Does Weight Matter?
Yes of course it does! I’ve been out in the Peak District before with nigh on 20kg on my back and the prospect of hiking 15-20 miles to my shoot location with at least half of that hike being uphill on some really rough terrain. Then at the end of the hike I have to sort my tent, water and food. Once all that is done, I can then turn my attention to my photography. The problem is though that often I’m knackered and just want to curl up in the tent and go to sleep. So if I can reduce the load I’m carrying, it will help. I’m not super fit or anywhere near that, so reducing my pack load weight will help me a lot. I’m stuck with my camera gear, I can’t lighten that any more than what it is, so the only option for me was to re-evaluate my camping gear to try and save weight.
The Shelter – Weight/ Price/ Comfort Trade Off
I found that one of the quickest ways I could shave some weight off my pack weight would be to change out my shelter. My current shelter weighs in at just over 2kg, I was sure I could find a budget friendly option to halve that weight. When it comes to camping, ultralight equipment usually means more cost. The prices of some ultralight tents would bring tears to the eyes of some people. I don’t have the cash to spend the amount some of these tents demand, so I’ve got a weight/ price/ comfort trade off to consider;
Needs to be as light as possible (under 1kg) but still be able to stand up to some gnarly weather.
Needs to be as cheap as possible but still be reliable and as light as possible.
Needs to be as light and cheap as possible but still offer a dry and comfortable experience while using the shelter.
So with all that in mind, I began considering the options, they were;
I have a 1 man tent I love, the MSR Elixir 1. It’s too heavy though at just over 2kg. Buying a tent under 1kg would have meant spending more than I was prepared to, so that was ruled out very easily.
A bivy is great if you don’t mind the thought of insects crawling over you. I do mind, to the point where a bivy just wasn’t a realistic option for me. I hate bugs, simple!
- Bug Net/ Tarp
I’ve seen some bug net bivys where it looks like a tent inner and that’s all you get. I like the idea of that, it’s an enclosed space with bug protection and it’s lighter than a full on tent. However, you need weather protection, so a tarp is needed too. This seemed like the ideal solution for me, as the cost of a tarp and bug net bivy was a hell of a lot less than buying a sub 1kg tent.
So here’s what I decided on;
The Bug Net Bivy – Paria Breeze Mesh Bivy
Cost £54.99 – Weighs 379g Inc. Guy Lines & Pegs
This bivy looks ideal as it’s got a deep bathtub bottom to help with any water splashing during heavy rain and wet ground. It has a solid fabric head and foot panel so that offer some privacy and shelter when it’s under the tarp. The bug net keeps the creepy crawleys at bay, priceless for me!!
The Tarp – DD Superlight 3m x 2.9m Tarp
Cost £61.50 Weighs 460g Inc Guy Lines & Pegs
I already owned this tarp, I’ve used it extensively while hammocking and it’s solid as a rock and the weight of it is great!
Result! So what about the rest of the kit?
So I’ve managed to reduce the weight of my shelter system by just over half. It now weighs in at 1039g, including all the rope I need to form a continuous ridge line for the tarp, guy lines and pegs for the bivvy and the tarp! Every gram you carry on your back for decent amounts of distance feels a lot heavier at the end of the hike, so managing to save around 1000g just on the shelter system spurred me on to see where else I could shave the weight off.
- Camera Gear
I made the decision to carry my D800 DSLR body and one single lens, the Nikon 24-85mm lens. It works well for me with the focal ranges I work in and it’s pretty light too. I also carry a couple of screw in filters, 2 spare charged batteries for the body and a remote shutter. I don’t carry a tripod and make do with using what’s around me to seat the camera.
- Cooking/ Food
Swapped out my usual Alpkit Brukit (gas burner and cooking pot and Primus Gas cylinder for a solid fuel burner with solid fuel blocks and a basic anodised aluminium cooking pot. Saved another 500g. For the food, it’s ration pack meals and some lightweight snacks such as cereal bars, nuts etc.
I wasn’t prepared to compromise here, sleeping comfortably and being warm enough is important. So no savings there, I have a camping quilt I use for the summer and a down filled bag for the winter. I have a down filled sleeping pad I use all year round, I’ll continue using that.
I’m reducing the amount of clean water I’m carrying at any one time, water is heavy (one litre = 1kg). So I’ll be taking my water filtration and purifying kit with three roll up plastic bottles. Then I’ll be carrying 1 litre of fresh water. This means I have to plan my routes to have water stops, near sources of water that I can filter and purify. I used to carry 3 litres of water, so I’ve saved 2kg in weight but added 300g for the filter kit. Total saved here then is 1.7kg!
On a 1 night camp I will carry a clean t-shirt, underwear and socks so I can change. I’ll also carry a spare thermal fleece top, waterproof trousers and jacket, gloves and hat and that’s pretty much it. No savings here really as I already do this.
I got into a habit of taking stuff that I may need, trying to be prepared for every eventuality. I guess it was a safety net. That meant that every time I went out hiking on a photo shoot, I had kit that repeatedly never even got taken out of the rucksack. So that’s stopping as of my next trip. Obviously I will take some safety gear, such as map, compass, waterproofs etc. etc. but the stuff I never use is getting consigned to the garage and staying there! I’d estimate I’ll be saving another couple of kilos there.
So, my summer loadout is….
The load out can’t be considered ultralight, but it is lightweight. I could spend more and get lighter components within each section of my load out but at the moment that isn’t really an option. Everything listed below is there for a reason, so leaving some of it behind isn’t an option either. So this is the best I can get without sacrificing safety or comfort. My pack weight is enough for me to manage, I’ve carried nearly double that with my winter load out and got the job done. I’ve managed saving quite a lot of weight, which will result in less stress on my body and less fatigue, so it was definitely worth the effort!
Over to you…
If you are into landscape photography, hike into locations and camp, what’s your favourite gear? Or maybe you want to comment on or ask questions about my load out? Please do feel free to share using the comment form below!