Founder Glen Van Peski pushes his base pack weight below 3 lbs, on a punishing section of the Pacific Crest Trail that includes the Mojave Desert, in June, 2006.
This trip started as a trip planned with Glen's longtime buddy Read Miller as a sub-2 lb. trip, with no sleeping bag, no stove, no shelter, no raingear (walk at night to keep warm, sleep during the day in some shade, no hot meals, no bugs, no rain). When Read got injured and couldn't make it, Glen decided to do the trip solo, since he already had the time set aside, but added gear back in since he wasn't going to have company.
Glen's plan was to hike Section E, from Tehachapi to Agua Dulce, which was a gap in his PCT mileage, covering the 109 miles in 3 days. He left his car at the Saufley's Hiker Heaven, and was ferried to the Cameron Road offramp in Tehachapi by a generous local resident, Diane Ely, who refused any payment for the ride except hearing some backpacking stories.
There were a couple of safety factors that might not be immediately evident. First, while this was planned as a solo trip, Glen was hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail. He wasn't in the peak season for thru-hikers, but there were a surprising number on the trail. Glen probably met 4 - 8 hikers a day, so if somehow he had collapsed on the trail, someone would be along before too long. Secondly, Glen was hiking southbound, against the thru-hiker 'flow' heading north. This increased the chances of meeting hikers.
To hear about this trip in Glen's own words, check out the podcast at BackpackingLight.com
Glen's Sub 3 Gear List
Please lighten your load responsibly. Never take less gear than required for your particular trip, experience level, and travel group. Glen is a professional ultralight backpacker (well, if he got paid for it he would be).
So what did I learn? Well, I learned that without additional strategy, I don't have the discipline to drink enough water from a bottle in super hot conditions. I think I would not have had the issue with heat exhaustion if I had been sipping from a drinking tube, but it's hard to know for sure. I didn't miss the hot food, since it was so hot anyway. Generally the food worked okay. I was on track to finish with some extra, so the quantity was acceptable. I find it hard to eat sometimes when hot and exerting myself.
I haven't been sub-3 since, but it did make it easier to get to sub-4 during a 10-day trip later in the year on the Oregon PCT. What pushing the envelope teaches me is how little I really need to be comfortable on the trail. For instance, I found that having a small wad of clothing to put under the small of my back is, for me, a very effective way to sleep comfortably, instead of carrying a huge air mattress.
One of the huge "Ah-ha's" of this trip was Emergen-C, the flavored fizzy drink mix. I took the "Joint Health" formula with me, that contains Glucosamine and Chondroitin in addition to the 1000 mg of Vitamin C. Doing high mileage on a body that gets no exercise when not on the trail has always made me stiff. Even after a 10-min stop, my joints stiffen up. At night, I toss and turn because of soreness, and am usually hobbling in the morning until the kinks get worked out. I took about 3 Emergen-C packets a day, and even with the high mileage of the first day and the dehydration of the second day, I had NO stiffness during this trip, night or day. It was unbelievable to me, and I assure you I will not go on a trip again without Emergen-C Joint Health formula in my pack. You can get them at Whole Foods Markets or other health food and vitamin/nutrition stores.
Please lighten your load responsibly. Never take less gear than required for your particular trip, experience level, and travel group. These are trained professionals on a closed course - don't try this at home. Well, okay, try stuff LIKE this at home, just do it in small increments as you gain experience... you know what we mean.