While pouring myself a stiff night cap (f’ing tax prep) and then readying tomorrow morning’s coffee last night, it dawned on me that I should write a long-term review of the unsung device on which I rely so often: the Salter Brecknell 311.
This $28 postal scale has an 11-lb capacity that measures in 0.1-oz increments. (For those who don’t live in the US or the two other Imperial backwaters, Liberia and Myanmar, the 311 has a 5-kilogram capacity and measures in 1-gram or 0.001-kg increments.)
My 311 is at least six years-old, and has been used over 10,000 times. In addition to coffee and (less regularly) alcohol, I use it for weighing:
- Letters and packages,
- Gear, particularly when reviewing products and developing gear lists; and,
- Most of all, food. This year alone, for personal and guided trips I will prepare 1,500+ servings of beans and rice, breakfast granola, and chocolate covered cashews. And I use it regularly for home-cooked meals, too, like when I need two pounds of ground elk for shepherd’s pie.
A reliable scale is an essential possession of a dedicated backpacker, especially those who are considerate of their pack weight. And you might be surprised with how often it gets used for non-backpacking applications, too.
When or if this scale dies, I will most definitely buy it again:
1. With an 11-pound capacity, I can weigh every piece of gear that I own, and most packages.
2. The 0.1-oz increment is sufficiently precise for most things, including the weight of, say, a tent stake or a bag of M&M’s. The next level of precision (0.01-oz increments) is unnecessary for most jobs.
3. Battery life is excellent. I think I’ve only replaced its 9-volt battery once.
4. After weighing powdery foods (e.g. mashed potatoes, Parmsean), it can be easily and thoroughly cleaned by removing the weighing platform (just twist and pull).
5. The reading speed is acceptable. I don’t feel like I’m always waiting on it, and it does not bob between measurements like a digital pendulum.
Room for improvement
I have found only two flaws with the Model 311, neither of which are probably fair:
1. With large items (e.g. a big box), the display can become hidden. A remote display would be more useful. However, that feature would also cost more.
2. Last year I wore through the pliable plastic that covers the ON/TARE button. The functionality is not affected, and at this point I don’t need a visual reminder of where the ON/TARE button is. But this does expose a weak point of the device.
Other scales I own
The 311 does not do it all, so I own two other scales as well.
The Etekcity Digital Postal Hook Fishing Scale has a convenient hook and a 110-pound limit. I take it to the trailhead on important solo trips and on guided trips in order to weigh full backpacks, food sacks, and meat bags — these are useful points of reference later. The scale is small and easily portable.
The Smart Weigh SWS100 Elite Series Digital Pocket Scale has a capacity of just 3 oz, but measures in increments of 0.01 oz. It’s very useful for weighing spices or very small items that collectively add up, including side-release buckles, cord locks, and short lengths of guyline.
I’ve owned both scales for a few years, but don’t use them as often. Based on my experience so far, they are both on my recommended list.
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