Posts Tagged ‘backpacking gear’

I’ve been distracted by the fish in Montana for the last couple of months.  I’m an avid catch-and-release flyfisher and the East Slope Cutthroats have been keeping me busy.  In addition, roads like these have kept me on my bike.

So those are my excuses for not blogging or backpacking much lately.

Big Duck Lake – Russian Wilderness

However, I did make a couple of quick trips into the Northern California wilderness earlier this month.  Here’s the photos to prove it.  No new gear testing though.

Clark Jungle Hammock Ultralight with JRB No Sniveler


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I haven’t posted for awhile so dredging through the archives I found this photo.

This was spring 2002.  I didn’t weigh the pack.  That was my first mistake.  It was probably was 55-60 lbs.  That was for 2 nights.  I am a compulsive weigher now.  What else is wrong with this picture?  Loose items hanging off the pack and heavy weight cotton canvas pants that would take forever to dry.  Note: neither human nor dog is smiling.

Here’s Jayna at camp resting in an early version of the Clark North American Hammock.

I now use a Warbonnet Blackbird.  It’s less than half the weight.  In the interim I used the Clark Ultra Light with my own tarp.  Step by step I lightened my load.

But, we got out there and enjoyed the wilderness.

After you’ve carried 50+ lbs. up a couple of hills, you start re-thinking what you really need to bring.  And you start looking for lighter options.

For me it became a passion.  Sitting around camp, I’d make lists of changes adding up the ounces lost.  Now my pack weight for a week in the woods is more like 35 lbs including a liter of water and all my food.  But, I bring fly fishing gear and a camera and binoculars too.

I encourage everyone to get started.  Take a trip into the wilds.  After carrying your old gear start thinking about where you can save on weight.  The big three are: your tent, your pack and your sleeping bag.  Buy a new sleeping bag first and just keep chipping away at it.  The new high-tech gear is great!

These photos are all from Grey Rock Lakes in the Castle Crags Wilderness of Northern California.  In the picture below you can see Mount Eddy in the distance.

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I just received my GooseFeet.  I’ve been looking for a product like this for years.  The perfect sleeping socks for the cold footed camper.  That would be me.  Nothing more – nothing less, just a super warm and super light sock. 

These are so light, at only 2.2 oz including a stuff sack,  you won’t mind bringing them along.  That’s about the same as a pair of regular hiking socks and about 1/3 the weight of my old down booties.  You can’t walk around camp in them, but they’re socks not shoes.

For camp shoes I’ll stick with my knock-off Crocs I got at Payless Shoes.  They look something like these Trailbreak Crocs ($49.99), but cost only about $10.

They weight about 10 oz for the pair and work well for the occasional stream crossing too.  Not to mention they’re great for fishing.

Otherwise, I wear my Merrell Pulse II Waterproof Mids for the trail.  They are so comfortable I wear them around camp often as well.  Of course, they have discontinued this particular incarnation.

You can still find them here and there as online closeouts.  Merrell has many similar styles.  I guess when these wear out I’ll have to experiment with something new.

But back to the GooseFeet.  At $55 they may seem expensive.  Good down is expensive.  Similar products cost even more.  Like Nunatak’s Teanaway Down Slippers pictured below.  Nunatak is known as one of the best down outfitters around.  These babies weigh more at 3 oz and cost more at $116.

There is a less expensive alternative in Sierra Design’s Packable Down Booties (not shown).  They cost only $35, but weigh 7 oz.  My guess is they are made using less down and down of a lower grade.  The GooseFeet are made with premium 800+ fill goose down, the best available.

I know I’m pretty enthusiastic about this product, but it fills a niche that needed filling.  I usually make my own gear when I can’t find what I want.  But, down is a bear to handle so IMHO it’s worth it to pay for the finished product.  And these are very professionally finished products.  They should keep my feet warm for years to come.

If your feet don’t get cold, order a pair of the GooseFeet for a cold footed lightweight backpacking friend.  They’ll never forget you!

Also available Waterproof Shells for GooseFeet $28

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I had knee surgery a couple weeks ago to fix an old injury.  Consequently I’m going stir crazy.  So I decided to sort through my gear room.  I found a few things I don’t really need.  Well, more than a few.  Anyway, here’s some items I’m ready to part with listed on WhiteBlaze.netIMG_0094

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I’ll be giving a free presentation on lightweight backpacking for OLLI in the Campbell Center on the SOU Campus, 655 Frances Lane, Ashland, Oregon on Wednesday Sept 30 from 1-3 PM.


Although boomer backpackers are my people, the concepts of lightweight backpacking can be applied to many things from motorcycle touring to dayhiking.  All ages and experience levels are welcome from day hikers to hardcore backpackers, bicyclists, RVers, etc.  I’ll do a short PowerPoint slide show and bring some gear for you to check out.  Hope to see you there.

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Not ultra light by any means, but the MSR Hubba is not too bad at right around 3 lbs.  This is a bigger, better bivy for a solo sleeper.  It’s not new either, but a tried and true fixture in the camping world.  IMG_6290

Here’s a NeoAir small inside the tent alone.  One of the nice things about the Hubba is how it holds your pad in place within its 26″ width.  The small footprint will squeeze into tight spaces where bigger tents would be impossible.

I like the narrowness of the tent and the height is generous.  Plenty of room inside for me (5’8″) to sit on my NeoAir/Big Agnes camp chair.  And it’s not just a small center pyramid peak like many tents; the entire center third, back to front and side to side has nice height.  The all mesh is good too, if like me, you like looking at the scenery.msr_hubba_vertmsr_hubba_floor

The fly is the heaviest part, but it goes up quickly and withstands winds well.  Our test conditions were 40 mph winds and driving rain!  No problems.


I’m not a tent person, but if I were to ever give up my hammock, this tent would be a strong contender.  I would probably forgo the heavy fly in favor of a light weight tarp, but then the ease of setup would be lost…

I have a Tarptent too and I like the hybrid design.  What the single-walled tarptent lacks is the open all-mesh option for rain free evenings.

The MSR Hubba is a classic design in the double walled tent category.  If you’re a grounder, take a look.


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The MLD Grace Duo Spectralite Tarp is state of the art.  Made with the lightest functional fabric available, it weighs only 9.85 oz. with the ridge line seam sealed and including the guy lines and stuff sack.  My old favorite home made Rayway tarp weighed 18.2 oz. similarly configured.  IMG_6286So close to half the weight.  I use a hammock and I like a big area under my tarp.  My Rayway is a rectangle about 9′ x 9′, but a little longer than wide.  The Grace Duo is 8′ x 7′ x 9′ (front width x rear width x ridge length).  The baseline (side length at ground) is 5″ shorter than ridge line for a slightly pointed front.  The long baseline gives it more coverage than many cat tarps, whose baselines are significantly shorter than the ridge line.

My test run was perfect; 40 mph winds and driving rain for about 10 hrs.  I was worried about blow-in on the ends, but had no problems.  The tarp covered my Blackbird Hammock very nicely.  I was comfortable and dry.IMG_1270

I did miss the beaks from my old Rayway, shown in the above photo, and may add them to the Grace Duo to give me more usable space and the ability to pitch the tarp higher and still be covered.

An unexpected bonus with this tarp were the line tensioners.  Wow, what a great design (MLD’s website does not show these in their photos of the tarp, must be a new addition).   I’ve tried quite a few of these little guys and they’re all pretty clever, but this is the best design I’ve ever seen.  IMG_6533Permanently attached to the tie-outs on the tarp, the lines can be threaded or un-threaded onto them very quickly.  Then you can tie off your lines without worrying much about the tautness of the pitch.  Just tighten it up with the tensioners, later, when all your tie offs are done.  I’ll be leaving only the ridge line tie-outs attached when stowing my tarp.  That way if it’s windy when I have to pitch it the next time I won’t have all the perimeter lines flapping around while I tie off the ridge line.  Also, they make it easy to center your tarp over your hammock; loosen one end and then tighten the other, until it’s where you want it.  Easy!

One of the advantages to Spectralite is that it doesn’t stretch when it gets wet like sil-nylon.  So the tensioners aren’t used for that issue.  But, boy would they be nice on a sil-nylon set up when the tarp starts sagging after a little rain.  I’d like to find a place to purchase these by themselves.

The only down side is the cost at $270.  But, if you have the $, you can’t do any better than this tarp.  If you don’t need all that space, MLD makes the smaller Grace Solo Spectralite Tarp too.

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