Tips for Safe Winter Camping

With the death of the Mt. Hood climber (see my Dec. 17 post below), Backpacker Magazine’s article on winter camping safety is timely.

Expert tips for a safe, sound snow shelter

By Grace Carter, February 2007

We won’t lie to you: There will be cold moments when you start snow-camping. But would you rather sit inside all winter, packing on the pounds? Keep your connection to nature alive by embracing the good things about snow: It’s a great insulator and building material-and it’s damned pretty when it blankets the land. Here are 6 ways to make sure your winter camp is warm, comfortable, and protected from the elements.

Check out this link to learn more:,2646,10907,00.html.

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

Mike Kretzler’s Lightweight Backpacking Base

This post is a continuation of my Backpacking Gear List Series, focusing on ways to achieve the lightest possible pack, while maintaining some comfort and staying safe while hiking and camping on your backpacks.
Backpacking Gear List

A frequent reader of my blog and experienced lightweight backpacker Mike Kretzler of Olympia, Washington and publisher of PEREGRINATE at, was good enough to share his list of base gear. Like my base list # 2, his is between 9 and 10 pounds.

His tent and sleeping bag recommendations are particularly interesting.

Here’s his list (by the way, I tried to provide links to Montbell Diamond tent and Moonstone bag, but couldn’t locate on company websites; names may have changed):

•Pack: North Face Slipstream (3 lbs., 10 oz.) – no longer made, super-comfortable, but too heavy

•Tent: Montbell Diamond – (3 lbs.)

•Bag: Moonstone (1 lb., 15 oz.)

•Pad: THERMAREST 3/4 PAD (1 lb., 2 oz.) –

Total: (9 lbs., 9 oz.)

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

P.S. – Mike lists this quote on his blog homepage (I like it):

But how the hell can a person; Go on to work in the morning; To come home in the evening; And have nothing to say (John Prine)

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Backpack Series: Under 10 Pounds

This is the second in a series of posts on backpacks that I consider either lightweight or ultralight.
Backpacking Gear List

As noted in my last post, I have two sets of base gear. Why?

I like gear and am constantly experimenting. And truth be told, I am also a little into comfort these days.

The Osprey Atmos 35 gives me more pockets and easier access. The Exped Downmat 7 is filled with down and provides excellent insulation from the cold ground. Ground insulation makes a huge difference in staying warm with a minimalist sleeping bag like the Western Mountaineering HighLite or any similar bag.

Base Set #2
Pack: OSPREY ATMOS 35 BACKPACK (size large) – 43 ounces (2#,11oz)
Tent: Light Year – 1-Person 3-Season Backpacking Tent – 43 ounces (2#, 11oz)
Sleeping Bag: Western Mountaineering® HighLite 35 Degree 850+ Down Sleeping Bag (35 degree) – 16 ounces (1#)
Sleeping Pad: Exped Downmat Sleeping Pad 7– 32 ounces (2#)
Base Total: 9 pounds, 6 ounces.

Considering my original base set 10 years ago was more than 20 pounds, this is not a bad start for someone who wants to become a lightweight backpacker. Because no two backpacks are alike and no two wilderness areas are the same, there is no reason not to have multiples of certain hiking gear, such as sleeping pads. For example, you could add a Gossamer sleeping pad to my list above in the place of the Exped and bring your base down to about 8 pounds. The choice all depends on the weather conditions.

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

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Going Lightweight Begins With the Base

Backpacking Gear List
I’m starting a Light Backpacking Gear List Series today, sharing my choices and the choices of others to help you become a lightweight backpacker. Of course, I’ll offer just a few of the seemingly unlimited possibilities. However, they seem to fall into just two categories: equipment available commercially and gear you can build or sew at home. I’ll share some sites where you can find “make your own” gear, but this series will focus on what you can find in local stores or on line.

So how do you start the get lightweight process?

You can drill holes in your toothbrush, cut straps off your pack and tent, trim your shoelaces and remove labels until the cows come home, but unless you start with a minimal base weight, you’ll fight a losing battle to achieve your lightweight goals.

Your base is your pack, tent / shelter, and sleeping gear (pad and bag).

I know some hardcore lightweight backpackers will scream at this, but my suggestion is for you to shoot for a base weight target of 10 pounds or less. The really dedicated lightweight backpackers will aim for 5 pounds or less. I assume that your goal is to be as lightweight as possible so you can enjoy and wilderness experience without feeling burdened by gear.

I have two sets of base gear which I’ll share. Obviously, you can mix and match depending on weather conditions, season, bugs, etc. I have also provided links to allow you to check out the highlighted gear. Here is my first set.

Base Set # 1:
Backpack: Osprey Aether – 25 ounces (1#, 9oz) – no longer made
Tent: Sierra Design Light Year – 1-Person 3-Season Backpacking Tent – 43 ounces (3#, 11oz)
Sleeping Bag: WESTERN MOUNTAINEERING HIGHLITE SLEEPING BAG (35 degrees) – 16 ounces (1#)
Sleeping Pad:Therm-a-Rest Trail Sleeping Pad – Short 3/4 length – 15 ounces
Base Total: 7 pounds, 4 ounces

Be safe. Be light. Be one with the pack

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MSR MicroZoid Tent with Side Entrance

MSR MicroZoid tentMany of the new small, lightweight tents offer an easy-access side entrance. Having a large opening on a small tent and then being able to literally roll sideways into bed is a big plus.

I've owned several tents that open at one end and require you to crawl in feet first. This is a real pain for organizing your gear and climbing in and out for bathroom breaks at night. It is especially troublesome with a low peak height.

The MSR MicroZoid tent offers a big side opening, which makes the rather low 26-inch peak more acceptable. Continue reading

Lunar Solo Enhanced Tent

Lunar Solo Enhanced tentThrough an exchange in a Yahoo lightweight backpacking group I discovered the Lunar Solo Enhanced tent from Six Moons Design.

When I checked out Six Moon’s website, I learned that Backpacking Light gave it its 2005 Lightitude Award for best solo shelter. Okay, so I’m a couple of years behind on this. But I read a lot about lightweight gear and had never noticed it.

What captured my imagination was the weight: just 23 ounces; the description that it is a cross between tarp, tent and bivy, and its roominess, 27.5 square feet of space with a 45-inch-high peak. Continue reading

Choosing a Backpacking shelter: tent, bivy, or tarp?

Lightweight backpacking for beginnersThe ultralight philosophy certainly comes into play in choosing a shelter. Will it be a tent (3 pounds), bivy sack (2 pounds) or tarp (1 pound)? Perhaps a hammock (1 pound, 4 ounces) or a hybrid tarp/tent (1 pound, 12) from GoLite.

The Tarp
An ultralight backpacker will likely choose one of a growing number of tarps available on the market. Essentially, they are large pieces of high tech cloth made water-proof, that when properly staked and pitched with hiking poles or sticks provide good protection from wind and rain.

Pros: Lightweight and roomy.

Cons: No bug protection. You may need to carry one or two hiking poles to pitch it, adding weight to your load. Even when you’re in the wilderness, sticks may not be readily available, especially if you’re above the tree line.

Continue reading