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Going from Traditional to Lightweight
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Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Going from Traditional to Lightweight on 12/29/2012 21:32:13 MST Print View

First post here at BPL.

I'm 6'3'' and 165 lbs, a side sleeper, and athletic. I'm trying to get back into backpacking (Eagle Scout with Philmont and lots of other hikes under my belt). A few weeks ago I did my first overnight hike in about 10 years, a 2 night hike up Mt. Mitchell. Unfortunately, I didn't weigh my pack, but I would guess I went past 35 lbs with water, fuel, and food. Since that trip, I've made a few changes, which I'll post below.

The biggest concern I have isn't necessarily going ultralight. My number one concern is sleeping comfort and my second concern is budget. Lastly, if budget allows and I don't sacrifice comfort, I want to go as light as I can. Most of my hiking will be 2-3 nights and no more than 10 miles per day. So I don't really mind carrying 35 lbs...but also wouldn't mind avoiding it. I had no problem carrying my pack up Mt. Mitchell.

I have a luggage scale, but no kitchen scale to weigh individual pieces of gear...but I'll be looking for one soon.

I'm also becoming proficient in using a thread injector. Here's the gear I've made:

1.1 double gathered-end hammock with end channels, whoopies, tree straps, and bug net (seperate from hammock)
DIY 1.1 double

Silnylon Night Wing tarp using Six Moon instructions, w/ integrated sil bathtub floor
(no picture yet)

For reference, the tarp and hammock fit into the same stuff sack. Here's the hammock with suspension wrapped around the bishop bag:
Hammock in bishop bag

Okay, on to the gear list:

Pack: Gregory Baltoro 65
-Bought at REI and considering replacing it with a lighter pack. I used gift cards to buy it so I think I'll be locked in to a pack from REI if I return it.

Shelter: DIY Nightwing Tarp w/ DIY sil bathtub floor
-I'm considering adding doors to keep wind and rain out

Sleeping Bag: Alps Clearwater 20 long
-It packs down really well considering its synthetic and long. It'll go into the bottom of my Baltoro with no problem at all. Since this is an expensive category, I'm fine with this for a while unless there's a good, cheaper alternative that's lighter and more compact.

Sleeping Pad: REI Stratus long
-It's pretty comfortable. I've spent two nights on it, but wondering if there's something with more comfort but still lightweight. Since this is my biggest concern (my hips were killing me after the second night) I would love some insight here. I'm going to put my sit-pad beneath my hips next trip.

Stove: Primus EtaExpress system
-It's shipping to me now. I chose this for the versatility, price (CHEAP on Sierra Trading Post w/ a coupon), and good reviews. I know it's not the lightest system, but it's also a lot better than what I have now.

Clothing: (I'm comfortable in the low 20's with this)
-REI Kimtah eVent rain jacket
-OR synthetic jacket
-Patagonia midweight quarter-zip
-longsleeve and shortsleeve running shirts (these are interchangeable depending on weather)
-Colombia zip-off pants
-midweight and lightweight long underwear (these are interchangeable depending on weather)
-underarmor for underwear (or small running shorts w/ mesh)
-hiking socks and liners
-Garmont Zenith Goretex shoes

Other gear:
-REI waterproof matches
-REI lite core sit-pad - super light! love this thing
-walmart pocket knife - locking, a little heavy, could be replaced if I can find a cheap/light knife
-simple first-aid kit - put together from home
-old plastic compass from my scouting days
-cheap, light headlamp - no brand name on doesn't weight much and it works well
-long REI spoon
-Steri Pen
-Iodine tablets and iodine taste reducer - backup for the steripen
-old orange plastic shovel for when nature calls
-50 feet of utility cord for bear bagging
-25 liter silnylon roll-top bag for clothes and bear bag
-a few assorted stuff sacks - I'll either use these or zip-loc bags (especially for clothes)
-3 liter camelback bladder
-2 nalgenes (if I need them)
-bandana for my hair (not gonna use it for anything else, like a sediment filter or dish rag....seems a little gross to me)

Need to buy:
-Trekking poles (my knees need them, as does my tarp)

I think that's it. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks for your time.

Edited by FightingTheTide on 12/29/2012 21:38:41 MST.

Alex Eriksson

Locale: Austin, TX
Couple of big ones.... on 12/29/2012 22:08:00 MST Print View

Like yourself I bought a pack at REI and essentially locked myself into finding something there that got me from traditional backpacking weights down into the lightweight category. I recently returned my Arcteryx Atmos 50 after 3 weekend trips using it because it was uncomfortable but also could lose some weight. Your best lightweight option at REI is probably the Osprey Exos series, which by comparison to your Baltoro can save you close to 3 pounds just in pack weight. Plus it'll actually be a solid $100 cheaper possibly!

As for sleeping bags, I'm going from a 50oz synthetic bag to a 25oz down quilt by Enlightened Equipment and only getting dinged for about $200-220 depending on specifics. You can spend a small fortune on a single lightweight down bag however, but Enlightened Equipment is a fantastic value (RevX quilt) with really solid reviews from everyone who has one.

Lastly, as a 6'4" 230lbs side-sleeper myself I can attest to the absolute [personal] necessity of my Exped air mats. I use a SynMat 7 LW and think it's worth every penny, and indeed more than every penny, that I paid for it gently used via the Gear Swap forum here. Keep an eye out for them because they tend to come and go quickly, but if you can get away with being tall but using one of the smaller sizes you can get really good results at a decent weight, that way. I started with their SynMat 9 DLX mat purchased through REI a few years ago before I knew of lightweight backpacking so when I switched to the UL model I cut off about 1.5 pounds in that one item. Still though, it's a great product.

Others will pick apart the particulars of your kit for sure so I'll leave that to the weight vultures. ;-)

EDIT: I have REI shipping me an Exos 58 and have read almost nothing but positive reviews of the pack. The size (volume) is down to what you want to fit in there and I know when I was first pairing down my gear from more traditional stuff to this lightweight business, volume, not weight-capacity, was the biggest problem. That said I do a lot of dessert camping so need to be able to haul tons of water, which is a drag but hadn't been a real problem yet for my 50L Arcteryx.

Edited by aeriksson on 12/29/2012 22:14:37 MST.

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Pack and Sleeping Pad, on 12/30/2012 07:14:48 MST Print View

Thanks! That's some great insight. I'll look into the Exos 58 when I get a chance to run by my local REI. I think I tried it on but my initial impressions were that it didn't have any lumbar support. The hip belt was grabbing the side of my back rather than my lower back and it wasn't exactly comfortable. But I'll give it another shot. Comparing it to a Baltoro might not be fair. It's like comparing a Cadillac to a Civic.

As for a sleeping pad, I saw that Big Agnes Q-Core SL is 3.5" thick and it seems comparable in weight to the Exped UL's, if not a few ounces lighter. The extra inch of thickness is really compelling right now. On my last trip, I inflated my REI Stratus to almost full and had aching hips and knees both nights. Anyone have input on the BA Q-Core SL? And could I go with a narrower pad if I sleep on my side?

Lastly, a good quilt will have to wait for now because of the price.

Side note - I've been reading The Backpacker's Handbook by Townsend and I'm learning a good bit. Some of it I already know from prior experience, but his stories and advice/life lessons are invaluable. Good stuff.

Edited by FightingTheTide on 12/30/2012 07:21:36 MST.

Raquel Rascal

Locale: Rocky Mtn. West
welcome! on 12/30/2012 07:49:41 MST Print View

Hi Tyler,

Thanks for sharing your kit. There are so many great people here that can give you feedback. I went through the transition this year to ultralight (my base weight is now under 10 lbs now for summer trips in the Rockies- yeah!), and I was able to do it inexpensively.

Now winter backpacking, that is a different story....I may have dropped a couple thousand in gear there. :)

Let me share some of my favorite budget ideas-

1. Become a member of BPL and start reading all the great articles- they will give you a ton of ideas. It's worth the money!

2. Look for alternatives outside of the outdoor gear world and post what you find for us. I loved this one from Dale earlier this year about some cheap wind pants from the dancing world:

3. If you haven't already- check out Mike Clelland's book from the library (or have the librarian order it in for you). Book link here:

Mike also has some good free videos here- he has a whole series of them- check them all out:

4. Some gear from the military surplus stores could be a good fit. For example- puffy pant liners on the cheap!

5. Trash compactor bag as your pack liner - ditch pack covers.

6. +1 Exped Synmat is the way to go if you are a side sleeper. Bring an extra foam sit pad for under your hip area. This is an expense that is hard to get by without if you are looking for comfort. I have the Exped Snozzle that I use as my pack liner. My friend has the BA core and loves it, but you will pay the price in weight.

7. Look around your house and see what you can repurpose for backpacking. If you need a pillow (since you are into comfort)- this was something I found in my house-

8. Make your own alcohol stove or there are some inexpensive sets you can buy. Like this one from Ultralight Design (whom- btw- has great accessories)

9. Check GearTrade and Craigslist regularly for used gear.

10. Do a knife search on the forums and you will be quickly overwhelmed. I settled on the Little Vickie for food prep (under an ounce) , and I have a 3 oz. Buck knife if I'm worried about survival stuff for the trip.

11. I bought a Steripen before I knew about Aquamira. I still have the steripen that I would use for group trips, but the Aquamira is lighter and just as effective. You could sell your steripen and use that money to buy other gear.

12. Get a good scale and create a spreadsheet... This is your new hobby and it's worth the cost. :)

13. Most ultralighters are hiking in trail runners that do not have Goretex or other WPB fabrics. The more breathable your shoe, the better. Goretex does not breath as well.

I really hope some of these tips help. Have fun!

Edited by flutingaround on 12/30/2012 07:56:21 MST.

Harrison Carpenter
(carpenh) - M

Locale: St. Vrain River Valley
Investigate on 12/30/2012 09:43:48 MST Print View

+1 on Rachel's suggestions-- especially purchasing a scale, weighing everything, looking around your house, and reading up on the subject.

Ultralight is a road, not a destination. ;-)

Raquel Rascal

Locale: Rocky Mtn. West
One more thing on 12/30/2012 10:16:59 MST Print View

if you are into reading- Andrew Skurka's "The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide" is also very excellent with gear knowledge and advice. He actually recommends specific brands and it was published in 2012 so it is very relevant. Libraries should have this one too.

Alex Eriksson

Locale: Austin, TX
Couple more suggestions... on 12/30/2012 10:24:49 MST Print View

Here's a few suggestions less specific to gear that I wish I had known sooner....

+1 for getting a BPL membership. The $25 even on a yearly basis is going to more than pay for itself the first time you avoid multiple purchases because of some info you read in the really solid reviews.

Gear Swap wills ave you hundreds of dollars. Use it. Most people tend to sell their stuff for about 50% of retail if it's in good shape. You should familiarize yourself with the "Recent Threads" link and keep an eye on what comes up. So far of my dozen or so Gear Swap purchases I can say everyone's been really easy to deal with and trustworthy. Another reason why a BPL membership pays for itself.

If you're like me at times there will be a gear-mismatch period where some of your stuff is all light and fast, and other bits decidedly aren't. There was a point when my pack was definitely designed for a sub-30lbs load and I was well above that so the whole endeavor was a tad frustrating. It gets better (that campaign was about UL backpacking right?).

It's okay to not agree with some of the UL concepts championed by more than a few people in this forum. It can at times feel like dogma but look past that to what makes sense to you. Frankly I see no point to exceptionally small first aid kits consisting of duct tape and a few NSAIDs and carry a *gasp* small kit with enough narcotic pain medicine to knock out a horse....or in most cases, drug up my in-pain companions who didn't bring first-aid. Another example: frameless packs don't work for me, neither belly-crawling my way under a tarp, but do I pay attention to 1, 2, maybe 4 pounds I can save by swapping tents wisely? Yeah totally.

Stay away from alcohol stoves lest you become addicted. Alcohol addiction is no laughing matter. Seriously, there's so many little cooking setups out there once you fall down the rabbit hole you'll never be satisfied. That said I love my Caldera Cone with Stoic Ti I just want a Pack-a-Feather XL so I can simmer. See what I mean?! Help. Me.

Oh yeah, and Nalgene bottles are beasts. Get yourself some Platypus bottles or similar and save a remarkable amount of weight, and also store the empty ones a helluva lot easier.


Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Thanks for the insight! on 12/30/2012 13:53:06 MST Print View

Thanks again for all the input and time you guys have given! I appreciate it.

I'm taking this all in and I'll take steps into this process of going lighter. Like Harrison said, I see this as a journey. I'll post with an update once I get all of my gear together and weighed.

If anyone else has suggestions, I'll gladly take them.

Edited by FightingTheTide on 12/30/2012 13:58:37 MST.

Steve Meier
(smeier) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Careful on the pack size on 12/30/2012 18:14:06 MST Print View

You have some very good lightweight (not UL) choices for packs at REI and I would recommend you look at the Osprey Exos 46 or Osprey Talon 44. Both are very comfortable and both come in larger sizes that I have found to be just too large but tempting because they don't weigh much more. Resist the urge! Bigger bags just mean you'll shove more in it than you need.

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Careful on the pack size on 12/30/2012 18:24:16 MST Print View

Thanks Steve. In a few days, when I get home from traveling I'll weigh all of my gear and try to get an idea of how many cubic inches it takes up, as well as try on some pack at REI.

BTW - I dont necessarily have to get a pack at REI. If I can find a pack under $200, I don't mind using my REI credit on some poles and some other gear. I just know once I trade my Baltoro in, I'll have the store credit to use on SOMETHING...whether or not it's a pack.

Any suggestions for packs that I can buy online under or around $200?

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Packs, packs, and more packs.... on 12/30/2012 19:16:59 MST Print View

You're in a bit of a bind here, as so many of us during the transition from traditional to lightweight the ultimately to UL...

You can save serious poundage by getting a lighter, smaller pack...but unless your other stuff is small enough, your other gear isn't going to actually FIT in the smaller, lighter pack. Most here will recommend that you get the pack last...

Having said that, I completely understand the temptation to drop from an 8 pound Gregory to something <2 pounds...I'm on my 4th pack in 3 years now. On one hand a serious waste of money, but on the other it is a good learning experience.

Check out the cottage manufacturers: I finally went with a Gossamer Gear Gorilla (the Mariposa would probably be a more appropriate size for you during your transition) because it can be frameless or not, has excellent hip belt support and for me, was a great way to have some pack that can change with me along my UL journey.

I've never used one, but I really looked at the ULA packs as well before I went with the gorilla...and you can get them with full suspension if you want. The GG and the ULA packs will generally run you $200-250, give or take.

I don't remember what you have for your sleeping bag, but that was, literally my biggest problem. Older, synthetic, cheaper bags are simply huge and will take up 2/3rds of your new, lighter pack. As Alec mentioned earlier, sometimes it's the volume that is the main culprit during the transition time. Focus on your big 3: tent, bag, pack, then work on the other stuff.

Good luck!!

Harrison Carpenter
(carpenh) - M

Locale: St. Vrain River Valley
Re: Packs, packs, and more packs.... on 12/30/2012 19:26:27 MST Print View

Although I understand the rationale of replacing your pack last, there has been som talk (I think, in Backpacker magazine) that replacing it first is just as smart. The argument is that forces you to critically think about the gear you have on hand, and make serious decisions regarding what gear you really need to carry.

Mind you, I don't advocate one or the other...

Alex Eriksson

Locale: Austin, TX
Re: Packs, packs, and more packs....S on 12/30/2012 19:30:42 MST Print View

So true about the larger sleeping bags. I had no idea how small even a totally affordable, 550 fill, down bag could be compressed until I bought one as a christmas present a couple weeks ago (a Kelty Cosmic 20). Imagine my shock when it was at least 1/3 smaller than my 40 degree synthetic. With an Enlightened Equipment quilt on the way I fully expect to halve the volume my bag occupies inside my pack.

I can see the wisdom in doing pack last. However, a large part of my motivation to cut weight and volume came that first time I loaded all my gear into a too-small 50L pack I bought guessing my volume needs, and realized "oh sh*t I don't have room for food!" I'm actually on my third pack: an REI Crestrail 70, then an Arcteryx Atmos 50, and now the aforementioned Osprey Exos 58. I'm not sure if I should have gotten the Exos 46 but I figured I could use the extra space because I frequently desert camp where I could be carrying 4L+ of water. We'll see though once it shows up. If I need to exchange (before using it) REI is always there!

I wouldn't go frameless until you have your kit well established and trimmed down though.

Edited by aeriksson on 12/30/2012 19:33:10 MST.

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Pack first or last? GG Gorilla on sale.... on 12/30/2012 19:32:03 MST Print View

Yeah, I see wisdom in both ways here. I'm not sure what I'll do, but I WILL measure my gear when I get home in a few days.

The GG Gorilla is on sale. Should I grab it? Or is that jumping the gun? The price is right!

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Buying the pack last... on 12/30/2012 19:38:49 MST Print View

I made the mistake of buying the pack first, thinking 1) it would save me close to 6 pounds right off the bat and 2) that it would force me to bring less stuff.

Yes, saved me a ton of weight, not just because the pack itself weighed so much less, but also because the only thing that could fit in it was my sleeping bag. Tada!! Streamline your gear the EASY way!

About the frame vs frameless, I agree that going frameless isn't for everyone, especially not until you get your gear dialed in a bit. That's actually why i like the gossamer gear and the ULA packs are so much...they actually ARE framed packs...but you can take out the stays if you want. So the point with those is that they are flexible. And you can comfortably carry upwards of 30# in them, so they can be useful even as you get the rest of your kit in place.

Raquel Rascal

Locale: Rocky Mtn. West
Agreed. on 12/30/2012 20:02:39 MST Print View

I still haven't bought my pack, I have an older cheaper Golite Pursuit that I'm using. But I have my eye on several 3 season backpacks that I want...and I'm waiting for the right moment.

Kevin Garrison
(kgarrison) - MLife

Locale: SF Bay Area
Going Lightweight on 12/30/2012 22:57:07 MST Print View

I've been working on the same problem for the last year (i.e., going from traditional backweight to light weight). Unfortunately, once I got to 12 pounds base weight I just had to drop it another 2 pounds to get to ultralight. You've embarked on a difficult path. I speak from experience.

My best suggestion is to read the boards for gear advice. It's invaluable. I'd also recommend that you do ALL of your shopping on Gear Swap. I've bought a ton of stuff and the quality has been outstanding and the prices are incredible.

I also recommend starting with the big three (i.e., pack, bag and tent). I started with the pack, then downsided my bag and then transition to a tarp. If I could do it again, I would buy my bag first, then my shelter and then a pack to fit it all.

I transitioned from a MHW synthetic bag to a WM down bag. Weight savings were worth a few pounds but the space savings were enormous. My next big purchase was a MLD trailstar. I love this shelter. The weight to space ratio is amazing. I quickly realized, however, that i just do not need that much space. I've subsequently transitioned to a HMB Echo I tarp with beak. The space is perfect and the additional weight savings are nice. You'll need a bivy however to keep your down bag dry. I went with a TiGoat.

Other suggestions, look at the small stuff. If you're like me, you'll want a pillow. I purchased 3 different ones before I found the Exped. It's great. Unfortunately, I realized that i could buy a Marmot Zeus puffy that can replace my fleece and also my pillow for another 3-4 oz of weight savings.

I also recommend that you consider your cook kit carefully. I started out with a Jetboil, then transitioned to a alcohol stove, and then a backcountry boiler. They all have the strengths and weaknesses. The BC boiler is a lot of fun and I love the fact that I do not have to carry fuel. Alcohol stoves are nice but they take forever to heat water and the I don't have the patience to allocate my fuel to make the weight savings significant. If I had to do it again, I'd buy the Ti Jetboil. It's incredibly light and you don't have to spend a ton on various UL Ti pot combonations to make it all work out.

It's a slippery slope. I'm down to less than 8 lbs on base weight and I'm starting to add back things that increase my comfort level. The more you read on BPL, the less you'll spend. Enjoy the experience.

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Big 3 on 12/31/2012 08:31:02 MST Print View

It makes sense to get my bag first. The one I have now probably wouldn't fit properly into a lightweight pack like a GG Gorilla.

Focusing on the big 3:
Pack - I can easily get a lighter pack from REI at no loss of money
Shelter - I have a MYOG sil Nightwing with bathtub floor
Bag - This is where I'll spend my money first

So with that, I have two questions:

What should I look for in a down quilt that won't break the bank? I usually don't camp below 20 deg. F

My MYOG sil tarp has a sil bathtub floor. It's a Nightwing Tarp (Six Moon) and doesn't have doors. Should I add doors and forget about a bivy? Or get a bivy and forget about doors? Not sure if there's a general consensus, especially if I get a down quilt.

Edited by FightingTheTide on 12/31/2012 08:32:43 MST.

Harrison Carpenter
(carpenh) - M

Locale: St. Vrain River Valley
Re: Big 3 on 12/31/2012 09:48:35 MST Print View

I can't comment on the tarp (as I've only used tents), but your best buy in quilts is Enlightened Equipment's Revelation X-- the 20 degree quilt currently goes for less than $200. Tim Marshall is the proprietor, and he's very pleasant to work with. As I understand it, Tim is modifying the design, and will be raising prices in he near future. Jacks R Better carries quilts specifically meant for hammocks, and while their quilts cost a little more, I've heard the quality/customer service are superb.

And you can (and should) continually visit the Gear Swap-- bargains galore!

Edited by carpenh on 12/31/2012 09:51:26 MST.

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: Big 3 on 12/31/2012 09:58:14 MST Print View

Edit - nevermind, I found the sizing guide.

Edited by FightingTheTide on 12/31/2012 12:05:32 MST.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Re: Re: Big 3 on 01/01/2013 14:03:14 MST Print View

If you are handy with the thread and needle you may want to check out some of the kits the sell at thru hiker (I think its They sell a down quilt kit for $150 that will get you below 20* (if you don't think you are up to that, the elightned equipment quilts are tough to beat on price as are the Golite 3 season quilts). They also have kits for windshirts, down jackets, synthetic jackets,etc.

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Base Weight and Volume - Help choosing a pack on 01/02/2013 12:18:24 MST Print View

(I might check out one of those kits in the future...thanks for the suggestion!)

I got around to measuring my base volume and weight.

My base weight is ~17 lbs. and my approximate base volume is 2500 cubic inches. I then figured I would need 500 cubic inches for three days of food and fuel (canister stove). So thats roughly 49L. Does that sound right? Keep in mind, this is a winter pack.

So now I'm looking at REI for packs. I'm stuck with buying one there because I have store credit and no more funds to buy one elsewhere. Can you guys give me some thoughts on the following packs? I'll either try them on in the store, or order 1 or 2 to try on if they aren't in stock locally.

REI Flash 45 - 34 oz. - I know this would be a stretch, but I think I could drop down in size by taking a serious look at some of my gear. This would easily work (I think) for a summer bag when I don't have as much clothing to carry.

Mountain Hardware ThruWay 50 - 29 oz. - The size is much more convenient and the weight is low. This is intriguing, but I have yet to do any research on this pack.

Osprey Exos 46 - 37 oz. - This is one that I am seriously considering. The size is a little small, but I think I could make it work...probably more-so than the REI Flash 45.

Osprey Atmos 50 - 50 oz. - This is the beefiest of all of them. I probably wont get this pack, but I threw it in there for good measure.

Edited by FightingTheTide on 01/02/2013 12:39:46 MST.

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Mountain Hardware ThruWay 50?? on 01/02/2013 15:04:24 MST Print View

I just found the MHW ThruWay50 on sale. The wife did a torso and waist measurement at 19" and 32". However, I think my torso is at least 19.5" or maybe even 20". So I would probably go with a large.

I'm not sure how long this sale is, but I can get the pack for $160 (originally $230) w/ free shipping.

EDIT - it seems this might not be a good pack - most reviews say it works best with loads under 20 lbs.

Edited by FightingTheTide on 01/02/2013 16:06:51 MST.

Alex Eriksson

Locale: Austin, TX
Re: Base Weight and Volume - Help choosing a pack on 01/02/2013 16:12:58 MST Print View

I went into REI last week, pack still loaded from the trip I returned from two days prior, and did a one-to-one dry run of all my gear in the packs I was considering. In that short list was the Flash, which while more comfortable than my existing pack, didn't quite work with my gear. It didn't seem to pack well based on the dimensions of my stuff, and the top lid was really disappointingly small (but I loved my Arcteryx's top lid) and lumpy when loaded. I had probably 25 pounds loaded and it felt pretty good however.

That said, I have my Exos 58 sitting next to me as I type this from work. I haven't had time to go pack it yet (bought it sight unseen) but we'll see how it does tonight. I'm still slightly worried that a 46 would have been better, but I'll only go that route if the 58 doesn't compress down well to a smaller volume.

I'll report back and let you know how it feels!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Going from Traditional to Lightweight on 01/02/2013 16:39:31 MST Print View

Some backpackers know that they operate in black bear country. In some of these areas, bear canisters are required or else extremely practical. The only trick is that is a huge lump to drop into your pack. Granted, your food volume goes into the canister. Still, that can be a big lump, and you want to think about that when selecting the pack.

My rule of thumb is that a carried weight of ten pounds means 1000 cubic inches of pack volume. So, I generally end up using 2000-2500 cubic inches, depending on the trip. If I am filling up a bigger volume, like 3000 cubic inches or more, then that tips me off that I have too much stuff, so I start trimming things down to get it all into the smaller volume.

One pack I have is 6000 cubic inches. If I fill it up, it is just plain uncomfortable no matter how you slice it.


Alex Eriksson

Locale: Austin, TX
Quick Exos 58 Report on 01/02/2013 20:03:48 MST Print View


I saw your PM but figured I would put the info here for the good of viewing public. Hope you don't mind...

One word: "wow". The Exos is night and day different than my Arcteryx Atmos 50. It's even night and day compared to the three other packs that I tried all my gear in at REI. For reference I tested the Flash 60 not 45, Boreos Lost Mountain 60, and the Boreos Buttermilk. Obviously I'm testing the next size up if you will, in volume, compared to you. More on that in a second though.

But yes, the Exos is fantastic. I just loaded it up with everything I typically take, including 3L of water and food for a few days, and the suspension feels that I barely feel the load. The Exos's suspension would have to turn on me, court my girlfriend, and key my car, before I thought negatively of the trampoline. Total convert. Contrary to what you've read I would also argue that the weight transfer to my hips is the best so far for a couple very individual reasons: the torso length is spot on, and the fabric/foam used for the waist belt and straps is very nicely stretchy. To the former regarding fit, I measure 20" but much prefer my pack riding low on my hips to address some back problems. Regarding the latter, the hip belt in particular is extremely comfortable because of it's flexibility and the forward pulling straps that pull the top and bottom of the hip belt as you tighten. However, of note, the 58 has additional padding than the 46. Having tried on both, I'd definitely err on the size of the 58 for the additional padding and simply compress down the pack's volume.

And when it comes to volume, boy does the 58 work well for me! All of my things fit comfortable with plenty of room to include more food, or perhaps a slightly larger cook kit without fearing that I'll burst a seam. The aforementioned bear canister would fit fine in this pack, that's for sure. I just picked up a Fly Creek UL2 for solo trips but even with my larger tent (see below) for my girlfriend, dog, and I, everything fits quite comfortably. And I'm quite pleased that carrying smaller loads the over/under compression system works fantastically to bring the volume down. I'm really glad I didn't go with the 46 now because of the flexibility. This pack will cover 4 seasons if a person is even remotely paying attention to what they're doing.

Here's a quick gear list of what's going into it (the major stuff):

Exped Dreamwalker Syn 133 40* bag in Sea to Summit eVent compression bag (15L, about 8" around by 12" long)
** soon to be replaced by EE 20* Quilt which will pack a ton smaller and be a pound lighter
REI Quarter Dome T2+ tent w/footprint
** split into a pole bag, and a dry bags for body and fly (3L and 5L respectively)
Exped SynMat UL LW
Stoic 700ml Ti Pot with Caldera Cone Fusion inside
Exped inflatable pillow
Exped Schnozzel pumpbag with all my clothes (occupies maybe 7L of moldable space with air sucked out)
Outsak UL (the larger one) with 3 days of backpacking meals
Eddie Bauer Downlight jacket in stuff sack
Camelback 3L bladder (one without baffles so it's kind of a log)

In the two vertical pockets on the outside I have:
One pocket:
1/2 gallon ziploc with toiletries
couple compressed rolls of TP
poop trowel
Other pocket:
REI Taku WPB jacket (all 26oz of it, oof)
* soon to be replaced with 13oz alternative on order

Top lid is quite a bit roomier than I thought and easily fits all this plus room for a lot more:
Rab Cirrus wind shirt stuffsacked
Tikka 2 headlamp
Mechanix gloves

And the hip pouches have more room than I have stuff!

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Quick Exos 58 Report on 01/02/2013 21:28:58 MST Print View

No worries on the reply here. That's a great review! What size (M or L) Exos 58 did you get?

I'm torn between this and the REI Flash 45. Part of me wants to get the Flash so I can slim my load down a little more, but I wonder if that's not realistic...especially in the winter.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Quick Exos 58 Report on 01/02/2013 22:47:06 MST Print View

Welcome to the Exos club Alec ;) I agree with a lot of what you said.. lets you pack without being OCD and cramming.. even with 4-5 days of food for me and 12-13lb summer baseweight.

hip pockets are good for snacks and photocopy of map folded up.

my body didn't like the Flash in the store.. which is why you try them on :)

Alex Eriksson

Locale: Austin, TX
Exos sizing.... on 01/02/2013 22:54:40 MST Print View

I went with the size large.

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Ordering a few to try on on 01/03/2013 12:51:43 MST Print View

My local REI doesn't have any in stock, but I'm planning on ordering a few to try on. Thanks again for the review! I'll report back with what I find.

Oh, and I ordered an EE 20* quilt! Stoked!

Edited by FightingTheTide on 01/03/2013 13:31:36 MST.

Raquel Rascal

Locale: Rocky Mtn. West
EE and packs on 01/05/2013 19:39:52 MST Print View

Congrats on the EE, you will love it. And you are focusing on the Big 3 which is an excellent start.

I will give one warning with packs- If you have any back or shoulder problems a pack with a frame or pseudo-frame will take the pack weight off of your shoulders. The frameless packs are lighter...but can feel heavier if you have sensitive shoulders or back injuries.

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Ordered a few packs. on 01/05/2013 20:52:18 MST Print View

Thanks! I'm excited about getting the EE quilt. I talked with Tim and got the 2013 version - the biggest improvement seemed to be the 5" baffles.

As for a pad, I just bought a LW Synmat UL 7 in gear swap. Stoked!

And with packs, I'm not looking for a frameless one right now. The two that I'll be testing out are the Osprey Exos 58 (and the 46) and a Granite Gear Crown VC 60. I ordered different sizes in each and had them shipped to my local REI to try on for size. Do I need to bring my gear with me to see how it all fits? Or do the weighted pillows suffice?

Raquel Rascal

Locale: Rocky Mtn. West
not sure on 01/05/2013 20:59:04 MST Print View

I'm not sure about the weighted pillows, but I'm guessing the closer you can get it to reality, the easier it will be to make your decision.

Very jealous about the Granite Gear VC! That pack is on my short list, but I can't seem to find one anywhere to try.

Have fun.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Going from Traditional to Lightweight" on 01/05/2013 23:46:03 MST Print View

Am I the only person in the world who found the Exos 46 and 58 to be incredibly uncomfortable? I guess I am. All I wanted to add, and I hope I didn't miss it, is someetimes your hip will hurt if you overinflate a pad. I inflate mine just enough to keep my hip off the ground.

Erik Dietz

Locale: Los Angeles
Some thoughts. on 01/05/2013 23:49:44 MST Print View

Hi Tyler,

I know this seems obvious but try everything you buy, one at a time. I made the mistake thinking that because I read all the reviews and asked questions that the gear that works for most would also work for me. In some cases it did but in a lot of others it didn't. Buy a new pack, load up your gear and go on an overnight. Get a new sleeping bag and spend the night in your backyard. Bring one new thing with you each time and see if you like it. Take notes. Buy your first chunk of gear from REI (I know it's not ultralight) but you can return it no questions asked if you hate it.

Ex: When I first started lightening my pack I purchased a foam pad from GG and it was ok at first but after two nights my hips were super sore. Then I bought a neoair, shortened it, and used it for 10 nights. It was better then the foam pad but I didn't like the way my legs dropped off the pad and the 20" width was a killer. So I eventually just bit the bullet and purchased a full length neoair and took the weight penalty. Lessons learned: I'm a side sleeper, I thrash a lot at night, my hip bones stick out a bit, I like to sleep comfortably and the extra ounces are worth it to me.

I learned a lot by listening to what others had to say but mostly from trying new gear out every time I hike. I hope my rambling helps a little.


Alex Eriksson

Locale: Austin, TX
Overinflation... on 01/06/2013 00:48:51 MST Print View

I've been there with the overinflated pad. I realized that a few trips ago that if I schnozzel my SynMat UL with the requisite 3 bags, then top it off with 3 instead of 2 breaths, I'll likely wake up in the middle of the night with a super painful hip. I've also found this to be the case at home so who knows maybe I have some physiological thing. So provided I don't overinflate my pad and, when I sleep on my slide, rotate my hips another 10 degrees or so towards sleeping on my stomach, it relieves enough pressure to not be a problem.

One more piece of advice on the Exos: I've found that the shape of the bag's main compartment towards the bottom lends itself towards better packing if your stuff is in less structured stuff sacks. I pack all my clothes in my Schnozzel pump bag and then punch and mould it into a shape that contours better into the pack. Just now I switched my sleeping bag out of its usual cylindrical compression sack into a simple roll-top dry bag, sat/knelt on it, and then jammed the whole thing into the bottom of the pack with much better results. The bottom of the bag especially, because (and this will make sense once you see it in person) has sort of wings, it's not just a simple cylinder or cone stitched to a frame, that curve and conform around the lower frame and as a result you could easily have some dead-space there, as I did, with a standard compression sack. On the plus side, my tent poles and sleeping pad nestle down perfectly into that space in the pack body with the aforementioned switch to a roll-top stuffsack.

Anyhow, best of luck with the packs! I would definitely try them out with your actual gear if at all possible. I ruled out a couple packs because they just didn't hold the gear well based on its' shapes and sizes.

Raquel Rascal

Locale: Rocky Mtn. West
re:overinflation on 01/06/2013 07:59:05 MST Print View

I didn't know about this issue! Thank you gentleman. I was getting a sore hip with my Synmat UL.

I *heart* BPL. :)

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Good stuff! on 01/06/2013 12:56:17 MST Print View

Thanks for all the tips! Knowing not to inflate the pad to the max is a good one to know. And I'll check out the Exos in detail before making a decision.

It'll be a few weeks before all of my gear is collected and ready for a trip. Once I get to actually use it all, I'll report back.

In the mean time, how reliable are SteriPens? I picked up a Traveler Mini for pretty cheap, but not sure if I'll keep it. I like the idea of how quick is purifies water, but I'm also eyeing the Sawyer Squeeze bag system - no need to filter the water first.

Edited by FightingTheTide on 01/06/2013 13:44:38 MST.

Alex Eriksson

Locale: Austin, TX
Sawyer Convert on 01/06/2013 17:07:18 MST Print View

I just went on a trip with my Sawyer for the first time and it made a stark raving evangelist out of me. Between the weight, the thoroughness of the filtration, ease of use, and general convenience of the setup, it's by far the best $40 I've spent on any equipment. I doubt my MSR Sweetwater will ever get used, and my Aquamira will be relegated to backup in case something breaks down with the Sawyer (which I'm mitigating by using Evernew 2L bags). Here's what I had to say in my trip report located here about the Sawyer...

4. Sawyer Squeeze Wins (aka "This Water Tastes Like The Good Water at Your White Friends' House with the Fancy Fridge")

It made a believer out of myself (first trip with it) and 4 other people. We were filtering spring water sourced streams in a canyon with delight. Literal, unabashed, "this tastes like Brita water!" delight. The sources weren't cloudy so no idea how it would do with that, but it did a fantastic job filtering water we probably didn't need to filter despite having hard-to-fill bags and retaining enough water inside the filter, even after being shaken and blown through, to soak through my cargo pants pocket and dribble down on my ankle in 35 degree weather.

So yeah, it's an awesome piece of gear. Get one cheap on Amazon, order an Evernew bag from, and if you have a camelbak (or even if you don't) I would suggest getting the little adapter so you can rig up a piece of tubing to the outlet and quick-connect to the camelbak (or just use the tubing full time as a more convenient filler hose like I did with individual canteens).

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Sawyer Convert on 01/06/2013 17:35:58 MST Print View

When I was a "Traditional" backpacker, filters didn't exist. A filter would be additional weight to my traditional kit.


Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
BPL vs spending on 01/07/2013 10:23:57 MST Print View

" The more you read on BPL, the less you'll spend. Enjoy the experience."

Uuuhhmm, I think you mean: "the more you read on BPL, the more you will spend"


Steve A. Clarke
(petuni) - MLife

Locale: Quispamsis
lol on 01/08/2013 08:31:46 MST Print View

lol I agree, the more you read on bpl, the more you spend!!

Bryan A
just a thought on 01/30/2013 11:08:57 MST Print View

everyone has great advice on how to get your base weight less and when I read most of the posts a common theme is they keeping buying a new pack or a new sleeping bag every year because they realize they can go smaller and lighter.

I have a thought that works for me. I attempt to buy the best item I can find for each of the different pieces of gear I am working on. I know that seems daunting some times when you see what a 30 degree down quilt costs that weighs under a pound though it will be less than buying cheaper sleeping bags only to buy another one the following year.

If you buy what you believe the best gear for each of the categories that you will use for a 8 lb base weight you will eventually get there for a lot less money than those that get their by buying 4 packs, three sleeping bags, and so.

If you buy the stuff that you really want you will use it for years and I find that the best way to be able to keep working on different aspects of my kit to get it lighter.

One last thing Osprey Hornet 46 is at REI for packs and it is 24 oz.

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: just a thought on 01/30/2013 15:51:22 MST Print View

Thanks for your thoughts Bryan. I think you are spot on with what you said. However, my goal isn't to get an 8 lb base weight. As nice as that would be, it would take me a few years before I could afford the best, lightest gear in each category. I think the biggest factor controlling this is how much money someone can put down at the time. Sure, if you can wait, it's worth saving...but in my situation it really would take a few years to save the money for all of that gear. I'm happy to get down to a 12 or 13 lb. base weight.

But like I said, you are exactly right in terms of getting the most bang for your buck.

Thanks again for your thoughts.

-Bought a scale - 11 lbs. max, 1/10 oz. measurement.
-Shelter in progress
-Bivy complete! 8 oz.
-Heading down to my hometown (Wilmington, NC) in the coming weeks to take a short road trip to Southport, NC where I'll visit Matthew at Elemental Horizons to try on my pack...probably the Kalais.
-Waiting on my Enlightened Equipment 20* long/regular RevelationX to arrive (hopefully in the next week or two)
-Marmot wind jacket on it's way from STP for cheap! Specs say 5 oz.
-Got my trail shoes for cheap! Montrail Masochists (and Smartwoold PhD running socks)
-Bought an Exped Synmat UL 7 on the gear swap (and schnozzel pump bag from REI)
-JC Penny Down Puffy acquired! $15 and 10 oz!
-Bought an Optimus Crux Terra HE Weekend kit. I'll get a solo pot in the near future.

-Sawyer squeeze, once REI gives me my dividend check
-Platypus bladders (or Evernew)
-other small odds and ends

This isn't exhaustive. Once everything is acquired, I'll do a final weigh in.