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New Here, and Returning Backpacker
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Lawrence Underwood

Locale: Deep South
New Here, and Returning Backpacker on 01/22/2014 19:10:29 MST Print View

Wow, what a website. I've been snooping here for a while and finally took the plunge. There is so much information! I have also noticed a really nice 'vibe' to the forum. I have a few questions and am looking for some wisdom/advice.

I used to pack/hike/climb/etc. a lot, but it was back in the dark ages. I'm nearing 50 now. When I was doing it a light tent was a distant dream. A Peak 1 stove was considered lightweight. Now I find myself getting back in the game, in large part due to my daughter who is an older teen. We have always enjoyed hiking together and recently she has expressed the desire to get into multi-day backpack trips. When I began to research gear, I tend to be a gear head in everything, I was intrigued by the light side. I run ultras and have discovered that it is possible to cover a lot of ground with a little bit of gear. I don't think my daughter is ready for that!

I need to get her kitted up. I'm content right now to use my existing gear. I would like to start her off with good lighter stuff that will last her a while.

Can y'all point me to articles or threads that deal with getting started or transitioning into this cool side of the sport? Any help is appreciated.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: New Here, and Returning Backpacker on 01/22/2014 20:24:20 MST Print View

Be prepared for some sticker shock. The price of lightweight gear has really gone up a lot. The good news is anyone can go UL (<10 pounds) not including food and water "off the shelf." Gone are the days of making your own gear or doing without something. I typically carry a 14oz bow saw and fishing rod and even with these items, I manage to hit about 3oz over ten pounds. Base weight is all the gear in your pack plus the pack, itself, needed for backpacking/camping. Less than twenty pounds is considered Light. Less than ten pounds is consideredne UL. Less than 5 pounds is SUL.

Small volume stuff seems to be the first thing to think about. This means you can take a lighter, smaller pack. Gossamer Gear makes some good models in the 2200ci range (Kumo, Murmur.) Z-Packs are more expensive but make some good packs, too.

Tents have changed a lot. Gone are the 4-5 pound tents. Generally, a smaller 2 person tarp tent is used for starters at around 2.5-3 pounds. You can get them lighter, in Cuben for example, if you can use a tarp. Use permethrin dipped clothing and bug spray to slow down bugs, but I don't worry about it on the colder nights in the ADK's. 7-16oz for a decent 2 person tent in cuben, but pricy. Cuben is plastic that is reinforced with a fine mesh of duneema/spectra and carbon fibers. It has fair to good durability. Silnylon is 30% heavier, but it has good durability.

Pads have changed, too. A simple foam pad at around 10oz has been replaced by many with a NeoAir. This is an inflatable pad that weighs about 12-13oz. It is MUCH warmer and more comfortable. The Z-Rest is a good foam pad and fairly light.

Stoves come in two varieties, mostly. Small alcohol stoves are used for 1-2 day weekend trips. Canisters are used for up to a week. I continue to use the old SVEA 123r (about 40 years old) simply because I don't care for the canisters. Roger Caffin makes about the best one at around $150. The SVEA cost about 100, now days (I think it was 49.99 when I got it) and the alcohol set ups (Trail Designs-Caldera Cone) run about 100 and up. Or you can make these, yourself for about $10.

Pots haven't changed much. An old aluminum pot that will boil 2 qt(or 2 Liters) is about right for two people. I use a 1L grease pot because it is very light. Despite the hype, titanium is NOT lighter. And, ti is alloyed with some aluminum. I don't worry about dents. Aluminum does dent easier.

Bags are well bags. Many have dropped the older bags and gone with a top quilt, instead. Mostly, this is because of the better pads. Thise are good down at around 250-300. A good bag runs about 350-400, today. For example, a Western Mountaineering bag will weigh about 2 pounds, have 850 or 900 fill down and be comfortable to 20F. It will last about 20-30 years if it is taken care of. High end stuff is actually cheaper in the long run.

Lights are also getting smaller, last longer and throw more light than the old Mag lights. For about 3 oz you can get a pair of lights, with batteries, that will last about two weeks of morning/evening use. (I tie one in the tarp.) For reading, you need more, of course.

Lines, bear lines, guy lines, are usially finer diameter spectra these days. You can often get 50-100' lengths from a bow shop or from a tree/shrup shop. Arborist line is loosly braided to throw over a tree branch. It is 300-600lb test and about 2mm dia. Smaller and you food bag will saw into the branch when the bag is full. That and a throw bag weigh about 2-3oz. I also cut sections for guy lines, but check the knots. Spectra/dyneema does not hold slips.

Lots of little things to go in the ditty bag. Super Glue instead of band aids. Duct tape for more seriuos injureries, maps, a small compas, a couple saftey pins, a lighter, a couple small razors, Steripen, batteries...about 4-8oz makes up a small ditty bag of small odd items,

Welcome Back!

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: New Here, and Returning Backpacker on 01/23/2014 01:30:17 MST Print View

As you transition to lighter gear, there can be sticker shock. But if you get your head around just NOT bringing some things, the initial weight savings are free. Spend an extra 6 minutes in camp preparing dinner in ONE pot instead of carrying two pots for 8 hours, all day long. Those "just in case" supplies? Skip them. Watch a few youtube videos and practice some woodcraft so your bandana is your first-aid sling, your TP or notebook is your fire starter, and your Bic is your secondary light source. JUST BRING LESS STUFF!

Also, check out the threads on free/cheap weight savings. Aluminum foil pot lids, bottom 3 inches of a HDPE milk jug as a plate/bowl. Disposable water bottles. Beer can stoves and baking tin pots.

And look through your existing gear for multi-purposing options. Clothes you can wear at night let you bring less sleeping bag/quilt weight. Synthetic underwear can be washed and dried in hours. Tarp/poncho. Etc.

And don't be proud. A trash-compactor bag is a light, sturdy and totally waterproof wind/rain layer than costs 60 cents. A Fedex Tyvek envelope is a stuff sack, rain hat, and free. Etc.

Get a gram scale off of eBay for $5. Weigh EVERYTHING.

Matt Allen
(zeroforhire) - MLife
welcome on 01/23/2014 11:35:47 MST Print View

spend a lot of time in the gear classifieds section of this site. That will save you a bunch of money and you will get to know a lot of really neat people.

Transitioning to UL backpacking can be tough, but I found that going to a more simple way of hiking made my trips much more enjoyable.

Welcome to BPL!

Andrew Zajac

Locale: South West
Re: New Here, and Returning Backpacker on 01/23/2014 20:58:00 MST Print View

Have you read these yet?

I haven't read them thoroughly, but they look like they give a pretty good overview and pros and cons of choices that are available to you. Other than that, my advice would be to just get out and backpack and find what works for you. I am glad that I pushed the envelope a little bit in weight when I was first starting to lighten my pack, and then reeled it in a little to find what works best for my personal preference when it comes to balance between comfort, weight, redundancy etc. Also, my personal experience is that cuben fiber sucks for everything but shelters. Good luck!

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
lighter gear for older hiker. on 01/26/2014 22:25:57 MST Print View

As you get gear, don't buy any of the big three (pack, tent, sleeping bag) if they weight more than 3 lbs, and preferably 2.5 pounds, and if you aspire to ultralight think 2 lbs each. My gear is more lightweight than ultralight, but its quite a bit lighter than what we used in the 60s when I started backpacking. Below is a link to a blog post about gear which I wrote for parents in our scout troop who were new to backpacking. what a great thing to do with your daughter! Best wishes.

Edited by rshaver on 01/26/2014 22:26:51 MST.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: lighter gear for older hiker. on 01/26/2014 22:30:48 MST Print View

Some of us older slackers keep those three under one pound each. But that is more a sign of sheer stubborn attitude.