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SUL Gear Help
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Kyle Purcell
(dufus934) - F

Locale: North Texas
SUL Gear Choices on 02/12/2009 13:04:02 MST Print View

I've been trying to SLOWLY get some very lightweight gear together. My next two buys are going to be a pack and a tarp. Before I do, I wanted to pick the brains of some of the SUL hikers around here.

I am currently looking at the SMD Gatewood Cape for the tarp. I realize that it isn't the lightest option, but it will do multi-duties as rain gear, a pack cover, and shelter. In my thinking, this will eliminate enough weight to make up for the "heaviness" of this poncho/tarp.

The pack I'm looking at is the GG Murmur (might try to find a GG Whisper). My only concern here is durability. Anybody have experience with this pack. I'm pretty sold on the GG line of packs, and this is the closest thing to the Whisper. I had no idea they were stopping production completely until they were all gone.

Any and all opinions are greatly appreciated. Also, if there is something better out there,that would be similar to these pieces of gear, please let me know. Due to money, I'm not really considering Cuban Fabric products right now, but this may change. Thanks all!

Edited by dufus934 on 02/12/2009 13:04:39 MST.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: SUL Gear Choices on 02/12/2009 14:01:51 MST Print View

Kyle, I have the GG G5, which is the predecessor to the Murmur. It is a great pack, but the material is fragile. I have managed to one have only one tear in it (caught a limb sticking out on the trail).
Here is a copy of what GG says about the pack- pay extra attention to the last sentence:

“This pack is recommended for only the lightest backpackers. Typically, if you are careful with your gear, place an extreme emphasis on low pack weight, are willing to replace gear more frequently as it wears out, and have a base pack weight before food and water of 10 lbs or less, you may be a candidate for a G5™. If you are wondering if the G5™ pack is right for you, then it is not.”

I think this is good advice for all SUL packs. If you step down your weight in packs in stages you will always have a backup.

Edited by bestbuilder on 02/12/2009 14:03:07 MST.

Devin Montgomery
(dsmontgomery) - MLife

Locale: one snowball away from big trouble
Re: SUL Gear Choices on 02/12/2009 14:03:48 MST Print View

Hi Kyle,

I use both a Whisper and a poncho-tarp so hopefully I can be of some help.

The Whisper - I've only put a couple hundred miles on mine, but I see no signs of deterioration. The fact that it doesn't have side pockets for water can be annoying, but I've developed a bit of a dance where I hike the pack up on my back so I can grab the reck of my water bottle without removing the pack. You would be saved that minor indignity with the Murmur, but if you can't bear those extra few ounces, Zpack's Zilch also has the pockets without the weight penalty. If you do chose a spinnaker pack, just make sure to pack and cinch it relatively firmly so it doesn't crinkle too much as you hike.

Poncho-tarp - I wouldn't worry about the Cape being too heavy at 11 oz - you can get that weight with a very light rain jacket and tarp combo, but if it includes a rain jacket that breathes anywhere as well as a poncho, the combo will cost a good $200 more than the poncho-tarp. The added benefit of the Cape is that it has more protection (as a tarp) than most ponchos, allowing you to possibly skip a bivy (saving more weight and $). I use an Equinox poncho-tarp because I'm short and the cape would be longer than I want as a poncho. Whether this works for you really depends on what kind of weather (no pun intended) you expect to hike in. I wouldn't don a poncho for a weekend where I expected constant rain, but for fair weather, it sure is nice to get use out of my rain gear rather than just have it take up space in my pack.

PS - money was also a factor for me. Getting the Whipser and the Equinox poncho-tarp for just about $100 combined is what finally got me to go really light.

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: SUL Gear Choices on 02/12/2009 14:09:39 MST Print View


How tall are you?

I've recently (at age 40) grown from just over 6'1" to 6'2" (wierd, huh) and I can use the Gatewood if I pitch it just right. If you're not taller than me, you'll love it. I love it when I'm not in my hammock, which has been most of my trips lately.

The Serenity by SMD is awesome as bug protection, too. Some have said they dislike the "lack of room" in the Serenity - I find this crazy, given the weight, multi-use of the system, and especially that a bivy is more confining.

Do note that in cooler temps I use an Equinox bivy to eliminate drafts w/my quilt, even in the Serenity, YMMV.

Long-winded, I know, but I thought the info might help. In short - I love my Gatewood!


Kyle Purcell
(dufus934) - F

Locale: North Texas
Good Info...thanks on 02/12/2009 15:14:24 MST Print View

My question about the pack doesn't come from a source of doubt, but a lack of knowledge about the fabric it is made out of. I don't know a whole lot about fabrics, so that is the reason for the question. Its good to know your experiences with this bag. Thanks.

The poncho/tarp option will mostly be for fair weather hikes, because I don't really like the idea of having to pitch my shelter while I'm WEARING it (or taking it off to pitch it). But I may go on an over night trip or two just to see if I could do it. I am glad to hear from someone who owns both and has good things to say about both also.

I am a little over 6'. I don't know if that is going to make the cape better or worse for me. And that is strange that you grew so late in life (haha) guess it beats shrinking.

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
UL Pack Choices on 02/12/2009 15:19:32 MST Print View

Even though you say you are not considering cuben, you ought to at least take a look at ZPacks. The Blast 26 is a little bigger, lighter and only slightly more expensive than the GG.

David Wills
(willspower3) - F
Re: SUL Gear Choices on 02/12/2009 16:18:41 MST Print View

Z packs also has silnylon packs under 5 oz. It would be more durable than the spinnaker used in GG too

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: SUL Gear Choices on 02/12/2009 16:35:21 MST Print View

I have no experience with any of these packs, but I just wanted to chime in that I would go with silnylon over spinnaker for a pack. More robust and cheaper too...

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Good Info...thanks on 02/12/2009 17:06:55 MST Print View

Kyle, I think GG's comment had as much to do with fabric as basic knowledge.
I had the same concerns as you before I purchased the pack. Now that I have it, I really like it but I only use it when I'm under 10 "total" (food and water) pounds AND I know the trails I'll be hiking. I would NEVER bushwack with this pack! I have already had to make one repair. The fabric is very light and thin and doesn't have much give. Still if you are looking to go SUL then a pack like this is the way to go.

I also have a Gatewood cape. In my opinion this is the best poncho tart available. But at 6'-2 1/2" I max out the interior. If I go solo this is the only thing I bring.
BTW, >pitch my shelter while I'm WEARING it< can sometimes be a benefit depending on the amount of rain. Everything has a better chance of staying dry that way.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
MLD, SMD & ULA on 02/12/2009 17:13:26 MST Print View

I have a SMD Wild Oasis. Awesome tarp tent and almost identical to the Gatewood, but without the poncho option. If you are much taller than 6'0" it will be a tight fit. I have used it in sustained downpours, snow, and sleet and it kept everything dry. You will get a lot of condensation at sub-freezing temps and high dew point. Just the nature of the fabric.

I also have and Integral Designs silnyon poncho/tarp. Great multi-functional item. You aren't going to get as much protect as the Gatewood, put it is much more flexible. It is my main shelter/rain gear for most trips.

Lastly I have a MLD Silnyon Pro Poncho on order. It is about 2+ oz lighter than the Gatewood, larger than the ID for coverage and even more versable than the ID. Once I get it I will know for sure if it is going to meet my expectations. I have been "anxiously" waiting for this piece of gear. I think this is going to be my perfect shelter/rain gear.

You might want to take a look at ULA packs. I did a lot of research, and the lighter the pack the more fragile they are, and fewer the features. I finally ended up with a ULA Conduit. I really like the 3 mesh panels... a lot!! I got the optional hip pockets which really make life easy. It is easy to grab a water bottle from one of the side pockets while hiking. This set up is about 19 oz. The Conduit is about 12 oz more than the Murmur; but has a 50L capacity versus 36L for the Mumur. However, the hip belt on the ULA is awesome, and fully loaded the pack feels much lighter than a similar load without this kind of a hip belt. It does a wonderful job transfering most of the pack weight to the hips. I know we all try to par ounces, but sometimes the lightest is not necessarily the best, IMO.

I have bought products from GG, SMD and MLD. They all are excellent companies, provide great customer service, and make fantastic products. Just look at the offerings from each of them, and then choose according to your needs.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: SUL Gear Choices on 02/12/2009 17:23:06 MST Print View

With packs, pay attention to where the volume resides. In some cases exterior pockets will account for 25%, or more, of the volume, placing only 75% within the main pack body.

There is nothing wrong with that as long as you understand the implications.

The usual suggestion is to get a pack last, once you know your volume.

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"SUL Gear Help" on 02/12/2009 18:05:24 MST Print View

The GG Murmur is a good choice, but a little heavy and too big unless you have a very high loft bag. Try a ZPacks™ "Zilch" Ultralight Backpack - 3.2 oz, 1800 cu.(ample for me), and only $70. The other Z-packs that are bigger cost a little more, but are not as heavy as 7.5oz.!


Kyle Purcell
(dufus934) - F

Locale: North Texas
Re: MLD, SMD & ULA on 02/12/2009 21:12:50 MST Print View

I actually just got a ULA Conduit. It really is a nice bag, but it is a little larger than I wanted. I'm sure for "normal" trips it will be my staple, but I wanted a small volume/lighter weigh pack for SUL trips. Sometimes I will want to take a slightly heavier load, but this pack will be part of a lighter load that I probably won't use as much. Really I'm just trying to widen my base of options. So does the MLD poncho provide more coverage? It sounds like it might have a better weight to coverage ratio. And the silnylon packs at zpack sound like they might be worth a second look. Like I said earlier, I don't know much about how different fabrics stack up against each other in the durability catagory.

Richard Gless
(rgless) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
SUL Gear Help on 02/12/2009 22:39:51 MST Print View

I use a ZPack Zilch for my attempts to get to SUL. It works great, but the fabric doesn't do well against the abrasive Sierra granite so I have to be careful. I also have a larger Blast pack, and it seems much more durable. Next time I'll buy the smallest Blast Pack. The ZPacks products are excellent. For a tent I'm currently using the Gatewood Cape - again IMHO a great piece of gear.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
GoLite Ion/Poncho Tarps on 02/13/2009 01:25:52 MST Print View


You might want to look at a GoLite Ion. There is a thread with lots of pictures here on BPL. It is made out of Dyneema, like your Conduit. Has some nice looking staps. Weight is 10 ounces. Volume is 25L. List price is $50, and I have seen it as cheap as $22.95 on the internet.

Regarding the ID versus MLD poncho/tarps. My mistage... It is actually a GoLite I ordered the MLD last month. If I get in time, I will take it on a trip in a couple of weeks. I usually sleep without a shelter, unless weather dictates otherwise. But will set it up and see how it works. It the planets are aligned, I will let you know how they compare.

Here are the differences based on Web specs:

GoLite: 104" long X 58" wide (10.8 oz)

MLD: 108" long X 65" wide front X 53” wide rear (8.8 oz)
The MLD has a brim in the hood.

The website says this review is for the 2004 model:

The newer model weighs less.

Here is a review George Matthews did on it last week. He also switched from the GoLite. Funny, I ordered mine before this was posted, and he purchased his for the same reasons.

Edited by ngatel on 02/13/2009 01:26:53 MST.

Kyle Purcell
(dufus934) - F

Locale: North Texas
MLD, SMD, AGG, ID, Other Poncho/Tarp on 02/23/2009 09:54:50 MST Print View

Which of these companies makes the best poncho/tarp. I know "best" is kind of a vague word. I am looking for good coverage (I'm just a hair over 6'), light weight, and some measure of breathability. I have read all the specs on these, but I was looking for a little first hand experience. Thanks!

Sean Walashek
(caraz) - F

Locale: bay area
popular opinion on 02/23/2009 10:58:30 MST Print View

I can only offer what I feel would be the majority opinion here. It would come down to mld or smd. If you prefer all around protetion both in cape and shelter form its the gatewood. If you prefer the open feel of a tarp and lighter garment weight plus adding a bivi then it is the mld. I should add a nice benefit of the gatewood (which I own) is being able to sit up and with 2 trekking poles pitch it so that your head has enough room to not feel confined. I don't know if its possible to sit up under the poncho from mld but I would hope an owner here can clarify it.

Robert Bryant
(KG4FAM) - F

Locale: Upstate
Re: popular opinion on 02/23/2009 11:19:13 MST Print View

"I should add a nice benefit of the gatewood (which I own) is being able to sit up and with 2 trekking poles pitch it so that your head has enough room to not feel confined."

Do you have any pictures of this or maybe more description of how to do this. I just got my Gatewood cape not to long ago and havn't considered other ways to pitch it.

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
ponchotarp on 02/23/2009 11:22:12 MST Print View

i think mine was made by equinox - it's about 8.5 oz.

be nice if it had a couple more tie outs & maybe a bit more reinforcement on them though

but i think i got it for $25 on ebay