IT'S SIMPLE PHYSICS
Making an effort to put together an ultralight backpacking kit will reap you immeasurable rewards. You’ll be able to travel more efficiently in greater comfort with less fatigue. With every extra pound of weight you carry, the effort required to move it increases.
SOME STATEMENTS ABOUT GEAR
THAT CARRY SOME WEIGHT
Whether you’re a backpacker, thru hiker, backcountry packrafter, bikepacker, climber, or world traveler, the one thing everyone could all give three cheers to is the mighty pack. No one is getting very far in their pursuits without one that’s accommodating, dependable, and comfortable. As you might expect, we’ve got a few opinions of our own about what differentiates a knapsack from a true mobile home, and evidence from others that we might be on to something.
A GOOD NIGHT’S REST IS AS IMPORTANT AS ANY OTHER PIECE OF BACKPACKING GEAR
What could be said about the importance of a quality sleeping bag or quilt that wouldn’t be universally understood? There’s a lot at risk with a tired body and mind in the wild. The near-universal temperature rating system for bags can be subjective to each user, so for the sake of this symposium, we’ll consider sleeping bags or quilts that would be used in conditions that most users would consider “reasonable.” Shapes and insulation types are also personal choices, so we’ll let our panel here make a case for their favorites, and let you wrap up what’s best for you.
KEEPING MOISTURE AT BAY WHEN YOU STRUT YOUR STUFF
We talk a lot around here about efficiency, but to clarify, it’s not solely about robotic, austere speed. More than anything it’s about knowing the contents of your kit inside and out, spending as little time as possible digging all the way to the bottom of your pack for a jacket when the drops start falling or having to empty out everything to perform one task. While unlocking the mysteries of a “junk drawer” in your kitchen at home can be a great way to jog some dusty memories, it’s far from enjoyable out in the wild. Stuff Sacks help you keep similar items together in ways that make sense for the ways you use them and just as importantly, add an extra barrier of protection against water-logged clothing and sleep systems – especially crucial in colder temps.
TAKE YOUR SHELTER AND GO HOME
From pyramids to tarps to as-of-yet-unnamed geographic shapes, there are plenty of options and degrees by which you can protect yourself from the elements. At their core, that’s a shelters most basic job. But there are other less tangible effects of having a great mobile space; familiarity, comfort, livability, and even in a “can’t-see-me-if-I-can’t-see-you” kind of way, security from creatures of all shapes. Ease of use, durability, and the ability to get safe quick also heighten the shelter/owner relationship, and a strong bond can alleviate a lot of trepidation as you venture deeper into the unknown. There are compelling arguments for a wide variety of shelters, so we’ll let our panel here give their pitches.
THE ONLY THINGS BETWEEN YOU AND THE COLD, HARD GROUND
If you’re the type of person that can fall asleep anywhere, or you have a propensity to push yourself in your chosen pursuits until you can fall asleep anywhere, you might not give much attention to sleep pads. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! A good sleep pad can help provide actual rest – a need as critical as any other piece of gear – as well as insulation from the cold ground. Arguments can be made for air mattresses or closed-cell foam, so we’ll let our panelists make them.
A HIKER MARCHES ON THEIR STOMACH
Alcohol stoves, small burners screwed into fuel canisters, JetBoils, and even open fires. There are quite a few choices when it comes to heating and cooking food outdoors. Each one’s success can depend on the skill of the user, the location, and the type of food you want to eat, as well as other factors like the number of people in your party or the availability of the fuel required for their operation. Since a hiker marches on their stomach, it’s important to carefully consider the options.
ACCESSORIES FOR THE CHIEF COOK AND BOTTLE WASHER
A trusted mug, pot, or spoon can be favorite pieces of gear in a backpacker’s kit. Despite discoloration from flames, dents, dings, and permanently burned in food, a good piece of cookware is often retirement-proof. In the realms of ultralight, a good item should be able to serve a few roles. Can it be used for eating food and your morning magic motion potion? Can it serve as a container for your stove and utensils when not in use? And how will this kitchen be carried? The selection of these essential bits can be easy to obsess over because at the end of a long day, few things in your pack will bring you as much joy.
LETTING THE GENIE OUT OF YOUR HYDRATION VESSEL
Consider that a liter of water weighs close to two lb. What you carry that essential liquid in shouldn’t add to that already substantial weight. There are two options; Bottles or bladders. There are pros and cons to both, some not as obvious as others, but one thing should be clear – well, two things actually, your water is hopefully clear – but you’ve got to stay hydrated to keep moving.
MOUTH WATERING HYDRATION TIPS
Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink? Not likely. There are myriad ways to ensure that if there’s some of that precious liquid around, you’ll be able to safely gulp it down. There are pump filters, gravity filters, squeeze filters, UV Pens, treatment tablets, and or drops. How much time do you have? How physical do you want to get? How much is taste an issue? How many people do you travel with? Let’s dive in.
ANTS IN YOUR PANTS TO GET OUTSIDE (WITHOUT ACTUAL ANTS)
The right clothing setup can make or break your pursuits – simple as that. The wrong ensemble can absorb sweat and water, restrict movement, make you vulnerable to bug attacks, and smell like the contents of a fish monger’s laundry hamper cooked on high in a microwave. With the technological advancements available in today’s outdoor apparel market, it’s entirely possible to put together a wardrobe of super-versatile clothes that will do none of the above. But some of the oldest fabrics – like wool – can achieve the same outcomes. It all comes down to preferences, and our people in this Shakedown have theirs.
CONSIDERATIONS IN LIGHT OF THE DARKNESS
If you’re staying out past dark, or even if you didn’t plan on staying out, having a good headlamp in your kit can be the difference between safety and your own version of the Blair Witch Project. Then there’s cooking, gathering firewood, answering Nature’s Call, looking at maps – its fundamental needs are most obvious when you don’t have it. There are a lot of features to consider, and we’ll shed some light on them
IF I HAD A HAMMER
Like headlamps, you’ll never know how perfect a small multi-tool would be for the conundrum at hand until you don’t have it. There are too many variations on the multi-tool to count, but if you’ve been reading this series, you’ll already know that we like to avoid redundancy in our kits, and we like to keep things simple. So, in this case, multi-tool could mean an item with a few functional bits that fold out, or a tool with multiple uses.
QUADRUPEDALISM – IS GOING BACKWARDS GOING FORWARDS?
One of the easiest ways to reveal where your pack and accessory weight is vs. your center of gravity is by hiking without trekking poles. On uneven ascents or descents, relying on balance alone – especially over extended mileage – can put unforeseen demands on muscles that can compound into real, sometimes debilitating pain over time. Trekking poles can give your moving mass stability, distribute joint stress, and give other muscles a chance to pitch into your momentum efforts. So, is the case for using them a slam dunk? Not necessarily. We’ll let everyone share their points.
PROPER PLANNING FOR A CLEAN GETAWAY
There’s the “must’ve been out for a hike” scent, and then there’s the “thawed out from permafrost after a thousand years” aroma. Depending upon how long you’ve been out doing what you do, and how frequently you get a chance to wrastle a bar of soap, your presentation can be somewhat arresting. Inconsistent personal maintenance can also govern your ability to comfortably sleep and keep bacteria, viruses, or illness at bay. How does one achieve a modicum of freshness in the wild? It’s a personal thing we’re lucky our guests for this round of The Shakedown are willing to share.