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2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks

An eclectic assortment of favorite gear for 2006.

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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.


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2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks
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Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: My top 3 on 12/01/2006 21:27:50 MST Print View

1) Smartwool socks - If all my pairs are dirty I am disappointed to have to wear "normal" socks again

2) REI Flash UL - Never has a $25 purchase worked well in so many situations and gotten so much use in one summer

3) Montbell UL Bivy - 6.3 ounces, WP/B, reasonably durable and smaller than a soda can. Perfect solo, minimalist shelter.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: Staying on topic on 12/01/2006 22:13:53 MST Print View

2006 Faves:

The carbon fiber trekking poles from BPL

SmartWool Hoody

Oware 'Mid

b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
Favorites in 2006 on 12/01/2006 22:25:22 MST Print View

BPL (concepts are gear, as is philosohy and attitude)

The UL people who are crazy enough to find ways to carry under 5 lbs. packs ... even if I never make it. (ditto for the community that makes the trails and the wilderness secure, protected, and access available.)

My spork. Because, next to my partner it is always there when I need it.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: Favorites in 2006 on 12/01/2006 22:50:51 MST Print View

Good on you b d!

faves beyond gear for 2006:

walking with friends and family in town and out

boating with my son and meeting folks on the creek

climbing trees in old growth

Edited by romandial on 12/01/2006 22:52:32 MST.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: 2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/01/2006 22:55:26 MST Print View

Tim, I just checked Smartwool's site and it appears they only have XXLs left. Thats where I bought mine. Someone said they have been discontinued but I haven't confirmed that yet. I sure hope not.

Frank Perkins

Locale: North East
Re: Re: My top 3 on 12/02/2006 08:06:24 MST Print View

My leki titanium poles. Not so much because of the poles themselves, but it's my first time using poles while hiking and I'm hooked.

My MSR mini towel. I never thought it would be so useful on the trail and in camp.

My Patagonia Houdini. It's so cool I almost feel like I'm bragging when I wear it. [Close 3rd is my Patagonia Micropuff vest which I wear almost every chance I get]

Greg Vaillancourt
(GSV45) - F

Locale: Utah
3 favorites from 2006 on 12/02/2006 15:24:24 MST Print View

1) Tarptent Squall 2 floorless

2) Icebreaker Merino zip T

3) Heineken 25 0z. can pot

The only problem with the Heineken pot is it looks like a keg, which makes me dream of beer..."Mmmmmmm Beeeeeeeer, aaauuuuuugggghhhhh"

barry hitchcock
(barryspoons) - F
2006 favourites on 12/03/2006 16:44:26 MST Print View

one--photon x micro led 3 pack from bpl---"every family member is sure to want one" --they did- -i need to order some more--two--phd down vest 800 uk fillpower --8ozs size small

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/04/2006 07:57:57 MST Print View

In no particular order my top 3 are:
Granite Gear Virga (modified)
Gossamer Gear Nightlite Torso
Light My Fire spork

Mark Watson
(mwbike) - F

Locale: Northwest
Re: 3 favorites from 2006 on 12/04/2006 16:17:41 MST Print View

Here are the 3 items that made the most impact on my backpacking in 2006:

1) Tarptent Rainshadow (very roomy for 2 or even 3 people)

2) Photon LEDs

3) REI(Komperdell) carbon trekking poles

Since I'm new to UL backpacking, and I recently subscribed to BPL, I'm sure 2007 will be even more dynamic & en-LIGHTening!

Kenneth Knight
(kenknight) - MLife

Locale: SE Michigan
CF Trekking poles on 12/07/2006 01:08:40 MST Print View

Len, I haven't used the Leki CF poles but check out the Review Summary Doug Johnson wrote and maybe you'll find some other poles you like.

I have had the occasional pole collapse using the C3 poles, but then I think I can make just about anything collapse that uses twist-locks. I put a lot of pressure on the poles when descending so this is not really unexpected. I was very pleased with their stiffness and they show no indication that they're going to break. In fact I have hurt myself more than I have hurt the poles (slip and fall on slick snow a month ago on a section of North Country Trail. The polehandle landed on my left thumb and I landed on the pole. My thumb still hurts from the resulting soft-tissue injury).

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
2006 Top 3 on 12/07/2006 12:22:10 MST Print View

This has been a great year for hiking. I've been out for a lot of short trips and continue to make significant strides toward a light pack. 3 successes for this year include:

1. Gossamer Gear Lightrek Poles - love 'em. As my wife has noted, I don't come home banged and cut from falling on every trip now. With their negligble weight I am finally happy using poles. 6.9 oz. for 130cm poles with baskets.

2. Mountain Laurel Designs Pro Poncho - Will Reitveld gave this a solid review. I've been very pleased with its field use so far. 10.0 oz.

3. Brooks Cascadia running shoes - the search for well fitting and comfortable trail runners has led through 6 models so far. These are the most comfortable for me yet. Size 12. 26.9 oz. Oh, did I mention that they are the ugliest shoes I've ever owned? My wife won't let me wear them in town.

Edited by flyfast on 12/07/2006 12:23:24 MST.

Gregory Doggett
(Gregory) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
2006 top three on 12/29/2006 12:22:15 MST Print View

My favorite 3 that I'm currently using for late-fall/winter trips in Va.

Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape
Gossamer Gear Mariposa Standard Pack
Icebreaker Merino Wool Skin200 l/s crew & boxer brief

Steve B
(geokite) - F

Locale: Southern California
2006 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 01/31/2008 16:13:55 MST Print View

No order:

injinji socks
MiniBuck multitool
CC stove w/ esbit (probable; haven't even gotten it yet)

Also, Pringles are, from what I remember, the highest calorie/mass food (other than lard or olive oil).