A couple of years ago, around 2017, I thought I would do some hiking/trekking here in France where I have now lived since 1984 ish
Sadly breaking an ankle with complications and also losing my hearing, both these problems put a halt to these ideas before they even started, except I had already started buy equipment
September 2019 I’m basically back to health again, the left ankle though is still iffish.
As to my hearing, well I’m totally deaf in the right ear, I’m now sporting with a cochlear implant, so I can understand people talking to me if close up and with no ambient or little sound except them.
I’m 60% deaf in the left ear. I can hear sounds with it, but am unable to understand and comprehend spoken words.
So, in other words, I’m operational again 🙂
I’d bought some equipment in 2017, basically, anything that struck me as good, a tent, a rucksack, sleeping bag, cooking stove, sleeping mat, etc. I had no idea about weights, just bought what looked good to me, To be honest, all was good stuff, just not ultralight or even light, as you will see while reading on, and maybe you are in the same boat as me.
About July of this year with all the equipment, I tried two different one-day hikes, well I was hoping for two days hikes but just didn’t make it….
Here is some of the equipment I had at the time and tried out :
Rucksack : Osprey AG65
Tent : Nemo Hornet 2P + Footprint
Sleeping mat : Thermarest Neo Air L + Down Pillow, Thermarest
Stove JetBoil Minimo
Sleeping Bag : Valandre swing 700
Water bag 3L
Spoon & Fork, Plastic, cup & plate
Frontal lamp Petzl
Pocket Tool Leatherman Ti
Food for three days, Dried lyophilise
and loads of other stuff that I’ve already forgotten, in all over 15 kilos
The first hike 25 kms, managed to get the tent up in a field mode bivouac, but the next morning, had no water left, so no breakfast and after walking another 10 kms, and not finding any water on the way and with 15 kms to go still, I gave up and hitchhiked home, my thighs were killing me, I felt like I had just finished a marathon, like in 2015 when I actually ran one.
About a month later, My second hike, walked further than I expected to do, walking about 35 kms, to get to a campsite, so water this time OK, but the next morning blisters on my feet meant that I grabbed a taxi to go home as couldn’t walk
So after these two rather hopeless attempts I decided I’d better read up a little and learn, as obviously it wasn’t as easy as it seemed, and I wanted to do a trek that was about +220 kms long, or rather a choice of treks, as there were three here in France that looked fun, that seemed to be quite nice and suited to what I wanted to try, or at least in my mind.
Old man with boy’s ideas….
These are the three that interest me for the moment
GR107 Chemin des Bonhommes, Foix à Berga en Espagne
GR367 Chemins de Cathare, Port la Nouvelle à Foix
GR70 Le Stevenson
I started reading up on hiking/trekking, as usual for me the internet, especially Reddit, I came across several Reddit groups noticeably Ultralight, which I immediately jumped in the deep end and started asking question, after several suggestions and many critics (Reddit’s do tend to slag you), I understood that I was carrying far too much and most of it too heavy
I was asked several times to ‘fill in’ a LighterPack page on the web and post the results. Again after asking questions I found out what was this was as started using it. It’s a bit like an Excel sheet but on the web, where you note everything down, and I mean everything, even down to the toilet paper and especially the weight of each item.
Here is mine, it gets modified as I go along, though at this date 25/09/2019 it’s now mostly finished, at the start was completely different with all the above-mentioned items plus some…..
So now a couple of months later, middle of September 2019, almost a thousand euros less, don’t tell my wife, I have a decent and mostly ultralight setup, thanks to my Reddit questions, the answers, the suggestions, the critics and the slagging that I received (Nothing nasty, just goodish humoured slagging) all seems pretty dammed good to me.
Since the two previous attempts I have changed (just about everything ….) the rucksack to a slightly smaller one, an Osprey Exos 48, its one of the lightest around here in France, its half the weight of the AG68, a lighter sleeping pad/mattress, a lighter but less warm quilt instead of a sleeping bag. A Quilt basically only covers you, like your quilt at home, as the sleeping pad is meant to keep you warm underneath, a sleeping bag actually doesn’t keep you warm when compressed so the bottom part doesn’t do much at all, all technical stuff, that I didn’t even know about until a month ago, all of it lighter, more expensive and not so warm…..
When I say everything, probably the only lightweight product that I got right the first time around was the Nemo Hornet 2P tent, this weighs in at just about 1 kilo, it’s great for one person even though it says two. To be honest two would be a squeeze. All the critics are great for this tent, so phew don’t need to change that.
So here I am, ready to do my first trek.
I’ve decided, do try the GR107, Chemin des Bonhommes that starts from the town of Foix in France and crosses over to Berga in Spain, this is me all over, find something quite difficult, at maybe the wrong time of the year as its starting to get cold or wet or both with Autumn arriving and if I can do it all, I’ll be finishing in Spain where I don’t speak more than a handful (a very small handful of words)
This hike is 220 kms longs will take me over the Pyrenees with around 11000 m of ascent / and topping over 2000 m at its highest level, might have snow, probably rain and cold weather, all for which I’m not really equipped for, but it’s not winter yet either, and if it goes wrong, I can always hitchhike to a train station and run home with my tail between my knees
I have a plan B which is the GR367 again from Foix going to the town of Port-la-Nouvelle, both in France, this is called the Chemins de Cathares, again 220 kms long, main difference is it isn’t as high 1500 m max, so less chance of snow, but still can be rainy or cold
As both these treks start from the town of Foix, I will have to make the choice the 3rd day out at Comus when the paths split, so I shall decide then, depending on the weather in front of me
I have traced out both of these treks using BaseCamp from Garmin on my PC, adding sleeping points, where I think I can manage to get to in a day’s walking, learning from my previous two trips I have kept most of these at around 15 kms per day, especially as I have no idea how I’ll manage with all the up and down walking. and I still have a very iffish left ankle from breaking it last year
For sleeping I’d like to mix bivouac and camping, this is the old man trying to be like Mike Horn I suppose, I have added camping sites (when open, as many are closed at this time of the year) and some mountain refuges that I have never even seen in my life, let alone sleeping in one, so don’t know how that will go, also some gites, basically I need gites or camping sites, so that I can charge the batteries, Garmin, phones, frontal, ebook etc etc and maybe if the weather is too bad.
I get slagged every time on Reddit for my Garmin 64s, weighing in at 266 gms, (just use the phone, they all say, as I have one as well, but for me its too expensive, need to protect it, take care of it etc), the Garmin 64s is built for this and I love using when walking, it’s sturdy just hangs from my belt so that I can see at a glance where I am what’s around me, where I have planned to go, water points so that I can fill the CamelBak bag. Where I think I’ll sleep, or camping sites for example, so this though heavy I’m keeping.
I actually have to take two phones, my main phone a Pixel 3, big screen, this is used for mails, and chats as I mainly chat with everyone because I’m deaf and for its camera, as the camera is top-notch for a phone, so I’ll be using it mainly for that.
The second phone a shitty Apple SE (I hate Apple stuff), the only reason I have it is that it can stream telephone calls directly into my Implant Cochlear, which means I can understand some of the conversation, though not all of it and so in an emergency I can make a call. With the Android phone, making calls is more than just complicated
I said earlier not as warm :
Why not so warm_1: well the lighter sleeping mat ( Thermarest NeoAir UberLite) weighs 340 gms
In comparison against the first model that I bought (Thermarest Neo Air Xlite), that I still have at 460 gms
The Uberlight has an R-Value rating of 2 and the Xlite model rating is 3.5, this means that the insulating factor between you and the ground is less, but I’m not too worried, we haven’t had any freezing yet in France so the ground is not that cold, so hopefully that won’t be a problem
Also, the Uberlite packs less than half the size of the Neo Air as you can see in the photo
Why not so warm_2: Concerning the Quilt and the Sleeping bag, well that’s a little worrying as the ‘Vesper 20’ quilt has a comfort zone temp of 0°C but the ‘Valandre swing 700’ is -5°C so that’s a big difference if it’s cold, also while sleeping under a quilt there can be drafts from the sides as it doesn’t wrap under you
The problem is that the Valandre is it’s double the weight at 1017 gms and the packing size of the Vesper 550 gms, and double the size
In Reddit, they all suggest that you sleep in your clothes with a quilt if cold
I can sleep in a t-shirt OK, but trousers and jumper…. I’m not that willing, crazy or experienced as yet….
Again in the photo, you can see the difference in size.
Other things that I changed were, for example, the cooking items, I had bought a Jetboil Stove, model Minimo, this worked fine for my previous two outings, heating water for the lyophilisé food which I find fun. Just heat water and add it to the packet. but I found out after that a Toaks 750ml Pot, (a titanium casserole) and a super dinky small stove Amicus with stealth lighter, which with a 200 gm gas canister and the stove fits neatly in the Toaks, weight : stove and pot 191 gms against 415 gms for the Jetboil and smaller as well, and just as easy to use and setup
The Toaks pan, a good third smaller, same countenance, and with everything stashed inside the pan
In the pan you can store the gas, the Amicus stove and even a Bic Mini lighter, that I don’t need for cooking, it’s just there in case, and the other photo where you can see everything fits in the pan just great
I changed my Pretzl frontal Reactik+ weighing 110 gms to a Nitecore-nu20-rechargeable only 52 gms, Just a good, basically only need it for reading in ‘bed’ and going to the loo in the middle of the night etc. Half the weight & size as can be seen in the photos.
I dropped loads of stuff thanks again to Reddit’s suggestions :
Sheath knife, (shame it was made for me, its a one only model),
Pocket Tool Leatherman Ti (changed it for a Swiss army knife S14),
Plate (I eat out of the packets or in the pot)
Torch & lamp (after all I’ve a frontal, so don’t need three light sources) Compass (got one on phone & the Garmin)
The Kindle I changed for an old Kobo Mini that I managed to find, second hand, half the weight and size of the Kindle
So that’s about all the changes. All the equipment weighs under 13 kilos which is still a lot and some will say still not Ultralight. But I have 5 days of lyophilisé food, breakfast, lunch & dinner, About 3.7 kilos with the food and 1 litre of water. Water is a concern, I have to plan carefully where there are water points and if none carry litres of water with me, but this means more kilos as well.
Hope this is a helpful post if you are trying to go trekking and need to be lighter, If you have any questions, please ask