PCT Thru Hiker Red Beard Discusses His Pack Contents for Most Recent PCT Trek

We all are looking for the ideal ultralight backpacking set up. When I saw this video of PCT Thru Hiker describing his 12.9 pound pack for the PCT trip in 2015, I thought is was worth sharing.

Makes you laugh when you read about Cheryl Strayed, in her book, Wild, when she describes a pack that must have weighed 80 plus pounds. I met her at book signing, but didn’t get a chance to ask her what the hell she was thinking. Supposedly, she went to REI and got outfitted. Yes, I know that not everyone at REI has a clue about backpacking, but I’ve met some really sharp, experienced backpackers.

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

PCT Thru Hiker Red Beard Talks about Sawyer Mini and SteriPen Ultra

In my previous post, I discussed the Sawyer Mini Water Filter, at 2 ounces, a real challenge to big clunky water filters.

I use a SteriPen Adventurer, an ultralight version that weighs around 4 ounces. Two long-lasting batteries are required.

Today, however, I saw a review by someone who does some serious trail testing: PCT Thru Hiker Red Beard. He took the Sawyer Mini on his 2014 thru-hike and felt that it clogged too much to make it useful on long hikes.

This year, he was planning to take the SteriPen Ultra, 4.9 ounces. The SteriPen Ultra has no batteries and is rechargeable. Let’s hear from him about his pre-hike thoughts on the Ultra.

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

Sawyer Mini Water Filter at 2 Oz. A Good Choice for Ultralight Backpacking

I had read about the Sawyer Mini Water Filter a couple of years ago, but had never seen a demonstration. I love the SteriPen Adventurer (3.8 ounces without the batteries; about 6 oz with) and have used it on many trips. Of course, it uses batteries. Although it is extremely reliable, you may still want to have a backup (pills). The Sawyer, with no batteries, looks like an interesting alternative.

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

ZPacks Help Redefine “Ultralight Backpacking”

I started my backpacking days with a really beautiful, but giant 5800cu Dana Design Pack (7.5 pounds) stuffed full and weighing 40-45 pounds with food for just three days.

Feeling more like a pack mule than a backpacker, I saw the light when I read about the “Ray Way“.

Today, my basics (pack, pad, sleeping bag and tent) are around 9 pounds. With a few adjustments, I can go lighter. However, lighter translates into less comfort. For example, a 3/4 length mat can be thin and light at less than a pound, but can also be pretty uncomfortable and cold.

I feel pretty good about the lightness of my current Osprey Atmos 35 at 2.25 pounds. Still, ZPacks’ offerings at PCT Days in Cascade Locks, Oregon, which I attended a few weeks ago, go as low as 3.5 ounces for the small size “Zero Backpack” model. ZPacks rates the Zero Pack for loads of up to 20 pounds. They are not only light, but tough as well.

ZPacks is a home-grown business based in Florida. Founder Joe Valesko started ZPacks in 2005. Joe told me that he designs and tests all the gear, and has thru-hiked over 9,700 long distance miles including the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Te Araroa Trail, TGOC Scotland, and the TMB in the Alps. You can see some of Joe’s Adventures Here.

Joe and his team also make ultralight tents and other gear.

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

Granite Gear A Good Choice for Multi-Day Ultralight Backpacking

Shelly Smith with Granite Gear Crown V.C. 60 Pack.

Shelly Smith with Granite Gear Crown V.C. 60 Pack.

The highlight of PCT Days this past weekend was walking across the Bridge of the Gods, on the PCT, with hundred of other backpackers, thru-hikers and outdoor lovers. It was only open to pedestrians for 30 minutes; long enough to walk from the Oregon to Washington side and back, with stops in the middle for spectacular views and photos.

Another highlight was seeing, touching, wearing and experiencing ultralight backpacking equipment first-hand (instead of viewing it in magazine gear guides). What amazed me most is the quality and thought that has gone into creating gear that works in the wilderness, like Granite Gear. It all comes down the thought that went into GG’s products.

As noted on the Granite Gear website, “During a paddling trip through Quetico Provincial Park in 1986 Jeff Knight and Dan Cruikshank realized there was a need for better outdoor gear, planting the kernel that became Granite Gear. From those humble beginnings—two buddies on a camping trip—Granite Gear has grown into an internationally respected brand that matches purpose with weight, comfort and durability.” Jeff, Dan and company know their equipment. They live it. They test it. And they make it for us — devotees of ultralight hiking and backpacking.

Among the standout packs they have created — and I checked out — with the help of communications rep Shelly Smith, was the Granite Gear Crown V.C. (Vapor Current Suspension) 60, a 2-pound pack that is not only light, but sturdy and comfortable with plenty of pockets and room for everything you will need for a multi-day trip. Check it out.

In the meantime … Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

 

PCT Days Scheduled for Aug. 28-30 near Portland, Oregon

Just been in Portland four months after living and backpacking my entire life in California. My new outdoor world includes the Columbia Gorge, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and more. We are surrounded by the great outdoors. My wife and I even have a townhouse close to Forest Park, a 7,000-acre wilderness park right here in the city. But back to PCT Days …

In the September 2015 issue of Backpacker Magazine, an ad for the 9th Annual PCT Days caught my eye. Just so happens, I’ll be in the area and plan to attend.

Here are some details of the event (I will report on any ultralight backpacking finds with photos after I return) from PCTDays.com (just 42 miles east of Portland).

PCT DAYS is an annual three-day event that promotes outdoor recreation and the products of exhibiting sponsors, with a focus on hiking, camping, and backpacking gear.  PCT DAYS takes place in the Marine Park of Cascade Locks, Oregon, located in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge.  Attendees are able to check out the latest outdoor recreation products of exhibiting sponsors at the gear fair, participate in free outdoor classes & activities, win products at the gear raffle, explore one of the regional trails or bike paths, camp onsite and enjoy the beautiful setting in the Columbia River Gorge.  PCT DAYS is a family-friendly event and free to attend (with overnight camping available for a small fee.) Whether you decide to immerse yourself in the event’s activities or take a relaxed approach, don’t miss out on a great time at the 9th annual PCT DAYS!

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

Backcountry Coffee: Three Ultralight Backpacking Options

I recently visited Snow Peak’s USA headquarters in Portland to check out all the lastest goods and gadgets. One of the items that caught my eye was the Snow Peak Collapsible Pour Over Coffee Brewer.

A tasty cup of trail coffee

A tasty cup of trail coffee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weight 4.9 oz (140g)

I got a fresh-brewed cup of coffee out of the visit (very good) and hands-on experience. It is solid and folds flat. Worth checking out at $29.95 if you love good trail coffee.

Jetboil Coffee Press

Weight 0.8 oz (22g)

Jetboil Coffee PressFor my birthday, my wife bought me a coffee press for my Jet Boil. In my home try-out, I added 8 ounces of water, which boiled in one-minute. I stirred two tablespoons of fresh, dark french roast (#4 grind), let it sit for 3 minutes, then inserted the press to push down the grounds. Coffee was excellent. Fits inside the Jetboil cup. About $10.

Starbucks VIA® Intant

Weight .02 oz (3g)

Finally, a few months back, a friend and fellow backpacker brought Starbucks VIA® Instant coffee packets. If you like good coffee, like me, the thought of instant coffee gives you the shivers. Surprise. Surprise. Starbucks is excellent and the Dark French was strong the way I like it. Each packet costs less than a dollar and a fraction of an ounce — a dozen grams maybe. There are 15 flavors, including decafs, flavored (like Caramel Latte) and light and medium-bodied roasts.  Here is a Weblink for a look-see: Starbucks Instant Coffee.

My Choice

I like and recommend all three.

  • The Snow Peak is sturdiest and heaviest (4.9 ounces).
  • The Jetboil is a great trail coffee solution for the Jetboil Cooking System.
  • The Starbucks VIA® Instant is lightest of the “ultralight backpacking” trail coffee solutions.

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