Lightweight Survival Gear
Decades ago,when I was a young man in the Army infantry, I sometimes marched 25-30 miles a day with a heavy (65 lb) rucksack attached to my back. Sometimes we had to march through sticky, muddy fields and ended up with around 10 lbs of mud attached to each leg. Those are not fond memories.
Today when I hike, it is for a much shorter distance, and it’s with my bug out bag. I now stay away from the thick clingy mud as much as possible and I also keep my survival gear as lightweight as possible. There is no way that this body will do now what it did when it was 20 something!
Unless you are an avid hiker, you probably don’t know how much difference a few pounds can make when you are on the trail. In a survival situation it can mean the difference between getting away quickly and getting caught by an angry mob.
There are several steps already put in place by lightweight hikers that will help all survivalist get their bug out bag to weigh less. The goal of these steps is to lighten your gear as much as possible without sacrificing your preparedness level, your safety, or your comfort.
Lighten your heaviest items first: your shelter, your sleeping bag, and your backpack.
- Shelter: This can be a tent, a tarp, or something as tiny as a poncho. These each give a certain level of shelter and comfort; you have to decide on what level of comfort you are willing to endure. If you decide that you want a tent, the good news is that there are many lightweight 1-3 person tents on the market today. These lightweight tents can weigh between 3 and 6 pounds. Their biggest drawback is price; they can cost more than $200. Tarps make effective lightweight shelters that will protect you from the bad weather while allowing you to enjoy all the sights and sounds of your surroundings. If insects are a nuisance, a few ounces of mosquito netting added to your kit will solve your problem. You can find ultralight tarps that weigh less than a pound and ground covers that weigh under 8 oz. Poncho’s that are used for shelters should be over-sized. They compress into a small area and can weigh under half a pound.
- Sleeping Bags: These are all about the temperature rating (how cold it will get) that you expect to encounter when using them. You might need two, one for the warmer months and one for the colder. Change them out when the weather changes. The colder the rating goes the higher the weight will be (extra down). It is easy to spend hundreds of dollars on an ultralight sleeping bag, but unless you need the very best, don’t. You can then spend the extra money on other survival gear. You can find sleeping bags that are short, regular, and long. A short ultralight sleeping bag rated at 45°F can weigh as little as 1 pound while a long one rated at -20°F can weigh as little as 4 pounds 3 ounces. If you can give up the comfort of the sleeping bag entirely, then a Bivvy Sack is a must have. This compress’ to a 6x6x4 inch size and weighs only 4 ounces.
- Backpacks: There are many ultralight backpacks. They vary in the area that they enclose (from 550 cu. in. to over 4000 cu. in.) and the amount of weight that they can carry (generally not over 30 lbs) and can weigh between 1-4 pounds. This should be the last item that you change so that you know the volume and weight-bearing capacity that your gear will need.
- Step Two:
- Lighten your smaller items:
- Stoves: There are many lightweight camping stoves available. A small personal butane stove can weigh just under 4 ounces yet have a powerful 10,000 BTU burner. Another option is a compact emergency stove that uses solid fuel tablets. The tablets usually burn for about 10 minutes…plenty of time to boil some water for your dehydrated meal. Emergency stoves are sold for around $10 and weigh just 3-4 ounces.
- Mess Kit: Your mess kit can include the pot that you cook in, another to drink from, and your cutlery. There are titanium mess kits that significantly reduce weight. A titanium spork for instance weighs only 17 g. Some of the options leave enough room inside the pot to put a lightweight stove and canister.
- Clothes: There are many lightweight synthetic clothes to choose from. Stay away from natural fibers such as cotton because they absorb too much water.
- Shoes: If you include a pair of shoes why not make them some lightweight hiking shoes? They are not only lightweight, they breath well and dry quickly. Some weigh only 1 pound per shoe. The biggest disadvantage to these is that they don’t support the ankle as well as hiking boots do.
- Sleeping Pad: If you are the kind of person that can’t live without the comfort of a pad underneath your sleeping bag, then of course keep it. ALPS has a lightweight self-inflating series of sleeping pads that comes in 4 different sizes. If you don’t need a pad underneath your legs then the short one that measures 20″ x 48″ x 1.5″ inflated, and is 1 lb. 9 oz., should be a perfect match.
- Multipurpose Items: Any time that you can use one item several different ways then choose that item. Multitools such as a Leatherman New Wave are good examples of this category.
Eliminate and continue to minimize: Get rid of stuff that you don’t need. For instance, if you have a PSP inside your kit to fight boredom, why not exchange it for a simple deck of cards? If you have a bulky flashlight that uses D batteries, exchange it for a smaller LED flashlight. They even make flashlights tiny enough to fit on a keyring! Keep on analyzing your gear and reducing the weight until you are sure that you are starting to get obsessive. That is when you know that your bug out bag is getting down to a reasonable weight.
If you have finally finished minimizing your bug out bag but have never taken it out on a trail hiking to see how it fits and feels, you are doing yourself a great disservice. That means that you haven’t practiced using all your gear either. What good is it to have taken the time to collect all that gear if you don’t even know how to use it all when you need it? As you use your gear you will get ideas; what you can add, replace, or even leave out of the bag. It will be during these times that you realize this; you are finally becoming the prepared person that you want to be.