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Base load

March 13, 2020 — BarryK

By Barry Kauler
Page updated: March 18, 2016

This is one page of a series that I am writing on "traveling light", whether it be hiking in the wilderness or wandering the world by boat, bus, train or air.

In this page I have itemised my "base load", which is everything that goes into my pack or on my person, apart from food and water.


Only one set of clothes are needed, with something minimal to wear while washing the main set. Following recommendations of experienced hikers, I need fibres that have a moisture-wicking capability and are fast drying. And light. Most of my usage is in the hot dry Australian bush, so keeping cool and non-sweaty is the highest priority. This is what I now wear:

Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pant

I bought mine for AU$63 at Myer, but they are also available at some specialist stores such as Rays Outdoors here in Australia. Myers had my size, 34Wx32L, and it fits well. The Columbia website shows sizes available:
This pant is very thin nylon, fairly light at 331gm (including belt), with UV protection and moisture wicking.

Some videos:
 youtube  youtube  youtube 

I prefer a more substantial belt, so picked up this 34mm-wide canvas belt from Target (a department store chain in Australia):

Columbia Silver Ridge long-sleeve shirt

This one is especially good for hot weather, lightweight, with mesh ventilation and moisture-wicking material. I bought it for AU$50 from here:

Reviews and videos:
 gearreview  youtube  youtube  youtube 
I also own a Mountain Designs Bass long sleeve shirt, on sale at AU$36.95:


I wear sports underpants, that do not have any seams at back and sides. These are readily available at department stores. I have found that Kmart has a good range, but not online, only in stores -- for example, I bought an Alpha Sport Regular Trunk, with moisture-wicking Coolmax fabric, for AU$8.

I always wear a tee-shirt under my shirt, even in hot weather. Ideally, it should have good moisture-wicking properties, however I prefer the feel of cotton against my skin. So, although I own some specialized sports tee-shirts, I don't wear them. I wear cheap 100% cotton tee-shirts, available from any department store -- typical weight is 135 - 145gm.


Shoes and socks

Over the years, I have experimented with many different shoe/sock combinations. Currently I am wearing a pair of cheap casual shoes that I picked up from Rivers for only AU$12. Very light (201gm each), with highly-breathable canvas. With a soft tread -- that's one thing I look for, so as not to jar my heel every time the shoe hits the ground -- if the shoe makes a "clack" sound on a hard floor, it's no good -- my personal preference anyway.

Rivers Lewis Woven Lace-up shoes: 

Socks, well, I am always experimenting. I like cheap Bonds cushioned socks, and I am testing a pair of Injinji toe socks. 


Warm layers

I have designed my hiking clothes as layers, that can be added as determined by the weather conditions.
On the top, there is my tee-shirt, then a shirt, then if it gets cool, a pullover:

Kathmandu Ridge fleece pullover
Weighs only 234gm, and cost me AU$39.98 from here: 

Macpac Uber Light Vest
Slim fit down vest, weighs only 181gm (including carry bag) and I bought it on-sale for AU$75 from Macpac: 

Helly Hansen Feather Jacket
It doesn't have feathers, it is just a thin fabric, weighing only 93gm, can store in its own pocket. It is a windbreaker, not waterproof. It cost me AU$69.95 from Paddy Pallin: 

These layers can be worn in the order shown above, with the jacket outside, for maximum warmth, or in any convenient combination.



For my bottom half, I haven't quite got it worked out. Ideally, I would like the same thing, add layers as it gets colder.
For now, I just have this base-layer:

Helly Hansen Dry Fly Pant
This is a highly breathable base-layer to keep the legs warm. Note, I have seen hikers wearing this with shorts. I recommend trying it on in a store (and buy from the store) as I was surprised that I needed the Large size (I am very slim build). It cost me AU$44.95 from Paddy Pallin:

I am thinking that what I need to add is a windbreaker over-pant, for extra-cold-windy conditions.

One thing that some reviewers have pointed out about the Columbia pant and shirt: the thin nylon fabric is rather delicate and may tear with rough usage. The pant pockets may fail if pointy/heavy objects placed in them. For general travel and hiking though, I expect years of usage.

I also carry a hat with brim and ventilation. In cooler weather it is also a good idea to throw in a beany.


I agonised over this for years! As a vegetarian and humanist, I do not want to support cruel exploitation of animals. I have always used synthetic sleeping bags, however finally decided to make a one-off purchase of a down bag. It is the only way that I am able to obtain the light weight and compact size  to fit in my small pack.

Another issue for me is my degenerated spine. I need a soft bed! So, although I want to travel extreme ultra-light, there has to be this compromise.

This is what I now use:

Sea to Summit Micro II sleeping bag

This bag is available from many camping/outdoor stores. I bought mine for AU$389 (standard length, with RH zip) including postage from here:
Manufacturers page: 

It opens right up, so I can use it as a blanket. It has a comfort rating of 7 degrees C, weighs only 600gm* and compacts down to only 2.9 litres*. A truly remarkable bag. Note, there is also a Micro III rated at 4 degrees C comfort and weighing 710gm.

Youtube videos:
 youtube  youtube   

SOL Escape Bivvy

This is a most intriguing "sleeping bag". Incredibly small and light, it measures just 170mm long by 10 mm diameter in its carry-bag and weighs just 242gm. I bought mine for AU$78 including postage, from Amazon. They still have it listed, but currently not shipping to Australia:

This can be used as a stand-alone sleeping bag in spring/summer/autumn, or as a liner outside a sleeping bag in cold weather. It can also be used outdoors as a bivvy, in lieu of a tent.

Youtube videos:
 youtube  youtube  youtube 



Sea to Summit Comfort Light Mat

I bought the uninsulated version, regular length, and it cost me AU$159.50 including shipping, from here:
The weight is only 460gm, which is pretty good. R rating of 1. One factor in my choice was how small it rolls down to: only 170mm long by 85mm diameter.

Youtube videos:
 youtube  youtube   

Actually, I was tempted by the Thermorest Neoair Xlite, thicker and softer (63mm), lighter at only 350gm, an R rating of 3, but rolls a bit bigger at 230x100mm.
Unfortunately, considerably more expensive. Didn't buy it!



Kathmandu silk sleeping bag liner

For serious ultra-light, this is a luxury, however I want to keep my sleeping bag as clean as possible, besides which the liner can be used on its own on warm nights. I couldn't find anything synthetic and very light and compact, so went with silk. Expensive, even at a 50%-off sale -- I paid AU$69.99. Weight is 94gm.
Purchased from a Kathmandu store:

Aeros Ultralight Pillow Regular

As I am using a Sea to Summit inflatable mat, I chose a S2S pillow, as it has the same valve design. Weighs 61gm. Specs:

*This is one case where Sea to Summit have understated the weight. My Micro II sleeping bag actually weighs 637gm, plus the stuff sack is 55gm, for a total of 692gm. Also, that photo showing it compressed, is incredibly misleading -- in reality, it compresses to about 250mm long, and about 140mm diameter -- maybe it could be compressed further, but with great effort.

In the sundries section below, you will see that I use a little Sea to Summit hand pump. Due to the unique valve mechanism, I was constrained to use S2S mat and pillow. Apart from saving my breath, use of a pump minimizes moisture getting inside the mat and pillow.


A tent is a big item. However, a tent is not necessarily required. The items that I am describing as "base load" on this page, are adjustable according to the type of trip. In the case of hiking, if an overnight stay is outdoors in warm dry weather, then only a tarp on which to place the sleeping bag is fine, or ditto if sleeping in a shelter of some kind.

These are some of the items I own in this category:


I have a Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano poncho, which can double as a tarp on which to place a sleeping bag, or as an overhead rain/moisture protection. Details:

So many uses!
While walking in the rain, or just to take the chill off a cold breeze.
Overhead at night to keep off condensation, or underneath to protect the sleeping mat.
Actual weight: 190gm
Here is a youtube video: youtube
Some youtube videos show the older version, which has thicker fabric. It remains to be seen how the 15D Ultra-Sil Nano fabric holds up.


Coming soon...

One thing that surprises me about Sea to Summit gear: they nearly always overstate the weight. The above-mentioned poncho for example, is claimed to be 230gm, yet I have weighed it at 190gm (in its bag), which other testers have verified.

I have been told that a major difference between "the bush" in Australia and many other places in the world, is our profusion of ants. It is a romantic notion to sleep on a tarp out in the open, but in such circumstances I am likely to get invaded by various insects, not just ants, but spiders, even a snake is a possibility.
If I am in a shelter, up off the ground, fine, otherwise, I take my tent.


My complete kitchen:

Kitchen set

I have a mini cook set, that I purchased from here:
However, I only use the deep-pot, lid, and the folding ladle. Plus, mine came with a small sponge for cleaning.

I also purchased a small alcohol-fuel stove:

The stove fits nicely inside the pot, and the folding ladle inserts snuggly on top of the stove.
I have added a box of matches, the sponge, a folding spoon, a couple of bag-sealers, an open-mesh bag to put it in (that I think came with the pot-set) and viola, a complete kitchen, that weighs 411gm.
Having chosen an alcohol stove, I have to carry the methylated spirits, and I use a Selleys Aquadhere PVA interior wood glue plastic bottle.
For short trips, the 250ml bottle is OK, and filled it weighs 240gm.
The great thing about this bottle is the nozzle for precise dispensing, and the cap has a screw-thread so seals well.
I also own this Vargo wood stove, made from titanium and only 116gm. I would use this all the time as there is no need to carry fuel, however summer fire restrictions preclude its use in many trails in Australia.

The Vargo stove can be used with the alcohol burner, despite the height, and can even use solid-fuel tablets.

 youtube  youtube  youtube 


There are lots of collapsible silicone cups available. The photo on the right is a cheap one that I picked up from somewhere, Kmart I think.
This particular one fits inside the aluminium cooking pot described above. It weighs 32gm.

Ah, but I do like a cup of tea or coffee in a "proper" mug! For years, I had a favourite stainless steel mug, but as I am now trying to take off grams wherever possible, I have purchased a titanium mug.

I bought a Keith 350ml titanium mug from here:

It weighs just 53gm. Brilliant. There are probably cheaper aluminium mugs available, that weigh not much more, but I couldn't locate one.


There are lots of nice light cutlery sets available, but if you want one that fits inside the pot -- which appeals to my aesthetic sense, having the complete kitchen inside the pot! -- then this folding titanium spoon and knife is great:

However, a titanium spoon is not the the best for stirring the contents of an aluminium pot, so rather than a folding metal spoon, I prefer to pack this lovely polycarbonate spoon:
-- drat, it doesn't fit inside the pot though!

Food and water

I don't have much to say here. Each person has their own preferences about what food they want to carry. Some hardware suggestions though:

Water bottle

I own 750ml aluminium and 500ml stainless steel bottles, weighing 95 and 107gm respectively, however I am moving to cutting grams wherever I can, and instead now using these rollup plastic bottles from Kathmandu.

They each weigh 20gm, plus the carabiner is 3gm, and roll up into a very small space for storage. They hold 470ml.

Cost is AU$4.99:

I am also using Sawyer 32oz (900 litre) collapsible water bottles, see following link...

Water filter

The Sawyer water filter is neat, as it can be flushed and the mini version will last for up to 100,000 gallons (378,500 litres). I bought it from the Aussie distributor for AU$38.10 plus AU$9.90 postage:

The water in the rainwater tanks on the Bibbulmun track is a bit iffy, and this an alternative to boiling it.

As to food, for me that is never-ending experimentation.


What you carry for hygeine, health, and to keep yourself looking beautiful, is up to you. Here is my take on it...


Microfibre towels are readily available. I bought mine from Rivers, a clothing chain store here in Australia -- it is a discontinued item, but still in stock at my local store. Cost me AU$8. Weight is 156gm, in bag.



On the topic of discontinued products, I have Go-Travel Wash It All, one product for body, hair, kitchen and laundry. No longer available.

So, instead I am now using S2S Wilderness Wash, available in various bottle sizes, down to 40ml.
Washes everything. Available just about everywhere S2S gear is sold. I got mine for AU$4.45 (40ml) from Paddy Pallin.
Weighs 56gm.

Toiletries bag

As shown on the right, my toiletries bag has toilet paper, Wilderness Wash, latex gloves, fixomull tape, toothbrush (with head-protector) and small scissors.
That lot weighs 131gm.

Yes, 20gm and 30gm toothpaste tubes are available. Some pharmacies and dentists have them as free samples.
They can also be purchased, but you don't get much choice as to type of toothpaste. For example, here is 3x 20gm tubes:

At home I use Colgate Sensitive Pro Relief toothpaste, 110gm tube. I can get 30gm sample tubes, but only if I purchase something at certain pharmacies, or have treatment at my dentist. If anyone can figure out how to get hold of those samples directly, I am interested!

Fixomull tape is readily available at pharmacies. It is for putting on the feet before, or just-before, a blister forms, not after. It will, hopefully, prevent the blister from forming.


There are lots of little extras, some not essential but handy.


I got one from here:
This weighs just 4gm


I have one that has a USB socket and is rechargeable, however my favourite takes a AAA battery and has a single LED, just 21gm: 

Solar panel

I have separate pages describing various solar charging systems.

For minimalist hiking, I take just one small panel, SE05 5W, described in my Solar Tests 2016 page.

It weighs just 92gm, and requires a type-A to micro type-C USB adaptor cable: mine weighs only 8gm.


This is my sole item of electronic gear. It does everything: camera, emergency torch, GPS, FM radio, e-book reader, Internet browsing.
I also carry the mains-voltage charger, with a very short USB cable (the same cable as described above).

So, I don't even need a separate torch. My phone has a 5.5 inch screen, and personally I recommend that as the minimum size. My phone, complete with ear-piece, charger and USB cable, weighs 230gm.

Air pump

As I have a Sea to Summit inflatable mat, I acquired a matching pump. This pump only works with the S2S products. I got it from Mountain Designs:

It works well, saves breath but also prevents moisture buildup in the mat. Weighs 48gm.

Day pack

I have been going through a super-ultra-light phase of traveling with a waist pack only (no backpack), however, if the need arises to carry some extra items, perhaps consumables (food), the Sea to Summit day pack is great. It packs into a tiny bag and weighs just 66gm.


I do have some criticisms though. The shoulder straps are very thin, and there is no ventilation on the back.
But then, considering it as a temporary aid for when you have to carry something extra, it is OK.

Mosquito net

Picture yourself in your sleeping bag, under the stars ...lovely, except for the bugs. Even just sitting around the camp-site, the mozzies will get you -- and here in Australia, our bush-flies get right into the eyes and nose.
A mozzie net that fits over the hat, is essential. Mine weighs just 22gm in its stuff-sack:


I bought this folding knife. Brand is Gerber, or rather, this has to be a Chinese knock-off at this price (AU$3.67 including shipping):

Rays Outdoors, BCF and Anaconda stores here in Australia stock Gerber knives, I presume genuine ones, judging from the prices.

I found what looks exactly like my knife, sold by Anaconda for AU$29.99:


Finally, the pack. Hikers usually wear a backpack, however, I am into ultra-light travel, and have been experimenting with carrying a waist-pack only. Obviously, this is going to seriously constrain what can be carried!

I have written a page comparing some of the waist packs out there: Waist Packs Review

Barry Kauler
(c) Copyright Barry Kauler 2016, all rights reserved.
Please do not copy this page anywhere, instead link to it. I will probably be editing it every now and again, so it is wise to link to this original page.

Tags: light