What 10 lightweight breakthroughs really made a difference? Lightweight is a state of mind, rather than a description of individual pieces of kit. Going lightweight is about taking less than you are mentally comfortable with and is about attitude and commitment to a physical challenge –whether polar exploration, cycling, mountaineering, backpacking or adventure racing. It is a philosophy as much as a technique and it is not new. Here are the 10 Lightweight Breakthroughs we identified for TRAIL in 2003.
This started a trend and Fred Mummery’s silk mountain tent weighed 3.5lbs and substituted ice axes for poles – an inconvenient weight saving technique.
His ‘Phantom’ Kit included a 13 oz silk tent, 15 oz bamboo poles, a down quilt weighing 1 lb 8 oz with total personal kit, included his special ‘clip onto bike frame baby primus’ weighing 6 pounds including food.
6 In 1972 Ken Ledward produced two full sets of gear for himself and Karrimor MD Mike Parsons for the Karrimor International Mountain Marathon. Mike’s weighed just 6 ½ lbs and Ken’s was just 5 ½ lbs.
The wedge shaped Marathon tent weighed just 2lbs inclusive and the pack less that 100gm.
7 The launch of the KS-B –another Ledward –Parsons collaboration- in 1981 changed all mountain footwear.
It is remembered as the first fabric boot, but it was the first lightweight boot and had a sole that did not to ape the nailing patterns and the mid-sole design revolutionised all other boots.
8 Mountain clothing changed from the mid 1980s. Gone were the heavy woollen shirts and baggy tweed breeches to be replaced by fleece, Pertex and micro fibres. Pertex – the almost micro fibre – was developed from typewriter ribbon technology to make lightweight wind shells, improving on Mallory’s silk layers.
9 Pile was invented in the 1940’s as literally imitation fur but there were few users initially. In 1961, Helly Hansen pioneered the fibre pile pullover for North Atlantic fishermen, as a replacement for Norwegian oiled wool sweaters. This resulted in improvements in warmth/weight ratio over wool These became normal climbing wear through the 60s and 70s, but they looked awful. Many companies produced pile garments, especially in UK, including Javelin and North Cape, but they did not survive when the dramatic shift to fleece occurred.This resulted in improvements in warmth/weight ratio over wool but it looked awful. In came fleece in 1984 by Patagonia, followed by their supplier Malden who marketed Polartec in 1986.
10. In 1995 Ray and Jenny Jardine hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in a record three months and four days. The packs weighed an average of 8.5 pounds, including clothing but excluding food of course. The pack itself weighed 430 gm but most important was the total commitment approach which mirrored many of the early pioneers..