Primitive and modern outdoor skills

Gear Teardown


A friend of mine, planning to hike the JMT sometime soon, asked me for some gear advice, and was kind enough to let me post the gear teardown to help other folks as well.

Now, before we dive in: My friend is very fit, a fairly experienced outdoors-men, and a moderately experienced backpacker looking to cut weight off his pack. He's looking to do a summer hike of the JMT in around 20'ish days. He's already spent quite a bit of time and energy trying to cut his pack weight down and is coming to me for additional advice

The Gear list
His gearlist is fairly typical from what I've seen. He's making very reasonable and safe choices while trying to get the weight down, and his pack comes out to just over 20 lbs. I met at least 4 people on the AT who asked for help cutting weight and varying versions of this formula.

You may also want to take a glance at what I carried on the JMT:

And what I carried on the AT

Most of the weights here are based on the two spreadsheets.

So, how light should we be aiming? It's all personal preference. My friend wants to gut his pack weight, and has decided he's willing to sacrifice to get there. I can hem and haw all day about different tradeoffs, but instead let me lay down a few approximate numbers that I, personally, think are reasonable, and that I've seen a lot of thru-hikers achieve with reasonably safe and kits and reasonable cost.

IMHO, summertime in the continental US, doing something most folks would call backpacking, ~14lbs is a pretty doable target. As an example, here's my end of AT weights:

8 lbs is doable if you do go crazy, and have a lot of background knowledge and skills. Personally my through-hike pack is heavier 14 lbs, because I have a habit of getting myself in sticky situations (if you read this blog, you know what I'm talking about), I hate having to ask for help, I like robust gear, and I often carry a few non-essentials.

So, there should be 6 to 9 lbs we can shave off that initial pack list without things getting too dangerous.

This is often one of the easiest places to cut.

Spare socks Darn Tough 59 2.08116 0.13007
Synthetic Longsleeve typically worn on hike 270.4 9.53808 0.59613
Spare underwear ExOfficio 100 3.5274 0.22046
Longsleeve Base Layer Top Smartwool 100% merino 265.3 9.35818 0.58489
Base Layer Bottoms Smartwool 100% merino 204.5 7.21353 0.45085
Puffy Jacket Mountain Hardwear, 100% Polyester fill 480.6 16.9527 1.05954
Fleece Pants REI, 100% polyester 339.9 11.9896 0.74935
Fleece Gloves Mountain Hardwear, 100% Polyester 58.6 2.06705 0.12919
Fleece Cap generic (Army Surplus store) 83.3 2.93832 0.18365
Rain Pants Columbia (Omni-Tech) Unknown model 311.7 10.9949 0.68718
Rain Jacket Marmot (Unknown Model) 348.7 12.3 0.76875
Mesh Sack for Rain Gear SeaToSummit Mesh Stuff Sack (6.5L) 10.9 0.38449 0.02403

One more note. He's wearing a short-sleeve wool shirt, AND carrying a long-sleeve synthetic shirt. A good long-sleeve shirt for the JMT would be one that's quite thin and light (this is what I wore actually), with sleeves that roll up easily. Given this a short-sleeve shirt is completely uneccessary, given that he's got a seperate upper-body base-layer. This change would cut nearly 6 ounces off the skin-out weight, and 8 ounces off the pack-weight.

Total cut: 23.5 ounces = 1.47 lbs


Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1 Tent 0 0
Tent Body 290.5 10.2471 0.64044

Rain Fly 270.9 9.55572 0.59723

Footprint 104.7 3.69318 0.23082
SeaToSummit Mesh Stuff Sack (4L) 9.1 0.32099 0.02006
Poles w/ sack (store outside pack?) 207.6 7.32287 0.45768
Stakes w/ pouch 127.8 4.50801 0.28175
E-tarp 5x7 tarp, orange one side, reflective other 337.6 11.9085 0.74428

0 0
SUB-TOTAL : 1348.2 47.5564 2.97227

For a tent, this is very light. 2.16 lbs is entirely reasonable. The extra tarp and footprint are definitely not needed we drop those and we're down to 2 lbs even

Footprints are for car-camping. Modern tents are surprisingly tough. Even silnylon, which is less tough that what most tents use, holds up fine on rocks without a foot print if you pull the really sharp stuff. There are many reviews and testimants to this. 1/4 lb is a lot.

After discussing this some my friend is seriously considering going towards a tarp. Why? Because with a silnylon tarp (~$60.0) and gossamer gear groundcloth, this could be 1.4 lb. With an expensive tarp (like Jess' from zpacks) this could be under a pound. The cheap tarp option is thus -1.6 lbs.

total cut: 28 ounces = 1.6 lbs

Sleep system
sleeping bag (or quilt) REI Lumen (25* synthetic) 1230.6 43.4081 2.71301 looking at upgrade options
sleeping pad ThermARest NeoAir Xtherm 484.6 17.0938 1.06836

bag liner
256.9 9.06188 0.56637 options: 354 or 256.9
water-proof sack SeaToSummit UltraSil Compression (20L) 97.6 3.44274 0.21517

SUB-TOTAL : 2069.7 73.0065 4.56291

It's heavy, but well thought out. You can definitely do better on the sleeping bag, especially if you go to down, but there are all sorts of trade-offs to be made there. I dry out down, but not everyone does. Also, cutting weight in your sleepingbag is expensive.
The Xtherm is great, and I've considered getting one myself for winter. It's way overkill for summer (I used a 1/8" pad for my trip), but if your bony it could be well worth it. I asked why the liner, and he said to extend the life of the bag. It's heavy, but I can understand that seeing how fast I wear out sleeping bags.

Two notes on the UltraSil compression sack:
Total cut: 0

JetBoil Sol (but not Ti) pot, stove, lid 317.6 11.2030 0.70019
spoon SeaToSummit Long Handle 11.9 0.41976 0.02624
sponge part of reg ScotchBrite kitchen sponge 10.9 0.38449 0.02403
food storage sack +trash bag 0 0
hanging kit 137.2 4.83959 0.30247
water filter Katadyn Hiker Pro 414.8 14.6316 0.91448
Water Bottle (1L) GSI DukJug 185.9 6.55743 0.40984
Water Storage 2-48oz Nalgenes 308 10.8644 0.67902
SUB-TOTAL : 1386.3 48.9003 3.05627

Total cut: 29 ounces = 1.8 lbs

Trowel GSI, plastic 88 3.10411 0.19401
Toilet Paper 43 1.51678 0.09480
Soap Dr Bronners, .25oz 78.5 2.76901 0.17306
550 Cord 45 ft 90.9 3.20640 0.2004
Baggie Assortment 65.4 2.30692 0.14418
Repair Kit
157.1 5.54154 0.34635
Camera cards, batteries, case 0 0
Multi-tool Leatherman Juice 130.6 4.60678 0.28792
0 0

0 0
First Aid Kit
0 0

0 0
SUB-TOTAL : 653.5 23.0515 1.44072

total cut:  9.7 ounces = 0.6 lbs


7 0.24692 0.01543
Space Blanket SOL 73.1 2.57853 0.16116
Matches UCO Waterproof (15ct) 16.9 0.59613 0.03726
Duct Tape ~2yds 21.4 0.75486 0.04718
74 2.61027 0.16314
Sparker Light My Fire Scraper 28.4 1.00178 0.06261
Knife Gerber Mini Paraframe 41.7 1.47092 0.09193
Iodine+ 1 qt baggie 39.7 1.40038 0.08752
Tinder Plastic case w/ waxed cotton balls 32.6 1.14993 0.07187
Band-Aids 2.1 0.07408 0.00463
Mirror SOL 16.4 0.57849 0.03616
Whistle Fox 40 Mini 5.5 0.19401 0.01213
Lighter Bic Mini, waterproofed 11.9 0.41976 0.02624
Safety Pins 3.3 0.11640 0.00728
Compass REI keychain-type 9.9 0.34921 0.02183
Headlamp Petzl E-lite 26.2 0.92418 0.05776
Emergency food
0 0

He and I have talked quite a bit about this section. About what sort of things Jess and I carry. An emergency git is *very* personal, it reflects not only the level of risk you are willing to take, but also your personal knowledge and skills with various tools. Carry things you know, and will use. Also, your emergency kit isn't for emergencies. It's for *avoiding* emergencies. You should be perfectly willing to pull out any piece of gear in there if it will help you with your situation, before you are in any trouble. Because of these two properties, the gear you've used in the past should weigh very heavily on what goes in your kit. My advice is based on my experiences, skills, and other gear, keep that in mind.

Total cut: 0


So, first pass, relatively easy , our total cut is: 5.46 lbs

I was trying not to spend much money, or change the style much with this breakdown. There are a number of things you could do to keep going lower.
For another 6.65 lbs
That's over 12 pounds cut.

I would be willing to hike the JMT with every one of the adjustments listed above. It takes some knowhow, but that gear would be sufficient for me.

I'm noticing as I read this gear-list over and over, that I can't quite get the weight as low as I'd expect. I think there are two reasons for this. One is that I don't want to stare at this list that long (which I would for myself). The other is that at some point it's a lot of smaller things that get hard to see quickly. To keep cutting weight you get to weighing different pieces of gear, and trying to replace each each with something lighter. Do I want those shorts, or those other shorts? This is part of why I tend to end up in the 12-14 lb range myself, at some point it gets expensive, and I just don't care that much. As an example, on the AT I wore a pair of women's running shorts for decency over my compression shorts. They were much much lighter than normal men's shorts would've been.

Remember that my friend *asked* for this breakdown. Hike your own hike, bring what you want and have fun out there. I backpack many different ways myself, a blanket around my waist, classic ultralight gear, or heavier weight with an axe and guitar. The things I'm suggesting are not intended as a judgement in any way on any of those items, or people who carry them. The point is to give advice on how to cut weight where that's someone's priority (as it is for my friend).

Anyway, I hope people find this breakdown useful. Happy hiking!