afternoon my body craves coffee. It's also time for a sturdier meal, than snacks, to last me until suppertime around eight o'clock at night. So while the water is heating I take a couple of soft mini tortillas from my pack and roll some 100 mm lengths of thin beer sausage inside. These make nice sanwiches of sorts together with coffee and snacks.

About an hour after my coffee break the threathening clouds decide to start letting down some rain. It's only a drizzle, "a nice, soft day" as the Irish say. I put on my windshirt, which sometimes is enough, but not this time, so I unfold my umbrella. This means that I have to stick one of my walking poles in the pack. So with one hand alternating between holding the remaing pole and the umbrella, I trudge on.

After a while the undergrowth thickens, so I decide to put on my waterproof-breathable rain pants so as not to get soaked from brushing against the wet foliage. This is the perfect combination, since it's a bit uphill, and not really cold. Thanks to the umbrella and the windshirt, zipped open halfway down my chest, I am able to regulate my body temperature better than with my rain jacket on.

Or at least for a while. Because the trees are thinning out, and when I get above timberline the wind picks up. I pull the windshirt hood over my head and zip it up completely. Leaning the umbrella against the wind it gives pretty good protection against the driving drizzle. One arm of the windshirt gets a bit wet, but since I'm not cold that is no problem. I know it will dry out quickly.

However, as the rain increases I realize it's time to fold up my umbrella and put on my light rain jacket. It's an Haglöfs Oz, weighing under 200 grams in XLarge, that has been with me for a couple of seasons now and has served me well. I put on my fleece gloves as well and move on.

The next hourly break is not so idyllic as the first one of the day, but I always stop and fill up with calories no matter how poor the weather. The worse the weather the more you are going to need them. Not wanting to stop and rest for a while is for me a sure sign that my blood sugar is down and that I REALLY need a break and some calories. If it's particulary nasty weather at lunchtime I sit in my tent, sometimes in my sleeping bag while I cook. But I always take my breaks and I always eat and drink. That always makes me feel better. After all, I'm on vacation.

This time I hunch in the doubtful protection of a boulder that could have been higher. I get my weight of my feet for a couple of minutes, sitting on the rolled up foam pad, while I drink my cup and eat half of what is left in my goody bag. Next stop will be camp.

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  1. Nice report Jörgen, one I can relate to. What are your waterproof breathable pants and how do they handle the undergrowth, that is strength of fabric.

  2. Thanks.
    The waterproof breathable pants that I have used in later years are either homemad chaps or cheap ITAB Packaway pants. The chaps were ideal with the umbrella, but wore out after a couple of years (in combination with waterproof shorts of the same material, from Pennine Outdoors, which also wore out). Since I had a pair of Packaways that I bought for wintertime use I've taken to using them in the summer as well, even though they are not extremely light.
    I'm thinking about sewing a new set of chaps/shorts in a combo of silnylon and light wprf/bre to get something really light. Or get a pair of Golite Reed.
    The brush I pass through is not normally that abrasive, but most rain paints I've uses have worn out above the knees and in the butt after some years. Straight tears are less of a problem, you can always tape those.


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