Feb 11, 2013 at 2:53 pm #1299137
Hey guys. I'm new here, and thought I'd start with a good ole fashioned gear critique. As a preface, I'd call myself a typically experienced 3-season backpacker. I've done lots of trips in the Sierra's and in Washington state, usually 3-5 nights, from late spring through late summer, averaging maybe 4-5 trips per year. I'm in my late 20's, male, and used to backpack with my father and younger brother when I lived down in CA. Now I most go with a few male friends in a group, or just my wife and I.
I've always been a traditional backpacker with heavy but functional gear, since that's how my dad taught me. In the last two years I've been slowly upgrading old hand-me-down gear and recently I've really started to like the lightweight and ultralight scene.
The big caveat is that I need to keep my systems comfortable, since my wife only like to join me when she's assurred she'll be warm and have accessible hot meals and beverages. :)
So I've posted my gear list that I created last weekend. It is a sort of catch-all 3-season weekend getaway list for my wife and I (3-days, 2-nights). The highlighted items in the list/notes are things still pending, not quite finished, or still needing to be purchased.
Anyways, thanks for any and all thoughts. I don't think a different shelter or sleeping bags are in the budget this year. I'm still waiting on the GG Mariposa to come back in stock for my pack.
One specific thing was that I really like the kettle system I have, but currently I've got 2 cups and 2 bowls listed, so that, for instance, my wife and I could both have granola and coffee at the same time. Anyone found that sharing 1 cup/bowl was fine, or did you end up with 2 of each?
JimFeb 11, 2013 at 5:35 pm #1953342
First question – Does your wife want to be adventitious and go lighter? Is she willing to accept things like more minimal sleeping pads or a smaller shelter? If the answer is "No" then you won't save a lot of weight unless you spend a lot of money.
If your wife isn't on board for going lighter I'd just make sure you have a pack that can comfortably carry 30 pounds or more (probably not the Maraposa) and be content with what you have for couples trips.
Second Question – Do you want to go significantly more minimal for your solo trips? If the answer is yes then focus on this not lightening up the shared gear.
Here are some ideas
Instead of the Maraposa why don't you try the REI Flash 45? If you remove the top pocket it will weigh right at 32 oz. So only about 5oz more then the Maraposa. I guarantee you won't feel the difference. Also you save $100, its easily available and in my opinion it might actually carry weight better.
Shelter – Couple Option
A tarptent could save you about a pound for trips together. Might be worth saving up for.
Shelters – Solo Option
Buy a cheap tarp and bivy for solo trips. You put off an expensive tent upgrade while dramatically lightening your load for solo trips.
Campmor currently has Prolites in "Short" for about $40. They only weigh 11oz so you're saving a lot of weight. Try one out at REI. If your wife likes it get two. If not you could get just one for your solo trips. Or get an even cheaper and lighter foam pad.
You could save weight here but it could be pricey so you might want to wait. If you just want a lighter solo pad then watch gear swap for a good deal.
A lot of little stuff could be weeded out to save a pound or so. Again on solo trips you might look at how many luxery items you can leave behind.Feb 11, 2013 at 6:29 pm #1953361
Q1. No, I don't think my wife has the same ambitions as I do. She's definitely game for lightening her load (who would complain about a lighter pack, right?), but she wouldn't want to sacrifice warmth/comfort. I think she also just isn't comfortable with sleeping under a tarp with bug head net, so a SUL shelter would ruin her trip, and I definitely want her to enjoy the trips as much as possible.
Q2. This is a good idea. I'll be honest, I've only ever done 2 solo trips, one for 2 nights, and one for four. Even group trips with male friends we tend to share gear, so I've never really developed a proper solo kit. That would be a fun hobby all by itself. I could test my solo kit on group trips with the usual crew too. hmmm…
Big question: Packs: So I liked the specs on the Mariposa because of the volume of the pack. I'm coming from an OLD rei external frame 85L pack, which I don't tend to fill, but still. I don't really have a feel for whether a 45L pack would be enough to fit my current gear. Do you? I figured the 47L in the main compartment of the Mariposa, plus external pockets, would be a good size.
Is your thinking that the Mariposa wouldn't carry 28-30 pounds well? Too close too its maximum weight spec?
On pads, I think I'll start looking around for a cheap/light foam option for myself. What should I be looking for; I'm not that familiar with the different foam options.
I guess the biggest outstanding question for me right now is what pack I should get. I do want something of a transitional pack, since I do want to start lightening up what I guess might now be my solo kit. But I do need to get a pack in the next couple months, since my old one cracked on the frame, making me packless at the moment. I feel like I don't know what size I need now. :/
Thanks again for taking the time for such a though out response.Feb 11, 2013 at 7:11 pm #1953378
I agree, I think the pack is the big issue right now. I have not personally used the Maraposa but there are a few design things I don't like about it.
Hipbelt – Look at the picture, it attaches on the sides of the pack not close to the center. This means it won't wrap around your hips as well.
Frame – The frame does not attach directly to the hipbelt the way it does on your old external frame pack. You have a soft hipbelt that is attached to the pack several inches away from the frame. This means with a heavier load the pack will sag some and dump the weight onto your shoulders and behind rather then supporting it on your hips.
Now you CAN carry 30-35 pounds in the Maraposa. But that is the upper limits of its comfort. If you only carry 30-35 pounds at the beginning of a long trip fine. But if you are consistently going to be carrying heavier weights (25+ pounds) I think you might as well have a slightly heavier but more comfortable pack.
Packs that I like better (for heavier loads) have a hipbelt that is attached near the center with a lumber pad. This helps keep the load where it should be.
Here are some packs that have more of the features I like
-HMG Porter/Expedition/Windrunner (basically the same packs just different features).
All these packs have the type of hipbelt/lumber pad design that I prefer. If you aren't sure I'd find and REI and try on a Flash 45 with 35 pounds in it. I don't know if its big enough but you could always bring your gear with you and try it out. The Circuit is a lot pricier but its bigger and is a proven pack.
All these packs are a good compromise between load hauling and weight saving. They should haul couples loads and be light enough that you won't be tempted to buy another pack if you start doing lots of solo trips.
As far as pads go one thing you need to look at is R value. This is basically how much insulation value the pad provides too you. I actually haven't looked at this much. All I know is my Prolite Pad and the Ridgerest I use have been warm enough for all my 3 season trips. Walmart blue pads are not as warm and are the least comfortable I've used. I think Ridgerest foam pads are a bit better (and warmer). The most comfortable I've used has been my Short Prolite. Its think enough to smooth out all the bumps on the ground for me, rugged (for an inflatable), and cheap. It also rolls up pretty small.
Edit – I noticed you listed a bear canister, is that always necessary? Outside of the sierras I bet bear bagging would be fine.Feb 11, 2013 at 10:31 pm #1953419
I like what I'm reading about the HMG 3400 Windrider Southwest. I'm not going to lie, the white color doesn't look as good as the ULA green or the GG grey, but I feel like that shouldn't be a priority. The one issue is that the HMG doesn't like hip belt size. I've sent an email to ask about the size. Also I can't find much info on how it would carry a BV500 canister.
I also really like what I've read about ULA packs. When I first started building this lighter kit (month+ ago), I thought the Catalyst would be my pack for sure, because it could fit the bear canister horizontally in the bottom. This is maybe still a great reason to go with it, but then I started convincing myself that I could get a lighter pack in a lesser volume and be fine. So I started looking at the Circuit, which is extremely well-reviewed. But lots of searches compared it to the GG Mariposa. I like that the Circuit apparently carries a heavy load better, but I also like the more modular nature of the Mariposa. I even like that it would have a foam sit-pad built in. If I got a 3/4 length foam or inflatable pad, I could use the sit pad under my feet, or as an extra layer under my hip (I'm a side sleeper 70% of the time), and I guess as a sit-pad too.
However, my lack of experience with UL packs makes me weary of carrying toward the top end of the Mariposa's stated weight limit. Based on my current spreadsheet, I'd be at about 27 pounds in the pack. It seems half the internet thinks it carries great at that weight, and half says ULA is in a whole different league once above 20 pounds.
On bear canisters: Unfortunately most of my trips require bear canisters. When I visit CA to go on trips, we're always in Wilderness or NPs that require them. I've got two Washington coast trips planned that also require a bear canister. I own a BV500 which I typically use. If I do end up heading out somewhere that doesn't require it, then yes, I'd bear bag. I included it since I use it more often than not (only bear bagged once last summer).Feb 12, 2013 at 7:38 am #1953490
Link .BPL Member
Jim, Luke's suggestion of a Tarptent is a fully enclosed shelter,not a tarp.Look hereFeb 12, 2013 at 2:25 pm #1953653
robert van puttenMember
@bawanaLocale: Planet Bob
"One specific thing was that I really like the kettle system I have, but currently I've got 2 cups and 2 bowls listed, so that, for instance, my wife and I could both have granola and coffee at the same time. Anyone found that sharing 1 cup/bowl was fine, or did you end up with 2 of each?"
My wife has been backpacking with me for twenty years and will tolerate many things, but I would not dream of not letting her have her own cup of tea in the morning…Dude, I’d lose a hand or get shot reaching for her cuppa…
I carry a two quart aluminum pot with lid, two plastic bowls, spoons and cups, total weight is 13.2 ounces.
We often use this “big” pot to heat water for towel baths – My wife likes to keep clean and it makes her feel belter. If she is feeling better I am feeling better, if you know what I mean!
So, no going to be all sweaty and gross for me –
Anyway, don't sweat the small things to much untill you have dealt with the weight of your "big three" items.
My experience is largely “traditional” backpacking with pack weights in the low 20s for my wife and high 30’s for me. Lately we’ve revised this so my pack weights are more like the 25 for me ( with food and water, four day trip ) and low teens for my wife.
We use Golite Jam backpacks.
I know nothing about you and your wife, but her pack weight seems awful heavy to me.
I carry our shelter, stove, cook kit and all ( or at least the majority ) of our food, plus my extra clothing and rain gear.
My wife carries all our bedding, dopp kit, first aid kit, and her own clothing and rain gear.
She has a bit of a bad back and her knees ain’t the best and tend to swell on trips, so I try like heck to keep her pack weight down as low as possible, and it really makes a difference in how much enjoyment she gets out of these trips.
To save weight, share body warmth and uh, enjoy other perks of marriage, you might want to think about some sort of two-person sleep system. From the get-go my wife and I used a “thermanest” sleep system that has two thermarest pads on the bottom and a single sleeping bag as top cover, and these days we have adopted a Ray Way two person quilt with lighter ( but still full length ) thermarest pads…
I see you have a nice three man tent. Good. I highly recommend that you indeed keep to a comfortable, roomy and weather proof shelter. I made the mistake of trying a Clip Flashlight on a wet five day backpacking trip with my wife. To small, to cramped and to durn wet, both from rain getting in the open doorway and/or condensation when we closed the door…
My wife likes the Timberline 2 tent and has a hard time acepting the fact that I refuse to carry it anymore – At about 7 pounds! But I refuse to carry that beast anymore and am trying tarptents now and we’ll see how she likes these down the road.
She will tolerate just a tarp and has done so several times, but she does sleep better in a tent without the bugs and rodents crawling over us at night.
But squeezing into to small a cramped and wet tent will turn your wife off to camping pretty fast.
I dunno, but your pack weights seem on the heavy side to me. Lots of odds and ends.
Lets see, instead of a potty trowel, we carry a one ounce aluminum snow stake. It makes a fantastic trowel, and it is also a great heavy duty stake for those wild nights when you need to batten down the tent.
A camp stool? Really? Dude…Feb 12, 2013 at 3:13 pm #1953668
I knew I should have deleted the stool. :)
I've never taken it before, but my wife grabbed it from a garage sale recently and said she wanted someplace to sit down. I'm going to get us some small foam sit pads instead.
I've never considered the hot water sponge bath idea. This is a good one. In CA we'd sometimes take a sun shower along, but found that if it was hot enough to get a good warm shower, it was hot enough to enjoy a jump in the lake/river. Up here in WA, I've sometimes brought along those bathing wipes they have at REI (just oversized wet wipes really) and liked those well enough, but the garbage build-up was annoying. I'll have to try your method.
I agree I need to get my wife's pack weight down (both the weight in it, and of the back itself). I don't know if I'll be able to pry the sleeping bag away though; she loves that thing. It'd have to be an expensive upgrade that maintains the same warmth while reducing weight.
Sleeping pads is another area we can drop a decent amount of weight. She'd be fine with a 5'6" pad, and I'd probably get one in the same length and use my sit pad and pack at my feet. I'm hearing good things about the XTherm.
Thanks for your thoughts. I'm definitely dropping the stool.Feb 12, 2013 at 3:27 pm #1953676
Most of my friends think I sacrifice comfort to get my base pack weight to 8 pounds, but that is not the case. It is entirely possibly to be warm and comfortable while carrying a minimal load.Feb 12, 2013 at 3:40 pm #1953680
Steve MeierBPL Member
Just some quick observations from my own experience hiking with my wife…if the weather that you'll be hiking in is mostly moderate then consider a quilt for both of you. It's easy to 'find' each other once dark and then get back to sleeping later (not sure how to better phrase that whole scenario). Go for a thick pad like a SynMat for your wife and consider one for yourself-most are a very small weight penalty for the comfort. The Xtherm's are loud in my opinion. +1 on the advice to use two bowls, cups, etc. Worth it for sitting and sipping coffee or tea together. And a big +1 on adding a few comfort items like a small sylnylon 'bucket' and/or wet wipes for cleaning up in the evening. It's important for my wife to wipe off the day's bug gunk, dust & dirt, and sun screen before she'll feel like staying out more than just a day. And last +1 on using a spacious tent. I use a Big Agnes Fly Creek 3 and it provides lots of room to move around. Good luck!Feb 15, 2013 at 4:20 pm #1954857
I just looked at an REI flash in person today. I was not impressed. The frame is pretty soft. I don't think it will carry heavy loads well at all. I didn't have time to try it out but unless REI did something really unusual I just don't think the pack is stiff enough to carry more then 20 pounds (if that).
Its also on the small side for your gear list. I think the Circuit might be a better option.Feb 16, 2013 at 12:04 am #1954945
Thanks for your thoughts. I compared a few packs at REI and a local mountaineering store this week too. Afterwards, i decided to go with a zimmerbuilt. For nearly the same cost, I'm able to get something catered to me. I'm really excited.Feb 16, 2013 at 7:02 am #1954964
I think you'll like Zimmberbuilt packs. I like mine. Tell him how much you plan on carrying.
Let me know if you have any questions. I had one made for carrying heavier loads and learned a few things in the process. As for a frame for sure.Feb 16, 2013 at 7:17 am #1954967
I'd encourage you to do your homework before you finalize a design. Look through the threads here about his packs because not every pack he's made is displayed on his website.
Here is the link to the pack I had Chris make me.
The main thing I asked him to do for me that was unique was to sew the hipbelt on closer to the center. In my opinion this helps it to carry a bit better. Now that I've read about other packs I think I might ask about the removable hipbelt option if (he makes one). A similar pack was review (HMG Expedition) and the failure point was the hipbelt ripping off the pack body. A carefully sewn removable hipbelt might be stronger here (and keeping total weight below about 30 pound most of the time should help too).
One thing I would have done differently if I did it over again would be to make the torso length just a bit shorter. Because of the shape of the hipbelt this pack fits a bit higher on your hips then other packs. Some hipbelts wrap around your lower hips with that knobby hipbone in the center of the belt. I can wear it that way but the straight belt actually fits a bit better if I wear it higher with most of the hipbelt above that bone. Be careful though because newbies tent to choose packs with a torso length that is too short.
Those load lifters give you some flexibility on torso length (about an inch) so definitely have him put those on.
I like the three compression straps because they really compress small loads well. If you are on a solo trip you can make the pack a lot smaller.Feb 16, 2013 at 7:49 am #1954969
@glacierramblerLocale: NW Montana
My wife and I backpack together fairly regularly, so I thought I'd share a few observations from our trips together:
First, I think it's a big misconception that packing lighter means less comfort or warmth, etc. Personally, I am far more comfortable and warm than I was when carrying more traditional weights, and that doesn't even include carrying 25-30 pounds less than I used to. Just last night, I slept in my old sleeping bag for the first time in a year (indoors, chaperoning a middle school retreat), and I was reminded again how much more comfortable I find quilts. The same thing holds true for a lot of gear. What I have now fits me far better and matches my goals much better than most of what I had before.
As far as the Big 3 systems go, here's what we've found. (1) The shelter: I am a big fan of Henry Shire's TarpTents. My wife actually prefers close quarters, so on trips we pack the Rainbow. The tighter quarters keep her warmer, and the tent is light for two (35 oz or so with stakes). Personally, I would prefer a slightly larger shelter, so maybe next season I'll talk her into the StratoSpire 2. Personally, I think that you can get just as much functionality from a TarpTent, especially the double-wall models, as any traditional backpacking tent. Other companies make great stuff too–Six Moon Designs and LightHeart Gear come to mind, but I've never tried them personally.
(2) The sleep system: Like I said, I'm a big fan of quilts. I have an Enlightened Equipment Revelation that's spec'ed to 20° and overstuffed. I've taken it into the low teens and been very warm with minimal layers. It's flexible enough to take in warmer temperatures as well because the footbox can be unzipped and opened fully, turning it into a true blanket. My wife has an old GoLite Ultra 20 which she loves as well. She was very happy switching to quilts as we both feel like we get a lot out of them, and the weight is a bonus.
We also sleep on the NeoAirs–my wife has the Women's XLite and I have the XTherm. My wife also carries a 1/8" CCF pad to protect her pad from sharp rocks, which doubles as a sit pad. I carried the XLite all last season and liked it, but I couldn't pass up the Eddie Bauer Black Friday sale, so I switched over. Sure, they're crinkly, but once you settle down, the noise really isn't bad. Neither my wife nor anyone else I've backpacked with has even noticed the noise after a minute or two. Personally, I think the issue is overblown. The best thing about the NeoAir line is the amount of comfort they provide for the weight.
(3) The pack system: After trying a lot of different UL manufacturers, we both went with HMG. I have the 3400 Porter and my wife has the 2400 Southwest. I can't say too much about these, as we picked them up over the holidays and haven't tested them thoroughly yet, but I anticipate nothing but good things after testing and fitting as much as we can without a true trip to carry them. It sounds like you have things mostly figured out in the pack department, and I don't have anything to add to Luke's excellent comments.
Anyway, this is what works for us. Of course, that looks a little different for everyone, but we have both been able to stay very comfortable (with more than a few luxury items) with me carry about 15 lbs. base and my wife around 10 lbs.Feb 16, 2013 at 9:27 am #1954995
Jennifer MitolBPL Member
@jenmitolLocale: In my dreams....
Seriously, abolish your preconception that going UL means sacrificing warmth and comfort; I am actually far warmer, more comfortable, and way happier (although I must admit, poorer…) since I started slashing weight.
(The poorer part comes from my believing that UL meant sleeping under a log and eating cliff bars…so I could never bring myself to actually buy the right gear the first time. So I sloooowwwwwly converted)
I have a zpacks hexamid solo plus (took me about 4 tents to get there) and love it, my EE revelation quilt and Exped synmat UL7 give me a terrific night's sleep (warmer than my old synthetic, and i dont feel trapped like in a mummy), my trail runners mean my legs and feet aren't killing me at the end of the day, and my gossamer gear gorilla is the first pack I've ever had in 25 years of backpacking that didn't hurt my shoulders.
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