Winter Ultra Light Challenge


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Peak to Peak Trail and Wilderness Links




Gear List


Spring of 2010 I decided to finish something I started 5 years earlier and do the SUL challenge. Not only did I have fun putting together a packing list and making it work on the trail, I learned some stuff and brought my "normal" packing list down. While I was on the trip I decided this was such a good learning experience that I would do it again in winter to see what new lessons I could teach myself about going light.

So with that in mind, I decided to first define what I meant by a winter hike. As Wolf23000 on WhiteBlaze pointed out - he recently did a winter hike with a 2 pound base, but it was in Hawaii where it doesn't get cold. So with that in mind, I define winter hiking like this:

The Great Smokey Mountain National Park, mid winter. Expected lows in the single digits with chances to go much lower on occasion. Snow, but rarely high enough for needing snow shoes. Tentatively the hike will be the ~70 mile length of the AT in the park in the first week of February 2011. I calculate this time and route to give me the best potential for the temperatures and climates I want to test the ideas on.

To add to that, I want to avoid "survival light". That is, hiking with just gear to get by eschewing all luxuries. I also didn't want to do tricks like stuffing pockets to make weight or wearing women's watches and rubber bands for wedding rings etc. I ain't trying to just make weight, I'm trying to make weight and still try to be a fairly normal person. So here are my personally imposed rules for this hike:

1. Base weight of 10 pounds or less pack weight.

2. Items worn and carried can't exceed 6.5 pounds.

3. Any consumable stuff like toilet paper, water, iodine treatment, food, etc. doesn't count against my base.

4. The gear has to include a hammock system.

5. It has to include a way to cook hot meals including stuff like coffee.

6. It also has to have luxuries, stuff like bourbon, cigars, reading, music, etc.

I'll mention before going on that I have already packed a hammock in this weather and stayed pretty light already during my 2008 thru-hike attempt. With that in mind I know that I'm already on a glide path to probable success. There are a few items I want to upgrade to before doing this hike. So for now I'm going to post both the items I have and can use, and the items I would like to switch to in order to make this happen. Weight totals are left off for now because of this - but at this point, if I carried everything I have on hand, I am already at 10.6 pounds, very close...

Packing List:

Items with a yellow background are items I plan to replace. Items with a red background are items that I plan to replace the items with.

Item: Weight: Number: Total:
Flight Series Jacket & VestWestern Mountaineering Down Jacket. I like the loft vs. weight, but I'm still not convinced I like this better than my good old field jacket liner. 12.38 1 12.38
Western Mountaineering Flash down pants 7.76 1 7.76
Goose Feet down socks 2.29 1 2.29
Polartec P300 Mittens. Lightweight warm mittens for wearing in camp when it is really cold. 1.80 1 1.80
Polypropylene head gaiter a fabric tube that can be made into a hat, balaclava, neck warmer, etc. Combine this with my compressor hat camp to form a balaclava when I need it in really cold weather. 1.98 1 1.98
REI PowerStretch Top. Good, light base layer for my top. 9.14 1 9.14
Arc'Teryx Rho Pants. Good, light base layer for my legs. 8.04 1 8.04
Wigwam Wool Socks. I rarely ever walk in these. They are my warm socks I put on when reaching camp. 2.51 1 2.51
Home made cuben fiber stuff sack 0.39 1 0.39
Total ~46.28
Rain Gear
Packa rain jacket/pack cover. One of my favorite pieces of equipment. It is waterproof, but the design breathes like a poncho while having the protection and for fitting of a rain jacket. You can also take this off or put it on easily without stopping and taking off your pack when the weather is on the boderline. 10.26 1 10.26
Mountain Laurel Rain Chaps. The Packa covers down far enough that I don't need real pants in the rain. This option gives me better protection and ventilation when I do need rain protection for my legs than real rain pants would. 2.36 1 2.36
Mountain Laurel eVent rain mittens. Add over wool gloves when hiking in the wet cold. 1.13 1 1.13
Total ~13.76
Plastic Spoon 0.18 1 0.18
Heineken Keg Can (HKC) pot. Ultralight pot for heating water. Not much use beyond that. I recently fabricated a lid for the can. I've also added a hardware cloth insulation wrap. For more details see this video. 1.94 1 1.94
Ion Micro stove with wire stand. For more details see this video. 0.56 1 0.56
10.1 ounce fuel bottle. This 330ml bottle came out of a vending machine for can soda. It fits perfectly inside my pot and leaves room for my stove, stand, windscreen, lighter, and priming tray. 0.71 1 0.71

Small lighter

0.42 1 0.42
Sandwich sized zip-lock for trash.


0.11 1 0.11

1 gallon zip-lock for a food bag. Just the stuff than needs bagged.

0.46 1 0.46
24 ounce water bottle 0.85 1 0.85
2+ Liter Platypus. I usually only use this in camp, but there have been days I need to carry extra water. 1.20 1 1.20
Home made cuben fiber food bag 0.49 1 0.49
2 ounce bottle for olive oil 0.42 1 0.42
A McDonalds small disposable coffee cup with lid. 0.35 1 0.35
Cozy to keep boil-in-bag food warm 0.85 1 0.85
A very small glass bottle (not the one shown here) for storing iodine pill water treatment.


0.39 1 0.39
Total ~8.92
Miscellaneous Gear - those odds and ends you need.
First Aid and Repair Kit. Just what you need to fix yourself or your gear up to get into the next town.


2.68 1 2.68
Home made cuben fiber dry sack.


0.21 1 0.21
Thermometer. Tied outside my pack to let me know if I should snivel or not. 0.25 1 0.25
Steno sized sheets of paper.


0.03 3 0.12
Pencil. Can't run out of ink in the woods. I put a plastic cap from an ink pen over the tip so it doesn't poke holes in anything. 0.18 1 0.18
Spare Smartphone batteries. That way I have a back up if the primary dies in the woods. 0.82 1 0.82
I plan to switch over to a Samsung Galaxy S by the time of this hike. The Galaxy S is supposed to be lighter and have a better power consuption rate wich should help the battery last longer, so I wouldn't need an extra battery to carry. 4.20 1 4.20
Total ~7.64
Hygiene - keep clean and healthy.
My dentist has me using one of these to prevent teeth grinding at night.


0.07 1 0.07
Dispenser for spray hand sanitizer to keep the cooties off my hands before I eat.


0.35 1 0.35
extra small Zip lock bag for prescription meds. 0.07 1 0.07
Zip lock bag (1/2 gallon). For carrying toilet paper in. 0.11 1 0.11
Total ~0.60
Navigation and lights - to make your way down the trail without getting lost.
ITP A3 EOS Creet. Very small light that can clip to my hat band if needed instead of needing a band. Has a nice low setting for reading and the brightest setting is incredible. I got rid of the keychain. 0.64 1 0.64
Total ~0.64
Sleeping Bag/Ruck/Shelter - the big 3 or big 4 depending on how you look at it. Sleeping bag, shelter, pack, and pad.
Gossamer Gear Murmur. Something new to me. I've got some other pack options that may end up being the final choice, but for now this is what I think I will be using. I've added a small bungee cord to the pack since my pocket pad doesn't fit in the pad sleeve. 7.74 1 7.74
Gossamer Gear pack belt pouches. Size small. I have really grown to like having pockets like this handy with my ULA pack. 0.67 2 1.34
Z rest pad - 2 panels. This will serve as my pack "frame" and can be used as a part of my insulation system. 2.12 1 2.12
JRB No Sniveler Quilt. I love this quilt. I've  carried this for years because it makes a good, light quilt in warm weather, and has served as my underquilt in cold weather. Plus you can wear it in camp when you need an extra layer in cold weather. Suspension included in weight. 21.09 1 21.09
Home made 7'x9 cuben fiber tarp. Most hammocks would need something a little longer like a 7'x10'. This tarp will enable me to totally enclose the hammock if needed. 4.81 1 4.81
Home Made Cuben Fiber Stuff sack for the hammock system. 0.25 1 0.25
Continuous ridgeline with prussic loops for the tarp. Made from 1.25mm spectra line from 0.35 1 0.35
Turkey roasting bag. Ultralight pack liner alternative. Tougher than I thought they would be. 0.49 1 0.49
Home made Tree Straps. Used to protect trees from rope damage when hanging a hammock. 0.69 2 1.38
Home made aluminum toggles from Easton Scout arrows. These are the link pin between the tree huggers and the Whoopie slings on my Ghost Hammock. 0.035 2 0.07
Hungry Howie custom quilt. Hungry Howie made this for me a while back and I have had a lot of good experience with it. 17.99 1 17.99
Home made hammock with foot and shoulder pockets. This allows the hammock body to be VERY small (48" x 96") but have the lay of a much larger hammock. 5.76 1 5.76

Piss bottle. I added a 24 ounce Gatorade bottle last year when it was VERY cold. I didn't want to leave my warm hammock to go. The wide mouth helps make this a little easier. It takes some practice though. This means you also have a warm water bottle to help thaw out your feet without burning any extra fuel.

1.20 1 1.20
My own design evazote pocket pad. A two layer pad with a space in the middle for adding other insulation like the Z rest "frame" 10.34 1 10.34
Home made stakes from Easton arrows and hardwood golf tees.


0.16 8 1.31
Total ~82.53
Luxury Items - items that make camping a pleasure.
Flask. Just an old soda bottle for carrying bourbon in.

Results: Worked as planned The total capacity was only 10 ounces, so I had a little less per night than normal, but it worked.

0.64 1 0.64
Home made cuben fiber zip lock cigar case to keep my cigars fresh.


0.11 1 0.11
Total ~0.74
Clothing (Worn) -This stuff serves as my base clothing for all hikes - even in winter. Those surprise warm snaps hit even in January down here.
Wal-Mart ankle high running socks. They are light weight with some padding for comfort, and they dry pretty fast. 1.45 1 1.45
BUFF  : Buff Original BuffBuff - I added this on my thru-hike after getting frostbite on my ears. I was too warm for a real hat. I just needed some light insulation and wind protection for my ears and face. 1.31 1 1.31
MontBell UL wind pants. Small, light, easy to put on breathable nylon pants for times you need something on your legs but are moving and fleece would be a bad idea. 2.43 1 2.43
Marmot Ion wind shirt. Small, light, easy to put on when I need a wind block. I finally saw the light and got a wind shirt. 5.22 1 5.22
Black Diamond WoolWeight gloves. 1.98 1 1.98
Short sleeve wicking shirt. 3.96 1 3.96
Addidas Trail runners. New pair of kicks for my feet. The jury is still out on these. I've modified these since last hike to prevent blisters 27.67 1 27.67
Ankle braces with liners. I have injured my ankles multiple times - the worst ones have been in high boots. An ankle injury forced me off the trail in 2008, so I take care not to repeat that again. 3.47 2 6.93
Rocky Gore-Tex SocksRocky Socks. I add these only when the weather is cold and wet, otherwise I hike in just my socks - these things can be too warm at times. Sometimes I wear these around camp as slippers. 3.32 1 3.32
Nylon dress socks to prevent chaffing of my shins on the ankle braces.


1.10 1 1.10
ID, money, credit cards, and keys. In a home made cuben fiber dry bag hiker wallet. Keep the cards to a minimum: ID, ATM, insurance, emergency contacts. 1.73 1 1.73
Komperdell Natural Stick Carbon ski poles with bamboo laminate finish. 5.55 2 11.10
Duct tape - on trekking poles. Duct tape can repair almost anything and it is good for blisters. You don't need to carry a whole roll though. 2.12 1 2.12
A really light fleece hat with a wind blocking shell outside. This makes for a very warm and light hat. 1.45 1 1.41
Cheap old hiking shorts from Wal-Mart.


3.71 1 3.71
Wal-Mart microfiber underwear. Dry well and prevent thigh chafe. Going commando has never worked for me. 2.05 1 2.05
Extra small lighter as a back up to the matches. 0.42 1 0.42
Lip balm. Cool little lip balm pack for when you get wind burn on your face. 0.18 1 0.18
Leatherman Micra. I've tried smaller and I've tried larger. This is what I always go back to. 1.77 1 1.77
1quart zip lock. For keeping my, maps and guide book page in inside my pack. 0.21 1 0.21
Photo copy of the section of map I plan to hike on for this trip. One sheet of 8.5"x11" paper. 0.18 1 0.18
Pages from the AT guide for the AT through the GSMNP. 0.18 1 0.18
Dog tags. I've had this set for years. They are my good luck charms. 0.71 1 0.71
Ti wedding ring. To keep the hiker babes off me. 0.14 1 0.14
Glasses with case. Transition glasses so they serve as sunglasses. The case is a microfiber bag so it also serves as a cleaner for the glasses. 0.88 1 0.88

Cheap pair of headphones

0.42 1 0.42
MP3 player/FM radio with Li battery. Stores 2 Gigs of music and runs off Li AAA so I can share batteries with my headlamp if I need to. 1.17 1 1.17
Casio Pathfinder watch. Compass, altimeter, barometer, and it charges off solar energy. You just have to calibrate the altitude whenever you get to a point with a known elevation so it stays as accurate as possible.tude on this. 2.72 1 2.72
Total ~86.45
Consumables - those supplies you use up as you hike so the weight goes down. Days Oz per day Total
Toilet paper 7 0.15 1.00
Olive oil @ 0.82 per fluid ounce 5 0.50 2.05
Meds 5 0.10 0.50
Cigars 5 0.42 2.10
Colgate Wisp 5 0.06 0.30
Puzzles 5 0.04 0.20
Hand Warmers 5
Hand Cleaner 5 0.06 0.30
Iodine Pills 5 0.04 0.20
Food 5 32.00 160.00
Water @ 1.04 ounces per fluid ounce 1 24.00 24.96
Drinking alcohol @ 0.94 per fluid ounce 5 3.00 14.10
Alcohol @ 0.79 ounces per fluid ounce 5 1.50 5.93
Total ~37.17 ~211.64
Oz Pounds
1. CLOTHING 46.3 2.89
2. RAIN GEAR 13.8 0.86
3. KITCHEN 8.9 0.56
4. MISC 7.6 0.48
5. HYGIENE 0.6 0.04
8. LUXURY 0.7 0.05
9. CONSUMABLES 211.6 13.23
TOTAL (Winter) 372.4 23.27
TOTAL (- food & water) 160.8 10.05
10. CLOTHING (WORN) 86.4 5.40
GRAND TOTAL (FSO) 458.8 28.68

Recognition of support:

Thanks to the following people that are helping out in one way or another:

Hog on Ice for making me my first Heineken pot and giving me stove ideas. I'm still tinkering.

te-wa of Hammock Forums and te-wa Underquilts for the deal on the packs.

Cedar Tree, inventor of the Packa. I can't express how great an idea this is.

Peter Pan and Smee of Jacks 'R Better for the No-Sniveler quilt and stuff sack. That is the same one that was the prototype from years back.

TeeDee of Hammock Forums for his ideas on using prussics on a continuous line tarp ridgeline.

MacEntyre of Molly Mac Pack for the sock door idea.

Angrysparrow, bankheadboy, and others for the solution on foot and shoulder pockets for a hammock.

WV of for helping me work out cuben tarp idea.

Opie of Whoopie Slings for making me a set and then being my advisor when I tried making me own.

Paul from Arrowhead Equipment for making me some Woopie Slings and toggles.

Just Jeff for his plans for hammock socks.

Joe Valesco of Zpacks for answering my questions about tarps and cuben fiber.

And last of all, but not in last place: My wife for putting up with me and sewing my projects when I asked. She is a sweetheart.