Friday, May 27, 2022

Shrinking your "kit"

How many of us have taken a walk in a park ten miles outside an urban area and seen other hikers fearfully clutching their water bottles? More to the point, they are only fifty yards from the trail-head and they appear to be "Dudes".

I know it sounds like I am slagging on them, but they just don't know any better. Likely, they haven't spent much time outdoors and have little idea of how much distress their bodies can endure under the conditions of 80 degrees F and modest activity levels.

That is one of the beauties of being active. With enough activity, we learn to auto-calibrate. How much water for modest activity like walking at 80F? For me about a half-liter (16.9 oz) an hour will do and 0.7 liters (24 oz) is living high-on-the-hog.

Another example of the amazing, shrinking kit involves hunting with a muzzle-loader.

Front-stuffers attract kit like picnics attract ants and flies. As a young man in my 40s, I carried a small fishing tackle box out to the deer stand filled with 4 ounces of 777, assorted projectiles, a hundred primers, ball-starters..... You get the picture.

By the end of the season I would go out with my smoke-pole, five primers, a single speed-loader and a ball-starter. The ramrod rode on the weapon. I was lighter on my feet and moved more quietly.

The most I ever shot my muzzle-loader was twice in one trip. I had a buck tag and a doe tag and I filled both of them in one morning.

21 minute run-time

This guy is a hard-core backpacker. He claims to have hiked about 10,000 miles in his life. Much of what he says will contradict deeply held beliefs (One-is-none, and two-is-one). I still think he is worth listening to.

Three take-aways for me were "Confront your fears", "Large see-through zippable plastic bags are your friend" and "Multi-use items are preferable to single-purpose items"

Confront your fears

Take small "risks" to stretch your comfort zone. Like the folks clutching a Nalgene in each hand. Maybe drink your fill before setting off on that one-hour hike and only carry ONE Nalgene.

If you are out hiking maybe you consider taking that Buckmark instead of the Glock 10mm. Most things you will need to shoot will never know the difference...feral dogs, porcupines, sneks and muggers. If stoked-up crack-fiends or mama bears are on the menu then you might need to up-gun but other than that do you need the extra weight?

Large, see-through, zippable plastic bags

Every container adds weight. The lightest container is a plastic bag. Clear containers allow you to see what is inside without opening so you can stash more gear in each container and still be efficient when you need to find it. A clear bag allows you to manipulate items (spread them around) without having to open it.

Multi-use items

A single, long sleeve shirt with buttons is insect protection and sun protection and can keep you warm when it is cold and can open up when you are hot.

Special purpose items keep sporting goods stores in business and factories running. In most cases they are not absolutely necessary "in the bush". Those sour-doughs in the 1890s made do with primitive, heavy kit and still were able to walk to the Klondike.

Wring it out

The pivotal message is that shrinking your kit is not a mental exercise.

You have to wring it out in the field.


  1. The most important part is the last one - use it in the field. You need to try it out and find what works and what doesn't.

  2. When we had our first child, it seemed like we took half the house with us when we needed to go anywhere. Not just a fully packed diaper bag which contained multiple diapers, extra change of clothes, wipes, creams, etc..., but also blankets, toys, and every possible thing that baby might need.
    By the third child, one of us would stick an extra diaper in a pocket, and off we would go.

    I think with experience, you learn to trust yourself more.


  3. ERJ, I am actually working through this with the training hikes with The Outdoorsman in preparation for the Big Hike in August. I am have already made a note of things I need to bring and things I need to leave behind. There is nothing like practical experience to teach.

  4. While growing up in central Wisconsin during the 60's-70's....on a German dairy farm....
    A place where when you could walk you were expected to work and contribute.....
    I spent many a day out in the fields sweating and working my arse off.....without a water source in hand.
    Once you got back to the homestead; you either plunged your head in the cow tank and drank deeply or you slurped the water coming out of the garden hose.
    Why yes;I am saying that my childhood was better then the wussies have it these days.

  5. Yes, on the long sleeve T-shirt, the new SPF 50 fishing T-shirts when sized two sizes too large are very comfortable. I just wish the color selection was less 'strident' - some of them resemble TV japanese cartoon anime ...

    Water bottle - the U.S. aviators flask (16 oz.) works out right for a morning hike of several miles. But do keep a 2 or 3 liter of water in the vehicle to re-fuel when you get back. Especially in the heat.

    Good post - looking forward to reading more ideas and feedback.

    1. A good 'lite pack' is a small unit so you are forced to keep the contents carried minimal. A hydration pack with bladder removed works and if wanted, can re-install bladder later.

  6. Walking/hiking has my back and sciatica screaming in 10 minutes so I bicycle a lot, Bicycling is another endeavor where you can spend as much on "kit" as you pay for the bike. and Some folks will pay big bucks to get some special component made out of titanium to save GRAM's of weight. If I was interested in saving grams, I probably wouldnt weigh 265. As to my kit, I carry plenty of water, thats a proven need. I also carry a spare tube and pump and simple tools. I've flatted out many times over the years and I've been 20 plus miles away from my car. Bright tail lights and a headlight add to the kit. Now that I have a smart phone with kindle/ nook on it, I dont need to carry books with me.

  7. Sitting down for a spell and thinking about the requirements, and the usage processes, is not wasted time. Pro Tip: Start from the completed objective and work backward to determine requirements.

    "Testing the process" is a valid procedure; during testing incorporate planning to accommodate failure (ex: if considering a 6 hour hike, try a 2 hour first to judge accuracy of the requirement estimate; failures encountered a the 2 hour point are more easily overcome). FYI, a 6 hour is not 3X a 2 hour, probably more like a 4.5-5 hour is one is realistic. Note: This does not permit exclusion of consideration of emergencies but the defintion of "emergency" must be established very carefully.

    The testing process should be a "full system stress test." Very few worthwhile things are accomplished without encountering stress, sometimes substantial stress. Welcome it, you are learning process limits.

    1. I am enjoying and learning from all of the comments, but I was particularly struck by this last paragraph. I've often tried to express what the last two sentences sum up so cleanly. Thank you.

  8. I can't comment on recreational hiking since I don't do much of it beyond poking around my back yard and the neighbors cattle land.

    It's my personal opinion that "two is one and one is none" applies only to critical items. I want two means of purifying water and producing fire in my bugout bag; one set will ideally be on my person and the other in my bag. If for whatever reason I have to abandon my bag, I still have the bare essentials on me. This doesn't apply to recreational trail hiking but rather to SHTF.

    There is plenty of talk about making kit lighter but it's rare I hear much said about the most important piece of equipment; the person carrying the pack. Some say "pack light and freeze at night" or "ounces make pounds and pounds make pain" but I often tell people to "grow stronger". In my grunt days, I trained for power and strength in the gym on top of regular endurance training outside of it and being able to move faster for longer with more weight while hating life far less than those around me made my job much easier. Naturally, I became a designated pack mule but I still had it easier than those that didn't train. Gym work will also reduce your risk of injury.

    I would recommend packing light if in mountains but you may be cold on some nights. Eat before bed and sleep with your water bottle so it won't be frozen in the morning. Nothing wrong with packing heavy, both have a time and place, pros and cons.