When we all went into lockdown in 2020 I created a goal to spend some time reducing my pack weight and get it down below 5kg with a winter pack weight of less than 8kg. I realised that the best way for me to do this was to make the shelter, inner and pack myself so I set about looking into making my own wild camping gear.
My Journey From Ultralight to Super-Ultralight
I’d dabbled a little in 2018 with a couple of shelters but couldn’t quite get the corner tie-outs strong enough with my little knowledge of sewing, so I put it aside. I thought I’d contact a bloke I knew who made ultralight gear and see if he could help out.
Sean had run OookWorks for about ten years and hundreds of people, including Andrew Skurka, Chris Townsend and myself used his gear. OookWorks nests (inner bug net tents) on all of the continents, including Antarctica! I brought the website up and there was only one page.
The front page of OookWorks pretty much read, ‘I’ve had enough! If anyone wants to buy my designs from me please drop me a line.’ I was gobsmacked! I wasn’t disappointed, in fact from that point I thought, ‘I’m going to run a wild camping gear company’.
We spoke on the phone shortly after I sent him an email and negotiated a price. The following week I was in Scotland learning how he’d put his OookNests together but more importantly understanding why his business had failed. Having run enterprises for many years I knew how I could turn OookWorks around, make it successful and revive its once amazing reputation.
I knew it would take some time to convince people that OookWorks gear was good again, and better. I couldn’t simply pander to demand and knock out top quality nests as Sean had done for years, developing little ways to reduce the weight but keeping them strong. I practised and made lots and lots of bags that sit in a cardboard box reminding me of my humble beginnings. I’ve spent years fixing problems for customers and always strived to provide solutions that nobody else can so I knew I could make this a success, make wild camping a more accessible past-time and better for people who were already there.
OookWorks Needed A Long-Term Plan
After setting up a suggestions form on the new OookWorks website I had well over a hundred requests. The inner nest for the MLD Trailstar was the most popular request but Sean’s templates were useless to me, everything was in his head. I had to go back to the ideas I’d had in Scotland sat next to him thinking, ‘I can make this better, easier, quicker and more me.’
I needed a plan, a long-term plan, rather than just start making what people would pay money for. I’m no business guru but I knew that for this to work I needed to focus on building OookWorks up again but in my own way, lay a strong foundation, do it my way and one day wild campers around the world will simply think everything is good again.
Choosing to put aside the requests for Trialstar nests, I made a micro-tarp that simply deflects the wind for super-ultralight wild camping called the Whisper. It weighs 175 grams and packs to the size of a Coke can.
I then focussed on creating a tarp tent, and a nest that would not only fit under it but would work with the Trailstar, Duomid, and other mid-supported tarp tents. The WeeNest came and built around that was the OookMid shelter.
Trailstar nests will come soon.
So, now I have something to sleep in AND a shelter I can sleep under. There’s a long way to go but my kit is well below 5kg every time. In fact, with the conflicting views on what ‘ultralight’ actually weighs (I even had someone send me Wikipedia’s take on it at 10kg!) I now use the term OookLight – base weight under 5kg and under 8kg in winter.
I’ve said it before, instead of packing a bag, weighing it at 12kg and finding a way to reduce that weight, you need to start at ground zero! Don’t try to get your pack weight down, don’t focus on 12kg, don’t focus on the crap you want to get rid of.
To make your kit as light as it could possibly be you need to focus on nothing. Nothing is your ideal pack weight and only by making zero kg your ultimate goal can your potential be reached.
This translates to – don’t look for a lighter mattress, find something you can sleep on that will be comfortable, dry and stop you from losing heat to conduction BUT is also very light.
Is there a sleeping bag lighter than the one I have right now?
- What’s the lightest possible thing out there (could be a sleeping bag, could be a quilt or something else) that will keep me warm?
I need a tent that’s under a kilogram.
- What’s the lightest way I can keep the rain from wetting me and the wind from freezing me?
Do Thermarest make a lighter matress than the Basecamp pad I use?
- What can I sleep on that will be comfortable, keep me dry and is ultralight?
Now, don’t get me completely wrong. My kit is far from ‘dialled in’ as some might say. I’m always looking for better solutions. The shovel you see below is just the best thing I have at the moment! The pack may be only 30 litres and 770 grams but I’m not entirely happy with that either, I’ll start making packs in the winter.
The Super-Ultralight Wild Camping Kit List
It’s pretty standard practice to group your kit into categories. I split mine into Shelter, Sleeping, Cooking, Water, with the pack weight at the top (I’ve not put category headers in the list but they are in order).
So here we are so far…
|ITEM||BRAND / MODEL||WEIGHT (G)|
|Pack||Berghaus Remote 30 Litre||660|
|Shelter||OookWorks Whisper Micro Tarp||170|
|Bivvy||Alpkit Hunka Bivvy||420|
|Pegs||8x OookWorks Pegs + 2x Titanium Shepherds Hooks (OookWorks DCF Peg Bag)||140|
|Sleeping Bag||Alpkit SkyeHigh500||1160|
|Mattress||Yellowstone Foam Roll Mat||130|
|Stove||Trangia stove + StorminStoves Cone||172|
|Fuel||Bioethanol in screw top bottle||55|
|Pot||Alpkit MiTiMug 650 in DCF Stove Bag||85|
|Towel||OookWorks Microfibre Towel (Small)||11|
|Water Filter||Sawyer Mini||54|
|Collection Pouch||Squeeze Bag 1L||31|
|First Aid||First Aid Bag, toothbrush, paste, tissue||52|
|Headlight||Petzl Aktic Core Head Torch & spare batteries||131|
|Map||OS Map section laminated||25|
|Compass||Small Silva Classic||24|
|Trowel||Sea To Summit Nylon ‘Pocket’||90|
And here it is in action…
Bad Weather – ULtralight Wild Camping Kit
Well firstly, in colder or windy weather, or if I’m camping on a summit or exposed spot, instead of using the Whisper micro tarp I’ll shelter under the OookMid. This is our mid-supported tarp tent. It’s great at warding off the elements but with its open front, you still feel like you’re truly sleeping outdoors. At 460 grams it will add 290 grams to your pack.
If you’re camping in a place where there are a lot of bugs you’ll want to take the WeeNest with you. This is a midge net inner tent that has a built-in bathtub groundsheet and zipped doors. The WeeNest sits under the OookMid and MLD Duomid perfectly as well as fitting in an MLD Trailstar, Cricket, the Tramplite and Pioulou shelters.
The net only version weighs 450 grams so, with the OookMid we’re still well below 5kg. You’ll leave the Alpkit Bivvy behind.
You could even use the WeeNest without a shelter on a fine night. There’s no need for shelter if it’s roasting, as it is right now, and there’s little wind. The WeeNest just needs six pegs, a pole and a few metres of cord.
I’ll be ordering an AlpKit Skyehigh900 when they come in stock for colder nights. This will go onto the winter kit list later in the year.
WHAT WILL I CHANGE?
Like I said earlier, I love the Berghaus bag but I see a minimalist roll-top pack in my future. I imagine this will only be 400 grams but still tough enough to carry what I need. I do like side pouches and a middle pouch for the map and compass but I’ll also do one without. I’ll make this in the winter though.
I’m sure I can make a bivvy under 420 grams. That might come before the summer’s through! Watch this space.
I’ve never been very happy with the trowel but haven’t found something much better. It’s not very good at digging through the hard ground as it’s made from plastic.
Trangia doesn’t make the lightest of stoves but I threw this in when the Stormin Stoves burner corroded. I believe the Trangia burner is 110g where the Lixada aluminium counterpart is 26g. I need to weigh the whole system up though before I just get one thing that’s lighter. I love that the whole system is silent, couldn’t do with another noisy Jetboil. I’ll keep looking.
After years of praising the Sawyer, I recently read that filters take all of the minerals out of the water! This concerns me. Dead water, as it’s called, isn’t much good for you and when you spend time in nature you expect the water to be pretty bloody good for you. I’m looking into UV purification this week.
Conclusion – Summer 2021
There’s still a way to go, both with OookWorks and the kit, but I’m SUPER happy with where I am now compared with the last blog I did (18 months ago) on Ultralight Backpacking (this explains my journey from a 15kg pack down to Sub5kg).
I hope you’ve found this interesting, inspiring even. Please let me know below, comments are very much appreciated.
If you have any recommendations or questions please get in touch.
Thanks for reading.
Now For Something A Bit More Relaxing…
Come for a 20 mile wander around Ullswater, see the sites and wild camp up Aira Force on Gowbarrow Dodd in the first tarp I made.