Lightweight Rucksacks

“Empty your mates sack that they reckon they have pared the gear down to a minimum. Weigh what you think they can leave out. Let them do the same to yours. The resulting ‘discussion’ should keep you entertained for years. Get the point? We can always reduce weight so why compromise the durability of the item which has to carry it all?”

We are often asked if we can make lightweight rucksacks and the answer is yes we can and do. Quite often when we have discussed with the customer what exactly they are after they end up with one of our standard rucksacks because they are not that heavy to begin with. In our opinion, the easiest way to lower the weight of a rucksack is to remove all the features that can be done without. Take this to the extreme and we have a potato sack with shoulder straps. By reducing all features to an absolute minimum, we can end up with a light rucksack but one that is not very functional in use. It’s all about compromise.

Most people who talk to us about lightweight rucksacks believe that if you use lighter weight fabric you will end up with a lightweight sack. Whilst this does have an effect on weight it is not as great as most people imagine. If you remove features, however, you are removing all of their weight so generally this has a far more significant effect.

We have mentioned in our advice on Climbing/Alpine rucksacks that we feel that 1-1.5kg is an acceptable weight for this end use and explained our reasons why. UV exposure will weaken a sack over time and this has a greater effect on lighter weight fabrics. By using 1000D texturised nylon for the main body of the sack we can easily achieve a well-featured Climbing/Alpine rucksack that is ‘bomb-proof’ and reasonably lightweight.

If we move beyond this to people who want to get the weight down further and are willing to sacrifice the longevity of their sack, this weight can be reduced to around 900gm or 700gm stripped weight for a 35L Alpine rucksack that is still very practical in use. To take things a stage on from here we can, as mentioned elsewhere, easily get a 45L sack to below 500gm but at this stage we are normally talking to people who require lightweight for a particular project and are willing to accept the limitations.

Features, by which I mean zips, webbing and buckles. On the Verte there is 17.25m of 25mm webbing alone, here we do have scope for making considerable weight saving but this may be at the expense of some practicality.  Unlike tents, sleeping bags and down jackets, your rucksack is always exposed to UV light whenever you are in the outdoors; reducing the life of the rucksack. This is obviously less prominent in the UK than in sunnier climates such as the Alps or Himalayas. Even so, we need to be realistic about the life of a lightweight rucksack and this is why we would hesitate to recommend them for the average end user.

Lastly, consider the fact that carrying a load in a rucksack that has had all of its load control features stripped off and is using thinner foams on the load bearing areas can cost you more in energy than you are saving from weight reduction. It is a delicate balance.