Cams are getting super-light these days. The “standard” models from many companies are much lighter than their offerings from just five years ago. The ultralight versions cut off even more weight, but on average, you might .5 to 1 pound overall on an alpine rack if you have the lightest version of every cam. As cams can be one of the most expensive parts of your gear kit, question whether that weight savings is worth the money, or could you spend less and save the weight elsewhere? If you need a double set, can you use hexes or Tricams for your second set to save weight and cash? If the cracks are iced up, your cams might not hold, and passive pro could be your best option anyway.As for placing that gear, there is an adage for fast and light: “Place gear where you need it, not where you want it.” Placing extra gear takes time and energy. If you can cut down on some of that safely, you’ll save time in the long run. The trick is to know when to place and when to go. Know your strengths and analyze the route ahead.
Skinny, skinny, skinny. Today’s ropes are thinner than ever and can be a huge weight savings, potentially one of the most cost-effective ways to cut weight from your kit. Single ropes now go down as low as 8.5mm. Going from a 10.5mm x 70m rope to a 8.5mm x 70m can save more than three pounds. Dropping from 9.7mm x 70m to 8.5mm x 70m can save more than two pounds.
Half and twin ropes go down to 7.3mm and 7.0mm, respectively. If you are climbing a route where you will need two ropes to get down, half or twin ropes can cut the weight down even more. If you don’t want to buy two new ropes, here are a few other options:
- Use one single rope and one half or twin as your tag line. This option allows both of your ropes to be safe for your partners to follow on (if you are a party of three), and it is easier to pull as you rappel.
- Many rope companies offer a 6mm tagline to help pull your lead line down after a rappel, but these can tangle easily and be difficult to pull, so choose your system wisely.
- Often with alpine climbing you won’t be doing full 60- and 70-meter pitches. Consider chopping your single cord to a versatile length that also saves weight, like 40 or 50 meters, and carry a tag line for double-rope rappel descents.
Tents are another item where you can save not only significant weight, but also bulk with the right choices. For winter and alpine ascents, you need a durable and rugged tent that can stand up to harsh conditions. Today’s single-wall tents offer low bulk and lightweight options. Tents like the AC™ 2 Tent can save close to 6 lbs. over its rugged and dependable relative, the Trango™ 2 Tent.Consider the possible differences with a lightweight tent. Do you plan on doing overnights or just “in a day” ascents? If you are doing a lot of overnight trips, a lightweight tent could make a huge difference. If you are doing a lot of in-a-day ascents, maybe you can use a bivy bag or go without a shelter for that specific trip.
Sleeping bags add bulks, but they can make a huge difference in your overall comfort throughout the night. And if you sleep better, you climb better. You want something that will keep you warm, but if you are going “fast and light” you need to consider the right balance of warmth, weight, and bulk. Tim Emmett recommends the following: “Sleep in a sleeping bag that’s warm enough to stop you from getting hypothermia but cold enough so that you don’t want to stay in it!”Maybe you can use a higher temp-rated bag and add in more clothing to make up the difference. Bags like the Phantom Alpine™ 30F/-1C Sleeping Bag or Phantom Alpine™ 15F/-9C Sleeping Bag offer great alpine options.
While there are a lot of choices for superlight clothing, outerwear isn’t going to add up to huge weight savings. The areas where you will benefit the most will be on your insulation layers in terms of bulk. If your current belay jacket or insulation layer takes up half your pack, it’s time to rethink. Options like the Phantom™ Down Parka are not only super warm, but compress really small. Midlayers like the Ghost Whisperer/2™ Down Hoody and Ghost Whisperer™ Down Pant can provide a lot of warmth without taking up much of your valuable space. These options can also allow you to use a smaller (higher temperature rated) sleeping bag if you wear them inside your bag.“I usually carry a Ghost Whisperer Jacket and now the pants too. They are so light and small that I never have an excuse to leave home without them. I must have worn a GW jacket for well over 1,000 days and absolutely love it for additional warmth when I need it. I’ve used the combination of the jacket and pants as an emergency bivy on several occasions. Although I wouldn’t recommend this, they have gotten me through the night,” Emmett says.