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.


Let There Be Light … On the Trail and in the Tent

I recently attended a presentation about Luci, a “solar justice” solution for those who live in “energy poverty” (they have little or no electricity for basic living).
Created by Mpowerd, Luci lights are inflatable, waterproof, solar-powered lanterns that recharge indoors or out and will reportedly last for 12 hours of continuous use. They stay charged for months when not in use. 



The best part: they weigh just 2.5 ounces (about 70 grams) and fold flat to about a half inch by about 5 inches.

As a ultralight backpacker, I couldn’t resist buying one. It solves the problem of carrying batteries, especially on extended backpacks.

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

Forget the Tooth Brush: Chew Your Way to Clean Teeth

Archtech Toothpaste TabletsWe all know the sure way to creating an ultralight backpack is to start light with minimalist pack, mat, bag and tent (under 10 pounds). Beyond that, the little things can add up; an ounce here and an ounce there can quickly become pounds on your back.

One of my recent finds for good trail oral hygiene and pack weight reduction, which eliminates the need for a tube of toothpaste, is the Archtech Toothpaste Tablet. See photo for size of a single tablet. You can buy 60 tablets from Amazon for $6.74. Maybe you even leave behind the brush and use your finger, further cutting your weight.

I bought a pack and tried them. They taste good. And, they seem to work.

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


Light as Air … Almost: The Thermarest NeoAir XLite

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, but no matter. I’m back at it and today I saw a sleeping mat that packs down to almost nothing, is full-length, has a barrier against cold ground, is comfortable and weighs only 12 oz or 340 grams.
There is a patent pending on it’s heat capturing technology. What I like is that it meets two of my essential ultralight backpacking criteria (it’s light, of course), but is also adds comfort with almost no weight.

Near weightlessness comes at a price, but even though I love my Exped Goose down at about 2 pounds, this is something worth looking at. With this weight reduction, I could carry my heavy (2 pound, 4 ounce Osprey Atmos 35 pack) and still have my essentials under 8 pounds (tent, bag, pack, sleeping pad). Or I could go with my Osprey Ather at 1.5 pounds and get under 7 pounds.

I’m thinking the investment will be worth it.

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

Ultra-Sil Kitchen Sink just 1.5 Ounces, But holds 2.64 Gallons

Ultra-Sil Kitchen Sink for websiteAlthough I often just use my finger and a little water to clean my bowl and mug after breakfast or dinner on the trail, having a “wash pot” is nice. But too much weight and bulk, right? I recently discovered the Ultra-Sil Kitchen Sink (1.5 inches thick and 4.5 inches wide) as a great alternative. Packs down really small in its own case and is feather light. Best of all you can fill it with water, move away from the lake or stream to avoid contamination and use a small amount of biodegradable soap. Check it out.

In the meantime, be light. Be Safe. Be one with the pack.

Super Ultra light Esbit Titanium Stove … Not New, but Worth Repeating

A few years ago, I posted a review of my Esbit Pocket Stove, a small metal box that weighs 3 oz and burns a single Esbit hexamine tablet.

In culling 14 years of backpacking equipment, I came across my Esbit Titanium Folding Stove ($12.28 at Amazon), which weighs a mere 0.40 ounces (on a very accurate electronic scale); less than 1/2 ounce (11.3 grams). The esbit fuel tablet that powers it weighs 0.45. Together, they add up to a mere 0.85 of 1oz (24 grams)! Does it actually work? I thought I would do a 2013 re-test for you super ultra lighters who like their trail food hot.

Test Results
I fired up the tiny Esbit, added one cup of water (enough for a single serving of oatmeal or a cup tea or coffee) and got a rolling boil in about 3 1/2 minutes. A neat feature: you can blow out the flame and save what’s left of the fuel tablet for another meal. This test left more than a half tablet.

For two cups of water (enough for your oatmeal AND tea or coffee), it took about 8 minutes and used about 3/4ths of one fuel tab. Note: these tests were done at sea level.

If you are rehydrating food with water for dinner, you can figure 3 tablets per day (2 for dinner and one for breakfast). That adds up to 9 tablets for a three-night trip. Tablet weight: 4.5 ounces (9 @ 0.45); stove weight: 0.4. Total for three days: 4.9 ounces. Add a couple of more tabs for backup (less than 1 oz). You can buy a box of 12 Esbit 1400 Degree Smokeless Solid Fuel Cubes for just $4.99.

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


The Perfect Lightweight Camp Cup

When I began my ultralight backpacking quest in 1998, manufacturers were producing big, heavy everything — tents, packs, pads and accessories. Backpackers had to be part pack mule to haul all the stuff around. Fast forward to 2013 and the focus on ultralight with lighter materials and lots of innovative minds churning out ever lighter gadgets. Like many others, my initial guide was “Beyond Backpacking: Ray Jardine’s Guide to Light Hiking.”

I’ve long since slimmed down my pack (and occasionally fattened it back up with comfort items). Now, I just look for interesting stuff to write about.

I bought a titanium sierra cup in the ultralight tradition. Pros: it’s light and when the contents get cold, you can just put it on the campstove and heat it up. Cons: everything gets cold fast.

Something New
Frankly, I don’t like my coffee going lukewarm and then cold just a few minutes after pouring it. So, I’ve been looking around and stumbled onto a cup selling at REI. It’s plastic with non-slip handle and non-skip bottom to prevent it from sliding off an uneven surface. A tight-fitting cover keeps liquid in and helps maintain warmth.

The bottom line: it’s $7.50. And, it weighs only 4.0 ounces — about the same as my titanium version which cost at least $30 when I purchased it. Check it out.

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

The Ultra, Ultralight iPod Shuffle 3rd Generation

Your favorite music to help you sleep or to give you inspiration during an uphill slog can be a welcome backpacking companion.  As long as it doesn’t add a lot of weight.The new iPod Shuffle 3rd Generation weighs all of .38 ounces — that’s right, just a tad over one-third of 1 ounce. Holds 1,000 songs with a 10-hour battery. Only 1.8 inches tall and .7 inches thick. And, only 79 bucks. I can’t think of a better trail companion.Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.