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2008 Backpacking Light Staff Picks

Backpacking Light staff pick their favorite gear of 2008.

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by Staff | 2008-12-16 00:10:00-07

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 pieces 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 2008 favorites in the forum below. -Your BPL Eds

2008 Staff Picks of Favorite Gear
Backpacking Light Staff Member Favorite Pieces of Gear
Ryan Jordan Alpacka Packraft Titanium Goat Vertex 8+ and Titanium Stove Beartooth Merino Hoody
Chris Townsend Inov-8 Terroc shoes Caldera Ti-Tri Jack Wolfskin Gecko
Roger Caffin Silnylon & Carbon Fibre Two-Man Double-Skin Winter Tent Coleman Xtreme Canon A95
Mike Martin Nunatak Skaha Plus Down Sweater, Front Pocket Version SMC Snow Saw Arcteryx Alpha SL Pants
Will Rietveld Trail Designs/AntiGravityGear Caldera Keg Keen Ridgeline Trail Running Shoe Sea To Summit Mullet Cap
Mike Clelland! The FireLite SUL Short Handled Titanium Spoon Hefty Trash Compactor Bags FlexAir Dual Compartment Ultralight Pillow
Carol Crooker GoLite Footwear Sun Dragon Shoes Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit
Kevin Sawchuk ULA Conduit Bushbuddy Custom Nunatak Arc Specialist (w/ 2oz overfill/custom sizing)
Sam Haraldson Google Earth and Software Packages FireLite Mini Firestarting Kits Ultralight Adventure Equipment Amp Backpack
Don Wilson Arc’Teryx Squamish Windshell Canon 40D Camera Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke
Alan Dixon Olympus E-520 Digital SLR Camera with Zuiko 12-60 mm Lens Anti Gravity Gear Caldera Kitchen (for AGG 3-cup Pot) Bozeman Mountain Works Stealth 1 Nano Tarp
Doug Johnson Trail Designs Caldera Keg Six Moon Designs Refuge X Hilleberg Kaitum 2
Rick Dreher Hennessy Hammock Hyperlite Asymmetrical BPL FireLite Ti Trappers Mug Pacific Outdoor Equipment Insulated Airmat (Thermo 6)
Ben Klocek Golite Jam2 Canon PowerShot SD630 Camera Patagonia Wool 2
Janet Reichl Teva Aniso eVENT Shoe Petzl E+Lite Headlamp Granite Gear Air Space Bag
Alison Simon REI Sahara Convertible Pants REI Stoke 19 Day Pack (DIAD pack) Pro Bars (new Savory flavors)

Ryan Jordan, Publisher and Editorial Director - Bozeman, Montana

2008 Staff Favorites - 1

Alpacka Packraft
It's taken me four years to put the packraft on my picks list, but now I'm ready. The deal was sealed this year as I shared my other boats on some great trips with friends and family. It's one thing enjoying a ride in a packraft, it's quite another watching somebody else do the same. My model of choice: the little Alpacka, with a spray deck (90 oz in blue) and Sawyer Packraft Paddle (28 oz). Photo: Pacific Creek, Teton Wilderness, July 2008.

Weight: 118 oz in specified setup
MSRP: $1100

2008 Staff Favorites - 2

Titanium Goat Vertex 8+ and Titanium Stove
OK, so it's not my first choice for long distance hiking or SUL. But there is something to be said about the benefits (social, practical, and emotional) of having fire crackling in a wood stove inside your tent. Who said car camping and backcountry base camping can't also enjoy ultralight style? The tent with a carbon pole weighs about 5.5 lbs, and the small titanium box stove will only set you back 2.5 lbs. Add 10 lbs of gear and 10 lbs of food, and you're still tipping the scales sub-30 lbs with potential for extreme comfort and high class wilderness living.

Weight: 8 lbs for both
MSRP: $1300

2008 Staff Favorites - 3

Beartooth Merino Hoody
While you've been waiting for this product to come to market, I've had the privilege of wearing it all year. This is my absolute favorite piece of clothing, period, if there is any possibility of temperatures less than 50 degrees.

Weight: 8 oz (size medium)
MSRP: $110

Chris Townsend, Senior Gear Editor - Grantown-on-Spey, Scotland

2008 Staff Favorites - 4

Inov-8 Terroc shoes
When I first changed from boots to shoes many years ago, I couldn't imagine hiking footwear as light as Inov-8s. I've tried several of the range, and the Terrocs are the ones that fit my wide feet best. After several years of wearing Terrocs on every type of terrain, they have become firm favorites. I find them supportive and stable on rough terrain, and the grip is excellent. They're surprisingly durable for such ultralight shoes too. I've worn them on two twelve-day high level crossings of the Scottish Highlands on the TGO Challenge, and they're still in good condition, with just a dab of superglue needed on a couple of seams.

Weight: 330 g (11.6 oz)
MSRP: $85

2008 Staff Favorites - 5

Caldera Ti-Tri
When the Caldera Cone appeared, I was excited and impressed. An ultralight alcohol stove system with the same protection as the full weight Trangia was a wonderful breakthrough in design. It was the first ultralight alcohol stove I used regularly. The Ti-Tri system is even better as it can be used as a wood burner with alcohol as a back-up on trips where wood won't be available all the time, or for stormy weather where I want to cook under cover. The latest version of the Ti-Tri even has a lightweight grate that fits inside the cone. The Ti-Tri is the result of collaboration between two innovative ultralight gear companies, Titanium Goat and Trail Designs. It's great to see such companies working together to produce such an excellent product.

Weight: 7 oz for 550 ml size
MSRP: $110

2008 Staff Favorites - 6

Jack Wolfskin Gecko
Simple lightweight fleece tops are often overlooked in favor of more hi-tech softshell and synthetic insulated garments. However, when I look at the warm top I use more than any other, the one that finds its way into my pack year round, it turns out it's the Gecko, a fleece sweater with no features other than a short neck zip and a stand-up collar. In summer this is often the only warm top I carry. In winter I may wear it all day as a mid layer. Durability is excellent - my Gecko is in good condition despite being used hundreds of times during the last eight years. And at a weight of just 8 oz, it's the lightest fleece sweater I know.

Weight: 8 oz
MSRP: $68

Roger Caffin, Senior Editor - Berrilee, NSW, Australia

A bit of a mix this year - one MYOG tent, one faithful canister stove and a faithful camera.

2008 Staff Favorites - 7

Silnylon & Carbon Fibre Two-Man Double-Skin Winter Tent This is the tent my wife and I had in our epic trip featured in When Things Go Wrong. Despite being pitched on a saddle right in the path of an extreme storm (a very silly place, really), it and we survived the night in relative comfort. It just goes to show what an MYOG project can produce. This tent has 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 a bit under 1.0 m (39 in). The bathtub groundsheet and the inner tent kept the spindrift out all night - and would keep insects out too. It has good ventilation when we need it, with roof-height vents at both ends, as well as optional ground-level clearance all around if the sod cloths are raised. There is a large vestibule at the front end, big enough for disrobing, storing our packs, and cooking dinner.

Weight: 1.77 kg (62 oz)
MSRP: Make it yourself!

2008 Staff Favorites - 8

Coleman Xtreme
This is the gold standard for winter stoves. The weight quoted includes a full 300 g fuel canister. Some liquid fuel stoves weigh this much with an empty fuel canister! I have used this stove for many years, and it has been wonderfully reliable. I know that when I fire it up, we are going to have a hot dinner in short order. It does not flare up even when starting (unlike many liquid fuel stoves!) and can be operated quite safely inside my tent while the storm rages outside. It can simmer gently or melt snow.

Weight: 726 g (25.6 oz)
MSRP: About $65, if you can find one

2008 Staff Favorites - 9

Canon A95
It may be getting old these days, and it may be only five megapixels and lack image stabilisation, but this camera has served me for many years now with great faithfulness. I trust and rely on it. I can use it freehand, on a tripod, or hooked up to my computer. How did I get this photo of it? I used a mirror!

Weight: 303 g (10.7 oz) - including 4 AA lithium batteries
MSRP: discontinued model

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

2008 Staff Favorites - 10

Nunatak Skaha Plus Down Sweater, Front Pocket Version
This jacket is unbelievably warm for its weight. The 800+ fill-power down, Pertex Quantum shell fabric, and half-zip cut weight, while the hood, handwarmer pocket, and fully-baffled construction add warmth. This is my "go to" parka for temperatures ranging from 0F to 45F. I use it in my daypack for backcountry skiing and as part of my sleep system with a quilt. The Skaha Plus has no unnecessary features that add bulk or weight, while the pass-thru pocket is almost worth the 13.7-ounce weight alone as a handwarmer for my chronically cold fingers. Nunatak is a semi-custom shop, so I ordered my jacket with overfill to further improve its warmth per weight ratio and allow me to take it into colder conditions. If I could change one thing, it would be to use a slightly heavier, but sturdier and less snag-prone zipper.

Weight: 13.7 oz (size large with 1.5 oz overfill)
MSRP: $390

2008 Staff Favorites - 11

SMC Snow Saw
Are you looking for the lightest possible winter shelter? Bring a tool instead of a tent and build your own! The SMC Snow saw is one of the lightest commercially available snow saws at 3.4 ounces. It is beautifully made from a single piece of anodized aluminum. And, it cuts through snow like butter. Adding a snow saw to your winter kit allows you to make much more precise shapes out of snow than a you could with a shovel alone. Let your inner snow sculptor free and build lavish kitchens, snow walls, doghouses, or even an igloo. Ever play with Lego blocks as a kid? A saw gives you ability to make life-size blocks. All you need is the right snow, enough time, and your imagination. The only modification I've made to mine after a year of use is to wrap the grip in bicycle handlebar tape to make it warmer and more comfortable to hold.

Weight: 3.4 oz
MSRP: $34

2008 Staff Favorites - 12

Arcteryx Alpha SL Pants
After slogging through wet snow for four days at 9,000 feet elevation on Backpacking Light's Wilderness Trekking Course III in the Fall of 2007 wearing lycra tights and a pair of non-waterproof wind pants, I began a search for a better leg layering system for cold, wet, snowy conditions. I wanted a waterproof/breathable shell to protect against possible rain that I could put on easily while wearing snowshoes, or alternatively, a shell that was breathable and well-ventilated enough that I could leave it on continuously over a wide range of conditions. The Arcteryx Alpha SL pants fit the latter criteria perfectly. The 2-layer Goretx Paclite pants have "hip zips" that run from the cuffs to the hipbone area. This obviously doesn't allow fully separating the zippers to put the pants on over boots or snowshoes, but by stopping the zip below the waist, the design minimizes bulk under a pack's waistbelt, and relieves stress on the top of the zipper. The zips are still long enough to provide amazing ventilation - so much so that I've found the pants can simply be left on constantly, eliminating layering changes. For the past year, my snowshoeing leg layer system has consisted of the SL Pants, long johns of appropriate thickness for the expected temperature range, and shortie gaiters. I've found the combination to be extremely dry and comfortable over a wide range of temperatures, precipitation types, and wind conditions.

Weight: 9.3 oz (size medium-tall)
MSRP: $199 (estimated)

Will Rietveld, Associate Editor - Durango, Colorado

2008 Staff Favorites - 13

Trail Designs/AntiGravityGear Caldera Keg
I can't imagine a lighter complete cooking system than this. The minimal essentials consisting of a pot and lid, Caldera cone, and alcohol stove weigh just 2.7 ounces, and the complete kit with lip guard, insulator sleeve, fuel bottle, measuring cup, and carrying tube (which doubles as a bowl and cup) adds another 3.6 ounces. An expanded kit called the Caldera Caddy Sack (US$15) from AntiGravityGear adds a pot cozy and stuff sack. The pot in this system is a recycled Heineken 25.4 ounce beer can, which is easily damaged. But the beauty of the complete kit is that everything fits inside a thin plastic tube with a screw cap, which protects the contents and makes the system very compact for packing. In use, I preferred to use the beer can pot for just boiling water, and the plastic bowl, cup, and cozy for hydrating food and eating/drinking. The latter are easier to eat out of and clean.

Weight: 6.3 oz
MSRP: $60

2008 Staff Favorites - 14

Keen Ridgeline Trail Running Shoe
I have wide feet, so it's hard to find lightweight footwear that fits me well. I found the Keen Ridgeline to be comfortable right out of the box, and it continues to be comfortable after many miles of on- and off-trail hiking. They are quite light, but still provide plenty of cushioning and support. I like a low cut trail runner that has a good midsole TPU plate for rock protection and support, plus a grippy outsole, and a breathable mesh upper that doesn't let a lot of dust and sand to come through. And (for me) the toebox needs to be really wide. Fit and comfort are probably the most important attributes when choosing a trail shoe, and the Keen Ridgeline is one that really comes through for me.

Weight: 13.4 oz/shoe (men's 9)
MSRP: $90

2008 Staff Favorites - 15

Sea To Summit Mullet Cap
I personally prefer a hiking cap with a removable skirt that can be easily added when it's needed for sun and wind protection. The Sea to Summit Mullet Cap is the best I have found. The cap is constructed of seven pieces, so it really fits well, and its H2Off fabric is very durable as well as UV and water resistant. The skirt attaches to four Velcro patches on the cap, so it's very easy to add or remove. To hold it in place in the wind the cap has an elastic cord and cordlock in back and a snap on the skirt under the chin. I have been wearing the Mullet Cap year-around on numerous trips for three years now and it just keeps going and going. When it gets dirty, it cleans up well in the wash machine, and there are very few signs of wear. I like to wear a billed cap like the Mullet when wearing a hooded jacket, to keep the hood from blocking my vision and to keep my eyeglasses dry in the rain. This type of cap is also called a Havelock, named after an English general (Major General Sir Henry Havelock) who popularized it during campaigns in India in the mid 1800s.

Weight: 2.7 oz
MSRP: $30

Mike Clelland!, Contributor - Driggs Idaho

These are tight times. There is a collective belt tightening going on all around us, and I worry people equate lightweight camping with spending big bucks. Not true. These Spartan picks reflect my Scottish heritage. Each item is under $10.

2008 Staff Favorites - 16

The FireLite SUL Short Handled Titanium Spoon
Spoons have been around for a long time, right? Way back - when one of our creative ancestors might have carved the very first spoon out of a mastodon bone. In the intervening years, you think we would have perfected it. Well, it happened - finally! The FireLite SUL Short Handled Titanium Spoon is a monument of simplicity and functionality. There is a subtle little flat area right along the tip, and that simple detail makes it delightfully easy to clean out the inside of a mug or the cook pot. It doesn't stop there: the handle on the spoon is stiff and straight, the perfect tool to clean the inside of a smooth walled pot. Gloppy caked on crud is effortlessly shaved off with this fine spoon. Plus, you can even eat dinner with it!

This little spoon is flawless.

Weight: 0.25 oz
MSRP: $7

2008 Staff Favorites - 17

Hefty Trash Compactor Bags I do NOT use a pack cover. I line my backpack with ONE plastic bag. I have no redundancy. These bags are plenty big to line my lightweight backpack with enough extra to wrap over at the top for absolute waterproofing. These are highly specialized, heavy gage (2.5 mil) white plastic, designed for those electric kitchen trash compactors, and easily found in the grocery store. I have yet to find anything better or lighter. These are sturdy enough to last for multiple trips; I used one for all of last summer, and I plan on getting another year out of it. Plus, they're white, so it's easy to find stuff in the bag. If the tarp is wet in the morning, I stuff it in the bottom of my backpack first, then put the compactor bag on top. Everything inside the compactor bag stays dry. I put my rain gear on top, outside the bag, because if it rains, I'll end up wearing it. Simple!

Weight: 2.2 oz
MSRP: $6 for 5

2008 Staff Favorites - 18

FlexAir Dual Compartment Ultralight Pillow
I need a BIG pillow when I sleep. A traditional camper will simply roll up his pile jacket and extra down vest, jam it in a stuff sack, and get a wonderful support for his noggin. Not so for the UL camper. When I go into the mountains, I plan on sleeping in all my clothes, leaving nothing for my head. Now, I've tried the other FlexAir pillows, and the slightly heavier Dual Compartment version is the only choice for true head cradling. Just don't blow it up too much, or it feels like you are trying to balance your skull on a beach ball. Also, the straw is a wonderful addition to you arsenal of tools. I used my humble straw to fill a water bottle in the high country of the Gallatin Range in August. We could hear water trickling inside some rocks, but there was no way to get at it. My team mates were dejected, but I whipped out my little pillow straw and eased it into a crack, concocting a nice little faucet. My pillow system saved us!

Weight: 0.98 oz
MSRP: $9 for 3

Carol Crooker, Associate Editor - Mesa, Arizona

2008 Staff Favorites - 19

GoLite Footwear Sun Dragon Shoes
The Sun Dragons are kind to my feet. Their "Soft Against the Ground" technology keeps my feet fresher during long days of hiking on rocky trails than any other shoes I've worn. The wide toe box is another boon. I don't need to go up half a size - and risk tripping over the excess - to get toe space. I've been wearing the 2007 models of these shoes. They wear out quickly, but the 2008 versions are reported to be more durable (both the 2007 and 2008 models are available from online retailers). Although branded by GoLite, the shoes were developed by the Timberland Invention Factory. Doug Clark, formerly of the Invention Factory, bought the shoe design and started a new company to continue manufacturing this line of GoLite shoes. The new line will be delivered to retailers by mid-February but the Sun Dragon is not being carried forward. The new Force model has the same outsole but is heavier (14-15 oz, MSRP $110). The Fire and the Comp are the remaining 2009 trail runner models. Both are lighter weight race shoes with a new lower profile outsole.

Weight: 11.8 oz (335 g) 2007 model
MSRP: available at steep discounts online

2008 Staff Favorites - 20

Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad
I've been getting my best nights of sleep ever in the backcountry on the Clearview pad, a simple air mattress. The secret is the soft polyurethane shell that has more give than the tougher (and heavier) shells of the Big Agnes Air Core and Pacific Outdoor Equipment Ether Thermo pads. The Clearview has no insulation, but I've found it just as comfortable with a thin closed cell foam pad on top for warmth. I like to add a 1/16-inch foam pad when it's 35 F to 45 F, and I've slept comfortably with a 3/8-inch pad down to low 20s F.

Weight: 11 oz (312 g) for 20 x 60 x 2.5 inch mummy
MSRP: $35

2008 Staff Favorites - 21

Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit
A chair kit is my backpacking luxury item. I find it very relaxing to lounge back in a chair when I'm cooking meals. There is something about being able to tilt back slightly that puts my back at ease better than any rock or tree I've leaned against. The Cyclone is the lightest chair kit out there, and carrying an extra 6 oz for the added comfort is definitely worth it for me!

Weight: 6 oz (170 g)
MSRP: $40

Kevin Sawchuk, Ultralight Ambassador - Alamo, California

2008 Staff Favorites - 22

ULA Conduit
The ULA Conduit is my favorite pack. Its light weight, simple design, and durable materials set it apart from most other packs of its size. Add generous waistbelt pockets, several usable water carrying options, and a large mesh outer pocket, and there's no other pack with such practical features. Its smaller and bigger brothers are my other favorites when less or more capacity is needed.

Weight: 20 oz
MSRP: $125

2008 Staff Favorites - 23

Bushbuddy Custom
There's currently only one of these in existence but it takes the Bushbuddy concept and makes it applicable to larger groups and winter travel. Its larger size makes it about three times easier to use than the regular Bushbuddy, so melting snow and cooking for three to four people is feasible. Keep talking to Fritz, and he may make this commercial. Shown with a one-gallon pot.

Weight: 10.5 oz
MSRP: A confession might result in divorce, but it cost more per oz than the standard Bushbuddy... a lot more.

2008 Staff Favorites - 24

Nunatak Arc Specialist (w/ 2oz overfill/custom sizing)
Tom Halpin makes a mean sleeping bag. I've had several of his bags over the years, from a thirteen-ounce super fast-packing lightweight to a twenty-four-ounce version that kept me warm at 5 F without insulated clothing. Tom's top notch service, workmanship, material choices, and bag options make these my favorite bags.

Weight: 18 oz
MSRP: $400

Sam Haraldson, Marketing Director - Bozeman, Montana

2008 Staff Favorites - 25

Google Earth and Software Packages
For those looking into free digital solutions to research, plan, and map routes for their upcoming excursions, a collection of online applications are available to do this easily. First, using the Google Earth software, draw a path that coincides with the route you are planning. There are layers available for the Google Earth application that allow you to view USGS topographic maps overlaid on the surface of the earth, which make finding your route easier if you plan to walk trails. Once you've dialed in your path, export the file and visit You can upload the exported file and use the various sections of the website to create elevation and distance profiles, convert your data into various formats, print maps, and more. We can talk about gear in online forums until our keyboarding fingers bleed, but it's not worth anything unless you plan some quality trips to take it on. The Google Earth and GPS Visualizer software broadens your ability to visualize a trip beforehand, helps you to remember it after, and does a fine job of it.

Weight: 0.0 oz
MSRP: Donation requested

2008 Staff Favorites - 26

FireLite Mini Firestarting Kits
There is a feeling of self-sufficiency I get from starting a fire in my camp stove using the FireLite Mini Firestarting Kit. Although I still carry a lighter and some waterproof matches in a watertight emergency backup kit, I enjoy a small wood fire for a number of reasons. Being able to leave the chemical fuels at home and burn a fuel sustainable to the environment I'm in, as well as not having to plan a fuel resupply strategy nor carry its weight on my back are all great reasons to pack this product.

Weight: 0.81 oz. (23 g)
MSRP: $12

2008 Staff Favorites - 27

Ultralight Adventure Equipment Amp Backpack
Bridging the gap between super-ultralight and super-durable, the Amp is the perfect pack for weekend-plus backpacking trips. With an ideal volume for gear and consumables needed for a weekend or more, and the carrying comfort to match, the ULA Amp went with me on all of my short backpacking excursions in 2008. In the dead of summer, its volume was just right for a couple of liters of water, my tarp, UL 60 Quilt, and a Caldera Cone cook kit. The Amp's design is such that it stays below your neck and between your shoulders. This, paired with its durable construction, make it excellent for off-trail pursuits, and I carried it on numerous summit bids this year. The ULA Amp hits home for its size, durability, and perfection in filling a niche.

Weight: 10.6 oz. (300 g)
MSRP: $89

Don Wilson, Editorial Correspondent - Tucson, Arizona

2008 Staff Favorites - 28

Arc'Teryx Squamish Windshell
This windshell has become my shell of choice over the past year. At about 5 ounces, it is not the lightest shell out there, but it has a very good feature set, very high quality production, and the nicest windshell fabric I've used. For my use, which includes some climbing, the fabric is a very good balance of comfort, breathability and durability which I have not found equaled in other windshells. I've taken it on many trips this year, from warm desert hikes to cold, high altitude climbs, and it has remained a favorite for the full breadth of my hikes. It also looks great. Everyone who sees it asks me about it. It will be with me for some time to come. Its biggest drawback is the price - MSRP is $139.

Weight: 5 oz
MSRP: $139

2008 Staff Favorites - 29

Canon 40D Camera
OK, this baby is HEAVY. It is a full DSLR weighing in at 2 or 3 pounds, depending on what lenses and other gear I carry. It has refreshed my interest in photography, dramatically improved my images, and generally added enjoyment to my trips, both during and after each hike. If that banishes me from the lightweight brotherhood, so be it. I rationalize it by convincing myself that if my other gear is light, I can carry this beauty. Best of all, there have been innumerable new opportunities to look with new eyes upon trees, and leaves, and snow, and flowing water. My hiking companions may get annoyed at times, but when we can all share a sunset in order to take a few pics, then it is all worthwhile. While I enjoy this specific camera, it is really the process of photography and awareness that has been the payoff. Street price about $800.

Weight: 2 to 3 lbs
MSRP: $800

2008 Staff Favorites - 30

Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke This is another unconventional gear choice, but that's my mission. I carried this slim volume when I hiked the John Muir Trail with my wife a few years back. We read to each other at night, and discussed our reading while we hiked. This fine series of letters discusses the challenges of following your passion, and struggling to find your way through life. The enjoyment and memories of our ten day hike were perhaps more impacted by this small volume than any other gear choice we made. Hiking with your best friend, through beautiful and difficult terrain, all the while sparked by great conversation - that's about as good as it gets. MSRP $9, weight about 2 ounces.

Weight: 2 oz
MSRP: $9

Alan Dixon, Editorial Correspondent - Washington, D.C.

2008 Staff Favorites - 31

Olympus E-520 Digital SLR Camera with Zuiko 12-60 mm Lens
A six-ounce point and shoot camera won't do if I want sharp 16x20 inch or larger prints with rich, accurate color (or even smaller sizes, for that matter). So in the last few years, I have been taking a light digital SLR on more and more backpacking trips. I find that the Olympus E-520 hits the sweet spot of performance to weight for a backpacking camera. While I love the outstanding photographic results from cameras like the Nikon D300 with a 18-200 mm VR lens, or the Canon 5D Mk II with a 24-105 mm IS lens, they weigh around 3.5 pounds! True, the E-520's smaller 4/3 sensor gives up a bit in dynamic range, resolution, and ISO performance to the larger and much more expensive D300 or 5D. But the smaller and lighter E-520 performs admirably in most lighting situations (and with a bit of skill, in many difficult lighting situations as well). I prefer the E-520 over the slightly lighter E-420, for its built-in image stabilization and greater dynamic range. The Zuiko 12-60 mm (24-120 mm, 35 equiv) is a superb lens - one of the very best digital zooms on the market. Best of all, I get beautiful photographs from the E-520 and 12-60 lens combo.

Note: This may all change if Olympus' entry into the new Micro 4/3 Format camera comes in around 10 oz for the body. If so, with a fixed normal lens, one might get DSLR results from a 13-14 oz camera and lens combo. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Olympus E-520 SLR Digital Camera (body only)
Weight: 19 oz (with battery)
MSRP: $649
Olympus 12-60mm f/2.8-4 ED SWD Zuiko Zoom Lens
Weight: 18 oz
MSRP: $749

2008 Staff Favorites - 32

Anti Gravity Gear Caldera Kitchen (for AGG 3-cup Pot)
The AGG Caldera Kitchen is the ideal couple's ultralight cooking system, and my wife and I take it on every trip. The original Trail Designs Caldera made it on my list two years ago. In 2007, packaging genius George "Tin Man" Andrews introduced the AGG Caldera Kitchen. It added so many refinements in functionality and creature comforts to the Caldera system that I am including it again. The AGG 3-cup pot is consistently the most fuel-efficient pot for the TD Caldera system. This adds up to a lot fuel savings on long trips with two people. The 3-cup pot and cozy are a boon in sub-freezing weather. The stove works flawlessly in the 20's F. Our tea brews properly and stays hot. Our meals actually hydrate and are warm when we eat them. I like a small pack, and the AGG Caldera Kitchen is one of the most compact and abuse resistant two-person alcohol cook sets I've used. (When I solo I take a 2.5 oz Trail Designs Caldera Keg.)

The AGG Caldera Kitchen is an ultralight bargain. It includes a full mess kit for two, measuring cup, stove, windscreen, pot cozies, potholder, and stuff sack. A titanium pot alone can approach the cost of the full Caldera Kitchen. The Caldera Kitchen is quite green by backpacking standards, using only small amounts of natural alcohol fuel (vs. open fires, canister stoves etc.) Just say, "I will not use a canister stove again!"

Weight: 11 oz for full kit - (7 to 9 oz in our usual configurations)
MSRP: $80

2008 Staff Favorites - 33

Bozeman Mountain Works Stealth 1 Nano Tarp
I like the simplicity and ease of pitching a tarp. At less than 4 oz for a full-coverage tarp, the Cuben fiber Nano is my favorite solo shelter. The Stealth 1 Nano is big enough for two people in a pinch, and my wife and I have used it that way! (Oware calls the same size a 1.5-person tarp.) The large coverage has another weight savings. When I solo, it allows me to use a down bag without a bivy to protect it from rain that might blow under a smaller tarp. In most inclement weather, the Nano keeps me dry with room to store gear and cook. And as always, it provides views and ventilation that a tent simply can't match. The Nano, while expensive for a tarp, is still inexpensive compared to most UL tents, and you get what you pay for. A tarp or shelter with the same coverage in Spinnaker fabric is almost double the weight.

Weight: 3.9 oz
MSRP: $189, if you can find one

Doug Johnson, Associate Editor - Redmond, Washington

2008 Staff Favorites - 34

Trail Designs Caldera Keg
This is one incredible system. For $60, you get a 6.3 oz system that includes a custom Heineken pot with lid, stove with priming lip, Caldera Cone, a protective caddy that works as a mug or a bowl, insulation cozies for the pot, mug, and bowl, a measuring cup, a fuel bottle, and a silnylon storage bag. It boils water quickly, even in a breeze, and is extremely simple to use. It packs into a small package that protects all of the items. It may not be the lightest option but it's close, and it's become my go-to stove for most trips. The Caldera Keg is simply genius.

Weight: 6.3 oz
MSRP: $60

2008 Staff Favorites - 35

Six Moon Designs Refuge X
At just 16 oz, this is the lightest two-person floored tent in existence. Sure, it doesn't have a bathtub floor, and it's not the best shelter in high winds, and it's expensive... but it's big enough for two to sit up, has great ventilation, does well in hard rains or moderate winds, and weighs only one pound! This is truly a breakthrough shelter.

Weight: 16 oz
MSRP: $400

2008 Staff Favorites - 36

Hilleberg Kaitum 2
At under 6 lbs, the Hilleberg Kaitum is not an ultralight summer tent. However, the harder I push this shelter in winter and mountaineering settings, the more I love it. It is spacious for two with easily usable space and dual vestibules that give plenty of room for storage, cooking, and two climbers gearing up in the morning. Best of all, it's totally bomber; I've had this tent in treacherous conditions and laid in my bag smiling while the tent gets absolutely pounded. There are few tents that can claim this combination of usable space, moderate weight, and stormworthiness. The Kaitum is a winner in my book and will be with me on many more adventures.

Weight: 5 lbs, 8 oz
MSRP: $675

Rick Dreher, Photo Editor - Sacramento, California

2008 Staff Favorites - 37

Hennessy Hammock Hyperlite Asymmetrical
The Hyperlite is the latest iteration of Hennessy's lightweight hammock series. Thin, light fabrics and miniscule lines have reduced weight to 26 ounces while retaining the utility of heavier models. NOTHING is more comfortable to sleep in than a correctly set up hammock and the Hyperlite delivered throughout last season. The often overlooked advantage to hammocking is it opens up campsites where ground-dwellers need not apply, especially valued in popular areas on busy weekends, where a hammock provides solitude otherwise unavailable. The only thing they went too far with was the Tree Hugger straps, which are far too short in this model.

Now will somebody please develop under-insulation that's compact, affordable and easy to use?

Weight: 26 oz
MSRP: $230

2008 Staff Favorites - 38

BPL FireLite Ti Trappers Mug
Holding a pint at a scant 37 grams, the Trappers Mug is an impressive achievement. The incredibly thin material, strengthened by the rolled lip, is strong enough for the task and titanium's low heat transfer rate helps prevent scorched lips. The cup will deform in the pack if not stowed carefully, but can be bent back into shape easily.

I used my own hard-earned shekels on the Trappers Mug so this isn't a paid endorsement. (I will happily accept honoraria ex post facto.) You want titanium cookware because it is light, strong, doesn't absorb taste or odors and is practically indestructible, and the FireLite series has pared the weight down to the minimum conceivable using this material. Watch this space for the beryllium series.

Weight: 1.3 oz (37 g)
MSRP: $30

2008 Staff Favorites - 39

Pacific Outdoor Equipment Insulated Airmat (Thermo 6)
When sleeping ground-bound, the POE insulated air mattress (16.6 ounces) is the most comfortable option I've found. Unfolding from its submarine sandwich-sized sack, my three-quarter length mattress is my favorite three-season pad option. It's more comfortable than self-inflators, infinitely more comfortable than a closed-cell foam pad, packs smaller than either and is clearly warmer than a plain air mattress. The main trick is finding the correct inflation (sufficient give without touching the ground).

It's slipperier than most pads when on silnylon tent floors and not as warm as thicker self-inflators, but in balance it's the best three-season pad I've used. I can imagine only a down-filled mattress as being a step up from this for overall comfort. Little wonder MSR is entering the fray next year.

Weight: 16.6 oz
MSRP: $65

Ben Klocek, Production Editor - Sebastopol, California

2008 Staff Favorites - 40

Golite Jam2
I love this simple pack that expands and contracts to fit my gear. With a little tightening of the compression straps, I don't even need to "MYOG" support using my sleeping pad. The roomy front pocket keeps all my essentials handy, and while the shoulder straps are a little on the wimpy side, this encourages me to keep my load light. I usually don't use the waist strap, as I love the freedom and the feel of the wind blowing up my shirt without it, but buckle that baby up and the load capacity increases by 10 lbs. My base weight hovers around 8.5 lbs, and with a weekender trailhead weight of 15 lbs, this pack is golden.

Weight: 1 lb, 5 oz
MSRP: $75

2008 Staff Favorites - 41

Canon PowerShot SD630 Camera
This is a simple, fast, high quality camera with a great macro and plenty of advanced options that can take a beating. When this camera finally died, I replaced it with another just like it. I carry it in my pocket on all trips and hardly notice it's there until I need it. Then, with a few button presses, I've got the right settings for the shot and - click - a perfect shot every time. The huge view finder is great, and I don't ever miss the "hold-it-to-your-eye" view finder that other cameras have. I love being able to hold it over my head or down near the ground without needing to get there myself and still getting great photos.

Weight: 5 oz
MSRP: $600

2008 Staff Favorites - 42

Patagonia Wool 2
Can you say soft? This shirt is like snuggling with my honey! I'd wear it all the time if I could afford more of them. The only downside is the price, so if you can find one on sale, get it. For a simple base layer that wicks away the sweat, stays smelling rosy fresh, and feels great on your skin, the Wool 2 is perfect. It's a lightweight fabric, so it can't take much abuse, but I use it as a base layer that is not subjected to much bushwhacking and rock. It's got a great slim cut, which looks great for town when worn over a t-shirt.

Weight: 5.9 oz
MSRP: $70

Janet Reichl, Editorial Correspondent - Durango, Colorado

2008 Staff Favorites - 43

Teva Aniso eVENT Shoe
The Teva Aniso has a softshell outer fabric and an eVENT waterproof-breathable lining. It fits well, breathes well, is quite light weight, and very supportive. I started out wearing them only when I was expecting some wet conditions, but since they breathe so well I now also wear them in dry conditions. I find them comfortable for desert hiking in cooler weather, and in particular I like that the softshell fabric doesn't allow sand to pass through like mesh uppers do. These shoes have a wider toebox, and though my feet are not necessarily wide, I find them very comfortable both on and off-trail. The OrthoLite midsole provides good cushioning and the aggressive outsole provides very good traction. The uppers have TPU reinforcements bonded to the softshell fabric for protection and extra support. The Aniso has held up well to off-trail hiking.

Weight: 11 oz/shoe (women's 7)
MSRP: $100

2008 Staff Favorites - 44

Petzl E+Lite Headlamp
On backpacking trips when I plan to do some reading or crossword puzzles in the evenings, I like to take the Petzl E+Lite instead of a pinch light. It's one of the lightest headlamps around, and frees my hands to do other things. It uses two CR2032 Lithium batteries, which are the flat ones that are commonly used in sport watches. The batteries are inexpensive and last a surprisingly long time. The light has low and high settings, plus a flash, is easy to turn on and off with light gloves and its ball joint pivot makes it easy to point to the desired angle.

Weight: 0.95 oz
MSRP: $30

2008 Staff Favorites - 45

Granite Gear Air Space Bag
The Granite Gear Air Space zippered stuff sack is a wonderful multipurpose item. The size small that I use is perfect to stuff my sleeping bag or insulated clothing. When in camp, it becomes a place to contain smaller items. At night I put any extra clothing in it and use it as a pillow. Its rectangular shape makes it easier to pack in a backpack and for it to stay in place when used as a pillow. The large opening provided by the long, waterproof zipper makes it easy to find things inside. On each end there is a grosgrain handle that provides counter force for zipping or to help pull the sack out of my pack. Made of silnylon, the sack slides easily out of a pack and is especially handy for wet weather or winter camping, when I can lay it down on the wet ground or snow and the things inside do not get wet.

Weight: 1.5 oz (size S)
MSRP: $18

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

Selections focused on economical purchase.

2008 Staff Favorites - 46

REI Sahara Convertible Pants
When I first started backpacking, I wore a set of convertible nylon trail pants. I can't remember who made them or what they weighed. All I knew was that they were the perfect set of trail pants. Five years ago, when I started lightweight backpacking, I "upgraded" to a pair of softshell pants with an inner nap that provided more warmth. Two years ago, I saw those convertible pants on the trail again and felt a longing to get them back on. Today, they are the only pants I wear, and I have not looked back. The reality is that I don't need that much warmth on my legs, and the softshell pants were slow to dry. The Sahara pants have a light, durable, and quick drying fabric (I'm big on washing clothes on the trail - everything I wear has to dry quickly, preferably during my washing up at the mid-day lunch break). The pockets on the Saharas (up to eight, depending on the pair) are great for storing the little stuff I use all day long (lip balm, sunscreen, mints, camera, dried fruit, etc.). The Saharas have a relaxed fit that is comfortably snug around my waist, yet has plenty of fabric at the knees and crotch to allow for full movement, including climbing. The twelve-inch zippered cuffs slide easily over my shoes, and the Velcro closures fit the cuffs perfectly around my ankle. In the two years that I have worn these pants, I have only taken off the pant legs once. But the ability to do so continues to send me back to these pants over a pair that doesn't have the versatility, for "just in case."

Weight: 12 oz
MSRP: $55 (although they go on sale for as little as $20)

2008 Staff Favorites - 47

REI Stoke 19 Day Pack (DIAD pack)
Although it looks like I am getting a kickback from REI, it just happens that they have my favorite and most economical products this year. I discovered this gem of a technical, done-in-a-day (DIAD) pack this summer while looking for something to bring on a hill walking trip to Scotland. I needed a durable pack that I could climb in and that could withstand wind, rain, sleet, and whatever else Scotland wanted to throw in my direction. At 20 oz, the Stoke is about half the weight of similar hydration packs from well known hydration pack manufacturers. It holds just over 1100 cubic inches, which is enough for all my warm weather clothes, rain gear, lunch, and everything I needed for the day of hiking and climbing in the cold and wet weather of the Northwestern Scottish Highlands. Two compartments allow me to separate food from clothing, and the two mesh side pockets are available for smaller items. The Stoke withstood climbing abuse and the Scotland elements well (although I added a silnylon liner sack to keep clothing from getting wet on a very rainy day atop a Cullin). There is a small compression system atop the pack and a hand carry strap at the top. My favorite parts are the padded hip belt (with pockets) and padded shoulder straps, and, of course, the righteous orange color.

Weight: 20 oz
MSRP: $60

2008 Staff Favorites - 48

Pro Bars (new Savory flavors)
The original flavor Pro Bars have been around since the 1990s. In 2004 I stopped eating them because I need variety in my diet. There is only so much of one thing I can eat. In 2006, the company expanded their offering of bars to include four new flavors, Nutty Banana Boom, Apple Cinnamon Crunch, Cran-Lemon Twister, and Koka Moka. It was an improvement, but the new bars seemed to be based on the original Pro Bar formula, and therefore had a telltale taste similarity. Then came the magical year of 2008. Enter savory Pro Bars -- Kettle Corn, Maple Pecan, Cocoa Pistachio, Cherry Pretzel, Sesame Goji (and of course, Superfood Slam, not a savory flavor, but still outstanding). Now there is a line-up of Pro Bars worthy of the major leagues for gourmet trail snacks. They taste great, and I love that there is a large variety to choose from. This summer I took some women out on a backpacking trip (their first ever) and by unanimous opinion the variety of pro bars were the favorite food item (the girls particularly loved Superfood Slam, while my personal favorite is Cherry Pretzel). I love that they average about 120 calories per ounce and have great organic, unprocessed nutrition. We now buy them in bulk, and I keep a stock on hand at all times. All I've got to say is "keep those flavors coming!"

Weight: 3 oz per bar
MSRP: $3.29 per bar or $35.00 per dozen


"2008 Backpacking Light Staff Picks," by Staff. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2008-12-16 00:10:00-07.


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2008 Backpacking Light Staff Picks
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
2008 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/16/2008 16:34:40 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

2008 Backpacking Light Staff Picks

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: 2008 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/16/2008 16:47:28 MST Print View

Very interesting to see the range of favorites from those at the front of the herd. Although I'm plodding along near the back - but not in the last row that gets eaten by wolves - I love the Beartooth Merino Hoody and BPL FireLite Ti Trappers Mug. Both have made 2008 a great gear year for me.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
2008 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/16/2008 16:52:10 MST Print View

A Great list of gear!!!My three favorite pieces of gear for the year are as follows:

MLD Serenity Shelter (custom) 10.2 oz
BPL Ion Stove SUL!!!!!!!!!!
Thermarest Trail Pro 72x20x2 32oz. A good nights sleep is very important to me-worth every pound .


Edited by Creachen on 12/16/2008 17:35:57 MST.

David Stenberg
(dstenberg1) - F

Locale: South
Re: 2008 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/16/2008 17:20:54 MST Print View

I always look forward to the Staff Picks and the Picks from those on the forums. Here are mine:

1. BPL Long Handled Spoon--best eating utensil in the backcountry
2. BMW Torsolite--best pad I have ever used!
3. Steripen Adventurer--Allows me to drink as much as I want fast; no wait for purification! Only downside is battery life.


Devin Montgomery
(dsmontgomery) - MLife

Locale: one snowball away from big trouble
Re: 2008 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/16/2008 17:47:30 MST Print View

Ryan on the Merino Hoody - "While you've been waiting for this product to come to market, I've had the privilege of wearing it all year." Braggart!

Since I'm in law school, amassing debt hand over fist, my picks are all super light and super good deals. My three:

- Gossamer Gear G6 Whisper - discontinued, but only $60 for a wicked light pack. This pack changed my life!

-Equinox Silnylon Poncho-tarp - $40 bucks and 10oz for shelter and rain gear. It might not be made for extreme conditions, but it works great for weekend trips in moderate weather - the kind I make the most.

- REI Kilo Flash Women's and REI Lite-Core self inflating pad (short) - After sale and coupon, I paid only $89 (with in-store pickup) for both a 20 oz 35 deg down bag and a 18 oz, comfortable sleeping pad for my wife. She's getting them for Christmas, and are integral in my plot to convert her! I found the deal thanks to BPL forum.

Edited by dsmontgomery on 12/17/2008 14:43:19 MST.

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
My favs on 12/16/2008 18:10:57 MST Print View

Montbell UL Thermawrap Parka - fantastic UL insulating parka. Don't get the jacket - it only has 50 g/m of Exceloft as opposed to the parka's 80.

ID eVENT Shortie Gaiters and MLD eVENT rain mitts- In the category of gear that does exactly what it is designed to do with nothing unnecessary added, these two pieces of clothing take the cake. They are perfect because there is no longer anything to take away.

TarpTent Double Rainbow - My brother and I spent two weeks in this shelter in May and loved every minute of it. The headroom is great, the total floor area and usable space are massive for a two person shelter and the vestibules are actually usable.

John Quinn
(inspector8598) - M

Locale: Northeast
2008 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/16/2008 18:38:40 MST Print View

In no particular order, here are my (3) favorite gear choices for 2008 -

- ZPacks Z1 Ultralight Sil-Nylon backpack - at 4.2oz. and Joe's exceptional customer service, you can't go wrong.

- Mountain Laurel Designs bug bivy - when the bugs are biting and you want to get a good nights sleep, there is no better choice.

- Gossamer Gear Lightrek 3 trekking poles - I don't go anywhere without them, especially at only 4.8oz/pair.

( - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: 2008 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/16/2008 18:52:27 MST Print View

BPL Thorofare Pants

GG Lightrek 4 poles

SMD Serenity Net Shelter

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
My Fav's on 12/16/2008 19:01:59 MST Print View

BPL Thorofare pants
Inov8 Flyroc 310/Roclite 315 (love them equally for different purposes)
Ibex Meru Beanie hat

Honorable mention
ID eVent Rain Jacket
MLD SuperZip Pack

Edited by Jkrew81 on 12/23/2008 06:25:04 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
mine on 12/16/2008 21:30:54 MST Print View

-Osprey Talon 22
-Patagonia Traverse Pullover
-Spandura scree gaitors (velcro heel attachment!)

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: 2008 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/16/2008 22:01:27 MST Print View

Gotta agree on the Merino Hoody. I received mine just after submitting my top 3 but it's a genius piece of gear- definitely on my top 3 for 2009 list!

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
2008 Favorites on 12/16/2008 22:19:41 MST Print View

Inov-8 shoes... for me it's a toss up between the more grippy and cushioning 295 roclite and the more durable sole with slight more natural feel 310 Flyroc.

Injinji Tetratsok... which when combined with the Inov-8 shoes have meant NO blisters no matter how many miles I put in or how wet my feet were.

Platypus BigZip SL Hydration System... fast and easy to fill, reasonably light, tube quick release works well making it easy to switch between being part of a gravity filter system and a hydration bladder on the trail.

Fred eric
(Fre49) - MLife

Locale: France, vallée de la Loire
2008 list on 12/16/2008 23:30:59 MST Print View

MSR twin sisters for trips in winter or under heavy rain.
valandré mirage with short zip
event shorties gaiters

this year my BPL 1100 pot wont be in the list, i recieved the new one after my wife lost one with the bushbuddy inside ( was fun hiking in the snow using cooking oil in a small tea candle metal cup to cook food for 5 days..)
but the new one seems different the lid isnt fiting as a start.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
2008 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/17/2008 04:42:41 MST Print View

Items I've most appreciated in 2008 (more than three):

Any tent designed by Henry Shires. IMHO, they are better ventilated and have less condensation than any other single-wall--and a lot of double-wall--tents on the market.

My Western Mountaineering Ultralight Super sleeping bag, which kept me snuggly warm in temperatures well below freezing. I didn't have a thermometer, but the water in my dog's dish froze completely solid.

Pacific Outdoor Equipment Insulmat Max Thermo (how's that for a mouthful!) insulated air mattress. Even more comfortable than the mattress on my bed at home. The newer version is the POE Ether Thermo, whose name is slightly less of a mouthful. Despite the lighter name of the newer version, both old and new weigh the same.

Six Moon Designs Comet pack. It performed admirably even when I had to carry close to 37 lbs. My back, shoulders and hips were fine, although my knees and feet screamed. What I learned from that incident is that if you want your ashes scattered out in the wilderness, please pick a place that's close to the trailhead and easy to reach. Human cremains weigh at least seven pounds. It's asking too much of your relatives to carry them to a place that's 4 days' hike from the trailhead.

ULA Amigo Pro gravity water filter. It saved me considerable lower back pain caused by bending over a water source pumping. It also saved me considerable time sitting by buggy streams stirring with a Steripen.

Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat. I'm allergic to most sunscreens, and this hat eliminates the need for sunscreen except on snow or close to bodies of water. Unlike other hats I've tried, it's very comfortable, has lots of ventilation and doesn't bump against my pack.

Jeremy Cleaveland
(jeremy11) - F

Locale: Exploring San Juan talus
2008 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/17/2008 07:41:22 MST Print View

Montrail Hardrocks + Dirty Girl Gaiters ("Switchbacks") + Holstein Cow Socks

Cilogear 60 liter Worksack! Great for hauling climbing gear around and backpack guiding

Paramo Aspira Jacket

Liberty Ridge Windcoat with hood and full zip (homemade)

DMM alloy offset nut #7 (climbing gear)

Black Diamond Microstoppers (climbing gear)

Primaloft Pants (homemade, full side zips) - 11 oz, don't need them much, but when I do they are amazing!

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
For Rick Dreher on 12/17/2008 08:21:29 MST Print View

you were looking for under insulation that is affordable, easy to use. Jacks R Better have a down 2/3 length Underquilt that is made for the Hennessey lineup (but will fit any gathered end hammock) on a special order program. it is not listed on the website. Contact Pan or Smee for info. I understand it is a 3 season quilt that wont work for most winter conditions, (maybe here in southwest, HI, or the south..) but its great for next spring. No, I dont work for them even if I sound like it! mike.

my fav 3:

petzl e-lite
reading a book in bed never seemed so easy

montbell inner snap neck vest
sub 4oz is a great core warmer

orvis traveller 8' pack rod, 5wt
great reason to hike to sub-alpine lakes

(favorite DIY gear is hands down my bridge hammock system - tarp, quilts included)

Praveen M
(prav66) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
My favourites for '08 on 12/17/2008 09:48:26 MST Print View

My 3 picks...

Panasonic G1 camera :

I've gone through over a dozen cameras & this is my current pick for trips where photo quality matters. Full zoom, real SLR quality & optical stabilization in the smallest/lightest package of its kind currently in existence.

Innov8 Terroc 330 :

After using Inov8 it's hard going back to other shoes. My previous Montrail hardrocks feel like over-cushioned lead in comparison. Inov8s are extremely light, have great grip, decent durability and they really let your foot move and flex naturally as evolution intended. For me that means less injuries and blisters in the long term. The Terrocs work best for my wide toes.

ULA Conduit :

It's not the lightest pack for it's capacity and it's heavy on the shoulders when weight creeps past 20 lbs yet for most multi day trips it's still my favorite pack. It's so comfortable, feature packed and sensibly made that I find myself missing aspects of it whenever I try & go lighter and end up coming right back.

Edited by prav66 on 12/17/2008 09:53:07 MST.

John Mackey
(JohnMackey) - F
2008 favorites on 12/17/2008 12:13:54 MST Print View

Gossamer Gear "The One" tent

My favorite tent: only 17 ounces, bathtub floor, very easy to set up, full rain and insect protection, and very versatile. What's not to like? Could it be better? Sure--make a Cuben version and get the weight down to only 10 or 11 ounces.

Feathered Friends Swallow Sleeping Bag + Nunatak down balaclava--custom bag for me made without a hood and with an excellent neck collar, made with NANO fabric--listed at 20 degrees, 25.9 ounces + 3.6 ounces for the Nunatak Balaclava. I think the neck collar and the Nunatak Balaclava make this a 10 to 15 degree bag with a wide comfort range. Western Mountaineering, Marmot, and Nunatak get most of the sleeping bag kudos on this board (and they all do make excellent bags). However, Feathered Friends does too and their customization on fabric, size, length, quality of down, etc., combined with their production speed (compared to Nunatak) and excellent service give them an edge IMO.

Gossamer Gear Lighttrek 4 Trekking Poles

These new adjustable trekking poles rock! Their big advantage over Ti-Goat's adjustible poles (which are also very nice) are the superior handle grips.

IPOD Nano 16 GB

For only 1.5 ounces I can listen dozens of full audio books and thousands of songs and have 20 to 24 hours of battery life before recharging Don Wilson--Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" is available for download at Thanks for the tip on this book.

Simblissity Scree Gaiters

These gaiters fit very well and don't require a strap under the shoe (which always wears out very quickly). Not waterproof, but also very breathable and not too warm. Perfect for non-snow hiking with trail runners.

Jon Rhoderick
(hotrhoddudeguy) - F - M

Locale: New England
2008 Favorites on 12/17/2008 13:51:42 MST Print View

Black Diamond Megalite
4 Season protection for under 3 lbs, with extra room when you dig it out, try that with a tent.

Smartwool Midweight long sleeve zip comfortable from an incredible range of temperatures, just pull the sleeves up, and zip it up, may be replace by the Beartooth Hoody which seems to take it even farther.

Montbell Thermawrap Action
Not so well known as all other Montbell gear, the fleece makes me comfortable enough to take it on cold active pursuits, compresses well, and has thumbholes.

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
2008 favorites on 12/17/2008 14:14:37 MST Print View

New to me this year that I've really liked:

1. WM Ultralite sleeping bag.

2. Merino wool hoodie made from sewing a balaclava to a l/s shirt based on Bill Fornshell's idea.

3. Bicycle spoke added to my cooking pot for a bail/handle.