Episode 88 | 2023 Ultralight Gear Update

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    Backpacking Light


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    Companion forum thread to: Episode 88 | 2023 Ultralight Gear Update

    Episode 88 of the Backpacking Light podcast features nine pieces of gear from Ryan’s kit that he liked, didn’t like, and is sitting on the fence about.

    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    Question: What new gear did you try in 2023 that worked or didn’t?

    Ken Larson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Michigan

    Ryan mentioned he is planning to use a Timmermade Sweater SUL .75 Down Sweater ( for the first time in the LIVE: The Gear Q&A (Spring ’23 Edition) and I’m wondering Ryan if you have used  the SUL Down Sweater (  to date, AND could review your thoughts and feeling towards this down sweater as far as workmanship, quality and function for your desired purpose, as few reviews are posted on the net or on BPL concerning the product.

    If there others out in the BPL Community that have or had a Timmermade Sweater, we would love to hear what you have to say about that product!!

    Charlie Brenneman
    BPL Member


    Locale: Primarily Desolation Wilderness, Yosemite, and SEKI

    Packs: Kakwa 40 works well but with my use of soft flask/filter for drinking the pockets are less than ideal. Thinking of taking them off. Still though this pack is going to be for very short trips. If I pack it full it’s too tall and hits my head when climbing and looking up. A used Robic Circuit has been great for BV 475 on down (horizontal fit). I’m trying to decide between an ultra version of this or Flight 2 but do I need to spend $400 to save 4 oz? Probably not especially since I already have flex capacitors bought on great deals and am in the process of sewing daisy chains on them to get my shoulder pockets setup on them. I’m intrigued to try these out again since they are quality packs at just 2.5 lbs and they both hold BV500s horizontally. I am primarily in Sierras or Desolation so canister fit is really high priority and the shorter, wider fit is better for scrambling.

    Shelter: I’ve chosen Dipole over X-Mid despite a slight weight penalty and a more expensive shelter. I really like the X-Mid but the peak guyout was a challenge at times and I want greater wind stability. The positioning of the Dipole is straightforward, literally, and the interior is perfectly spacious for my height and needs – the pack in vestibule and everything else at my head. My other shelter system is an old symmetrical Duomid and Pinon bivy so ~1.5lbs. Eyeing the HMG Mid 1 tarp down the line to maybe get this down to 1lb and also widen my sleeping area a bit (37-38″ vs “31-32”).

    Stakes: I tried the AnyGear 7075 aluminum stakes but already bent one of them. Going to take RJ recommendation on the MSR core stakes and save these for less critical tieouts.

    Pads: I’ve used the Big Agnes Zoom UL and overall it’s been great. Light and comfortable but I don’t like how difficult it is to deflate. I’m probably going to just go the X-Lite route if truly quieter and at 45 yrs old – graduate to a wider pad. Plus I know and like the valve from my use with the Uberlite.

    Bags: I’ve mostly enjoyed EE Apex synthetic quilt. The weight savings has been too tempting to leave it home even in low 40s, high 30s. That was pushing it and even though it’s a wide size I did experience drafts as it seemed to roll with me way more than my regular Flex 30 ever did. Problem with the flex is that it’s too warm for me for summer, I never open it to a blanket, and so I feel like I’m carrying extra weight with it. My plan is to go Magma or lighter and combine with the Apex if colder.

    Stove: My trail designs alcohol stove is on its last legs and works great but it’s a bit of a process with all the components (wind screen, fuel, measuring cup, lighter) versus just screwing a pocket rocket deluxe onto a canister and getting a flame going in seconds. So I might try that this fall or next summer.

    Shoes: the Bushidos are bomber but take my feet a while to get used to them since the fit is a bit tight. Early on I suffered through blisters and if I have to cover long trail miles my feet are killing me. Would the Jackals be a better option? Like I said I’m in Sierras and enjoy a split mix of off-trail and on-trail miles.

    Monte Masterson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern Indiana

    Excellent podcast, one of the best so far.

    Totally agree that 1.0 DCF floors are far superior. They hold way less water, they’re very light, super waterproof, not as slippery (or noisy) and fold up nice to make a bathtub. I’m familiar with the arguments as to why silnylon/silpoly is better and I don’t buy it. Far too much is made about the increased volume of DCF IMO. And with  0.7 mil polycro underneath 1.0 DCF durability isn’t bad.

    Also glad to hear someone with credibility point out the fact that offset pyramids aren’t as solid in strong winds as true symmetrical pyramids (generally). MLD claims the Solomid XL is offset 70/30 but the Mid 1 looks to be offset even more, say like 75/25…..maybe I’m wrong.

    6.5″ ti shepherd hooks 3.,5 mm in diameter (8 g) are worth carrying but the 6″ shepherd hooks 3 mm diameter (5.5 g) are just dead weight, they won’t take hold of anything.

    Although only 7″ long, I’ve found the Sonic Y stakes from ZPacks to be the toughest aluminum pegs so far, maybe even more than Groundhogs. The Sonics appear to be heavier for their size (.56 oz each) which means the aluminum is very dense, strong and of the highest grade (supreme metallurgy). You can hammer them into some tough ground, and with a buffer on top like a piece of wood the heads aren’t as likely to get chewed up.


    Bill in Roswell
    BPL Member


    Locale: Roswell, GA, USA

    Charlie, hope you know the Magma 15 and 30 are on clearance, so grab one soon. Not many left after Labor Day sale. Don’t count on then being back. REI CEO has a different view on product life span. Main reason some excellent REI tents were only available for a limited time (Quarter Dome SL, Flash Air).

    Dan @ Durston Gear
    BPL Member


    Locale: Canadian Rockies

    Thanks for the comments and kind words about the X-Mid Pro 1.

    With regard to the floor noise, I don’t recall getting noise complaints from users so this hasn’t been a significant area of complaints for us but probably there are pads that are noisier depending on the match between the pad and floor. That is helpful to know the Tensor/Pro 1 combo is noisy. After this podcast there was some discussion on this over at the Trek-Lite forums and no one there reported noise but I also don’t think any Nemo Tensor users chimed in (mostly NeoAir and Exped).

    However, we are introducing DCF floors to the X-Mid Pro tents starting in about 6 weeks. This isn’t a response to noise complaints, but rather I am doing this because I found a version of DCF that I like for tent floors. I’ve historically been opposed to 1.0 oz DCF because it weighs about the same as a 15D woven floor yet adds bulk and cost with arguably has similar durability, so there is a bulk and price increase for not much of a benefit (in my view). However, the version of DCF we will be using has the thicker .18 mylar only on the underside (where it’s more needed) and not on upper side (where it’s less needed). This makes it more durable than a version that uses thin mylar on both sides (e.g. HMG Mid 1) while being similar durability yet lighter and packing smaller than 1.0oz DCF. I’ll have all the specs on that in late October but essentially it will cost a bit more but bring the weights down even lower, and with a side benefit of being quieter with pads.

    Shane S.
    BPL Member


    Locale: P.N.W

    I switched from a zpacks pocket tarp to the Plexsolo tent this year. The bugs became an issue of contention and frustration in a tarp. For just a few more ounce I have a sanctuary to retreat too when I’m tired and not fight the bugs and other crawlers I’ve found sleeping with me. The Plex solo has a bit more room as well.

    I also switched back to a sleeping bag, just too much draft in a quilt and I could never get warm, especially when it was windy. Sure, you can use those quilt pad straps, but it’s a PIA and just more things to adjust and fidget with and keep track of.

    I also went back to a stove after going stoveless for many trips and becoming under nourished on those trips leading to poor performance. I could only eat so many protein bars and jerky just wasn’t cutting it. Using a BRS stove now and hot hearty meals at night and hot coffee in the morning does wonders for the body.

    Chris K
    BPL Member


    I tried two new packs this year and have been pleased with both: the Virga Cliffrose and the MLD Hell. These are now the only packs I own.

    The Cliffrose does everything I need for general backpacking. The Hell works great as a carry-on and for shorter overnight backpacking trips. Maybe I could eek out a longer backcountry trip without a big food or water carry.

    David D
    BPL Member


    >Packs: Kakwa 40 works well but with my use of soft flask/filter for drinking the pockets are less than ideal.

    On my new “2024” Kakwa 55, Platy soft bottles will hold in the deep pocket but not with confidence in the shallow slash cut pocket.

    The shallow pocket is too short for even smart bottles if doing any sort of downhill scrambling.  I watched 2 full bottles tumble down a steep cliff while rock scrambling on my butt, they jettisoned right out with no warning.  Amazing how tough those bottles are (thankfully).  I fashioned a quick fix on trail using a short piece of cordage from my repair kit.  One end is is a bowline knot on a carbiner, the other is a taught line hitch so tension can be adjusted based on how the bag is packed.  The bottles were rock solid after that, and I could still remove on the move, but it was less convenient.

    In camp or flat ground, quickly detach one side of the cord using the carbiner, reattach in the am (takes seconds)

    BTW, love this bag

    kakwa cord

    Naomi B
    BPL Member


    Locale: Richmond


    am female, 5,7” 119 lbs. “older”
    veteran of decades backpacking in NA and Europe. Kit continues to evolve.

    sleep is really valued by me.

    NEVER skimp on warmth/ weight. ee.”custom” quilt950 down; nemo pad; AND nemo ul 1 person tent and footprint. Wear all silk clean. Underwear alpaca gloves/hat inside. Stay warm.

    advocate 100% silk, alpaca clothing, long pants; in cold, down pants. Preventing cold and clumsy.

    use new osprey40l pack.

    cannot carry more than 30lbs.
    Everything Now used super pricey; but light, strong. Cheaper is long run when i do not replace damaged or heavy items

    David D
    BPL Member


    Tensor/Tent floor noise: anyone know of a reasonably priced source for 1/8 closed cell foam EVA pads in 25″ width?  This under the Tensor would solve the noise issue but with a 4.5 oz weight penalty (ouch).

    Closest I could find was the oversized MLD that could be cut down but exchange and shipping puts it over $100 in Canuckistan

    Bill Budney
    BPL Member


    Locale: Central NYS
    BPL Member


    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    Exped .. Canadian?

    Think it’s Swiss but, according to a “history” webpage, the company was founded as a distributor, resulting from meeting during an early ‘80s Canadian trip (personal details irrelevant so I’ll omit).  In 1997 the company started to produce their own stuff (note: most companies back then were focused on heavier duty “bomb-proof” gear).

    Their internet cookie game is strong as their website keeps knocking me back to their Exped USA subsidiary.

    Cheaper [in] long run when i do not replace damaged or heavy items

    That’s the way to do it.  Think things can be too light for not much weight savings, but then there’s usage.  It’s one thing to use an item a couple nights per year (especially “fast-packing”) vs daily/nightly on a multiweek long hike.


    David D
    BPL Member


    Thanks Bill, that Exped mat is NA in Canada.

    Looks like Seekoutside Matty McMat Face is available for $77C shipped, might be the best option.

    Bill Budney
    BPL Member


    Locale: Central NYS

    Seems worth it just for the name alone.

    Their price is pretty good. It seems like moderately expensive stuff.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    Timmermade…whoa! Those are really nice looking down garments! And pricey…but, ya know, down lasts forever. Just don’t put on any weight! (ahem… I speak from experience. My old First Ascent down jacket small (?) fit perfect, if a bit tight, back in the day. It’s now hangs waiting in the closet.) (I bought it used for a great price on this forum!)

    David D
    BPL Member


    The Nemo Tensor Insulated slips-grips against my tent floor making a loud intrusive creaking sound on hard pack ground (less on grass).   I tried a Thermarest NXT and it’s bottom is slipperier & reasonably quiet.

    I found a solution for a few bucks and less than an ounce: polytarp as a pad underlay.  It’s like a light grade plastic painters drop sheet & lighter gauged than polycro so has some give that resists pad sliding.  Cut to size its only 23g.   The Tensor pad is now dead quiet.  I oversized it by an extra ounce:

    • bunch up the extra next to pad to stop any sliding on steep sites
    • a bit of extra floor protection in the free space
    • curl up the edge in hard driving rain to avoid splash back water ingress under the pad

    It rolls up with the Tensor & needs no extra space in the pack.  I’m a happy camper with this.

    Ryan, you might want to give it a shot before ditching the combo.


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