“Pack This, Not That” … Don’t Do it

As I began perusing the 2007 Backpacker Magazine Annual Gear Guide I was immediately drawn to a feature on page 144 promising to slash 11.4 pounds from my pack.

Just when I was beginning to think the editors at Backpacker really get light and ultralight backpacking, my hopes were dashed by their tip sheet. If you follow their advice, you will spend $1,555 and end up with a starter pack of more than 11 pounds, not counting the hiking shoes they recommend. That’s at least 3 pounds more than you need.

The truth is, from my perspective, you can get less (a lot less weight) for a lot less money.

Their tent recommendation is 3 pounds, 3 ounces and $370. These days you’ve got a gazillion choices that are just as good, weigh less and are cheaper.

One of my two base pack sets (pack, sleeping bag, pad and tent / shelter), which is very high quality gear, cost less than $500 and weighs about 7.5 pounds. You can achieve even lower weight with an even smaller budget.

Backpacker Magazine calls their advice “Ultralight 3.0” a take off on the Web. 2.0. That’s fine. But the rest of us are at Ultralight 4.0 or beyond.

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

64 Backpacks 3 Pounds or Under

The annual Backpacker Magazine Gear Guide is just out and it is absolutely jammed with all the latest packs, tents, boots and more for backpacking, hiking and camping.

Good news for light and ultralight backpackers: of the 479 packs reviewed, 64 are 3 pounds are less. This is the culmination of a real revolution in materials and construction that has created a whole new generation of really light packs.

For those of you who don’t think this is a big deal, consider that when I started backpacking in 1998, monster internal packs were the rage. My own pack was a beauty — a Dana Design 5800 cubic inch model made for carrying 50+ pounds very comfortably.

In fact, when Backpacker Magazine’s editors did gear reviews, you would have thought they were human pack mules — raving about how easy it was to carry huge loads.

Well, no more. My mantra is keep your base weight to 10 pounds or less (pack, sleeping bag, tent/shelter and sleeping pad. And now, you can do that with no sweat.

I also noticed that the listings include foreign manufacturers. The Europeans have long been experts at hiking and backpackinging with lots of innovative gear, but few have gained mainstream status in the U.S.

Alas, in the Gear Guide pack division is Bergans of Norway with six sub-three pound packs. This is a real breakthrough.

More on the gear guide once I’ve had some time to digest it.

In the meantime….

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

Backpacker Magazine and Warming Up in Winter

The latest Backpacker Magazine e-newsletter arrived today with this teaser about staying warm on winter backpacking and camping trips:

“Don’t get cold feet at the prospect of winter backpacking. With the right insulation, food, and clothing, even chilly sleepers can snooze soundly through a freezing night. Follow our field-tested advice and set up your sleeping bag as shown below to create a comfortable cocoon that dries your damp clothes with body heat, and ensures all-night warmth.”

Follow this link to find out more. I like these articles because they tell you how by adjusting a combination of factors, you can get warm and stay warm.

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

Go Go Ultra Light Tooth Brush


I was hanging out at a local chain drugstore waiting to pick up a prescription when I came across Preventive Dental Products new ready to use toothbrushes with pre-pasted bristles.

Each brush weighs one half ounce and is three inches long. You get four in a package for $2.99.

Best part: the handle is already cut off so you don’t have to drill holes or get out the saw.

Check it out.

PS. I am keeping one for myself and have given one to a friend. I’ll send the other two to the first two people who comment on this post.

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

Whale Migration Begins in California

This morning I looked out the window at a calm sea and crystal clear skies and spotted a pod of whales … three, four, five, six spouts in rapid succession, then the backs of two as they made a dive.

It’s the beginning weeks of the great Gray Whale migration here on the California Coast.

Some 20,000 whales will swim south toward Mexico to birthing grounds. By the time our 2007 Whale Festival opens here in March on the Mendocino Coast, the migration will begin to head back to Alaska to winter feeding grounds.

Those lucky enough to backpack the Lost Coast trail for the three to four months can watch whales as they hike along the trails or sit in their camps.

If you go to the Lost Coast, be weary of the tides and the sneaker waves this time of year since some parts of the trail are impassable at high trade.

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

Review – Apple iPhone for Outdoors?

Apple announced its new iPhone yesterday and backpackers are already considering as essential outdoor gear.

Dave Lewis of Canada wrote his impression in the G Spot on Backpackinglight.com:

I’m not a cell phone user… never owned one… and don’t plan to buy one anytime soon… but this is a pretty amazing product. The multi-touch input is pretty cool… two finger pinch or stretch to zoom in or out… and a quick brush to scroll… very nice. They filed 200 patents for this thing. It’s really more of a pocket PC with a ‘next generation’ touch screen / gestural interface than a phone. And of course… it has Apple’s great software and user interface. Some minuses people are pointing out…

Here’s a link to Apple to check it out.

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

Blog-Tagged: Five Things You Didn’t Know About Me

My friend Rich helped me get Lightbackpacking.com up and running several months ago and then after getting this fledgling blogger into the air, turned it over to me to make it fly or not.

So, I tune into his blog gpstracklog.com frequently to see what he’s writing about.

Well, seems there is a little virus going around the blogophere with people sharing five things about themselves no one knew before and then they tag five fellow bloggers.

So here goes:

•I’m a member of the Department of Homeland Security….but only as a volunteer member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. And, believe it or not, they now do FBI checks and fingerprints even for civilian volunteers. My main duty is helping maintain a lighthouse (a federal aid to navigation) on the Mendocino Coast. We also focus on boating safety.

•My main hobby besides thinking and talking about and trying out backpacking gear (and backpacking), is photography. My work, primarily nature shots and lately ocean storm photography, sells at several commercial outlets locally.

•I was a really late bloomer when it came to being in the outdoors. Since I wasn’t in Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts and my father died when I was 12, I didn’t take my first backpacking trip until I was 48. First car camps at 42.

•I belong to Rotary International, which helps with international projects like eradicating polio, gives scholarships to local high school kids, dictionaries to third graders and small grants to non-profit community organizations.

•I was a crime reporter for a series of Southern and Northern California newspapers for seven years before becoming a public relations specialist.

So, now I’m tagging some others: fellow ultralight backpackers Joe and Chuck, Ken and Marcia (friends of my backpacking partner “Duke” Ellington and the Point Cabrillo Light Station (nature preserve and historic site)