When Counting Ounces Goes Wrong

Blue featherEvery ounce counts, right? The heavier your pack is, the more work you have to do on the trail, and the longer your hike, the less you want your pack to weigh. It’s typically a good idea to examine what you’re putting in your pack. By doing so, you can reduce the amount of unnecessary weight you’re hauling with you on the trail. Of course, there’s a big difference in trimming the excess from your pack and counting ounces.

Ounce counters strive to reduce the weight of their packs as much as possible. They can tell you exactly how much their sleeping bag weighs, how much their stove weighs (fuel included), and how much their tent weighs, with or without the rainfly. Of course, there’s something to be said for reducing pack weight, but going to great lengths to reduce the weight of your backpack is a slippery slope.

What started out as an earnest attempt to make backpacking more comfortable turns into a crazed obsession in which you begin counting grains of rice and sawing handles off of toothbrushes. You trade in your tent for a tarp, and shell out a grand on a sleeping bag. By the time you’re done whittling down your pack weight, you are left with an expensive bare bones set up that is far less comfortable than your original set up. There’s a little irony in that.

The truth is that counting ounces can take a turn for the worse. You can find yourself spending much more money than you need to, or you can put yourself at a disadvantage by not bringing the items that you need on the trail.

Counting ounces can be expensive.

Gear companies are constantly improving gear, reducing materials, and making lighter designs. If you’re striving to have the lightest set up possible, you’re looking at prematurely replacing perfectly good gear just to shave off a couple of ounces of pack weight. What’s more, lightweight products often cost more than heavier camping equipment because of the materials used, technology, and testing that goes into making those products.

Counting ounces can leave you wanting.

You can end up putting yourself at a disadvantage by leaving important gear at home. A first aid kit can be viewed as excessive weight if you never hurt yourself. However, it’s worth carrying that extra weight for that one time that you need a first aid kit. The same goes for water. Water is easily one of the heaviest things you have to take backpacking. You might be able to get by with a water filter and a lone 32-ounce water bottle, but what happens when you can’t find a water source? It’s better to carry extra water and deal with that weight than it is to go light and bank on finding a stream.

Of course, there are plenty of budget ultralight backpackers, and many hikers are equipped with the right skills to manage on a bare bones backpacking set up. Just keep in mind that you don’t need to go featherweight to stay comfortable on the trail, and use caution when going down the road of counting ounces.

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