Blog are supposed to be a place to pour out your heart about things you love. I launched Lightbackpacking.com June 17, 2006 (hard to believe) with that in mind and have posted lots of information about gear, trips and tips for going light and ultralight on the trail. This year, mainly because of my work schedule, I’ve gotten out only twice, thus a dearth of posts about anything worthwhile to add to the conversation. However, I am constantly looking for new “stuff” and idea to help you go lightly and not be burdened by the pack. Luckily manufacturers have embraced the ultralight philosophy (not so in 2006), which makes going light or ultralight much easier.
If you want to share your tips or ideas for best of class equipment and technique for ultralight backpacking, I’ll be happy to forward them to my readers.
Backpacker Magazine’s test crew says there is a lot of hype about great breathable rain gear so they put four to the test: Mammut Felsturm Half-Zip, Westcomb Apoc, Mountain Hardware Jovian and Columbia Peak 2 Peak / Peak Power. Check out the review. Two that meet my sub-1 pound “ultra light” test: the Mammut and Columbia.
One of my favorite backpacks is Redwood National Park in Northern California — particularly Redwood Creek where you are surrounded by towering old growth redwoods.
Access goes something like this: you get you permit at park headquarters. They give you the combination to a locked gate. Past the gate, you drive 6-7 miles to a parking area. From there, you hike a mere 1.5 miles down to the creek and your backpacking camp.
With your camp set up along the creek, you take a great 7.5 mile round trip along the Dolason Prairie Trail up through redwood groves and pristine forest to open prairie views and an overview of the entire area.
Backpacker Magazine’s 2011′s Gear Guide is out and is filled with every piece of gear on the market worth considering. I took a quick look at ultralight stuff and found an interesting tent, the NEMO Moto 1P tent. It’s just two pounds and since the tester was 6-feet-7 inches tall and found some comfort in it, I think it it worth checking out. It is pricey at $330, but less ounces often equal more $$ in the world of ultralight backpacking.
I own an Osprey Aether (no longer made) at 1 pound, nine ounces and an Osprey Atmos 35 (discontinued) at 2 pounds, 4 ounces and love both. The Atmos 35 is really solid with a frame, mesh net at your back and really stretchy pockets all around. You can go for a week or more in this 35-liter pack. Just when I thought Osprey had completely abandoned the ultralight market with many packs at 4-5 pounds (not ultralight), I was pleased to discover the Hornet series at sub-two pounds. They have lots of choices for men and women. Worth a look at the company website.
I own three Therma-a-Rest pads (2.5 pounds, my original; 1 pound, four ounces (full size) and a 3/4 body version at 15 ounces) and a Downmat 7 (filled with down and really warm) that comes in at a little over two pounds. Of course, the 3/4 pad would be the first choice for the ultralight backpacker. But the lightness comes with a trade-off: you sacrifice comfort and warmth by having your lower legs and feet hanging off the mat. If the weather is warm, it’s not a problem. But now you don’t have to settle for less comfort to get the advantages of fewer ounces.
I was at REI last week just checking out gear when I came across the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir.
The new NeoAir pad is full size, a couple of inches thick and packs down really small — about the size of a one-liter bottle. It’s worth a look.
I’ve heard it said that if you were stranded on an island, aspirin would be the one essential drug in your first aid kid. You might say that duct tape plays a similar role for those of us who venture into the wilderness. You can use it to repair broken poles and patch tents, sleeping bags and pants. Or create a sling for a injured arm. Backpacker Magazine this month sent me a link to “101 First Aid” tips and they demonstrate how to stabilize a sprained ankle with the versatile tape.It’s worth a look.
The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse is one of the few working lighthouses left in America. It was built in 1909 and restored and relighted in 1999 as a federal aid to navigation. Located between Mendocino Village (Cabot Cove, Maine in ‘Murder She Wrote’) and Fort Bragg, California, about 150 miles north of San Francisco, the 300 acres, now a state historic park, is chriss-crossed with trails and great spots to watch migrating grays, blues and humpback whales. I am one of its lightkeepers, once a month going up into the lantern room where we wash windows and clean the brass. It also is one of my favorite places for taking photos. Surrounded by about dozen other state parks, hiking in the forest or along beaches is fantastic.
I just did a video on ultralight backpacking camp shoes — shoes that make steam crossings easier, give you more comfort around the campfire. A email from Backpacker Magazine highlights the new Teva Illums, $50 flip flops (a lot of money) with a light built in.
Backpacker says they are “made with the outdoor enthusiast in mind–massaging footbeds, illuminating LED lights, sturdy straps, and rock-solid arch support are just some of their sporty features.” They give the weight as 12.4 ounces for a woman’s size 8 (why do they always choose small size). I’m guessing maybe 15 ounces for the men’s version. It’s worth looking at. After injuring my achilles on a 10-mile first day backpack on California’s Lost Coast because of poorly broken in boots, a alternative pair of shoes can be important.
My hiking shoes are waterproof Keen “tennis” shoes. But after walking across too many streams barefoot on sharp rocks — and an achilles injury from new boots — I decided to carry a second pair of shoes. Extra shoes, of course, means extra weight. This video shoes three alternatives. I encourage you to share other options with my readers.