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Technical Canyoneering for the Ultralight Backpacker
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Maia Jordan
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Technical Canyoneering for the Ultralight Backpacker on 07/01/2014 12:55:32 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Technical Canyoneering for the Ultralight Backpacker

Jason Webb
(nikeman240) - MLife
GREAT ARTICLE!! on 07/02/2014 11:00:42 MDT Print View

I am both an ultralight backpacker and technical canyoneer, and love finding ways to merge the two together. Thank you for this article! It was very well written, and gave me some new beta to research for future trips. Canyoneering is a great and enjoyable ways to get outside. You will see places that are unlike anywhere else on earth, and by adhering to correct safety precautions can be done with relatively low risk factor. I took our BSA troop down some canyons in moab and arches this last year. We went through some somewhat technical canyons (for their experience levels), and everyone made it out safely and felt highly rewarded. It was an experience they will never forget. Be safe, take your time, and enjoy the scenery!

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Canyoneering Packs on 07/02/2014 11:32:43 MDT Print View

HMG might make a pack out of Cordura for an extra fee. Won't hurt to ask. Also Chris Zimmer made me a very nice single stay pack that could have worked for canyoneering if made of heavier fabric.

Robert Burrell
(Buzz) - F
re: Technical Canyoneering ... on 07/02/2014 14:26:05 MDT Print View

Good job on a vast topic. A few thoughts:

1. Breaking a long day into two may sound easier, but it's not. Schlepping overnight gear on some the excellent routes you mention makes them way harder, and less safe. Narrows, Buckskin/Paria, etc are incredibly fun - but not if you twist your knee, fall and sprain your wrist, or get your sleeping bag wet. Heaps, Imlay, Kolob, become struggles if carrying camping gear. Mobility and nimbleness is key.

2. The gear you do carry however, cannot be ultralight. It will break. Jared Campbell and I tested the upcoming Fastpacks from Ultimate Direction in Zion NP this March, and I immediately changed the spec on the bottom panel to made it stronger. Sacrificing a little extra weight for durability is very wise.

3. By far the easiest ways to be an "Ultralight Backpacker" while canyoneering is to: 1) Don't backpack - do it in a day; 2) Don't bring much gear (because you don't need it and what you do bring has to be strong).

4. For example, for our Zironman route (across Zion NP off-trail) my clothing selection was: 1) White, long-sleeved, tech-T (white fabric is cooler than dark skin); 2) 2.5 oz wind shell; 3) Running shorts; 4) Floppy sun hat; 5) Fullbody 4mm wetsuit with hood, booties, gloves. Everything in between is a waste - no fleece, no down, no layers, forget all that - if you're in the sun you're too hot, if you're in the water you're too cold. There isn't much in-between to worry about. I also don't bother trying to keep anything dry.

Have fun, Buzz

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: re: Technical Canyoneering ... on 07/02/2014 15:11:34 MDT Print View

I don't disagree Buzz, but for the audience here a daypack for the Narrows and an overnight pack for the Narrows is a perhaps 5 pound difference. Probably a tertiary factor compared to a bit of training.

Good to hear about the UD Fastpack, I look forward to seeing it. All the comparable options are indeed too light.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: re: Technical Canyoneering ... on 07/04/2014 10:15:02 MDT Print View

Great article, Dave.

Carrying camping gear gets heavier and bulkier and is a choice in Zion, etc, but it's the only possibility for a lot of the Grand Canyon routes and probably some Escalante stuff. In these cases, I think it's helpful to look at tech gear as another tool for your route rather than the "main course" as you might in a canyoneering day trip. Choosing a route wisely (in the above trip we avoided canyons requiring >100ish' of rope, left out canyons that required wetsuits, etc) becomes key here as well.