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2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks

Backpacking Light staff pick their favorite gear of 2007

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by Backpacking Light Staff | 2007-12-06 12:25:00-07

Another year has gone by and it is time once again for the BackpackingLight staff to come up with their lists of favorite pieces of gear. Some have commented that it is getting noticeably tougher to come up with three piece of gear that have become most favored and most depended upon over the past year. But in due time the staff came up with their lists and this is the result.

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

Enjoy - and don’t forget to add your own 2007 favorites in the forum below. -Your BPL Eds

2007 Staff Picks of Favorite Gear
Backpacking Light Staff Member Favorite Pieces of Gear
Ryan Jordan Inov-8 Roclite GTX 390 Shoes Google Docs FireLite 1100 Titanium Cookpot
Ben Smith GoLite Ion backpack FireLite Mini Firesteel Bozeman Mountain Works Cocoon UL 60 Hoody
Roger Caffin Silnylon 2-man single skin tent H-frame pack Sleeping bag
Carol Crooker Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape Komperdell Carbon Featherlite Poles Alpacka Yukon Yak Raft
Alan Dixon Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn Tarp jacks 'R' Better Stealth Universal Quilt Gossamer Gear Lightrek 3 Trekking Poles
Rick Dreher Suunto Observer altimeter-barometer-compass watch. FireLite SUL Long-Handled Titanium Spoon Trangia Alcohol Burner
Doug Johnson Bozeman Mountain Works Stealth 0 Nano Tarp Gossamer Gear Lightrek 3 Trekking Poles Hennessey Hammock Backpacker A-Sym backpacking hammock
Mike Martin Fenix L0D Flashlight Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Zip T Flexair Ultralight Pillow
Steve Nelson Cassin Ghost Ice Axe Ursack S29 Gossamer Gear Lightrek Plus Trekking Poles
Will Rietveld Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape Trail Designs Caldera Cone Vasque Velocity Trail Shoes
Alison Simon SmartWool Women's Microweight NTS Zip-T Oware Dixon Double, Two Person Bivy Sack Trader Joe's Dried Dragon Fruit
Don Wilson Arc’Teryx Gamma LT Pants FireLite Mini Firestarting Kit Patagonia R1 Hoody

Ryan Jordan, Publisher - Bozeman, Montana

2007 Staff Favorites - 1

Inov-8 Roclite 390 gTX Shoes
Early snows and cold mountain temperatures means that my winter kit came out early this year. I've ditched the waterproof sock concept in lieu of something simpler, drier, and more durable: my feet have found happiness in Inov-8 Roclite 390's. It's a mid-height shoe (at 26 oz/pair, I have a hard time calling it a boot!) that provides plenty of flexibility for forward motion with just enough stability to make trekking on ultralight snowshoes a dream, even while traversing steep slopes. With thick socks and a high gaiter, I'm still carrying only about a pound on each foot. Compare that to the Sorel craze 20 years ago where I was lugging three pounds a foot. That's progress I can get pretty excited about.

2007 Staff Favorites - 2

Google Docs
I know, it's hardly to be considered in the genre of outdoor gear, but the ability to collaborate LIVE with my expedition teammates for gear list planning has added a lot to my enjoyment of trip planning. Here's how we do it: create a gear list template in a Google Spreadsheet, then copy that template to new pages in the sheet. Assign an expedition member's name to each page, and simply use this single Web document to create your gear list. The concept works so well for collaboration that Backpacking Light has now adopted the technology for its Wilderness Trekking courses. It's a great way to keep your gear list up to date with everyone as your departure date nears, and it's a lot of fun as well: just watch for the offloading of gear as someone nudges their list a little lighter than everyone else. It's like an avalanche, and can get pretty competitive.

2007 Staff Favorites - 3

FireLite 1100 Titanium Cookpot
Backpacking LIght
I admit my bias towards ultralight cookware, and although this reflects shameless promotion to the hilt, I can't help but love a pot that fits my favorite stove perfectly. With this pot, my Bushbuddy Ultra, and a FireLite Mini Firestarting Kit, I feel like I've finally arrived at something near the perfect solution for long-distance wilderness travel. The pot is big enough to fill up most of a one-liter Nalgene bottle for a little extra wintertime sleep comfort, and holds a hearty meal when calorie demands increase after a week or two of hard trekking. Fire is bliss and this pot holds it well.

Ben Smith, Managing Editor - San Antonio, Texas

2007 Staff Favorites - 4

GoLite Ion backpack
This little pack ditches virtually every feature I’ve come to take for granted. No pockets, no compression, little padding, and no drawstring closure. I’ve thought about adding a compression system, or sewing some simple, light side pockets on… but then I realize that I’d wind up filling those pockets up. It requires a lot of restraint for me to use this pack on anything but an overnighter, and strangely enough, the discipline required to pack my water bottle away out of reach (I am not a fan of hydration systems) really keeps me attentive to both water sources and my hydration routine. This pack takes a pedestrian hike (or pre-trip planning session) and turns it into a challenge.

Weight: 9 oz
MSRP: $50

2007 Staff Favorites - 5

FireLite Mini Firesteel
For years I’ve relied on a little canister stove to boil my water and cook my food. I’ve recently converted to wood fire cooking, and the FireLite is the coolest firestarter I’ve used. Compared to larger firesteels, the Mini throws an impressive and dense cluster of sparks, and the compact size is fine for my medium-sized hands (a guy with bigger mitts might have trouble hanging on to it). The Tinder-Quik tabs aren’t the longest-burning tinder bundles, but they might be the easiest to light. I carry a couple of larger “waxier” tinder tablets to supplement the Tinder-Quiks in wetter conditions.

Weight: 0.81 oz
MSRP: $11.99

2007 Staff Favorites - 6

Bozeman Mountain Works Cocoon UL 60 Hoody
This hooded pullover really hits the mark for me. The original Cocoon pullover model was tempting, but the lack of a hood allowed me to demonstrate self-control. When Ryan announced the availability of the UL 60 Hoody, my wife rolled her eyes in resignation - the BMW box was on my doorstep a few days later. I had high expectations - the original Cocoon was highly regarded, and I assumed the Hoody would be the ultimate UL synthetic jacket. I can say with certainty that it has met those expectations. It’s light, warm and is the perfect companion for a hoodless sleeping bag or quilt.

Weight: 10 oz
MSRP: $219

Roger Caffin, Technology Editor - Sydney, Australia

My favorites for this year are all items I made myself. I’ll justify my selection in two ways. First: I wanted these particular bits of gear so much I went to the effort of making them. Second: the change from my previous conventional heavy-weight gear meant the weight of the big three went from 8.00 kg (17.64 lb) down to 2.55 kg (5.62 lb), a reduction of 5.45 kg (12.0 lb). Is it any wonder I like these items?

2007 Staff Favorites - 7

Silnylon 2-man single skin tent This tent has very generous space for my wife and me, with a groundsheet space of 2.2 x 1.2 m (7.2 x 3.9 ft) and an internal height of about 1.0 m (39 in). The groundsheet space is fully screened with insect netting all around, adequate to keep out the notorious Australian bush flies. It has good ventilation, with roof-height vents at both ends as well as ground-level clearance all around. In addition there are vestibules at each end: I use the rear one to store our packs and the front one for all our cooking. It may be only single-skin, but with the right guy ropes in place this tent has taken severe storms and snow.

Weight: 1.2 kg (42.4 oz)

2007 Staff Favorites - 8

H-frame pack I have used several packs with a hip belts, but I don’t find the hip belt ever to be much use. It seems I have narrow hip bones which just don’t support the conventional hip belt. I have always had good success with H-frame packs - I started making them when I was a Boy Scout. This one uses Easton arrow shafts for the frame and light but abrasion-resistant waterproof X-Pac fabric for the bag. I sealed all the seams on the inside with tape, so the bag is highly waterproof by itself. I don’t bother with a pack cover. While the pack only weighs 800 g, it has carried winter base-camp loads up to 26 kg without much trouble (I had problems: it didn’t). The X-Pac fabric is tough enough to withstand the worst of the Australian scrub too - that aspect has been well tested.

Weight: 800 g (28.2 oz)

2007 Staff Favorites - 9

Sleeping bag My wife and I have some conventional commercial winter sleeping bags for snow use and some ‘light’ commercial bags for summer use, but both are far too heavy. They use cheap Asian fabrics for the shell, and those fabrics are heavy. So I made two summer shells from Pertex Microlight fabric, with baffles, and each one came to just 250 g (8.8 oz). I put 300 g (10.6 oz) of 800 loft down in each one. Despite the initial intention that these would only be for summer, my wife and I have used these down to the freezing point (and in the snow). By wearing thermals and snuggling together we have been quite warm enough. Since making these we have switched to using them as quilts, with three advantages. There is far more room under a quilt than inside a sleeping bag for the same weight. The bag does not get stretched over our knees so the down does not get squashed there. And since we have two quilts, we can layer one on top of the other when it is really cold.

Weight: 550 g (19.4 oz)

Carol Crooker, Editor-at-Large - Phoenix, Arizona

2007 Staff Favorites - 34

Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape
The Gatewood Cape is a marvel. Ron Moak of Six Moon Designs has created a shelter enclosed on all sides with a zip vestibule for 10.9 oz (measured) with enough covered area and sitting height to make all 5’10” of me happy - and I haven’t even used it as a cape yet!

Weight: 10.9 oz
MSRP: $110

2007 Staff Favorites - 35

Komperdell Carbon Featherlight Poles
I love these poles! They feel light in my hands (8.9 oz/pair with baskets) and are stiff enough to give me complete confidence when putting my full weight on them. The straps are wide, comfortable and rugged enough to bear my weight.

Weight: 8.9 oz/pair (with baskets)
MSRP: $120 (I've seen them online for $70)

2007 Staff Favorites - 36

Alpacka Yukon Yak Raft
My decked Yukon Yak is 5 lbs 12 oz of fun. It folds small enough to fit in the bottom of a 2000 ci pack with room left over to carry everything needed for an overnight raft trip. Even though it’s tiny, I’ve run class 3 drops in it and ferried another adult and a child across a reservoir.

Weight: 5 lb 12 oz
MSRP: $775

Alan Dixon, Editor-at-Large - Washington, D.C.

2007 Staff Favorites - 10

Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn Tarp
I haven't used a tent at all year. Why? The Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn has finally convinced my frequent hiking partners, my wife and my son, to tarp camp with me (I usually tarp camp when solo hiking). Under the large coverage of the SpinnTwinn we've weathered many days of heavy rain, thunderstorms and high winds in the Sierras, High Uintas, and a freak rainstorm in Southern Utah. Even with all the wet weather, both my wife and son are happy to take the SpinnTwinn out again.

The low weight of the SpinnTwinn allows me to go sub-5 pound with folks that wouldn't normally make this base pack weight. The SpinnTwinn provides generous shelter and gear storage for two people for about 4 ounces per person. Current tarptent style shelters are four times that weight with less protected area. The SpinnTwinn has great ventilation and great views. I rarely need to pitch the tarp low. There's enough room in the front of the tarp for two to sit side by side, cook dinner, and enjoy watching the storm. The SpinnTwinn dries much faster than a soaked tent. It doesn't stretch nearly as much when wet as silnylon shelters and thus requires less tweaking when it rains. If it does need adjustment the included Lineloc buckles make it easy without having to move stakes.

Weight: 8.4 oz
MSRP: $175

2007 Staff Favorites - 11

Jacks 'R' Better Stealth Universal Quilt
The Jacks 'R' Better Stealth Universal Quilt (JRB Stealth) is a key piece of gear when I get my skin-out weight below 5 pounds. The JRB Stealth has a slit in the middle, so it can also be worn as an insulating poncho. JRB labels the Stealth as a summer quilt and rates it to +40° to 45° F. I've successfully slept into the 30's under this quilt with no insulating clothing (your mileage may vary).

Like Francis Tapon in his CDT Yoyo, the JRB Stealth is both my "sleeping bag" and my sole insulating garment (Francis used a much warmer version just now available as "The Rocky Mountain Sniveller Quilt"). The poncho/quilt system works well when I hike without stopping during the day. It eliminates about a half pound to a pound for an insulating garment like a down or synthetic high loft jacket (in cold weather, I hike fast enough to stay warm with a light wool shirt and a wind/rain jacket). In camp, I use the quilt briefly as a garment to stay warm while I cook and do chores morning and evening. Otherwise, I'm sleeping under it. (The JRB system works. I have a feeling I need to get a Rocky Mountain Sniveller Quilt to complete my set of all three weights of the JRB Poncho/Quilts) At $200 for a sub-one-pound sleep system with 800 fill power down, the JRB Stealth is an UL bargain.

Weight: 15.5 oz
MSRP: $199

2007 Staff Favorites - 12

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 3 Trekking Poles
Finally, strong trekking poles that are the lightest in their class. The new 2007 gossamer Gear Lightrek 3 trekking poles use a stronger and stiffer tapered shaft that adds no weight to the previous version of the poles. These are strong enough for anything trail hiking can dish out. At 2.4 ounces each, they are about ¼ the weight and cost less than most high quality UL aluminum and carbon trekking poles. The Lightrek 3 poles pair beautifully as shelter supports for my SpinnTwinn (shared tarp) or my Bozeman Mountain Works Stealth 1 NANO (solo tarp).

Weight: 4.8 oz/pair
MSRP: $130/pair

Rick Dreher, Gear Editor - Sacramento, California

2007 Staff Favorites - 13

Suunto Observer altimeter-barometer-compass watch.
The Observer is a comprehensive, accurate and fairly easy-to-learn navigation watch. The altimeter, which reads in 1-meter/3-foot increments, is temperature-compensated and quite accurate, exhibiting less drift than many competing altimeters. It stores up to 99 trip logs, dividable by “laps,” that preserve date, elapsed time, and total elevation gained and lost. Very nice for reviewing the day’s hike. The compass can be calibrated for declination and for use anywhere on the globe. It displays bearing, cardinal bearing, bearing tracking, and north-south arrow.

No less critical, the Observer has a very readable display with effective backlight. And, unlike many other Suunto models and competing watches, it isn’t large enough to host a dinner salad. The watch and controls are nicely contoured (no digging into my flesh) and the rubber wristband on my stainless steel model is strong and comfortable (all stainless and all titanium models also available). The user-replaceable battery lasts about two years. Nits: some features are not so intuitive to learn and use, there’s no profile graph, no hourly chime and no countdown timer. The alarm has never proven loud enough to wake me.

Weight: 80 grams
MSRP: $300

2007 Staff Favorites - 14

FireLite SUL Long Handled Titanium Spoon.
How can something so light and seemingly simple be so very useful? The FireLite (the second version from BPL) is great for both cooking and eating. The spoon’s bowl is cunningly contoured for maximum utility in digging out food from pot and bag corners without abusing my mouth when eating. It stirs food and scrapes pots better than more traditional, pointy spoon designs. The incredibly thin metal is reinforced by a dimple that runs the handle’s length, making it stiff enough for the task. The perforation at the tip means it can be hung or strung. The extra length means it’s not fitting in any typical pot or pan, but that’s a very minor annoyance compared to the utility it provides. So light is this thing I’m pretty sure if I packed ten, my pack would lose weight.

Weight: 11 grams
MSRP: $13

2007 Staff Favorites - 15

Trangia Alcohol Burner.
I rediscovered this venerable and classic all-brass stove this season. Paired with a tripod stand, foil windscreen and titanium pot, it’s hot enough, adjustable enough, and holds enough fuel to cook a real meal in complete silence. Leftover fuel is preserved for next meal using the screw-on cap.

Controlling and snuffing the flame with the adjustable cap (“simmer ring”) can be a challenge (newer models have a helpful tab mine lacks). While ghoulishly “heavy” compared to popular soda can burners, the Trangia keeps me in the world of cooking, as opposed to boil-and-sit. That, and its beautiful brass construction make that extra two or three ounces seem not so bad.

Weight: 111 grams
MSRP: $14

Doug Johnson, Trekking Systems Editor - Redmond, Washington

2007 Staff Favorites - 16

Bozeman Mountain Works Stealth 0 Nano Tarp
At 3.1 ounces with seam sealer, this is the lightest full-size tarp on the market. Combined with a lightweight bivy, it is an easy way to get ultra-low base weights while still being able to carry a full rain jacket, instead of using a poncho tarp. Besides that, it’s Cuben fabric is very strong and with its catenary cut, it holds up remarkably well to strong winds. I love this tarp!

Weight: $159.99
MSRP: 3.0 ounces

2007 Staff Favorites - 17

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 3 trekking poles
This is a highly refined product. The last generation of Lightrek poles were already a favorite with many staff for their reliability, ultra light weight, and comfortable degree of flex. The new Lightrek 3 are even better, with made in the USA tapered carbon shafts, increased stiffness while retaining a degree of vibration-absorbing flex, and a 0 increase in weight. The new Lightrek 3 poles keep Gossamer Gear at the forefront of the ultralight trekking pole market.

Weight: $130
MSRP: 2.8 ounces per pole (5.6 ounces per pair)

2007 Staff Favorites - 18

Hennessy Hyperlight Backpacker A-Sym backpacking hammock
What happens when you take the ever-popular Hennessy Ultralight Backpacker A-Sym hammock and you trim over 5 ounces without affecting durability? You go HYPERLIGHT! This hammock has everything you need: full bug and rain protection, the super-sano bottom entry system, quick set-up and take down, reasonable gear storage, and loads of available aftermarket options so you can hammock virtually anywhere and in any conditions. The best part of the Hennessy Hyperlight Backpacker A-Sym is the most comfortable nights’ sleep that you’ll ever have in the backcountry; the Asymmetrical cut gives a flatter sleeping position and the length is comfortable for my 6’1” height. This hammock is a dream. (Now, if we can only get Tom Hennessy to bring his prototype Cuben rainfly to market- it shaves an additional 7.4 ounces!!!)

Weight: $219.95
MSRP: 1 pound 10.3 ounces

Mike Martin, Techniques Editor - Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

2007 Staff Favorites - 19

Fenix L0D Flashlight
The progress in LED lighting technology continues to amaze me. The latest generation of the Fenix L0D flashlight uses the newest “Rebel” LED from Luxeon and produces a claimed 60 Lumens of light output at the highest setting. This is double that of the prior generation model with a Luxeon III LED. The kicker? It does this with no reduction in battery life (8.5 hours low, 3.5 hours medium, and 1 hour high). To put this in perspective, the high setting of the L0D is brighter than my Princeton Tec EOS that’s over four times heavier. It’s plenty bright for off-trail nighttime navigation. The competition between Philips (makers of Luxeon) and CREE to produce the most efficient LEDs has been great news for consumers, and I expect next year we’ll see even better technology. The L0D uses an AAA battery like all of my other winter electronics, so I don’t have to carry more than one kind of spare. It works equally well as a hand-held light, or headlamp when clipped to the brim of a hat. I wish the clip were a bit sturdier, but I’m happy to live with it to gain all the other advantages of the light.

Weight: 0.8 oz (measured) with clip and lithium AAA battery
MSRP: $46.50

2007 Staff Favorites - 20

Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Zip T
The Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Zip T has a unique combination of features that sets it apart from the plethora of other expedition weight base layers. First is its impressive warmth to weight ratio. The stretchy collar seals in warmth around the neck, while the body provides 4 mm of insulation for the same weight as many mid-weight base layers. Second is the Powerstretch fabric. It’s 12% Lycra content makes it more absorbent than pure polyester base layers. This is obviously a drawback if it becomes saturated during an unplanned swim, as it will take a very long time to dry. But much like wool base layers, with smaller amounts of moisture like those typically generated from perspiration, the absorbency buffers the collection and evaporation of moisture, reducing “flash-off” chilling and extending its comfort range. Finally, the Zip T is designed to be reversible with a double-sided front zipper. This further extends the comfort range by allowing the user to wear it “smooth side out” for maximum wicking and warmth, or “fuzzy side out” to make it cooler by holding more moisture near the skin and trapping less air.

Weight: 8.8 oz (measured, size large)
MSRP: $85.00

2007 Staff Favorites - 21

Flexair Ultralight Pillow
The addition of this single item on my gear lists may forever exclude me from joining the elite sub-five-pound SUL club, but it’s my favorite luxury in my pack. Sure, I’ve spent nights with my head on a wadded up jacket, rolled up pack… even my shoes. But for less than an ounce, I can have a real pillow and a good night’s sleep. Durability is fair - I’ve gone through several and expect them to last about 10 nights on average. Larger versions are available with single and even ridiculously luxurious dual chambers. But I’ve found the simple, small, single-chambered version to be plenty comfortable when inflated properly. Plus, it’s a bit less likely to evoke sneers from my sleep-deprived pillowless hiking companions with 0.6 ounce lighter packs than mine.

Weight: 0.6 oz (measured)
MSRP: $6.99 per 3-pack

Steve Nelson, Winter Systems Editor - San Francisco, California

2007 Staff Favorites - 31

Cassin Ghost Ice Axe
The Ghost is a lightweight aluminum ice axe meant for non-technical use. The open shaft drives me nuts (it collects snow), and I wouldn't even think of using it for true technical mountaineering, but I sure do find it handy, and it goes on all of my winter trips. I've used it to self arrest, chop steps, anchor my tent or other gear, chip and pry out snow stakes and other items from ice and hard packed snow, and sundry other uses around camp. It's been surprisingly durable over four seasons of use, and I expect it to last for many more. For similar use, consider ice axes from Camp or the ULA "potty trowel."

Weight: 9 oz
MSRP: $60

2007 Staff Favorites - 32

Ursack S29
There's no perfect, do-it-all food containment solution, but the Ursack S29 Spectra bag and its liner are, in my opinion, the most flexible. I appreciate having a modular system that lets me add or remove the weight and bulk of the liner when it's not required, and a bag that can compress down as food is consumed, or be counterbalanced like a traditional bag if desired. In researching my article in the "Bear" issue of our print magazine, I discovered that every single portable system has been breached even when used properly, including the latest BearVault and old Garcia canisters, and when those are broken into, the bear gets the food. The Ursack is not approved for all areas, and if a bear gets a hold of it, your food may end up crushed or slobbered on - but it's unlikely to be exposed and consumed. Used with care and caution, the Ursack is a fine choice that saves many ounces and is an easier carry than hard-sided canisters.

Weight: 15 oz for bag, 12 oz for liner
MSRP: $69 for S29 bag, $20 for liner

2007 Staff Favorites - 33

Gossamer Gear Lightrek Plus Poles
I love these poles. Super-light, with carbon fiber shafts, Kork-o-lon grips, and a Leki-compatible tip, they go on every one of my backpacking and snowshoeing trips. I screw snow baskets onto the tips for winter, trekking baskets the rest of the year, and have used them in very challenging conditions with great success. I particularly like the feel of the grips - they don't get sweaty, and the shape allows both gripping the shaft and gripping the top with comfort. As a single section pole they lack some flexibility in usage, but gain simplicity and save weight. They're not infallible - the older version of the tips fractured in cold weather, and I've had the shaft on the newer, thicker version break once, but use them with moderate care and they're surprisingly durable. Gossamer Gear has a solid warranty, sending replacements for true failures, and a reasonable purchase price for a single new pole when you break one yourself.

Weight: 5.4 oz/pair for 115 cm poles with trekking baskets and keeper loops
MSRP: $130

Will Rietveld, Packing Systems Editor - Durango, Colorado

2007 Staff Favorites - 28

Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape
Weighing a scant 12.5 ounces with tieout cords and titanium stakes, the Gatewood Cape serves as rainwear, pack cover, and shelter. I really like it because it not only saves a lot of weight, but also provides a better solo shelter than a poncho-tarp. In shelter mode, there’s more headroom and there’s no need to take along a lightweight bivy for spindrift protection, so that’s another 6 ounces saved. In rainwear mode, it has all the advantages and disadvantages of a poncho – it covers me and my backpack, but it flaps in the wind and it blocks the view of my feet. It’s not the best rainwear option for off-trail hiking and prolonged rain. Overall, it’s very well designed and a great piece of gear to use when only showers are expected.

Weight: 11 oz
MSRP: $110

2007 Staff Favorites - 29

Trail Designs Caldera Cone
The Caldera Cone serves as both windscreen and potstand. It holds a cook pot by its upper lip, so the pot is completely enclosed in the cone for maximum wind protection and heat transfer. Caldera Cones are available sized to fit most popular lightweight cook pots, from solo to group size. I tested several early prototypes of the Caldera Cone at high elevations (up to 13,000 feet), leading to the production version, which provides excellent wind protection and performance at high altitude. I camp in the alpine zone a lot, so good wind protection is a necessity. The photo shows trout poaching in the Caldera Cone at 12,100 feet elevation. Weighing just 2 ounces for the Cone plus alcohol burner, the Caldera Cone is now my preferred cooking system. Its only disadvantage is that the Cone needs to be carried in a protective drink cup, which is a bit bulky for packing.

Weight: 1-2 oz (depending on pot size)
MSRP: $30-$40 (depending on pot size)

2007 Staff Favorites - 30

Vasque Velocity Trail Shoe
I have tested quite a few trail shoes, and this one stands out. Granted, the performance of a trail shoe depends a lot on the fit, and I was able to obtain a perfect fit in this shoe, which is available in a wide width. The Velocity has a stiffer molded TPU plate, giving it good stability and pronation control, which is especially noticeable when hiking on rough trails or off-trail. A dual density EVA midsole provides good shock absorption. The upper is plenty durable for hiking through sliderock, and its grippy lugged outsole gets great traction. It’s also quite light at 14 ounces/shoe (men’s 9). For my feet, the Velocity is my preferred hiking shoe.

Weight: 28 oz
MSRP: $90 ($120 for the Gore-Tex version)

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

2007 Staff Favorites - 22

Smartwool Women's Microweight NTS Zip-T
As someone who is has never been able to wear wool, the Microweight T has rocked my world. Perhaps it's the jersey knit that Smartwool uses; perhaps it's the fine fibers of the ultra lightweight merino wool. Whatever it is, the Microweight T works well in a wide range of conditions. I can comfortably wear this top on a backpacking trip into the desert, the snow, or just a nice fall day hike. The Microweight T has a half zip down the front for venting but a collar high enough to protect your neck from the sun.

However, the best part of this garment is that it keeps me stink-free. In a moment I will never forget, after backpacking and climbing in desert canyons for six days and seeing no one, we ran across a group of hikers who had also been out for six days. As we walked away, one of the women in the other group commented, "Wow, she really didn't LOOK like she's been out for six days". I can comfortably say that she, on the other hand, did.

Weight: 5.6 oz
MSRP: $70

2007 Staff Favorites - 23

Oware Dixon Double, Two Person Bivy Sack
I'm the nester in the family. When we arrive at a campsite, my primary focus is on putting together our trail home for the night. With our new double-wide bivy sack, I've taken nesting to a whole new level. Tents are nice and sleeping bags are comfy, but the double bivy is nest heaven. With it, you get all the benefits of a shelter without being confined in any manner by, well, the shelter. It allows me to finally sleep under the stars at night.

The Oware Dixon Double has a Pertex Quantum top and Silnylon bathtub bottom. It has "nanoseeum" bug netting panel in the hood with a tie-out to keep it off your face. The Bivy protects us from wind and ground moisture, keeps dew and light rain off our down quilt, keeps dirt out and keeps cold drafts from creeping under the edges of our shared quilt. The defined area inside the bivy puts an end to quilt hogging.

Weight: 10.5 oz
MSRP: $299

2007 Staff Favorites - 24

Trader Joe's Dried Dragon Fruit
We used to be addicted to Trader Joe's (TJ's) unsweetened dried mango-the perfect trail food. My husband loved to tell stories about how the mango was "tradable in desperate situations for just about anything" (I never quite understood what that actually meant). But after a long reign as king of trail food dried mango has a successor, TJ's dried dragon fruit.

Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya or pitahaya fruit comes from the vinelike pitaya cactus. It can weigh from 150-600 grams and the flesh, which is eaten raw, is mildly sweet. Eating the fruit is sometimes likened to that of the kiwifruit due to a prevalence of sesame seed-sized black crunchy seeds found in the flesh of both fruits which make for a similar texture upon consumption. It’s slightly sweet with exotic and unfamiliar flavors followed with light crunch from the seeds. While one would like to associate many health benefits to something so strange and delicious, there actually is at least one tangible benefit; it seems to lower glucose levels in type 2 diabetics. Move over mango.

Weight: 4.0 oz
MSRP: $1.79

Don Wilson, People/Places Editor - Tucson, Arizona

2007 Staff Favorites - 25

Arc’Teryx Gamma LT Pants
These pants have been on the market for some time, but I acquired my first pair this year. They are only slightly heavier than supplex nylon pants, but are far more weather resistant and warmer. I’ve used my pair constantly for two months - in heat, cold, snow and rain. They are adaptable to a very broad set of conditions. The slight stretch in the material helps to make them mobile and very comfortable. And they come in tall sizes, another plus for me.

Weight: approx 12 oz (varies by size)
MSRP: $150

2007 Staff Favorites - 26

FireLite Mini Firestarting Kit
This kit is available from the BPL gear store. Since I started using this kit to make cook fires and campfires, I have a whole new relationship with fire. I’m liberated from matches and lighters, which is a good thing. These kits are reliable in all sorts of weather, and have helped me fine-tune my fire making skills. Truly one of the best things to change in my kit this year.

Weight: 0.81 oz (23 g)
MSRP: $11.99

2007 Staff Favorites - 27

Patagonia R1 Hoody
This versatile product has been much discussed on the BPL forums. The R1 Hoody is the perfect companion for aerobic activity in cool and cold weather. The very breathable R1 fabric is warm, but stays remarkably dry. The sleeves and torso are cut with extra length to keep you covered while you are active. And the sleeves also have thumb loops to keep your wrists and hands partially covered. The hood fits snugly and wraps your neck, chin and noggin in warmth. The very deep chest zipper allows significant venting when you need it. An excellent product.

Weight: about 11 oz, depending on size
MSRP: $130


"2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks," by Backpacking Light Staff. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2007-12-06 12:25:00-07.


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2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks
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Benjamin Smith
(bugbomb) - F - M

Locale: South Texas
2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/04/2007 22:27:49 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks

Greyson Howard

Locale: Sierra Nevada
Re: 2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/04/2007 23:09:55 MST Print View

Roger, we really, really, REALLY need to know more about your tent.

Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
My 2007 faves on 12/05/2007 02:03:49 MST Print View

Icebreaker base layers - like Alison, I like the 'low stench' factor. The Icebreaker merino wool is also comfortable and 'no itch', plus comfortable in a wide range of temperatures.

Nunatak Ghost quilt - love the texture of the Pertex shell, the warmth of the down, the comfort of being able to vent easily, and the low weight.

Darn Tough Vermont Micro Crew socks - durable, comfortable.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: 2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/05/2007 02:20:54 MST Print View

> Roger, we really, really, REALLY need to know more about your tent.

More details at


Fred eric
(Fre49) - MLife

Locale: France, vallée de la Loire
2007 gear on 12/05/2007 03:39:50 MST Print View

bushbuddy : i have been using it now for a year ie about 4 one week trips, its light , its fun

tarptent double rainbow : only way i could convince my wife to leave our 4.2lb tent at home :)

Valandré mirage sleeping bag : i am in love with it ( the 35cm one )

Komperdell C3 duolock, i should have put them first :)
i cannot hike without trekking poles, my back is in a very bad shape ( car accident) and the only way i can support any weight on my shoulders is by using trekking poles, the movement of the shoulders when using poles, keeps my back muscles from contracting and being painful.
i love their weight / stiffness for 3 sections poles.

err thats 4 items, but its so hard to remove one .

Edited by Fre49 on 12/05/2007 07:12:34 MST.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/05/2007 06:06:47 MST Print View

Bushbuddy Ultra - Easy to use and super enjoyable for camp time relaxing. Easily become my fav 4 season stove. Did I mention how nice it is to have something to roast hot dogs and marshmallows over at the end of the day??

Fenix LOD CE - Navigated through the Grand Canyon for 3+ hours in the pitch black of the morning with nothing but this light. Upon encountering our first rattler, my fiance with her Petzl e+lite could not see more than 5 feet in front of her while I was able to spot that sucker more than 100 feet away. I use this light every night for at least 30-45 minutes jogging around town and I only find I need to recharge the battery one a week.

Patagonia Cold Track Light pants - My new Fall thru early Spring running/hiking/snowshoeing/light duty mountaineering pants. Superlight at 9 oz and moderately durable. The super stretch material easily moves with every stride and the fit is functional without giving you the crotch hugging "I am a fitness freak" tights look when stopping to get gas on the way home from a hike.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: 2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/05/2007 07:46:19 MST Print View

Here's my list:

Homemade down quilt. I've never been as proud of anything as I am of this quilt. I've used it on hot, muggy Missouri summer nights and down to the upper 20's with supplementing clothing. Easily my favorite piece of gear.

Leki Ti UL poles. They weigh barely under a pound for the pair, so they're relatively heavy by SUL standards, but I couldn't imagine hiking without them anymore. They're great for kickstand to sit on for a short rest, moving branches off the trail, setting up my tarp, keeping people in line, giving my hands something to do while hiking, and great for some added push up big hills. And I got them for 50% off :D.

Homemade Liberty Ridge windshirt. I was astounded at how much I actually use it and how handy it is. Who would have thought that a 3 oz shirt would be able to extend my range of comfort so much. The only thing it really lacks is good breathability, since I made it out of 1.1 oz DWR ripstop. I still have the pattern, so I may order some Momentum90 one of these days and make another.

Two pieces of gear I haven't yet used enough to put them on this list are the GG Whisper and my homemade poncho-tarp. I haven't really used the Whisper on that many trips but the times it has been out I've been really impressed with it.
I just made my poncho-tarp two weeks ago and got a chance to use it as a tarp this past weekend. It worked really well as a tarp; I still haven't tested it as rain gear though. But at only 7.25 oz, how could I not like it!


Sven Klingemann
(svenklingemann) - F
Re: Re: Re: 2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - Roger on 12/05/2007 07:51:16 MST Print View

Roger - I think that there certainly would be interest ... would you consider making some upon request? (*Probe*)

Daniel Goldenberg
(DanG) - M
Re: 2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/05/2007 09:20:56 MST Print View

Montbell UL comfort pad system.

I really like the integrated system which consists of 3 items: 90 cm (35 inch) torso pad, inflatable pillow, and closed cell foam extension pad. What sets the system apart is the toggle system that allows you to toggle the components together.

BPL Cocoon hoodie.

Warm and super light. The hood is great in combination with a hoodless bag.

Ryan Bozis alcohol stove

Learned about this stove from Andrew Skurka's website. It's similar to a supercat stove but much easier to make. Compared to the supercat it burns a little slower and more efficiently with a more contained flame so it works well with narrow pots.

David Noll
(dpnoll) - MLife

Locale: Maroon Bells
Re: 2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/05/2007 09:24:31 MST Print View

This summer my wife and I used the SL-1100 in combo with a
MSR Pocket Rocket and the wind screen you came up with on your site. We used only 6-1/2 oz of fuel for 6 days using
freezer bag cooking. Love that little pot.

Jeremy Cleaveland
(jeremy11) - F

Locale: Exploring San Juan talus
top 3 on 12/05/2007 09:28:49 MST Print View

homemade Liberty Ridge windcoat, with full molded zip and hood, 1.1 oz dwr. this has been ever reliable and useful for several years and I've been quite impressed with it's durability. It almost always comes with me for its meager 3 oz weight.

Cilogear 60L Worksack, Version 1. Versatile, light, durable, and comfortable, and carries everything I need for rock climbing, mountaineering, and guiding backpacking trips.

Montrail Hardrock trail runners. I got these on sale this August, and after wearing out 4 pairs of Sportiva Exum Ridges, the Hardrocks felt really comfortable, having more padding and a wider toebox than the Exum Ridges. Granted, I still love the scrambling and climbing ability of the Exum Ridges, but for putting in miles on a trail the Hardrock is where its at.

and, I can't resist number 4... my Paramo Aspira Jacket. Yes, its heavy, but in cold, wet conditions, or anytime in winter, it really simplifies layering, and the weight counts for hard shell, soft shell, and some insulation. Very comfortable and breathable too!

Edited by jeremy11 on 12/05/2007 15:22:32 MST.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: 2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/05/2007 09:45:58 MST Print View

MLD Zip - plenty durable, all the features of heavier packs at only 10 oz!

Caldera Cone - for my Snow peak 600. It just works! No fiddling in the wind!

Dri Ducks - same pair going strong now for its second season. These allowed me to give up my poncho without shelling out 100 bucks on poorly breathable heavy raingear.

I should also add my ULA/BPL Arctic pack .

Edited by MAYNARD76 on 12/05/2007 10:09:19 MST.

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Re: 2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/05/2007 12:39:12 MST Print View

My Picks:
1: Caldera Cone System -- an alcohol based complete system that is light, well made, and works!

2: Montbell Super Stretch Sleeping Bags -- pick one it doesn't matter which... they are all wonderful for the person who tosses and turns and is looking for a truely well made lightweight down bag.

3: Exped DM7 shortie: More and more my go to pad year round. Yes it is heavier than most pads. But oh the comfort and warmth this pad provides. Combined with a pad chair converter from thermarest, this pad becomes a great camp chair. Can be used to float around on Alpine lakes. I don't need as warm a bag in the cold when using this pad.

I am sure that I could add to this list but 3 is the limit.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Re: 2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks - Roger on 12/05/2007 13:52:30 MST Print View

Hi Sven

> would you consider making some upon request? (*Probe*)
As I explain at the FAQ web site, it turned out I was making $3/hr out of the manufacturing. Maybe I am too slow. Just not worth my while, as I have so many other things to do at present.

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
2007 Backpacking Light Picks on 12/05/2007 14:31:06 MST Print View

New to me this year that I like especially well:

ULA Equipment Circuit backpack

Patagonia Houdini windshirt

Shires' Contrail tarptent

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Only three :( on 12/05/2007 16:49:07 MST Print View

1) Caldera cone with Titanium Esbit stand for my 2 quart AGG pot. So easy, stable and fuel efficient that I could never go back to cooking with ordinary pot stands and windscreens.

2)WM POD 15 or 30 with modfied attachment to a torso length Ridgerest pad. This set up is soooo warm, light and Versatile.

3) Homemade double quilt for trips with my partner. 3 inches of dense loft, a passive yolk for our necks, and an attachment system for 2 Stepehnson's DAMs makes this the ultimate luxury bed for two.

Like most everyone else, I would LOVE to sneak a fourth item in, but Henry Shires has already got plenty of votes ;)

John Haley
(Quoddy) - F

Locale: New York/Vermont Border
Re: 2007 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/05/2007 17:32:05 MST Print View

ULA Conduit: Worked so well on a month thru this year.

TT Contrail: This will probably remain my favorite shelter for a very long time.

TiGoat CF Adjustable Poles: Were great on the long trek. So light, and they took a beating, too.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
2007 Backpacking Light Picks on 12/05/2007 18:35:42 MST Print View

My top 3 items:

1. Like several other posters, my Caldera Cones make the list. They finally make meal preparation over alcohol easy, faster, and convenient. One cone of Titanium(or Al) is the screen and pot support. No fiddling with a Jenga-stack of components, just light the stove and put the pot/cone combo on top.

2. Cilogear 45L Worksack. a light and minimalist alpine pack which can me modified to many configuarations. I have loaded it up to get to base camp; striped it to a sack for the summit attempt, and put on all the comfort items to haul metal and rope to the crag. (Im wearing it in my avatar picture to the left)
I now own two Cilogears, the 'schoolbag' is actually big enough for an SUL weekend pack (but my kit is not so light...)

3. Fenix L0D AAA light with CREE LED. I have a box of lights, but this is my Every Day Carry, on a mini biner on my key ring. On the trail it can clip to my hat or hang around my neck. Amazingly bright and smooth beam. This replaced my Photons because I can always start with a fully charged AAA, unlike the Photons (the new rechargable type could also solve this issue.)

The idea is a 'list of 3', so I really should not mention the 'flick-lock' mechanism of my new Black Diamond trekking poles which made all my other poles obsolete.

Edited by Brett1234 on 12/05/2007 18:38:29 MST.

Greyson Howard

Locale: Sierra Nevada
Re: 2007 Backpacking Light Picks on 12/05/2007 19:22:09 MST Print View

Thanks for the information Roger.

My top 3:
Jacks'R'Better No Sniveler quilt: comfortable, warm, versatile, and well made.I slept warm every night I used it this summer, even when others in 15 degree mummies were cold.

Titanium Goat basic bivy: Sure, there's better bivies for a lot more money, but this was a great deal, and with just a 1.1 dwr top, kept me dry in a 20 minute light-rain this summer (I didn't even wake up, and I sleep light in the field)

REI Peak UL Trekking Poles: Not my first year with them, but the year that sold me on them completely. Light, stiff, and adjustable. Comfortable grips and straps too.

Richard Gless
(rgless) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: 2007 Backpacking Light Picks on 12/05/2007 19:34:41 MST Print View

My top 3:

1. Jacks 'R Better Mt. Roger's Quilt - My wife and I both really like it and have used it down to 25'F with no problems. Much better (and lighter) than sleeping bags, even those that zip together.

2. ZPacks Z1 Pack - really light weight, minimalist pack with lots of room and just the right features.

3. Cocoon Hoody - same weight as my fleece jacket, but lots, lots, warmer.

All three of these either took a lot of wieght out of my pack or extended my temperature/comfort range significantly without adding weight.