June 10, 2014 / Comments (3)

The Big Three: Under 5 Pounds

In just over a month, I will be flying into California to begin my John Muir Trail thru hike. I have just about everything I’ll need to hike efficiently and comfortably for 16 days.

The big three consists of the three biggest items you will be carrying with you on a backpacking trip:

  • Sleep system
  • Backpack
  • Shelter

If you are looking to lighten your pack, aim to have your big three items weigh nine pounds or less altogether.

Depending on your setup, your big three may look very different. For example if you have a tarp or tarp-tent, you may want a groundcloth while if you “hang” you might need an underquilt for your hammock. Your sleep system should look different as well depending on the area and conditions you will be backpacking in.

For me, I will be backpacking in the High Sierra region. I will be camping at high elevations so I am preparing for cooler nights. I will not be running into nearly as many creepy crawlies at night as I would here on the East Coast so that affected my gear choices. Hiking the JMT at the end of July, I don’t expect to encounter heavy rains. The mosquitoes will also be less of a worry this time of year.


I will be using a Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack. It has a 69.5 liter (4,244 c.i.) capacity and

can carry a bear canister. It weighs 27 ounces including the sitpad and hipbelt.

Mariposa in the snow

Sleep System:

My 32 degree Western Mountaineering Summerlite bag weighs in at 19 ounces.

Don’t trust others with your sleeping bag…

After looking at loads of options, I decided on the Klymit Inertia X-Lite 3/4 length sleeping pad. The website lists it at 6.1 oz. With the stuff sack, patch kit, and hand pump (for really filling it out) it weighed in at 7.5 oz. It is 6.8 oz without the pump.

Weight includes pad, repair kit, pump, and stuff sack

As it may get colder I have long underwear that I will be wearing and will also have a puffy jacket that will make my sleep system versatile.


The shelter I will be bringing is a Six Moon Design Wild Oasis tarp-tent. It is a floorless shelter with bug netting along the bottom edges. It has the capacity to be enclosed on all sides in case of inclement weather, but can also be set up to allow lots of airflow. I will be using a trekking pole to support it. With stakes, guylines, and the stuff sack it weighs in at 15 oz.

Because of the floorless design, I will be bringing a 1.6 oz Polycryo ground cloth.

Wild Oasis weighs in at 15 oz with stakes, guylines, and stuff sack
First time setting up my Wild Oasis!


Gossamer Gear Mariposa                                                        27 oz

Western Mountaineering Summerlite                                     19 oz

Klymit Inertia X-Lite Short (w/ accessories)                         7.5 oz

Six Moon Design Wild Oasis                                                 15 oz           

Polycryo Ground Cloth                                 ___________   1.6 oz_________

                                                                Total:                     70.1 oz  /  4.38 lbs

I’m very happy with the weight of my big three. I may be able to shave off a few ounces pretty easily. I am going to try out my sleeping pad on a multiday trip and see if I really want to take the pump or leave it. I may also leave out the 2 oz sitlight pad I have in the Mariposa.

Last modified: September 2, 2017

3 Responses to :
The Big Three: Under 5 Pounds

  1. thegearjunky says:

    Pretty slick setup it will be interesting to hear what you think about the sleep pad.

  2. Betsy Cotton says:

    Nice combination although, based on my experience on the JMT in August, your pad and bag may not handle the temps. It gets pretty cold at those elevations and you lose the sun quickly when surrounded by peaks. Of course, depends on how you sleep. I sleep cold so need more bag and pad. Hope you have a great experience. It is a beautiful place to be.

  3. Betsy, I’m a pretty warm sleeper, but know I may be taking a risk with my sleep system. I’m going to be in California for a week beforehand and I’m going to try it out on some higher elevation and if I need to, I’ll also have a silk liner. If I don’t, I’ll send it home with my fiance once he flies home (before I start my hike). I’m testing it all out next week as well 🙂

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