Sierra Design Gives You Great Tents and Great Customer Service

A few months ago, I called Sierra Design for advice on re-waterproofing my Sierra Design Light Year ultralight backpacking tent. While on the phone, I mentioned that I also had a Sierra Design Tent Meteor Light with a fly that was sticking together after being folded up for any period of time.

Customer Service Rep Brandon McMullen asked me to send a video demonstrating the problem. I followed up with a short iPhone video and he quickly determined the problem was a covered by warranty.

I was honest with Brandon that the tent was 15 years old. He said, the “sticky” fly was a defect and said he would send me a replacement tent. The only catch was I had to cut up the other tent with the sticky fly and email the picture.

Sierra Design Meteor LightIt was painful to cut up my Meteor Light, a good friend for many years in the backcountry. However, ss promised, within a few days I had a replacement, a Lightning 2 FL that was lighter and light years ahead technologically.

I love my new tent, but I also love Sierra Design, a company which not only makes great tents and other backpacking equipment, but also stands behind it’s products. Customer service is just first rate.

Here’s a look at the Lightning 2 FL:

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

In California, the Snow is Nearly Gone: Time to Go Backpacking

The drought in California is both good and bad.

Bad: we need the snowpack for a good supply of water for city and rural needs.

Good: you can get up in the higher mountain elevations right now where there is little snow left.

So, you’re ready to go. But are you ready to go light?

On my first of 50+ backpacks (back in 1998), I carried 55 pounds. In those days everything was big and heavy. That was just part of the deal. The words Ultralight Backpacking or Light Backpacking were not part of the trail lexicon. You had to build your own gear to go light. Now, light gear is everywhere.

For those of you just starting out, remember that the way to lightness is not cutting off the handle of your toothbrush. Rather,  you want the basics (pack, tent, bag, mat) to be light.

I have three basic configurations.

1. Osprey Pack – Atmos 35: 2.25 pounds; Sierra Design Light Year Tent: 3 pounds; Western Mountaineering Down Bag: 1 pound; Downmat 7 (a new, lighter version is available): 2.25 pounds. Total: 8.5. The Downmat, which is filled with down, makes up for the bag thinness (38 degrees). I love the extra comfort without too much extra weight.

2. Replace the Downmat with full-length Therma-Rest: 1 pound. Total reduced to 7.25.

3. Replace the Atmos 35 with a Osprey Ather Pack (or something similar since this model is no longer available): 1 pound, 6 ounces. Reduce total to 6 pounds, 6 ounces.

You can be crazy and get your mat down to 3/4 length to cut another .25 pounds. By leaving the tent body at home and using the fly-only configuration you can cut another  2 pounds. That would bring it all down to 4.5 or so. However, a little comfort goes a long ways.

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

 

Starting Fire with Steel Wool and a Battery

It always useful to have a back up (or two) and the know-how to start a fire when you forget your matches or they get wet in a rain storm. This battery method looks so simple. I knew that fine “0000” steel wool burns easily with a match even if is is wet. But this is one more ultralight tool for that all important fire for cooking for keeping warm. Be sure to keep a fresh battery in your pack.


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

A Walk in the Near Woods

I happen to live in a rural area of Northern California where a 10-minute drive and 20-minute walk will take me to a 40-foot waterfall among redwoods and ferns. This setting is as beautiful as you will find in the most remote wilderness areas. A great trek can merely be a walk in the near woods. Which drew me to this local adventure:

Recently, Ron Bloomquist of Fort Bragg, California who walks the town each morning for health and then blogs about it, decided on a near adventure of his own. He and a friend strapped on ultralight backpacks and followed the tracks of the local historic Skunk Train railroad, logging 40-miles. Here is his story.

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

Don’t Sacrifice Comfort to Get Ultralight

In the latest issue of Backpacker Magazine are 33 tips for lightening your load. One I have pointed out before, but it is worth mentioning again: don’t leave behind items that can make your trip comfortable and/or satisfying. Example:

I have three sleeping pads: 14 ounces, 20 0unces and 36 ounces. Two are self inflatables: a 3/4th length and full-length. They are fairly comfortable, but the third one, while bigger  is not only much more comfortable, but warmer because it provided incredible insulation against the cold ground. That allows me to carry a lighter sleeping bag. About the “satisfying” part of my comment: a fresh apple for lunch or cookies can give your trip and your attitude a big boost.

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

First Aid: New Skin Liquid Bandage

new-skin.JPGA must in every ultralight backpack is some form of first aid. I usually take duct tape (you can use to make a liquid in a 1.5 ounce and 2 3/4 inch high bottle (heavy compared with Bandaids) that you brush on: NEW SKIN LIQUID BANDAGE BOTTLE. In less than a minute the New Skin fluid dries and you’ve got a nice seal that covers the wound and keeps out the dirt. I’ve used it several times on the trail. Mind you, it’s only for minor wounds. The bottle says don’t use on large areas or burns. A bottle will last for several seasons and eliminates wasted paper and plastic associated with Bandaids.

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


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.