02 Apr 2005: OK, I'm convinced that this temporary hiatus is past us. At long last we're back on our normal backcountry routine - woohoo! And at long last I'm at a point where I can start giving this website the maintenance it deserves.
There sure are some exciting developments out there in the world of ultralight gear! They all have their own tradeoffs, but it's nice to see the manufacturers expanding their offerings. That means more of us are demanding it, and more options for our own styles and preferences. I'm working on a page that summarizes my take on gear - as always just my opinions, your mileage may vary.
We took the littlest dude on a 3-day trip into the eastern Superstition Mountains last week, we've now got the system worked out. He hit an awkward phase for awhile, always wanting to crawl instead of being carried. Makes for difficult backcountry travel to say the least! But now that he's walking and patient with the carrier again, there's nothing holding us back. Before long his older siblings will be able to carry just enough (I have a policy of 10%-of-body-weight max) that we'll be able to take the whole family backpacking, not just car camping.
So, you ask, just what exactly does a load plan look like with a 1.5-year-old along for the ride? Certainly a good question, because we sure had no idea! It drove home the point in my mind that "ultralight" is clearly relative. :-) But using our ultralight principles we're able to keep our trips enjoyable as opposed to unpleasant slogs or even downright impossible. I'll have hard data soon, but the baseloads feel like about 35lbs/16kg for the "baby sherpa" and around 30lbs/13.5kg for the "gear and food sherpa".
24 Oct 2004: As you can tell, website maintenance falls behind family, work and backcountry on life's list of priorities. ;-) Sorry for the long silence. This weekend I'm planning an overhaul of the site, lots of updates, tales and such. I've done my best to keep up on email, but if you haven't heard from me please try again. My spam filter has been overly aggressive.
There's some interesting gear that's arrived in the past year, including a nice selection of tents below the 4lb/1.8kg mark. I've got a lot of data to sift through! I've finally made some progress toward including metric weights on the site, more to follow. Thanks for your patience. It's fun to sift through the site's logs and see how many international visitors have dropped by!
We managed 3 backpacking trips with our littlest one earlier this year, but then he got really heavy. :-) OK so 3 times my baseload isn't the end of the world, but he's a big kid. Gotta stop putting MiracleGro in his cereal.... Since summer we've been camping and day hiking. Work has been a mess all year long, so our trip schedule took a serious hit. Hopefully soon we'll free up some serious adventure time.
Last weekend we managed to get to the Grand Canyon again. Only for a weekend, such a shame. All the kids and I hiked the South Rim and part of Bright Angel Trail. I'm thinking a family trip into the Canyon is in our near future.
28 Dec 2003: Happy Holidays folks! Lots to catch up, and I'm slowly chipping away at my email backlog as well.
I ran across a neat item to keep us from "jonesin'" too bad in the meantime though: a DVD/video of life along the AT titled "2000 Miles to Maine". It's a private production documentary and while I haven't ordered it yet, the preview looked fun and since it's offered on DVD I could pop it into my computer and get in some virtual backcountry while debugging code. :-) Hopefully I'll dig out from the holiday bills shortly and have it in my grubby hands.
There's a new bear-resistant container being offered from BearVault.com. I think "giant Lexan Nalgene water bottle" is a good description. :-) A few ounces lighter than the dread Garcia "cannonball in your pack", with a little extra volume to boot. Looks like it's under provisional certification by the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group, but as always be sure to check with rangers at your destination to see what's currently approved.
11/03/03: There's a good reason I disappeared, really. ;-) I managed one last backpacking trip in August (AZ's White Mountains) before taking a break for the season. Once she hit her third trimester we ended up sticking to camping/hiking/cycling. Much easier for late-season baby growin'. I was hoping to solo a week in the High Sierras, but work deadlines prevented any vacation. :-/ Though once the little critter is born we plan to get back into the backcountry again - woohoo!
We've had lots of great camping trips and hikes with the kids over the past few years, but with our new arrival we're going to head out into the backcountry as a family. Needless to say I've been eyeing the outlet stores for quality closeout kid-sized bags.
Along those lines, here's a great article on lightweight backpacking with young children, by Stephanie and Ryan Jordan. They point out it's not a comprehensive article, but there's an awful lot of useful info for those who have yet to include their kids in backcountry adventures. And even those of us who have.
We're firm believers in every child carrying a little pack of their own with at least emergency overnight supplies: A space blanket, warm hat and jacket, flashlight, emergency whistle, emergency "flasher" signal light (those cyclist LED flasher lights are useful), umbrella, high-calorie snacks, etc. That's their standard load when we're day-hiking. Of course they also need to be taught how and when to use it all properly and what to expect, in a manner that's fun and informative without terrifying them.
One of the things we like to do is "Getting Lost" drills with the kids. Just stop at a random point and say, "OK, you've just realized you're lost, go for it!" What they actually do in practice when you're not coaching them can be surprising. Best to correct it then and there at the end of the drill. Plus it can make a fun game. Of course save the practice "Rescue Whistle" blowing for the backyard. Don't want to create false alarms in the backcountry! One key point in my mind that I think is often overlooked - teaching them how to realize as soon as possible that they're lost. Heck, that goes for adults too (myself included). Anyway, I'll probably have a new section of links and discussion on the general topic in the months ahead.
I just got a new pair of Lowa Tempest Lo's. My last pair blew out pretty fast, which really surprised me. Stitching start coming out. I've heard from a few others who had similar problems. Weird, and disappointing, since they're my favorite. I've been using my trail runners all summer in their place. Anyway, Lowa has completely revamped the Tempest this year. All I can say is they better last like I'd come to expect them to. Once I get some good miles in them I'll report back.
On an admin note, I'll be slowly adding metric units alongside the English measures on my site. Thanks for all your input!
7/26/03: Wow, has it really been three months since I last updated my site? Time has flown by, work has been a rabid wolverine. I've taken several nice trips, including a great 3-day trip at the end of May (the Blue Range Primitive area of AZ/NM), Aravaipa Canyon in June with Jeff and Autumn, and back to the Chiricahuas earlier this month. I'll update the Random Trip Reports page with details shortly.
In the past few months I have put our new soft Tyvek groundcloth through its paces. Conclusion? It's very light. It's very nice and flexible. And it can also rip! We've got two rips in ours now, I may have swap it out soon. Compare to "Classic Tyvek", which I've never even been able to puncture on a trip, much less tear. Just some info for you to consider.
I've been thinking of including metric units alongside all the weights, distances, and altitudes on my site. What do you think? Worth it? Figured with the entire rest of the world moved to it long ago, no reason to make everyone outside the U.S. struggle with an arcane system of measures so weird that even the creators it's named for abandoned it. ;-)
More to follow as time allows. I've been trying me best to reply to email in a timely fashion. If you haven't heard from me, please send another note as the old backlog is hard to get through. Thanks, and hope you're all escaping into the backcountry!
4/18/03: Last weekend's trip back into the Superstition Wilderness was great! White-tailed deer, 3 gila monsters, a mud turtle, leopard frogs, an elf owl, the requisite diamondback rattlesnake and scorpion, birds galore. I tried out the Waypoint 2 tent, quite nice for a two-person shared load.
Our final verdict on Mountain Hardwear's Waypoint 2 is in - it's a winner, particularly from the "look what they did with 3lbs/1.36kg" perspective. I absolutely love this thing, if someone doesn't give it a design award I'll have to make one up myself. As always your experiences may vary, but I really think it's worth a look.
I finally got the hang of pitching it drum-tight in short order on this trip. That made a big difference in the overall feel. It's an honest two-person tent, and she wouldn't mind using it again (though she prefers our self-supporting Mountain Hardwear Light Wedge 2). The more I've used it, the more impressed I've become. 3.0 lbs/1.36 kg (tent and poles), good head room, ample room for two, good ventilation (adjustable depending on how you pitch it), dual doors. The usual nits I end up having with any tent, but it's now my favorite. I'll write up my review soon, but I've decided to definitely get one and use it in place of my Sierra Designs Clip 3-CD for my ultralight trips. I won't let go of my Clip 3, I'll just save it for other uses.
Speaking of winners, that soft Tyvek is cool stuff too. I'm adding it to my standard load now.
So what are you sitting around reading my site for? Go plan your next trip and escape! *8-)
4/9/03: Finished updating the site to use frames. Hope this helps make the pages easier to navigate. My aim was to keep it friendly for low-bandwidth and smaller-screen surfers, while hopefully improving the overall feel.
We had a great time in the Grand Canyon with Jeff, Autumn, Rick and Marilyn. (Thanks again guys!) Hermit's Rest to the Tonto then out Bright Angel. So nice to be back in the Canyon! And I'm in debt to Jeff and Autumn for the backcountry margaritas. :-) This weekend we're planning to backpack into another portion of the Superstition Wilderness to a spot we've heard is quite cool. Probably our last trip until Memorial Day Weekend.
I've been evaluating the Mountain Hardwear Waypoint 2 ultralight tent, I've really grown to like it. For the 3.0 lbs the demo Waypoint weighs, I'm impressed. Some really nice features too. The only drawbacks I'm seeing at this point are the price (US$250) and the fact that the main pole has to be erected from the inside. I still plan to buy one though. Maybe we can take turns alternating between the Light Wedge and the Waypoint.... :-) A more detailed review to follow.
Speaking of new goodies, Janet and Will tipped me off about "soft Tyvek". I bought a sample from Hang 'Em High Fabrics and the stuff is pretty sweet. It's quite soft compared to regular Tyvek, a bit lighter, and seems just as tough.
Added a link to Janet and Will's Southwest Ultralight Backpacking in the More Ultralight Sites section.
3/19/03: At least there's still peace in the backcountry....
Thanks to our friends Autumn and Jeff, we have a last-minute spot on a permit for the Grand Canyon soon - WOOHOO! Very much looking forward to that.
GVP Gear is now taking orders for their new G5 pack. 3800 ci max, 7 ozs. Yes, less than half a pound. Described as a pack for the ultralight "fanatic fringe". :-) Hope to have one to try out soon.
Mountain Hardwear continues to put out some interesting gear, and I've become a very happy owner of their stuff. Their Waypoint tent series (new for Spring 2003) is intriguing. I'm still trying to get my hands on one, but the design appears to be either sheer genius or pure madness. A normal hoop pole on one end, a short support pole on the other. The 2-person model: Average minimum weight of 3 lbs 1 oz for a 2-person tent! 32.5 sq ft (comparable to the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight CD), floor dimensions 114" x 76", peak height 41.5". 1-person model: 2 lbs 2 ozs, 20 sq ft. I'm hoping it's everything it seems to be, will report my impressions when I can get my grubby mitts on one.
Great to get everyone's comments and questions, seems like a lot of trip plans are forming up out there! I'm still angling for a two-week trip this (northern hemisphere) summer to either the Weminuche Wilderness of CO, or back to the High Sierras to revisit Evolution Valley and Mather Pass. Hope to see you out there!
3/6/03: A little housekeeping. Ursack has recently modified the construction of their TKO bags in response to a seam failure in one bear encounter. See the update on their site for more details. They're also now selling odor-proof (or darn close to it) bags. (I'm a firm believer in concealing food odors in bear country, regardless of the container you're using....)
Added a link to Adventure Alan's Ultralight Backpacking. Nice site, check it out!
Various fixes and mods, none really noteworthy.
2/19/03: Just a quick note from the Cliffs of Insanity. We managed to sneak in a nice 3-day trip over the long weekend, backpacking in the Superstition Wilderness of AZ. My share of our Mountain Hardware Light Wedge 2 accounting for the extra two pounds - the Light Wedge 2 is an AWESOME 2-person free-standing tent, by the way! For non-free-standing I still prefer our Sierra Designs Clip-3 CD. But for the space, design, quality and strength the LW2 is a sweet item!
My solo base load remains just under 10 lbs, but when you're traveling with your mate, an extra pound or two can have its definite advantages. One good bottle of Chardonnay chilled in a cold creek and shared over a backcountry sunset sure makes up for a lot of instant rice. :-)
Quickly added a few images from my August 2002 High Sierra trek with Chris and Jas. Many more images and writeup to follow, but short on time as usual.
12/15/02: Happy Holidays! Further behind than even I could have foreseen. Argh! But time marches on. Use it or lose it. Quickly added a few images of our latest trip. Just a tiny sample, and no writeup. I'm WAAAAY behind - still need to do our Huachuca trip, my August High Sierra trip with Chris and Jas, and more. Hard to find time between work and "getting out there" though!
10/6/02: Breaking radio silence just long enough to say that I'm still running silent. :-) Haven't sifted through email in a full month, apologies for that. As soon as I push through my latest deadline I'll start catching up. 'Til then I'm drinking from the Firehose of Life(tm). Great hearing your thoughts though! Always appreciate the feedback and suggestions.Despite all the chaos, I've managed to get out. We went backpacking in the Huachuca Mountains of Southern AZ last month.
More to follow!
8/18/02: Just got back from a 7-day trek in the High Sierras with Chris and Jason - Mammoth Lakes to Pine Creek via the JMT. Fantastic trip! Weather was perfect, backcountry was very dry but that at least kept the bugs down. Chris and Jas' first experience of Tully Hole was as a meadow paradise, not the blood-draining mosquito nightmare that is usually is. :) Trip report to follow.
Our Ursacks (two TKOs, one "original") were great. No rodent problems, just a stray ant or two. We kept our food bagged inside the Ursacks, hung them in ways that would be awkward for rodents to get to (usually well above the ground - a nervous position for a prey item to spend much time nibbling). Only stealth-camped one night, all the other times were in well-established sites, some with definite bear sign. 7 days, three Ursacks, not a single problem. A small data point perhaps, but we're sold. Watching the Ursacks compress down as we ate our food over the days was a pleasure. The TKO is the model you want - very nice, double grommet makes it much easier to use. Plus the extra tear strength, of course. Nice green color blends much better in the backcountry as well.
My original production run GoLite Breeze has probably seen its last trip. Poor thing is pretty roughed up. The later models are built sturdier (I was admiring Chris' along the way), but my pack saw many a mile and has served me well to the end.
7/29/02: In preparing for next month's High Sierra wanderings with fellow ultralight trekkers Chris, Jas and George, I've had to research bear cans again. Turns out yet more of John Muir's Range of Light is now covered by mandatory bear can regulations. But it did give me an excuse to update my Bear Can page. Also updated my Suppliers page with the latest crop of anti-bear container suppliers.
Work has been a total time vampire, so I'm even further behind on email the usual. Yes, that says a lot... But thanks for your patience, I do my best.
7/4/02: OK, I've actually started work on the Shelters page. No, really! Hope to have some new sections added to the site in the next month or so, plus update all kinds of stuff. I did manage to update the Backpack Survey, which was long overdue.
Finally got out of the office and back into the Grand Canyon. We camped on the South Rim at the end of June and day-hiked the Tanner Trail down to the Colorado River with a friend. Great trip, highly recommend Tanner to anyone looking for an "off the (mule)-beaten path" hike down into the Canyon. Best view of the River I've ever had, fantastic lunch spot halfway down.
Heard from several people whose Kevlar-based Ursacks were chewed through by rodents. Seems hours of nibbling does the trick. I'm taking mine out into the Sierras this summer for about two weeks total, will see what the results are.
I've added a link to BackcountryStore.com. But I also want to give some background. I've been using these guys for about six months, and they're now my first choice when they have what I need. Free domestic shipping (on domestic US$50+ orders), no taxes outside of Utah, reliable service. Saved a bundle on a bunch of rock climbing gear because of it. Their selection isn't as great as I'd like (no Esbit stoves?), but they do carry items of potential interest like the Black Diamond Megamid and Betamid, the A-16 Bug Bivy, the (very pricey) Kelty Cloud series of packs, etc. They also have a link for Ultralight Backpacking items (and even a pre-bundled "Ultralight Package"), not all stuff I'd choose to go with myself, but nice to see the nod from a retailer. I have NO relation with these guys other than as a happy customer. Usual disclaimers apply, your mileage may vary, evaluate them per your own standards. But I've been checking with them first every time I need something. Wish they carried GoLite and GVP gear....
6/4/02: Yes, I really am still alive! Been swamped, and what little free time I have has vaporized as quickly as it's appeared. Last month I managed to sneak in two nice backpacking trips though. (I even got around to writing up short blurbs in the Random Trip Reports section.) I was hoping to catch up on email this weekend, but instead I'll be doing the Mojave Death Race again with friends. Email is starting to sound better and better as the weekend approaches... :-) I'm doing my best to catch up. At this point I seem to get about 1/4 of the backlog answered on any given month. Doing my best, I swear!
Lots happening that I've fallen behind on. GoLite has revamped their offerings. Just in time, since my first-production GoLite pack is showing wear-and-tear (subsequent models used tougher netting). But as many have pointed out, I also need to look into the popular GVP G4 as well....
I've been remiss in not adding a link to GVP Gear long before now. Be sure to check it out! Apologies to Glen for not giving his site and gear the credit it's due. Been meaning to do it for many, many moons. I'm a better backpacker than I am a webmaster. Just added him to the Retailers & Manufacturers page.
I had to cancel a week-long August kayaking trip in Alaska with friends Marc and Chance (nuts...) but I'll have two separate week-long trips in the High Sierras. One week with fellow ultralight friends Chris, Jason and George (if I didn't scar them permanently during our dry Sycamore Canyon trip last year!).
So what does it all mean? When I'm solo, or with fellow ultralight trekkers, my base load is as originally calculated. When I travel with a partner, my gear load is almost exactly the same, but I take a few extras. Probably about a pound or so heavier - never thought to bring toothpaste before, but suddenly I never travel without it on our joint trips. :-) I'm going to weigh each of our base "traveling together" loads and report back to all of you.
I still have to work on my fully revamped Shelters section, as well as the Ultralight FAQ. Not sure when I'll get the time, but I'll do my best.
2/14/02: Happy V-Day Folks! Show your mate you love them - shave a few pounds off their base load. ;-) I'm now officially hopelessly behind on email, but I appreciate the comments, notes and gratitude. I'm integrating feedback whenever I can. Glad you folks are able to get some use out of the site! Great to get email from you thru-hikers gearing up for the season. If I didn't think colored text looked horrible on most websites, this note would be green with envy!
I'm working on a teepee shelter section, based partly on experiences from several readers. In fact if I can get the time (HAH!) I really want to add a complete Shelters section. We'll see. In the meantime, my mate and I are off for 3 days of backpacking in the Chiricahuas - woohoo! (Sure, I could skip the trip and catch up on the email backlog, but then where would my credibility as a backcountry freak be? ;-) ) Hope you're all able to get out and enjoy some wilderness this weekend!
01/23/02: A new year to fill with adventures! Woohoo! Made a little headway on my email backlog, but as always I thank you for not taking my delays personally. Haven't been backpacking the past two months, with free weekends generally spent camping/climbing with my mate, helping with a bird count, etc. But the calendar is at long last starting to fill up with a few trekking trips in the near future. And my climbing has improved, so it's not like I've been slacking. :)
I've had a few requests for feedback on the REI Sub Kilo 20F bag. It's proving to be a nice little bag, but as far as performance our data is a bit skewed - we've spent plenty of cold nights (a few below freezing) with it the past month, but always zipped up with my Feathered Friends Swallow. So for two people sharing mated bags, it definitely keeps us warm. Materials and construction seem good. I may have a solo trip coming up in two weeks, if so I'll ask her if I can take the Sub Kilo snow camping on the Colorado Plateau and see how it does. And hey, if it gets too cold I can finally get some use out of that space blanket I've lugged around for decades, right?
Got email from Jugglebutton, an Aussie with a new taste for Moose Goo. I added a link to his site, Jugglebutton's World. Some neat stuff there. Plus there's something cool about intercontinental links to other hikers.
One thing that Jugglebutton did was start my mind spinning again over tepee-style shelters. (I also received some email recently asking about them.) I've been looking into these the past year, deciding if/when I should take the plunge and try one out. Though I wonder about the higher profile in high winds. I imagine you'd want the beast thoroughly guyed, and with a strong center pole. Jugglebutton uses the venerable Black Diamond Megamid shelter, an absolute palace for one at 108"x108"x67". 3.5 lbs with pole (w/o floor option), sleeps 3+. And at US$180, the price is within reach. The Betamid is interesting too, being smaller and designed to use your hiking/ski poles as supports to save weight. 2.25 lbs (w/o floor option), sleeps 2, US$98. Not as light as an 8'x10' siltarp, but perhaps more to your liking.
Then there's the Asage Stronghold, sleeps 4 easily with a whopping 105 sq. ft. of floorspace (vs. 81 for the Megamid). That comes at the cost of weight and wallet though - 5 lbs 15ozs w/ (an admittedly fancy) 7' pole and US$350. But still, for a 4-person shelter 6lbs is very attractive, and it claims (and seems) to be rather bombproof. Just looking at the photos on the website shows the beast standing tall in some rather interesting conditions. At the very least, someone had enough faith in the thing to face winter's high mountain wrath with it. Don't think I'd want one on a mountainside bivy though (low profile for me up there, thanks).
The Mountain Hardware Kiva is less a tepee than a pyramid, but close enough. ;) Clocking in at just over 4lbs and 85 sq. ft., it seems like a solid 3+ person layout. If you had a walking pole that extended long enough (5'6") you could save some weight and leave the included pole behind. US$240.
For all of them, condensation seems to be a bit of a problem if pitched tightly to the ground. Still not sure when I'll try any of them out, but the concept keeps nagging at me, especially for winter backcountry use and family trips.
Housekeeping: Added a few tidbits to my ever-spotty Random Trip Reports section.
12/28/01: Nowhere closer to catching up, but I figured the least I can do is point out some of the bargains/sales out there. If you've been needing gear, now's the time to shop around! Pick your favorite outlets and spend a few minutes browsing around. REI-Outlet.com has the GoLite Fur and Fuzz Sleep Systems for 50% off. I'm a down-bag-and-RidgeRest devotee to the end, but if you've been eyeing either of these systems for yourself, now's the time. Plenty of other deals too - Marmot bags 30% off, Moonstone bags 40%, etc. Some screamin' deals on clothing too. I'm sure other outlets have similar discounts, so look around. REI's main site has some deals too.
One surprise I ran across is the REI Sub Kilo, a 20F 700-fill down bag, 2lbs 2ozs (reg) with 14 ozs of down fill. On sale for US$165, it's quite a bargain IMHO. My fiancée got one for Christmas, and as I look at it sitting next to my 20F 775-fill Feathered Friends Swallow (EPIC shell) they have a similar amount of loft, though my FF's loft is a bit more "dense" (16 ozs of down). But then the Sub Kilo is on sale for half the price of my Swallow. We'll be testing the bag out this weekend, but at the current price it's looking to be quite a steal.
12/09/01: SWAMPED! AGH! Added link to Bear's Centerwalk under Other Ultralight Backpacking Sites. Hoping to catch up on everything over the holidays, gear/email/etc. Happy Holidays folks! Get out and enjoy Nature! If you only stick to the "easy" seasons you're missing out on half the fun!
11/08/01: So is it possible I could be FURTHER behind? Well, yes. Doh! As always, your patience is greatly appreciated. Moose Goo submissions, tips, and requests for info are in the backlog, but I'm doing my best as rare free time allows.
Gear Alert: Regular contributor Andy found a good score at REI Outlet, namely a Moonstone 800-fill down liner. 13 ozs, could make a great part of your sleeping system. (Or a perfect backcountry blanket for two!) Only $70 (50% off). If I had any cash at all I'd pick up one of these. I can see half a dozen ways I could use it. Nuts.... (Thanks Andy!)
My Trinity Alps writeup is stalled - I have 2/3rds of it finished, but haven't had the time to fill in the middle three days! I'll get some time soon hopefully. (Thanks for your patience, Foundling!)
Last weekend's Grand Canyon trip was incredible - a remote section that I've agreed not to reveal in order to minimize impact on the area. We and I covered some great terrain. A lot of scrambling, mud, light bouldering, mud, and a lot of mud. Oh yes, and mud. Total blast! Still honored to have been invited along. Bill was right - the mud was colder than the water. Yikes! Incredible scenery. Excellent company. Man it's great to be alive!
10/09/01: Still alive, just WAAAY behind. Apologies for the email backlog, I'm at least a month behind.
Trinity trip was perfect! I'm half way through a full write-up (no, really!), hope to post that soon. Went camping with family and friends last weekend, rain, hail, lightning, fog, the usual. :-) Everyone's used to my weather karma by now, so a fine time was had by all. Backpacking this weekend through AZ's White Mountains with a few friends, promises to be nice. And I've had the good fortune to be invited on a Grand Canyon trip along the less traveled parts of the Tonto Plateau three weeks from now. Not a bad start to the season. Bring on the snow! Hope you're all out there having fun too. Head for the backcountry, the crowds are gone!
8/19/01: (NOTE - For those heading for the High Sierras, please see the info re: Ursack approval in the 7/26 update in my Updates Archive.)
Saturday I packed for my latest trip, which is now in the Trinity Alps Wilderness of California. Fellow ultralight traveler Chris had to back out at the last minute (next time for sure, Chris). But the very next day got a call from Foundling (fellow Wilderness Madness member and JMT wanderer), who it turns out had a few vacation days to spare, and a raging urge to spend them on the trail - woohoo! (Apparently she doesn't remember the snow storm I caused last summer around Muir Pass - whew!) My replacement Feathered Friends bag arrived (casts ultimate evil eye at UPS for losing the first), as did my bug bivy. Ursack and Esbit Wing stove are on backorder. Looks like the base pack weight for this trip will be 9 lbs 2.5 ozs (rounded up). If I decide to bring the camera+film, that will go up about half a pound.
All that stands between me and the backcountry are work deadlines. Start up the caffeine I.V., I'm going in fast and furious. Cover me....
Housekeeping: Updated my gear list.
8/15/01: The days pass in a blur.... Had a great time running a 50K along the PCT just south of Mt. Hood last weekend. Wonderful country up in the Cascades. Definitely wish I could have stayed and wandered that part of the country for a week or two. Next year I aim to do exactly that. Other than that, work and life have been plowing ahead with the relentless certainty of an avalanche - swim or get buried.
I've had to scale back my two-week trip to a mere nine days. Not nearly enough, but at least I'll be out there. My Feathered Friends bag was never located by UPS, so the folks at FF found a spare on the floor that matched as closely as possible, should arrive tomorrow. For my latest trip I'll have replaced my Marmot Arroyo with an FF Swallow, dropped the Dryloft bag cover, added an A16 Bug Bivy, and added one stake (for 7 total). I wanted to try the new Esbit Wing stove, but everyone is out of stock. Next trip for sure though. Same situation with my Ursack (backordered). I'll update my inventory on this site after I return.
With the latest trip being cut short, I've shifted itineraries. Either I'll be wandering the mountains on the west side of Lake Tahoe (vic PCT), or I'll be ambling around the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado's San Juan range (vic CDT). Hope all of your trips are shaping up (or have gone) nicely as well!
Housekeeping: Fixed link to Western Mountaineering. Added most of the new links to the list of Other Ultralight Backpacking Sites. (FINALLY!) Created a new Trails, Destinations, and Related Info page to clean up the main page a bit. Working on the email backlog as I can, but spare time is non-existent. As always, thanks to all for your patience.
7/26/01: ** URGENT ** The Ursack has sadly been removed from Sequoia/Kings Canyon (and I presume other High Sierra nat'l parks) approved bear container list. They cite three failures of Ursack Ultras in July, though to me it seems like "user error" was likely to blame in each case. The notice states they'll loan Garcia cans for free this summer to any who arrive with an Ursack. The Ursack folks report that their bags have a spotless record elsewhere in the Lower 48 and Alaska, and are working on a Sierra-specific redesign. I still plan to buy one (the basic Ursack) for general critter-proofing. I just wish the National Parks involved would cooperate with Ursack rather than insisting bear cans are the only solution we backpackers need.
Hope this info makes it out in time for folks who may need to bring a larger pack along for the can.... For more information, see the Sequoia/Kings Canyon Food Storage page.
Several readers have mentioned that REI-Outlet.com has GoLite daypacks and sleeping systems at blowout prices. If you decide any of those items are right for your needs, you should check out the sale.
My Feathered Friends custom bag was produced on schedule (actually less than the four weeks promised), then promptly lost by UPS. ARGH! UPS is running a trace to see why it disappeared at one of their hubs, hopefully they'll find it because I don't have time for the crew at Feathered Friends to make a new one for me. The FF folks have been very polite, helpful and informative from the time I placed the order to helping me deal with UPS. (Casts evil eye at UPS....)
Still terribly behind, need to add nearly a dozen new ultralight backpacker and general backcountry sites to this page. Also info (hopefully a review) of Esbit's new three-winged tab/pot stand and more. Apologies for those who've been waiting. I'll get it done soon. Back to my lunch break....
7/13/01: Removed link to Bob Gross' Ultralight Backpacking, per his request to do so immediately. (Your guess is as good as mine.)
6/22/01: I need to experiment. I need to see if I can get below a 9lb base load and still be well within my comfort zone. No way to finance it without selling my main gear. Hail Mary, here goes nuthin' - I'm having a Fire Sale (see above). Hope the new gear mix works out well or I'm seriously hosed. But at least you'll be able to learn from my results, for better or worse.
6/19/01: Finally added a page discussing Bear-Proof Containers. With more and more parks requiring their use, we ultralighters need to find a way to minimize the impact on our loads. I also (blush) added a hit counter to the bottom of the page. It doesn't really mean anything (no ads, etc. here), but it's kind of fun to see what's going on. My domain server's been faithfully tracking the stats since UltralightBackpacker.com came to life, didn't bother looking at it 'til recently.
My GoLite Dome umbrella is working great! The new design is an E-ticket. (I'm showing my age with that reference.) For what my opinion is worth to you, if you're looking for a sun/rain backpacking umbrella, the new Dome is the way to go.
Major revision of my backpacking schedule this summer. Since it always takes me at least 3-4 days to shake off civilization, I'm consolidating two single-week treks into a two-week PCT section hike, Donner Lake to Yosemite. Add in a few weekend trips and hopefully that'll be enough to keep me sane.
Now that I've got my thru-hikes scheduled, figured it's time to get a bit more serious about supporting the trail organizations. Since the PCT will by my first journey and I've already been section-hiking it, I just joined the Pacific Crest Trail Association. While I can't manage it this summer, I'll soon start taking part in PCT trail maintenance as well. Figure it's the least I can do, and it's close enough that I can bag a few weekend projects in the So. Cal. sections. Give a little, get a lot. Life's a fair trade.
Housekeeping: Added a Bear-Proof Containers section to my Retailers / Manufacturers page. Added a counter to the bottom of the main page. Modified my disclaimer. Been busy with work and family, but hope to add several links and gear updates within a week or two.
6/12/01: Backpacking trip with Chris, George and Jason was great! But it left me with worse withdrawals than ever - I need more trail time! I just checked out the PCT section from Yosemite to South Lake Tahoe, definitely adding that to my summer itinerary. I've also decided to go for the Triple Crown - PCT in 2006, CDT in 2008, and AT in 2010. Those dates seem depressingly far away, but it's going to take me that long to get my life positioned to allow the treks. Wish I could start now.... *sigh*
SALE ALERT: REI-Outlet.com has the Marmot Arroyo (775-fill, 30F, 1lb 12ozs) for about 30% off, both long and regular. $169 US (SRP $249 for regular). They also have the Marmot Couloir (775-fill, 0F, 3lbs 0oz) for $289 (SRP $419). I own both, use both all the time, and as always remain a big fan of Marmot bags. Still waiting for my first Feathered Friends bag someday!
Housekeeping: Updated the Food page, still not quite what I want it to be, but after nearly a year I figured I had to put something fresh in there.
5/20/01: I just finished a substantial update to my Common Items and Ultralight Solutions page, including an update of the backpack survey, rewriting many of the sections, and updating links. I also updated my Why Travel Ultralight page to fill in what I felt were gaps in the presentation. Long overdue, thanks for your patience. Speaking of, I'm about halfway through my email backlog, thanks for hanging in there! Man, you can always tell when the main backpacking season is starting! :-)
Yesterday while Jennifer and I were packing in 48 lbs of cache water (a loaded 28+ mile dayhike to supply a trip she won't even be on - now that is love! :-) ), my venerable 16-year-old Wilderness Experience pack snuffed it. The suspension system cracked under the 60-lb load, but I knew it was bound to happen. Which is why for the past few years I'd been researching its worthy replacement. Today I ordered a Mountainsmith Specter, a descendant of the Mountainlight 5000, for my winter treks and sherpa duties. The timing on that REI 20% off coupon couldn't have been better.
5/10/01: Back at last! Way behind on email, thanks for your patience. Been busy with work, life, and living. With the height of the backpacking season approaching (for we northern hemisphere critters), it's time to review and inspect our gear. I like to pay special attention to my first aid kit. I've found bandaids, ointments and such can go "bad" after six months of riding in my pack - dried-out adhesives, torn packaging, etc.
Fellow JMTer and Wilderness Madness member Foundling and I ran the Avenue of the Giants marathon together last weekend, had an absolute blast! Always fun to hook up with trail friends in the "real(?)" world. (Many thanks again for inviting me along!) Absolutely beautiful country up there in Humboldt County. The entire course was peppered with old growth redwoods, ferns, views of the Eel River. I'd do it again in a second. Hey Foundling, how's 2002 looking? :-)
SALE ALERT: REI-Outlet.com has the Sierra Designs Clip 3 CD (2000 model) for $169.96 US (SRP $249, I've found it on sale for $195 elsewhere). This is my favorite 3-season shelter when I'm not traveling solo. It sleeps 2 very comfortably (rated for 3) while coming it at just over 2 lbs per person sheltered in the minimum configuration (4lbs 10ozs). In "fastpack" configuration (rainfly + poles + footprint, sold separately) it weighs in at 3lbs 3ozs, or just over 1.5 lbs per person sheltered (a mere 1lb 1oz if you cram three people inside). Add a few ozs for stakes/guy lines of course. No kickbacks or relation to REI/SD, just gear I happen to like.
GoLite's Dome umbrella finally comes in a neutral/sand color! My cheapo "OfficeMax special" umbrella at last gave up the ghost, time to acquire a new one. Ironically it survived snow, rain and winds along the JMT, the Grand Canyon, and many other walks, but a few hours on the trail with happy kids proved its undoing. Go figure. :-) I just ordered the Go-Lite Dome, will see how that works out.
So how is your season shaping up? Here's my lineup so far:
I'll need to pull off a few miracles at work to free up the time, but what else can a backcountry addict do? Someday I'll manage a way to have summers off and spend months wandering wherever whim and winds take me....
3/21/01: Fellow JMTers David and Rebekah now have their full JMT trip report and photos online, including detailed trail profile, gear list, etc. Check it out!
Andy now has his new lightweight backpacking site online, including some thoughts on why ultralight backpacking may not work for you. We have contrary views on various points, which is exactly why I think it's a good visit. Compare, contrast, decide the best approach for YOUR needs and philosophies. He's also selling Tyvek for those who've been unable to find any.
2/7/01: I'm very sad to report that Vermilion Valley Resort's Butch Wiggs has died. One of the best memories of my JMT trip was sitting around the fire at VVR late one night, yacking about nothing in particular while Butch poured the whiskey. Sorry he had to go, but glad I got to meet him. Together he and Peggy have turned the VVR into the friendliest stop in the High Sierras. He'll be missed. I'll get back to VVR one day with that tequila I'd promised, and have a few shots around the fire in his memory. (Thanks to fellow JMTer Paul Zaretsky for letting me know.)
1/11/01: A permanent home at last! Update those bookmarks - www.UltralightBackpacker.com is alive! I have to admit I'm downright giddy over the new domain. (Yeah, I'm easily amused...) No more migrating the site around like a digital Bedouin as I switch ISPs. Plus I get a seriously cool email address. ;-) I've done my best to verify all the internal links, but please let me know if you find anything wrong.
I had to cancel a backpacking trip this weekend for work, but the good news is I'll have a few spare hours to update the site even further. Gear updates and new links will be the priority, along with cleanup of some of the formatting. But next weekend, come blizzards or dimpled chads, I'll be overnighting near treeline for a pleasant snowy climb with Derek, Robb and Rod. Woohoo!
1/5/01: Happy New Year! Well, for many of us. Chinese New Year is still a ways off. :-) Been totally swamped, but during lunch breaks I managed to update the snow camping page (new, useful links at the bottom). I also at long last finished the Moose Goo page. Go check out Sandpiper's Mookies and Rosaleen's Bullwinkle Bars! Also, Andrew gives a web-based source for corn flour, for those of you having a hard time finding it. (Thanks guys!). I also created a new page discussing avalanches, with plenty of relevant links. I'm still way behind (gear updates, new links, etc.) but at least it's a start.
Last month I was finally able to visit my JMT friends David and Rebekah, along with our mutual friends Marc and Chance in Seattle. Had a great time! David, Marc and I hiked up to an alpine lake an hour northeast of Seattle and watched heavy, wet snow plummet up to 1,000' as it slammed into the side of the lake we stopped at. The larger ones sounded like cannonfire when they hit. Awesome. And a good reminder why sleeping at the base of cliffs is rarely a prime choice. ;-) We couldn't make our Olympic Peninsula trip this time around, but I'll be back up there soon. Next August I'm planning a two week section hike of the either the northern WA PCT, or maybe wander through Glacier Mountain Wilderness.
11/12/00: Snow season is here for us Northern Hemisphere critters! Wahoo! (I have two multi-day backcountry snow trips planned already, and it looks like the Olympic Peninsula trek with David and Rebekah is panning out nicely. Life is good!) But this also means more of us will be exposing ourselves to the unique risks of winter backcountry traveling as well. To help us all stay informed, REI has an excellent primer on avalanche safety, along with links for further training and other snow sport-related topics. Read it, follow up on the links, arm yourself with all the knowledge you can. Then go forth and revel in the adventures others only dream of!
I've got exactly one day of my JMT write-up completed. Yes, pathetic. I've been swamped with the tasks that pay the bills. This Thanksgiving break I plan to be romping in the snow, but if that falls through I'll be working on the write-up instead. The good news is that I finally found the scrap of paper I'd kept my trail notes on. Alex beware, I've got your address and I'm monitoring the surf reports carefully. ;-)
GoLite have updated their catalog, including a new pack (the Gust for skiing, climbing), new shelters and other items. Their website has been completely revamped as well. Looks much nicer to this geek's eyes.
Housekeeping Notes: Added a few scattered "eye candy" images to some of the pages. Added REI's primer on avalanche safety to the snow camping page. Moved a bunch of old Updates/Comments entries to the Updates Archive. Added a stray image or two to my JMT photo album. Various spelling/grammar corrections to appease the ghost of my eighth grade English teacher (those Jesuits never let up ;-) ). About a month ago I was actually caught up on personal email, then fell miserably behind yet again. As always, thanks for your patience.
10/16/00: I'm still far behind, and my JMT write-up is behind schedule, but I do have my JMT photo album done. I think I've got an even 100 images in there now, all with captions. Best viewed with a 1024x768 24-bit color display. The largest dimension per photo is 600 pixels - large enough for detail, small enough for those with slower Internet connections. Hope you like them!
With luck I plan to explore some lesser-traveled trails in the Grand Canyon next month, and the Olympic Peninsula soon thereafter (I love contrasts ;-) ). Sanity preservation demands it!
09/11/00: He's baaaaaack... :-) (Actually hit Lone Pine on 9/5, but took awhile before getting back on the computer.) What an absolutely INCREDIBLE adventure! The best vacation I've ever had, hands down (and I've been all over the world). And frankly the most enjoyable backpacking trip of my life. Sun, rain, hail, snow, the terrain, the views, and best of all the people. Far too much to cover now, but a full write-up is in the works, complete with photos. Every piece of gear worked flawlessly (save for the camera battery - ARGH!). I was grinning like an idiot the entire time. Just ask any bear in the area.
Huge email backlog. Have to deal with work first, then I'll get to my personal correspondence logjam. Nice to already hear from several folks I met along the way! (About 1/4 had coincidentally visited this site - small world!) Please be patient with me, and I promise I'll make it worth your while. :-) I'll give you a preview - the land and scenery were incredibly beautiful, but paled in comparison to the people I met and the friendships I made. Sappy but true! More to follow soon.
08/16/00: Added food and transportation info to my JMT Trip page. The transportation situation has greatly improved thanks to a brand new service that started up this May. YARTS: Use it, love it. ;-)
08/15/00: The countdown for my JMT Trip continues. I mailed my resupply box today, more food than I expect to carry with me, but wanted the buffer just in case. See the page for detailed info. Also added a few answers to Andy's questions and added a section for the menu I'll be using.
07/29/00: Surfacing from the barrage of Life just long enough to let everyone know I'm still alive and reading your email, even if the lack of responses would hint otherwise to you. ;-) After I deliver a project next week, I plan to catch up on all the email ASAP (with many thanks to Nancy, Andy, Junior, and others for their eternal patience). Please don't ever think I'm ignoring you. As I've said before my email response time matches my hiking style: I'm slow, but I'm persistent.
My personal big news is that at long last I'm FINALLY going to hike the John Muir Trail! Had to cancel last year due to work issues, but this year nothing's going to stop me. Those of you familiar with my legendary Yeti Karma will want to pack snow gear if you'll be in the area during the dates I'll be on the trail. You can check out my JMT Trip Plan, really just rough notes for myself, but thought some of you might need a diversion from work. ;-) More to follow soon!
Housekeeping Notes: Daphne's "Make Your Own Gear" site is a dead link, had to remove it. Anyone have any leads? Added links for Tom Harrison Maps, the John Muir Trail, updated Ray Jardine's link to his new address.
04/24/00: My Gregory Gravity has been sent to a good home in Alaska, where Ryan has promised to give it the trail time it deserves. :-) Thanks for all the interest.
Trying to catch up on a large backlog of personal email, but a May project deadline is devouring my free time. If you're waiting on email from me, please be patient. I answer every message I get. Like my hiking style, I'm slow but I'm persistent. The good news is that I have a permit in hand for the John Muir Trail this summer. Wild ice weasels couldn't drag me away from this one. ;-)
03/06/00: Fixed what I feel was a glaring gap in my coverage of ultralight possibilites, namely a discussion on Tents vs. Ultralight Trekking. Just because many of us (myself included) aren't using tents for 3-season trips anymore doesn't mean you can't happily use one as an ultralight convert.
Added three new ultralight site links under Other Ultralight Backpacking Sites - Onestep's Ultralight Backpacking Resource, Rick's Great Lakes Lightweight Backpacking, and Glenn's Ultralight Backpacking. We're all crawling out of the woodwork. :-)
03/04/00: Over the past week I had the pleasure of both an overnight snowy winter summit of Humphreys Peak (12,633 ft) and a nice trek across the Grand Canyon, overnighting at Cottonwood Campground all alone, not even a ranger there. In a nod to the new possibilities traveling ultralight can open up for you, I decided to see how fast I could make it out of the Canyon. Thursday morning, after hiking the 7 miles from Cottonwood to Bright Angel campground and resting an hour, I left Bright Angel and headed up South Kaibab, another 7 miles and about 5,000 ft elevation gain. 2 hours 51 minutes later I was at my car at SK trailhead, including stops to talk to various hikers, take pictures for folks, plus an extended chat with a ranger. Mind you, I prefer to hike slow, long days. Just wanted to see what I could do and still have a smile on my face. And I was in fact smiling and saying hello to everyone I crossed paths with. The magic of ultralight travel and Moose Goo. :-)
I've put close to 80 trail miles on my new GoLite Breeze pack, and at this point I'm giving it a serious thumbs-up. I've carried up to 21 lbs with it (loaded with water just for testing, 13 miles in that particular case), no sore shoulders. Carries my load nicely, and it will be my primary pack from here on out. Ultralight Michael was right, I haven't missed the hip belt. Well, except when I leaned over to tie my shoe and the pack slid and hit me on the head. ;-)
You will all be shocked to discover that I'm way behind on email again. Yes, stunned I'm sure. ;-) More to follow....
02/24/00: Added a link to the North Country Trail Association in the More Links section. The NCT will stretch along the northern US states from North Dakota to New York when completed. Guess that's now four trails I have to try before I croak! (Thanks to Doug W. for the link.)
02/10/00: Bet you all thought I'd been eaten by wild dingos, eh? :-)
STOP THE PRESSES!
Ultralight Michael is now carrying a 10lb base load. The key ingredient? A 13 oz. 4500 ci (yes, 13 ozs for 4500 ci) ruck sack called the GoLite Breeze! Go check out his new gear list. Also be sure to visit GoLite's site. I'm not sure how long they've been around, but all the gear they offer was designed by Ray Jardine. Whether or not you agree with his philosophies of diet, life and gear, it sure is worth a look. The 9.5oz umbrella appears to be sturdier than my current 7oz model, and the medium Breeze (4200 ci total) weighs a nearly humorous 11 ozs! The lack of a hip belt helps explain why the Breeze is recommended for a total load weight of 20lbs or less. Hopefully I'll have some first-hand data I can report soon. As it turns out, my birthday is mere weeks away. Serendipity! ;-)
Not sure how I missed hearing about GoLite before, but my thanks to Michael for posting the information.
And now back to our regularly scheduled program...
First off, thanks to everyone for your email. I've done my best to answer it all in a timely manner, though I know Diane, Michelle and Ray may disagree. ;-) Appreciate the kind words, ideas, questions and suggestions. Been a slow few months for me (backpacking-wise, at least), but get to hike a snowy mountain in a few weeks - finally!
Moose Goo Mania
K.H. and others have kept the Moose Goo mods and suggestions pouring in. Adding chocolate powder, maple butter (spoilage problem?), powdered eggs, powdered eggnog, rice flour, nuts, dried fruit, you name it. Tell you what - If you actually make a batch of something and like it (note that critical distinction ;-) ), send me your variation and I'll post it here with full credit (or blame ;-) ) to you! But remember, you have to have actually made and tasted it.
This tidbit arrived yesterday from Andy. The EMS 2800 is back, offering 2800 ci of space for 2 lbs 6ozs, at US $75. I've never seen one in person, but the specs and price seem attractive, if all else checks out. Andy provided a link to EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports) - Click "Shopping", then "Camping & Backpacking" and finally "Daypacks". (I'd post a direct link, but if their inventory gets shuffled I'd end up with a dead link on my site...) The listing for the 2800 Long Torso initially shows "2lbs 8ozs", but Andy says the 2lbs 6ozs listed in the "More Info" page is the actual weight.
Moonstone now has a "personal shelter" (which the rest of us call a bivy sack), Gore-tex/nylon, bug netting, no poles, with a claimed weight of 1lb. 8 ozs. for US $190. Warning: The Moonstone website lacks any useful content. You're better off hitting REI Online or similar and looking for data there. (Come on Moonstone! It's the 00's already! Get with it!)
Added Western Mountaineering and GoLite to the Retailers / Manufacturers page. Western Mountaineering makes some nifty sleeping bags, and I already hollered at you about GoLite. :-)
Also added Feathered Friends to the Retailers / Manufacturers page. I should have added this link a long time ago. As you might have guessed, they specialize in down. Down sleeping bags, vests, jackets, pants, bedding, you name it. They also sell a wide variety of gear (Gregory, Arc'teryx, MSR, Sierra Designs, etc.) for backpacking, climbing, and mountaineering through their online store. Of particular interest for those looking to pare your load are the Hummingbird (20F, 26 ozs, one of the lightest conventional 20F bags I've seen) and the Rock Wren series (Rock Wren - 30F, 28 ozs, Rock Wren II - 15F, 33 ozs). As of yet I have no direct experience with Feathered Friends, but their reputation is quite good.
Gear News page gets a subject index
Long overdue, I added a hypertext index to help ease the surfing of the Gear News page. Apologies for the ugliness you've had to endure. And continue to endure, for that matter. :-)
Questions, Comments and Ramblings
One question I've been asked a lot is how I stay dry getting into and out of my bivy when the rain is really dumping hard. The key for me has always been careful site selection. I try to think like the animals, looking for a naturally well-sheltered site. With a bivy I can set up darn near anywhere I can lay my body down, and unless you're out in the middle of a prairie or vast desert, finding a good nook for the night isn't likely to be much a problem, at least once you've acquired an eye for it. Tight stands of trees (though not if isolated in the middle of a large field - lightning storms...), etc. Most nights of course I sleep out in the open looking up at the stars, but when the weather goes really sour, I go into "critter mode". You'd be amazed at how many body-sized nooks there are out there to bear the brunt of a bad storm.
I'm about to experiment with a 9oz 6'x8' Siltarp and Outdoor Research (OR) Dryloft sleeping bag cover in place of my fullblown OR bivy sack. The combo is a frog's hair lighter than my OR bivy sack alone (given very light yet strong guy lines), with more flexibility for conditions. A properly pitched tarp is weather-worthy by itself in most situations, with the Dryloft cover providing both a bug screen on warm nights, and a solid weather barrier for when the sleet hits the fan. Dryloft is supposedly much less water resistant than Goretex, but the bag cover shouldn't end up with too much direct water hitting it from the top. I may end up going back with my basic old Goretex bivy sack though, depending on the results. Didn't want to mention it until I tried it myself and had come to some conclusions I could present to all of you, but what the heck. I try to avoid speculation and offer first-hand knowledge, but in this case I suppose it's not a big deal.
Speaking of first-hand knowledge, I now have a few hundred trail miles on my favorite hiking footwear I've ever worn - the Lowa Tempest Lo. A few months ago I headed to REI to search for something more sturdy than my $20 sneakers, but not heavy or stiff. Asked the fellow working the footwear dept. for his opinions and experiences, all he did was point down to his feet, which were tucked into a dust-covered pair of Tempest Lo's. The man spoke wisely. Solid materials and construction, generous rubber toe cover, sturdy tread, none of the delicate "breathing" mesh that I've never liked in a shoe (though which some swear by). And most important of all, extremely comfortable. I had no break-in period at all. I've knocked out some long, fast days on rough, rocky trails (training) with them, and not even the slightest hint of foot irritation or hot spots have ever cropped up. Of course everyone's feet are different, but these little gems work for me. I've even taken to wearing them for everyday stuff. The comfiest pair of footwear I own.
[ DISCLAIMER: I have absolutely no connection with REI or Lowa, other than as a satisfied customer. ]
10/24/99: Swamped as usual. Here's what's been up the past few months:
My site has a new home! Moved it over to Dancris.com, have done my best to verify all links. Just in case, the old Primenet.com files are still there, stuffed with placeholders pointing to the new site. If you see any bad links, please email me and I'll fix them ASAP. Thanks!
Backpacking schedule has been taking a serious beating, but I've managed to squeeze out several nice weekend trips. Sometimes you need to escape and not work in order to work more effectively in the long run. Latest trek was a very pleasant two-day 21-mile Fall jaunt at 9,000 ft. in the White Mountains of AZ. Went with my friend Bruce, who rightfully laughed when he saw my pack (see below). :-) Bruce and I both prefer to travel fully self-contained, which is nice. Keeps both our loads stable and predictable, with the items we're each most comfortable with.
Also found a way to protest my lack of outdoor time. Had to be in San Jose on business, hotels are rather pricey and was down about not getting any time enjoying Nature's Playground. Solution? I had a great time camping at the Great Basin Redwood State Park! Weather was perfect, showers were available, and I got to wake up in the filtered light of an old growth coastal redwood grove. Stayed an extra day to hike the park too. Just incredible. Unbelievable. Many thanks to my long-suffering friend Suzanne for taking me there! The Sheraton can kiss my toe jam - this was living! Even got to see my first banana slug. :-) Big ol' critter too! Moved it off the trail (in the direction it was heading) so it wouldn't get crushed. Cleaned my fingers with water first so I wouldn't gunk him up. The irony. Old growth coastal redwoods. Until you've hiked them, you really don't know what J.R.R. Tolkien was talking about when he wrote of ancient Elven woods. Could've stayed there the rest of my life.
For the past several months I've been experimenting with hiking poles. Not the fancy shock-spring ones, just a generic pair of REI-label 3-section Komperdells. Conclusion? I'm in love. Once I got the hang of using them properly (not grabbing them in a death grip, allowing the straps to transfer the load), I knew I'd never go hiking without them. Much more effective than my beloved driftwood hiking stick, sad/happy to say. My defective hips and knees are very happy, even after high mileage days.
New packload (minus food and water, but including fuel for 4 hot meals) is 9 lbs. 14 ozs. and looks almost silly. Still carrying mostly the same gear, no changes in my comfort or safety margins (which are quite ample). Last trip saw overnight temperatures drop below freezing, and I was comfy all night. I'll update my Gear Load and Detailed Weight pages soon. I really don't see myself going any lighter than this. Short of cutting some straps and leaving out the fuel weight (which few seem to calculate in their base load), I have no desire to go any further. I'm very comfortable, and have no real desire to match Jardine's lightest load just to say I did it. Changes to my currently documented load were:
- Replaced Two-AAA Maglite with Single-AAA model. Still carry two spare AAA's though. - Replaced 4-mil plastic groundsheet with Tyvek of same size. It was only a matter of time before I followed Michael's lead. :-) - Replaced Polartec 200 balaclava with an OR Windstopper Fleece balaclava. It's not any heavier, but much warmer. Great bang for the buck (and weight!). Highly recommended. Cerebral furnace, especially while sleeping. - Dropped water capacity down to two 1-liter Platypus bladders. Moved my drinking tube over though, so I can still casually sip while I amble along. - Tried using a nice daypack I had that seemed to have the same capacity as my Mountainsmith Peak. For loads less than 15 lbs, the Eagle Creek daypack (1lb 5ozs) does a great job. More weight than that, or off trail / rock scrambling, I'd want the gorilla hug and suspension of my Mountainsmith Peak or Gregory. I can fit 3-4 days of food in the Eagle Creek, so for typical 2-3 day trail trips, it's the one. Again, only the sleeping pad is strapped to the outside. Water bladders fit in netting side pockets. - Realized I'd never used my nylon running shorts. Never. And underwear was the only cotton left in my inventory. Solution? Dumped the cotton, now wear the nylon running shorts as underwear!
08/14/99: More housekeeping. Daphne's "Make Your Own Gear" site moved, so I updated the link. Also added a link to The JMT Journals, a site featuring journals and updates of JMT (John Muir Trail) through-hikers. Nice way to live vicariously through the adventures of others until your next trip comes up. :-)
Added more links to the Retailer and Manufacturers page, including Integral Designs (shelter and sleeping bags - the folks who bring us the ultralight Siltarp), along with the Clif and PowerBar sites.
Several folks had pointed out that I didn't have any of the Kelty Storm Series of backpacks in the Backpack Survey, so I added them in (thanks for keeping me on my toes ;-) ).
08/08/99: Still really bogged down, but just managed to finish gathering the most requested info here, the detailed weight breakdown of my basic 2-5 day pack load. Hadn't weighed my non-food-loaded pack since before April, so was happy to discover that my base load (incl. fuel for 4 meals) is now down to 10 lbs. 15.0 ozs. This is the base load I used for my Grand Canyon trip, with a few minor mods made during subsequent trips.
The only spots I have left to cut some serious weight are the Shelter and Pack areas. I can easily lop off a few ounces of excess strap from my pack, but if I changed packs altogether I could stand to save at least 1/2-lb if I got adventurous. As far as shelter, I've been planning to experiment with tarp shelters again (swapping out my bivy for a Siltarp), which would immediately drop me down another pound or so, but I'm really fond of the ol' bivy sack. It's just so darn easy, and it works. We'll see.... I'm very satisfied with my current gear selection, and have no desire to chase Jardine. ;-) I'm always keeping my eyes open though.
Also updated the Moose Goo page with some notes from my friend Marc (who I REALLY need to hit the trail with soon). Turns out his family used to use a similar recipe, but added powdered milk to add some protein. Great idea!
In late spring I started experimenting with a lighter layering system, and early this July was able to test it on a 6,000 ft. ridge near the Canadian border, in steady wind and snow flurries at 35F. Worked great. My nylon t-shirt, nylon pants, synthetic lightweight long underwear top + bottoms, synthetic heavyweight long underwear top, balaclava, and windproof nylon anorak kept me warm and toasty. I was hiking most of the time, using the umbrella to take the brunt of the wind and snow, stopping to take in the view here and there (when one was actually available!). As usual, works great for me, your mileage may vary. Maybe all that snow camping has just warped my sense of what "warm and toasty" is. :-)
Haven't updated the Food/Gear News section in too long, but many of you had submitted some great ideas to share. Give me a few more weeks. I swear I'm bound to catch up soon. :-) Until then, take note of a new munchy on the market, the Clif Luna energy bar. For some reason this is being marketed as "the whole nutrition bar for women(tm)", but even a barbaric male such as myself found it to be one of the tastiest bars I've eaten. Not as messy as the SlimFast bars I'd previously warmed up to, and about the same price. Tastier too, in my humble opinion.
07/16/99: Quick update - Heavy rains in AZ have washed out large parts of the Bright Angel and North Kaibab Trails. If you were planning to hike God's Own Gopher Hole, be sure to visit the Grand Canyon website for info on trail closures over the next several weeks!
Also managed to update the backpack survey with some newer data. Of particular interest is the Serratus Icefall (out of Canada - thanks to George for the info on this one). I haven't been able to get a look at one, but the stats are very interesting - 3lb 9oz for 4000ci of storage, for around $110 US. If it's durable and comfortable, I may have to get one. If any of you get ahold of one, please let us know your thoughts!
06/28/99: Man, talk about bogged down! Work is eating me alive, hence my lack of updates on the webpage. Sorry about that. I've added rough versions of my food writeup and Moose Goo recipe to the Gear & Food section.
I recently tried to clear out my email backlog, and several of my replies to some of you bounced back. Seems my mailer was chewing up the "Reply To:" field, which was really bad since when the email bounced, I had no valid address to try and resend it to! Sorry. :-(
Note to J.M. Canoli: Would have loved to join ya, but had to cancel my trip - ARGH! Thanks though.
Will try to clear out the rest of the email before the middle of July, at which time I hope to FINALLY update Gear News with all of your submissions. Lots of neat new stuff on the market! Until then, hope the food notes I've put up will be a useful example. And again, apologies for the slow updates, thanks yet again for your patience and understanding.
04/04/99: Happy Easter! Just got back from an incredible 5-day trip in the Grand Canyon with my friend Bob and his wife Juli. Had a great time and gathered lots of data for my planned John Muir Trail trip. More on that later.
- Total pack weight for the 5-day trip: 16 lbs. 4 ozs. including food (but not water)! Note that I didn't share any gear/food load with my friends, since I was trying to gather data for a solo trip. Didn't lose any body weight, was never left hungry, and had food left over as well. Had some light rain and snow, and one night at Indian Garden campground that dipped into the mid-20's, but was warm and comfortable the whole trip.
- Met some great folks on the trip. (Howdy to Michelle and Ray, "Old Man of the Canyon" Rodger ;-) and his grandson Kyle, and the two women and their daughters whose names I wish I could remember!). Also encountered the enigmatic Fruit Boy, who quickly became infamous in the Canyon. Why? Two 15-lb watermelons were only part of the 100-lb load he carried into the Canyon. In nearly two decades of backpacking, I've never seen anything like it! That's right, a single one of his watermelons weighed only 1 lb less than my entire 5-day load. We were like matter and antimatter standing next to each other. :-)
- Used my Mountainsmith Peak (2300 ci) to carry the entire load. Only item strapped outside was the sleeping pad, all else was in the pack. Once again the little beast performed marvelously. Also used my Esbit pocket stove for the whole trip, worked great. I've updated my pages to reflect the fact that my Mountainsmith Peak is now my 2-5 day pack, vs. 2-3 days.
- Full trip notes and gear updates will be here soon (a few weeks) along with the Ultralight Food section, now that I have enough data to report.
- Made various general updates to several pages, to reflect changing data and experiences.
- Also hope to catch up on Reader Tips too. Thanks again for your patience!
03/25/99: Still running behind as usual. Busy preparing for a trip to test some "poor man's powerbar" recipes, but thought you might like to check out the following:
- Daphne has finished her Make Your Own Gear site. Info on materials, plans, and techniques for making your gear with your very own opposable thumbs. Not just backpacking items either. Climbing gear, diving gear, and (I'll be darned) recipes for homemade powerbars. Just noticed that. Talk about serendipity. :-) I'll have to see how my test recipes compare, maybe make a few additions for my experiments this next trip. Added the link to Gear News as well as the More Links section.
03/05/99: Thanks to everyone for the feedback! I'm getting a lot of gear ideas/suggestions. I plan to start a "reader's page" soon to post some of it. Kind of an "Idea Exchange" area. Please be patient, it'll take me awhile. I may be slow, but I'll always get back to you.
- The Mountainsmith Mountainlight Series has been revamped. The Mountainlight 5000 gives you 5000 ci of storage for 3.8 lbs (w/ optional carbon fiber stays). See Gear News for further info.
- Updated the "Backpacks" section of Some Common Items and Ultralight Solutions to reflect product line changes.
03/04/99: Annoyed at the cancellation of the erstwhile king of the lightweight backpack, the Mountainsmith Mountainlight 4000? Thanks to the feedback of web surfers Len and Erick, I now have a link to Kelty in the Retailers / Manufacturers section. Why? They make and sell the Enlighten Series of backpacks which, while incredibly expensive, are apparently unfathomably lightweight and durable as well. What would you say to a pack that weighed 1 lb while claiming to be durable, UV- and rot-proof while providing 2750 ci (expandable to 3700 ci) of space? I plan to find out just what these beasts are all about before the end of March. For further discussion, please see the "Backpacks" section of the Gear News page.
01/25/99: Hadn't planned on being back so soon. ;-) But made an interesting find - snack bars that have a hint of nutritional value and don't taste like mule droppings! See the Gear News page under "Food" for more info.
01/24/99: Happy New Year! Starting a new business, so my time has been very scarce. No offense, but I prefer to hike first and THEN update my webpage as time permits. ;-) Many thanks to everyone for all the feedback and support!
- Finally added that darn Gear News page, inaugurated with a few submissions from you folks out there in the real world. Thanks! Will do my absolute best to keep it updated in a timely manner. Also added an "Updates Archive" (see link below) to clean up the main page here.
- Bargain hunters rejoice! The Sierra Trading Post site is FINALLY useable! See Gear News for more info.
- REI now has an online outlet store. Check out Gear News for links.
- Added Snow Camping Inventory to the Gear section.
- Added a "What about snow camping" blurb to the Questions section.
- Added a new ultralight link to the Other Ultralight Backpacking Sites section. Check out John's new page. Ultralight freaks unite! We have nothing to lose but the weight of redundant gear! :-)
12/05/98: Added info on Shelter and The Umbrella to the Common Items page, including the answer to the overwhelming question, "Where did you get your ultralight umbrella?" Also created a "jump point" index there to improve your surfing experience. Oh yeah, I added this fancy parchment texture to the entire website too. Don't worry, I won't get too fancy.... ;-) Still working on the JMT report!
11/22/98: Almost done with the infamous JMT trip writeup. Just in time to take another little adventure.... Also added some "jump" points on the title page here to aid in navigating. Hope it helps.
11/9/98: As of at least September, Mountainsmith has cancelled the Mountainlight 4000 model, replacing it with a new one. In another day or two I'll get around to updating the Mountainsmith line of packs. Thanks to Rebecca, Justin, and others for your info! Looks like if you want one, you'll need to hit the Used Gear market.)
10/29/98: Grand Canyon trip report added.