Innovative, cottage manufacturers continue to offer great new ultralight products to make your life better in the backcountry. Here are a few I have added to my pack recently.
For Better Cat Holes
I do enough off trail travel to camp at spots without established toilet facilities. That means digging cat holes. For a long time I carried a standard orange plastic digging trowel that weighed about 4 oz.. Mike Cleland’s Ultralight book converted me to carrying an extra aluminum “Y” tent stake – 0.6 oz. It’s much lighter and can scratch out holes after a fashion. But where there is dense vegetation root structure, the resulting holes leave something to be desired. I found a new supplier of ultralight gear who makes some nice products. Now a Lawson Equipment aluminum Potty Trowel – 1.3 oz. – comes on all trips. It has a nice grip. The blade cuts roots well and it really moves dirt to make a hole that is big enough to work properly. That’s a lot of improved function for an extra 0.7 oz. and a best buy at $10.
Multipurpose titanium tent stakes
There was a time when I felt the cost of titanium tent stakes was not worth the weight saved. Continue reading →
While it may be spring in the lowlands, there is still 14 feet of snow on the ground at 5,000′ elevation in the Pacific Northwest. A brief 2 day weather window provided a great opportunity to test a lot of snow camping gear and ideas. How do lightweight backpacking solutions translate into this environment? Are the solutions still lightweight?
As the Black Diamond Mega Light tent project progressed, I started a planning spreadsheet to see what the weight penalty would be adding a 4th season to comfort light backpacking. The answer looked like it might be about 10 lbs. But there were questions. Would I be warm enough sleeping? Could I use an alcohol stove to melt snow?
Snow cover transforms the wilderness experience. Summer trails exist only in concept, sometimes continued between storms as well used trenches. But otherwise you have freedom to go elsewhere. Camp sites are no longer limited to established locations. Adequate snow depth provides opportunities for creative site preparation. And of course, in nice weather the scenery is stunning. But the level of commitment is higher. Weather windows and daylight hours are shorter. Travel is slower and cold is the ever present concern. None the less, my friend and I felt we had done our preparation well and were ready for some field time. Continue reading →
Late fall in the Pacific Northwest brings rain and darkness. It is a good time for projects. This one modifies a Black Diamond Mega Lightsil-nylon pyramid tent to add tie downs, wind guys, insect netting and wet weather features, while still preserving it’s usefulness for winter snow camping. And of course, doing so with minimal added weight.
So here is the Mega Light, practice pitched on a nice spring day in Mt. Rainier National Park. The basic tent weighs only 25 oz. and can be pitched hanging from an overhead line or with a center pole. You can use a pair of ski or trekking poles with a supplied coupling accessory, or the 11.4 oz. carbon fiber sectional pole that comes with the tent. Tent weight of 2 lbs. 5 oz. for over 50 sq. ft. of interior space and 65 inches of head room is pretty light.
Still some customization can produce an even more versatile, big four season tent, in the range of comfort light packing. Continue reading →
It wasn’t an emergency situation. But the reason we all carry (or should carry) The Ten Essentials is that some days do not go according to plan. The previous summer we seriously underestimated the length of a long alpine scramble in Mt. Rainier National Park and turned around at 2 in the afternoon with a lot of mountain still above us. This year we started up from base camp much earlier and had better luck with the obscure route finding challenges. It was still 3 pm when we got on top. At 7 pm my partner announced that we were at a good spot to bivy. We were in open woods by a little stream. I was still intent on getting down that day, but he was correct. We found a couple of nice level spots for “camp”. He often does “day and a half” outings, so he just got out his overnight bivy gear. I got out my Ten Essentials stash. For 40 years I had been having this conversation on outings – “What if we had to spend the night? Would you be O.K. with what you are carrying right now?” Now I was actually going to find out. Continue reading →
I have been surprised at the difference between pack weights of 35 to 40 pounds and 25 pounds and under. It is a journey well worth taking. After my first long trip in decades, I felt the need to rework my gear to get to a much lighter base weight. I gathered a small library of books, notably Trail Life, Ray Jardine, 2009; Lighten Up!, Don Ladigin, 2005; and Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips, Mike Clelland, 2011. I continued to prowl the Internet for ultralight sites and forums. Gradually I added lighter versions of a lot of my equipment and found I could leave some items at home. Other posts cover the details of various systems, but this one summarizes the results.
My week-long trip in Hornstrandir, Iceland in 2010 was done with a base weight of about 26 lbs., plus some extra equipment to deal with the sub-arctic environment I was traveling in. Now my comparable base weight is about 16 lbs. I accomplished this as follows: Continue reading →