Ultralight Backpacking Scope

I just rediscovered my ultralight backpacking monocular, great for watching wildlife or checking out landscape in the distance. Even looking for lost companions.

I bought it some years ago in my quest to go lightweight and noticed an updated model recently at Out of This World, a local store in Mendocino, California where I live.

It’s doubles as a spotting scope and magnifying glass.

Made by Nikon, the 6 x 15 power optical marvel has a 9x magnifier, is 3.25 inches long, 2 inches wide and weighs just 1.7 ounces.

You can hang it around your neck and you hardly even notice it. You can also easily use it one-handed.

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

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Bungee cords add a boost to backpack

MSNBC reported today on an interesting new backpack …

According to scientists, the ergonomic design of the new bungee pack reduces strain on shoulders and joints.

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The cords suspend the load in the pack so it stays at the same height from the ground while the wearer is running or walking, thus reducing the risks of muscle and joint problems.

Its designers said it will allow users to carry an extra 12 pounds (5.4 kilograms) while expending the same amount of energy as when carrying a normal backpack.

“For the same energetic cost, you can either carry 48 pounds in a normal backpack or 60 pounds in a suspended ergonomic backpack,” Lawrence Rome of the University of Pennsylvania said in a written statement. “It is like carrying an extra 12 pounds for free.”

The backpack, which was designed for soldiers and emergency workers, could be useful for children and hikers.

“Being able to move at relatively high speeds is crucial for many professions as well as in some athletic competitions and recreation,” said Rome, who collaborated with researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

The scientists have formed a company to produce the backpacks — known as Lightning Packs — and are now working on a lighter, small version.

Could a bungee backpack make a 20 pound load feel like 10 pounds?

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

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Tips for Safe Winter Camping

With the death of the Mt. Hood climber (see my Dec. 17 post below), Backpacker Magazine’s article on winter camping safety is timely.

Expert tips for a safe, sound snow shelter

By Grace Carter, February 2007

We won’t lie to you: There will be cold moments when you start snow-camping. But would you rather sit inside all winter, packing on the pounds? Keep your connection to nature alive by embracing the good things about snow: It’s a great insulator and building material-and it’s damned pretty when it blankets the land. Here are 6 ways to make sure your winter camp is warm, comfortable, and protected from the elements.

Check out this link to learn more: http://www.backpacker.com/article/1,2646,10907,00.html.

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

Ultra Lightweight Camping Chair – Make Your Own

As a member of the Yahoo ultralight backpacking forum, I get interesting emails from men and women who are constantly searching for solutions to their quest to be as light as possible on the trail.

Paul Sailer offered this tidbit for making a 1 oz chair frame for your Thermarest sleeping pad.

I assume he is talking about the Thermarest ProLite 4, size small (20 x 47 @ 17 ounces). But I’m guessing a Therm-a-Rest ProLite 4 Fast & Light Mattress (Regular) regular (20 x 72 @ 1.5 pounds) will fit as well. Sailer writes:

The Thermarest seat is a little small to support your back (only 11 inch by 15 inches).

However you can make a 1 oz chair, simply as follows if you have a sleeping pad.

Materials Needed:

1) one long piece of wide webbing (as wide and lightweight as possible) and
2) two plastic snaps like those used in shoulder or sternum straps on packs — that fit onto the webbing so you can join two pieces of webbing together and adjust the length.

How to make the 1 oz chair

1) Simply sew a loop on one end of the webbing large enough to go around your left knee when you are sitting on the ground with your knees bent,
2) put the long piece of webbing around your back and loop around your right knee, and attach and sew the two pieces of the snaps in such a way that you form an adjustable loop that can go around the right knee and tighten it.

The result will be a camping chair that is quite comfortable, and adds only an extra ounce to your pack weight,–and even less if you use the webbing to strap down your gear or for some other purpose

To use
a) simply sit on the sleeping pad with your knees bent with the pad under you and behind your back, bend your knees
b) and put one loop around your left knee, the webbing around the back of the sleeping pad, and
c) put the other loop (with the adjustable snaps) around your right knee, and tighten until you get enough comfort and back support

Alternative Method–using premade webbing loops

Alternatively if you don’t want to sew, instead of one long piece of webbing, you can obtain the same result using three separate loops of webbing: two small loops of webbing (large enough to loop around your knees when sitting, (one of which is adjustable in size) , and one large loop

Simply interlock the three loops with the large loop around your back and the two smaller loops to go around your knees when sitting, and adjust the length of one of the knee loops for comfort and support.

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Mt. Hood Climber Found Dead – Elements Take the Best Prepared

No doubt most of you have read that one of the three climbers was found dead today (Sunday) on Mt. Hood. It’s really sad, not only because of the human tragedy involved, but also because once again Mother Nature demonstrates her power and even the most experienced outdoors men and women can fall victim to the elements.

What is the lesson to be learned? Is there a lesson?

Although they appeared to do everything right – left a note in the truck about their route, were experienced mountain climbers and reportedly had plenty of cold weather gear, etc. at least it didn’t help one of those up there. Let’s hope the other two are found safe.

I did hear early on that they were doing a one-day ascent and therefore went light on there gear. Did they check on the weather before they went?

Maybe the victim was just a victim of the elements, despite great preparation. But more often that not, human error is to blame for these tragedies and near tragedies.

Read Angels in the Wilderness: The True Story of One Woman’s Survival Against All Odds by Amy Racina or Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston (who cut off his forearm to survive) or check out the movie, Grizzly Man, or read Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster or Into the Wild to understand this phenomenon first hand.

The tales are heroic and maddening. They are stories of people who survived despite carelessness or stupid mistakes and those who died because of carelessness or stupid mistakes.

Let’s pray the other two Hood climbers survive.

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Lightweight Lights – It Clips Onto Your Hat

My backpacking pal Wild Bill just purchased a new kind of headlamp — one that clips onto your hat. It’s called a Master Vision Cap Light. With batteries, only 1.24 ounces.

I’ve had others that clip on – single diode versions that were pretty powerful, but this one hooks right onto the bill of the hat and seems pretty sturdy. There are three diodes. The one linked above has three green lights, apparently great for reading maps or charts at night and will not “upset animals.” Hunters are the apparent target for this, but ultralight backpackers will like it, too.

Here is a description from the company:

The Master Vision Cap Light Hunter is the original Cap Light enhanced with very bright green lamps. This color allows colors to be distinguished on a map or chart, yet will not upset most animals.

“Like all Cap Light models, the Hunter is lightweight, compact, engineered to withstand extreme conditions and use, and powered by 4 lithium coin cell batteries for approximately 20 hours of ultra bright light from 3 LED bulbs with 10,000+ hours of burn time each. Water resistant. Attaches to cap for the most practical, hands-free light source available.”

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

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Mike Kretzler’s Lightweight Backpacking Base

This post is a continuation of my Backpacking Gear List Series, focusing on ways to achieve the lightest possible pack, while maintaining some comfort and staying safe while hiking and camping on your backpacks.
Backpacking Gear List

A frequent reader of my blog and experienced lightweight backpacker Mike Kretzler of Olympia, Washington and publisher of PEREGRINATE at http://www.mkretzler.blogspot.com, was good enough to share his list of base gear. Like my base list # 2, his is between 9 and 10 pounds.

His tent and sleeping bag recommendations are particularly interesting.

Here’s his list (by the way, I tried to provide links to Montbell Diamond tent and Moonstone bag, but couldn’t locate on company websites; names may have changed):

•Pack: North Face Slipstream (3 lbs., 10 oz.) – no longer made, super-comfortable, but too heavy

•Tent: Montbell Diamond – https://www2.montbell.com/america/asp/products/Spg_shosai.asp?cat=1201&hinban=2322276 (3 lbs.)

•Bag: Moonstone (1 lb., 15 oz.)

•Pad: THERMAREST 3/4 PAD (1 lb., 2 oz.) –

Total: (9 lbs., 9 oz.)

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

P.S. – Mike lists this quote on his blog homepage (I like it):

But how the hell can a person; Go on to work in the morning; To come home in the evening; And have nothing to say (John Prine)

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Backpack Series: Under 10 Pounds

This is the second in a series of posts on backpacks that I consider either lightweight or ultralight.
Backpacking Gear List

As noted in my last post, I have two sets of base gear. Why?

I like gear and am constantly experimenting. And truth be told, I am also a little into comfort these days.

The Osprey Atmos 35 gives me more pockets and easier access. The Exped Downmat 7 is filled with down and provides excellent insulation from the cold ground. Ground insulation makes a huge difference in staying warm with a minimalist sleeping bag like the Western Mountaineering HighLite or any similar bag.

Base Set #2
Pack: OSPREY ATMOS 35 BACKPACK (size large) – 43 ounces (2#,11oz)
Tent: Light Year – 1-Person 3-Season Backpacking Tent – 43 ounces (2#, 11oz)
Sleeping Bag: Western Mountaineering® HighLite 35 Degree 850+ Down Sleeping Bag (35 degree) – 16 ounces (1#)
Sleeping Pad: Exped Downmat Sleeping Pad 7– 32 ounces (2#)
Base Total: 9 pounds, 6 ounces.

Considering my original base set 10 years ago was more than 20 pounds, this is not a bad start for someone who wants to become a lightweight backpacker. Because no two backpacks are alike and no two wilderness areas are the same, there is no reason not to have multiples of certain hiking gear, such as sleeping pads. For example, you could add a Gossamer sleeping pad to my list above in the place of the Exped and bring your base down to about 8 pounds. The choice all depends on the weather conditions.

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

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