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You Tell Me...What is the Best Gear Ever???
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Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
You Tell Me...What is the Best Gear Ever??? on 08/20/2009 21:32:43 MDT Print View is a question that everyone can have input and that will probably
- have many correct answers
- bring back fond memories
- spark heated debated
- and maybe provide some insight/perspective to the gear choices we make.

Of all of the gear you have used since starting to backpack, what 3 pieces do you think were:
- breakthrough innovations
- timeless and current pieces of your kit, or
- just plain favorites that bring a smile to your face when you think of them and the trips that they made possible (tolerable)??

There are not many rules here. General descriptions or specific brand names/models are OK (as if this opinionated crowd would obey any restrictions when it comes to something like UL gear!!).


For me (in no particular order), it's...

1) Synthetic shirts that dry so quickly after a summer thunderstorm.
2) Pepsi can alcohol stoves that are so light, compact, trouble-free, and MADE FROM OLD SODA CANS for God's sake!!!
3) This last one came after considerable thought...websites like Ray Jardine, BPL, Adventure Alan, John O's (RIP), Joe's Ultralight, and many others that were willing to freely share their experiences, successes, failures, and photos.
4) SilNylon (this made alot of things possible and showed the way) & Hennessey Hammocks...hey, you folks won't obey the rules, so why should I?!?

I'm sure many of you will have other (better) gear innovation and I might change my top 3 (4 or 5) when I read your thoughts, so throw them out there.

Edited by TomClark on 08/20/2009 22:44:27 MDT.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
Re: You Tell Me...What is the Best Gear Ever??? on 08/20/2009 21:59:11 MDT Print View

coincidence that i was going to start a similar thread based on what everyones favorite new gear for '09 might be.. like a sneak peak into the "2009 BPL staff picks" which wont come out until December (?)

So for my kit, the best new innovations in gear have to go to these items, hands down the nicest stuff i own and id recommend them to anyone (but that would be like preaching to the hanging choir)

1)Warbonnet Blackbird Hammock.
2)Buff (not new, but man its versatile)
3)not the entire item, but just a segment of the gear as a whole system: speaking of my underquilt made for hammocks, I designed a simple suspension system of bungee stretch cord that will slide thru a clip, allowing the quilt to shift on the diagonal for an end-gathered hammock. It also lets the underquilt better conform to your body shape/hammock shape reducing the possibility of gaps or cold spots as you move in the night. Im the only guy i know doing this, and if it pops up on other underquilt systems know that I was doing this first.. So there! :)

as a 4th possible favorite, the Petzl e+lite is still making my day (um, night) since the 360° swivel is so useful.

hunter nelson
(hunt4car) - F
the best on 08/20/2009 22:02:47 MDT Print View

i love...
my buff it keeps my head cool hiking and warm when i climb half dome for my first time in shorts and a t shirt in hale that is coming down sideways
my jog led head lite that makes the no camp-fire nights bareable and i can sleep with it on my kneck too.
im sure there are many other things but those are the two most importent to me
i hate...
my 3lb bivy and 3 lb sleeping bag( i still do sub 8lb trips with them)im moving lower lb soon

(HighAltitude) - F
I have two on 08/20/2009 22:11:53 MDT Print View

Ray Jardine - love him/hate him, agree or disagree, his ideas/book sparked the beginning of the light weight movement on a grand scale. More backpackers than ever started to think of ways to go lighter, MYOG etc...... cottage industry was born and started to thrive etc..... after reading his first book.

Sil Nylon and all the other light weight fabrics developed after it. Light weight fabrics, like Cuben, are taking gear weights to amazingly new lows. With out these fabrics we would still be carrying several more pounds. Got sub3.

Edited by HighAltitude on 08/20/2009 22:14:01 MDT.

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
stove on 08/20/2009 22:23:29 MDT Print View

-homemade woodstove that cost me $5 and came with a pound of coffee. got the directions on this website...

-merino wool socks

-down sleeping bag/quilt

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: I have two on 08/20/2009 22:47:44 MDT Print View

Can't believe I forgot to include Ray Jardine! He was (is) one of the big influences. He was certainly on my list, but sometimes the obvious gets omitted.

The mental outlook and approach is the most important piece of gear.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: You Tell Me...What is the Best Gear Ever??? on 08/20/2009 23:52:24 MDT Print View

Trail Designs Caldera Cone. Brilliant. Perfect.

Anything produced by Tarptent. I've had an original Squall, a Squall 2, a GGear/Tarptent Squall Classic, Rainshadow 2, Tyvek Sublite...and used a Double Rainbow and a Cloudburst. All excellent.

Mountain Laurel Designs Cuben Revelation. Spent 3 days mountaineerng with that pack. Too cool.

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 3 poles. Probably the 4s too but I've yet to finish my testing so the final verdict's still out...they're beautiful though!

The book Lighten Up! Everyone- buy this NOW!

From a historical perspective- the Golite Breeze which came from the original Ray Jardine design. I agree with those above- gotta pay homage to the grandfather of ultralight.

Good question!

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: You Tell Me...What is the Best Gear Ever??? on 08/21/2009 00:10:32 MDT Print View

Im guessing we don't necessarily have to be specific?

-alcohol stoves, Caldera cone specifically
-wood stoves, caldera cone Ti Tri (I never had a Bushbuddy)
-tarps and bivys
-quilts for summer
-the cooking "mug"
-small lights like the photon and fenix
-hip belt pockets!

647575757 347474747
(686425) - F
I have one... on 08/21/2009 00:19:18 MDT Print View

Golite. Spring 2006 I went into a gear shop to buy a new backpack. If it wasn't for the sales dude giving me the lowdown on Golite and telling me a little about what they were trying to do, I'd probably still be humping 50lbs on my back.

Gordon Smith
(swearingen) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
Hmm on 08/21/2009 01:14:58 MDT Print View

Of my current kit the things I like or enjoy the most are:
iPod Shuffle, Nikon D80, GG Murmur pack, Bushbuddy Stove, TT Contrail, Montbell UL Down Inner Jacket, BPL SUL 1100 ti pot, BPL long handle ti spoon, Garmin Rino 130. I don't use any of my old gear anymore, so the clovis points, tinder fungus and bear skin hat all get left at home these days ;-}.


Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Hmm on 08/21/2009 05:56:14 MDT Print View

The question was what are your timeless favorite pieces of gear, not your gear list! ;)

Fred eric
(Fre49) - MLife

Locale: France, vallée de la Loire
gear on 08/21/2009 06:37:51 MDT Print View

1 - fast drying synthetic clothes, in the late 70's i was hiking in cotton and wool.
2 - my opinel 7 , i found it in a vineyard 30 years ago :)
3 - my kifaru paratipi , a bit heavier than my twin sisters 915g with bag, but more headroom, my back says thanks, and the color doesnt scream i am here in the landscape.

Charles Grier
(Rincon) - M

Locale: Desert Southwest
You Tell Me...What is the Best Gear Ever??? on 08/21/2009 07:55:02 MDT Print View

There is a book that was published by the Sierra Club in 1952 titled "Going Light With Backpack or Burro". A lot of the items and ideas discussed here are also outlined in this book. The idea of going light is nothing new, we just have better technology and materials now.

Ray Jardine did do a lot to lighten our packs but he certainly did not invent the concept of going light. I hiked the JMT as a teenager in 1954, solo, with my gear selection largely based on the above book. My "base weight" gear weighed about 15 pounds over 50 years ago, not all that much more than I carry now.

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Re: You Tell Me...What is the Best Gear Ever??? on 08/21/2009 08:10:04 MDT Print View

Vibram FiveFingers. I do most of my backpacking barefoot, but these sure do feel nice when I need footwear. Never a blister with these on.

Cuben Fabric. It made it possible to go stupid light for me.


Troy Ammons
(tammons) - F - MLife
You Tell Me...What is the Best Gear Ever on 08/21/2009 08:20:59 MDT Print View

- timeless and current pieces of your kit

Snowlion equipment. I have 2 snowlion bags from the late 70's early 80's.
A polarguard 35dF and a -40 down bag. Both 4# and are still in good shape for their age.

When I started college in 1977 I bought a Snowlion polarguard jacket. My dad thought I was nuts, but he paid for it. Regretted to this day I did not buy the hood, but at any rate, I still have it, use it, and its still one of the warmest jackets I own.

Kelty Alpine internal frame pack. Had that one from 1973. Hitch hiked around the entire US, backpacked all over the place with that thing. It was considered light at the time at 3.5#. Its rugged. Still have it, still use it. Just finished rebuilding it. Its not the most comfortable compared to todays packs.

MY mica lens candle lantern. A true classic.
Unfortunately the mica broke out of it long ago.

Circa 1979, stainless steel tube grill for cooking on a fire, 3.2 oz.

Down. Its here to stay.

- breakthrough innovations

UL Blue foam pad back in the day.

All the super light fabrics has to be top, breathable fabrics, use of tyvek, and just plain inovation.

Alcohol stoves really took off. Back when, they were sort of frowned on, inefficient etc. I cooked mostly on a fire or with an UL canister stove that I still have. Never use it though.

Synthetic insulations starting with polarguard. All you need is to experience a thoughly soaked down bag once or twice and you will appreciate a fast drying synthetic bag.

Montbell SS UL bags. I would have killed for a 25dF DWR, stretchy 2# bag like this way back when. They are not that expensive today compared to the dollar value and cost of Eq in the 1980s.

DWR. Best thing since sliced bread for a down bag.

Carbon Fiber

Better food in the grocery store for hiking too.

Edited by tammons on 08/21/2009 08:24:01 MDT.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: You Tell Me...What is the Best Gear Ever on 08/21/2009 09:15:15 MDT Print View

ULA Conduit- Love the hipbelt pockets and its the right size for me. So light compared to what I used to have and just as durable.

Caldera Cone- After many ho-hum attempts at my own stove and windscreen I broke down and bought one. The convenience factor alone is enough to make me never want another stove of 3-season Ozark conditions.

Merino wool socks and garments- No more blisters or smelly hiker funk for me!

MYOG articles and instructions- A special nod to too. I could never have afforded a down quilt or insulated jacket at the time I made mine but MYOG allowed me to get it on the cheap. With sewing lessons from my mom I was able to save a large chunk of cash. It also allowed me to try out new things like stoves and poncho-tarps without having to invest too much money only to find I didn't like them that much.

I'll second BPL, Alan Dixon's. and others sites but....

The Lightweight Backpacker- The very first site I visited while in Scouts that discussed saving weight and still being comfortable while backpacking. The site and forum at is what sparked my interest in lightweight/UL and where I discovered all of the other sites mentioned above. I don't visit much there anymore but I will be forever grateful to the great community there for turning me on to my favorite activity.


Lori P
(lori999) - F

Locale: Central Valley
best vs favorite on 08/21/2009 09:44:07 MDT Print View

The best gear? everything I got from Gossamer Gear. Mariposa Plus and Lightrek 4 poles are tops. Jacks R Better quilts. Warbonnet hammock.

My favorites would be the Blackbird hammock and the small Canon camera I can carry in my pocket. One lets me sleep well so I can enjoy my outing, the other brings back the reminders of the experience.

Sunny Waller
(dancer) - M

Locale: Southeast USA
Gear I LOVE on 08/21/2009 09:46:36 MDT Print View

Tilley hats

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Best gear ever (until I buy more gear) on 08/21/2009 09:47:28 MDT Print View

Here you go, in no particular order (Sorry, long list. I really did produce a gear list, didn't I? Forgive me. I love this stuff because it made it possible for me to continue hiking into my relative dotage):

Backpacking Light Thorofare Trekking Shirt (best way to keep the Ohio bugs off is to cover yourself, and this shirt can be worn in 95-degree heat comfortably)

BPL headnet (leave the deet at home)

Vibram Five Fingers KSO toeshoes (5 oz each and the closest thing to barefoot you're gonna get -- these will change your life)

Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail BP (6.5 oz with a sternum strap I added myself -- tough, light, and big enough to UL the AT with stops to provision every five days or so).

Calderra Cone system (ridiculously light and very functional)

Everclear (good for so many things besides stove fuel)

Dried fruits and veggies (yummy and light)

Every shelter Henry Shire ever made, but especially the TT Contrail, which has the best weight-to-comfort ratio I've ever seen, IMO.

iPod Nano (if sleep comes hard or for that last mountain of the day. Heck, you can watch a movie in your shelter).

Railrider Weatherpants. The pair you're wearing will take you anywhere and anywhen you want to go,

A baggie of baking soda, which has too many uses to mention and replaced six other items in my BP.

A good. old cotton bandana, ditto.

Gossamer Gear LightTrek 4's (3.4 oz each!)

Any keyring RED LED light -- three bucks, lightweight, and it won't spoil your night vision. Dump the blinding headlamp. See by the stars and your red LED alone.

And, of course, this website. I dumped 20 pounds off my back listening to what ya'll had to say.

Nunatak Specialist sleeping quilt overstuffed w/ one extra oz. of down (16 oz and good deep into winter).

The BPL 10 oz sleeping quilt (good down to 50 F., or better and crazy light)

Buff with a brim (so many head coverings in one, including a balaclava)


Edited by nerdboy52 on 08/21/2009 10:02:14 MDT.

(HighAltitude) - F
Ray Jardine on 08/21/2009 10:03:08 MDT Print View

"Ray Jardine did do a lot to lighten our packs but he certainly did not invent the concept of going light. I hiked the JMT as a teenager in 1954, solo, with my gear selection largely based on the above book. My "base weight" gear weighed about 15 pounds over 50 years ago, not all that much more than I carry now."

I agree.
Very few ideas are new (maybe none are) but what other single person touched more people with respect to not carrying the standard 50lb pack with the leather boots and a tent.

This is what Ray did, his achievement was the influence that he had on so many people, not inventing something that already existed. Ray's book started something on a big scale. More backpackers than ever started to think that there was better ways, MYOG etc....

After Ray's book came out it was amazing at the amount of backpackers that started to think about carrying less and changing the way they backpacked, websites and cottage gear makers started to pop up out of no where etc...

Ray's book is probably the single biggest factor in why Golite started and the type of gear they designed when they first started.

The book definitely had a huge influence on a lot of people.

Edited by HighAltitude on 08/21/2009 10:56:29 MDT.