EQUIPMENT FOR HIKING, BACKPACKING, AND CAMPING
I am sure all of us have some equipment that we think is the best possible and that we could not live without. After 40 years hiking, backpacking, doing some climbing, and kayaking, I have amassed equipment that I am very happy with, think is the best available for me and wish to share that knowledge. Hopefully this generates a lot of discussion and other recommendations from other KMC members. I could aggregate it (email@example.com) or possibly we could create a forum on the KMC website. The goal is to produce a list of equipment that other members could use when purchasing new stuff facilitating the best purchases in the future. Climbing gear and winter touring equipment should be added but I have little expertise in these areas.
Should be large enough to carry all your gear, but not so large that you are tempted to fill all that extra space with gear you really don’t need. Fit is paramount.
1. Deuter Futura Vario 50+10. This pack is suitable for weekend trips or longer trips where equipment is being shared. I recently used it on five day backpacking when I was alone (so had stove, pots and my one man MSR Hubba tent, the pack was maxed out but quite satisfactory). I also use it as my travelling pack and it is perfect. It’s one negative is the difficulty carrying tents and sleeping pads on the outside. The only place for straps is on the top lid. The great features are:
Suspension system. I have never used a more comfortable pack – have never had any ache in my shoulders or hips and because of the adjustable nature of the system, can obtain the perfect fit.
Ventilation. There is mesh extending the entire length of the pack keeping sweat retention to a minimum.
Built in rain cover.
Pockets. There are 2 bellow pockets on sides with compression straps, 2 mesh water bottle holders on the side, a large top pocket (has clip for key) with an inside security pocket under the top pocket. Also a waterproof small map pocket on the back of pack, and a small pocket on right waist belt. There is a separate bottom compartment (suitable for relatively small sleeping bag).
Hiking pole loops plus ice axe loop.
Water bladder holder inside.
Light weight. The sophisticated suspension systems and unnecessary attachments often add unwanted weight to packs. This pack is relatively light – 4lb 10oz
2. Osprey Mens Aether 70: 70 liter, Medium 4lb15oz. Womens Ariel 65: 65 liter, Medium 4lb14oz. Have an adjustable frame that can be curved to fit your back, a removable top that doubles as a fanny pack, lightweight, and a firm hip hugging hip belt. (I have the Osprey Crescent 70 which is not nearly as comfortable as this pack, heavier and no longer available).
1. Deuter Futura 38 (they also make other sizes – 32, 34, 40 and 42 liter sizes) . This pack has all the features of the above backpack but is not adjustable so must be purchased in the right size. I like the 38 liter so that one can carry all the things necessary to be safe in the mountains.
2. Serratus Genie. These are no longer made so if you have one, don’t let it go. It is not a good daypack for general use as there is no padding on the shoulders, waist belt, or back – it is simply a large bag that came in 3 sizes. Because the entire pack stuffs into the small top pocket, it takes up very little space, and weighs as little as possible. Thus is the ideal daypack when backpacking, traveling or kayaking. There is a large inside pocket that can hold a Themarest seat deflated and folded in half to pad your back. It has 2 ice axe loops but no way to attach the top of the axe and I have added some Velcro straps. I have also added a chest strap.
1. Backpacking and Trekking (not technical mountaineering). Some people recommend replacing the provided insoles with Superfeet insoles.
Meindl Island Pro. These 2 piece leather upper boots are instantly comfortable and take little time to break in. The last is on the wide side so forefoot blisters are very rare and come in a narrower woman’s version. The Gortex lining provides perfect waterproofing. These boots are available only through AJ Brooks in Vancouver (across the street from MEC). I have resoled my now third pair 2 times and the upper is still in great shape.
I prefer low cut day hikers with relatively stiffer soles and these have them. XCR Gortex provides good waterproofing. An ample toe box provides lots of forefoot room.
GAITERS. Low ankle height gaiters are all that are necessary for most mountaineering. I wear them all the time as this keeps the inside of your boots clean prolonging their lifespan.
Black Diamond Cirque gaiters are the best (but relatively expensive) gaiters made.
Black Diamond. With the flip lock mechanism, these poles are bomb proof. I have had many pairs of Leki and Komperdel poles with a twist tightening mechanism and this system invariably fails eventually. I like the Alpine Carbon Cork poles – carbon fiber poles with cork handles. Poles with a spring cushioning seem unnecessary.
TENTS All weights are packed weight which includes the bags.
I like to use a footprint to protect the bottom but this may not be worth the added weight.
MSR makes many excellent tents for backpacking. With a one-pole system, they make for fast set up. The upper is all mesh reducing weight. The silicon fly can be mated with a separately purchased footprint eliminating the body of the tent and making for a very lightweight rain shelter (doesn`t keep out bugs and may not be good with very much rain). The fly overlaps the doors reducing the chance that water enters the tent when getting in. These tents have lots of headroom allowing easy sitting up for waiting out those long rainstorms on the coast. I once endured a day with 8 inches of rain and high winds on the Bunsbys on the west coast of Vancouver Island and stayed perfectly dry. Two varieties of the same tents with similar volumes are made by MSR, the new lighter Carbon Reflex series and the older heavier ‘Hubba’ s. I would definitely buy the Carbon Reflex tents now but they were not available when I bought my Hubba and Hubba Hubba.
1. Carbon Reflex 1 – 2lb 9oz, Carbon Reflex 2 – 3lb 6oz, Carbon Reflex 3 – 4lb 9oz
2. Hubba. One person tent just wide enough for one sleeping pad and some room at the foot for storage inside the tent, one door with an adequate vestibule. Weight 3lb 4oz Hubba Hubba. Two man tent, two doors on each side and two good size vestibules. Weight 4lb 8oz Mutha Hubba. Three man version. Weight 6lb 15oz.
3. MSR Nook. Two man tent. 3 lb 2oz. Not freestanding and uses a trekking pole for its setup.
Integral Designs. Made of ultra light silicone impregnated 30D Cordura nylon. Can be set up using either hiking poles or trees.
Siltarp 1. 5’x8’, 8oz.
Siltarp 2. 8’x10’, 14oz.
Siltarp 3. 10’x12’, 1lb 5oz.
Since 2013, many manufacturers have produced a hydrophobic down for use in their jackets and sleeping bags. It retains most of its insulating properties when wet and also dries fast like synthetics. The down is treated with a chemical water repellent so the down stays dry 10x longer, retains 170% more loft when wet and dries 30% faster. This is a huge advance as down when wet is completely useless.
The stats are exciting, and some major players in the outdoor gear industry have lined up for hydrophobic down. Down Décor has inked non-exclusive deals to partner DownTek with a slew of brands, including Big Agnes, Sea to Summit, Eddie Bauer, L.L. Bean, NEMO, and GoLite, just to name a few. Meanwhile, DriDown is staying in the Sierra Designs/Kelty family, and Q Shield is exclusive to Mountain Hardwear. UK brand Rab has gone so far as to announce that from Fall 2013 on, all of their down products will use a NikWax version of hydrophobic down. Staying true to their slogan, ZPacks is offering customers the option of having their custom order sleeping bags filled with hydrophobic down at no additional cost, noting, of course, that the treatment will add an average of 1 ounce in weight to the bag.
Next time you are in the market for a new bag or down puff jacket, this would be the way to go.
1. Western Mountaineering makes a complete line of down (with the best 800 to 850 fill down) and polyester fill bags some with Gore Windstopper fabric. The down bags pack extremely small. Visit their web site (westernmountaineering.com), pick out an appropriate bag and then order through MEC. The 2°C Highlite, with a partial zipper comes in at one pound. The Mitilite is a 4 degree semi-rectangular bag that is excellent for traveling. It makes a great comforter and is quite serviceable for most summer camping. At 1 lb 10oz, it packs very small and fits in the smallest pack sleeping bag compartment. I have used this in freezing temperatures at 4200m and was warm. The minus 10°C Ponderosa MF is a semi-rectangular bag that I also have 2 lb 11oz.
A major advantage of the semi-rectangular bags is the ‘Summer Coupler’. It is a cotton polyester sheet with two sleeves on the back to hold two sleeping pads and a zipper on around the outside of the sheet that mates perfectly with the zipper on their semi-rectangular bags. This makes a great system to sleep with your partner and carry only one bag. Although semi-rectangular bags are heavier than mummies, they provide roomy comfort for those who find mummy bags claustrophobic or are simply big people.
2. North Face Cats Meow. This 20°F synthetic mummy bag is what I use for kayaking where getting your bag wet is more likely, and disastrous with down.
3. Marmot Hydrogen. 850 fill down, the lightest available, water resistant Pertex Quantum shell. 1 lb 12oz.
SLEEPING BAG CARE
Protect your sleeping-bag investment. You can keep your bag in top condition for many camping or backpacking seasons to come.
On the Trail
Keep your sleeping bag clean and dry. Accumulated body oils, sweat and dirt can rob your sleeping bag of its insulating power. Tips:
• Sleep in clean clothes. Best is long underwear, socks and a hat. If it’s warm out, wear clean cotton clothes to bed. Just don’t fall into bed in the same clothes you hiked in. You’ll drag dirt into the bag with you, and you’re likely to sleep colder because of accumulated perspiration.
• Avoiding sleeping in the clothes you cooked and ate in—especially if you’re in bear country.
• Consider using a sleeping bag liner. Liners weigh little and keep your bag clean. Plus, they add about 5° F to 15° F to your bag’s temperature rating. At the end of each trip, wash the liner and you’re good to go again.
• Air out your sleeping bag daily. Even if you have to wait till midday to do so, turn it inside-out to dry out any moisture. Don’t leave a bag in direct sunlight for very long, as UV light slowly degrades the fabric. But if your bag gets really wet, it may be necessary to air it out for several hours.
Tips for using a stuff sack:
• Use a larger stuff sack to make stuffing easier. You can still pack around the stuff sack inside your backpack.
• Compression stuff sacks save space in your pack; just avoid compressing your bag for an extended period as it will reduce the bag’s loft.
• For easier stuffing, start with the foot first and the zipper at least partially closed. Push the bag firmly into the bottom of the stuff sack and stuff evenly as you go up. This also puts even stress on the stitching.
• Wet weather? Line a nylon stuff sack with a plastic garbage bag and then stuff the sleeping bag in it. Or use a waterproof stuff sack.
Any time you wash a sleeping bag, you subject it to wear and tear and decrease the loft a little. Spot cleaning the shell with a paste of laundry detergent, water and a toothbrush is advised before washing the whole thing.
Focus on the hood and collar where hair and skin oils tend to accumulate. By holding the shell or liner fabric away from the insulation, you can wash and rinse the area without getting the inside wet.
If your bag is losing loft, is darkened with grime and basically no longer inhabitable, then by all means give it a full washing.
Many people prefer to have their bag professionally laundered. Tip: Dry cleaning is not appropriate for sleeping bags, especially down. Solvents used in dry cleaning can strip the natural oils from down that help it retain loft. Solvents are also very difficult to remove from synthetic insulation.
If you decide to wash your bag yourself, use a gentle, non-detergent soap that is made for washing down- and synthetic-filled items.
• Down: For down bags, hand-washing in a bathtub works best. Fill the tub with warm water and add one of the above-recommended cleaners. Put the bag in and gently work in the soap, then allow it to soak for 15 minutes. Drain the tub and press out any remaining water. In a cold-water rinse, work the soap out gently, let the bag sit for 15 minutes and drain. Press out any remaining water. Repeat the rinse until all the soap is out. It’s also possible, (according to some bag manufacturers) to machine wash a down bag, as long as a front-loading washer is used. Never use an agitator-style machine as the motion can damage the stitching and insulation. Make sure to wash on the gentle cycle in cool water with one of the aforementioned down soaps.
• Synthetics: Synthetic bags can be washed in the same way. Hand-wash in a bathtub, or use a large, front-loading washer with no agitator. Use cool water and mild soap. Rinse several times to make sure all the soap is removed. An extra spin cycle or an extractor may be used to remove excess water.
Air drying is the safest way to dry your bag, but obviously the longest. If you tumble dry your bag, use very low heat or a no-heat setting and keep an eye on it. Dryers have varying heat outputs, so you need to check periodically to make sure the shell and insulation aren’t overheating, which can actually lead to melting. Add a couple of clean tennis balls when the bag is nearly dry. This will help break up any clumps of insulation and help restore the loft.
How you store your bag affects its lifespan. When you arrive home from a trip, first air out the bag inside-out to make sure it’s dry. Then store loosely in a large cotton storage sack—often included when you purchase a sleeping bag, but also available separately (REI Storage Bag is shown above).
Do not store your bag compressed in its stuff sack as this will eventually damage the fill. Watertight storage bags are also a bad idea. Condensation can build up inside and result in mildew.
After having many Thermarests, I have found the Exped line of mats much more comfortable, warmer and pack smaller. The top is a brushed polyester fabric is slip resistant and comfortable next to the skin. The filler can have down or synthetic insulation (cheaper and blows up faster). The mat comes with a built in hand pump so that moisture is not introduced into the mat when inflating. This takes longer and initially is more of a hassle but results in lighter pads that deflate to a very small size. An average of 120 pumps is required to inflate my Exped Down Mat 7 that is 77.5 inches long, weighs 40.6oz and has an R value of 5.9. A much easier method is to use the Exped Schnozzle – a nylon tube that connects the pump to an air tight bag – can inflate in 2 large bag fulls of air. The inflated mat looks much more like an air mattress with far greater comfort than a Thermarest but provides excellent insulation on snow. I carry a very light polyester pillowcase that can be stuffed with your down jacket for great comfort. One can copy the pattern using heavier fleece and sew a much more luxurious pillow.
There is a huge choice here.
1. MSR Dragonfly. This white gas stove also burns kerosene and gas. Its major advantage over other stoves is its ability to simmer. Add a diffuser plate and food never burns with care. A complete field repair kit is available so that any problem can be easily remedied out in the wilderness. With an Outback Oven and using up to three diffuser plates stacked on top of each other, any food can be cooked without burning. One negative of this stove is that it is extremely loud and is relatively expensive. Weight 1lb 2 oz.
2. MSR Pocket Rocket. 3 oz canister stove, simmers well but not great in the cold.
3. Biolite Campstove. This brilliant stove burns wood (twigs, pine cones) that you collect as you walk and generates electricity. It uses heat to generate its own electrical power via a small thermal electric generator that gathers heat from a copper rod that sticks into the fuel chamber, and with a little electronic wizardry transforms the energy into electricity. This keeps the lithium-ion battery charged that is used to power an internal fan and provides electricity that is tapped through a USB port. You can charge a cell phone, GPS, e-book reader, or other electronic device. If the device requires more than a two-watt power draw, the stove will intermittently charge it. The power output is rated at 2 watts at 5 volts; 20 minutes of charging will provide 60 minutes of talk time on an iPhone. Practical use gave a 10% increase in iPhone charge after 30 minutes of charging and two discharged 1.5 volt NiMH AA batteries gained .4 volts after 30 minutes of charging. The fan forces air into the chamber to increase burning efficiency. The fan, thermal electrical generator and battery are housed in an orange plastic power module that easily attaches to the stove body’s side, a vented fire chamber designed for super efficient burning.
Think small, enclosed campfire versus conventional liquid gas stove. Collect fuel before you start cooking and sorting it into tinder, kindling, and larger primary fuel. Requires watching and tending the fire as it burns. Like a campfire, it requires progressively larger pieces of fuel until the fire is hot enough to burn your primary fuel. Twigs and dried grass are fine for starters, but burn quickly so quickly you’ll constantly be adding more. Once the fire is going, add dry fuel that has some mass: dense woods such as oak, maple and birch are preferable to fir or pine. one and two inch diameter sticks less than 6 inches long work well. The fire chamber is 3″ wide and just over 6″ long, so a small saw is handy for trimming longer sticks to fit. Cooking is like over a campfire, but the fan’s three speeds (off, low and high) do give some rudimentary heat control. The stove generates ash but is manageable after 30 minutes of use. After an hour, the ashes need to be dumped (careful as the stove is hot). Flames can get higher than traditional stoves, and if green wood or if too much fuel is stuffed into the stove (blocking the vents), a fair amount of smoke is generated. Practice at home if relying exclusively for cooking and charging. In practice, using dry beach driftwood about 1″ in diameter, adding every 4-5 minutes so the chamber was always 1/2 to 3/4s full, with the fan on high, a liter of water boiled in 9 minutes. It saves weight as you don’t have to carry fuel (8.25 x 5 inches and 2lb 15oz). It is useful at home for simple recharging when the power is out, and it works well for marshmallows. The stove could provide a viable alternative to traditional stoves especially if you have electronic devices that require charging. Combined with a traditional stove, it could be considered a backup for extended trips. An extra 2 lbs isn’t much in a kayak, and the ability to cook, boil water and produce electricity by burning biomass is appealing.
4. Alcohol Stoves. These use denatured alcohol (contains methanol that is very poisonous, isopropyl alcohol does not work well), available any where, can be carried in a cheap plastic bottle, non-explosive, and odorless. The stoves are reliable, fail proof (no parts to break down), very cheap, and require no maintenance. Disadvantages are decreased heat output (about ½ of white gas stoves) and thus are not good for a group, long trips, or for melting snow, have an invisible flame, and are cold sensitive). Many types are available.
a. Trangia Mini. A commercial Swedish made stove that comes with a .8 liter pot, costs $33 and weighs 330 gm.
b. Penny alcohol stove. This home made stove originally used the original Heineken beer can (no longer available) but the penny stove 2.0 can be built using 2 regular beer or pop cans (jureystudio.com/pennystove).
3. Zen stoves. This great web site (zenstove.com) shows many ways to make alcohol stoves from pop cans.
Backpackers Pantry Outback Oven. This is the only foolproof way to bake over a stove. I was on a guided kayak trip in New Zealand and the guide and owner used his oven for something in every meal – pizza, cake, you name it – anything that you bake at home. He had an old, not made anymore 12” outback oven that had more capacity (but he was always cooking for a group and needed the large size). To prevent burning, he would stack up to 3 diffuser plates each with a riser bar. A great idea for the gourmet.
Go to Backpackerspantry.com for complete info and many recipes. The system consists of a “pot parka” that fits over the whole things and holds heat in, a “scorch buster”, basically a diffuser plate, a riser bar that snaps into the diffuser plate to hold the pot above the plate and flame, a pot and a lid, a reflector plate that sits under the flame to direct the heat upwards, and a thermometer that screws into the lid of the pot.
Outback Oven Ultralight. 9.5 oz. $47.90. Has 8” pot parker and no pot with lid.
Outback Oven 10”. 26oz. $79.90
NOLS method. Stack rocks near stove at level of burner. Place covered pot on burner so ¼ is over a low flame and ¾ is on the rocks. Every 2-3 minutes, give the pot a ¼ turn so a new section is over the flame. Keep rotating till done. I’m not sure how well this works. NOLS is the ultimate minimalist organization.
Fire on top method. Make a pyramid shaped fire using palm-length sticks on the lid of the cooking pot and a stove on low under the whole thing. I think the only result will be a scorched lid.
Dutch Oven Cooking
This is an all in one portable camp cooking utensil, that can function as a kettle, pot, oven or a frying pan. It roasts, braises, bakes or slow cooks. It especially works for groups of four or more. The classic Dutch oven is cast iron, heavy, thick and flat on the bottom, has 3 short legs to allow air to get to the coals below the oven, and a tight-fitting flat lid with a lip to hold coals on top of the pot for all-around baking heat. A metal bail lets you suspend the oven from a tripod for simmering. Aluminum ovens are about 1/3 of the weight, rustproof, require no seasoning, and easy to clean, don’t retain heat as long as cast iron, but heat up faster. GSI Outdoors makes a 10-inch model that nests inside a 12-inch oven with feet. A carrying case holds the ovens in one handy unit.
Charcoal briquettes are recommended over a wood heat source as they provide consistent, long-lasting heat. A single briquette is roughly equivalent to increasing the oven temperature by 20 degrees F. Figure on 18-20 briquettes to bring the oven to 350-375 degrees, a temperature sufficient to bake most any dish. Cold temperatures, wind, and altitude increase the number of briquettes. Practice is key to controlling the heat. One method uses the ‘rule of threes’: take the diameter of the oven in inches and subtract 3 for the number to place under the oven; add 3 to the diameter for the number to go on the lid – for a 12″ oven that would be 15 briquettes in a ring on the outer lip of the lid and 9 in a circle underneath. This creates a uniform temperature and less likelihood of burning the food. Keep some spare coals on the sidelines for meals with longer cooking times and replace briquettes as you cook. Timing takes practice. Instant light briquettes are infused with starter fluid eliminating the need for carrying it. Count out each meal’s worth of coals and store them in plastic freezer bags that are then placed in a 10 liter dry bag (a 10-pound bag of briquettes can provide 6 dinners for 5 campers.
Prepare the coals by stacking into a pyramidal shape, light them and allow to preheat. Once the coals have a line of gray ash, use tongs to transfer them to the oven. Avoid the temptation to remove the lid to avoid losing heat and depend on the aroma of the food to tell you when its done.
Additions: Long handled tongs distribute the charcoal, pliers to remove the lid, BBQ lighter, large serving spoon, small plastic scraper for cleanup, a wire tripod to use as a stand for the 10″ legless model. A fire pan can be made from lightweight aluminum roasting pans. Use 3 rocks to serve as a lid rest. To prevent sticking and for easier clean-up, use oil to coat the oven and parchment paper cut into rounds when baking breads and cakes. When baking cakes, breads or pastries, rotate the oven a quarter turn every 15 minutes to prevent hot spots. Use large zip-locks to mix ingredients in for baking. The lid, turned upside down on a bed of coals, can be used for frying or grilling. Vacuum sealed bags are good ways to carry ingredients.
Resources: 1. “The Outdoor Dutch Oven Cookbook” by Sheila Mills (225 tasty often gourmet recipes). 2. “A Fork in the Trail” by Laurie Ann March (uses dehydrated ingredients. 3. honeyvillegrain.com has discount, bulk items with hard-to-find foods. 4. gsioutdoors.com for ordering Dutch ovens and accessories.
Avoid ice. Cloudy water should be strained using a coffee filter or bandana.
Bottled water. This is expensive and creates a pollution problem with the plastic bottles. Check the seals as the bottle may have been refilled.
Boiling. At sea level, 1 minute is sufficient, at 5,000 feet, 3 minutes is necessary. In some countries like Nepal, it uses valuable resources like wood.
Halogens. Efficacy depends on concentration of the chemical, temperature of the water, and contact time. Chlorine gives flavor and may not kill Giardia cysts. Halozone requires 6 tablets/liter, loses effectiveness when exposed to warm, humid air, and does kill cryptosporidium. Iodine better than chlorine on all counts but may not kill cyclosporidia and some E coli. There are many products. The best may be betadine 4 drops/liter, wait 30 minutes. Adding vitamin C, 50mg, renders the water nearly flavorless.
Filtration. The efficacy depends on the size of the pores in the filter. No taste. Disadvantages are micro cracks or eroded channels decrease effectiveness, the filter can become contaminated, doesn’t work for viruses, expensive and bulky, and many travel filters don’t remove E coli, the most common cause of problems. Its best use may be to remove sediment and organic debris so that one of the halogens works better.
UltraViolet. Kills everything including viruses and protozoa like giardia and cryptosporidium. The maximum amount that can be treated is 1 liter. UV only works on clear water and best to swirl the water around while treating. Takes at least 30 seconds for 1 liter.
Steripen makes many products. The Journey weighs 4.5oz, uses two CR123 batteries which are very expensive, and takes 48 seconds to sterilize 1 liter of water. The Freedom is for travel, weighs 2.6oz and has a rechargeable battery. The Traveler weighs 5.7oz and uses AA batteries. The Adventurer Opti weighs 6.8 oz and comes with a solar recharger. The Classic comes with a prefilter.
A basic principle is to use no cotton. It is difficult to dry when wet, relatively heavy and not wicking. The only exceptions to this are cotton bandanas and possibly cotton underwear although merino wool boxers are very good and comfortable next to the skin. Most synthetic fabrics are now odor resistant and don’t accumulate BO.
Down puff jackets are the lightest and most compressible. Can’t get wet but fleece doesn’t dry very fast either and is quite bulky. There are many great products here. Look for waterproof down products.
North Face Summit Series. With 800 fill down and very light nylon, this extremely light jacket stuffs into its left side pocket. If the light nylon gets any pin holes or tears, I use appropriately colored nail polish to plug the hole efficiently. This jacket would not be warm enough for winter use. It also is the most comfortable thing to stuff your backpacking pillowcase with.
I have carried an umbrella for 20 years but have not been able to find another and now have a very strong one I bought at the Umbrella Shop on Granville Island.
Rain jackets. Essential features are lightweight, underarm zips and as breathable a fabric as is possible. Avoid lined jackets to save weight and increase breathability (this jacket is only for rain and wind protection and not warmth). New types of Gortex seem to appear frequently. My 3 layer Gortex jacket was the most breathable available 5 years ago and I am not sure if better Gortex is now available. The lightest non-Gortex jacket is the Marmot Precip (no lining, no thicker fabric across the shoulders, and no synthetic lining around the neck adding weight and volume), and my present favorite. Ponchos are popular in some circles but are difficult to get on over your pack alone and difficult to take off. Most are also non-breathable fabric and cause excessive sweating. A pack rain cover works better anyway.
Marmot Driclime. This light fleece lined nylon jacket has no pockets or accessories and weighs little. It is a great jacket when a little extra warmth and/or wind protection is needed.
General principles are only light colors preferably white (when hot out they are much cooler), and for sun protection a zip T neck and long sleeves (reflective long sleeves in a garment that wicks well are cooler than short sleeves in hot weather). The zip T can always be unzipped and the sleeves rolled up. There are hundreds of choices and choices are very individual and style driven.
MEC silk weight underwear. These are the lightest wicking tops made.
Prada (MEC) makes a much more esthetically pleasing top and has a basic cream color with light colored accents
I believe that a 2 sock system is the best to prevent blisters. The best light inner wicking sock is the Wigwam Ultramax (I own 9 pair) and they come in black or white and never seem to wear out. Easy to wash they dry quickly if washing them on a long backpack.
The thicker outer socks are best made of a wool nylon blend that is warm even when wet, cushioning, and much longer wearing than wool alone. Dahlgren Backpacking socks are merino wool.
Make sure to bring your sock system to the store when buying boots so that fit and sizing is correct.
EMERGENCY LOCATOR BEACONS
Emergency locator beacons are obviously the best things to have if help is needed. Spot allowed outbound communications to provide tracking and emergency response via satellite. A major limitation was it allowed only one way communication and was very limited in the information one can send.
De Lorme Inreach is a 2 way satellite communicator with 2 way texting for SOS and personal communication. It can track your location anywhere in the world. Paired with iPhone, iPads, iPods or Android phones and tablets, one can use the keyboard t send and receive messages. With no device, you get up to three pre-loaded messages, SOS in emergencies, and has automatic location tracking every 10 minutes. Delivery confirmation means you’ll know when your message is received. When coupled with the De Lorme Earthmate PN-60W GPS, it allows outbound and inbound messages with it’s internal keyboard and message screen. An app called Earthmate enables free downloads of De Lorme Topo maps for all of North America and NOAA nautical maps (but not Canadian Marine Charts. A subscription is required to use. The lowest cost package of $14.95/month plus a charge per text (of 95 cents) abd reacj oiubt (25 cents) or an expedition rate of $49.95/month with a limit of 250 texts.
Cell phones, UHF Radios, walkie talkies and satellite phones (very heavy and thus impractical) have value depending on location. Lighting a safe fire is useful 24 hours a day.
Without power, your gadgets are backcountry paperweights. And that can happen in a day when you’re navigating with a phone or a GPS.
1. SOLIO CLASSIC2 SOLAR CHARGER
This three-panel charger’s big battery and large solar panels allow it to collect enough juice in a day (eight hours in full sun, 10 hours for our tester in partial sun) to fully charge three smartphones. This sandwich-sized unit weighs in at just a tick over 10 ounces—it’s super packable and has the best power-to-weight ratio of the units we tested.
The device provides the same juice as a standard wall charger, while optimizing energy transfer for Apple devices and standard USB chargers (a unique feature we haven’t seen elsewhere) to enhance output efficiency. Fire up the Classic2 by clicking the single button and you’ll know exactly where it stands: The button flashes indicators of existing battery life, charging status, and output levels. For optimal charging, prop the panels with the included pencil, and rotate until they’re shadowless. $100; 10.1 oz.; solio.com
I believe an umbrella is essential hiking equipment. All rain jackets including ponchos result in sweating. You end up almost as wet as if not wearing a jacket. An umbrella allows you to shed that jacket and wear only the clothing necessary to keep one warm. In some environments (the Pacific North West of North America) where it rains a lot, an umbrella is undispensable. When the rain is intermittent, simply fold it up and carry it in one hand. Good umbrellas can deal with moderate wind and are good at blocking the wind, but always be careful which way you point. Inverting an umbrella may destroy it.
Always put it out extended to allow it to dry. Umbrellas rust easily.
Useful features are:
a. A non-pinch opening mechanism. Instead of pushing the locking mechanism through a hole that can snag your skin, the locking mechanism on these umbrellas is a neat twist-and-push contraption. It’s super easy to use and can be done with gloves.
b. A comfy foam handle to comfortably gripped the handle with a compass at the tip. During hours of use, my hands easily and.
c. A sleeve for storage. Pack it up after a shower without worrying about getting wet.
d. Small size. Length is the most important.
1. EuroSchirm Birdiepal
euroSCHIRM claims their Outdoor umbrella is “the strongest trekking umbrella of the world – nearly unbreakable.” Five dollar Chinatown umbrellas don’t have anything on the birdiepal – and, in fact, no umbrella I’ve come across is anything like the Outdoor.
Made of high-density fiberglass, the frame got my attention because it has the absolute minimum metal parts necessary – something that is extremely attractive when backpacking in lightening storms. The ridiculously strong frame is furthered by a polyamide fabric that is double-stitched at segments and completed with safety tips at the ends. Crash through thorn bushes, bounce off trees and pull it through thick brush. This umbrella withstands tough use. With string reinforcement on the joints of the spines, I doubt this umbrella could flip inside out. The only drawback: it is heavy, clocking in at 13.3 ounces.
2. Swing Liteflex
This umbrella, considered, rather vaguely, “the world’s lightest trekking umbrella of its kind,” is a great combination of durability and lightness. It offers the same fiberglass ribs, with an even lighter fiberglass stick that makes it flexible and damage resistant. After the same kind of use as the Outdoor, through branches and thorns, the lightweight polyester fabric resists tearing. It is coated with Teflon, which made the beading properties incredible. If ultralight is your thing, then you’ll probably want to sacrifice some durability and go elsewhere.
3. Telescope Handsfree
This completely awesome umbrella uses two velcro loops with the umbrella clip to either strap of your backpack, swivel to open and then swivel to close the two telescoping parts to get it at the right height and slip the wrist loop through your hip belt to secure. In less than two minutes you are ready to go hands free.
It stays where it was supposed to with no problem and hardly moves when walking. It was easily adjustable.
HEADLAMP. Petzl Zipka. The lightest headlight made.
SUNSCREEN. Ombrelle 30 Sport. This clear, sweatproof sunscreen does not go on greasy, is fast drying, and protects for both UVA and UVB. I can’t stand creams as they feel so sticky on my skin.
INSECT REPELLANT. The only effective repellants contain DEET. It is safe for everyone but is not recommended for infants.
It is often difficult to wash effectively when on long trips in the wilderness and BO can be a real problem. You may not believe it but it is possible to never get BO. The product is a very strong antiperspirant called Drysol (20% aluminum chlorhydrate in anhydrous alcohol). The instructions say that it should be applied once daily at night but I rarely use it more than once a week and after applying for a long time, can get by without using for up to 2 weeks (you know quickly when its effect has worn off). I have used it for 25 years and believe it is completely safe (aluminum has been shown to not cause dementia). It works like any antiperspirant by blocking the secretion of apocrine sweat glands that are necessary for life only for producing pheromones if you believe that BO is sexually attractive. Apply on dry skin with your hands at bed and have a normal shower in the morning. Use the same old t-shirt after applying as the hydrochloric acid released by the product will destroy clothing. You never need to use a deodorant or any other sticky things in your pits again. It also works okay for sweaty feet or hands. Plastic wrap can be used after application and kept on overnight to improve efficacy.
Tenacious Tape Ultra Strong Repair Tape
Leukotape P Sports Tape. Prevents Blisters