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Help with wife's gear.
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Jason McElyea
Help with wife's gear. on 07/03/2012 04:48:12 MDT Print View

We have a grand canyon trip planned in October temps will be 40-80 as we are going rim to rim. I really want her to enjoy backpacking so need some help before I start pulling the trigger on gear for her. I know if she doesnt sleep well this will be the last trip she will go on. She is 5'4" 120 lbs so not going to be carrying a lot of weight, and Im not really an expert on light gear. 2k Budget. Any thoughts are appreciated.

This was the core I was thinking of starting with:
Gregory Jade 50
Marmot Plasma 30
Nemo Astro Insulated Sleeping Pad
Trekking Poles ??
Boots that fit. Going to REI to try some on tomorrow.

Edited by rxfragmentation on 07/03/2012 05:15:43 MDT.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Re: Help with wifes gear on 07/03/2012 08:25:00 MDT Print View

I would scratch getting the boots and everything listed. You have got over three months I would spend one month of that researching gear on BPL. Definatly get her a cushy pad there are quite a few to be had, nemo is not a name in my UL index. If you dont have time to research then ask for advise from women here or husbands and remember one brand does not fit all espesially with packs and shoes, shoes not boots. Keep her base weight low and clothing and equipment that will keep her dry and regulate temps and keep her as comfortable as possible and you got a better chance of her liking the hiking

Jenny Haas
(Tollermom) - F

Locale: Western Nevada
Wife's gear and her sleeping pad on 07/03/2012 08:42:05 MDT Print View

I went on my first backpack overnighter in the sierras. I bought the Nemo Astro based on reviews from Baclpacker Magazine. Very comfortable but takes up a lot of space in the pack. If I had it to do over, I'd get something that rolled to the size of a nalgene bottle. I am also 5'3" and 139 lbs.

Jason McElyea
Sleeping pad on 07/03/2012 09:11:02 MDT Print View

Okay, so when I was doing research I was looking for comfort and durable. And the astro seemed to be the best however it is heavier. So should I go with therm-a-rest x-lite for women? It is lighter but seems like the reviews say the sides lose firmness thus making it seem smaller. Is there a better option than this?

Edited by rxfragmentation on 07/03/2012 09:11:37 MDT.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
My Wife's Gear List on 07/03/2012 09:44:12 MDT Print View

Gear Lists are extremely personal. What works for one person does not always work for someone else. Even so, all of those items are relatively heavy, and that will be very difficult on her knees coming in and out of the canyon. My wife is a little smaller than yours (5'3", 105#), and this is what she carries:

Pack - Gregory Jade 35 (currently on the lookout for a replacement that she likes)
Sleeping Bag - GoLite Ultra 20 Down Quilt (short)
Sleeping Pad - NeoAir XLite Women's w/ Gossamer Gear 1/8" Thinlight Pad
Trekking Poles - REI Anti-Shock
Shoes - low-cut trail shoes

Most of her gear isn't too UL. She likes comfort, and I often pick up some extra weight in order to have her along. She is transitioning, but she is taking her time and has somewhat different criteria than I do (I may have to make her some new equipment this winter if we can't find what she wants). If we had your budget, this is what I would look at:

Pack - ULA Ohm, Osprey Exos 46, or Deuter Spectro AC 36
Sleeping Bag - Enlightened Equipment Revelation, 20 degrees
Sleeping Pad - same (Exped Synmat UL 7 is highly regarded too, no collapsing sidewalls, which I don't find to be a big deal)
Trekking Poles - anything aluminum and lightish (16 oz or less), no-antishock, flick-lock (Leki, Black Diamond, others sell this with different names)
Shoes - low cut trail runners, she doesn't like her current Merrells and won't go back

Jason McElyea
List on 07/03/2012 10:07:22 MDT Print View

Thank you very much for the reply. I will definitely look through your suggested list. Sounds like there are a few similarities between our wives, I know going totally UL would probably sacrifice more comfort than she would be willing to give up. Thus was trying to pick comfort first, lightweight second, but maybe I was overstretching it to the point of the extra weight possibly causing discomfort.

Edit: What do you think about the 30% overfill option on the bag?

Edited by rxfragmentation on 07/03/2012 10:13:36 MDT.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: List on 07/03/2012 10:21:55 MDT Print View

Hiking in and out of the GC twice over a Spring Break is what finally made me serious about UL hiking. What I learned there was that weight is a significant factor in comfort. For me, as I am getting back in shape and pushing myself, I am willing to make certain trade-offs that she isn't. At some point, there are diminishing returns with UL if you don't change your hiking style or goals--which she has less interest in doing. (I'm guessing she'll max out at 20 miles a day.) I figure that once she gets down to about 9 lbs. baseweight, she'll be happy.

Remember there are a lot ways to go UL, and frequently a slightly heavier item can be compensated for with a lighter item that a person is willing to give on. She also has an advantage in that at her size, gear is often small and thus lighter. Just spend some time reading through things here, pick up a membership for the articles old and new (you'll save more time and money if you do that--I promise), and take your time weighing everything (literally and figuratively).

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
30% Overfill on 07/03/2012 10:24:05 MDT Print View

I'd get it. Probably for your purposes, the 30 degree bag with 30% overfill will do very well. If you want a little more versatility, go with the 20 and debate the overfill.

Tim is also really easy to communicate with. Once you figure out more closely what you want long-term, he is a crazy good resource.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Re: List on 07/03/2012 10:33:32 MDT Print View

My wife loves her REI UL (Flash?) pack. She has a Gregory Cirque 30 too but loves the flash. The Jade fit well but a 5lbs whats the point- she only carries 12-15lbs anyway, I'm not wasting near half of that on empty pack.

Occasionally threads like this come up and it seems that women prefer fuller suspensions so you may want to be wary of the Ohm or stayed packs. But ultimately its up to her.

2 neos next to each other held by velcro allow snuggling w/out caving in between the pads- light, plush, small to pack.

My wife takes a Marmot 15deg bag everywhere- I think its absurd, but she sleeps great so what can a mofo do?? (Getting a quilt at some point. Somebody give me $300) ;)

The ladies on this site are down with helping out on gearlists- research!!

Jen Churchward
(mahgnillig) - F
Personal selections on 07/03/2012 14:00:32 MDT Print View

Gear is a very personal subject... what works for one person may not work for another. Having said that, as a female backpacker just now working on switching my gear to lighter stuff, I'll give a little input.

IMO, if you are buying some stuff at REI, it's probably best to buy everything that has to fit well there. Their return policy is so phenomenal that if she doesn't like the gear after testing it, they will take it back. To me, that makes it worth paying a little extra for, and sacrificing a bit of weight for.

As far as sleep systems go, a lot of women (including myself) sleep cold. Even on a 50 degree night I'm not happy unless I have a 20 degree bag. I bought the down Joule bag from REI recently and have been very happy with it so far. At 2lbs 1oz (weighed on my scale) it's not the lightest bag out there, but it's warm... and once again, if it turns out too warm or too cold, she can return it for something else. Same thing with the sleeping pad. I have the women's Thermarest Prolite 4... at 24oz it's not light, but it's comfortable and warm. I am, however, seriously considering switching to the women's X-Lite for the weight savings... or maybe the Exped Downmat UL7.

Shoes/boots once again comes down to personal preference. I personally dislike trail runners... over the years I've tried many offerings from several different manufacturers and have never felt as comfy in them as I do in boots. I know that's pretty much heresy around here, but a trip to the Grand Canyon is the worst time to figure out you hate your shoes.

Pack - same deal. I'm not a fan of poring over stats and wondering if it will fit... I have tried a few packs in the past that look good on paper but feel horrible in practice. My pack is heavy, but it's comfortable. I'll be switching it out for something lighter soon, but it'll likely still have a frame.

Trekking poles - something light... the less swing weight the better, especially for women who generally have less muscular upper bodies than men. Skip heavy poles with anti-shock devices - that is just a gimmick. Twistlocks work fine in my experience... a small woman isn't going to put the same amount of pressure on a pole as a large man.

Aside from that, I hope you guys have fun! Hopefully your wife will find that she really enjoys backpacking :)

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
One more pack... on 07/03/2012 16:03:45 MDT Print View

First, listen to Jen more than me. But I thought I would share this:

Your thread inspired me to have my wife try out a few packs at the local outdoor shops today. Surprise, surprise, the pack that she liked the most is the Osprey Hornet 46. (I thought she'd absolutely hate the colors, but she prefers it to all of Osprey's other options.) They didn't have her size, but she is seriously considering ordering one.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: One more pack... on 07/03/2012 16:36:17 MDT Print View

No, First of All, listen to your wife!

I don't want to sound like Dr. Phil, but I hope you are just identifying options that you wife can consider at your local store, before She makes Her decisions.

"Pulling the trigger" without her input will undoubtedly result in a bloody foot.

Jason McElyea
Awesome advice Thanks on 07/03/2012 19:17:26 MDT Print View

Seriously thanks a lot for all the advice. We just got back from 4 hours at REI. She is really having a tough time finding things in her size. They only had one pair of 5.5 boots/shoes and no size 5's. Size small in most of the lightweight clothing was hard to come by. All of the suggestions are really helping narrow things down to a more realistic weight/comfort level. Anyways I will post a more updated list as we continue to purchase.

We did grab these things so far:
Marmot Precip Jacket
Marmot Precip Pants
2 pairs of SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light socks
Threm-a-rest NeoAir XLite Women's
Sea to Summit Spork and Knife

Greg: She actually was the one who picked all the items I originally listed but she is picking based off appearance I think so we are working on that. I have been married long enough to know better than to just randomly purchase things for her.

Edited by rxfragmentation on 07/03/2012 19:19:27 MDT.

Jen Churchward
(mahgnillig) - F
One other thing... on 07/03/2012 19:36:51 MDT Print View

I sometimes have trouble finding stuff that fits in the store too. If you have the funds available, you can always order a number of pairs of shoes and then just return the ones that don't fit. Also for things like clothing, I will often try it on in my size even if I don't like the colour, then order the colour I like when I get home.

Having done a lot of desert hiking in my time (I used to live in Las Vegas), I can highly recommend the REI Sahara line of clothing for keeping you cool, dry and protected from the sun. I wear the women's small shirts but the boys XL zip off trousers (I like longer shorts when zipped off and the women's ones are too short for my tastes). Also, if your wife has a small head like I do, check out the kids paddling hats - perfectly sized for small heads, mesh to keep you cool and they're cheaper than the adults hats too!

Eileen Duncan
(eileensd) - MLife

Locale: The Sierra or the SF Bay Area
NeoAir on 07/03/2012 20:24:48 MDT Print View

I suggest your wife spend a night on the NeoAir on a hard floor. Unless she's a super deep sleeper and happy on just about anything, I think it's important for her to know how her sleeping pad will perform before your trip. I know I'm in the minority, but I disliked my NeoAir and returned it (can't seem to find my REI review!?).

Though I don't have back issues, I did with the NeoAir. I'm 5'5", 130lbs w/weight fairly evenly distributed. Nonetheless, the horizontal tubes in the NeoAir allowed my butt to sink down to the ground (almost) and somehow that contributed to a lack of support for my lower back. Very tender the next day(s). Also, I found my shoulder/hips sunk pretty far when I was on my side.

After 5-6 nights on the NeoAir (and fiddling with how much I inflated it), I exchanged the NeoAir for an Exped SynMat (at REI) and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Exped. I've slept on it about 10 nights so far. I love that the air tubes go head-to-toe - somehow it evens out the pressure so that heavy points don't sink as far. I also like the values (in/out)... I inflate it quite a bit and it is super cushy and doesn't loose air during the night. Also, if I recall correctly, it's quieter than the NeoAir (?). Don't quote me on that - it could be crazy talk.

Just my 2 cents.

Edited by eileensd on 07/03/2012 20:25:42 MDT.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: Help with wife's gear. on 07/04/2012 13:32:29 MDT Print View

First, I'd be prepared for temperatures below freezing if you plan to spend the night at the North Rim. For my wife, that means a 20-F bag and some warm sleeping clothes. (We had frost on our tent on the NR in June.)

Pack: I would avoid any small frameless rucksacks. Most women do better with solid weight transfer to the hips. A pack like the Jade 50, or the REI Flash series, or the ULA Circuit, would work and be lightweight. My wife uses an Osprey Ariel 55, which is heavier but she loves the suspension (and she must have tried three dozen light and UL packs.)

Bag: A high end down 20-F bag, sized for her height and girth. Should be able to get this below 2 pounds with the proper application of cash. Western Mountaineering and Montbell are excellent choices along with Marmot. The Plasma might be overkill cost-wise.

Pad: Needs to be warm as well as cushy, so make sure it has enough insulation. The top of the line is one of the down insulated inflatables like the Exped. The Big Agnes insulated air core pads are also decent.

Can you get out for a couple of weekend hikes before the big trip? That would help a lot with gear selection. You can exchange things that don't work at REI.

Good luck and have fun.

Patricia Combee
(Trailfrog) - F

Locale: Northeast/Southeast your call
"Help with wife's gear." on 07/04/2012 18:11:11 MDT Print View

I have seen a lot of women using ULA packs. I use the Ohm and friend of mine likes the circuit. Try the S-straps though, they are friendlier to the female form. I am currently using a hammock, but when I need to use regular stuff, this is what I use:
neoair short (it works well and is lighter than the regular), montbelle spiral UL #3 (30 degree, which I find to be comfy and warm into the upper 30's/low 40's).
I also use a 1/2 size larger shoe and make sure the toe box has some room in it. In hot temps, your feet can swell up to a full size bigger, and shoes that get too tight when your feet swell can be miserable.

If she is comfortable in certain gear, then go with it. Light is good, but if she is not comfortable, then light no longer matters.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Re: Help with wife's gear. on 07/05/2012 01:37:38 MDT Print View


I'm 5'-2", 110 lbs avearage, so just a tad smaller than your wife. You can check out my latest gear list posted for ideas, but here's some more recommendations.

You actually have a good amount of money budgeted to outfit her with some pretty high end gear. But if you want to budget below that, I'll give some alternate options.

Sleeping bag or Quilt. I prefer a quilt. My down is the Katabatic Gear 30F Palisade which weighs about 16 oz. I have an Enlightend Equipment 40F synthetic quilt whihc also weighs about 16 oz. Both in size small, would fit your wife. Both are great. You can look at their 20F options online. For a more economical options, look at the GoLite down or synthetic quilts. They weigh more, but are cheaper. Don't forget to open an online account wiht Golite and write a review ofone of their products to recive an instant coupon code for 20% off.

Sleep pad. I think the inflatables and Neo Air in particular are over-rated. They tend to be heavey and pricey. For the conditions you describe for your trip, look at the Thermarest Z-Lite accordian egg-crate style foam pad. You can also cut it down a few panels without much loss of function or comfort and it tends to cost 70-80% LESS than the NeoAirs.

Pack. Again, look at the Go-Lite Jam or prior year's Pinnacles. They weigh more than some of the Cuben Fiber offerings from the cottage industry guys, but they are a lot cheaper and most importantly, they fit women alot better. The Z-Lite pad works great as an internal frame for the Go-Lite packs. I have a 2011 50L Pinnacle anad a 35L Jam, both are great. They pack and carry really well. I have not found any cottage industry frameless UL pack that fits me properly.

Trekking Poles. I have the Gosamer gear LT4 adjustable carbon fiber poles. They are a bit pricey, but really worth it for the substantial weight savings. If you're not sure if your wife will want poles, then you may just pick up any cheap pair to try them out first.

Footwear. I would not buy boots. I prefer the trail running shoes. This of course will depend on your wife's fitness level and comfort level, but trail runners are much lighter than boots and will dry quicker when wet. I use the Asics Gel-Trabuco. It's a stability shoe that I have worn for years (they update it every year) for trail running and backpacking and still love it. I just bought a new pair of the Trabuco 14s, usually a $100.00 shoe online for just under $60.00 including shipping.

Odds and ends. Headlamp - Petzl e-lite. Raingear - the Precip are good for the price. Socks - Darn Tough, Smart Wool PHd or others, you really can't go wrong. REI and alot of online outfitters usually sell "seconds" at about 1/3 the price, which measn they only have minor cosmetic blemishes. Long underwear top or bottoms - Patagonia Capilene or REI silks should be great.

By saving money on things like sleeping pad or clothing, you'll find you can afford a better bag/quilt or trekking poles, etc. So I wouldn't shy away from looking at better quality UL gear they you think may be beyond your price point. Things like a good bag will last for years and you'll get your money's worth out of it.

Hope this helps,


Dylan Snodgrass

Locale: San Francisco, CA
Help with wife's gear on 07/05/2012 06:57:20 MDT Print View

We tried many different packs, shelters, shoes, etc before hitting on a winning combo. Her current kit is listed and we haven't changed anything in a few years it is working so well. My wife is plenty fit (cyclist) but finds doing a few long weekend hikes just prior to a big trip really helps. Not so much with fitness but just getting her feet ready/used to walking that many miles in a day. Her pack never goes over 25 lbs (long trip), we use a fully enclosed shelter (Rainbow Tarptent), and clean up w/a swim or DIY shower every night. Oh ya! We found that the first night or two using Tylenol PM really helps her get a better nights sleep and recovery. Sleeping on the ground takes a few days to get used too.
Osprey Exos 46 w/Platy 1L hydration system
REI Sub Kilo 20 degree down sleeping bag
Neoair long
Montbell inflatable pillow
Patagonia capaline 1 top/bottom (sleep kit)
Salamon trail runners, WAY better than boots
Wool socks, thin DaFeet Wooleators
Down puffy, Patagonia
Wind shirt, Patagonia Houdini (loves it!)
Mosquito Headnet (Peters)
Sit pad, Therm a Rest Z seat
DIY trekking poles fixed length super light.
Sun gloves, Coolibar
LS sun shirt, Moutain Hardwear?
*less sunscreen means less "sticky" feeling at end of the day.
All other cloths various outdoor companies chosen for light weight, quality, and the mysterious decision making process I don't mess with!

K Magz
(lapedestrienne) - F

Locale: somewhere without screens
some more thoughts on 07/05/2012 09:42:01 MDT Print View

I'm right about the same size as your wife, and it took me several years to find a UL pack that I'm really happy with. I started out carrying an old Gregory Zpack about 10 years ago, which I loved, and after a few years transitioned to a Gregory Tega, which was slightly smaller and had a women-specific fit. I modified the crap out of it to make it lighter, but was never quite satisfied with its weight:comfort ratio. Finally picked up a Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet last year and I adore the fit. However, it's a frameless pack so you'll want a foam pad to serve as an internal frame. I just use a thermarest ridgerest, cut down slightly, because it's what I have and it's always worked; never tried an inflatable mattress. But I've spent a good part of the last few years sleeping on the ground, so I'm accustomed to a "firm" night's sleep.

I've been hiking in Inov8 Roclites for about two years; they're the best I've found for my feet (the men's fit just as well as the women's IMO). Before that I used Montrails, which are fine for a couple of nights, but on long trips they always ended up being too narrow in the forefoot.

I like merino baselayers, or a wool-silk blend; Capilenes get soo stinky no matter how much you wash them, and that really bothered my after a while.

I'm sure there's other stuff I'm forgetting, but that's all for now.