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Wmn's UL gear recommendations
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W 2

Locale: Foothills of Sierra Nevadas
Wmn's UL gear recommendations on 05/01/2014 00:27:45 MDT Print View

Hey gang ...

Just moved to the Sierra Nevadas of California from the east coast. I'm used to backpacking in the southern Appalachians of NC, SC, TN, and GA with a 40 lb + pack. Sometimes heavier if I was guiding a group. All of my gear is about 15 years old and looking to replace all of it for 3-season backpacking UL in the Sierras.

I am 5'2", 130 lb female. I would love to get to 30 lbs or less pack weight. No sure what base wt vs skin wt exactly means. I am new to the UL world. I just want to enjoy exploring the Sierra's without carrying a heavy pack.

Preferences: I tend to get cold while sleeping and am a side sleeper. I like star-gazing in my tent while being protected from mosquitos, insects, etc...

I've tried perusing all the various lists here on the forum but its all a bit overwhelming.

I was considering the following:

1) Mountain Hardware 32 deg Phantasia ... 21 oz. or Western Mountaineering 32 deg Summerlite .... 18 oz
Are there better sleeping bags?

Sleep pad: Thermarest wmn's Neoair xlite (12 oz)

2) Big Agnes Seedhouse UL1 (34 oz) vs Fly Creek UL1 (27oz) or is there a better shelter based on my desire to star-gaze on clear mild nights? The Fly Creek Platinum UL1 is a bit out of my price range but if it goes on sale or I can find a site with a discounted price, I just may spring for it.

3) Cook kit/Stove ... I love to cook in the backcountry and often make one-pot "gourmet" meals. I am used to cooking for a group but now I expect will be cooking solo. I was looking at the Snow Peak Litemax Titamium Stove (1.9 oz) w/ gas can (3.9 oz).

4) Backpack ... My old one is BIG and HEAVY! I was considering the Granite Gear Blaze but its still 2 lbs 14 oz.

5) I also plan on purchasing the Tenkara fly fishing kit as well.

What do you think about the choices listed? Any recommendations for better alternatives?

Also, I am told that I am required to carry a bear-proof canister/bag of some sort. Recommendations?

Thanks so much! I am excited to explore the Sierras!
aka "mudfish"

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Wmn's UL gear recommendations on 05/01/2014 01:00:04 MDT Print View

"No sure what base wt vs skin wt exactly means."

First of all, one category is your base weight. That includes shelter, cook gear, sleeping bag, carried clothing, and all manner of gear, including the backpack that you carry it in. A second category is your consumables. That includes food, water to start with, fuel, and maybe other tiny things that get used up during a trip. The base weight generally does not include the normal clothing that you wear, boots, etc. However, a few extreme folks jump through some hoops and try to minimize that worn clothing as well, so they go with super skimpy clothing and shoes. So, "from skin out" is meaningful to a few people.

"Also, I am told that I am required to carry a bear-proof canister/bag of some sort."

Yes and no. There are a number of places where a bear-resistant canister is required. There are many places where a bear-resistant canister is highly recommended. There are a few places where they are lightly recommended. There are a few places where there aren't any bears at all, but there are other critters that could get into your food bag, so it isn't completely stupid to use one. Every park, forest, or other backpacking jurisdiction will tell you what their rules are, so you can equip yourself before you leave home. Some places require you to have a wilderness permit. Some places require you to have only a campfire permit. Again, each place has its own rules. Some parks will rent you a heavy bear canister.

There are several brands and models of bear canisters, but you kind of need to decide what size. They start around 275 cubic inches, which might hold almost three person-days worth of food, up to 900 cubic inches, which might hold 9-10 person-days worth of food, but that depends on how dense your food is. The heavier models are cheaper to buy. The very lightest models are expensive. If I had to guess, I would guess that the first bear canister purchase is around 500 cubic inches, and probably the BearVault 500. I only guess that since it is not the most expensive, and it is not the lightest, nor does it have the biggest volume. I think it might be typical. Note that if your backpack has a small top opening, a large bear canister might not fit, so you need to measure the situation. Many bear canisters are cylindrical, they have a diameter of 8 or 9 inches, and they have different lengths. What you would like to avoid is to keep buying new/different bear canisters to meet the requirements for different length trips.

Good luck.


Edited by --B.G.-- on 05/01/2014 01:01:51 MDT.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Wmn's UL gear recommendations on 05/01/2014 03:52:17 MDT Print View

Looking at these articles and videos might help you , they are not specific to women but are still very valuable for helping in your process to lose more weight from your pack :
Mike Clelland(NOLs instructor and author),he has some great free videos on lightening up be sure to watch(his clothing system,the entire contents of his pack,water treatment and part 1 and 2 on the dinky stuff for ideas),this is an article he wrote The fastest way to backpack weight loss ,this is pmags Lightweight Backpacking 101 and The Frugal Backpacker – The $300 Gear Challenge .These are some other articles and videos for you to check out

Backpacking for Cheap: Gear for the Gearless

Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day

Lightweight Backpacking 101: An Introductory Manual for Lightening Your Load Today (1st Edition - August 2001)

Cheap Ultralight Gear List

Ultimate Hiking Gear & Skills Clinic

Oregon Field Guide: Ultralight Hiking

Lightweight Testimony: Lighter, Farther, Faster
Jamie Shortt talks about his progression and shows his gear list for each stage, Lightweight Testimony: My Journey into Lightweight Backpacking

Karen Kennedy
(karenk) - MLife

Locale: NE NSW - Australian subtropics
W UL options on 05/01/2014 05:26:23 MDT Print View

Good luck with your quest!

Check out either the Notch or Moment DW from Tarptent - both light, well designed, easy to put up, well ventilated with dual side entries allowing great views depending on weather - and very reasonably priced. Often available second hand on Gear Swap.

Sleeping - consider a quilt - greater loft for a given weight. WM Summerlite might not be warm enough for a cold sleeper - my GF found it cool in overnight temps of around 5*C (sorry my ability to intuitively convert to *F is long gone), and also too narrow in cut which meant loft was compressed in her hip area. Our trip this winter will be with quilts - fairly similar weight to the Summerlite but much thicker!

Backpack - many to choose from. GoLite Jam 50 or 70 are comfy and modestly priced. Cottage manufacturers like Hyperlight Mountain Gear or ZPacks make robust lightweight packs.

If you sleep cold, consider an Xtherm rather than an Xlite, or an Exped UL Downmat - luxuriously comfy!

Again, good luck!


Andrew Urlacher
(anarkhos) - M

Locale: Colorado, Wyoming
ULA women's backpacks on 05/01/2014 06:45:02 MDT Print View

ULA makes great backpacks, IMO they are ideal for people transitioning from traditional packs to lightweight packs because of their suspension and hipbelt system. Very comfy and structured without being super heavy. They even have an S-shaped shoulder strap option specifically for women instead of the traditional J-shape. The Circuit would be an excellent option for you until you get your weight down, at 39 ounces including all removable parts I'd say it's a perfect all-purpose pack. You could get that down to 33 ounces easily with trimming.

EDIT: The REI Flash series of packs are probably the best value bag around, definitely look at those if cost is an issue. Flash 45 can be had for well under $100.

Edited by anarkhos on 05/01/2014 06:48:19 MDT.

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
Sleeping Bags on 05/01/2014 11:24:02 MDT Print View

I agree with Karen that your sleeping bag choices will likely be too cold for you -- plus (as she mentioned) the WM Summerlite is a VERY narrow bag - not very comfy for side sleepers. The MH Phantom will be even colder than the Summerlite, as MH's temperature ratings are more "optimistic" than WM's.

This summer I'll be taking a 5'6" WM Megalite (a 30F bag that I've had overfilled by WM with 2oz more down) to the Sierras. I know that I'll have to wear my down jacket on the coldest/highest campsite nights, but I'm such a cold sleeper that I think it will be the "coldest" bag I can get away with.

For me, quilts are too drafty unless the nighttime lows are in the 40sF, but I'm a restless "rotisserie" sleeper - a perfect storm for draft-generation!

W 2

Locale: Foothills of Sierra Nevadas
Thanks for recommendations on 05/01/2014 20:02:22 MDT Print View

Thanks for your comments/recommendations. I appreciate them immensely. I will definitely check out all of your recommendations and make decisions accordingly.


W 2

Locale: Foothills of Sierra Nevadas
Re: Sleeping Bags on 05/01/2014 20:33:59 MDT Print View


How did you get the 5'6" WM Megalite? Was it a special order?


Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Wmn's UL gear recommendations on 05/06/2014 10:05:57 MDT Print View

I'm about your size. My primary gear pieces for 3-season use are:

Sleeping bag - Western Mountaineering Ultralite, 20deg bag in the 5'6" size has 15oz of fill, weighs 27.2oz. It's a narrower bag but I found that the fit keeps me really warm. I also have a 30deg Feathered Friends Grouse but I've been sleeping colder lately, so moved to the Ultralite.

Pad - I have the original Neoair, 'medium' length, weighs 13oz, BUT I personally prefer my women's ProLite Plus, which weighs a whopping 21oz. For the best warmth+weight combination, I'd consider the 'medium' XTherm at 14oz. Expensive, yes, but you only need the one for all temps.

Tent - I use several but if I had to choose one all-around solo tent, I'd take my Lightheart Solo. Big enough for me and all my gear, easy to setup, easy to vent, comfortable in rainy conditions. 27.8oz. IF I didn't use trekking poles or really wanted something free-standing (or close to it, anyway), I'd seriously consider the new REI Quarter Dome 1. I saw it setup at REI and the weight/room/price combo is hard to beat, imo.

Pack - I love my ULA Circuit. My total pack weight is usually in the 20-25lb range, mostly 3-5 day hikes. I've had 30-32lb in there to start for longer hikes or carrying water caches. My 'small' Circuit with the 'medium' hipbelt is 34oz without most of the removable extras.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: Wmn's UL gear recommendations on 05/06/2014 11:11:06 MDT Print View

I'm 5'7" and I'm about 145 pounds.
I also like to gaze at the stars, but be protected from bugs and creepy crawlies.
I am also what is known as an athletic rotisserie sleeper - I do not sleep on my back but go from side to side to stomach to side to stomach to side to side...etc.
I started with a 50# pack and now my base weight is 8-9#s and my total pack weight for my JMT trip is less than 25.

Here's my UL stuff:
I have transitioned to a quilt (made by the esteemed Tim Marshall from Enlightened Equipment). My 3-season bag is a 20 degree (I sleep cold) and it works really well. Love the quilt concept and I can't imagine going back to a bag.

I use the Exped synmat UL 7 short (it's 60" pretty much perfect for me, especially curled up on my side or lying on my stomach) when it's warm out, the Exped Downmat UL7 short when it's cold.

I now carry a custom built Zimmerbuilt, but love all the offerings from Gossamer Gear and ULA. I'd branch out and look at other packs...AFTER you get your weight down.

I have several shelters (because this is my new thing. Just can't seem to get it right!) but the suggestion of a notch from Tarptent is SPOT ON. You can pitch it with just the fly (which is awesome in the summer!), both doors can be open for great views and cross breeze...or you can close it up tight in a storm or in the cold. I can't do front-loading tents anymore.

Also I highly recommend Link's links re learning about UL before actually spending the cash. Most of us have literally spent thousands in pursuit of good gear...but had I done a bit more research before I plunked down the money I'd have been better off I think.

Anyway - good luck, and enjoy the ride!

UL is a process...not a destination.

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
WM Megalite 5'6" on 05/06/2014 12:20:26 MDT Print View

Hi Wendy,

The Megalite is manufactured by WM in three lengths (5'6", 6', and 6'6"), so it was "off the rack" -- and, to be honest, I was lucky enough to score a used one on GearSwap! Lucky, lucky me!

Megan P
(meganpetruccelli) - F

Locale: San Francisco
PLUS 1 on 05/23/2014 01:07:10 MDT Print View

I second the Exped SynMat UL7. I LOVE it. It' s the most comfortable pad Ive ever had and it's 15oz. I have a Small, which would be fine for you. I'm 5'6". Plus plenty warm for the Sierra with a quilt in a tent. Howver I will say it can get COLD up there so I would recommend either investing in over stuffing or a 20 degree bag so your safe. Especially if you're a cold sleeper.

I bring my 15 degree bag up more often then my 30 degree quilt, but my goal this summer is to rellly push that quilt and see how low the temp can get and still be comfy in it.

Alejandro P
Ideas on 06/03/2014 00:29:41 MDT Print View

My wife is a coooold sleeper so I picked up a 20 deg enlightened equipment quilt with 20% over stuffed. She's never been cold since and we've been down in the mid 20's. She's also a side sleeper who turns. Finally a bag that keeps her warm.

My first UL tent was a tarptent squall and I loved it. Still have it and will probably never sell it. Recently did a few days on the PCT with my mother in law who swears by her 4lb single person self standing tent. I made her use the tarptent and even she was in love with it after the trip. I'm sure she will be asking me to find her a squall or notch very soon.

Converting my wife to UL backpacking wasn't as difficult as I thought once she tried an older Gossamer Gear Mariposa. But it really depends on your body type so it may take some trial and error. Currently she's using a ULA pack and loves it.

Kerry Wilson

Locale: North of Eugene, South of Portland
tents/shelters on 06/20/2014 14:22:54 MDT Print View

I just purchased a solong 6 custom from lightheart gear..very well made and light.
I needed something bigger as I hate being confined especially if the weather goes sideways and I have to spend some time "tucked in", plus I am 6'1" and 275# so the solong was the right choice for me, however for single person shelters, lightheart has some very cool designs that are trekking pole compatible to cut the weight and I can attest to the build quality, but my road test doesn't come until late August.....

Troy Ammons
(tammons) - F - MLife
Wmn's UL gear recommendations on 07/18/2014 17:05:09 MDT Print View

A good rule of thumb is 6+6 although thats not considered SUL but will put you into the 25# range fully loaded.

6# big 4, plus 6# for everything else = 12# base weight. Add 2L of h20 and food for 4-5 days (depending on how much you eat) and you are at about 25# total start trip load.

A 11-12# base weight is pretty easy to hit without dropping a load of coin.

If you want to go lower then you get into more exotic materials like cuben, Quilts, double use gear etc.

You can hit a 6# base with a contrail 1 person Tent, WM ultralight 20dF down bag, xtherm pad and a 20-24 oz pack. FYI You can strip down a used Jam II 50L backpack to about 19 oz pretty easy and just buy your gear to fit. Dont want to go over 25# with a Jam II. Jam II is not the current Jam pack. Its the earlier lighter one. YOu can find them around for about $50-$75.

Cloths get heavy so minimal and what you do carry = SUL with SUL cookware etc.
You can do a bag cook kit in about 4 oz total. If you like to really cook then a lot heavier.

BEar Canister will add more.

Edited by tammons on 07/18/2014 17:19:56 MDT.

Kimberley De Wolff
(kwolff) - M

Locale: SoCal and sometimes Canada
Re: Wmn's UL gear recommendation on 07/26/2014 15:05:01 MDT Print View

I'm in a similar situation, 5'5" 120 pounds, and trying to lighten up my older gear (while taking on a bear vault). I second/third/whatever the TT Notch - lots of space for smaller people, and super flexible in terms of setting up as bug net or just the tarp. I also absolutely LOVE my new ULA Circuit. The small torso/S-straps are a perfect fit for my tiny shoulders, and the weight transfer is amazing. Given my build,I am pretty sure I will want to keep carrying weight on my hips, even as my gear gets lighter. If I had more to spend, I would get a z-packs sleeping bag (medium), and a neoair Xlite short.