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John 0_clr.gif (3567 bytes)'s Ultralight Backpacking Page





                                                                                                      Did somebody say lets take a hike?



Hi my name is John O'Mahoney and I live in New Jersey at the Shore. Since 1997 I've been experimenting with Ultralight backpacking. Reading "The Backpacker's Handbook by Chris Townsend, The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook by Ray Jardine, Beyond Backpacking by Ray Jardine, other books and talking with other backpackers I made the decision to change my way of thinking as to what I really needed when backpacking. It was difficult in the beginning to eliminate what I formerly believed I had to have to be safe. Once I realized with a few simple changes I could lower my average weekend backpack weight from 50 pounds to 30 pounds I was hooked on Ultralight backpacking. My goal was to lighten my backpack weight so that I could better enjoy the adventure. It wasn't my goal to lighten the backpack weight to enable me to crank out huge mileage days at all. I wanted to enjoy my time in the woods and not be burdened with excessive backpack weight. Basically I wrote down all that I would normally bring on a weekend backpacking trip. I would also include the weights of each item. Now the difficult part, what to leave at home? Using 2 columns one titled "want to take" and the other one "what I really needed" seemed to work quite well for me. The want to take column included almost everything I used to carry minus maybe a couple of items. What I really needed column was absolutely the most bare minimum I could take and survive or so I thought. My average weight pack was 50 lbs. for a weekend hike was now reduced to bare bones weight of 30 lbs. I'd done the impossible I was carrying 20 lbs. less and still surviving the weekend hike. At the end of the day I wasn't as tired and I was enjoying the hike even more than before. So if eliminating 20 lbs. increased my enjoyment of the hike. What would reducing the pack weight another couple of pounds produce? Back to square one again. I drew up the 2-column list again. Food always seemed to be an item I least wanted to cut back on. Every time we finished a weekend hike I always had plenty of food left over. So I eliminated a few more items or changed a piece of equipment. I now realized a reduction of 2-4 lbs. in pack weight. I was now in the 20 pound range for my backpack weight. I had truly succeeded. I now had mastered the art of Ultralight backpacking. Not really but it does sound good. Hey, my backpack weight had been reduced by more than 50%.  Now is when the real fun began. What else could I leave at home or what change in current equipment could I make to further lower my pack weight? Adding to this my hiking buddy Michael Connick was also lowering his pack weight, even more than mine. The friendly rivalry began and it spurred me on to lighten my load. Being open-minded and willing to change has helped me reach an Ultralight level I previously thought was unattainable.


Before taking any new piece of equipment backpacking it was time to experiment in the backyard and around the neighborhood. When it's time to test a new piece of gear or a revised one to the backyard I go. The good thing about this totally unscientific system is if it was a total failure, I only had to dash inside take a hot shower and make a hot cup of coca. That's a safer way than going out on a trail and then finding out the equipment doesn't perform well. Making a critical error in the woods could lead to serious problems. Using this system I was able to fine-tune my ever-dwindling pack weight. It also kept the neighbors guessing and shaking their heads. Why would he be sitting in a chair in a driving rain or snowstorm for several hours with just a coat and no umbrella? Why would he repeatedly set up and taking down a tent or tarp in a driving rain storm all day long? Why would he be sleeping in this tent or tarp on a cold, wet night instead of his warm home. I guess his stove is broken cause he's cooking his meals on this tiny little stove? It's rainy out why is he cooking a meal using a tarp? We have a hurricane type rain storm and he's walking around the neighborhood with a smile on his face? Then when you ask him why he does all these things he smiles and tells you all about weight loss and backpack safety . Something about it's safer to get wet & cold trying out different equipment at home than in the woods? That he realizes he is going to get wet and cold and he's trying to minimize the impact on himself. He talks about saving an ounce here and there making his trek a more enjoyable event? He must be happy as he's been doing more backpacking these last few years than ever before. When he returns from the longer trips you notice the weight he's lost and how he just looks healthier.

My 1999 Appalachian Trail Backpacking Adventure

From March to June 1999 I went on my longest backpacking trip ever. A 600 mile trek from Delaware Water Gap, PA to Roanoke, VA on the Appalachian Trail and I loved almost every day of the trip. You can read my journal at this link My AT Journal.  I had an opportunity to truly test out all the ideas I picked up over the years.  One of many lessons learned was long distance backpacking is 100% different than weekend backpacking.  Ones body and mind makes some radical changes during a long journey.  I accomplished things that had been unattainable in the past.  I really wish all will have the opportunity to take a long distance backpacking trip and experience what happened to me.  A lot of my fears have been removed or they aren't as troublesome.  I have developed a new found confidence of my abilities.  I lost about 25 pounds during this hike.  My ability to just stand still and listen in the woods was fine tuned and I can hear and understand more than ever before.  One can easily survive and thrive with a lot less equipment than I had previously thought was needed.  Just to name a few of the changes that took place.   I look forward to my next long distance hike to see what is going to be revealed to me about myself and nature.


    On May 24th I started at Cap Gaspe, Quebec Canada and backpacked south into New Brunswick Canada to Fort Fairfield, Maine.  Altogether I traveled 396 miles  and ended this journey on June 27th.  The first day of this hike I saw a grey seal and next to last day I saw a moose.  At times I hiked in snow 2' to 7' deep.   This was quite an adventure to say the least.  Here's a link to my IAT journal




 Check back and see the changes I'm working on.     hacky.gif (7546 bytes)



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Links to More of My Pages                         compass.gif (56962 bytes) 

My Ultralight Backpacking Gear List

    Backpacking and Hiking in the 50 States              

Frequently Asked Questions on Ultralight Backpacking

A Large Detailed Map of the Appalachian Trail

Some of My Favorite Hikes

The 8oz ZIP STOVE has been  KIDNAPPED

TelMail Information

Sierra ZIP Stove has gone Ultralight

Tyvek� HomeWrap� Information

Photos and detailed information on 8 ounce ZIP STOVE

Reviews for Nomad Lite & Lite-N-Airy Tents




Introduction to My Appalachian Trail Journal May's Journal Entries
March & April's Journal Entries June's Journal Entries







Links to Other Ultralight Backpacking Pages

Michael's Ultralight Backpacking Page Onestep's Ultralight Backpacking Resource
Chris Townsend's Home Page Joe's Ultralight Backpacking
Ray Jardine's Home Page Bob Gross' Ultralight Backpacking
Great Lakes Lightweight Backpacking Centerwalk Ultralight Backpacking
BACKPACKING LIGHT.COM Adventure Alan's Ultralight Backpacking Page

Information on Leave No Trace



Links to Backpacking and Other Pages of Interest

Lyme Disease Risk Assessments ATC Amy "SANDPIPER" Friends Web Site
Tick Research The Thruhiking Papers The Backpacker
Mosquito Alert Ginny & Jim's Vacation Welcome to SOLO
Chuck's Backpacking Bonanza Walkin Jim Stolz Outdoor Club of South Jersey
How to Deal With Bears ALDHA Batona Hiking Club
Giardiasis Fact Sheet HATT Tom Brown's Tracker School
Poison Ivy Knot Info Boulder Outdoor Survival School
GORP Jersey Devil Navigation with Map & Compass
Dining on the Wilds


Links to Trails and Adventures Throughout the United States 

Discovery Trail Journal of Trip on 4800 Mile American
Maps and Trails the World Over The Long Path National Recreation Trail
National Park Service - National Trails System Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
NJ Appalachian Trail KTA Online Guide to Trails
New Jersey State Parks North Country National Scenic Trail
New Jersey AT Shelters Oahu Hiking
Overview of Long Path Visit the National Parks by State
Visit the National Forests By State John Muir Trail


Links to Trails and Adventures outside the United States

Chris Townsend's Home Page Trekking in UK
Maps and Trails the World Over


Links to NCT Information and Hike Journals 

Joan Young's NCT Hikes North Country National Scenic Trail
Ed Talone's NCT Journal Chet Fromm NCT Journal

Links to Backpacking Equipment


Nomad Tents GVP Gear Moonbow Gear
Stephenson Mountainsmith Zip Stove
ADVENTURELITE Campmor Cascade Designs
Bibler EMS Golite
Western Mountaineering RailRider Tel Mail
Feathered Friends Patagonia Just For Feet
Trangia MSR Bridgedale
REI ATC Ultimate Trail Store Other Backpacking Equipment Locations
LAAF Gear Marmot New Balance
Leki Limmer LWGear
Kelty THE UNDERWEAR GUYS Petzl Headlamps
Integral Designs Frogg Toggs Sangean  DT-300 VW Pocket Radio
Safewater Anywhere Inline Filters Original Bug Shirt Elite Hennessy  Hammock

visitors since 12/06/98


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Unless noted, all text and photographs copyright � 1998-2002 by John O'Mahoney

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