Sharing Backpacking Gear

The Tarptent Rainshaddow 2 is a 3 person tent that weighs just 2.5 lbs.
3 Person Tarptent Rain Shaddow

This coming weekend I will host  “Intro to Backpacking” at Harriman State Park with “Hudson Valley Hikers.”   I’ve asked everyone who has signed up to email me a question about backpacking as a pre-requisite to attending the workshop. These questions have made for a nice series of posts. Today we will discuss sharing backpacking gear.

Mark Asks, “Is it ever a good idea to split camping gear between or among two or three people? In other words, if I carry a two or three person tent, would it be wise if someone else carried extra clothing, cooking gear, etc.?”

Sharing Backpacking Gear: Good, Bad, and Ugly

Mark, the answer is absolutely yes. In fact, I have a discussion group going right now for an upcoming trip to the White Mountains in which our team is brain storming how to save weight through teamwork. Sharing gear with one ore more partners can save weight, but it requires teamwork, patience, compatibility, and maybe even a little intimacy. Before you make a commitment to share gear with someone, make sure you trust them implicitly. It may be a good idea to go backpacking with that person at least once with fully redundant gear before you make such a commitment. Try to avoid surprises like a tent partner who snores or a cooking gear partner who is consistently the last person to show up at camp.

I recall a story about two famous French mountaineers scaling Annapurna. About halfway up, the partner carrying all of the climbing gear fell off the mountain. The partner who was left had a tent, sleeping bag, and stove, but no way to get safely down the mountain. (That’s the Ugly.)

Sharing Backpacking Gear: Benefits

Sharing gear can definitely save weight, and it also build comradery. Here are some examples on how to save weight:

  • A two person tent usually weighs only marginally more than a 1 person tent. A single person Tarptent Notch weighs 27 ounces while a 2 person Tarptent Stratospire weighs 36 ounces. By sharing a Stratospire, a couple can go from 27 ounces each to 18 ounces each.
  • A 20 degree Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt weighs about 21 ounces for a single person. The two person Accomplice Quilt weighs just 32 ounces.
  • Two or more people can easily share a water filter or set of Aqua Mira drops Gravity Feed filter systems are a little heavier than squeeze systems, but excel at making water for small groups.
  • Two people can easily share an entire cooking system. For example, the Snow Peak Mini Solo set comes with 1 10 fluid oz. mug that nests outside the 28 fluid oz. pot. The pot can boil water for two people. One drinks out of the pot and the other drinks out of the mug.
  • For a short trip, a single bear bag line can support food for 2-3 people. Be careful with this on longer trips with limited resupply options. If an animal gets the whole group’s food, you’re out of luck.
  • Not everyone in a group needs to carry an individual first aid kit and fire starting kit. Partners cold split these up while smaller groups may carry them on a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio.
  • Make sure everyone in the group uses a headlamp that takes the same batteries, then cut out some of the excess batteries. The same can be applied to other spare items, like backpack buckles, tent stakes, duct tape, etc.

Sharing Backpacking Gear: Teamwork Chart

The following chart shows how two people might share gear to save weight. In this hypothetical scnario, we assume the two are married and share a quilt for maximum weight savings. I condensed the “carried clothing” section into a single line because none of it is shared and I wanted the chart to fit better. In this scenario, the happy couple was able to save 12% and 13% respectively.

Sharing Backpacking Gear: Chart
Shared Gear Chart

Sharing Backpacking Gear:Considerations

Here are a few things to consider carefully before committing to share gear with someone:

  • Do they snore or toss and turn a lot?
  • Do you hike about the same pace?
  • Does the person treat their own belongings with care?
  • Would you live together at home?
  • Would you trust the person with your life?