2012 Backpacking Light Staff Picks

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable 2012 Backpacking Light Staff Picks

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    Michael Martin
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Idaho

    Ken wrote: Nothing from Chris, nor Addie huh?

    Actually I am surprised to see so many listed as staff.

    Kinda funny actually.

    Apologies to all for my omission this year. I was in a drug-induced haze and typing (badly) with two fingers from shoulder surgery when our submissions were due. I hope to be back in good trekking form by summertime.

    I'd also like to add further apologies for being yet another white male on BPL staff. ;-)

    Happy Holidays,


    Kristin Tennessen
    BPL Member


    Locale: Bay Area

    I started writing 2 female-specific articles I never finished enough to submit to BPL this year.
    One is something like 'Tips to stay clean in the wilderness' and the other is 'A complete female backpacking kit'.
    If you would like to read either draft, send me a PM and I'll send you the google doc link. I'm not promising quality.

    Ethan A.
    BPL Member


    Locale: SF Bay Area & New England

    Happy holidays and best wishes for the New Year to our BPL family.

    Thanks for sharing your picks.

    Gotta love an old Subie – so good in the snow and rain and easy to maintain.

    Damien or anyone else, how does the Rab Xenon compare with the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody for:

    1) Warmth/fill
    2) Length – Xenon looks a little short but it's hard to tell from photos
    3) Fit and usability of the hood

    I'm only familiar with the Montbell Thermawrap in this weight class, and it is generous in terms of length.

    Buck Nelson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Alaska

    1. iPhone. I was walking and paddling for months this year and it was my first time with a smartphone. It was an extremely useful tool. I used it as a camera, GPS, map, journal tool, phone, star chart, plant and bird ID book and more.

    2. Multiple-way tie:

    A. Zpack Hexamid Solo Tent. Awesome 9.3 oz shelter.
    B. Marmot Hydrogen sleeping bag. Light, comfy, warm. Rated to 30 F. but I take it down to 10 degrees or below by layering. About 24 oz.
    C. Darn Tough, 1/4 Sock, Cushion. About 2.4 oz. Tough, comfortable. My favorite hiking socks.
    D. Caldera Keg cooking system. Lightweight, efficient, nests nicely.

    3. Free time.

    BPL Member


    Locale: .

    I had the original Nano Puff pullover. The Xenon is about the same weight or maybe a little lighter thanks to the fabric but offers a full-zip. It's undoubtedly lighter than full-zip Nano. The Xenon doesn't have the odd quilting Patagonia used. Otherwise, they offer both offer 60 g of PL1 and non-adjustable hoods. The Nano pullover I had was shorter cut than the Xenon.

    Also, Rab garments are cut more for an athletic fit where Paty is much more standard american (boxy). The Xenon is a bit looser than some Rab garments, but still not as boxy or roomy as the Nano.

    John S.
    BPL Member


    1. Golite Peak (backpack)
    2. Gossamer Gear Nightlight (sleeping pad)
    3. Equinox Sprawler Ultralite Bivi

    Ethan A.
    BPL Member


    Locale: SF Bay Area & New England

    Thanks Chris, very helpful. Sounds like they are pretty similar for warmth, differing primarily in cut and the Xenon seems a bit lighter. A question about use and sizing:

    My wife and I use our heavier puff insulation jackets belay style, to throw on over light softshell (Patagonia Ready Mix Jacket – the orange ones you see in my profile pic) and all layers underneath, during stops when snowshoeing, skiing or winter hiking, and to wear over all our layers in camp. Up to now we've used our lighter puff insulation jackets 3 season like your Xenon jacket belay style as well so we can use it for shoulder season stops.

    How do you wear and size your Xenon? Do you wear it true to size under your outer shell? Assume you use it primarily for 3 seasons.

    I ask such detailed questions about this because along with our wind jackets (currently Houdini) we find a light hooded puff insulation jacket to be one of our most useful items which also adds to your margin of safety. So light it's a no-brainer to take along. When you really need it, you're never sorry you've brought it. My wife loves knowing she can throw it on when she needs it.

    Sorry about hijacking the thread for the Xenon…also curious about other items on the list.

    BPL Member


    Locale: .

    No worries about questions and feel free to PM me (goes for anyone).

    Mine is sized the same as my other Rab items. I have enough room under it to wear a couple of shirts and a Rab Micro (fleece). I could probably get a thinner softshell under it. I've been wearing it around town the last couple of weeks with the Micro under it if necessary.

    Yeah, it's 3 season insulation for me here. In the early morning, I've been wearing my Infinity Endurance for walking the dog but that's been for sub freezing with low teen wind chills. I run cold these days FWIW.

    If you want to layer it over something heavier, I'd go up one size. Rab tends to size garments based on use, so insulation like the Xenon is designed to wear over a few base and/or mid layers of the same size, but it's not really sized to throw over a hard shell.

    Ethan A.
    BPL Member


    Locale: SF Bay Area & New England

    Thanks again Chris. When on the trail 3 seasons, sounds like you generally wear your Xenon under your outer shell when you need to, not over it, right?

    Because we use lighter puffy jackets like the Xenon for 3 season or very mild winter, and much heavier jackets for winter, it's not as much a problem to wear the Xenon under a shell. We always make sure we have our waterproof shell sized large enough to accommodate some extra insulation underneath.

    For heavier winter puffy jackets, I'd keep wearing belay style – so useful just to throw on over everything at stops without taking anything off.

    BPL Member


    Locale: .

    For me, if it's raining and cold enough to need a puffy, I'm not sitting outside. Short – I've never worn my Xenon and a shell at the same time.

    spelt with a t
    BPL Member


    Locale: Rangeley, ME

    Backpacking and the more wilderness-y activities of outdoors recreation are unfortunately not particularly diverse. It would be nice to see BPL, as a major platform in this arena, take some steps to address this. Some top-down efforts would nicely complement the bottom-up approach of encouraging article submissions.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Well, according to my wife, there are very few women-specific items of gear to write about.

    And to get women-specific articles, we need women to write the articles. Well?

    We can only publish articles which people write.


    Bob Gross
    BPL Member


    Locale: Silicon Valley

    We may see articles with Regina Caffin as a co-author. Then we'll know.


    Stephen M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Way up North

    1. Montrail Mountain Masochist 2's Trail runners
    2. Six Moon Designs swift pack (2010 model) with half a Ridrerest Solite as the frame.
    3. 03 toyota 4runner 4wd.

    Jacqueline Bodemann
    BPL Member


    Locale: The Netherlands

    – Tarptent Notch – solid interior
    – Thermarest Womens NeoAir XLite
    – silk legging and long sleeve shirt for sleeping

    Miguel Arboleda
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan

    There may have been all sorts of problems with BPL over the years, but going out of their way to be unaccommodating to women or other minorities is definitely not one of them. Carol Crooker and Addie were always given as much consideration and visibility as anyone else, especially Carol, who contributed a lot of the major articles here, and had a very important position on the staff when she was here.

    If there are no women around to write the articles there is not much the rest of us can do. It's not easy for men to write about women's specific gear, you know. To imply that BPL doesn't care about women or didn't give them a chance to have their say is very misleading, or, worse, shows unfamiliarity with BPL.

    I have a feeling that BPL is barely getting by these days with a skeleton on-site staff, the rest of the staff being far, far away, mostly on a purely volunteer basis. Nearly all the women staff have left. What can Ryan and co. do? Not much, until some women volunteer their expertise and willingness to contribute. The same goes for any minorities (I am black/ Filipino/ German). Unless a minority person participates, there just aren't going to be any articles highlighting minority-specific issues in the outdoors.

    The sourness of the tone of this thread doesn't bode well. It would have been nice to for once have a BPL staff posted article not be attacked and snarkily remarked upon. C'mon everyone! It's the start of the new year. Can we not have an article and forum thread without all the vitriol?

    Luke Schmidt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Alaska

    Well spoken Miguel.

    Happy new year.

    John Donewar
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeastern Texas


    You've written articles for BPL. In regards to Miguel's post, would you consider writing an article on a young persons views and experiences, Joseph's, in regards to the hiking experience.

    Try to use as many of his own words as possible so that we could get his "younger" perspective.

    Party On,


    Luke Schmidt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Alaska

    That is an interesting idea. Actually someone else suggested a younger person's perspective on an article once.

    spelt with a t
    BPL Member


    Locale: Rangeley, ME

    Miguel, I honestly do not feel much ire in this thread. If my post was taken as harsh, I apologize. It was only meant as suggestion, but I agree with you that whatever official infrastructure BPL retains is already stretched.

    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    Is it just me or do others not care about the staff's other outdoor and personal interests? I like the old format where they picked 3 "backpacking" items — sort of matches this website's theme.

    My 2012 choices were:

    1. No trekking poles – I left them at home.

    2. McHale LBP 36.

    3. Trail Designs GVP Caldera Cone.

    4. Mizuno Universe Wave 4 XC flats.

    None of them were purchased in 2012 :)

    Dan @ Durston Gear
    BPL Member


    Locale: Canadian Rockies

    1) MLD cuben DuoMid (prototype)
    The perfect solo shelter for so many trips because it maximizes simplicity and lightness. 4 stakes and a hiking pole results in 360 protection in no time. This prototype has a few less bells and whistles, so it comes in at an amazing 11.16oz.
    MLD cuben DuoMid

    2) Zebralight H51
    By far the best light I've used. For any trip where a .2oz squeeze light won't cut it, the H51 steps in and provides power (200 lu), simplicity (1 x AA) and flexibility (very adjustable) for 2.1oz.
    Zebralight H51

    3) Alpacka Yukon Yak
    This tool can add amazing diversity to a wilderness trip. Covering big miles shouldn't be this easy. 87.6oz with a spray deck.

    Honorable Mentions
    ULA Ohm – It's been impressing me for years. Nearly perfect mid-sized load hauler.
    TarpTent StratoSpire2 – Great 2 person shelter
    Exped Synmat UL – because I sleep better than on a NeoAir

    Miguel Arboleda
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan

    1) Gossamer Gear Mariposa 2012. I had planned to use my Granite Gear Crown for my walking all throughout 2012, but something about the Mariposa 2012 appealed to me, so I went ahead and bought it. I fell in love with it. It's simple, yet light and strong, and very flexible. I used it throughout the month in August during my month-long walk of the Pyrenees in France. The more I used it, the more I liked it. The only thing I don't like about it is the way the cord on the outer edge of the pack bag always managed to get tangled in either my hands or something inside the sack that I was trying to retrieve. I have to refit something else to deal with that. Otherwise, a pack that does what it is meant to do, well, and has a way of getting out of the way and letting you do what it needs to do.

    2) Kühl Liberator Convertible Pants. I wanted a pair of pants that would be all right to wear around town while I traveled in Europe, were light, dried quickly, fit very well, could be converted into shorts without looking dorky, and worked well in high heat. I loved these pants for their high-crotch fit and cotton hand (cotton is used on the face of the fabric to help draw moisture away from the interior), that felt great to wear all day long, even for hours sitting on a train. They worked like a charm during the record heat of the summer of 2012, when temperatures in the Pyrenees often rose to 45ºC. And climbing in several big thunderstorms at the highest peaks they did great when getting drenched and drying out very quickly. Great pants that got a Backpacker's Editor's Choice award.

    3) Olympus OM-D E-M5. I've been using digital cameras for a while now, both compact and DSLR's, the latest of which are the Ricoh GXR with modules, and the Nikon D7000. I love both those cameras, but the Ricoh was far too slow (but with some of my favorite image quality of any digital camera I've used) and the D7000 for too heavy. Along came the Olympus OM-D E-M5, which has changed the way I use digital cameras. It's small enough to carry easily with you in a compact bag, has a good selections of lenses (though I've been very happy with the kit lens), has all the controls you could ever need, and is very weatherproof to boot. IO find the controls on the back and top of the camera to be too small and clunky at times, and the grip a little hard to get comfortable with, but on the whole it is a great camera that goes with me everywhere.

    Jim Colten
    BPL Member


    Locale: MN

    I have to chuckle at Ryan's canoe choice …. Hornbeck Blackjack Canoe (looks like a very nice canoe!)

    Nice to see technology finally rivaling the canoe weights achieved by Ruston 130 years ago!

    Ross Bleakney
    BPL Member


    Locale: Cascades

    With regards to Dave Chenault's third pick:

    La Fin Du Monde is a great beer. I once proclaimed it as the best beer in North America (I would say that the brew from the Belgium monks are just a little bit better). Now, I'm not so sure. But I don't want to get into how a high IBU IPA compares to an oh so sweet and sour Belgian Ale (or the North American equivalent). I want to talk about hiking. And the great hiking and beer related breakthrough of the last five years is great beer in cans. The Aussie beer isn't bad, but I don't think it holds a candle to some of the wonderful micro brews available in cans lately. Now I can enjoy a great hike with great beer at the same time. The total weight of the beer weighs only grams more than the beverage itself.

    La Fin Du Monde is a wonderful beer, but it was around 8 years ago. Truly great beer in cans was not.


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