Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks

An eclectic assortment of favorite gear for 2006.

Print Jump to Reader Comments

by Backpacking Light Staff | 2006-11-29 03:00:00-07

Another year has gone by and it is time once again for the Backpacking Light staff to list their favorite gear. This year our picks are all over the board with only one item repeated - the Light My Fire Firesteel. Shelters is a favorite category with eight different shelters listed. Stoves, packs and poles were common choices with three selections each. The most unusual item is from Don Wilson - the venerable and well-loved potato chip in a can - Pringles.

This isn’t an “Editor’s Choice” or formal endorsement, just a list of gear we like.

Here are our previous picks for your enjoyment: 2005 Backpacking Light Staff Picks and 2004 Backpacking Light Staff Picks.

Enjoy - and don’t forget to add your own 2006 favorites in the forum below.    —Your BPL Eds

2006 Staff Picks of Favorite Gear
Backpacking Light Staff MemberFavorite Pieces of Gear
Ryan JordanBackpacking Light SUL Long Handled Titanium SpoonBushbuddy Ultra Wood StoveLight My Fire Firestarting Tool and Spark-Lite Tinder-Quik Firestarting Tabs
Carol CrookerOware AlphamidOutdoor Research PL Base GlovesRailRiders Adventure Top
Alan DixonInov-8 Roc-Lite 285 ShoesOutdoor Research Zealot Rain JacketTrail Designs Caldera Cone Alcohol Stove System
Ken KnightKomperdell C3 Duolock Carbon Fiber Trekking PolesLight My Fire Firesteel

Pacific Outdoor Equipment Max Compact 3/4 Sleeping Pad

Roger CaffinDarn Tough Vermont SocksSnow Peak GST100 stoveTherm-a-Rest Deluxe LE
Rick DreherGarmin Legend Cx GPSPatagonia Strider T-ShirtREI Sahara Convertible Pants
Jay HamBlack Diamond Mega Light Pyramid TentHomemade Spinnaker TarpMontBell Versalite 20 Pack
Doug JohnsonBozeman Mountain Works STIX PROGossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall ClassicJacks 'R' Better No Sniveler Quilt
Mike MartinBozeman Mountain Works Stealth 1 NANO (7x9) Catenary Ridgeline TarpGossamer Gear Lightrek PolesMarmot Ion Windshirt
Will RietveldMountain Laurel Designs Prophet PackSix Moon Designs Gatewood CapeTarptent Contrail
Alison SimonHaglöfs LIM Ultimate JacketMontBell UL Down Inner Half-Sleeve Jacket
Andrew SkurkaBozeman Mountain Works NANO X-LITE Lightweight Backpacking TarpGoLite Jam2 PackPhoton Micro Freedom 1-LED Light
Don WilsonCoolibar Fingerless GlovesPringlesWestern Mountaineering Summerlite Sleeping Bag

Ryan Jordan, Publisher - Bozeman, Montana

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 1

Backpacking Light SUL Long Handled Titanium Spoon
Backpacking Light Store

I know, I'm a total geek when it comes to flatware. But not only was I excited about designing a new version of the long handled titanium spoon, but also about using it in the field, knowing that its 0.39 ounce weight was lighter than my old mini-spoon or Lexan spork! The SUL Long Handled Titanium Spoon fits my style perfectly: it's not so ultra-durable that I can ignore how I treat it, but it preserves all the functionality of its heavier brother, which weighs a whopping 0.2 ounces more.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 2

Bushbuddy Ultra Wood Stove

This year, I fell in love (again) with woodfire cooking. After having the opportunity to review a whole suite of wood stoves, I found the Bushbuddy to fit my needs the best. I worked with Fritz of Bushbuddy to create an ultralight version of his stove for a trek to Alaska in June, and the result was a terrific blend of beautiful aesthetics, light weight and solid performance.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 3

Light My Fire Firestarting Tool and Spark-Lite Tinder-Quik Firestarting Tabs
Backpacking Light Store

I'm a huge fan of the Spark-Lite firestarter. But, combined with my preferred style of cooking (with wood, see above), I prefer a more robust firestarter that delivers a shower of sparks in the worst conditions. The Light My Fire Firestarting Tool fits the bill, and the Tinder-Quik Firestarting Tabs (a petroleum-impregnated cotton firestarter) readily ignite even when wet. This combination has never, ever failed me in the field, after hundreds of fires in wet conditions.

Carol Crooker, Editor-in-Chief - Phoenix, Arizona

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 4

Oware Alphamid

Pyramid tarps are great for use on snow. The tall opening is easy to get through even bundled in warm clothing and there is enough headroom to change clothes without brushing the top. Floorless silnylon pyramid tarps are very light and offer all kinds of snow sculpting options for creating a palace under the roof. The Alphamid goes one better - it’s a pyramid tarp cut in half. This 20 ounce shelter has plenty of room inside for one person and gear on a winter trip.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 5

Outdoor Research PL Base Gloves

These gloves weigh so little, I don’t mind stuffing them in my pack even on SuperUltraLight trips. They are thin enough that I can perform almost any camp chore with them on and, unlike thin wool liner gloves I’ve worn, the finger tips haven’t worn through. My gloves are a few years old and made of polyester. Most likely the current polypropylene models will perform as well my older style gloves.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 6

RailRiders Adventure Top

I wear the Adventure Top on all of my warm weather backpacking trips (unless I’m testing another shirt). It is the simplest and lightest (6.1 ounces) sun shirt I’ve found. The CoolMax side vents let in the slightest breeze, while the tough Supplex nylon protects me from thorns and even mosquitoes to some extent (assisted by the loose fit). Although the RailRiders Eco-Mesh shirt (made famous by adventure racers) is simpler still, I prefer the Adventure Top because the cuffs add enough length to the men’s medium to cover my wrists when I’m using trekking poles (my sleeve length is 32 inches). The buttons haven’t failed after three years of wear and the button up front placket is a tad warmer for evening wear than the Velcro closure on the Eco-Mesh.

Alan Dixon, Senior Technical Editor - Washington, D.C.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 7

Inov-8 Roc-Lite 285 Shoes

In the past I’ve used F-Lite 300s and Terrocs, but the new Roc-Lite 285s are lighter, more flexible, and have better grip. I particularly like the precise (snugger) fit of their “performance” last, the anatomic form used to construct shoes. The Roc-Lite 285s have the best grip and trail feel of any shoe I’ve used. This is especially true for soft, muddy, rocky or otherwise treacherous terrain. They are my favorite shoes for going out with a light pack where I might jog sections of a trail. The only downside of the 285’s is that the tread is a bit squirmy and doesn’t wear as well for long stretches of very hard surfaces (like rock or tarmac) as the F-Lite 300’s. I now alternate between the Roc-Lite 285s and F-Lite 300s depending on the trip and trail conditions, but take the 285s more often than not.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 8

Outdoor Research Zealot Rain Jacket

The Zealot has been my primary rain shell for the last couple of years. It was my choice for three weeks of backpacking on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, an area that receives over 250 days and 300 inches of rain per year. The weather lived up to its reputation and I never regretted my choice. Outdoor Research makes intelligent decisions about which features to include but still keeps weight around 7 ounces - competitive with the lightest rain jackets on the market. The Zealot has breathable and durable Gore-Tex PacLite fabric, a full length zipper for ventilation and easy doffing and donning, a generous size that layers over garments, and a single chest pocket that can be accessed with the pack on. I don’t miss hand pockets or vents and leaving them out saves weight and removes two potential sources for leaks. The hood is adequate but with limited adjustments and a shorter than average brim. I find that my normal habit of wearing a billed cap under the hood easily fixes this.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 9

Trail Designs Caldera Cone Alcohol Stove System

I was torn between including the Bushbuddy wood burning stove or Caldera alcohol stove but I mostly camp where fires are prohibited so… Think of the Caldera Cone Stove System as an alcohol version of the JetBoil without the weight penalty! The Caldera windscreen/pot support and stove weigh only 2 ounces. I have done precision testing of the Caldera and it is the most fuel efficient and wind resistant alcohol stove I’ve used. It’s more efficient in wind than many alcohol stoves in still air. The stove needs no priming, lights easily and works well in below freezing conditions. The Caldera maintains its fuel efficiency even with small solo cooking pots like the Anti Gravity Gear 3 Cup Pot or even a SnowPeak 600 ml mug. The key to this performance is the Caldera cone windscreen/pot support that is precisely fitted to your pot. The cone retains heat and distributes it to the entire pot surface (except lid) for optimal energy transfer. The Cone also provides good wind protection and makes the stove easy to light even in blustery weather. Finally, the Cone system is so stable that it is almost impossible to knock over - just light the stove, put the pot on, and forget about it. The only potential downside of the Trail Designs Cone system is longer boil times (6 to 8 min for 1 pint of water at 70 F depending on altitude, and a bit longer with wind). This is a byproduct of its fuel efficient stove burner. I use two versions of the Trail Designs Caldera Cone Stove System. For solo trips I use the Anti Gravity Gear 3 Cup Pot version. For couple’s trips, my wife and I use the larger 1.3 liter Evernew system. I look forward to using the Caldera cone with Backpacking Light’s new line of light and minimal titanium pots. The combination of a stove, windscreen, 1.3 liter pot and lid combination may come in under 6 ounces.

Ken Knight, Production Editor - Ann Arbor, Michigan

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 10

Komperdell C3 Duolock Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

At 5.6 ounces per pole (women's model; men's is 6.1 ounces per pole) I have come to really appreciate these three-segment collapsible poles. Their versatility more than offsets the somewhat increased weight of these poles over single-segment poles for me. They have proven to be sturdy and capable of taking the all-around abuse I tend to dish out on poles especially when descending even modest hills. My hands have yet to feel tired when using these poles.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 11

Light My Fire Firesteel
Backpacking Light Store

In 2005 I listed the Spark-Lite as one of my favorites. The Light My Fire Firesteel has replaced the Spark-Lite for my fire-starting needs even though it is a bit heavier at 1.1 ounces (32 grams). It throws out many more sparks and is easy to work with even when the temperature starts to drop - which is not the case with the Spark-Lite which is hard to flick when your fingers are cold.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 12

Pacific Outdoor Equipment Max Compact 3/4 Sleeping Pad

The Max Compact is not the lightest sleeping pad on the market, but for me it is important to have a good night's sleep and this pad helps to deliver that. It weighs 14 ounces but its glorious 2.5 inch thick stature makes sleeping on any ground a dream. While I would strongly hesitate to take this pad on a winter camping trip I have slept on it when the temperature has dropped into the mid-20s and been quite happy with the results. For a sound night's slumber I am more than willing to pay the near half pound penalty I incur by not using a basic closed-cell foam pad.

Roger Caffin, Cooking & Hydration Systems Section Editor - Sydney, Australia

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 13

Darn Tough Vermont Socks

I have some research background in textile physics and I know a little about knitting. There are several good brands of walking socks on the market, including some very well-known ones, but these Darn Tough Vermont socks are in a class of their own. The knitting is twice as fine as used by the competition, and this makes the inner pile on the socks unbelievably rugged. After our initial experiences with testing these socks my wife and I bought several more pairs each. Truth to tell, most of mine are still sitting in the drawer in their original packaging: my first pair has yet to wear out. And they get really hammered.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 14

Snow Peak GST100 stove

This is one of those iconic stoves: people who have one swear by them for their light weight of just 79 grams (2.79 ounces) and their utter reliability. OK, it’s an upright stove, so you don’t use it in the snow, but elsewhere it is a dream. You can get a piezo-ignitor attachment for it, but I have never bothered. I just use a Bic. It comes with a rugged plastic case but I don’t use that as it is just extra weight. Instead I wrap the stove up in a sock and store it in my pot. At first it had a bit of hysterisis in the valve action, but after many years I stripped the valve down, cleaned and lubricated the O-rings with silicone grease, and it has been ultra-smooth ever since. It’s powerful, but it also simmers superbly.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 15

Therm-a-Rest Deluxe LE

It’s OK for teenagers to sleep on a 1/2-inch foam mat, but it’s a long time since I was that young, and a good night’s sleep is very important for both my wife and I. This means an airmat, and a bit more thickness too. Once we get into the snow country the extra insulation value of a thick airmat also counts. I can sleep on mine with a quilt over me on snow and be warm underneath. They are 3/4 length, a whole 50 mm (2 in) thick, and weigh only 780 grams (27.5 ounces). OK, they are not SuperUltraLight, but the trade-off between weight and comfort is one we make without hesitation. We bought these self-inflating air mats many years ago, and sadly they are no longer available. I wish Therm-a-Rest would bring them back into production.

Rick Dreher, Lighting and Navigation Systems Section Editor - Sacramento, California

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 18

Garmin Legend Cx GPS

Even More About Where I Am: I knew this GPS was different when upon first powering it up, it located me inside my house upon waking from the long slumber that began in Taiwan. This implied sensitivity becomes reality in the woods, where the Legend CX kept the track where my other receivers would not (think heavy forest cover and tight mountain canyons). The bright color screen helps me discern relevant detail from map clutter and completing the performance trifecta, is excellent battery life that can eke out a week from a single set of lithiums or half a week from rechargeables (specification is 35 hours). At home, the USB connection means fast data transfer and also allows the PC to power the unit. Base topographical maps can be uploaded from a computer or added instantly by plugging in a microSD card, preloaded with a region map (surely the most expensive hiking accessory per pound, ever). While I’ve yet to figure how to use most of its countless features, the Garmin’s sensitivity, color screen, base maps and navigation aids make it a powerful trail tool without even reading the book.

Weight: 6 ounces; MSRP: $300.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 19

Patagonia Strider T-Shirt

Polyester Bliss: Consider the humble trail shirt mundane, but to find one that works well is a worthy quest. This Patagonia Strider is an all-polyester knit that doesn’t pill or fuzz underneath repeated packstrap wear, ventilates well, dries quickly and to my nose at least, doesn’t reek after a week on the trail (given the occasional rinse-and-wring). Raglan sleeves and flat stitching minimize bruising from seams and it’s long enough to stay tucked in. Not many pieces of clothing go with me whether it’s freezing or sweltering or raining, but this shirt does.

Weight: 5.8 ounces, size large; MSRP: $40.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 20

REI Sahara Convertible Pants

Count the Pockets: I generally find it a good idea to wear pants with my favorite trail shirt. For several years this has meant REI Sahara Convertible pants, of which I’ve used at least three generations. My latest are the first I’ve considered “best in show.” They’re comfortable, light and tough enough for all but the most ghoulish bushwhacking. They FIT, because REI now makes them in different inseam lengths, meaning no more high-water trail pants. They’ve got pockets aplenty - six - two of which zip closed and one that includes a small stash pocket. Okay, seven pockets. The zip-off legs also have vertical zips so they can come off or on while wearing shoes. The elastic waistband is paired with a webbing belt, but isn’t so bulky that it bunches up beneath a backpack waist belt. The fabric breathes well and sheds minor moisture, and when they do get wet they dry quickly. If I rinse them out and hang them up overnight, they’re usually dry the next morning, ready to go. They’re my first choice most of the year.

Weight: 13.2 ounces, men's medium 34-inch inseam; MSRP: $55.

Jay Ham, Make Your Own Gear Section Editor - Flagstaff, Arizona

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 21

Black Diamond Mega Light Pyramid Tent

The Black Diamond Mega Light is my favorite family backpacking tarp/tent. It’s roomy enough for the four of us and only 6.1 ounces per person (1 pounds 8.4 ounces total weight without stakes or pole). I use my trekking poles, tied together, for the center pole and carry homemade titanium stakes (4.0 ounces) to keep the weight as low as possible. My kids like the alternating two colored silnylon construction because it looks like a circus tent. When backpacking with small children, this is the only way to go!

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 22

Homemade Spinnaker Tarp
Backpacking Light

I recently made this tarp for a Make Your Own Gear (MYOG) series on creating your own SUL kit (pack, tarp, and stuff sack) out of 5 yards of spinnaker sailcloth. The tarp has become one of my favorites. I designed it with large overhangs on the front and rear to protect from driving rain. It’s also fairly wide for a solo tarp and has a catenary ridgeline for a taut setup. The best part is the weight; 6.3 ounces! Look for the do-it-yourself article next week.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 23

MontBell Versalite 20 Pack

MontBell’s Versalite 20 is designed as an adult pack, but the small volume and light weight (11.5 ounces) make it an excellent multi-day pack for my two girls. They both carry a Bozeman Mountain Works TorsoLite, Marmot Hydrogen, MontBell Thermawrap Action jacket (size XS), change of clothes, emergency rain poncho, and small toilet kit in their Versalite’s 1220 cubic inch volume. The Versalite has a wrap around back pocket the girls use to stow unneeded clothing, and a top pocket where they keep loose stuff. The torso length is admittedly a little long, but we keep the total weight under 6 pounds so the hipbelt is unnecessary.

Doug Johnson, Trekking Systems Section Editor - Redmond, Washington

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 24

Bozeman Mountain Works STIX PRO
Backpacking Light Store

At $280 ($238 for subscribers), these things are wicked expensive. But nothing translates to trail distance like a set of high-zoot trekking poles. And these are it - super light, the stiffest out there, and plenty durable. The STIX PRO are the Maserati of trekking poles.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 25

Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic

At just 1.5 pounds for a two-person shelter with a bathtub floor, the Squall Classic is an excellent blend of the best attributes of old and new Tarptent designs and constructed with ultralight fabrics. Add in Fibraplex poles and you've got the lightest two-person tent in the world!

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 26

Jacks 'R' Better No Sniveler Quilt

This bag is a super-versatile GEM! You can use it in a tent or a hammock, hang it under a hammock, or add a hood and arms for a super-warm down serape! Sure, I get some giggles, but I am warm and toasty - both around camp and while snoozing!

Mike Martin, Sleep Systems Section Editor, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 27

Bozeman Mountain Works Stealth 1 NANO (7x9) Catenary Ridgeline Tarp
Backpacking Light Store

For years, I hiked with a 7 ounce, 5 foot by 8 foot silnylon tarp and put up with its idiosyncrasies as what I thought was the cost of going lightweight. I accepted the fact that I would routinely have to re-tension the pitch as the fabric sagged from moisture at night. In windblown rain, I would put a rain shell over the end of my bag to keep the spray from coming in the ends of the tarp while grumbling that it must have been originally designed to fit Hobbits. Then I discovered the Stealth 1 NANO Tarp. At 5 ounces, it’s 30% lighter than my old tarp. The fabric doesn’t stretch when wet, so I don’t have to adjust the pitch in the middle of the night. And finally, with its 9 foot length, it’s actually large enough for me to spread out (with my gear) and keep everything dry.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 28

Gossamer Gear Lightrek Poles

Except when I’m on skis, I don’t need a 20 ounce pair of poles. Depending on length, the Gossamer Gear Lightrek poles weigh only 5 ounces per pair! At this weight, the exotic grip, shock absorber, and strap designs prevalent in beefier poles become moot. The Lightreks are virtually weightless in your hands and swing effortlessly with a slight flick of your wrist, while the natural flex of the carbon fiber shaft absorbs shock. Sure, they are not as rugged as heavier poles - I certainly wouldn’t take them skiing or mountaineering. But for balance on the trail, and shelter supports in camp, you can’t beat them.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 29

Marmot Ion Windshirt

This is my favorite windshirt by far. The Pertex Quantum shell offers a superb balance of breathability, light weight, compressibility, and durability. The full-zip offers ventilation options that make the shell usable over a broader range of conditions than pullover styles. The hood provides instantly available added warmth when needed. All this comes in a 3.2 ounce package (size large). Act fast if you want one with a Quantum shell; rumor has it that Marmot will switch to another fabric in 2007.

Will Rietveld, Packing & Shelter Systems Section Editor - Durango, Colorado

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 30

Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet Pack

For ultralight backpacking, I find the frameless Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet backpack (6.1 ounces, 2600 cubic inches, $125) to be just right. In size Large, the Prophet is small and light enough to use for SuperUltraLight trips but has enough volume to easily handle multi-day ultralight backpacking trips with a 5-8 pound base weight. And it works equally well for overnight or week-long trips. Standard features on the Prophet are a waist strap, sternum strap, bottle holders, and a bungee attachment system, and all are detachable. I especially like its fit and comfort, large front mesh pocket, bottle holders, and optional sternum pouch to keep a bunch of smaller items handy. Mountain Laurel Designs is presently redesigning their gear line and production methods, so expect a few changes when the Prophet packs reappear in 2007.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 31

Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape

The Gatewood Cape (11.6 ounces, $110) is a poncho/shelter that triples as rainwear, pack cover, and shelter. It functions a bit better than an ordinary poncho because it has a full front zipper, and it provides a much better shelter than a poncho/tarp. Actually, the shelter is much like the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo, but without the mesh entry and floor. I like to camp in the alpine zone above timberline, and find a poncho/tarp is a little too skimpy for shelter in wind-driven rain. The Gatewood Cape meets my needs. It weighs a little more than a minimalist poncho tarp, but the extra shelter is worth it, and I don’t have to carry a sleeping bag cover. I weathered a lot of storms under the Gatewood, including a 6-day trip where it rained almost continually and I used the Cape day and night. In using the Gatewood, my preference is to use a second trekking pole (or stick) to extend the front of the Cape to create a large beak for extra coverage, and also to provide more headroom.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 32

Tarptent Contrail

The Contrail is the newest addition to Tarptent’s growing lineup, and this one really shows the benefits of years of Tarptent innovation and refinement. At 24.6 ounces with floor ($199) and 20.5 ounces without floor ($169), the Contrail is Tarptent’s lightest tent, and almost matches the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo for the honor of lightest single wall one-person floored shelter. The Contrail is the most versatile one-person tent I know of. It uses a trekking pole in front and has a convenience setup mode for fair weather and a bomber setup mode for more severe conditions. In bomber mode, the rear of the tent will flatten to the ground and the front beak can be extended to provide more vestibule space and allow the mesh entry door to remain open. It is the most condensation resistant single wall tent I have tested to date. I have weathered some wild rain and snow storms in the Contrail, and it has become a close friend.

Alison Simon, Editorial Assistant - Washington, D.C.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 16

Haglöfs LIM Ultimate Jacket

Over the past few years, it seems like I can count on one hand the number of days I’ve gone backpacking and not run into foul weather. Fortunately it’s almost always been rain. This gave me numerous opportunities to test rain jackets. And after testing rain jacket after rain jacket, I always say the same thing, “I miss my Haglös.” The Haglöfs LIM, at 8.8 ounces uses a breathable and light Gore-Tex PacLite Matrix shell. It has an excellent fully featured hood (three drawcord adjustments) and a stiffened brim that most times does not require a hat underneath (although it works fine with a hat as well). One chest pocket is just enough to keep small things readily available. But my favorite parts of the jacket are the thumb loops. With the thumb-looped-end of the sleeves over my hands I usually don’t need my gloves and I don’t have the warmest hands. Finally, the jacket has a long hem that goes below my butt and over the top of my legs. Unfortunately Haglöfs is still not distributing their products in the US. The closest place to get one is from a UK stockist.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 17

MontBell UL Down Inner Half-Sleeve Jacket

My metabolism runs cold so I love everything down. MontBell’s new UL Down Inner Half Sleeve Jacket is a light solution to keep me warm in camp or at a trail stop. With 800 fill power down and a very light windproof 15 denier ballistic nylon shell it weighs only 6 ounces. I was skeptical of a short sleeved jacket but it has been warm and cozy on every fall trip this year - as warm as some jackets I own but lighter. The short sleeves trap warm air from escaping, unlike a vest where heat escapes out the sleeveless arm holes. Two hand warmer pockets keep my hands warmer than most gloves I own. The UL Down Inner Half-Sleeve Jacket eliminates the most damage prone part of any ultralight down jacket, the fore-sleeve - the place where cooking burns, food spills and tears and abrasions are most likely to occur. The jacket is not out in the US yet (in Japan only at this time), but MontBell expects it to be out in 2007.

Andrew Skurka, Ultralight Ambassador - Boulder, Colorado

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 33

Bozeman Mountain Works NANO X-LITE Ultralight Backpacking Tarp
Backpacking Light Store

The 3.2 ounce NANO X-LITE is probably the lightest functional shelter in the world. It’s not exactly the Taj Mahal of tarps - it measures 4.25' x 7.75' - but it has protected me well from rainy and windy conditions in both California and Colorado. (If possible I try to camp in naturally protected areas so that I can pitch the tarp off the ground, thereby increasing headroom and improving airflow.) Because it weighs so little, it makes an excellent shelter when one is only scarcely needed, like on the Pacific Crest Trail in June and on the shelter-heavy Appalachian Trail.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 34

GoLite Jam2 Pack

The Jam2 will be available this spring, along with eight other brand new packs from GoLite. I used a prototype this summer while hiking on the Pacific Crest and Colorado Trails, and was very impressed with the improvements that have been made from the first-generation Jam, which I used extensively during my hike of the Sea-to-Sea Route in 2004-05. The major improvements include: shoulder straps that are padded and contoured; a rear pocket that is larger and more space-efficient; larger delta fins that better distribute pressure; and a compression system that reduces pack volume by one-third.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 35

Photon Micro Freedom 1-LED Light

When the days are long - as they are in the summer, particularly in the northern states - it is fairly uncommon and mostly unnecessary that I hike in the dark. Quite often, however, I find myself pitching camp, cooking dinner, or journaling as the stars begin to populate the sky. For these months the Freedom Micro is all that I need: it provides adequate light if I need to hike a mile or two in the dark, and more-than-enough light for my nightly tasks. The best part: it weighs just 0.4 ounces, with a convenient clamp for the brim of my Headsweats visor.

Don Wilson, Clothing Systems Section Editor - Tucson, Arizona

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 36

Coolibar Fingerless Gloves

Hiking in sunny conditions with trekking poles exposes your hands to enormous amounts of sunlight. I set out this year to find a product that would protect my hands, but would be comfortable in the desert heat. The Coolibar Fingerless Gloves are just what I was looking for. They weigh just 1.7 ounces per pair and are very comfortable in warm conditions. The fingerless style makes it easier to operate your camera, adjust zippers or perform other manual tasks. Coolibar offers a full-fingered version and other styles for those with different preferences.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 37


This is not a joke. The right food is important to hiking enjoyment and in 2006 I rediscovered Pringles. I hiked a lot of long days in 6 weeks on the PCT this summer, and I am always experimenting with foods that satisfy my hunger in the afternoon, when I may have hiked 20 miles, but still have more miles to go. Pringles taste great, pack well, add salt to your diet and are available in numerous flavors. Looking for a satisfying snack after a hot and long day - rediscover Pringles.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - 38

Western Mountaineering Summerlite Sleeping Bag

The Summerlite is nearly the perfect bag for summer conditions. It has kept me comfortable at temperatures just below freezing, has a full zipper, is plenty roomy, and is long enough for my 6'4" frame. And best of all it weighs just 21 ounces (the regular length version is 2 ounces lighter). The Summerlite is the lightest fully baffled bag from Western Mountaineering and is now my favorite summer bag.


"2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks," by Backpacking Light Staff. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2006-11-29 03:00:00-07.


Reader Comments

You must login to post comments.

New Visitors: Create a new account
Remember my login info.

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks
Display Avatars
Sort By:
Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 11/29/2006 06:28:26 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Pringles on 11/29/2006 10:56:34 MST Print View

Pringles are an interesting choice. A friend once left half a pack in the cockpit of a small, sailing boat. A month later - and the boat had been on a mooring in Portsmouth harbour for most of the time - the Pringles were still crisp. An astonishing performance, demonstrating their suitability for backpacking if carried in a crush-proof container. Pringles definitely use only the finest quality, Belgian chemicals. They'd be even better if they had some food content.

Richard Sullivan
(richard.s) - MLife

Locale: Supernatural BC
Sawyer Controlled Release DEET ~ Asolo Voyager ~ Kelty Ridge 2 on 11/29/2006 11:07:21 MST Print View

Thanks again for a great list. I always enjoy this feature a lot.

My favourite gear for 06 was:

Sawyer Controlled Release DEET ~ This is one fantastic product, I actually enjoy using it. Long lasting, pleasant smelling cream, works perfectly.

Asolo Voyager XCR ~ These are the the lightest full shank boots on the market. And at 650g they are only 100g more than most hiking shoes.

Kelty Ridge 2 ~ Everything I always wanted in a Hubba Hubba, but with less weight and a high-level vent.

Don Wilson
(don) - MLife

Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
Re: Pringles on 11/29/2006 12:36:09 MST Print View

John -

Yeah, Pringles may not be a healthy snack, but they really hit the spot for me this year in warm conditions and long days.

I've ignored the nutrition value and the fact that they are made with all the tricks of mass produced frankenfood. I just know that they got me through a lot of days and that I found myself dreaming of rest stops where I could gobble down my alloted amount of Pringles. I carefully collected every crumb, never letting the smallest morsel escape my cravings.

Of course, I also ate huge amounts of warm, sweaty summer sausage. So it is fair to question my judgement when it comes to appealing food items.

Len Glassner
(lsglass) - MLife

Locale: San Diego
Komperdell hiking poles on 11/29/2006 21:24:26 MST Print View

I'm glad someone has had a positive experience with the C3 poles. Mine had an immediate, chronic problem with the twist locks not grabbing. I returned them to REI. I've acquired the more expensive LEKI carbon fiber poles, which have a similar weight. Have yet to try them out.

Ronald Lemmer
(rlemmer) - F

Locale: San Francisco Area
Re: Komperdell hiking poles on 11/30/2006 09:08:56 MST Print View

I have gone back to Leki non carbon poles. I broke a set on the PCT this year and I was one of many with this issue. I would not trust a carbon pole in a critical situation--like a sketchy river crossing. I know others seem to not have had issues---but I have seen way to many failures on the long trails.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Komperdell hiking poles on 11/30/2006 09:43:01 MST Print View

Not all CF is created (or in this case manufactured) equal.

Take a look at the LuxuryLite CF hiking staffs. Also, TiGoat makes some nice CF poles and staffs.

BMW has some very pricey, but strong and stiff poles.

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Re: Re: Pringles on 11/30/2006 12:12:26 MST Print View

Hi, Don.

When I'm burning more than 5000 calories a day, I too eat anything I can get my hands on. It was me who tested the Pringles (plural) in the opened pack and I wasn't even particularly hungry!

Earlier in my backpacking career, I experienced getting run down after a couple of hard weeks, partly as a result of bad eating. I try always to get something really good into my rucksack these days, and then a bit of the stuff I would never touch at home doesn't really matter.

I do get concerned when hearing others laud food which is high in calories per gram. A balanced diet will keep a backpacker going longer. For example, protein is essential for repairing tired tissues, but isn't high in energy. However, if you need calories, fatty snacks, such as Pringles, really do the job. I've seen kids boil 50 ml of water with just one Cheerio (I think it was called). Boiling ruins the experiment, so these days I only let them set fire to half of one of these disgusting things. Loads of energy in all that fat.

My backpacking rarely includes desert, but in the environments I visit, replacing sodium chloride is all too easy. Maybe replacing salt is a valid reason in the desert, but it isn't in Britain.

There is also the psychology of backpacking nutrition. If you don't look forward to food, should you be carrying it? It seems to me that Pringles may pass two tests out of three and Meatloaf said that ain't bad.

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Re: Re: Komperdell hiking poles on 11/30/2006 12:16:24 MST Print View


How were you using the pole when it broke? Were you holding the two together as if they were a staff?

Samuel Winebaum
(samwine) - F

Locale: NH
Re: Re: Re: Pringles on 11/30/2006 12:55:35 MST Print View

While I have not tried them myself on the trail I talked to several of the runners' support folks at the Wasatch 100 trail race in UT while spectating this year and many of the top racers swear by Pringles during these 20 hour plus events.

Ronald Lemmer
(rlemmer) - F

Locale: San Francisco Area
Re: Re: Re: Komperdell hiking poles on 11/30/2006 14:19:23 MST Print View

The first one snapped when I put some sideways pressure on it when picking it up---I was shocked---but I suspect it had been damaged somehow previously. The second snapped when the tip got caught in a crevice. Both poles snapped about 3 inches from the top of the lower section---odd. I do not know how others came upon the same issue. Certainly there also were a fair number of aluminum pole failures also.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Don Wilson, Pringles, Artic 1000, and Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/30/2006 16:16:00 MST Print View

What do they all have in common? The answer is >62% dietary fat.

Don Wilson said, "This is not a joke. The right food is important to hiking enjoyment and in 2006 I rediscovered Pringles." RN-Pringles are 62% fat. His summer sausage is 72% fat.

Roman Dial’s diet during his phenomenal Artic 1000 achievement consisted of chocolate (58% fat) and chips (62% fat).

My Updated Theoretical AT Unsupported Hiking Limit post of 11/25/2006, showed the required fat consumption for the Artic 1000 team to set an AT unsupported distance record. Their required diet fat content was 69%.

CAUTION-The majority of us, including myself, could not capitalize on this type of long distance backpacking diet. For this high level of dietary fat to be utilized efficiently, two things are required. First, you must have achieved elite level cardiovascular conditioning, prior to your backpacking trip. Second, your exertion level needs to be kept relatively low. This is a unique calculation for each individual but, as an example, the Artic 1000 team would need to stay below 63% of their max heart rate to achieve their simulated AT max mileage results.

Edited by richard295 on 11/30/2006 16:18:05 MST.

Don Wilson
(don) - MLife

Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
Re: Re: Don Wilson, Pringles, Artic 1000, and Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/30/2006 21:46:54 MST Print View

Richard -

Interesting comments. I was certainly attracted to fatty foods this summer while on my long hike. My other unmentioned favorite was Fritos.

I did try to maintain some diversity, and had a chance to sample town food every week or so.

I'll note that I did maintain my exertion level quite low even while hiking, and I was in the best shape I have been in for many years. But I wouldn't say that it was "elite level" - just pretty darn good, for me anyway. I find long hikes very motivating, so I had no problem working hard to be in top shape when I started the trail.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Don Wilson, Pringles, Artic 1000, and Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 12/01/2006 02:14:53 MST Print View

> What do they all have in common? The answer is >62% dietary fat.
Hum ....
It is recorded that some Antarctic explorers had a diet which basically consisted of dehi mashed potato and lard. I gather they ate every crumb each day.

Richard Sullivan
(richard.s) - MLife

Locale: Supernatural BC
Staying on topic on 12/01/2006 10:54:46 MST Print View

Isn't this the 2006 BPL Staff Picks topic? I'm kind of disappointed here since in 2004 there was fantastic participation with people listing their 3 favourite pieces of gear. Then in 2005 there was only a little, and now in 2006 we have a topic focused on a semi-synthetic potato product.


Edited by richard.s on 12/01/2006 10:58:22 MST.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Staying on topic on 12/01/2006 11:32:05 MST Print View

My three favs for 2006:

1. Golite Hut 1

2. Gossamer Gear Nightlight Torso

3. Montane Lightspeed windshirt

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: 2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/01/2006 16:27:26 MST Print View

Smartwool Shadows Hoody:
See my review.

Jacks 'R' Better No Sniveller Quilt:
The versatility of this is hard to beat. It works in a hammock and on the ground and as a jacket of sorts. Four season warmth, outside or around the house.

Patagonia Houdini:
This is the perfect compliment to the Shadows Hoody. It strikes the right balance between breathability and water resistance. I used it year around on the trail and around town.

It's not easy choosing just three. The Firelight Titanium Wing Stove and my homemade titanium trowel are also top picks for me. I have to agree with Andrew on the Photon Micro Freedom.

Edited by ericnoble on 12/01/2006 16:34:04 MST.

Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
Re: Re: 2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/01/2006 18:45:02 MST Print View

Where can one buy a size medium smartwool hoody online?

Edited by hikerfan4sure on 12/01/2006 18:45:32 MST.

Nathan V
(Junk) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lake State
My three favorites 2006 on 12/01/2006 19:06:50 MST Print View

It's a tough choice, but for me:
#1 - Patagonia Houdini
#2 - Gossamer Gear Lighttrek poles
#3 - Dancing Light Gear Tacoma Solo Tarp

Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
My top 3 on 12/01/2006 19:09:58 MST Print View

McHale SubPop: not ultralight, but comfortable, robust and ready for the long haul

Gossamer Gear Sleeplight: As light as a quilt with no drafts

BMW PRO Ultralight Stuff Sack (Yellow) keeps my gear organized and dry.