Function or form. What is more important to you when choosing your gear?

These days, weight has become an all important part of choosing outdoor gear. Companies competing for the lightest tent, or waterproof jacket. But how important is how much something weighs?

I remember when Go-lite came on the market. We had one of their backpacks in the shop - 75 litre capacity weighing 1.1kg. Hanging next to it was the classic Macpac Glissade, also 75 litre capacity but weighing 3.2kg. The difference - Go-lite said to use theirs with maximum 15kg in it, the Macpac's harnass was designed for carrying loads in excess of 20kg. So I tested them both with identical gear in them, both 13 kg. And which felt lighter? The Macpac, which was 2kg heavier. For a very simple reason - it transferred the mass more efficiently to my body, which meant that I didn't need to use as much energy to carry it. And that was just 5 minutes. Imagine the excess work involved in carrying that the whole day.

Another area where I see people trying to save weight is with clothing. Light weight jackets. But what are the different requirement for a good jacket? In my view, waterproof, breathable and windproof, and not going to get ripped open by the first tree or rock I walk past. 10 years ago, a standard 3-ply technical shell weighed in at around 800g. Now there are jackets weighing 100g. But can such a light jacket keep on functioning? Not in terms of waterproofness or breathability. The outer material needs a certain amount of weight and structure to absorb the water-repellant impregnation. Too light and the effect is gone within weeks. And with insulation layers. I see a lot of people looking at the weight, and not at the amount of insulation in the garment.

Take for instance 2 down-filled sleeping bags from the same series from the same manufacturer, the Neutrino series from Rab.

  Endurance 400 Endurance 600

Total Weight

890g 1100g
Fill Weight 400g 600g
Materials, zips etc. 490g 500g
Temp. Rating ( Comfort ) -6°C -14°C

For instance, the Rab Neutrino Endurance 400 and 600. 400 grams of down filling vs 600g. Total weight difference of 210 grams. So 200 grams of the difference is pretty much pure insulation. Probably the most efficient 200 grams in your whole load. And when you sleep through the night and wake up refreshed in the morning, it's the start of a new day, with the extra energy to carry those 200 grams for another day. But if things go different than planned, those 200 grams might mean the difference the adventure of a lifetime and a drama.

And what about the personal comforts to pack. I always take a stove and coffee making gear as well as a tarp with me, even for light day trips. Why, because that great view is even better sharing with a cup of coffee with friends, and sometimes you just want a little bit of shelter from the rain, wind or sun.

So stop looking at the weight. Look at the functionality. Go with right weight and a smile on your face. It'll do a much better job of keeping your addiction alive.