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Newbie With Questions
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Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Newbie With Questions on 09/07/2012 08:15:23 MDT Print View

Mark, try a Ridgerest 3/4 length pad first just because it's one of the cheapest and lightest options. I have a nice inflatable pad (full length Exped SynMat UL7), but I'm playing with going back to my 8.3 oz Ridgerest for weight, simplicity, and durability. (Not that I've had issues with the Exped, but any inflatable is much more vulnerable than a foam pad.)

Edited by AndyF on 09/07/2012 08:15:54 MDT.

Tom Lyons
(towaly) - F

Locale: Smoky Mtns.
re on 09/07/2012 09:01:08 MDT Print View

Some thoughts.

I think you can get an 8x10 tarp very cheap. Even a low-dollar urethane coated tarp, which might be around a pound or so, will be a LOT lighter and easier to carry than any of those tents. And a LOT cheaper.
You can buy a budget 8x10 tarp for like $25-30 new. And a nice light Sil-nylon one for probably $75 new.
An 8x10 tarp with even the slightest learning about pitching, will keep you dry.

Poles and Stakes. If you are camping in the woods, you can use sticks for stakes. They work. You can use big thick sticks for poles. You don't need to carry poles unless you are going to camp on a parking lot or something. In the woods, you have sticks. Or you can tie-off your main ridge lines to trees instead.

Groundcloth. Go to your local hardware store and buy one of the clear plastic window film kits that are used to winterize windows and sliding doors. It's "polycryo" material, which is what many people around here use. Very cheap, light, and does the job. If you don't want to do that, you can buy a cheap mylar "space blanket" that is very light and cheap, and will work as a groundsheet, and is small and easy to carry.

Bug Net. You'll need one where you are going.
Go to one of the websites where they sell "Make your own gear"(MYOG) stuff, buy some no-see-um netting, and order enough to make a suitable bug net tube that can go around you when you are in your sleeping bag. Or even a little more if you want to make a little bug-net inner tent for under your tarp. You can sew this together very easily, even if you have to hand-stitch it, and you'll have bug protection.
It also works as a protection from condensation dripping down off the tarp in certain weather conditions. And you WILL be having some of that too.
So, make a bug net system for yourself.
It's cheap.

Sleeping bag. Get one you can afford and is as light as you can find for the temperatures you will see. Bear in mind that many of the low-priced sleeping bags are unrealistically rated, and will NOT really keep you warm at the temps they say they will. But if you ask around here about some bags, people will help to steer you the right way to get a bag you won't freeze inside, and won't blow the budget too bad, and you can carry it without a wheel-barrow. I agree with the others on this thread who say to get a good quality bag.

Sleeping pad. You need a pad for more than just comfort. If you are sleeping in cold weather it makes up half of your insulation, and protects you from the ground cold. It's important. You can get by with an average inflatable pad in the cold weather by using a closed-cell foam mat under it, or over it. These ccf mats are cheap, and are good ways to add insulation factor to your pad, and if your inflatable pad goes flat, you have at least some form of back-up, even if minimal. For the money, I would take a look at a Klymit Static-V, or a used Neo-Air if you can find one fairly cheap. People are buying the latest Neo-Air models now, and you might find a used one from last year for a price you can afford. If you don't mind sleeping on a harder surface, you can get a Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest for quite cheap, and they are good starter pads for somebody young who can handle harder sleeping surfaces. If you combine the inflatable and the ccf pads, you have a winter system.

Pack. AFTER you get your other stuff, THEN find a pack that will fit what you need to carry. If you buy the pack beforehand, it is highly likely that it won't be the right size for the gear you end up with. You can find used packs here on the Gear Swap page which will do you just fine, and any "hand-me-down" pack from the UL backpackers on this site will be good for you, as long as it is the size that you need.

Then you just need some clothes and shoes that are appropriate.

This stuff doesn't have to be ultra-expensive to do. You can refine your set-up as you go along. Most people do that.

Edited by towaly on 09/07/2012 09:10:59 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
tarp/bag on 09/07/2012 10:03:58 MDT Print View

1. get a 5$ tarp ... itll work as well as the fancy ones to help you learn and will let you decide if you want to spend $$$$$$ on tarping or a tent ... at worst you can use it when camping in wet weather or to cover yr car, etc ...

2. something like a cosmic down will work fine ... get it for cheap under 80$ if you shop and wait ... and you can sell it for at least 50$ even a year or two later ... so it costs you like 30$ a year ... if you decide to continue with it then spend $$$$$

one of the biggest mistakes is people going out and buying all the $$$$$ gear before knowing if they are going to continue doing it alot ... and before they develop the skill set to use the gear well ...

buying gear does not make you any better ... knowing how to use it does ... and getting out and using it, and saving money for that is what matters ...

Chad Anderson

Locale: N. California
Re: tarp/bag on 09/07/2012 11:04:22 MDT Print View

Much of going lighter is dialing-in what you need--eliminating redundancies, not taking luxury items, etc. Even if people are carrying five pounds each for shelter, sleeping, and pack, it's pretty ridiculous to get some of the "traditional" pack weights I've seen mentioned elsewhere. Usually it's because people are taking three jackets, five shirts, multiple pots and plates, things like that.

My friend uses a Kelty 20 degree down bag regularly, and I think it's a solid bag for the price.

I agree with Eric. I think it's unrealistic to believe you'll be happy with any initial setup. Try as many things as you can ahead of time (e.g. try to borrow a CCF pad before wasting $40 on a Zlite, but end up wanting a Neoair). Give it your best guess and then go for it :)

And, yes, check the Gear Swap for good deals on the higher-end stuff.

Edited by kiddzoso on 09/07/2012 11:08:10 MDT.

Nick G
(HermesUL) - F
. on 09/07/2012 11:09:21 MDT Print View

There's a ton of good advice already here--take people seriously, but I'm also aware of the difficult situation where you're looking for advice on your budget and people recommend going beyond it. I know that's not always possible.

One site you might be interested in is this:

It's not well up to date and you might want to go colder than this, but he's got some good starting points and a few tips about how to get to the 'ultralight' range without busting the bank.

The main thing to do is to start looking for gear deals ASAP. Sign on to a bunch of sites that offer gear deals and start looking for the equipment you need. I recently got a 21 oz Golite long sleeping bag on clearance for $130 including shipping, which was a dream come true (unfortunately this bag is back up to $280, but the equivalent quilt is still $150, here:

I don't know many discount sites so you might be best hunting around or asking others, but the one I do know about is The Clymb:
Full disclosure here: making an account through that link gives me a $20 store credit, so feel free to ignore it. I've seen several items on sale from them several days after I bought the same item at full price, so I know they've got stuff an ultralight backpacker is interested in. It is often a pain to sort through bulky items for other purposes, especially because they don't usually list item weight.

The other thing you might think about is a lighter pack. I know it's extra cost, but for $100 you can cut 3-4 lbs off your pack weight. You could, in this case, get a $50 non-down sleeping bag that weighed 2.5 lbs and a $100 pack that weighed 23 oz (the Osprey Hornet 46, seen here:, which gets your pack and bag together under 4 lbs for less than you'd planned on for the sleeping bag. Later on, its no big loss if a good deal surfaces on a down bag.

Most of all, itemize and post your gear list so people can help out! I got my pack weight down to 12 lbs on my own, but BPL members helped me get it down below 6 lbs while spending only about $150 (including returning a few items for lighter options).

Edited by HermesUL on 09/07/2012 11:23:56 MDT.

Adam Klagsbrun
(klags) - MLife

Locale: Northeast US
Some advice from someone learning the hard way on 09/07/2012 11:25:34 MDT Print View

I can't stress enough that you shouldn't buy expensive gear before thinking about how it will best suit your particular style and methods of camping. I suggest buying a good sleeping mat first, using your current pack, because you will change all your gear first, then buy the right pack that fits that stuff and carries the proper weight for your setup after. You might find that you prefer a tarp, or you might live where there are lots of bugs and mice and so, like me, you'd prefer a tent. You don't have to spend a lot. But keep in mind this is a lightweight forum, and so to be honest that list is a list of way too heavy items by most people's standards on this site. I think it would be safe to say many people would suggest going with a cottage manufacturer over a big manufacturer. Think about this - 32 ounce big agnes Fly Creek UL2 (not really for 2 unless you are dating) costs $349 or more usually. For $225 you get Six Moon Designs Skyscape Trekker at 24 ounces, or for a mere $125 the heavier skyscape Scout at 34 ounces. Check out their site. But also meet some people, go hiking, see this kind of gear in action, maybe buy a cheap tarp at the local store and take it one time just to see if you like tarp camping, for example. Buy the items one at a time as you use and see and learn about why each item is different. But in general, check out six moon designs, Mountain Laurel Designs, Hyperlite mountain gear, and a lot of the other cool cottage brands. Also look at golite, they often have great clearance deals.

Mark Andrews
(buldogge) - F

Locale: Midwest
Great Amounts of Info/Insight... on 09/07/2012 15:58:21 MDT Print View

Hey Guys/Gals... Thanx for the continued insight/input.

I am sure I will find a balance between budget/need/weight.

I'm pretty sure my PM is set-up BTW...but...can't post threads in the Gear Swap.

I like the looks of the Six Moon Designs Scout...Any further thoughts on that???...I use trekking poles already, so that set-up would work.

Any experience/opinions on the Golite Adrenaline quilts?...I tend to move around while I sleep, so not sure if the freedom would be better, or I would open myself up to discomfort/drafts. Maybe this would work for now with my current Thermarest (although I will take a look at the models mentioned above).

Thanx again...


John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
marmot 600 down on 09/07/2012 17:38:12 MDT Print View

I really like my marmot 600 down bag. Much warmer than my sierra designs and north face synthetic bags. Also packs down into half their size. Also lasts forever, compared to synthetic, which looses loft due to compression, and washing. The marmot is roomier than my north face cats meow, about the same amount of roomy as my sierra designs bag, and has a much better fitting hood than both.

gregory tomlinson

Locale: New York City
The humidity factor on 09/07/2012 20:57:55 MDT Print View

Living in the midwest, I'm sure you are well aware of humidity and mold issues. I lived in Columbia, MO for a number of years and it was a constant issue at that time. I would weigh the heavy humidity issues into consideration when choosing any gear. There are several books from the ultralight community that reflect on how some of these new fabrics work regarding humidity levels. I can not-so-fondly recall taking a down bag out to a river campsite in the Ozarks and feeling seriously cold since the down ended up somewhat wet due to humidity and general dampness and wetness in the air. It made me think twice about doing any outdoors stuff for a number of years. I wish I had been more informed about how these high-tech fabrics work then so I could properly utilize it for the area.

Edited by osconfused on 09/07/2012 20:58:47 MDT.

Mark Andrews
(buldogge) - F

Locale: Midwest
Humidity...hmm... on 09/07/2012 21:31:20 MDT Print View

Originally, I was looking at synthetic bags, but after scanning the forum for a bit had been "swayed" (I guess) to lighter down bags.

Before, I had pretty much settled on looking for a TNF Cat's Meow 20.

Any thoughts on that bag???


eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
meow on 09/07/2012 22:32:11 MDT Print View

i use it and it works fine ... you biggest problem is the bulk (not weight) and the eventual degradation of the loft, though modern insulation ameliorates this to a decent extent IMO

the flipside is that itll take any weather condition you can throw at it within its rating ... and if you wear damp (not soaked) clothes in it, including light down jackets, with a hawt nalgene theyll be decently dry by morning ...

there are also people here who make cheapish synthetic quilts ... the problem of bulk and loft degradation remain ... you can make it last longer by lightly stuffing it at the bottom of yr bag with synths ...

Edited by bearbreeder on 09/08/2012 00:17:45 MDT.

Mark Andrews
(buldogge) - F

Locale: Midwest
Coupla More Questions... on 09/08/2012 12:56:29 MDT Print View

Any thoughts/comparison between the Six Moons Scout and the MH Sprite 1???

Also, still wondering if any has anything to add about the Golite Adrenaline 800 Quilt?


Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
Re: Coupla More Questions... on 09/08/2012 13:59:58 MDT Print View

Scout is a great shelter. I owned one for a coupe of weeks. :) I liked it but decided to try to track down a Tarptent Moment, which would meet more of my needs. Anyhow, since you use trekking poles it could work out well. Sturdy construction, easy to get a taut pitch, opens up really well if you're in a hot humid area (can roll "fly" back), and if you order from antigravity gear you get a free groundcloth and set of titanium stakes.

Mark Andrews
(buldogge) - F

Locale: Midwest
Update... on 09/09/2012 21:30:48 MDT Print View

So...I picked up a Marmot Pinnacle 15 bag tonight. Not super UL of course...but...800 fill and (hopefully) usual Marmot quality...2.4# I believe.

I'm leaning towards the SMD Scout...Anyone have any final thoughts between the Scout and any of the original tents I listed...or the MSR Hubba...or the MH Sprite???

Thanx again for all the help...


Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
Re: Update... on 09/09/2012 22:11:40 MDT Print View

Heh, I have a pinnacle, it was UL once upon a time. Great bag in my experience.

I've already chimed in about the Scout, but I can think of a couple of big differences btw it and double walled tents. 1) its lighter, 2) you can set it up in the rain without getting inside of shelter all wet, but 3) this is a con, at least to me (but not a dealbreaker): no real vestibule to speak of -- just enough room for boots really. Hubba has a nice vestibule (Sprite not sure about, but I'm thinking it doesn't). Vestibule is nice if you need to wait out weather and want somewhere for gear (maybe wet gear), cooking, etc. Without one you make it work, just mash gear inside with you or leave it outside protected in pack with pack cover or whatever -- depends on your needs and packing habits.

Mark Andrews
(buldogge) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Update... on 09/10/2012 07:44:48 MDT Print View

Yeah...On paper, the Hubba's footprint looks nice/compact, but with the biggest vestibule of the bunch.

The Scout offers more floor space, so I could just use the pack at my head in that case.

The Sprite is odd, with it's built in side space for gear/dog/whatever...but I assume it works.

Blind decisions are always hard...


Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
Re: Re: Re: Update... on 09/10/2012 09:44:31 MDT Print View

One other advantage to the Scout is if it doesn't quite work for you, you could easily sell it here without taking much of a hit.

Mark Andrews
(buldogge) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Update... on 09/10/2012 10:09:13 MDT Print View

Definitely a good point...


Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Newbie With Questions on 09/10/2012 10:43:00 MDT Print View

I have or have tried numerous tents, including TT Moment, Scarp 2, Hogback, and the Golite Shangrila 3 to which I sewed in detachable netting to make it like a tarptent. I still use the Scarp 2 and Hogback when more people are along, but my favorite solo tent is the BA Copper Spur UL1. It's the tent in my photo. I really like the amazing space and weight of a tarp too.

mik matra
(mikmik) - M

Locale: Allways on the move
Re: Newbie With Questions on 09/10/2012 15:06:03 MDT Print View

Both my camping buddies just bought the Eureka spitfire SUL shelter (that's the 1.2kg option) and are yet to use it but setting it up in the bak yard it seems to be a good tent. I went from the zephyr1 to a tarptent rainbow and cannot be happier!! The zephyr needs 16(!!) Pegs to set up properly and when you are in rocky teritory like I was once it was a real pain. Also didn't like the front entry mode lack of views and weight. The rainbow meets all my requirements and I just came back from a cold and windy night and it performed really well. It is a single skin shelter and breazier than the zephyr but better in every aspect. Very happy camper :)