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2009 Backpacking Light Staff Picks

Backpacking Light staff pick their favorite gear of 2009.

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by Staff | 2009-12-29 21:00:00-07

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 2009 favorites in the forum below. -Your BPL Eds

2009 Staff Picks of Favorite Gear
Backpacking Light Staff Member Favorite Pieces of Gear
Ryan Jordan Sigma DP2 Digital Camera Tenkara Hane Fly Rod Pak-Rifle
Sam Haraldson Backpacking Light UL Merino Wool Hoody Spark R&D Splitboard Bindings Arc'Teryx Palisade Pant
Will Rietveld Rab Off-Limits Pants Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Poles Sea to Summit AlphaLight Short Spoon
Roger Caffin Taslan Clothing (MYOG) MSR Titan Pot Benchmade 530
Mike Martin Brynje Super Thermo Shirt Western Mountaineering Expedition Booties Primus ETAPacklite Stove
Carol Crooker SmartWool PhD Run Light Mini Socks Columbia PFG Pants ExOfficia Air Strip Lite Shirt
Alan Dixon Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mattress Westing Mountaineering Down Booties Patagonia R2 Vest
Doug Johnson Custom EnLIGHTened (Tim Marshall) Baby & Toddler Sleeping Bags Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Poles Z-Packs Blast 32
Janet Reichl Marmot Mica/Crystalline Jacket GoLite Peak Frameless Backpack Keen Ridgeline
Alison Simon Apple iPod Backpacking Light FeatherLite Vapor Mitts In the spirit of being light, I only had two favorites this year.

Ryan Jordan - Bozeman, Montana

2009 Staff Favorites - 1

Sigma DP2 Digital Camera I spent the entire year immersed in the study of digital cameras. I shot with the best of them that might be of interest to lightweight backpackers: Panasonic TS1, Olympus E-P1, Olympus E-620, Leica M8.2, Panasonic GF1, Canon S90, and the Panasonic Lumix LX3. But I fell in love with one little unassuming digital that's superbly simple, painfully slow, has an awful screen, but shoots fantastic images. Many of my 2010 gallery shots (up to 16 x 20 inches) will be from this camera. The only other camera that garnered something close to being a “favorite” of 2009: my twenty-one-year-old Leica M6 Classic, paired with Fuji Velvia 50, of course.

Weight: 9.3 oz
MSRP: $649

2009 Staff Favorites - 2

Tenkara Hane Fly Rod 2009 saw the introduction of the coolest piece of fishing gear that seemed tailor-made for lightweight backpacking, in terms of style, design, and technique: Tenkara fly rods. My favorite, by quite a long margin, is the short little Hane, for its ability to collapse to a tiny, packable size that fits in my smallest pack or my carry-on briefcase for travel. Never before have I been so excited to eliminate gear from my kit – this time, a fly reel, once revered as a non-negotiable item for most of my summer backpacking treks.

Weight: 2.7 oz
MSRP: $200

2009 Staff Favorites - 3

Pak-Rifle At 16 ounces, the ability to carry a .22LR rifle on trips that offer small game opportunities excites me for the prospect of being able to supplement my packed meals on long trips, but perhaps more exciting, allows me to combine two of my favorite passions: grouse hunting and mountain backpacking. Now, I don't have to lighten my kit to carry a heavy rifle. My triple crown goal for 2010: catch a trout, shoot a grouse, and cook'em up at the summit of a 10,000 foot peak!

Weight: 16 oz
MSRP: $425

Sam Haraldson - Bozeman, Montana

2009 Staff Favorites - 4

Backpacking Light UL Merino Wool Hoody The BPL UL Hoody has become the perfect single garment for warm weather trips. During the summer of 2009, I started bringing this as the sole shirt to be worn from trip beginning to trip end. I paired the UL Merino Wool Hoody with a windshirt and puffy jacket for conditions ranging from hot in the Wind Rivers to below freezing in the Absarokas.

Weight: 5.5 oz (size large)
MSRP: $70

2009 Staff Favorites - 5

Spark R&D Splitboard Bindings My backcountry experiences aren't limited to summer and they aren't limited to hiking. I extend my backpacking into the winter, and here in Montana, that means finding a way to propel myself through the wilderness atop meter upon meter of snow. My focus in the winter is typically snowboarding, so an ultralight splitboard set-up is a must. The item that best performed for me during 2009 was a splitboard-specific binding from Spark R&D. Using these bindings as opposed to a mounting kit for a regular set of snowboard bindings shaved over a pound off the weight of my kit.

Weight: 1003 g (35.38 oz) per pair (size large)
MSRP: $299

2009 Staff Favorites - 6

Arc'Teryx Palisade Pant I've been wearing the Arc'Teryx Palisade Pant since about 2007 and have yet to have found a more durable, comfortable, and functional pant. It has no extras - only what is needed. On top of their Spartan design, they are constructed of a fabric that has proven itself absolutely bomber. From a 1200-mile backpacking trip in the Pacific Northwest to days spent cragging along the shores of Lake Superior, the Palisade pant has served me well.

Weight: 299 g (10.53 oz.)
MSRP: $125

Will Rietveld - Durango, Colorado

2009 Staff Favorites - 13

Rab Off-Limits Pants I prefer to wear rain pants because they not only keep me dry in the rain, but they also serve as wind pants, and I like to wear them in camp over thin long johns for extra warmth. I even wear them in my sleeping bag on unexpectedly cold nights. My favorite lightweight rain pant is the Rab Off-Limits. It’s made of Pertex Shield DS 2.5L waterproof-breathable fabric and has calf-length leg zips, which I really like because I can easily pull them on over my size 12 hiking shoes. They are trim fitting and plenty long for my long legs. The only other feature is an elastic waistband; no pockets or fly.

Weight: 6.2 oz

2009 Staff Favorites - 8

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Poles While I can do without trekking poles on-trail, I really like to use them off-trail. Also, I need trekking poles for many of the solo shelters I use. My favorite poles by far are the Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4. These carbon fiber poles are superlight and adjustable, so I can adjust them as needed for the terrain or the length I need for my shelter. They are also good and stiff, so they are a definite advantage for creek crossings and dropping off of ledges.

Weight: 6.8 oz/pair
MSRP: $150

2009 Staff Favorites - 9

Sea to Summit AlphaLight Short Spoon I only use a spoon for eating camp meals, and for years I carried a cheap-o plastic spoon that easily broke. I finally upgraded to a good ultralight spoon, the Sea to Summit AlphaLight Short Spoon. I love it! It brings me transcendental happiness integral to the calmness derived through the wilderness experience. Unlike other “premium” cookware, this spoon is made of hard anodized 7075-T6 aircraft aluminum alloy, which is plenty strong and slightly lighter than titanium. Other lengths and sizes of spoons are available, plus a spork.

Weight: 0.2 oz
MSRP: $7

Roger Caffin - Berrilee, NSW, Australia

2009 Staff Favorites - 10

Taslan Clothing (MYOG): Trousers & Shell My wife and I have been using our MYOG Taslan clothing for over 15 years now. It has served us in the mddle of the Australian desert (on the Larapinta Trail) and in sub-zero weather in our Alps. It has survived some of our worst lawyer vine scrub (and made sure we survived it too), and it has lasted for months with little noticeable wear in Europe. An added feature is that my designs lack all the useless commercial frills which the clothing manufacturers love to add in. No large metal studs, no bulky zips, no pointless tabs and other 'pseudo-macho street-appeal' junk; just functionality. And yes, OK, I'm biased.

Weight: Varies
MSRP: Make it yourself!

2009 Staff Favorites - 11

MSR Titan Pot I tried some of the heat exchanger pots, but I found their high weight was generally not balanced by efficiency gains, and I always go back to this very simple 115 -g (4.1-oz), 1.5L titanium pot. I tried using an alfoil lid for a while, but I have gone back to using the 58-g (2-oz) Ti lid for two reasons. The first is that when all packed up, the lid means that whatever is inside the pot is safe in my pack - very often that includes my stove. The second reason is that the upside down lid also serves quite well as a plate: dual use!

Weight: 115 g (4.1 oz)
MSRP: about US$140 for the full 2-pot set

2009 Staff Favorites - 12

Benchmade 530 The funny thing about including this knife here is that I am definitely not a knife fanatic. I took it to Switzerland in 2009 for two months alpine walking on the off-chance it might be useful. We usually eat a LOT of bread (and jam and cheese) in Europe: the 51-g (1.8-oz) Benchmade 530 knife turned out to be in constant use for this. It is the lightest folding knife I know of with a decent (82-mm / 3.25-inch) blade, and it stayed razor sharp for the whole trip.

Weight: 51 g (1.8 oz)
MSRP: US$100

Mike Martin - Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

Style modesty prevents me from posting a picture of this shirt. It's FISHNET after all.

Brynje Super Thermo Shirt North Idaho sees a lot of rainy weather with temperatures around freezing. These conditions challenge the moisture management capability of any clothing layering system – especially during high-exertion activities like trail running or hill climbing. After going hard for a couple of hours, it’s nearly impossible to prevent wetting out your clothing layers. The Brynje baselayer products are made from a polypropylene fishnet material that is simply more comfortable across a broader range of conditions than anything else I’ve tried. The fabric absorbs less moisture than knit polyester or Merino wool alternatives. Plus, rather than wick perspiration farther away from your warm skin into your cool, condensation-prone, outer clothing layers, the Super Thermo fabric allows perspiration to evaporate directly from your skin. The result is a high warmth per weight ratio garment that continues to perform well after extended use in cold, wet conditions. I’ve done four-hour trail runs in 35F rain wearing a Super Thermo Shirt and a windshell and been comfortable…Well, cold, tired, wet, thirsty, and hungry, but relatively comfortable.

Weight: 5.2 oz (size large, long sleeved crew neck)
MSRP: $50

2009 Staff Favorites - 14

Western Mountaineering Expedition Booties Don’t tell the ultralight police, but for winter camping, I like to use insulated camp booties. Snowshoe footwear just isn’t warm enough for me when I stop moving in camp. And, while plastic ski boots are warm enough with the right liner, it’s just a nice luxury to get out of those Franken-boots at the end of a ski day. I’ve used, and think well of, competitive products from 40 Below and MEC, but neither can match the combination of warmth and light weight of the Western Mountaineering Expedition Booties. My favorite feature (shared with the much heavier MEC Expedition Booties) is the integrated gaiter that keeps snow from entering over the top, even in the deepest powder.

Weight: 9.2 oz/pair (size large)
MSRP: $90

2009 Staff Favorites - 15

Primus ETAPacklite Stove I’ve been a proponent of inverted-canister stoves for winter snowmelting for a decade. Over the years, I’ve used the class-standard Coleman Xtreme and even modified my MSR Windpro for inverted canister use. The Primus ETAPacklite is my favorite of the current generation of remote-canister stoves suitable for snowmelting in cold weather. The complete package, with a heat-exchanger pot, robust windsreen, piezo igniter, and all the goodies is compact, efficient, and convenient, though ultralighters may balk at the 24.3-oz system weight. However, the real jewel is the stove itself. At 8.3 ounces, it’s lighter than the defunct Coleman Xtreme, and offers a swiveling canister connection, clever windscreen support, and flat base that can be used directly on snow. My current winter stove system consists of the ETAPacklite stove, homemade windscreen, and Evernew 1.3L Titanium Pot. The whole package weighs in at 14 oz.

Weight: 24.3 oz (complete), 8.3 oz (stove only)
MSRP: $115

Carol Crooker - Mesa, Arizona

2009 Staff Favorites - 16

SmartWool PhD Run Light Mini Socks SmartWool PhD Run Light Mini socks on Arizona’s Bluff Spring Trail in December. The PhD socks are so luxuriously soft and cushiony, I grin every time I put them on.

Weight: 1.6 oz/pair (women's large)
MSRP: $16

2009 Staff Favorites - 17

Columbia PFG Pants Columbia PFG pants in the Superstition Mountains. These have been my favorite hiking pants for years. I tried to retire them since the seat is about to blow out, but I haven’t been able to find a replacement pair. The best thing about them is they have an elastic waist and just pull on: no fiddling with a zipper, button, or belt. They are long enough to act like gaiters to keep desert stickers off my socks; the material is very lightweight, supple, and quick drying; they have a nice variety of pockets; and the legs are wide enough to pull on over my shoes. I’ve probably had these pants five years and have worn them on almost every three-season trip. I’m looking hard for a replacement pair before I embarrass myself, but summerweight pull-on pants that fit my long legs are few and far between.

Weight: 10.2 oz (men's medium)

2009 Staff Favorites - 18

ExOfficio Air Strip Lite Shirt ExOfficio Air Strip Lite shirt on a day hike near Taos, New Mexico. I wear sun shirts a lot, living in the desert. Even when it gets cool I am reluctant to give up my Ex Officio shirt, since it has two nice pockets I can stow stuff in. The women’s large has sleeves long enough so my wrists stay mostly covered even when swinging hiking poles. The material is very soft and dries in a flash. As a bonus, these shirts are often on sale online and come in lots of nice colors.

Weight: 7.2 oz (women's large)
MSRP: $80

Alan Dixon - Washington, D.C.

2009 Staff Favorites - 19

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mattress Two of my favorites this year are comfort items. It deeply pains me to make the same pick as Backpacker but the NeoAir mattress tops my list. Sure, it’s a bit narrow, a bit noisy and takes a while to inflate - but what a restful night's sleep! I didn’t realize how comfortable I was until I suffered insomnia when taking another mattress on a long trip this summer. For use with the mate, I sewed a pair of custom couplers for the NeoAirs. My wife and I aren’t large people, and with two mattresses strapped together, we have plenty of sleeping real estate under our shared down quilt. While we don’t go out of our way to abuse the mattresses, we don’t baby them either. We’ve used them in the spiky desert and in rocky areas of high Western mountains without a problem. For us, their insulation is fine down to at least freezing.

Weight: 9 oz (size small)
MSRP: $120

2009 Staff Favorites - 20

Western Mountaineering Down Booties A 6-oz pair of down booties for $65 is exciting news. My feet run cold. Once a fall nip is in the air, my feet can stay ice cube cold from when I stop hiking in the evening to when I warm them up with a brisk walk the next morning. Little else is as satisfying as putting on a pair of dry socks and down booties when I hit camp - warm feet all night! But until now I didn’t bring down booties on my fall trips. My inexpensive 12-oz down booties were too bulky and heavy, and I’ve never been able to put myself on a wait list and spend $130 or more on a pair of lighter booties. This year Western Mountaineering introduced their Down Booties and solved the problem. (The only difficulty is that my wife has “borrowed” them. I’ll need to buy her a pair to get use of mine again.)

Weight: 6 oz
MSRP: $65

2009 Staff Favorites - 21

Patagonia R2 Vest The R2 Vest is probably the most versatile insulation garment I own. I bought my first one production year and since then, an R2 Vest has been on most of my trips. Somehow even when it’s not on my gear list, I seem to slip it into my pack at trail head. My R2 Vest has been to Patagonia, New Zealand, Scotland, the Olympics, Cascades, Rockies, Sierras, Wind Rivers, Appalachians, Southern Utah, backcountry ski tours, kayaking in below freezing weather, and many more trips. The R2 Vest is quite warm under a shell and makes a great pillow. At 8 oz, it is not much heavier than a down or synthetic vest, but it has many advantages over them. It is much more breathable and less sweaty during hard work, it absorbs little water, and dries fast. Thus, it is my primary insulating piece when I exercise in cold weather. The R2 Vest is quite compressible for a fleece garment and takes up little pack space when not in use. It’s no wonder that I now own three of them!

Weight: 8.2 to 9.8 oz (depending on production date)
MSRP: $125

Doug Johnson - Redmond, Washington

2009 Staff Favorites - 22

Custom EnLIGHTened (Tim Marshall) baby and toddler sleeping bags At just 7.4 oz for the infant bag and 9.2 oz for the toddler bag, these Climashield XP bags saved a lot of bulk and weight on my back and fit the kids perfectly! These are sized for a baby and a toddler, but Tim makes bags for all shapes and sizes. The custom design is hoodless with a drawstring 6 inches from the bottom to allow for growth. Tim charged me $190 for both sleeping bags, and his craftsmanship is fantastic. These were by far the most exciting gear items I purchased this year!

Weight: 7.4 oz (infant) or 9.2 oz (toddler)
MSRP: $190 (total for both)

2009 Staff Favorites - 23

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Poles The Lightrek 3 poles are incredible. That is, if you are okay with fixed length poles. But it's always been that if you wanted adjustability or ease of traveling, you had to have some clunky poles. NO MORE! The Lightrek 4 poles weigh just 3.4 ounces each, adjust from 84 cm to 140 cm, and lock firmly. They aren't quite as easy as a Flicklock to adjust, but they are consistent and don't slip - and they weigh a fraction of almost anything on the market. Besides that, they use excellent Leki tips and have an extra tough layer of carbon fiber on the lower to protect against rocks. You can even get straps if you like - or a camo color! These poles are marvelous.

Weight: 6.8 oz/pair
MSRP: $150

2009 Staff Favorites - 24

Z-Packs Blast 32 This is the toughest Cuben I've ever seen! The pack carried weight and bulky loads well during summer overnights with the kids. The translucent blue beauty is a little space-age-looking, but what the heck! I love this sub-5 ounce pack: superlight, bomber, and well thought-out.

Weight: 4.3 oz

Janet Reichl - Durango, Colorado

2009 Staff Favorites - 25

Marmot Mica/Crystalline Jacket I was happy to see my Frogg Toggs jacket wear out so I could upgrade to something more durable and better fitting. The 6-oz Marmot Crystalline Jacket (women’s model, men’s model is the Mica) is my dream come true. It has a full feature set (hood, water-resistant full-height zipper, hand pockets, adjustable hood/cuffs/hem), it’s very light, and the Crystalline is sized specifically for women. The waterproof-breathable technology is Marmot’s 2.5 layer MemBrain Strata, which is claimed to have 20,000 mm waterproof performance and 20,000 g breathability.

Weight: 6 oz
MSRP: $130

2009 Staff Favorites - 26

GoLite Peak Frameless Backpack Until now, I have stuck with my GoLite Breeze pack that I bought used from Ryan Jordan about eight years ago. My new favorite backpack is the GoLite Peak, which won’t be available until spring 2010. I have had the privilege of testing it for an upcoming Backpacking Light article on frameless backpacks, and you can’t tear it away from me! It will be available in unisex sizes Small, Medium, and Large. I am testing the small size, which fits me very well. It’s made of durable Dyneema Gridstop, has a rigid foam removable backpanel pad, a huge zippered front pocket, two side stretch mesh pockets, and two hipbelt pockets. The hipbelt is removable. The volume is 2318 cubic inches, which sounds small, but it’s actually large enough for ultralight backpacking. I use it as much for day hiking as I do for backpacking. The new Jam (2857 cubic inches/31 ounces) is one step larger and has a similar design.

Weight: 27 oz (size medium)
MSRP: $125

2009 Staff Favorites - 27

Keen Ridgeline The Keen Ridgeline is my favorite summer hiking shoe. It‘s very light (10.5 oz/shoe), very breathable, and provides good support and rock protection. Of course, fit is a big part of the equation, and I like the fit and comfort of Keen shoes. These shoes are well padded around the ankle so they do absorb water when wet.

Weight: 10.5 oz/shoe (women's 7)
MSRP: $100

Alison Simon - Washington, D.C.

2009 Staff Favorites - 28

Apple iPod NANO My life backpacking changed when I started carrying an iPod Nano. At just over an ounce, the iPod takes up neither space nor weight in my pack, yet it provides hours of entertainment. Yes, I do enjoy the crickets chirping, the birds singing and the frogs barking (or whatever they do), but I also enjoy being told a good ‘ole fashioned story at bedtime. Downloading an audio book onto the iPod and listening to it is a superb way to go to bed at night, no matter where you are attempting to get to sleep. In the winter months, it is great for the long nighttime hours in the tent; during the summer, it either helps me go to sleep or provides comic relief if the trek has taken an unexpected turn (euphemism for "things got really screwed up"). The minimum I bring with me on my iPod for a trip includes one audio book, 2-3 of my favorite podcasts, and 2-3 comic distractions (podcasts or stand-up comedian routines).

Weight: 1.3 oz
MSRP: $150

2009 Staff Favorites - 29

Backpacking Light FeatherLite Vapor Mitts I am officially addicted to cross-country skiing. For those who haven’t had the pleasure, cross-country skiing involves going to very cold places and sweating your butt off. Forbes rated the best workout sports of 2009, and cross-country skiing came in at 5th place, beating out basketball, cycling, running, and the modern pentathlon. Whatever goes on your body has to keep you warm while simultaneously pouring out gallons of sweat per hour. It also has to be versatile enough to take on and off, and on and off, and on… The BPL Vapor Mitts are a superb outer layer for my hands, which tend to run cold. With a set of SmartWool liner gloves inside, the FeatherLite Vapor Mitts provide the perfect wind block and warmth for downhill sections. On sweaty uphill sections, their vapor barrier keeps the insulation dry and maintains the glove’s warmth, even over a number of days skiing—long after other gloves would be a frozen mass of drenched sweat. The Vapor Mitts are also agile enough to be quickly put on if needed, yet big enough to throw a set of hand warmers in if required. They even fit under racing pole straps. Best of all, at 3.5 ounces, they do the job without weighing me down, allowing me focus on the herringbone up that next hill.

Weight: 3.5 oz
MSRP: $100 (currently on sale)


"2009 Backpacking Light Staff Picks," by Staff. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2009-12-29 21:00:00-07.


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2009 Backpacking Light Staff Picks
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Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: 2009 Picks on 12/30/2009 12:16:51 MST Print View

Ti-Tri Inferno.
I didn't get much new gear this year.

Alan Little
(AlanL) - F

Locale: Bavarian & Austrian Alps
Bought too much stuff this year on 12/30/2009 14:21:52 MST Print View

1 - Patagonia Wool 1 Crew. The first merino I ever tried that doesn't itch. Other reputable brands I tried on in shops practically brought me out in a rash right there in the changing room. Performance and comfort have been a revelation, and cut and fit for me are perfect (Medium at 6' and 180 lbs). Has even driven my ancient Helly Hansen polypro into semi-retirement. I just hope it lasts more than a few months.

2 - Montane Prism jacket.

3 - Five Ten Camp 4 approach shoes. Heavier and stiffer than trail shoes, but the only thing I want to be wearing if I'm going to be spending any amount of time on exposed rock scrambling - and in summer, it's not a good day out if I'm not. Near-rock-shoe performance, as one would expect from the Five Ten heritage, coupled with a decent level of comfort.

Peter Sustr
(czechxpress) - F - M

Locale: Boulder
My best gear for 2009 on 12/30/2009 15:03:20 MST Print View

Here's my favorite gear I picked up this year

1. New Balance trail runners- changed the way I hike and much better then my previous Golite shoes.

2. Golite Lair 1- A good solid tarp that doesn't let me down

3. BMW Vapr Quantum Bivy- The best bivy I have used by far and is great to combo with my Ultra 20 since I'm a roller when I sleep.

Got to mention my new Panasonic LX3 I got for Xmas- gonna make 2010 good!!

First Last
(snusmumriken) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Nothing New under the Sun on 12/30/2009 16:19:27 MST Print View

A rifle, a spoon, a camera, an Ipod, and a few clothing items that have been out for many years already. 2009 was really not the year for introducing new and exciting backpacking gear was it? I commend the Backpacking Light writers for making the best of it though.

I didn't make many purchases this year either, there just wasn't much new out there to pique my interest. The one exception was the Neoair, just as comfortable and much lighter than the insulated airmat it replaced.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: 2009 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/30/2009 16:31:01 MST Print View

2009 was a good year. Here are my favorites...

Native Eyewear Dash SS Polarized Sunglasses Asphalt/Blue Reflex

Backpacking Light Merino UL Hoody

Exped DownMat 9 Pump

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
2009 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/30/2009 17:23:25 MST Print View

NeoAir in large. More comfortable than the bed at home. 25" wide=BLISS!

Montbell inflatable pillow. BTW a buff make the perfect pillowcase

Caldera cone compact. Storage problem solved!

Got some Montbell down inner pants this year that are great so far also.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
My picks on 12/30/2009 17:49:40 MST Print View

1) Gossamer Gear LT4's-best poles I've ever used.
2) Inov8 Roclite 370's-best shoes I've ever used. Outstanding on granite.
3) ULA Ohm-Despite a couple of minor shortcomings, a great pack. I've never used a better one for the kind of hiking I do.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
2009 BPL Staff Picks on 12/30/2009 17:58:44 MST Print View

No Order

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Poles---Simple and Adjustable! 7.4oz for two-WOW!

Large NeoAir---19oz of R.E.M. and Comfort! I have never slept so good out in the woods.

TarpTent---Sublite-Sil 21.5oz of head room,width and length. Fast and easy two minute set up! Only needs 4 tent stakes in good weather-8 total if need be. Simplicity at its finest! I wonder why I see the Sublite-Sils being sold in Gear Swap so often?

This website(BPL)----Knowledge Nuggets to the max and there House Gear if it is ever in "Fing" stock!!!!!

Edited by Creachen on 12/31/2009 09:54:42 MST.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
2009 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/30/2009 18:46:29 MST Print View

The one outstanding item I got this year is the 2009 Tarptent/Gossamer Gear Squall Classic. It is super easy to get a good taut pitch on it, with the bathtub floor standing up on all 4 sides. It is nice and light--25.6 ounces after doing plenty of seam sealing and painting non-skid patches on the floor. It's just the right size for my 80-lb. dog and me and would be OK with one of my grandkids added. It would be a snugger fit for two adults, and certainly two couldn't sit up at the same time. While I'm keeping an eye on Joe Valesko's interesting new Hexamid, I'm quite satisfied with the Squall Classic and don't plan to make a change. EDIT LATER: I forgot to mention the center ZIPPERED vestibule!!! No more velcro, hallelujah!

The second good item is a 5-oz. Montbell Chameece vest, which I got this fall to supplement base layer and windshirt when hiking in the wind at freezing temps (still too warm for the puffy jacket). So far, though, I've mostly worn it around the house and in town--it's almost too pretty to take on the trail!

The not-so-good items that went back included the NeoAir--I just couldn't get comfortable with it, and by the time I would add back a thick CCF pad to stay warm in below-freezing temps, it would be as heavy as my POE Insulmat Max Thermo (older version of the Ether Thermo). The latter, for me, is far more comfortable. Another return was the Equinox bivy (too narrow for a WM Ultralight Super sleeping bag). The third return was a pair of 2009 Montrail Hardrocks, definitely no relation to the older Hardrock we all knew and loved, and about as supportive as a pair of bedroom slippers.

Edited by hikinggranny on 12/30/2009 22:56:35 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
2009 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/30/2009 19:07:38 MST Print View

"by the time I would add back a thick CCF pad to stay warm in below-freezing temps"

The Neo Air is rated to 32 degrees - not lower. No surprise you were cold.

"I wonder why I see the Sublite-Sils being sold in Gear Swap so often?"

No vestibule.

Edited by FamilyGuy on 12/30/2009 19:08:35 MST.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
2009 BPL Staff Picks on 12/30/2009 19:27:06 MST Print View

David, The Sublite-Sil does have a Mini Vestibule but it is Mini. I have thought of bringing a Equinox 6x8 tarp at 9oz for "just in case" but have not.. I guess I have been lucky so far.


Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: 2009 BPL Staff Picks on 12/30/2009 19:44:19 MST Print View

"I have thought of bringing a Equinox 6x8 tarp at 9oz for "just in case" but have not"

You should consider the MLD mini tarp, 5x5 at 4.9 oz and only $45.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
2009 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/30/2009 19:49:12 MST Print View

Depends where you hike Jay - I guess. I like the design and inherent stability of the 2 pole design, but am not keen on bringing my wet pack and muddy boots in with me. I would like to see a vestibule added even if it increased the weight to that of the Contrail. Then the Contrail could be discontinued. I believe the design of the Sublite Sil is superior to the Contrail in every way. A natural progression from the mind of Henry Shires (the tireless mind I should add).

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
2009 BPL Staff Picks on 12/30/2009 20:00:57 MST Print View

Thanks Douglas, I will check out mini tarp..I think that is there dog tarp?

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: 2009 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/30/2009 20:11:58 MST Print View

No particular order, and a bonus entry from Jacci.

Arctic mukluks by Steger Mukluks: My feet were warm and dry in a myriad of conditions with these muks on. For the UL hiker, they're 20 oz per foot of warmth. Try to get that out of any other full-on winter boot. You won't. Now I just need to figure out how to keep the laces from absorbing moisture and freezing at night...

Dixon Double Bivy by Oware (Dave Olson): I bought this for use with an Oware CatTarp 2 for the special lady and I, and we love it. The the Pertex has excellent water-resisting (almost water proof?!) capabilities and it kept us dry during adeluge in a poor camping site.

Z1 by (Joe Valesko): Simple design with a full features made this frameless pack my go-to when I didn't need to carry a tent. Solo, I could probably go a week with the pack size and more if I didn't cook. The design only gets better with the use of Dyneema in Joe's latest iterations.

Honorable mentions: GossamerGear LightTrek3s; Integral Designs MK1 XL; Integral Designs VB socks; MYOG torso pad (hacked Ridgerest).

Jacci's gear of the year is the GoGirl. The GoGirl is an FUD (Female Urination Device) offered at the wonderful price of $6.00 a piece! Simply put: women use the GoGirl to pee standing up. No longer do I have to go 1/2 mile off trail to find a suitable tree to drop trou behind. I can stand aside the path just like my fiance. Of course, it takes some practice...and I recommend using it with a skirt. The GoGirl is made out of medical-grade silicone so it reusable and germ resistant. And the best feature for ultra-lite backpacking is it's ability to keep its shape after being shoved, squished, and compressed into the tightest places in my pack.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: 2009 BPL Staff Picks on 12/30/2009 20:47:39 MST Print View

"I think that is there dog tarp?"

Yeah, he calls it the mini tarp/dog tarp/emergency tarp! On the sublite, I would think you could tie two ends together around the top of the sublite, and use sticks or something to prop up the other two ends to form a sort of vestibule. I haven't done this, just seems doable.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
2009 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/30/2009 23:03:46 MST Print View

David Ure: :"by the time I would add back a thick CCF pad to stay warm in below-freezing temps"

"The Neo Air is rated to 32 degrees - not lower. No surprise you were cold."

You'd be surprised how many people on this board claim the NeoAir is nice and warm down to 15* with an 1/8" CCF pad or even with nothing at all! I made the mistake of believing them!

My main problem with the NeoAir was that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find the "sweet spot" between too hard a pad and my hip (very pressure-sensitive) on the ground. And the crosswise tubes kept "bucking me off." YMMV, of course!

Edited by hikinggranny on 12/30/2009 23:04:57 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
2009 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/31/2009 06:57:25 MST Print View

"You'd be surprised how many people on this board claim the NeoAir is nice and warm down to 15* with an 1/8" CCF pad or even with nothing at all! I made the mistake of believing them!"

That has happened with a few pieces of gear I own!

Gerry Brucia
(taedawood) - MLife

Locale: Louisiana, USA
2009 BPL Staff Picks on 12/31/2009 08:13:38 MST Print View

My top three new items this year are as follows:

1. Tarptent Moment. My maiden journey included light snow and lots of rain. I stayed completely dry, not including a little bit of condensation, which was a lot less than any previous single wall tarptent I have owned. And so easy to set up taut!

2. GG Lighttrek 4's....they're great.

3. BPL's new Merino UL Beanie. At 0.6 oz, this thing is incredible. I wore it constantly on my most recent cold, snowy, rainy trip. Not too tight, not too loose, wore over my balaclava at night, under hood in rain. I just hope BPL, in their efforts to streamline inventory, don't quit stocking this gem!

Honorable mention: Montane Lightspeed Jacket. Windproof, super breathable, water-resistant.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: 2009 Backpacking Light Staff Picks on 12/31/2009 09:02:21 MST Print View

"You'd be surprised how many people on this board claim the NeoAir is nice and warm down to 15* with an 1/8" CCF pad or even with nothing at all! I made the mistake of believing them!"

I did have the NeoAir with a Ridgerest underneath down to 18.3 degrees on an elevated wooden floor (AT shelter). Lots of snow on the ground. I was very toasty! The Ridgerest is, of course, much better than an 1/8" CCF pad! But the combo (the Ridgerest is a small) is only 23 oz. And the Ridgerest also works as support for my pack.