Honey, Give Me Some Hints for Christmas

Every Christmas and every birthday, my wife asks me for gift "hints." I tell her that it will probably be some kind of backpacking equipment.

Knowing I already own three of everything (literally), she cringes. You don't need any more gear, she complains at first, then gives in when equipment is just about the only stuff on the list.

I already know I want a titanium Esbit Wing Stove (see my earlier post).

With the holidays coming quickly, I figure others will be in the same situation. I want to solicit ideas from my readers so I can create the ultimate gift list for the lightweight backpacker.

Best tents, packs, jackets, headlamps, pads and even the small stuff–all prices ranges. I want your help making a list I can share with others. Please help. I know my wife will appreciate it.

Be safe. Be light. Be one with the pack.

Manzella Windstop Fleece Gloves – 4th Time the Charm?

On my recent vacation to visit friends in Madison, Wisconsin, I dropped into an outdoor store and found a new pair of gloves. As I have confessed in previous posts, I own multiples of just about every kind of backpacking gear, so I guess it isn’t surprising I would have three (now four) pairs of gloves.

I have tried many combinations trying to get the right flexibility, fit, dexterity, warmth and, of course, lightness. One combination included thin liners with a wind and waterproof outer outer shell. At the time, the two-piece approach seemed ideal. In reality, the two layers weren’t warm enough, even though they did keep my hands dry. I had tried this approach after hiking with good quality fleece gloves that got wet during a rainstorm which caused the temperature to drop and my hands to get quickly numb. So numb, I could barely work the clips on my pack’s chest strap.

A New Experiment

I had good reason to buy my fourth pair: my current gloves are a bit thin and starting to wear out, in addition to providing very little protection against cold and wind – the times you really need good gloves.

To remedy this situation, I bought a pair of Manzella Men’s Polartec Windstop Fleece Gloves with Goretex membrane. As you might expect, they are lightweight at 3 ounces for both gloves.

They also are three times as thick as my current pair, yet allow good dexterity (you need to be able to perform basic chores around camp without taking off the gloves). To help with grip, the palm, thumb and two fore-fingers are covered with what the label calls “Pittards World Class Leather.”

The label also claims they are four times more wind resistant, provide warmth without weight, have a water-repellant surface, are breathable and machine washable.

I’ll let you know how they work on the trail next time I’m out.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

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Trip Report: Sea Lions, Lighthouse on The Lost Coast

Lost Coast driftwoodMy backpacking pals Wild Bill and The Duke and I have had fewer backpacks than usual this year because of Wild Bill's knee surgery.

Although a good part of the season was past and The Duke was out of  town, Wild Bill and I got out to the Lost Coast (my third trip there, his second) for a three nighter.

The Lost Coast Trail is 28 miles long, from Shelter Cove, California in the south to the Mattole (pronounced ma-toll) River in the North. Driving north on Highway 1, we turned off at the Honeydew exit and followed the road through Humboldt Redwoods State Park about 35 miles over the King Mountain Range to the trailhead at the mouth of the Mattole River where we camped the first night.

The next morning we set out on the trail with tide book in hand. Several miles of the trail are impassable at high tide. Even on some of the relatively high low tides, you can barely slip by some points. When I say barely slip by, I mean it. You’ve got a shear cliff on one side and the gap of dry sand between you and the ocean is maybe five feet. Continue reading

MSR MicroZoid Tent with Side Entrance

MSR MicroZoid tentMany of the new small, lightweight tents offer an easy-access side entrance. Having a large opening on a small tent and then being able to literally roll sideways into bed is a big plus.

I've owned several tents that open at one end and require you to crawl in feet first. This is a real pain for organizing your gear and climbing in and out for bathroom breaks at night. It is especially troublesome with a low peak height.

The MSR MicroZoid tent offers a big side opening, which makes the rather low 26-inch peak more acceptable. Continue reading

Lunar Solo Enhanced Tent

Lunar Solo Enhanced tentThrough an exchange in a Yahoo lightweight backpacking group I discovered the Lunar Solo Enhanced tent from Six Moons Design.

When I checked out Six Moon’s website, I learned that Backpacking Light gave it its 2005 Lightitude Award for best solo shelter. Okay, so I’m a couple of years behind on this. But I read a lot about lightweight gear and had never noticed it.

What captured my imagination was the weight: just 23 ounces; the description that it is a cross between tarp, tent and bivy, and its roominess, 27.5 square feet of space with a 45-inch-high peak. Continue reading

Three Ultralight Stoves

I own four stoves and just saw three more showcased in the August Backpacker Magazine I would love to have.

If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now: you can never have too much equipment. Especially if you’re a lightweight gear head. I’m one…and proud of it.
Sure, you can buy just one of each essential item, such as one sleeping bag, one tent, one tent and probably make them do a whole lifetime. But what fun is that?

For me, the process of getting lightweight is nearly as much fun as actually going light (on your trip). Continue reading