Wednesday, September 22, 2010

go light, freeze at night

As a young wilderness ranger, I carried heavy loads. We would all stagger down to the barn to hang our full packs on the scale, bragging about how much they weighed. Later on in our hitches, burdened with detritus left by campers(grills, sneakers, plywood) our packs weighed so much we had to sit down, smokejumper style, just to get them on.

In all fairness, this wasn't just stupidity. Gear weighed so much back then, just fifteen years ago. An empty backpack could tip the scale at 6 pounds. Our sleeping bags were behemoths compared to today.

Now when backpackers of a certain age get together, our conversation is focused on weight. What kind of stove? Bag? Pad? How much does it weigh?

My latest lightweight discoveries include the following:

Backpack by Black Diamond, one of the KI series. It has long zips all the way down it--no more irritable grumbling and throwing everything out! Bonus.

Tent: Big Agnes Seedhouse 2, two pounds and change. Allegedly holds two people, but better with one. I also have a Go-lite single tent that is super light, but only good in calm conditions.

Bag: A Golite half-zip for summer; so light and fluffy! I throw it around just for the joy of it. I also recenty sprung for a winter bag, a 20 degree Western Mountaineering. Probably the best bags around. I bring a silk liner when it is really, really cold.

Pad: In summer, a Big Agnes inflatable. Perfect but lung-challenging to blow up. Sadly, not very insulated. Isabella, the recent Red's caretaker, turned me on to a new Thermarest NeoAir. 14 ounces, tiny, but blows up big, I hear. Taking it this weekend and will report back.

Stove: For an overnight solo, I don't bring one and gnaw on bagels instead. For longer trips, or with people, I have a Dragonfly. It works fine. The JetBoil crowd sings their praises, and I am tempted, but you can't recycle the cartridges, which is a big no-no for me.

Plates/etc: A lovely spork and some X something plates, the kind that fold down flat (they're made by Sea to Summit). They're a great invention!

Everything else is pretty normal stuff. So, any great lightweight gear you have discovered? Give it up!


  1. I'm glad you posted this! I've been in the market for a backpacking stove, and the last time I was up on that scene was....well, let's just say a long time ago. I'll check out Dragonfly. (With our recent years of car camping, we've been using the behemoth Coleman dual-burner green machine!).

    I'd also like to find a lightweight tent that can hold four people and two (small) call it five. Three season. Haven't looked too hard, but seems like giant tents are all the rage. Actually, maybe we are getting ready for a "grown ups" tent and a "kids" tent.....

    You know, I forgot what brand my bag is, but it's a down, 0-degree. Hot in summer for sure, but this way I have one bag, period. And so lightweight and packable!

    If I think of any of my lightweight packing tips, I'll be sure to post! (They come in handy for flying these days....)

  2. After years and years with a Bluet backpacking stove, with medium-heavy cartridges that you couldn't take off until empty....the cartridges have now been discontinued. We bought a Brunton stove(not sure of the model name) it. Very lightweight, very quiet, heats up quickly and the cartridges can be unscrewed and stored till next time!


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