Which is More Important — Light Weight or Comfort?

Which is More Important — Light Weight or Comfort?

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter At this end of this week, I’m heading out for a few days of


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At this end of this week, I’m heading out for a few days of backpacking and product testing. Among the items I’m trying out is a two-person Mountain Hardwear tent that weighs about a pound and tent stakes from Cascade Designs that have carbon cores and tip the scale at .2 ounces each. Both of these come at a cost: The tent is small and the stakes will set you back $7 a piece.

My sleeping bag, on on the hand, will be filled with about three pounds of down. I sleep cold and don’t want to compromise the comfort of my slumber — I’ll be warmer, but at the penalty of extra ounces I’ll carry.

We all wrestle with these (usually) opposing factor of our gear, whether we’re shopping for tents at REI or deciding what goes in the pack for an overnight. Do you buy the spacious five-pound tent or the three-pound cocoon? Do you use a half-size sleeping pad and wiggle uncomfortably all night or suffer carrying the full-length air mattress? Freeze-dried backpacking food or yummy fresh veggies? Instant coffee or real?

Carrying your own kit means tradeoffs and a long list of decisions. For each piece of gear, you have to weigh a multitude of factors and come to a conclusion that strikes the right balance for the given situation. A day ride is different from tackling the Great Divide, backcountry different from sidecountry. And while the cost-benefit equation is often multifaceted (price/weight, weight/durability, weight/safety), and while each piece of gear and application brings a unique perspective, the final decision often distills to a very binary approach: Some folks live to shave ounces, others to stay comfortable no matter what.

Which are you?


WIN SMITH SNOW HELMET JUST BY VOTING!
This week, one poll participant will receive Smith Optic’s awesome Maze snow helmet. We’ll pick the winner via random number generator (and announce it here) — all you have to do to enter is vote and leave a comment so we have your email to contact you. Contest ends Sunday, October 30, at midnight PST.

Congrats to Kenneth Sams, who won the lid! Thanks for commenting, everyone.


Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal.
Showing 79 comments
  • Matthew Halip
    Reply

    Always comfort

  • Kenneth Sams
    Reply

    Comfort for sure cause if you are light weight but miserable you are going to be wishing for the extra weight.

  • vanessa
    Reply

    Oh, i go 80% lightweight, 20% comfort. huge sleeping bag, and light weight everything else. :)

  • Al
    Reply

    Comfy.

  • Hotmann
    Reply

    My longest outing is typically no more than 3 days, and I don’t cover much more than 10 miles a day so I don’t need super ultra light gear. For me comfort and price are the main factors in a purchase but I’ll splurge a bit to get a good blend of both comfort and lighter weight.

  • soren
    Reply

    They aren’t mutually exclusive…lighweight can be comfortable. Lighter weight means easier on your body means longer distances and more flexibility as to where/when you camp means more comfort and peace of mind.

  • Daniel Via
    Reply

    Comfort vs weight is definitely tough. I like the idea of light weight, but I can’t afford all the cool stuff so I have a few light weight items and space saving stuff, but at 41 most of my gear is for comfort. These old bones don’t handle discomfort well…

  • Walker Thompson
    Reply

    I’ve been on the comfort train for months now! Lightweight is out, IMO! My Santa Cruz Nomad allows me to huck the biggest terrain in the back country. In other words, I opt for performance more than lightweight, and I don’t think you get that much performance with lightweight…

  • Nick Skog
    Reply

    Tough call but I would say an efficient balance between the 2 (leaning towards light-weight) because if I pack smart and keep the weight down, moving across the terrain is easier and more comfortable and my trip is simplified.

  • Tom
    Reply

    Comfort to a point, depending on how you’re carrying it, and how far you’re going..

  • Fenriq
    Reply

    Comfort means way more than light weight to me. I swapped out my newer lighter seat for my older one solely for comfort. Hmmm, I just coined a new disorder, cyclo-anorexia though perhaps cyclo-bulimia is more accurate?

  • Zak Anderson
    Reply

    Comfort. If you don’t feel/sleep well then you won’t enjoy your hike or trip.

  • G
    Reply

    Not mutually exclusive. Most lightweight equipment is designed with comfort in mind as well, even if there are compromises made to keep things feathery.

    I pick lightweight, because all my ultralight gear works well for me in the comfort department.

  • Craig Rowe
    Reply

    I’m going somewhat lighter now only because I’m rebuilding a knee. But, ultimately, I choose comfort. A well-rested, well-fed hiker is rarely in need of rescue. NOLS did a couple-year study on pack weight and injuries and found that yes, lighter packs result in fewer injuries in the backcountry. It’s fine to shed items on shorter hikes or in areas where the weather is highly predictable. I just think cutting straps and tarps and frameless packs can sometimes take the lightweight movement a bit too far. Plus, in guided settings or when you happen to be the most experienced packer, many of the items carried can be used for medical purposes in the backcountry.

    It all comes down to what makes one comfortable, there is really no right way to trek.

  • Griff
    Reply

    comfort!!!

  • steven threndyle
    Reply

    As Herbert Cain might say – you are mixing apples and oranges (and this is last reference I’ll make to any Republicans). You are mixing a quantitative (lightness – measured in grams) versus a qualitative (subjective) measure. As someone who has used/owned maybe nine or ten helmets for inbounds skiing, my answer is… NONE! I still prefer a toque! I agree with Walker – I think lightweight is ‘through’ as a trend (though, duh, Vibram’s toe socks seem to disprove that). If something is comfortable, you won’t notice the weight. And if, say, a pack’s light, but a pain in the ass to take care of and susceptible to tearing or blowing out, well then you’re just wasting money.

  • alan
    Reply

    comfort.

  • Steve Williams
    Reply

    When it comes to goggles or helmets, comfort is always more important

  • Jerry Anderson
    Reply

    Comfort first, then durability, then weight. If my pack, or boots, or parka chafe or create blisters, the weight won’t save them from the trash can.

  • Andy
    Reply

    Comfort is king. I do feel there are opportunities with gear where shaving weight is a huge benefit. But overall, I would rather be comfortable and thus get more enjoyment out of the experience.

  • jared
    Reply

    It is all about the marginal comfort value of a particular ounce. I LOVE having a light pack – I feel great all day backpacking and can go faster and further. But I will always bring a pack pillow because for those few ounces I sleep much better than without them. I will almost never bring a change of clothes because even thought it may be more “comfortable” to wear clean clothes after a few days, it does not provide additional comfort significant enough to justify the weight.

    I bet everyone who replied “comfort” is thinking only of the handful of items that make a big difference in their comfort level. Lots of other things that provide some additional comfort will be left home in favor or weight.

  • Leon Shaner
    Reply

    Lightweight. There are all sorts of things I can do to make my gear more comfortable but I can’t do much about the weight. So starting with the lightest possible gear, if it lacks comfort, I will either get used to it, or compensate in some other way that doesn’t compromise the (light)weight too much.

  • Dondo
    Reply

    I choose comfort AND real coffee!

  • Mark
    Reply

    Comfort first, then drill holes in anything you can.

  • Chris
    Reply

    When debating between weight vs. comfort, I usually vote for a lighter pack. It makes the hiking/climbing/skiing more enjoyable. My summer bag weighs less than a pound, my winter bag weighs 2lbs, and I routinely travel with a 1/4 length pad, turned sideways, in the summer and a 3/4 length pad in the winter. It lets me go further, for longer, and come back with more stories.
    It also saves my back, and since I’m a professional mountain guide who wants to keep doing this in 20 years, those weight savings mean my back, knees, and ankles will last a bit longer.
    I can’t help but think that this is even more important for the weekend adventurer, who wants to make every free minute on the trail, in camp, or on the mountain count.
    I vote for Lite is Rite.

  • Andrew
    Reply

    The less you carry the more comfortable you will be.

  • ben
    Reply

    less weight leads to more comfort. You have to find the balance.

  • J Radochia
    Reply

    For hiking I would say lightweight, except for food, because it means greater mileage, less soreness and I just assume sleep under the stars if its nice out and under a tarp if its not. In the winter though I think its important to find a compromise. Both in skis between super light touring setups that include flimsy bindings and floppy skis and bulletproof but ultra heavy downhill or duke/baron setups, and in camping where warmth becomes an issue because gear that is warm and light costs a fortune.

  • ZT
    Reply

    comfort ftw

  • John
    Reply

    Confort! With confort I can go a long way, even if the load is heavy.

  • nico
    Reply

    light with some extra treats

  • Todd
    Reply

    Def comfort (within reason).

  • D
    Reply

    Light weight

  • Josh
    Reply

    Comfort

  • BDA33
    Reply

    Smith Optics are the best. They are the only glasses/goggles and anything that applies for my work and play!!

  • Donald
    Reply

    Comfort. If it isn’t going to be comfortable, why take it?

  • Craig White
    Reply

    Comfort, please.

  • max
    Reply

    comfort.

  • Luke Bauer
    Reply

    Light weight always leads to comfort…at least for my knees and back. After an impromptu lightweight four days in the Grand Canyon, I’ve never gone back.

  • Jordan
    Reply

    Light Weight

  • Nick
    Reply

    Got to go with comfort

  • Leif
    Reply

    comfort

  • Brandon
    Reply

    Big bikes and big skis forever!

  • Jason
    Reply

    I’m a huge weight fanatic.. I even saw off the handle of my toothbrush like Colin Fletcher!

  • Kristen burrows
    Reply

    Light weight because it increases comfort over time during your performance.

  • R. Beck
    Reply

    Lightweight can be comfortable, if done right. Case in point Selle Italia SLR saddles.

  • Kevin T
    Reply

    If you are comfortable you can perform.

    • steve casimiro
      Reply

      That’s what she said.

  • Big Sky Walker
    Reply

    Comfort always wins !

  • Jon S
    Reply

    Light weight

  • jonathan anstey
    Reply

    Some mythical place right between comfort and lightweight!!

  • Nick Yerger
    Reply

    Yay I voted!

  • Erik
    Reply

    Comfort – hands down. There comes a point, however, where no amount of comfort will convince me to carry something that is a brick.

  • chris
    Reply

    I’d rather be comfortable on the trail than in camp, light weight wins.

  • Giles Lajevic-Augustine
    Reply

    What is this, your moms living room? Get a grip. Its a mountain, you want to get up and down quick like bunny, not bush. You dont need all the s*** you think you need.

  • Rob Thomson
    Reply

    When cycle touring, it is all about comfort. When I’m skateboard-touring (www.14degrees.org), it’s all about lightweight.

  • Nate L
    Reply

    I’m sure most folks have better backcountry cred here than I do, but I’ve done a number of trips living in the woods for more than a month straight. From that, I’ve gleaned that Comfort is huge when it comes to enjoying the trips (for me, anyway).
    Here’s the BUT… I alway to try figure out what can do double-duty. I carry a lighter-weight sleeping bag, then pair it with a down sweater, and warm hat. I’ll ditch pants (shorts and gaiters only), but bring a comfortable pair of rain pants that I can lounge in at night. I usually opt for one jacket with a hood, instead of multiple layers with no hoods.
    And I always freeze my bourbon in a Platypus. It usually warms up by the time I’m ready for it, but in the meantime – it can give you an extra day of life for any fresh fruit or vegetables you bring into the backcountry.
    Happy travels, and thanks for a great blog.
    Nate

  • Ben D
    Reply

    Comfort all the way!

  • Matt
    Reply

    Somethings are worth sacrificing for. If you spend $250 on boots, you’ll be thankful. If you spend $25, chances are you’re gonna have a pretty tough time of it. Same principle applies here. Make your choices. For me, that’s freeze dried food that I can cook in one pot and a single change of essential clothing so that I have room for the bigger tent and comfy sleeping bag.

  • JP
    Reply

    Light is right, but no way am I leaving my camp chair home.

  • Care Mackie
    Reply

    Comfort is most important !

  • Colby
    Reply

    depends on the mission at hand, and discomfort is all relative. that being said, freezing your marbles off is no fun. i usually error on the side of caution and comfort.

  • Jeremy
    Reply

    Comfort wins, but who’s carrying the recliner there?

  • Dave
    Reply

    A little from column A and a little from column B. Shave weight where you can so you can pack a couple of things that are a little heavier but increase your comfort.

    I do find the best way save weight and still have comfort is to try and find multiple uses for your gear. Take a lighter bag and sleep in your insulated clothing, use your trekking poles as tent poles, use a mug as a pot/ a pot as a mug etc…

  • tomasz.chrapek
    Reply

    Lightweight is the way. Be mobile, be practical.

  • Jamie
    Reply

    lightweight especially with helmets!

  • A-rod
    Reply

    Comfort

  • justin
    Reply

    Comfort!

  • christian levesque
    Reply

    i choose lightweight for sure, anything to bring more cameras and lens and flash. 😉

  • christian levesque
    Reply

    i choose lightweight : anything that I can do to bring more camera and lens. 😉

  • Baba Ganoosh
    Reply

    Go comfort, there’s no point in taking a trip to have a miserable time. Train to pack a little heavier, and it’s no big deal.

  • Dennis
    Reply

    Light weight for me. More miles in more comfort but I won’t give up the full length pad or warm sleeping bag.

  • Anthony
    Reply

    37% of the time I lean 41% towards comfort and 13% to style, 61% of that time I look at weight from a distance.

    • steve casimiro
      Reply

      @Anthony: If only we gave away the goggles on the merit of the comment…

  • Michael M.
    Reply

    If I have to ‘lug’ it, I want it light.

  • James
    Reply

    Light, wait, Comfort! : )

  • Sam
    Reply

    Lightweight…to a point and with little comforts mixed in there. This is a tricky one…

  • @Ueli Steck
    Reply

    LIGHT WEIGHT so I can run up the Eiger Nordwand and then go run a marathon and then swim the English channel and win an Ironman and wrestle a bear!

  • mitchmoney
    Reply

    Definitely lightweight. The only exception is sleeping gear. Everything else, I try to find things that can be used in more than one way to save on how much I bring.

    One reason I do this is that I’m a poor college student and can’t afford to keep buying new gear so I just find new ways to use what I have, haha.

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