2017-03-12

Less plastic backpacking trip

I keep getting closer! We went for a 3 day trip, covering about 35 miles, down the Wild Azalea trail in Louisiana in March. We planned for ~40F night, ~60F day, but got ~60F night ~80F day... and rain.


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(Left: My treated-cotton poncho shelter. Right: Angie's silnylon tarp shelter)

There are only a couple of major things left on the "still plastic" list.

Plastic gear used
  • Backpack frame end caps
  • Shoes
  • 3 dry sacks
  • Food packaging (ziplocks and prepackaged)
  • albutorol inhaler
  • wool tights had elastic waist
  • plastic zipper on pants
  • plastic buttons on canvas shirt 

Food packaging has always been out of scope for this project. It's interesting, and very relevent, but for something like an AT hike it's not possible with the style of hiking I like (shoot from the hip, buy from grocery stores as you go). Similarly drugs to keep my alive are off the list.

I'm not sure if I'll ever move away from using plastic soled shoes. Nothing has as good a grip... but maybe. Originally I didn't think I'd ditch the sleepingbag either when I set about this, and that's long gone.

Next is some futzy stuff... buttons and zippers... Maybe I'll get to that eventually too, but that doesn't lead to interesting experimentation or learning about new or old ways to backpack, so I might do it just for completeness, but meh.

The big obvious one left is the dry sacks. That will be interesting to figure out for sure. No treatment of canvas I've tried so far keeps things completely dry. Leather would, but it's really heavy. My plan right now is to try canvas and see if it's good enough, but I'm also considering options like only vaguely waterproof sacks, and a canvas pack cover, which by not being tight against the sacks would keep rain off. This is the idea with the poncho as well, another possible option.

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(Note: linen/cotton pants, knife in leather sheath on my belt, no hipbelt, and pack uses leather shoulder-straps with hemp string for the bottom adjustable attachment. The string is tied to the pack frame with a rolling hitch and a half-hitch, and I'm using a double-taughtline hitch for adjustability)

All Gear:
 Base weight: ~19.5 lbs
 Skin out weight: ~21.5 lbs

The treated canvas shirt is a canvas shirt from cabellas, treated using methods from http://www.blog.smalladventures.net/2017/02/waterproofing-cotton-poncho-experiment-2.html, 1 whole small can of mineral spirits, 3 handfulls of wax pellets, and maybe 2 ounces of pure food-quality linseed oil, applied in 2 coatings, with extra applies to shoulders and sleeves. All wax was absorbed by the fabric, and none is on the outside to flake off. I think I could get it to take more wax and be even more waterproof.



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(A rusting antique car we passed on the trail, I found a tiny geocache capsule stuck in the frame actually)

The Trip


It was very warm for this trip, I didn't need the sweaters, tights, or hat. It rained a fair bit, particularly the first day, so I did get a chance to spend some time wet. I never used the poncho, finding the treated canvas shirt basically sufficient. In fact... I've been thinking and I've been on numerous trips with not-really-waterproof raincoats (say, they wore out, or whatever), and I've always been comfortable and fine. Jess did the AT with a windbreaker as a rain-coat, not waterproof at all. With all of this I'm now thinking I don't need perfect waterproofness, meaning I don't need the poncho. The effort I spent on it though has payed off. The treated canvas shirt I made using those techniques worked well. It worked far better than my old experiment with a poly/cotton mix shirt http://www.blog.smalladventures.net/2015/12/diy-raincoat.html.

So, in the future I could drop ~1 lb by going to an untreated tarp instead of the poncho. I could drop another almost pound by swapping to a lighter lantern. That'll help make up for weight added when I replace the stuff-sacks.

One great find this trip was the hemp cord, bought at Michael's. It's rated to 120 lbs and is about the size of paracord... this was a huge improvement and brought down my expected weight enormously. I used it for everything, as you can see in the gearlist.

Biggest failing on this trip was the pants. They worked okay, but I got chaffing after only 3 days and 36 miles covered... that won't do. I'm now looking in to switching to a kilt of some kind and maybe greasing my thighs with lard/fat on hot days. We'll see!

All in all it was a fun trip, and I'm excited to be at such a light weight with hardly any plastic.

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