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New Lightweight Convert...
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Ravi Mahal
(Ravialdo) - F
New Lightweight Convert... on 05/12/2009 08:22:07 MDT Print View

Well, maybe. I'm a traditional backpacker who now has the 'means' to afford new gear, and am EXTREMELY excitied about venturing into the Ultra-light School of doing things.
I go on 1 (possibly 2, if its a great year) trip a year. I live in Florida unfortunately and have family commitments to 2 small kids and my wife, so I can't hike/camp as often as I want to.
Got a trip coming up to the Pecos Wilderness in NM. I'm gonna give it a go LightWeight style. I've noticed that I love being in the outdoors but I actually don't care for the hiking, its the camping that I love. End up cursing myself ("Why am I doing this?") after a day or two on the trail, before I get to camp and start enjoying things again.
I'm still compiling my .xls file with my current gear. Here are some basic questions I have. Yes, I've already searched the forum for the answers, but was wondering if anyone had anything else to add. Here goes:
1) I've got traditional hiking boots, and I going to 'convert' to lightweight trail-running shoes, which I think may end up being the biggest bang-for-my-buck. How 'heavy' can one go with most of these shoes? I'm thinking I probably won't get my weight down to the 12lb range...yet. At what pack-weight would you say to someone "Yeah, at that weight, you should start to think about traditional hiking boots?"
2) Shelter. I've got a Eureka! Zyphyr and its done right by me, but is pretty heavy at over 3 lbs. Looking into tarp systems or maybe even tarptent. I've got issues with bugs though, esp. since we love hiking in the desert southwest. Paranoid about snakes or scorpions crawling into my bag as its the only source of 'warmth' around. How 'unrealistic' is that? My hiking partner uses tarps on occasion, and it takes me 1/5 the time to put up my shelter when we get to camp, esp. when camping on rocky surfaces.
3) Pack. Ok, now here's the tough one. I've yet to decide 'how low I can go', but my Jansport Long Peak is way to heavy. It seems like most of these lightweight packs require you to commit to going really low, as they can't handle moderate loads. Esp. since I don't know how low my TOTAL weight will end up being. This is partly due to the fact that a lot of places we carry a fair amount of water (in the desert esp) as well as alot of food (we like to eat well in camp and on the trail). Are there 'intermediate' load packs out there that people would recommend a noob, that would allow for flexibility?

Thanks a bunch in advance. I can't tell you how stoked I am about this. I may actually, believe it or not, ENJOY the hiking itself once its all said and done.


Jeremy Greene
(tippymcstagger) - F

Locale: North Texas
Re: New Lightweight Convert... on 05/12/2009 09:22:49 MDT Print View

1) Not just weight. Fitness, gait, trail surface, etc. You can do a lot of training on day hikes to discover your abilities.

2) Snuggling snakes would be all over the news. The few pictures I have seen of your area show forests and bald areas and lots of steep terrain. Depending on where you sleep you could choose any of the options out there. Hammocks are nice in trees. Bivys are great for rocky, scrubby, windy slopes. Choices could be limited by your partner's tarp. Will you need to be stuck under a canopy much?

3) Can't comment on those packs. At least part of your area is reputed to have reliable water. Your route could affect how much you carry.

Nate Meinzer
(Rezniem) - F

Locale: San Francisco
New Lightweight Convert on 05/12/2009 09:33:04 MDT Print View

You'll be amazed at how much you enjoy the hiking once you get rid of the heavy pack. Since I 'saw the light', I have done longer days but enjoyed the hiking part of the experience much, much more.

To answer your questions--simple drawcord bivy from Oware could keep out unwanted night-time visitors as well as shield you from the wind and provide additional warmth. Also, check out the bug bivies at the following sites: and I've slept out in the open plenty and never had a problem. Other people have done it much more than me and I haven't heard any horror stories here. (at least not as big a concern as bears and smokers, if the conversation around here is any indication.)

Another option is the incredibly light and mostly freestanding Terra Nova Photon elite, which you can pick up for a fairly decent price at

This is double wall and will give you the protection you're used to.

I use Adidas Super Nova trail runners and love them. Steer clear of goretex in the shoes and you should be fine. Drying fast is the key. I've used trail running shoes with a pack weight up to 25-30 lbs and was fine.

Packs -- have to buy this last so you know what you're putting into it. I really like the Osprey packs for a medium-weight alternative to the ultra-light frameless pack. I have a Jam2 that I use when the weather is nice and my pack weight is low. When I need to carry more weight I use an Osprey Stratos 40. It transfers the weight well and allows lots of circulation between the pack and my back, which is nice in hot/humid or rainy conditions.

Edited by Rezniem on 05/12/2009 09:40:51 MDT.

ben wood

Locale: flatlands of MO
Re: New Lightweight Convert... on 05/12/2009 09:34:55 MDT Print View

first off, i live in NM, where are you going in the pecos and when? I love the pecos wilderness.

i think you may start to enjoy the hiking. i found that with a comfortable, light pack and comfortable footwear, hiking is the most enjoyable part. some traditional backpackers find the hiking a necessary evil to get all of their heavy gear to the campsite. i find that with a lighter pack i can cover more ground easier and really enjoy the breaks while still covering more ground than some others.

anyhow to answer your questions:
1- can't help you there as i use traditional hiking boots and really like them.
2- there are a number of options here. but there are 2 common ones. one is a tarptent, which are light and offer complete bug protection. the other is a tarp with a bugnet or bug bivy. mountain laurel designs sells lightweight tarps and bug protection. i am assuming you have already seen i wouldn't worry too much about snakes and scorpions, etc. i have never had problems with any of these. they don't want anything to do with people and will avoid you when they can. if you go with a tarp, the more you use it the more you will get better at using it. just like anything else.
3- i have a granite gear nimbus latitude that i really like. i have only once had it near the recommended maximum weight, and it is very comfortable for me. what i like about granite gear packs is the quality frame mated to a lightweight bag. although my pack is not nearly as lightweight as most here. the best advice for pack purchases is to go to your local retailer and put weight in different packs and wear them around for awhile to see what fits you the best. since you may have to carry alot of water at times, you would want to look for a pack that can accomodate the water weight and then be compressed down comfortably when you are carrying less weight.

have a good trip to NM. hope this helps and remember just my thoughts.


Rick Cheehy
(kilgoretrout2317) - F

Locale: Virginia
Re: Re: New Lightweight Convert... on 05/12/2009 09:39:22 MDT Print View

I wear super-light innov8s with any load up to 30 #'s. So don't sweat it. Get some light shoes you'll love it. Get some insoles if you need arch support.
Gossamer gear packs are not the lightest but the gorilla and the Mariposa plus can both carry big 30# loads.
Be a man! Kill and eat the rattle snakes ans scorpions, then you can carry less food:)

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Suggestions on 05/12/2009 10:12:53 MDT Print View

You are right on in trying to lighten 2 of the most important items in your arsenal: Your pack and your shelter. Lots of choices in those areas. Naturally, the next one would be your sleep system.

I don't know what the weather systems are like in the Pecos or when you are going, but since I was at Philmont Scout Ranch last year during monsoon season I would surely make sure to have a bathtub floor on any shelter I had. You can get a shelter with full bug protection and a bathtub floor starting at 18 ounces. You could do a bivy and a tarp for less.

Work on the weight of the big 3 and you can really go light.

Ravi Mahal
(Ravialdo) - F
Thanks! on 05/12/2009 12:09:53 MDT Print View

Thanks for the responses. I truly appreciate it.
Re: where and when. The current plan is to head to the Pecos in the last week of July (week of the 27th). Don't know what trail we are going to do- the Pecos map is 'in the mail', and once I get it, I've got to find a loop hike that will satisify my picky friend.
I am intrigued about a tarp to be honest. I've seen my buddy's bivy, and it seems waaaay to confining for me. A nice tarp could work though. I think the bugs/snakes issue is something that enters my mind at night, and not a real non-starter for me.
I will certainly look into to innov8 shoes. I actually was already looking at them, given that they were named in the Best of 2008 list on this site.
The only problem or concern I have it that I probably should get the shoes now, as I imagine they need 'breaking in' before I hit the trail. Also I'd like to try on the pack as well. My Jansport I bought sight unseen from Campmor many moons ago, and while its a sturdy pack, I've suffered from it not being the right pack for my torso. My shoulders ache from wearing it after about 3 hours or so.
The next hurdle is this: believe it or not, in Florida there is a paucity of hiking/camping gear stores. No REI, no Eastern Mountain or Eragon, etc. So, if I want to try something out for fit in the store, its gotta be carried by Sports Authority, or some other big box store. So, I'll have to hope and pray that they have a decent selection (I have yet to visit them).

David Stapleton
(KamperDave) - F

Locale: VA, DC, MD
Me too! on 05/12/2009 12:09:57 MDT Print View

Ravi - I'm right there with ya. I started backpacking fairly recently and almost immediately decided I wanted to lighten my load. This site/forum has been EXTREMELY helpful and educational. If you haven't already I'd suggest getting a membership. The articles are fantastic.


Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
try a used pack on 05/12/2009 14:05:29 MDT Print View

About the pack...
I suggest buying a used pack on this forum and giving it a try. It's a good way to experiment with different models, especially if you don't have a good store near you. You can always sell if on the forum if it doesn't suit you for not too much loss. By trying packs this way, you can narrow in on what you do and don't like in a pack without spending so much money.
If you want to try this route, then post a "WTB - pack" message on the Gear Swap forum, and see what options present themselves.

ben wood

Locale: flatlands of MO
Re: Thanks! on 05/12/2009 14:07:15 MDT Print View

that should be a good time to be in the pecos. you need to be prepared for the afternoon rains as they start about that time of year. since you don't know where you are going yet let me offer a bit of advice - don't park a car near the rio quemado trailhead or the others nearby. this location suffers from vandalism. i have heard of people coming to their vehicle with no glass and slashed tires. apparently the local youth like to go party out there. anywhere else is safe and this sould not at all deter your trip. there are many good loops available as you will see when you get your map.
it is always a good idea to get shoes early to make sure they will fit good and be comfortable.
as far as the pack, you may want to look online for companies that offer free shipping and order packs from those companies, that way if they don't work you can get your money back.
how much weight do you expect to be carrying? 3 liters of water should be enough in the pecos as there are many water sources.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Bivy on 05/12/2009 15:46:12 MDT Print View

" I've seen my buddy's bivy, and it seems waaaay to confining for me. "

Well, it can be confining if you look at it that way. However, if you really think about it, it is quite liberating to sleep out in a bivy. If the weather is clear you basically have an open view to the stars. If there is a chance of weather you can start out with your head peeking out from under a tarp and still see the stars. If it starts to rain you just have to scoot back under.

When I was a kid I never slept in a tent while camping with the family. Nothing like going to sleep under the stars. I have a few real nice lightweight tarp tents but prefer the bivy for where I hike (Sierras) since I can sleep out under the stars. I use a tarp as a backup.

There are a lot of great articles relating to bivy usage on the site. I think you need a membership in order to read them. It's all a personal choice. I still use my tarptents when the weather is going to be constantly wet though.

Edited by scottbentz on 05/12/2009 15:46:52 MDT.

Rick Cheehy
(kilgoretrout2317) - F

Locale: Virginia
Re: Bivy on 05/12/2009 19:31:43 MDT Print View

Oh man, now I gotta get a bivy! Great post, man.

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Bivy = confining? on 05/12/2009 20:09:16 MDT Print View

If you use a sleeping bag, then you shouldn't find a bivy, which is OUTSIDE the bag, confining.

Now with a closed hood on a bivy, it may be a different ballgame, or if you want to sit up and change clothes in a bug free environment....

I'm a little claustrophobic but I've adapted to a bivy rather easily.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Thanks! on 05/12/2009 23:27:20 MDT Print View

"The next hurdle is this: believe it or not, in Florida there is a paucity of hiking/camping gear stores. No REI, no Eastern Mountain or Eragon, etc. So, if I want to try something out for fit in the store, its gotta be carried by Sports Authority, or some other big box store. So, I'll have to hope and pray that they have a decent selection (I have yet to visit them)."

For the most part, you are not going to find a good lightweight pack in a big box store. And REI, et al are not going to carry the, even, lighter packs.

Gossamer Gear, Mountain Laurel Designs, Six Moon Designs, Ultralight Adventure Equipment, and others are small companies who make affordable and effiecient packs. Their websites have instructions for measuring fit. You can also call them and speak to the owner for help and customized solutions.

Read the reviews and posts here on BPL. Then as mentioned earlier, you can often buy a used pack here.

James Waechter

Locale: Colorado Rockies
FL outdoor gear shops on 05/12/2009 23:43:01 MDT Print View

If you're near Orlando, check out Travel Country in Altamonte Springs, or if you're in the Tampa Bay area, stop by Bill Jackson's in Pinellas Park.

(born & raised in St. Pete)

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: New Lightweight Convert... on 05/13/2009 08:23:55 MDT Print View

The ULA packs are some of the most popular packs for people who hike the PCT. Also the Gossamer Gear Mariposa or G4. On the PCT people carry lots of water and food so although all the rest of their gear may be light, the dang water cancels it all out. I used an Osprey last year. I thought at less than 4lbs it was a decent weight for a pack. And with carrying over 30lbs because of water and food, (and guide books and journals and battery chargers and other things I'd never have to carry normally) it worked very well.

As for shoes, my recommendation would be to start trying them now but don't be surprised if you have to go through a few brands before you find some you like. Once you do find some you like, put them aside until your trip. Don't use them too much. Light shoes break in quickly (often don't even need any break in) and don't last as long. If you're hiking in them every weekend from now until July, you'll wear them out.

A tarp can be pretty cheap. I have one of the Equinox/Campmor silnylon 8x10 ones. It's really cheap but it's great. I didn't expect to enjoy tarp camping so much. It may take me longer to set up, but setting it up is half the fun because I get to try new shapes. It's big enough that I don't think I would need a bivy to stay dry. But I got one of those, too, again a super cheap Equinox one. You actually don't even notice a bivy is there. It's not the same feeling as one of those tiny tents the normal outfitters call a bivy.

But if you are really concerned about having full enclosure, I think that the lightest tarp tents are going to be lighter than the tarp/bug net/bivy option most of the time. Or at least more easily and for less money. A tarp tent is my choice for buggy places.

You'll enjoy the hiking again once you reach the magic tipping point for you.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Pack on 05/13/2009 11:20:59 MDT Print View

I have a 50 litre (3000 inch cubed) GoLite Lite-Speed pack (2lbs, 10oz) which I love and it might be a good choice for you. It's heavier than GoLite's frameless packs like the Jam2 (also 50 litre) which is a pound lighter (1lbs, 10oz) but the advantage with the Lite-Speed is that you can remove the aluminum frame if you want, and thus save a good portion of that extra pound. So you are kinda getting both by buying the Lite-Speed.Golite Lite-Speed

Edited by dandydan on 04/01/2011 15:19:43 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
New Lightweight Convert... on 05/13/2009 11:29:16 MDT Print View

On the pack--get the rest of your gear first, then get the pack. You don't want a pack whose volume is a lot bigger than your gear, but you don't want to have to tie stuff on the outside, either. Either situation is liable to throw the pack out of balance. I'd suggest one of the lighter (under 3 lbs.) semi-frameless packs that can carry up to 35 lbs. I have the Six Moon Designs Comet with the "optional" stays (mandatory, IMHO). It weighs just under 2 lbs. I easily carried up to 37 lbs. (well, easy on my back and shoulders, but murder on my knees and feet) on one occasion. This pack is on sale (closeout, unfortunately) right now, if the volume is OK for you. The ULA packs are also excellent as are others suggested in the above posts. I wouldn't use the ones that rely only on a pad for support unless you always have total pack weight under 25 lbs. This may be hard to do in places where you need to carry lots of water plus food for a week or more. Whatever pack you order, when you get it, load it up with all your gear plus the equivalent of a week's food and a couple quarts of water and carry it around the house for several hours. Boring, I know, but you need to be sure the pack fits you and comfortably carries the weight you'll put into it while it's still returnable. Pack fit is almost as individual as shoe fit. You will not find lightweight packs in standard sporting goods stores (except possibly Granite Gear or the Osprey Exos). You'll have to be prepared to pay return postage on a few before you get a comfortable pack. While I dislike REI and their advice, they do have a couple of good videos on fitting a pack that will help you. Be sure to get someone else to measure your torso length (bump on the back of your neck to a point level with the top of your hip bones)--when I tried to do it myself, I came out several inches different every time!

If you want a completely bug and critter-free enclosure, the lighter tents from Tarptent or Six Moon Designs are generally no heavier than tarp plus bivy plus bug net. It all depends on what you're comfortable with. Or, if you have the $$$ and want a strictly solo tent, Gossamer Gear's "The One." Gossamer Gear also is getting the Squall Classic (2-person) back in stock after almost a year's "drought" (they are starting to fill back order requests now). It's the same price as "The One."

Find a pair of comfortable trail running shoes and do some hikes in your neighborhood with pack weight similar to what you'll have on a backpack trip. Try to do this on rough or at least uneven ground if you can. If they work for you on rough ground with the pack, fine. If they don't, you can still wear them for exercise walking around home. When I got mine, I ordered two pair, not knowing which size I needed. I ended up keeping both--the larger for hiking, with thicker socks, and the smaller with thin socks for everyday wear. They're more comfortable and supportive than the running shoes I used to buy for everyday wear and about $20/pair cheaper! If you decide that boots work better for you, try to get a lightweight "mid" that's well-ventilated like a trail running shoe. Get it without goretex if you can (unfortunately, that's getting more and more difficult). My experience is that once goretex footwear gets wet inside, it takes days to dry!

Edited by hikinggranny on 05/13/2009 11:36:54 MDT.

James Hopson
(jbhtek) - F

Locale: Upstate New York
Camping Stores on 05/15/2009 09:34:35 MDT Print View


Where in Florida are you. I use to live in Bradenton. There are a couple of stores in that area. 1st is Bill Jacksons at 9501 U.S. 19 North, Pinellas Park, Florida 33782 - phone 727.576.4169. 2nd is Environeers at 5373 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, FL 34232 - phone 941.371.6208. I have been to both and they are good shops.

Also in the Sarasota area is a good fabric store if you want to make your own gear. Quest Outfitters at 4919 Hubner Circle, Sarasota, FL 34241 - phone 800.359.6931.

As far as boots or trail runners. Make sure your ankles are strong enough for the trails your on with sneakers and there is less ankle support. The more you hike the better. Also make sure you have proper fit. check thread.

Also I like tarp tents no brand specific. but with just a tarp setup you would more than likely also need a bivy for wind and added protection from rain.

Packs again get one that fits your torso. You may not find something at a local store but they may be able to help with sizing.

Chris Maltese
(WolfTracker) - F

Locale: Boynton Beach, FL
Florida outfitter on 05/15/2009 09:37:46 MDT Print View


X2 on Travel Country in Altamonte Springs. I too, live in Florida and know what it is like to not have a good variety of 'specialized' stores. When it comes to a pack, I strongly emphasize the need to try them on. One might have a preconceived notion about a particular pack's features, etc., only to order it in the mail, try it on and be uncomfortable. At Travel Country (like any other good shop), they had me try on quite a few packs meeting my criteria. Each one was stuffed with weight bags and I walked around the store with them. I view a pack like a piece of clothing; if it doesn't fit right then I'm going to be uncomfortable.

I drove all the way up to them from Boynton Beach, but it was worth it!

Enjoy your travels.