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Best Bang for the Buck (~$500)
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Jason Mahler
(jrmahler) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Best Bang for the Buck (~$500) on 02/09/2013 08:52:06 MST Print View

I got into backpacking a couple of years ago and while I have tried to steer towards lightweight, I have also shopped for value. Basically, if it was a bit heavier, but half the price, i was sold. Now I have some money to spend and want to see how much I weight I can cut for the money. I figure that I can get ~$5/oz of savings, but wanted to see what people thought. Another point is that I may not have the best gear, mainly in regards to clothing, so if I need to spend some money there with less than optimal weight loss, that is fine as well. A few notes:

Backpacking Style - 50% with brother who carries half of tent and either stove or med kit (drops pack weight by ~3lbs), 25% solo, 25% solo w/dog. I avoid winter camping and HOT summer hiking, but generally hike Mid March to Late November in Michigan, so it can be down to the low 30's at night and prefer to hike in the 50-75 range in the day.

Locations - Michigan primarily, but we are starting to venture out (7 nights in Great Smokey Mountains in early April for ~75 miles). Next year hoping to do Glacier. Overall, wetter environments with lots of mosquitos it seems.

Gear Thoughts
- Just switched from Vasque Breeze to Inov-8 Roclite 295 for 19.2 wt savings($5.7/oz)
- Been looking at Zpacks Arcblast (can "technically" return Kestrel for ~$120 at REI)
- Tent is 2.5# with brother, but 5# otherwise. Looking for a new shelter is confusing with the prime thoughts being:
---Zpacks Hexamid - Expensive and worried dog (60# Labradoodle) will destroy netting
---SMD Skyscape Trekker - On the heavy side and not a lot of room for dog/daughter (6 yrs)
---MLD Duomid - Big, but would have to bring a bivy or net tent if mosquitos. Bivy is nice to seperate dirty dog from sleeping bag though
---MLD Grace Tarp SilNylon - Great price, but requires bivy and only fits one person
-I am a side sleeper, so not too interested in abandoning my pad
-I like my jetboil because I mainly bring freeze dried food and can boil water in a couple of minutes.
-My sleep system is a bit jacked. I normally only bring the quilt and liner, but if it is going to be cold, I can bring the sleeping bag as well and get down to the 20's.

Overall, I have ~$500 and want to get opinions on where I should spend it. Other than that, I never realized how much stuff I bring, so ideas are more than welcome.

Thanks for your help!!!

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
A Couple of Things on 02/09/2013 09:23:41 MST Print View

First, don't forget that you can sell stuff on Gear Swap to add to the total of what you can spend. It may not be as much as you might want for an item, but it can add up quickly.

Second, in my opinion, the best thing to do is to spend some time and come up with a serious list of what you would want to have to hike in your usual conditions. Don't settle too much because you'll be better served with a long-term kit than a few items you have for a bit but realize they don't meet your hiking needs as well. Then, put together a spreadsheet to calculate the $/oz of any weight savings for those items. Basically, input what you have and the weight, what you want and the weight and cost, and how much you'll spend per ounce to get the weight savings. I also included a column for performance given that, at least in my opinion, that trumps a few ounces and could sway me one direction or the other.

As far as specific recommendations go, I would say that, if I understand your convoluted sleep system right, you could sell off both the quilt and sleeping bag and buy an Enlightened Equipment Revelation that would take you down to 20 or 30 degrees (your preference) that would be more versatile and cover you in any of your desired conditions. As a bonus, it comes in an X model that is slightly heavier but slightly cheaper, so you could save a bit of cash there.

Then you ought to have enough left over to replace the shelter. For your conditions, a TarpTent might be a better bet than true tarp camping. If you carry trekking poles (I didn't see them on the list), then the StratoSpire models would be good for one or two people or the Notch for one person. With both of those, you can leave the inner at home when bugs aren't a problem and save some weight. If you don't carry poles, the Rainbow models are a good value and a proven design.

I would wait on the pack until you have the rest of your kit more dialed in. You can save some weight on the Kestrel just by leaving the top pocket at home, and then you can see how much volume and weight you want to carry long-term. That's a huge part of the pack decision.

You can probably look for all of this on Gear Swap too, and save even more. Just post a WTB thread.

Good luck. Keep us updated on what you decide.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Hexamid with big puppy on 02/10/2013 12:42:12 MST Print View

CharlieDog is a 70-ish pound golden retriever mutt who sleeps in the tent with me. I can't completely do tarp camping because, well, he would be gone sniffing and peeing on things all night long if he didn't have some net to hold him in (which, by the way, was downright hilarious when he first encountered no-see-um netting because, well, he doesn't see it)

I was quite worried about chuck and the net floor, but Joe at Zpacks assured me it wouldn't be a problem.

We've used it only on about 10 nights so far, and other than the quarter-sized hole I seem to have made in the door on the first night (watch your treads on the pooled up net in the doorway as you get in) there are no issues. CharlieDog actually loves the open view and doesn't even bother to wake me up in the am. I wake up to him staring out the front door, happy as can be.

There may be other reasons not to go with the hexamid (although I can't think of any - best lightening-up money I ever spent!), but don't let the puppy be one of them.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Best Bang for the Buck (~$500) on 02/11/2013 09:27:17 MST Print View

I live in Michigan and hike with a big (100+ lb) golden retriever. A couple of thoughts. Before you start spending money, I would clean up your list first. Save a pound by just trimming down things you don't need and that's free.

Seems like you have a lot of weight invested in stuff sacks. If you have a waterproof packliner, all the other waterproof bags are redundant. And then you have an additional 1.6oz in a garbage bag under 'tools'.

While your 'toiletries' list is reasonable, 12oz is super heavy. Way too much soap/sanitizer.

I assume that's an off-the-shelf first aid kit. Go through it and trim it down.

The two things I've invest in with the $500 budget:

- Solo+ tent for you and the dog. I have a Tarptent Contrail for this and it's perfect. Good bug protection, durable enough for the dog, enough room for me, big dog and my gear. Lots of them out there, so pretty easy to pick up used. I got a used one in great condition for $125.

- Sleeping bag or quilt. I would try to sell what you have (Lafuma, Thermarest quilt and the liner) and use that to buy the best bag or quilt you can afford, used or new. A good 20* bag/quilt will work for all of your hiking, imo.

Jason Mahler
(jrmahler) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: Best Bang for the Buck (~$500) on 02/11/2013 10:38:40 MST Print View

Thanks for the tips everyone, please keep them coming. As you can tell I am a bit of a n00b, so can use all of the help that I can get. I will work on getting rid of non-required items and eliminating some redundancy. I may need a therapist to get rid of all of my stuff sacks. :)

Two questions about sleep system:

1) The lowest temperature I can imagine is ~20°F based on the time of year that I hike. With this in mind, would I be ok with a 35°F quilt and layering up or is this proben to be ineffective and I should just get a 20°F quilt?

2) I bring a liner to keep my down bag/quilt clean so that I don't have to wash it often. Is this necessary or am I just worried about something that isn't an issues?

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Re: Re: Best Bang for the Buck (~$500) on 02/11/2013 13:25:16 MST Print View

If you're actually planning to backpack in Michigan from March to November, you're going to want a 20* bag. JMO.

To keep your bag clean, bring baselayers dedicated as sleepwear. The advantage is that they do double duty as backup clothing.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
No liner on 02/11/2013 14:51:21 MST Print View

+1 to no stuff sacks, no sleeping liners, ditch all the superfluous stuff (go through your ditty bag, first aid kit, tools, toiletries, etc and figure out what you REALLY need).

I agree on the 20* quilt for late fall hiking in MI.

But if you do have some money, I strongly encourage a light tarp/mid kind of set up. By ditching my bulky tent (the hexamid was my fourth attempt at going lighter and lighter and smaller and smaller...) I was able to fit everything in a teeny pack! Together I was able to save almost 4-5 pounds between the two. And that was upgrading from a fly creek UL 2 (which isn't half bad in terms of weight and bulk). So if you want more bang for your buck weight wise, I'd strongly look at the shelter. My hexamid packs to the size of a football and smooshes even further once it's in my teeny tiny pack.

James Klein

Locale: Southeast
Re: No liner on 02/11/2013 15:34:32 MST Print View

on the liner...When its warm enough, I usually rinse off with a bandana.
If its cold, I wear enough layer to bed anyway (hate getting up and then dressed.
I would leave it at home.

On the shelter...I think the golite sharngri-la 2 is a good value (~$150 new for the fly only - when in stock). Can usually be had for ~$100 used on these forums and golite will often discount ~$125. You can get perimeter netting sewn around to help with bugs (I have no idea how well this works though).

I think this net tent will fit inside with room for a dog:
I remember me and my daughter fit in one of these but don't know how tight (she's only 25lbs though)
I bet this would fit also:
each of these is ~$100 new