Aug 21, 2013 at 6:14 am #1306774
I am a new member, thrilled to discover this community. Sept 3 I am joining 3 friends to hike the Wonderland Trail. I have to scramble some gear and am reading about UL methods. My budget is modest and my hiking friends have heavy gear I can use as needed. I see this hike as a chance to learn tarps and systems, then get more gear for next season.
I am thinking to order a Jam 50 and umbrella from GoLite, and post a WTB here for a decent quality 30* down bag and tarp. Starter gear, not top-end. I would like your thoughts and suggestions, generally for my approach as a newbie and specifically what to get as first gear items. Should my WTB post be only for specific items, or should I just give some general specs? What specs would you recomend?Aug 21, 2013 at 7:30 am #2017251
Typically, if you just posted a wtb thread titled something along the lines of "WTB some starter UL gear" you'll be fine. The specifications you wrote in your post would work great. There are tons of knowledgeable people around here who know how to take these descriptions, like "light 30-degree down bag", and sort the good from the bad to help you out.
You should be able to pick up a Jam pretty easily — they're on gear swap all the time. They're great packs, especially for someone starting out in the lightweight community. You should be able to find a bag pretty easily as well.
For 30-degree down bags, some good options would be any montbell spiral (super spiral, down hugger, etc.) #3 bag, Western Mountaineering Summerlite (might be a bit more expensive), and a number of GoLite bags. If you're considering quilts, that opens a lot more options.
For tarps, some good cheaper options are a MLD Grace, Solo/Duomid, or Patrol Shelter, or the 5.5×9 or 8×9 Borah Gear tarps (the most inexpensive options). I'm sure I'm forgetting a bunch of other options but those are just the first that come to mind. edit: Yama Mounta Gear makes some good inexpensive tarps as well.
If you're at all interested I'm trying to sell a 25oz Golite Adrenaline 1+ season bag.Aug 21, 2013 at 7:41 am #2017254
@vintagegentLocale: Galveston TX
First, congrats on your plans for the Wonderland Trail. It's one of the country's truly great hikes. You won't be disappointed.
A few questions and considerations to get you thinking:
(1) Since you're going as part of a group, how much of the gear will be shared? Will you have to bring your own stove and cook pot? Will you share a tent with someone who is already bringing one?
(2) You indicated that your budget is modest. How modest? That term is somewhat relative. One man's modest is another man's extravagant.
(3) Would you consider a quilt instead of a sleeping bag? There are several cottage gear makers who make nice quilts that will save you a bit of weight over a full bag. A search on here will lead you to several.
(4) Are you looking for a fully enclosed tent or only a tarp and groundsheet?
(5) Normally, I'm not a great fan of umbrellas for backpacking. Any kind of wind driven rain renders the umbrella virtually worthless.
Best of luck to you.Aug 21, 2013 at 8:23 am #2017259
@saparisorLocale: Pacific Northwest
Welcome to BPL! There are lots of great PNW folks here and, although it hasn't happened, there's always talk of getting together for some group hikes.
Going UL seems to really be about two things: (1) taking less stuff, i.e. developing the skill set to travel safe and comfortable while minimizing your gear and (2) buying lighter and smaller gear so that the stuff you do take allows you to travel light and focus on the trail. On the surface, it's more fun to buy new stuff and keep trying new options. However, every UL hiker has to do the former, too.
My suggestion would be to ease into UL for this particular trip — since it is happening in a week and a half — by working on paring down your existing gear. What can you get away with leaving at home? What redundancy can you take out of the gear list? This would be a great learning opportunity since you have others on the trip who can provide some safety measure. If you have time, post a gear list here (nothing fancy, just list everything!), so people can make suggestions. Then, when the pressure of the trip is off, you will have time to think about what pack or bag you want. It is mostly trial-and-error; few people seem to have a totally static gear list so you'll probably still go through a few different iterations before you find the right gear.
Edit: I hope that doesn't sound patronizing. You may have already thought about the Jam, in which case I can say I've never used it but it is used by quite a few hikers and the cost is excellent. I do have a Chrome Dome umbrella, which hasn't seen as much use as I thought it would, mostly because I carry trekking poles and have been limited to day hikes this summer when it wasn't too hot. I'm glad I have it, though, as an option and will continue to try it on different trips.Aug 21, 2013 at 8:43 am #2017262
First off, I know you say that money is an issue, but you don't want to be stuck with substandard gear and regret not buying the best/lightest gear. You end up with buyers remorse and have to unload all this gear that isn't meeting the needs of your new UL obsession. Most of us have been there. That being said, the recommendations below are in the price range of typical UL gear, but won't get you SUL.
Not a big fan of the Jam 50. Not a comfortable pack by any means. I've bought 2 GoLite packs and have returned/sold both. I'm a big fan of the Gorilla Gear Mariposa. A lot of people on these forums talk highly about the Elemental Designs Kalais. You'll get a lot of opinions about pack especially when you talk about frame vs. frameless. These are packs that are going to run a little more than a Jam, but not as exorbitantly expensive as something in cuben fiber.
You'll get mixed opinions about carrying an umbrella as many backpackers carry hiking poles. I personally carry one if I know I'm in for day after day of mild unrelenting rain. But I don't always carry it. GoLite is good. You can also check out the Mont Bell UL umbrella.
I HIGHLY recommend that you don't scrimp on a good sleeping bag. I have the Western Mountaineering Alpinlite bag (20 degree bag) and its worth every dime and then some. I'm personally not a big fan of quilts unless I use it as a blanket. I'm too restless of a sleeper to strap my pad inside.
Mattresses are another highly subjective area, because everyone sleeps different. Many people on this forum use the NeoAir xlite. I just returned mine because being a restless side sleeper I found the mattress too narrow. On the other hand, my wife loves hers. I've tried a light Gossamer Gear foam mat and it works great if you have a nice cushy site (which you can't count on). If I'm taking a sleeping pill this mat works great :). My next mattress will most likely be the Klymit Inertia X because its 25" wide.
Tarp vs. tent is a very preferential subject. We pack a lot in alpine terrain, often above the tree line and in an area notorious for man-eating mosquitos. Therefore, we like single-wall enclosed shelters. We also hike with a dog so we like more of a 3 person tent than a 2 person. Tarptent sells many tents that fit into this category and are very reasonably priced for the quality. A lot of solo hikers use the TT Notch. The Double Rainbow is popular for 2 person shelters. For 2-3 people the RainShadow 2 and Cloudburst 3 are solid options. There are other vendors out there producing tents in this price/weight range but TT is a great product with great service. There are so many companies out there that make tarps. I'll leave that for other people to discuss. If you are in an area with mosquito and vicious rain tarps can be less forgiving and then you need to think about a bivy sack. There are enclosed tarp-like shelters like the popular Zpacks Hexamid but they are very expensive.
Hope this is a decent primer.
Good luck!Aug 21, 2013 at 8:58 am #2017269
I'd suggest that you give trekking poles a try on this trip if you haven't used them before. Many parts of the trail are a superhighway with solid footing but there are other parts where the trekking poles saved my bacon when I hiked a section of it.Aug 21, 2013 at 9:07 am #2017275
Thank you very much! Great thoughts.
Yes, my two (3 was a typo) friends will carry the stove/kitchen gear. They have a tent that can hold all three of us in a pinch, which has allowed me a safety margin to gain experience with tarps. With this shared equip I decided I can go ahead and get the Jam 50L or similar and everything should (I hope!) fit.
I was hoping to limit my expense for pack/bag/tarp to $300 but could go over if I get a burst of confidence and enthusiasm :-). Generally I would rather spend later when I know better what I am doing and what I prefer.
I am intrigued by quilts only I feel it might be better to wait and try that out later. I suspect that is where I might end up.
For now I'd like to use a tarp and groundcloth and not a tent. I think the bivy is interesting, and ways of including netting with a tarp. As a general rule I would prefer to have simple materials (tarp, cloth, netting) that I can learn to configure solo in different ways, rather than a high-tech fixed piece of gear like a tent. That may change as I gain some experience.
Thank you for the feedback on umbrellas. My idea to try it out as a multi-use item: for sun, light rain, to add some protection at the opening of a tarp, and to throw some netting over around my head when sleeping. Just some guesses — I really have no idea until I try it out.
Steven, thanks for the welcome and very good (and practical) perspective. I realize I am going at this a little fast, but I have always been adventuresome and with my two hiking friends I hope it is safe. I don't have a kit of my own, having lived overseas for a long time and just recently returned to the PNW to look after my mom. So I reviewed gear lists with the idea of cutting out everything possible, borrowing what I could, buying cheapo stuff where possible, and shopping for a few major items needed. No doubt there will be a lot of lessons learned in this process!
Sara, I guess I will be postponing many of your excellent suggestions. In light of the above, any suggestions?
Ian, thanks. Yes, I will use borrowed heavy poles and see if I need two or if one is enough. I guess I will trade around with poles and umbrella.
Again many thanks to everyone, your input is precious.Aug 21, 2013 at 9:49 am #2017291
@brianleLocale: Pacific NW
I just yesterday finished hiking the western ~half of the Wonderland trail (Longmire to Sunrise). I used a 32F rated bag and was fine for most of it; my toes were a little cold the last night (at one of the higher elevation camps and a with clear sky at night). I suggest that with a Sept 3rd start that you bring something along the line of a 20F rated bag and adequate ground insulation — that mountain can make it's own weather. In August some years ago I was snowed/sleeted on and pretty cold one night there.
I think a tarp will be great; bugs were already dropping as an issue on the trip that I just finished.
Keeping your pack weight down is particularly nice on that trail insofar as you can; it's an excellent leg workout. One tends to think not so much in terms of miles hiked per day as in cumulative feet of elevation gain. Much of the trail quality is pretty good, but it's often steeper than allows for a sustainable pace without use of the rest step.
Trekking poles: if you're at all inclined, do bring a pair. My hiking partner seemed happy with just one, but again — there's a whole lot of often steep up and down.
One infrequent and minor challenge was getting water at night because the rivers are so full of silt. I filled my platypus with such water at one camp and waited a good half hour and saw no settling, so ended up walking a bit to fetch from a tributary stream. It's a good idea when you meet folks coming the other way in the mid-to-late afternoon to ask them where they suggest that you get clear water from at (or shortly before descending to) your camp.
Huckleberries were just getting ripe in a few places for my trip; hopefully you'll have a whole lot more! Best wishes for a 'wonder'ful trip.Aug 21, 2013 at 10:02 am #2017298
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
As an individual who bought "starter gear" that I replaced rather quickly (thus spending money twice instead of once) I tend to agree with Sara that you may want to reconsider that. I do understand you have budget concerns. If you can't afford the really good gear now period, then starter gear it will have to be. To minimize the long term pain, I strongly suggest you keep an eye on Gearswaps- both here and on other forums. If you buy used, and then later choose to sell the gear, you may be able to recoup 100% of your spend. If you buy new, you definitely will not. On the flip side, there are probably a lot of people that still have their starter gear and would sell it to you at a good price. I'd post up some WTB's (Wanted To Buy) on Gearswap and see what you get for offers. Definitely check out the person making the offer- most people on Gearswap are good, but there are a few folks who aren't. If they have previous items on Gearswap that they've sold, it's always good to review those threads to ensure that the buyer didn't come back and say they got burned by the seller. Another place to look specifically for a tarp would be the Bushcraft USA store http://www.bushcraftoutfitters.com/BCUSA-Tarps_c23.htm. You won't find cuben there, but they have some well priced silnylon tarps.Aug 21, 2013 at 10:18 am #2017304
maybe if youd like to try tarping on the cheap, you can review this long and lovely thread about inexpensive polycryo tarps. spend a bit of time making your own and save TONS of doughAug 21, 2013 at 10:58 am #2017319
I was wondering whether 30* was too light. Any other opinions? Rather than a heavier bag, would it make sense to wear more torso and toe insulation? Like a fleece jacket and second pair of socks. Or is it assumed one is already doing that?
I was planning to use 1/2" blue foam pad. Firmness is fine or me, but do you think it will be too cold? I have a thermarest Trail Pro, at 32 oz… really don't want to bring that!Aug 21, 2013 at 11:00 am #2017322
I did it last year UL ish and had the time of my life. So much so I am doing it again. I used the Granite Gear AC blaze and loved it. Saw a few others on the trail too. I would NOT use an umbrella.That may work other places, but Rainier is RAINYer than you may have hiked in before. GOOD LUCK! you are in for a real treat.Aug 21, 2013 at 12:44 pm #2017346
@lokbotLocale: Portland, OR
I did the WT earlier this month in 6 days. Bring Trekking poles. They are pretty essential on a trip with over 22,000 feet of elevation gain. You'll really like them for crossing pan handle gap. They just make your life easier.Aug 21, 2013 at 2:51 pm #2017374
If you want an expert on the Wonderland trail it is Stephen Burgess,you can pm him here ,he has hiked the trail at least 30 times and ultralight and has many videos on doing it these are a few Ultralight Backpacking to the Elysian Fields , You're a Wimp! lighten your pack load .here are some Wonderland info videos, Wonderland Trail: History and Highlights , Panhandle Gap Collage: scenes from various dates ,
Wonderland Trail Camps: Sunrise Walk In , Wonderland Trail Camps: White River Walk In , here is his web site.Mike Clelland has some great free videos on lightening up,this is an article he wrote The fastest way to backpack weight loss ,this is pmags Lightweight Backpacking 101 and The Frugal Backpacker – The $300 Gear Challenge .Aug 21, 2013 at 5:28 pm #2017427
Cheap tarp and bivy borah gearAug 21, 2013 at 5:57 pm #2017437
@saparisorLocale: Pacific Northwest
Great links to Steve's sites; he is a Seattle guy, too. Very knowledgeable, very nice.
Btw, "Link" above used to be a human named Anna. Even then, she could come up with a web link faster than anyone. Now, she has morphed into some kind of half-human half-machine, like RoboCop (but less violent) or the Borg Queen. Heck, she might even be the web itself, self-realized!
Her parents were sad that she changed until she commanded they get free high-speed Internet and free shipping for online purchases.Aug 21, 2013 at 6:02 pm #2017438
Steven, You weren't supposed to tell anyone ;) You made me laugh very hard !Aug 21, 2013 at 7:24 pm #2017453
"I was wondering whether 30* was too light. Any other opinions? Rather than a heavier bag, would it make sense to wear more torso and toe insulation? Like a fleece jacket and second pair of socks. Or is it assumed one is already doing that?
I was planning to use 1/2" blue foam pad. Firmness is fine or me, but do you think it will be too cold? I have a thermarest Trail Pro, at 32 oz… really don't want to bring that!"
I left the trail a couple weeks ago when my daughter twisted her ankle. 30* was more than sufficient for where we stayed. I'm returning next week to try and get a walk-up permit and will be returning with my 30* bag.
A couple gear changes are that I will bring my down sweater instead of the vest this time to supplement my sleep system. I keep a pair of silk weight long johns that I only wear when sleeping. I like to know that I'll have something warm and dry to change into after hiking in the rain.
I normally don't get cold feet but I learned a trick years ago to help with this for when I do. I put my feet inside my pack liner which give my feet a vapor barrier of sorts. Other people on here get the same benefit by putting bread bags over their feet.
I doubt that I'll bring anything for my legs (other than the silk weights) as I've never had a problem with them.
I've used a foam pad in four seasons with no problems. If you are absolutely certain that you're a warm sleeper then I'd say go for it. Foam pads are typically in the (edit) 2.5 R value range so if there is any doubt in your mind, I'd bring something with a higher R value and a 20* bag just to be safe.Aug 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm #2017478
All of this has been extremely helpful. I have quite some more homework to do reading and watching all of your links, Anna. All the ones on cheapo approaches were excellent. Thank you!
I will try for a better bag and pack on Gear Swap. I see that Sara's recs are really good after spending some time looking into them. Umbrella not necessary, poles a must. Bugs not an issue. Great.
Thanks again to all.Aug 22, 2013 at 9:55 am #2017586
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
Link- great links. Thanks!Aug 22, 2013 at 10:25 am #2017596
Thank You Dena :)
Here is another very good article where Jamie Shortt talks about his progression and shows his gear list for each stage, Lightweight Testimony: My Journey into Lightweight BackpackingAug 22, 2013 at 10:46 am #2017601
"I was wondering whether 30* was too light. "
This is another one of those questions that can often be filled with regret. It also depends a lot on how hot for cold of a sleeper you are.
For a 3 season bag I AM not a fan of 30 degree bags because we often backpack above the tree line in high elevations. Even with layering in my bag, I know I would be cold in a 30 degree bag. I have never been cold in my 20 degree WM Alpinlite. That being said, not all bags are the same. The reason I bought a Western Mountaineering bag is that they are known to be warmer than the advertised temps. Also, look for a continuous baffle design. This way you can move the down to the top of your bag where the insulation matters. Let your mattress insulate you on the ground since compressed down has very little insulation benefit. I read a lot of trailjournals.com of people on the JMT, PCT and AT, and you'd be surprised how often people complain about being cold at night…and this is during the spring and summer months! Another great thing about Western Mountaineering bags is that there is very little tradeoff between insulation and weight. Many other manufacturers make bags that are significantly heaver at the same temp rating (e.g. Marmot and Montbell bags). Feathered Friends makes the Hummingbird UL 20 degree bag that is on the comparable weight, price and features. There are others.
I do own a 30 degree quilt that I use if I'm going to be backpacking in the desert or low-lying regions.
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