Backpacking Ultralight with 2 Sheets of TP Per Day: Not… The 1,000 Mile Trek

Going ultralight in backpacking is serious business. It always has been. The backpacking towel on the left in the photo was considered the ultimate in a lightweight towel for years. My ultralight towel for this year is on the right.


Ultralight backpackers are a serious bunch. I read the other day that you should be able to get by on two sheets of toilet paper per day. Not this kid. I am serious about reducing the weight of my pack, but not that serious. I need a few creature comforts— and I need more than two sheets of TP per day! Also, I refuse to use leaves, even though I know what poison oak looks like. (Fannies etc. are not happy when they come in contact with poison oak or ivy!)

That having been said, I have worked hard to get my pack weight down. I figure with backpacking a thousand miles at age 75, I need every break I can get. And I’ve succeeded. My pack, including eight days of food and fuel, now weighs 28 pounds! Back in the dark ages of backpacking, which was back in the late 60s when I started, my pack for 7-9 days usually weighed between 55 and 65 pounds. Fifty pounds were ultralight for me!

It wasn’t that folks didn’t want to reduce weight in the early years. In fact, one way people had of defining a serious backpacker was whether she had drilled holes in her toothbrush. (I never did.) The primary difference today is that modern equipment weighs so much less. My pack towel featured in the top photo is a good example. But almost every piece of equipment I own has gone through a similar evolution. And it is happening fast. I’ve replaced my light, two-person, 4 1/2 pound North Face Tadpole Tent of the last four years with a 2 1/2 pound, two person Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 for the TMT (thousand mile trek).

REI Medford and I have become quite close over the past three months! And the staff has been tremendous, especially Elise, who always greets me with a large smile and supports my efforts to find bargains where bargains are to be had. The latest, lightest gear is not cheap! But consider this. Trying to go light last year without replacing much gear, my pack weighed in at 40 pounds with eight days worth of food— 12 pounds more than this year’s. Buying light, and weighing everything that goes into my pack has made a significant difference.

Everything that goes into my pack has been weighed on my kitchen scales. Here, my MSR Pocket Rocket stove weighs in at 2.6 ounces.

I thought it might be fun to share what I am carrying on the TMT since most of you will be joining me on my trip, virtually if not literally. Let me start by noting I organize my gear in categories: There is my house, my kitchen, my bathroom, etc. Since I kicked this post off with a discussion on TP, I’ll start with my bathroom, which I am sure you are eager to learn about. (Grin.)

Here’s my bathroom. I put my keys in for a size comparison. The dark blue cloth is my backpack towel. I, quite manfully, carry a pink wash cloth. Other items include biodegradable soap, hand lotion, toothpaste, toothbrush, TP, and hair brush— the latter with its broken off handle has been with me for decades. I borrowed the small jar from my medicine cabinet. It houses cotton swabs and floss. The soap does triple duty including baths, dishes and clothes. The disposables are designed to last me eight days on the trail.

Having pulled together my ‘bathroom’ with eight days of supplies, I pack it all together, which is how it goes into my pack. It weighs 9.4 ounces.

These go into my “essentials’ bag. A whistle can be critical if you are injured or lost. The sound carries far. Next to it is a bottle of water purification tablets, then my knife and compass. My maps, also essential are packed elsewhere. My headlamp comes next. The bottom row includes sunblock, insect repellent and rope. Spot is a GPS based gadget that lets my family know where I am each night and also serves as an emergency beacon, informing officials that I have been injured and letting them know where I am. Hit the emergency button and rescuers are on the way. Matches are packed in a water proof bag.

Also essential, but packed separately is my first aid kit. While it is small and light, it is packed full of various bandages, gauze, medicines, ointments, tape, and even a basic first aid guide. It weighs in at 7 ounces.

My kitchen: Everything needed to cook and eat— my stove, dishcloth, bucket, coffee and tea mug, 4-ounce fuel container and its base, bowl and spoon, and an all-purpose titanium cook pot that holds up to 32 ounces of water. I also use the bucket for bathing and washing clothes as well as hauling water to camp.

Water, is critical out on the trail, and micro-organisms such as giardia require that water be filtered or treated. The Katadyne bottle comes with its own filter and is my go-to bottle. I also fill the Platypus bottle on the left when it’s a long ways between water sources. The MSR filter on the right is in case the Katadyne filter decides not to work! Another trick I use is to camel up when in camp! I am constantly drinking liquids.

I carry a back-up bag in the bottom of my pack. It includes extra batteries, TP, matches and fuel. I also have my ‘burner’ cellphone, a repair kit, athletic tape for wrapping a sprained ankle, and a knee brace. Since I am blind as a bat if my glasses break, I always carry an extra pair.

Food for 8 days for one person. I normally carry about one pound per day. I may have to add to this as I use up fat reserves. 🙂

These are my clothes that I will be carrying (as opposed to wearing) depending on weather. On the left is my rain jacket and next to it my down jacket. My red clothes bag includes a T-shirt, underwear, extra socks, rain pants, long pants, a warm beanie hat, and warm gloves. Everything is designed to be worn in layers, more when it’s cold, less when not. I can easily handle most spring, summer and fall weather conditions with theses clothes. Laundry is done each night!

Here’s my house and furniture. It includes my tent, chair, sleeping bag, and sleeping mattress. I switched from a down bag to a down quilt this year. For yeas I have mainly used my bag as a cover anyway. The Therm-a-rest chair works in conjunction with my Therm-a-rest mattress.

This is what all my gear together looks like.

And here is everything packed up. Anymore and I would need a bigger backpack.

Here’s a view of the back. I really like the pockets on the waist belt. One will house the Canon Power Shot G7X camera I will be carrying. The other will accommodate Spot.

And that’s it folks! I am ready to hit the trail. Not shown is a small bag I carry that accommodates my maps, journal, field guide and book, which will likely be my Kindle.

UPCOMING POSTS: As I mentioned earlier, preparing for the trip limits the number of blogs I can post and the amount of time I can spend reading blogs. I am already missing my daily fix! Still, I hope to get up two blogs per week and catch up with your adventures every chance I get.

FRIDAY’S POST: I have a discussion on power politics with my cocker spaniel Tickle on MisAdventures.

TUESDAY’S POST: Part I of my route preview. The first 500 miles.

48 thoughts on “Backpacking Ultralight with 2 Sheets of TP Per Day: Not… The 1,000 Mile Trek

  1. Yeah, but what about your camera and laptop and charger and and i phone and amazon echo and charging battery???????? Thank God you have your kindle…….
    Laughing. God’s speed Curt. You rock.

    • My baby camera will be along for sure though. Can’t do the trip without the photos, Cindy. And my burner phone is buried deep in my pack, but off. The trip is going to be amazingly quiet, however— Unplugged! An amazing thought. (grin) Thanks, my friend. –Curt

  2. Wow! You’re well prepared for sure. Aren’t the Osprey backpacks the best? Great point about the amazing light equipment sold now in comparison to what was available in the 20th century. Weight remains what slows us down when we hike. I remember drinking more than needed to get ready of the weight of my water bottle 🙂
    Then, regretting it when I was hot.
    You’re really cool to embark on such a journey. I hate to add at your age, but it is even more impressive. Respect, like we say 🙂

    • Osprey is recognized as one of the best when it comes to ultralight, Evelyne. The one I just got is about a third of the weight of the one it is replacing.
      I drink a lot of water in camp, replacing what I may have missed out on the trail and in preparing for the next day, as I noted: behaving like a camel. How much I carry depends on my assessment of what’s available. Sometimes I get it wrong!
      Cool, huh? Not so sure about that but definitely sure about the age. 🙂 –Curt

      • I bought an Osprey backpack and one to my son when we did Havasu Falls. What a treat to carry light!
        You’re still very cool to embark on this trek. Bravo, really.

    • That organization is important, Phil, you are ever so right. A lighter backpack, yes, but also an easier time when you get into camp at the end of a long day. Thanks! –Curt

  3. You have it down to an art, that’s for sure. Very impressive. As for using only two sheets of toilet paper a day, whoever suggested that was obviously not a woman. 😁

  4. You have really impressed me with this one Curt. To have reduced the weight by 12 pounds is huge. Isn’t it simply amazing the advances in equipment? This is a very interesting photo essay and for me an introduction to some of the new light weight technology. I’d definitely need more food, and of course chocolate.
    Thought of you this AM, as I read the Sunday New York Times- yes, two days late. Larry Harvey passed, and I considered all of your wonderful photos of Burning Man that you have shared.
    Have a safe adventure Curt, and look forward to your future photo essays on the trip. Thank you.

    • Did I read somewhere that you will be spending the next few months visiting America’s National Parks, Peggy. If so, I suspect you will be as busy as I am. My Peggy and I have visited them all except for a couple of really remote ones. What a wonderful treat. And thanks! –Curt

  5. I am impressed! And I fully endorse your decision to take more tp 😉 (Of course, my endorsement is coming from someone who had the minivan so loaded up with stuff that the kids had their feet elevated when we did two nights away lol.) Safe travels!

    • I think there is an iron clad rule that whatever space you have will be filled, Ann. That goes for a backpack as well as a minivan. And traveling with kids pretty much guarantees you will have to carry twice as much as you might otherwise. 🙂 I always feel for young parents taking children on camping trips, but it is great for the kids! –Curt

  6. Curt, your post was an eye-opener!! 😀 Even for a two night trip away I seem to take so much stuff with me it’s ridiculous- my excuse is you never know what the weather will be! I can’t believe how tiny all the equipment is…good idea to use the key so we can gauge the size of everything. The new towel in dinky! You seem all set for your trip and I will happily trek along with you … virtually from the sofa clutching a big cuppa tea! 😀 btw I might have missed a post about TMT…when is this happening? How many are going? Is this in one go or with lots of longer breaks in Between? Have a fantastic time!! 😀

    • Laughing. I don’t think you are alone, G. Still, life is an adventure from the moment we are brought howling into this world. This one will be accomplished by simply putting one step in front of another— some 1,700,000 times. (Grin) –Curt

  7. I got a kick out of the fanaticism of drilling holes in the toothbrush.

    My brother, the professional triathlete likes to tell this story. Before a race, a guy was flashing a small plastic bag with ultra-lightweight screws and clips for his bicycle. He claimed they were made out of exotic materials like titanium and would save him two ounces, all for $600. Another racer looked at him and said, “you know how I save two ounces before each race?”

    He then spit.

    • Funny, Craig.
      There is no lack of extremes in the ultralight competition. For example, people only carrying food that needs no cooking so they don’t have to carry a stove or fuel. It could get pretty ugly out there if I couldn’t have my morning coffee. I am more than willing to compromise when it comes to a few creature comforts. I am amazed that modern gear allows me to have them and still keep my weight under 30 pounds. Of course there is the cost. 🙂 –Curt

  8. So, the “disposables” are the toilet paper? I guess you bring them all back with you, or do you bury them?

    I’m glad I’m well past your age and feel no compulsion to do what you’re doing!

  9. The ultimate stay healthy and safe on a trip! Heheh… with non hiking folks like us, we surely don’t contemplate carrying around 28 pounds no less 50! Wonder how to squeeze in rolls of TP. How do you waterproof them?

    • The answer is ziplock bags, Suan. I once came across one of my trekkers who didn’t protect his TP form water and had it strung out on bushes to dry! 🙂
      Once you have carries 50-60 pound packs, 28 pounds feels like a dream! –Curt

  10. I gotta hand it to you, Curt, you are an adventurous spirit! Surviving on a trail with a handful of items is impressive. My idea of roughing it is a cabin in the woods with short hikes, but only if it’s not raining. 😂 happy trails!

    • Nothing wrong with a cabin in the woods and hikes, Brigitte! 🙂 As for survival, it’s amazing how little is really needed out on the trail. I make sure I carry the basics. –Curt

  11. What about Bone? It doesn’t look like he’s going with you — but he has to be there, somehow. Perhaps Peggy will be bringing him along for meetups along the way? We have to have Bone!

    • Thank you, Linda! Of course Bone will be going along. I may have to put the little bugger on a diet. I am going to go get him now and add him to my gear. He was found along the trail I will be hiking and has been on many a backpack trip. You inspired me to go weigh him. He weighs 5.1 ounces with clothes and 4.9 without. So the first thing he is going to have to do is shed his vest! –Curt

  12. Just seeing all your gear makes me feel excited, as if I myself were heading out soon! I love planning and packing my backpack (also an Osprey with those wonderful belt pockets!). It’s been awhile since I’ve done anything long and totally unsupported, so I bet I’d be able to switch out some of my stuff for the lighter gear. Have fun!

    • And getting new gear is always a kick, Lexie. :)(Albeit, a slightly expensive kick for the super-light stuff.) How do you like your Osprey?
      Fortunately, Peggy will be meeting up with me every 7-8 days for resupply. That save having to mail everything to resupply points. Plus a layover day with good food, a shower, an opportunity to do laundry, and hopefully get up a post will also be a treat. –Curt

    • My fellow blogger Linda reminded me as well. 🙂 Bones been screaming loudly about not being left behind. Yes the 4.9 ounce character will be hitching a ride in my pack! Besides, I will be hiking right by the location where I found him in 1977! –Curt

  13. Great list, I am going to do the Fundy Trail this summer and I am just upgrading all my equipment to ultralight. This was great info I will be checking back referring to this list

  14. Pingback: Grand Manan’s Red Trail – MaritimeMac

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