I just got back from a five day trip in Mt. Robson National Park, Canada. We hiked to Berg Lake and it's a really fabulous trip. I left my companions to go on to the Skyline Trail and further adventures because I thought "I need to work to pay the bills." (There's no work and the Blue Angels are flying overhead and I'm not sure I should have come home at all.) It was my first extended time to try out my UL gear and all the great suggestions I got here, and I wanted to share my raves and other comments.
Let me make clear first that this was not a trip to cover great distances, and I am not supposing I have any wisdom to offer through-hikers or those with experience in ultralight hiking. I like to hike and look at flowers and admire the view and get to camp in time to get out my paints and sketch the scenery, have dinner, enjoy the sunset. That kind of backpacker. Speaking of through-hikers, for any of you who might know him, we met Crash Test Dummy on his way to Jasper on the Great Divide Trail. He seemed calm and happy, enjoying the ride. He's my new hero of those who have their work priorities on straight. Wish I'd thought of him when I decided I had to stick to my plans and come home so soon.
Cooking/meals: Freezer bag cooking and my Heineken/alcohol stove cookset in a ZipLoc hard container, 1 lb. I am a convert! I was an evangelist, showing it all to everyone who expressed interest and some who didn't. I made my own stove this winter, but after much tinkering and dithering I wasn't yet satisfied and was out of time so I bought a Blackfly from Tinny. It worked great for me, and I liked that it all cools so fast I could pack it up within minutes of reaching boil. The freezer bag meals worked great, and not having to wash a thing was super. I'll post at food about food.
BPL UL 180 quilt: I still can't imagine being happy under this in the Arctic, but after trading the 1/8" gossamer gear pad for my old Ridge Rest, with the night light torso pad on top, tucking the pads into the quilt instead of tucking the quilt around me, wearing wool on bottom and two layers of merino wool on top, draping my montbell jacket on my torso, and using a Grabber brand Megawarmer on the coldest nights, I was warm enough. I think the biggest positive effect was from enclosing the sleep pads in the quilt to remove all cold air.
Sleep pads: Ridge Rest and torso-light. Not there yet. The only really comfortable night was the car-camping night when I could use my winter AND summer Ridge Rests together- but that's way too much weight and bulk for stepping away from the car.
Pack: Go Lite Pinnacle, LOVE IT! I carried no more than 30 (maybe 31) pounds, per doctor's orders, and was very comfortable. Only discomfort was that sharp pain right at the base of my neck along my spine, that I always get after a few hours with a pack on. Suggestions?
Boots: I use a lightweight high boot by Teknica that's no longer made, they weigh in at a pound per foot. I need the support/protection of a high boot and they're so comfortable I don't need camp shoes. Only discomfort was on long stretches of rocky trail, but everybody's soles felt a bit tender after that. I used custom-molded insoles by SuperFeet, and feel that contributed to the happiness of my feets as well.
Clothing: I wore an Ibex wool camisole and Icebreaker lightest weight long-sleeve wool top every day, and while I definitely got sweaty, I wasn't ever uncomfortably hot and I sure didn't stink the way I would in poly pro, and also did not have that awful clammy feeling while trying to sleep. I wore lightweight supplex-type pants from the thrift store, my first trip not wearing shorts, and was very pleased with them. Never hot, quick to dry, kept my legs clean- they sure look dorky in the photos, but for $6 I'll take it. Only thing I missed was getting a tan on arms and legs. I used the Injinji toed socks, decided to try them because if I get blisters they are usually between my toes. My feet felt great until six miles into the last day, which was day three in the socks because of rain/no opportunity to wash them. I put on a pair of regular socks (my bedtime smartwool anklets) over the Injinjis, and the hot spots went away for the rest of the 13 mile hike to the trailhead.
Tent: Tarptent Contrail. Sigh. I just don't know. It only set up nice and taut when I added a guyline from the front beak, tied off at a 45 degree angle to a tree, and when it looked rainy I staked out the sides as well. I stayed dry and had no condensation, but it took 6 stakes and a tree and way more than 3 minutes to set it up satisfactorily. Because of limited space in reserved sites at our later campsites, I ended up having to share someone else's tent, and to be honest, while I was hoping to really get the contrail set-up figured out, I'm glad I didn't have to. I'll keep at it, because I like the idea of a 24-oz tent, but my MSR Microzoid was looking pretty good in my mind's eye as I got soaked while struggling to set up the contrail in the rain.
No chair: People say that once your pack is lighter, you don't miss the chair. That was generally true, except that part of my trips is time spent painting, and my back definitely got tired when I was sitting with my watercolors for an hour or so with no back rest. I'll live with it, though, for the comfort of that light pack! (I know it's not ultralight, but it is really satisfying; if you're interested in my one-pound watercolor set-up, let me know.)
No book: In fact, I did bring a book, because the weather was threatening and I anticipated (correctly) daylight hours spent waiting for the weather to clear rather than hiking. If I had not been with the friends who bring games along, I would have probably read it, too. But for the hit of night-time reading I need, I had an audiobook on my iPod, and that was great. In fact, I fell asleep so fast I think I listened to the same chapter three times before I heard it all the way through! (Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell, a free download but worth the $10 donation requested, the first of a series and very enjoyable. I'd call it sci-fi, they call it speculative fiction.) I might just leave the book home without fear next time.
Anti-gravity gear water bucket: I wrote a review last week after my first weekend using it, it's a GREAT use of only half an ounce! It's nice to have a gallon of water close to hand, enough for a day and then some, and having the water source warmed to ambient air temperature cuts down on boiling time and fuel use as well- especially when the water source has icebergs floating in it!
Thanks, forum mates, for all of your advice and suggestions over the last six months. I wish I hadn't ever broken my ankle, but I'm glad it brought me to lightening my load and re-thinking my backpacking techniques!