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 →
Mt. Rainier is now wearing a new coat of snow and the high country is making the transition to winter. Days are short, the rain is arriving and it is time to look ahead to ski season. This is a good time to reflect on this year’s outings. What worked well? What didn’t?
Comfort light delivered for me this season. Good, light weight equipment continues to open opportunities. My wife and I are backpacking again, without me as the mule. I am able to do grab and go trips to support climbs requiring a base camp. Bake a load of Logan bread. Take a quick shopping trip and I am off. With less gear, packing is quicker. In the past even overnight trips seemed to have packing drama. Continue reading →
“You pay a lot for what you don’t get.” This has long been my advice to people confronting the higher cost of lighter weight sports equipment. At some point I wondered if there was a representative price for the privilege of shaving off pounds. I looked at a couple of cases comparing lower cost, heavier items with their high-tech cousins. $100 per pound saved looks typical. This order of magnitude number seemed to work whether the weight savings were a pound or a few ounces.
Of course it makes a difference whether you are choosing between two items to purchase, or buying something to be lighter than what you already own.
Replacing my pack
I owned a pretty good Gregory internal frame pack, weighing 3 lbs. 3 oz. I replaced it with a Ray-Way pack kit with a finished weight of 12 oz. The kit cost me about $80 with extra parts. That’s a savings of 2 lbs. 7 oz. If I don’t charge for my labor, that’s about $33 per pound saved. Looks like a good deal. If I couldn’t or didn’t want to make a kit, I would need to look elsewhere. Continue reading →
Your pack is another of the “big three” weight reduction items . I was using a relatively new Gregory Z55 internal frame pack. It had joined a collection of previously used packs including a framed hatch back pack, an older internal frame pack and even a woven cedar pack basket. 55 liters is a good volume for me and the Gregory pack weighed in at 3 lbs. 3 oz. I used it in Iceland with a 45 lb. trip starting weight. It worked well. In heavy rain, I did use a sil-nylon pack cover to keep things dryer.
Options for pack choices open up when you seriously commit to shave load weight . With growing sewing skills, I elected to make a Ray Way 2,800 cu. in. pack kit. This pack has a 45 liter main bag volume, plus an extension collar that provides at least another 10 liters. In addition there are mesh pockets on the sides. It weighs, as finished, a shocking 12 oz. Continue reading →
I sleep cold. I have always needed sleeping bags rated at least 15 degrees colder than the conditions I expect. Once I made that adjustment, I have logged a lot nights in a variety of bags with a variety of fills. My current approach focuses on staying just as warm while carrying less weight.
Sleeping equipment is one of the “big three” in moving to lightweight backpacking. So I looked for a lighter solution, and decided to try a quilt. Continue reading →
Ray Jardine is certainly one of the great evangelists for tarp tents. His designs are well thought out and usually feature “beaks”, dropped overhangs to provide rain protection. There are additionally many variations to pitching a rectangular tarp resulting in different shapes. I felt the need to mess around with some of these ideas.
Comfort light cooking fly
Recalling trying to cook between rain showers on a soggy outing, I decided to see what a light weight cooking shelter might look like. I wanted it to pitch with a single support, either a long stick or even a tree. I wanted to incorporate a Jardine type beak. And of course it needed to be light weight. The experiment also gave me the chance to practice creating something with sil-nylon without a full pattern. 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 →