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Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

To be ultra-light, or not to be ultra-light.  That is the question.

I’m not a gear hound like many backpackers.  But, I have definitely been carrying too much weight.  So, while I dream away the cold this winter with visions of sparkling mountain streams and wildflowers, I will be undergoing a re-evaluation of my standard pack to reduce my average weight from 30-35 down to 20-25 pounds.

For gear hounds out there, this may not be exciting, but I do have some tried and true materials that may work for you.  Here’s my standard inventory:

Shelter:  REI Sololite Tent

I love this tent.  It only weighs 2.1 pounds, is easy to set up and take down, and is perfect for me and my dog, Dozer.  I also really like the exterior entrance zipper flap that creates about 3 square feet of protected “indoor/outdoor” space in addition to the sleeping space.  This is a keeper.

My REI Sololite in the Bridger Wilderness Wyoming

Side view of my REI Sololite in the Never Summer Wilderness Colorado

   Sleeping Bag:  Kelty Clear Creek synthetic +20 degrees

I don’t like it.  It has kept me plenty warm down to 25 degrees.  But, this thing is a giant.  It weighs 3.6 pounds and stuffs down to the size of one of the tires on my Jeep.  It looks like I’m carrying a car-camping bag from the 1960’s.  I need to invest in a good lightweight down bag.

The picture below shows me, in the red shirt, hiking through the Dominguez Canyon wilderness in Colorado with my sleeping bag strapped to the outside of my pack seemingly almost dragging in the sand behind me.  Not good!

Me and my giant pack

Sleeping Pad:  Thermarest Trail Lite inflatable

This pad has worked very well for me.  It is light, easy to inflate, compact when rolled, and relatively comfortable.  It’s a keeper.

Pack:  Kelty Redwing 3100

This is a pretty low-end pack, but I like it.  If I were trying to get down to ultra-light status, I would invest in a lighter pack.  But, when you find a pack that works for you, go with it.  This pack is comfortable for me, and I love the utilitarian design.

Dozer and my Kelty Redwing 3100 on top of Baker Pass in the Never Summer Wilderness Colorado

Stove:  MSR Pocket Rocket

Love it!  It is light, tiny, efficient, cheap, and easy to use.  The only drawback is that it is difficult to use in windy and/or wet weather.  In those conditions you need to find a sheltered place, which is not always easy.  But, I’ve never been unable to cook food or boil water with this thing.  Highly recommended.

Water Filter:  Katadyn Hiker

I like it okay, but may consider something smaller.  This filter has been reliable and easy to use.  And, I think it works since I haven’t had any cases of explosive diarhea after using it, which is a bonus!  But, I’d like something smaller.

Water Carrier:  Field and Stream Hydration Pack

My method for carrying water has given me fits over the years.  I’ve used Boy Scout style canteens, plastic water bottles, those leather mountain man pouch things, a simple cup dipped in unfiltered streamwater (that didn’t end well), and now the hydration pack.  This system works really well because the hydration pack works as a day pack if needed.  If not needed, I can remove the water bladder and just bring that.  I did find it very convenient to have the water hose thing available without havig to dig for water bottles or deal with a swinging canteen.  I think it’s a keeper, and you don’t need to spend over $100 on a high end item.  I paid, I think, $20-something for this one.  It’s light and simple.

Clothes:  Too much!

One of my issues with weight is that I often take too many clothes, and the wrong clothes.  But, here are the items that have worked well:

  • Columbia convertable pants (the kind that unzip at the knees and become shorts).  These are lightweight, comfortable, look decent, and they are long pants and shorts in one.
  • Wind and water resistant nylon “sweats.” The Columbia convertables are pretty thin.  A lightweight wind-breaking nylon sweat pant is my choice for additional protection for the legs if needed. 
  • Under Armer t-shirt and long-sleave shirt.  Under Armer is a bit pricy but it’s great stuff.  Keeps you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold.  And, it’s lightweight and compact when in the pack.
  • Lodge Outfitter raincoat and windbreaker.  This is no ultra-expensive gear, but it’s tried and true.  For $20 it has kept me dry in some significant rainstorms, and it’s a great windbreaker.
  • Wool sweater.  This one I struggle with.  It’s bulky and not light.  But, I always feel I need something more than just my two thin Under Armer shirts and my windbreaker.  Might have to consider replacing this layer with something more compact and light, but not cotton.
  • Under Armer glove liners:  These things are awesome!  They are thin, but they really keep my hands warm.  I used them snowshoeing in January with air temps at 15-20 degrees and windchill at around zero and I never even took my big ski gloves out of my pack.  My hands and fingers were warm the whole time.  For summer backpacking, they are perfect for early morning activities at 30-degrees.  Light, comfortable and surprisingly warm.
  • Wool or cotton beanie cap for the dome.
  • Basic thin wool hiking socks.  No need for “sealskins” or whatever.  Just your basic wool hiking sock–it’s always worked great for me.  I just tend to take too many pairs.

Cooking Supplies:  Just the basics

  • Just the pot from my boy scout style “mess kit”
  • A collapsable rubber cup
  • A plastic “spork” (it has a fork on one end and a spoon on the other)

Safety and Hygien:  The Essentials

  • Waterproof matches and a small lighter
  • A couple of Coghlans fire sticks (not the whole bag, just a couple)
  • Small first-aid kit
  • 25 feet of light nylon rope (for hanging bear bags and pulling friends out of ravines)
  • Colgate Wisp disposable mini toothbrushes.  These are awesome.  No toothpaste, no water.  They come in little packs and have a gel cap of toothpaste in the brush that ruptures when you brush your teeth.  They really work and weigh nothing.
  • Coleman bio-wipes.  When you do your business, you don’t have to mess with lighting the paper.  In an appropriate place, just take a dump, bury the poop and paper.  The paper will disintigrate within 20 days.  A few dollars at WalMart.
  • Basic headlamp.  No need for something pricy here.  Good LED lamps are available now for about 20 bucks.
  • Schrade knife:  This is a lightweight knife with a partially serrated 3″ locking blade.
  • Keychain compass:  Lightweight and small
  • Small whistle:  To scare that bear away or say “I’m lost, over here!!”
  • E-Reader:  E-Reader?  Yep.  I like to have a book to read if I’m stuck in my REI Sololite in the rain or can’t sleep at night.  An E-Reader weighs the same as a small paperpack, but you are not stuck with one choice.  If I get tired of Edward Abby I can switch to Paul Thereaux.

Items I need:

  • Lightweight inflatable pillow:  I struggle with sleep comfort while backpacking and I’ve concluded that it is because I don’t have a pillow.  I find myself trying to ball up any item of clothing that I’m not wearing and using it for a pillow.  It’s never comfortable.  I try to use the dog, too.  He doesn’t care for that and won’t stay still.  I’ve noticed at home that I can only sleep well with a very specific head position.  I need a pillow.
  • Trekking poles:  For years I made fun of people with trekking poles (not directly to them, that would be very rude).  Why would you spend $100 on a pair of sticks?  Then I borrowed a pair and found that they really helped a lot with relieving pressure from the knees going down and allowing the arms to share more of the work going up.

There you have it.  This is as “gear junkie” as I get.

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