The 20 Litre challenge: part 3.

I have been trying all summer to develop an ultralight system for summer backpacking trips of two nights. The criteria were basically a) a 20 litre daypack had to be used to carry everything needed to keep me fed, watered, sheltered, warm and dry, and b) nothing could be carried external to the pack eg a jacket lashed to the pack, water bottles in external pockets, etc.

Despite my best efforts I’ve found it to be an impossible task. The volume of food needed for two days is just too much, even when relying on dehydrated meals, peperami and other high-calorific backpacking staples. On the other hand, an overnight trip using my criteria is perfectly feasible using my trusty Sea to Summit 20l daypack. You can read my reviews of this brilliant bit of kit in other posts in my blog.

However, switch to a daypack of 22 litre capacity with external pockets for water bottles and a stash pocket made of mesh to hold wet clothes and a two- night trip is easily achievable. The pack size is still small enough to allow stealth camping because most people couldn’t imagine that everything to keep body and soul together could be carried in it.

What have I learnt? Apart from the obvious that 20 litre packs are just too small for more than one night I’ve learnt to pack much more effectively and I’ve reconsidered what I need to be safe and comfortable on the hill. A sub 3kg base weight is easily possible. My kit list follows but please remember that this is a Summer list only:

  • Gatewood Cape (shelter and waterproof coat)
  • MLD Rain Chaps ( keeps legs/ feet dry)
  • Head net & hat (shade and keep gnats away)
  • First aid kit
  • NeoAir 3/4 sleep pad
  • Small foam sit mat (back padding for day sack, seat, extends sleeping pad at night)
  • SOL escape Bivvy (acts as warm weather sleeping bag. Reviewed elsewhere in this blog)
  • Polycro groundsheet
  • Esbit cooker, fuel, titanium mug, small foldable drinking cup, spork, lighter
  • Patagonia Down Sweater
  • Zip-off soft shell trousers (act as shorts in the day, trousers at night)
  • Spare socks & base layer tee shirt
  • Map, compass, GPs, head torch, smartphone
  • Hygiene kit
  • Platypus water bottles plus a Travel Tap filter.
  • Montane Featherlite Smock (avoids windchill, deflects light rain)

The above gives me shelter, a sleep system, waterproof clothes, a change of clothes if I do get wet, extra insulation for night time, the ability to handle minor injuries and a cooking method. I also wear a base layer tee shirt, waterproof trail shoes and carry hiking poles plus a whistle and LeatherMan Micra. One hiking pole has a length of clear waterproof tape wrapped around it to make temporary repairs to gear if needed. Then there’s the food to carry! One day’s worth of food is a squeeze in the Sea to Summit daypack, two days won’t fit without overstressing the zips.

I’d be really interested to know if anyone else has taken up the 20L challenge idea.


About ReidIvinsMedia

After working for many years in Higher Education I've decided to drop out and join the real world. Here I blog about my interests which include education, politics, backpacking, poker, photography and real ale.
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