Thursday, October 3, 2013

Shedding weight

On our previous two caminos Robin and I both have used Aarn, Peak Aspiration packs, (45L plus 12L in the pair of pouches). These are wonderful packs that fit and carry beautifully. The only downside is that with an all up weight of close to 5 pounds they are a bit overkill when your ideal base weight (everything carried minus consumables such as food, water, and fuel, if carried) hovers around 8-10 pounds. I never had a problem carrying the pack as our total pack weight was only around 18 pounds (maybe 20 if we carried more food than usual). The Aarn pack comes with waterproof liners in the main pack and in the balance pockets as well. The balance pockets replace the secondary bag that most people carry for sundry items. When one adds all that up, and factors in the comfort and convenience of the Aarn design, it is easy enough to accept the extra weight. However, I do admit that the extra pack weight would be easier to justify if the load carried was more in the 35-40 pound range, just as one could justify (and perhaps need) a heavier boot for a heavier load.

Walking the camino does not require a lot of stuff, even in the winter. Our next pilgrimage will be during the late spring and summer months, and will require even fewer things, or at least lighter versions of the same things (shirts, jackets, pants, sleeping bags etc.). As the overall carry weight weight deceases it becomes harder to justify a pack weight that represents 50 percent of your base weight. So, armed with this understanding, I started searching out other options. As I looked into ultralight equipment I happened upon a company called Zpacks (based in Florida). I did some research, and placed an order for a 45L version of their Arc Blast pack.
Arc Blast. 

This pack is constructed with ultra light Cuben fiber (waterproof and breathable) overlaid with polyester (for additional durability). The pack only weighs one pound. I also purchased 2 belt pouches, 2 side pouches and a chest pouch. The total weight comes to a very lean 21.3 ounces (1.33 pounds). This pack also comes with a carbon fiber external frame with a mesh back panel, that will be most welcomed in hot weather. There is a 3 week delivery wait. All packs are custom built, and zpacks seems willing to modify your specific pack anyway you want it. If this works the way I expect it to, I will place an order for Robin as well. This company sells a variety of other ultralight equipment as well (see link above). Robin and I have both used Altus ponchos for our winter walks. They were great in that environment. Now, as we face walking in much warmer weather the Altus, I fear, will be too hot. Zpacks to the rescue. The poncho shown below weighs 5.1 onces (the Altus weighs 16 ounces).

As I look at this poncho (which covers the pack as well), I am thinking that in the colder, earlier part of our camino, I could wear a lightweight jacket underneath to deal with the short sleeves. I will also wear lightweight gaiters, but there will still be a gap between the gaiters and the bottom of the poncho. So (now don't laugh) I think I am going with this option as well. Remember form follows function, so while from a fashion statement point of view this might be a stretch, but for ease of donning rain gear, and for comfort in hot weather this kilt seems perfect, and it only weighs 1.9 ounces.
So with this proposed rig I get the same rain protection for much less weight, more air flow, meaning more comfort, in hot weather, and more flexibility, but at a steep increase in price. Cuben fiber is quite expensive. Still, all in all, I am tempted to go for it. So, if you see someone walking around the gite/albergue, waiting for laundry to dry, wearing something akin to a short shower curtain, please say hello, it could very well be me.

I am still making adjustments to my packing list, but with the equipment above I feel I can get my base weight down to 10 pounds (a much lighter wallet will help drive that weight down as well).  I'll post more later once I am able to get out, and walk with this gear in the Pacific Northwest weather. Looks promising!