Saturday, December 24, 2011

Final Gear Inventory - 10.8 pounds Skin-out

With just one week to go before I hit the trail, I've made final gear acquisitions and decisions and assembled it all for a weigh-in.

It's also been a busy week of holiday preparations and celebrating my son's graduation from the University of Maryland with a degree in Mechanical Engineering (photo at left, where you can also get a glimpse of the 2.5 month head start I've got on my 'trail beard'). I'll be spending Christmas with family and then spending a couple days back at the beach before heading to the trail.

"Skin-out weight" may not mean a lot to non-hiker friends and family who are casually following my Appalachian Trail adventure just to see how I'm doing. But for the ardent long-distance hiker, particularly those who aspire to go 'ultra-light', it's all about minimizing Skin-out weight (the weight of everything you carry with you above and beyond your bare-naked body). Consider that whatever weight you carry, you have to lift it each time you take a step. The Appalachian Trail is about five million steps long. Suddenly one pound becomes five million pounds. Even a quarter of an ounce can make a huge difference over the long haul.

Because my plan is to complete the trail (twice) by out-and-back day hikes, I will not be carrying a tent, sleeping bag and cook stove. These are three of the heavier items a backpacker must carry. Below is an excruciatingly detailed list of what I will carry, with commentary on some of the choices:

  • Leki Makalu trekking poles (2)
  • a couple feet of Duct Tape wound around one of the poles (emergency repairs to clothing, etc.)
  • two large plastic trash bags for emergency ground cover
  • a Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil nylon combination tarp and rain poncho (11 ounces)
  • a length of cord (plastic bailing twine) to erect tarp into an emergency tent (about 50 feet length)
  • two tea light candles (each burns for about an hour and a half)
  • a box of wooden matches
  • zip-lock plastic bags in sufficient number to waterproof matches and other sensitive items, plus spares
  • a minimal first-aid kit consisting of band-aids and antibiotic cream
  • ball point pen and index cards (I opted not to carry a pocket voice recorder)
  • Katadyn Hiker-Pro water filter pump (11 ounces)
  • Petzl LED headlamp with 3 AA batteries
  • My trusty 40 year old REI daypack - still functioning perfectly
  • Asics Trail Sensor 5 Trail running shoes (less than a pound)
  • Columbia Titanium nylon cargo shorts (I carry a number of items in the pockets for convenience)
  • Athletic Works polyester t-shirt (from Wal-Mart)
  • Cotton briefs. Yes, cotton. Mandatory for me. (You want details?)
  • nylon liner socks and heavy Smart Wool hiking socks
  • cheap Casio digital day-date watch with wrist bands cut off
  • Swiss Army knife with 11 different tools, including file/saw, scissors, tweezers, and entirely unnecessary Phillips screwdriver.
  • nail clipper (more important than any of the tools on the Swiss Army knife. I have toenails that dig into adjacent toes when they get too long).
  • aspirin or ibuprofin - 12 tablets in a cute little pill container on the same keychain with the nail clipper. This waterproof (with an o-ring) pill holder was a drug store give-away, and the most useful piece of free gear I own.
  • cell phone. I'm debating whether to leave that behind. It's value is to signal for help in a dire emergency.
  • sun screen (just a small amount)
  • credit card, driver's license, and a $20 bill, all in a zip-lock bag
  • Garmin Oregon 550t GPS unit. More than half a pound, and a luxury item really, but I wouldn't consider hiking without it.
  • Canon Power-Shot 10x zoom camera. Totally a luxury item - so I can indulge my artistic urges when something photogenic comes along. This weighs close to a pound.
  • reading glasses - mandatory for my 63 year old eyes to work the GPS and read maps.
  • Spare batteries, two AA rechargables for the camera or the GPS.
  • toilet paper in zip-lock bag--small roll
  • Chlorine water treatment tablets for emergency backup--very light weight
  • trail map - the ATC official map of the section I'm hiking.
As indicated by the title of this post, the sum total weight of everything listed above is 10.8 pounds, and it includes a nearly one-pound camera that I may choose to leave out. The clothing included is only my summer outfit, and the weight does not include water and food (I plan to carry plenty of water, but because I'm doing day hikes, I'll only carry enough food for a single day's lunch and snacks). During cold weather (below about 55 degrees), I'll also carry extra layers of clothing.

Something that I do not hear hikers 'fess-up' about is their SKIN-IN weight. What body weight is optimal for long distance hiking? You've probably seen how scrawny marathon runners are. Well, there's no reason for a hiker who's walking that much distance every day to weigh any more than a marathoner. My advice is to eat the calories you need each day and don't carry *any* calories (in the form of body fat) that you won't burn before your next resupply.

What is a person's ideal Skin-In weight? Runner's World suggests that your ideal weight is achieved at a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18.5. Your BMI is easily calculated based on your height and weight. I'm 6'2" and weigh 148 pounds, giving me a BMI of 19.0 - exactly where I want it to be (just a few pounds of cushion before I drop into the unhealthy range).

So I'm primed to hit the trail, both skin-in and skin-out. Let the adventure begin!

2 comments:

  1. Out and back, does that mean you return and drive to next section hike? I am 62 and planning a section hike only for North GA. In reading other blogs I notice most carry too much gear and hike at a slow pace. I have been training at home, admittedly flat area, but average over less than 17 minutes per mile with a kelty backpack about 40 pounds for training. I like your method using a day pack, enough room for what I call the 10 essentials from BSA training. I may carry my smart phone with GPS/mapping, camera/video, most importantly keeping in touch with family sending text/pictures during recovery time.

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  2. Yes, Quentin, that's exactly what I have planned: Cover every section of the trail twice with a string of day hikes, spending no nights on the trail.

    You sound like you're well prepared for your section hike. Good luck!

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