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What could you leave at home?

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I am planning a trip this summer and wants to travel as lightly as possible. Some of you may remember LightJay from myccr and he inspired me from time to time to pare down to the essentials.

So, while trying to think of what I can leave behind, I thought I would ask you all:

Of all the things you take with you on an extended canoe trip (more than a week), what would you be willing to leave behind? Or what do you think you could safely skip taking with you?
 
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I don't think there's a whole lot else I'd be willing to leave behind, I've pared it down pretty good. I haven't done any real tripping for a few years but my last trip was 43 days and my gear pack was 35 pounds or under if I remember correctly, and a few pounds of that included stuff for my dog. While leaving stuff behind is a great weight saver so is having lighter gear. You can't leave behind a sleeping bag but you can save a lot of weight by going to a down top quilt instead of a synthetic bag. Lots of very comfortable and lightweight pads too.

I always have a couple pounds of books but I'm not willing to leave those behind.

No chairs of any kind (I sit on small foam pads).

No pillow (fold up clothes or jacket)

Leave more clothes behind. One pair of pants, one t-shirt, and one long sleeve button-up shirt for daily wear the entire trip. A couple long sleeve shirts to layer over that in colder weather plus a somewhat heavy fleece and rain jacket. The plan was that during the coldest weather I'd be wearing everything, which worked out about right (coldest days were windy and rainy with daytime temps in the 30's).

No big stoves: cook on an open fire or twig stove with an alcohol stove and 8oz of fuel for backup

Minimal cooking gear: one titanium pot and one lightweight skillet (just because I like bannock).

No duplicate shelters (tent+tarp). I might rethink this in the future.

But the more I think about it I think what it really boils down to is analyzing yourself. How do you travel and how comfortable do you expect to be? I take fewer comforts than most people but rarely do I ever feel that I'm uncomfortable on a trip. I'm sure part of that is because I'm still relatively young and can nearly always find a comfortable rock contour for sitting. I might not be able to do that in 20 years. I prefer to spend my time moving in the canoe so I don't usually find myself spending hours or days just hanging out in camp. Other people have other travel styles, priorities, and comfort levels which will dictate what needs to come along for a happy trip.

As I read more old accounts of travel in the north I started taking less stuff. They were always stitching up their only pair of pants. The only footwear was moccasins, which were also falling apart. Often there was no tent, just a tarp they could throw over a bush or the canoe to sleep under if it rained. Food was very simple (and often in short supply). The pleasures they derived from their trips didn't come from gourmet camp meals. They traveled light and hard and loved it. To me such travel makes good stories and good memories.

There have been times during extended cold, wet, and windy periods where I've been chilly and miserable. I'd have done anything for a bigger tent, a big tarp, more clothes, a big stove with plenty of fuel, more junk food, more books, a chair to sit on, a pillow, etc....

But while those times might have lasted a day or two the memories have lasted much longer and they're much more enjoyable than the actual time spent in those conditions. Instead I remember the satisfaction of getting through the situations without losing my temper or good humor. The satisfaction of starting fires in the rain. Laughing at the memory of myself running around in my underwear in the howling wind and rain while I looked for rocks to anchor my tent before it blew down. While there are plenty happy memories of easy times I more often find myself looking back in some sort of fondness on the tougher times.

I mean, if all we were looking for out of a trip was pleasure we'd just go somewhere and sit on the beach like everyone else.

Alan
 
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I am planning a trip this summer and wants to travel as lightly as possible. Some of you may remember LightJay from myccr and he inspired me from time to time to pare down to the essentials.

So, while trying to think of what I can leave behind, I thought I would ask you all:

Of all the things you take with you on an extended canoe trip (more than a week), what would you be willing to leave behind? Or what do you think you could safely skip taking with you?
In the spirit of Lightjay and the classic 17lb pack.......

Instead of just cutting off 75% of the toothbrush handle I would dump the entire thing!
 
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Instead of trying to figure out what to leave behind, the trick is to figure out exactly what is required. Then take no more. As a lightweight backpacker, I have my own minimal gear rather dialed in. It was a process to determine what was truly needed vs wanted.
 
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I do pack some comfort items that could be left at home, but my biggest problem, still, is packing more food than I need.

I think trip planning is just as important. I will always double carry, just won't push as far.
 
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I remember Light Jay . Ray Rietze could go one better. His pack was about 5 lbs. He knew how to trap and forage and never carried food. He could fix a boat with natural stuff from the woods. His debris huts were practically invisible.
I suspect the more you know about and can practice bushcraft the less you will need.
 
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Thank you, all. I'm with you all so much on this.

Alan, thank you for the long post. I agree with so much of what you wrote. Being uncomfortable at times is just part of the package. Do you really take a tent only and no tarp? I used to have only a tent. But also brought a tarp to wrap up the packs. At the beginning, I think two were not waterproof. But that was tandem, and the tarp was there for the occasional time we needed it.

Now that I have all dry bags, I could dispense with a tarp and just be uncomfortable if there are four days of rain and I am stuck in the bivy sack. -- Just kidding there. Sort of...

Recep, I've read your trip reports and seen your photos. It does not look as if you travel lightly, with all the electronic equipment and the screen room. But I am sure you are much stronger than I. I'm not going to comment on the hygiene items. When I travel I am more like the voyagers Alan refers to.

Sweeper, I always bring too much food too. I carry out tons of it. Also, as I get older, it seems like I need less food. I often skip meals all together and a small portions are filling. I always double carry. I've never had the physical capacity to single carry. My last trip in Verendrye, I had to triple carry sometimes! I brought too much stuff!

Instead of trying to figure out what to leave behind, the trick is to figure out exactly what is required. Then take no more. As a lightweight backpacker, I have my own minimal gear rather dialed in. It was a process to determine what was truly needed vs wanted.

That is the trick. I am trying to do it backwards because I have not had much success with your method: exactly what is required. So I am trying to look at it from a different angle. (When I was much younger, I did some backpacking. I trimmed down my pack and then the partner decided he could take two pairs of boots and put one in my pack because it was relatively light. I did not permit that. This was back when there were no available hiking boots for women. I had to buy men's hiking boots and stuff them with heavy socks.)

I recently rewatched Bill Mason's video on solo whitewater. It is noteable to me how simple his equipment was and how much I, we, focus on the latest everything, the newest equipment, lightest fabric, canoes costing more than $4000. I want now to step back from that mind set and go back to less.
 
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When I start planning I make a list of my needs. Just the absolute bare essentials.

I need a shelter
I need a sleeping pad
I need a sleeping bag
I need food
I need a canoe
I need a PFD
I need paddles
I need the clothes on my back
I need something to wear if it gets cold

And then a list of things I want to bring:

I want to bring a rain jacket
I want to bring a stove
I want a first aid kit
I want thick comfy socks for sleeping
I want an extra pair of pants
I want some sort of chair to sit on
I want a camera
I want alcohol
I want steak and fresh veggies the first few days
I want an extra pair of shoes
etc...

The first (must have) list never changes and even if those were the only things you took you should still be able to complete the trip. The second list is where you can make the cuts. I've left stuff behind that I wish I would have taken but there's nothing to do but shrug my shoulders and figure something else out. But much more often I've taken stuff that I've never used and cursed it when trying to fit everything in the pack and carrying it over the trail.

I pack my food by weight. I make a few test meals at home and weigh the ingredients that go into it. Once I know how many ounces of X goes into meal Y I just need to figure out how many days I want to eat Y and that tells me how many ounces/pounds of X to pack. I keep my meals simply and calorie/carb/fat dense. I add quite a bit of olive oil to most of my meals because it provides so much fat and calories in a small package.

Like you said I often find myself eating less on the trip than I do at home for the first 1 1/2 weeks. I can only assume that my body is happily consuming the extra fat I brought along in my belly. After 1 1/2 weeks I start eating a lot more food than I do at home.

So for trips under 2 weeks I don't worry about food as much as a month long trip. Even on a month long trip running out of food isn't likely to be that big of a deal. There were usually enough skipped/light meals in the first couple weeks of the trip to cover any shortages. Having to ration food or skipping a couple meals might be a little uncomfortable but it won't kill you.

I've done long trips where my only shelter was a tarp over a hammock and where my only shelter was as tent. The tent was good sized and roomy (CCS Lean 1). I preferred only the tent to only the tarp. Having a tarp in addition to the Lean would have been nice on some occasions but many of those days were cold and windy and I was probably more comfortable in the tent than I would have been under a tarp. I could pitch the tent with its back to the wind and keep the front flap up high so even in most bad weather I had a nice view and could cook in the opening.

Something like a bivy bag under a tarp is tempting because of the light weight and bulk. I also like the simplicity. But I just don't know if I could handle mutiple days of being stuck in the wind and rain where things really needed to be battened down.

Happy planning!

Alan
 
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My planning process is similar to Alan's.

I suggest that you make a tailored list of " needs " and " wants " then choose compact lightweight equipment that will meet your personal requirements and goals. Once you identify the equipment learn to use, pack and transport it efficiently. My focus would be on equipment that enhances the experience and not what I "leave behind".
 
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I suggest that you make a tailored list of " needs " and " wants " then choose compact lightweight equipment that will meet your personal requirements and goals. Once you identify the equipment learn to use, pack and transport it efficiently. My focus would be on equipment that enhances the experience and not what I "leave behind".

Or make an untailored list, or two.

I have two paddling packing lists; one for everything possibly needed day paddling in any season, one massive list tripping & cross country travel list that includes every-damn-thing no matter the place or season.

My needs and wants change with the length of trip, venue, season, companions or solo, and other factors. The “everything list” still has ancient stuff that hasn’t come on trips in years; fishing gear, hip waders, Roll-a-Table, gaiters, and bear bells*. It feels like I am making great packing progress, and not forgetting anything, when I get to a section and cross stuff off Nope, nope, nope; not this trip.

*I should cross “bear bells” of the list. I found the last of our old bear bells, with a shoelace alligator clip. In the continuing diner prank tradition I left it on a booth at the diner, with a laminated sign on the alligator clip:

For wait staff attention

Please ring bell


(Your cooperation is appreciated)

And hid it behind the ketchup bottle.

Next week’s diner breakfast I innocently asked “Do I get a little bell to ring for service?”. The hostess, my best and most understanding prank buddy, exploded for all to hear “I KNEW IT WAS YOU!”

Geeze Linz, what gave me away?

Where were we? Oh, yeah, I am not a compact, lightweight packer, and have no desire to winnow down to a Light Jay 18lb kit. I miss Light Jay, he and I wrote a magazine piece extolling the benefits of Light vs Heavy Weight ways of travel.

I do agree with Devil’s Son in Law about “electronics”; other than a digital pocket camera, and a weather radio on coastal trips, screw modern electronica. I really don’t need to check my phone for e-mail messages while tripping, and I’d rather get lost with map & compass than stare at ayou-are-here GPS screen.
 
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Depending on the temperature (and, perhaps, your bug tolerance), I'd really consider leaving the tent and just taking a lightweight tarp. I did it by mistake last trip but I was not (usually) uncomfortable and it saved 3 lbs.

I also don't usually eat nearly as much as I thought I would so food supply could be shorted... especially if able / willing to fish / forage.

There are also many items that can serve multiple uses... if it's waterproof, it's windproof so no need to carry 2 jackets; a small spray bottle full of alcohol works as deodorant, antiseptic, fire starter and sanitizer; coffee pot works to warm water for bathing (if desired) as well as a fire bucket. (gotta take the coffee pot... non-negotiable luxury item for me).
 
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And then a list of things I want to bring:

I want to bring a rain jacket
I want to bring a stove
I want a first aid kit


Alan
I love your list. Thank you, Alan.

I only disagree with the rain gear and the first aid kit. I was on a trip where it rained 27 out of 28 days. Daytime temperatures were 60 F. I need to stay dry to avoid hypothermia. I supposed

First aid kit, I can see paring it down, but not going without. It's kind of like the life jacket. I suppose I could do without one, but... However, I will seriously consider paring it down.

Thanks, Gamma. I like the idea of having multiple uses for things. I, amazingly, have stopped drinking coffee. Just one day I up and didn't want it anymore. No virtue involved.
 
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Interesting topic. I’m a belt and suspenders kind of guy, so I’m pretty sure I’d have over 200-lbs of stuff 😳 Two is one and one is none, etc. I suppose it would take a while and a few trips for me to figure out what I didn’t need to take.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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I've always traveled fairly light.

In general, what I have taken too much of is clothing and food. I cut down on volume and weight when I switched to an air mattress and air pillow.

However, in my older and achier age, eschewing my younger advocacy of sitting on logs, rocks and PFD's, I've now added a nine pound, full-sized, comfortable, reclining bag chair.

Sic transit gloria canoetrippi.

Portage resting.JPG
 
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I weigh everything I might possibly use (or own, as I do lots of different sports--my powder BC ski setup is 1745g lighter than my spring ski setup!), and keep it in a spreadsheet. I also keep a spreadsheet of what I take on my major trips, and annotate it at the end of the trip (what did I use, etc.). I copy the equipment list to each trip, and decide, based on that specific trip, whether to add or subtract each item. I weigh all my food--pasta is lots heavier than quick brown rice. Knowing the weights of everything allows you to make more informed decisions. My old "puffy" is 40g lighter than my favorite fleece jacket--but warmer and more wind-resistant, but less comfortable. How much rain is expected? Can I get away with my 398g Goretex jacket, or should I take my 795g Helly Hansen? Can I get away with my 908g solo tent, or do I need my 3232g mountaineering tent?

If you want to make decisions on weight, you have to know how much stuff weighs, and then evaluate how the weight of the individual item affects your experience.
 
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I weigh all my food--pasta is lots heavier than quick brown rice.
Yes, but pasta has way more calories than rice so you need less of it!
We aim for foods that hit 125Kcal/oz to cut down on weight and bulk. We certainly don't bring "fresh" foods for the start of the trip. That's when we miss it the least and the packs are heaviest. Now if I could arrange a parachute drop of fresh fruit and non-sweaty cheese for the last few days of a trip that would be another thing altogether.

As far as gear goes we are fortunate enough to have a wide range of tents, sleeping bags (quilts) and mats so are able select for the season. I've been cold a few times, just put more clothes on. We no longer bring spare pants. If they get wet just wear them until they dry or put on your rain pants while they dry.
Like most folk I started with white gas stoves. It's been several years since we used one having switched to alcohol and twigs stoves. I bought a GSI canister stove for backpacking a couple of years ago. Much as I hate to admit, it works out lighter than alcohol for two after 5 days as it uses so little fuel. I added a second GSI but with a remote canister system last fall. I've used successfully at temps below zero and that will likely be our paddle tripping stove on longer trips where fires are banned. With our style of cooking we only need one 8oz canister for 8 days, so stove and fuel are around the weight of a bare white gas stove.
 
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Yes, but pasta has way more calories than rice so you need less of it!
Its closer than you think. 50g of quick brown rice is 180 kcal (one cup prepared), and 56g of pasta is 200 kcal (1/8 of a package). With my camp-prepared meals (pasta/rice + whatever), rice dishes are at least 20% less weight for 4pax.
 
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