As we close out the year, the BPL staff would like to share our favorite gear with you! These items are not a formal endorsement but rather a list of gear that our staffers use often. This year we have asked our staff to send us their choices related to ultralight backpacking, an outdoor activity, and an item related to their lifestyle.
Add your favorites in the forum below!
Ultralight Backpacking item: LaSportiva Anakonda
Taking a rest on the trail and admiring the shoes.
The Anakondas are perilously close to my ideal backpacking shoe. They have close to unequaled traction under all conditions. They have just enough padding and stiffness. They absorb little water and drain fast. The uppers are acceptably durable, by which I mean they’ll last about as long as the sole tread, which has heretofore been the shortcoming of every comparable shoe. My only issues are that that the minimally padded heal cup is a bit too unyielding, and that they’re expensive. I need to wear at least moderately padded socks or I get pinch blisters, and money spent on good shoes is the best way to spend gear funds. They won’t fit paddle feet, but those folks are catered to by many companies and don’t have my sympathy. If LaSportiva fixes the heel cup, I’ll have a pair of trail shoes as good as current technology allows, which after years of thrashing sub-standard shoes will be a strange sensation.
Weight: 12 oz per shoe in size 45 MSRP: $125
Outdoor activity item: Browning Citori 725 Feather 12 gauge shotgun
The gun and the latest kill.
In all fairness I didn’t backpack much with this paragon of function aesthetics, but I did hike enough miles carrying it this fall to get mild tendonitis in my left elbow. It killed a turkey, a number of squirrels and grouse, and a whitetail. The attention to flawless detail is amazing, and if it fits you as well as it fits me, you’ll get to experience a thoughtless union with a material object which is exceedingly rare (my only other comparable example is my Werner paddle, nominated here two years ago). Function alone doesn’t justify the sky-high price, my H&R single shot would have in most cases done the job just as well at 1/15th the price. But in a world where cheap, virtual experience has become the norm, some things are just worth the money.
Weight: 6 lbs 5 oz with 26 in barrels MSRP: ~$2,000 street price
Lifestyle item: 2011 Salsa Mukluk
Biking on a riverbed – a challenge without the right gear.
I got bored with mountain biking a few years ago, and it had nothing to do with riding. Rather, the experience of being hemmed in on singletrack and dirt roads couldn’t keep up with packrafting and alpine ridge traverses. Then I got a fatbike, and the world changed. I did beach trips. I rode the Flathead River corridor in early spring, pedaling gravel bars, flood channels, and game trails. Thanks to that change in perspective, this year I fatbiked wilderness trails almost unrideable on conventional bikes, and on a four day trip hiked my normal mountain over two 11,000 foot passes in the snows of early summer to link up rideable roads and trails. In even the most crowded areas there is no lack of fresh and interesting terrain, only a lack of fresh ways of seeing it. If a tool like a fatbike helps you do that, embrace it and be grateful. I’m not convinced there’s anything especially special about the Mukluk, other than that I found one at the right price at the right time. Fatbikes are exploding in popularity, which is driving down prices, making this a good time to buy. Most riders aren’t using them to their potential, but no matter where you live that potential is available, waiting to be unlocked if you can see it.
Weight: 25 to 35 lbs complete depending on the build MSRP: $400 to 500 for a comparable frameset in a increasingly competitive marketplace
Ultralight Backpacking Item: Tenkara USA Amago Rod
Tenkara USA Amago Rod.
With no prior fishing experience, I decided to try the Amago on the blue ribbon trout streams of southwest Montana. I caught a beautiful little rainbow on my first outing. The addiction was born. From then on, my lightweight backpacking trips quickly transformed into lightweight fishing trips. The Amago, Tenkara USA’s ‘big fish’ rod, has landed me everything from tiny feisty Brown Trout in small fast moving streams, to big lazy Goldens in the high alpine lakes of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness. If you’re looking for a do-it-all beginner Tenkara rod that can handle larger fish, you can’t go wrong with the Amago.
Weight: 3.5 oz MSRP: $169.00
Outdoor activity item: Mystery Ranch BlackJack Pack
Mystery Ranch BlackJack Pack.
No single piece of gear should be relied on to save your life in an avalanche. Experience, knowledge of the conditions, and a good, trustworthy partner are your best bet. With that being said, more and more research is pointing to avalanche airbag packs as the best tool to improve your chances of survival if you are caught in a slide. The Mystery Ranch Blackjack, lovingly built in Bozeman, Montana, uses a compressed air system triggered by a ripcord on the harness, to inflate a 150-liter airbag in 3 seconds. The airbag increases the volume of the skier, helping to keep them afloat in fast moving avalanche debris. With 43 L of volume, the Blackjack is plenty big for an overnight hut trip and its 200 denier fabric, coated with porcelain dots in high abrasion areas, ensures that the pack will live up to the durability I’ve come to expect from Mystery Ranch.
Weight: 7.8 lbs MSRP: $1,025
Lifestyle item: Survival Education
Education hard at work.
Whether a taking a Wilderness First Responder course or an Avalanche Safety course, the utility of education and mental preparedness go much further than any piece of gear. A well-furnished backcountry kit is useless if the person using it lacks basic or technical survival skills. These classes can better prepare you for the unpredictable nature of the sports we participate in, and they’re often relatively affordable. The avalanche safety courses I’ve completed over the last five years have turned out to be the most useful piece of “gear” I could imagine. Perhaps we should forgo that new pack or those shiny new skis, and instead invest in something intangible, that could potentially save a life.
Weight: none MSRP: varies
Ultralight Backpacking Item: GoLite Shangri-La 8+
GoLite Shangri La and a stunning campground.
I love the Shangri-La as a lightweight family tent. One of my favorite memories is of playing cards in this tent with my family during a windy rain/hail/lightening storm at Moose Lake in King’s Canyon.
Weight: 3 lbs 2o z for body only, stock poles 1 lb 13 oz, stock stakes 5 oz each for a total of 5 lbs 4oz. Using your own trekking poles as poles save nearly 2 lbs. MSRP: $540 when sold – not available for several years
Outdoor Activity Item: The Hoka One One Stinson B
Hoka One One Stinson B.
The Hoka One One Stinson B adds cushioning in a shoe with only 6 mm of “drop”. This lets me hammer hard on rocky downhills while protecting my feet and legs.
Weight: 10 oz each MSRP: $170
Lifestyle Item: Trigger Point Foam Roller
Trigger Point Foam Roller.
I’m a runner and recovery–including stretching and using my foam roller–is critical to working out the kinks and tight muscles that cause injury and worsen performance. There are a lot of choices but the trigger point foam roller is firm and durable. It comes in several sizes including a 5 in travel size.
Weight: 1 lb 5 oz MSRP: $40
Ultralight Backpacking Item: Rab Xenon synthetic puffy jacket
Rab Xenon synthetic puffy jacket.
The Rab Xenon is light, warm, water resistant, and low profile enough that it fits nicely under my rain shell. I find myself taking this thing everywhere, not just backpacking. When a piece of gear makes its way from my pack to my daily life, I know it is a keeper.
Weight: 10.5 oz (298 g) MSRP: $200 MSRP
Outdoor Activity Item: Black Diamond Carbon Cork trekking poles
Adjusting the Black Diamond Carbon Cork trekking poles.
Although not the lightest poles out there, they are tough. I abuse them hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing, and backcountry skiing. I appreciate the all-season versatility and durability they bring in a relatively lightweight package.
Weight: 1 lb 7.9 oz (678 g) for the pair MSRP: $160 MSRP
Lifestyle Item: Markdown
My staff picks contribution in the Markdown plain text editor.
I love the simplicity of a plain text editor for writing and taking notes. By doing this I am ensured that my documents can be written anywhere, read anywhere, buy anyone, on any device without any problems. Markdown is a simple text-based format for marking-up plain text with headings, underlines, bullet points, links, images, etc. By passing Markdown text through a simple processor, you can instantly turn it into well formed HTML for publishing on the web, printing, PDF, etc. A fantastic, simple tool that I use every day. Future proof, and open source.
Weight: 0 oz (0 g) MSRP: $0
Ultralight Backpacking item: Northern Lites Backcountry Snowshoes
Northern Lites Backcountry Snowshoes.
I have had my Northern Lites snowshoes for over 10 years now. I love snowshoeing and I use snowshoes hard- jumping off small cliffs, climbing across frozen rocks, and using my snowmobile to access the really deep Washington snow. In the past I’ve broken more than one pair of good snowshoes, but that ended with Northern Lites. These things are STRONG! But much like a carbon fiber mountain bike, these snowshoes are strong AND light. In fact, these are about as light as you get- my 30″ snowshoes weigh just 45.3 oz (1285 g). In the world of snowshoes, that qualifies as “wicked light”. (They’re even lighter than the Crescent Moon Rocket Carbon Fiber racing snowshoes, and the Rockets are much smaller.) The binding on the Northern Lites is simple, but it works. The crampon can be a bit minimal when on high alpine ice, but everywhere else, they are great and don’t pack with snow. I love the Northern Lites snowshoes. They retail for $269 with the 30 in Quicksliver model at $199.
Weight: 45.3 oz (1285 g) MSRP: $199.
Outdoor Activity Item: Northern Lites Youth Snowshoes
My kids using their shoes for some outdoor fun.
No, I don’t work for the company, but last year I discovered the new Northern Lites Youth snowshoes and now my kids both have a pair. Very similar to the adult models but with cheaper materials to keep costs down, these snowshoes absolutely smoke all other kids snowshoes that are on the market. Weighing in at 28.0 oz (794 g), the only thing lighter are toddler snowshoes and the quality and durability matches my adult snowshoes. At $94, they are just a tad more expensive than other kids’ snowshoes. This an excellent piece of kid gear that will be passed between family members for years and years.
Weight: 28.0 oz (794 g) MSRP: $94
Lifestyle Item: Bike commuting
This year my family moved to a new town, cutting my daily commute from 2 hours to 20 minutes. It has been a life-changer. It also cut my bike commute to just 6 miles, which I can do almost every day. I added a Tubus Fly rack, some SKS Raceblade fenders, and a set of Exposure lights to my carbon road bike, and I’m speed commuting more often than not. Getting in a bit of exercise, saving money, and easing stress by commuting on a 16 lbs race bike- I love it!
Ultralight Backpacking item: Patagonia M10 Rainjacket
Fishing at Heather Lake.
Whether it is raining or windy, I have found my Patagonia rainjacket to be very reliable and adaptable. I wore it this summer on packrafting trips as a dry top of sorts, I’ve used it in torrential rains between classes at my university, and as a windbreaker when hunting this fall. Not only is it exceptionally waterproof but it is durable and lightweight. I have been impressed and am grateful for the comfort it offers as I enjoy the outdoors.
Weight: 8.1 oz MSRP: $350
Outdoor Activity Item: Switch Necky Kayak
My kayak wishing it was out on the river.
My newest outdoor passion is river sports. While I want to start packrafting more I really have enjoyed doing some frontcoutnry boating in my kayak. I have really enjoyed being on the water and going through the process of improving. It has been awhile since I have really started learning a brand new skill, and facing my fears and becoming better has not only helped me enjoy kayaking but helped me become better in all areas of my life. Additionally, kayaking prepares me for any packrafting trips I might take as it helps me become comfortable on the river and learn the strokes for safe river navigation.
Weight: Too heavy for backpacking MSRP: ~ $250
Lifestyle Item: Journaling
Journaling has really helped me crystallize my thoughts and I have found that I am really able to improve as a person by writing down what I did well and what I could do better each day. I go through phases, some stretches I’ll journal every day and other periods I won’t at all. Regardless, when I need to help resolve a conflict in my mind I resort to this tactic to help me figure things out. I don’t usually bring a lightweight one with me when I go backpacking but that is definitely something I would recommend to help you remember your trip.
Weight: a few ounces MSRP: a few bucks
Ultralight Backpacking item: Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid
Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid and a nice campsite in the High Sierras.
I spent more nights in the UltaMid in 2013 than in any other shelter – always with a partner. For many years, I’ve been waiting for a pyramid made of Cuben Fiber (no stretching in response to temperature!) that was big enough for pals and light enough, and strong enough, for expedition use. The UltaMid was the answer.
Weight: 22 oz (4-man version) MSRP: $800
Outdoor Activity Item: Werner Sherpa
Celebrating a great packrafting trip on the Swan River.
The biggest change I made in my whitewater paddling this year was moving to a shorter kayak paddle with a larger blade. This has forced me into learning more efficient paddling techniques, which in turn allowed me to run harder water with more confidence. I’ve thoroughly abused my Sherpa and other than a few scratches, it looks and feels new, even after hundreds of runs (photo: Swan River).
Weight: 41 oz (4 pc, Fiberglass, 194 cm) MSRP: $300
Lifestyle Item: Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park.
I’m a sucker for living on the road, and one of our family’s favorite vagabond destinations is only a few hours south of home: Grand Teton National Park. There may be nowhere else in the world that offers the density of opportunity for camping, hiking, rock and ice climbing, packrafting, fly fishing, big game wildlife watching, backcountry skiing, and backpacking (photo: Gros Ventre Campground).
Weight: 0, other than the Annual Pass weight. MSRP: $80 (Interagency Annual Pass)
Ultralight Backpacking item: Trail Designs Caldera Keg-F
On the trail making some food.
I have been using the Trail Designs Caldera system since it first came out. Basically the cook pot is enclosed and supported by the windscreen, which holds it the correct distance above an alcohol burner. The Caldera Keg-F is their lightest system because it utilizes a Foster’s 25.4 oz beer can as a cook pot. The complete system as purchased weights just 6.3 oz, and I strip it down (sans caddy and beerbands) to just 4.25 oz contained in a plastic bag. The Trail Designs Caldera cooking system has revolutionized backcountry cooking with an alcohol burner because of its lightweight, efficiency, and dependability.
Weight: 6.3 oz MSRP: $60
Outdoor Activity Item: Backcountry Nordic Skiing
Enjoying the fresh snow.
When winter comes my outdoor time is split between backcountry skiing in the mountains and hiking in dryer places of the Southwest. I prefer a lightweight ski with lots of sidecut and 100-120 ml of width at the tips, a fishscale pattern in the center, NNN-BC bindings, and leather boots. This lightweight and versatile ski system is ideal for touring and telemark turning in consolidated powder snow on moderate terrain. Although I shy away from developed ski areas, I still like doing lots of downhill, like skiing through the trees and meadows from the top of a mountain pass to near the bottom.
Lifestyle Item: A Hot Tub Soak After an Outdoors Trip
Nothing is more soothing than soaking in 105F water after skiing all day or after a hiking trip. Our tub is indoors to conserve energy and we use it only fall-winter-spring.
Weight: Far too heavy for backpacking but natural hotsprings are common throughout the world. Perhaps you can plan your route around one of those. MSRP: Priceless.