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.


Backpacker ’09 Gear Guide Touts Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1 Tent

Most ultralight tents are pretty durable, so I look at weight, roominess and price in deciding whether I think a tent is in my ultralight backpacking ballpark. The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1 gets Backpacker Magazine’s top rating in its annual gear guide as best all-around. My take: Big Agnes is $300 (pricey), 2 pounds, 3 ounces with everything (stakes, poles, fly, tent, sack, instructions – under my 3-pound limit), has a 38-inch high pitch (you can sit up) and a fly that allows space for boots, pack, etc. I’m not crazy about the front entrance, mainly because  side entrances allow you to easily “roll” into the tent. Add 4 ounces for a footprint ground cover.  If you have the money, I give this thumbs up. A word about price. In my experience, the lighter the equipment the more it costs. For example, my Sierra Design Light Year is about 3.5 pounds and cost (five years ago) about $149. To get titanium poles, instead of anodized aluminum, that knock off another eight ounces, the tent cost would have been $349: $25 an ounce or $100 per pole. But if light is what you want and you can afford it, why not get the best and lightest. Chances are, you’ll have it a long time.

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

Capturing Your Ultralight Backpack on Camera

On my last two backpacks, I carried my new Flip Ultra Video Camera from Pure Digital. Runs on two A A batteries, weighs just 5.5 ounces and is compact at 2 x 4.25 x 1.

Takes 60 minutes of video, which you download using the built-in USB plug. Included software lets you grab photos from the video. Files are easy to post to YouTube so  you can share with friends. A neat little alternative to a bulky camera.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the back.

Corn Spork – Good for Oatmeal, But Not Pasta

field-test.gifI discovered a “green” spork (combination fork and knife) made of corn, totally biodegradable and about a half ounce. In our recent trip into the Granite Chief Wilderness, ultralight backpacking companion Wild Bill and I ate two breakfasts and two dinners with the corn sporks. They were sturdy and held up to heat and washing. Our only complaint was that while digging into pasta, our hands got covered by smoked salmon and olive oil. Continue reading

Field Test: SteriPEN Adventurer

field-test.gifA few months back I wrote a review of Hydro Photo, Inc’s new SteriPEN Adventurer water purification system — innovative ultralight backpacking technology that uses ultraviolet light to give you a liter of virus and cryptosporium-free water with a single 2 1/2 – minute dose. My comments were based on my positive experience with earlier generations of the device and some kitchen testing. In the Granite Chief Wilderness north of Lake Tahoe June 13-16, it proved itself a worthy, trail tough companion. Over three days, three of us used it exclusively to purify about 35 liters. It worked flawlessly and the lithium batteries held up fine. It’s so light (3.5 ounces with batteries or 4.5 ounces with carrying case), I hardly noticed it on my belt during our day hikes of 8-10 miles. This is a must-have system.