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A Virtual Pack (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008)

The Backpacking Light Outdoor Retailer Team outfits an entire lightweight pack for a long winter weekend using only gear found at the show. Join us throughout the trip for updates as we add gear to our hyper-linked Outdoor Retailer Virtual Pack.

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by Mike Martin, Ryan Jordan, Don Wilson, Craig Mortensen, Alan Dixon, Ken Knight, Steve Nelson, Addie Morstad, Will Rietveld and Janet Reichl | 2008-02-02 23:59:00-07

A Virtual Pack (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008)

The Show

This year over 900 exhibitors are displaying their new products at Outdoor Retailer - from ACR Electronics to Zumfoot. The breadth of offerings here is staggering. Almost every kind of outdoor gear imaginable can be seen in clothing, electronics, skis and snowboards, camping equipment, etc.

The Backpacking Light Outdoor Retailer Team (BLORT!) is taking on the task of building a complete lightweight hiking kit, solely with gear found at the show. The challenge is to sort through the myriad of six-pound packs, eight-pound tents, forty-ounce jackets, and eight-pound ski boots to find gear that satisfies our passion for both light weight and functionality. We’re looking for the newest, lightest products, of course. But, we’re sure to include some long-time staff favorites, as well as some heavy pieces where we just couldn’t find better alternatives. After all, Outdoor Retailer favors larger manufacturers producing more mainstream products, so many of our preferred cottage industry lightweight gear makers are unfortunately not exhibiting here. Nevertheless, we are on a mission to build the ultimate lightweight Outdoor Retailer pack.

The Hike

Meet Bob P. Lightfoot, our virtual hiker. Bob is an experienced lightweight hiker who recently lost all his gear in an unfortunate encounter with an ill-tempered marmot. Coincidently, he is currently serving the remainder of a thirty-day sentence at the Gallatin County Jail on a "disturbing the wildlife" charge. As he is thus unable to gear shop personally, he desperately asked for our help to put a new kit together for his upcoming hike. As Bob is a long-time, though often misunderstood, friend of Backpacking Light, we could not refuse to re-equip him. He is planning a three-day/two-night winter mountain hike in the Beartooths over snow in temperatures ranging from 0°F to 25°F (-18°C to -4°C). He'll be hiking with two other people, and though he may share a shelter with his group, wants his kit to be as self-sufficient as possible. He is 5 ft 9 in tall, weighs 150 pounds, has a size 9 shoe, and wears size medium in most clothing.

The Plan

When we’re done loading the pack, Bob should be completely equipped for a long weekend of winter trekking in fine lightweight style - even down to a planned lightweight menu. Please join us throughout the show as we add new items to our hyper-linked Virtual Pack. The BLORT will also be checking the attached forum thread daily to try to incorporate your suggestions.

Jan 22 update by Mike Martin:

We spent today at Backcountry Base Camp demoing gear and ski touring. Stay tuned: we'll begin our search tomorrow for products to add to the pack at Outdoor Retailer.

Jan 23 update by Mike Martin:

We added a pack, sleeping pad, first aid kit, whistle, and hat to the virtual pack today. The hat is a brand new item from Outdoor Research, while the rest are favorites that have been available for a while. We've also taken some of Bob's idiosyncrasies into account when making our choices. In addition, we corrected a crucial omission from the gearlist categories - we never included any way to start fire! Bob would undoubtedly have been unhappy without it.

Jan 24 update by Mike Martin:

We found some good stuff for Bob today. We added some insulated shoes, warm pants for in-camp use, and a balaclava to complete his on-the-go headwear. Thank you to everyone who added their comments to the forum! It's been a long day at OR - I'm writing this update at 1:30am. So, good night. I'll check back in tomorrow.

Jan 25 update by Mike Martin:

Today we equipped Bob with with a new stove from Snowpeak, a torso base layer, a water purification system, some cool shades, a warm sleeping bag, an...umm...innovative personal hygiene device, and a complete menu. I'm hoping Bob's trust fund wasn't depleted defending his recent court case as the cost of his gear is becoming impressive.

Jan 26 update by Mike Martin:

While today was the last day of Outdoor Retailer, we'll continue to add to the pack as we catch up from our other show duties over the next few days. Today, we added both warm and shell parkas, trekking pants, eating utensils, stuff sacks, and avalanche equipment. We also added a new category: "shell mitts" on Will Reitveld's handware advice. Bob's full skin-out weight is up to almost 16 pounds, while his wallet is over $2600 lighter. Such is the nature of our task of limiting our choices to gear found at the show. Given latitude to choose items outside of Outdoor Retailer, we could certainly lighten Bob's pack further. But without discount shopping and some make-your-own-gear projects it's still expensive to build a complete lightweight kit from scratch. Purchasing (even virtually) all the gear at one time just highlights the sticker shock.

Jan 27 update by Mike Martin:

Today we gave Bob an extremely robust and powerful headlamp as he's a bit paranoid in the dark. We also added some tights for warmth under his shell pants and a long-time favorite winter water bladder. Finally, we found several other creative uses for natural materials as a windscreen and tent stakes.

Jan 28 update by Mike Martin:

We're almost, but not quite done with the Virtual Pack gear list. We completed the kitchen with a pot and fuel, finished off Bob's handwear system, added his first pair of socks, and gave him trekking poles and snowshoes. Stay tuned - we'll add the last few remaining items soon.

Final update by Mike Martin:

The Virtual Pack is complete! We were able to find items at Outdoor Retailer to fit every category on our gear list. Sometimes, we stretched a bit, such as our choices for hygiene and bear protection, but we did it. While some of our entries are on the whimsical side, we generally took this project seriously and selected the best equipment we could find at the show. We looked for synergy where possible (like using the sleeping pad for a pack frame), and tried to find multiple uses for items wherever we could. Nevertheless, there are some lessons to be learned from this project:

  • The final cost of the pack is staggering at over $4400. This is due to the fact that Bob started with absolutely nothing - not even the clothes on his back. Also, we used retail pricing for every item and tried to equip Bob with the best gear we could find, regardless of price. In the real world, costs could be reduced by buying items at "street price", purchasing used gear, using existing gear in your closet, making some make-your-own-gear projects, etc.
  • The final full-skin-out weight of the Virtual Pack is just over 32 pounds. This includes all Bob's clothes and carried items, all the gear in his pack, and even his food and water. This is a very respectable weight for a winter hike, especially if you consider that the base pack weight is only 16 pounds. Yes, we could have gone lighter by using gear that was not available at the show, but that would have defeated the purpose of this project. Also consider that Bob is the mule for his group as we've added the full weight (and cost) of shared group gear like kitchen and shelter to his pack. His base and full-skin-out weights would each be over two pounds lighter if we distributed this gear equally among his group.
  • Our personal packs evolve and are fine tuned over many hikes. None of the gear in Bob's pack has been tested. So there are sure to be items that don't work together as well as some small things that we didn't get into the pack. I'd advise Bob to take this kit on a test hike in safe conditions to sort out the gear before heading out to a remote area.
  • We didn't consider availability when choosing gear. Some of the items shown by vendors won't be available until next fall. So, Bob may have to wait until next winter for his hike.

The Gear

Here is the gearlist we've prepared for Bob. Be sure to click through the links in the "selection" column to view information on each item.

Gear List
Clothing Worn While HikingWEIGHTMSRP
shoes or bootsKeen Growler39.21,111$125
socks, 1st pairLorpen Primaloft Light Hiker Sock257$20
socks, 2nd pairLorpen Primaloft Light Hiker Sock257$20
hiking torso base layerTerramar Terramawool Crew Shirt4.5128$65
hiking torso insulation layerPatagonia R1 Hoody10.9309$130
hiking leg base layerGolite Speed Demon 3/4 Tights6170$70
trekking pantsRab Bergen Pants12340$175
shell jacketWescomb Specter LT Hooded Jacket11.2318$299
gaitersOutdoor Research Cascadia Gaiter6.9196$50
warm hatOutdoor Research Highpoint Cap2.365$35
warm gloves/mittensManzella Tahoe Glove257$15
Other Items Worn or CarriedWEIGHTMSRP
bear sprayLight My Fire SL3
trekking polesKomperdell Nature Sticks10.6301$160
snowshoesCrescent Moon Magnesium 9561,588$260
avalanche beaconPieps DSP Avalanche Beacon7198$450
Other ClothingWEIGHTMSRP
camp torso insulation layerGolite Inferno Jacket25709$275
camp leg insulation layerMontbell UL Down Inner Pants6.7190$130
shell mittsOutdoor Research Endeavor Mitt3.9111$69
liner gloveIbex Wool Liner Glove1.440$25
thin balaclavaOutdoor Research Ninjaclava1.851$24
Shelter and Sleep SystemWEIGHTMSRP
sleeping bag or quiltMontbell Ultralight Superstretch Down Hugger #1361,021$370
sleeping padTherm-a-Rest Ridge Rest Deluxe19539$30
tent/tarp/bivyNemo Nano561,588$299
stakesImprovised Tent Stakes00$0
backpackGolite Pinnacle25709$130
dry bag for insulated gear65L Sea to Summit eVac™ Drysack5.2147$40
stuff sacksOutdoor Research Helium Quick Sack #2128$11
Cooking and WaterWEIGHTMSRP
stoveSnowpeak Gigapower LI Backpacking10.4295$160
potPrimus EtaExpress Pot 1L10.5298$45
fuel containerPrimus PowerGas 450g Canister7.7218$8
water bottleNalgene 1.5 Liter Flexible Canteen2.365$9
water treatmentSteripen Journey5142$129
eating utensilGSI Outdoors Rehydrate Spoon0.411$2
food storage10L Sea to Summit Trash Dry Sack3.599$30
Other EssentialsWEIGHTMSRP
mapGarmin Mapsource Topo 200800$117
compass/GPSGarmin eTrex Vista HCx6170$321
LED flashlightPetzl MYO XP Headlamp5.9167$70
shovelCAMP AT Fix Shovel15.9451$28
avalanche probeCAMP CarbonLight Avalanche Probe4.4125$70
whistleAdventure Medical Kits Rescue Howler0.514$10
first aid kitAdventure Medical Kits Ultralight .33.599$11
sunglassesNuma Sport Optics Lo-Pro0.823$80
firestarterLight My Fire SL32.777$38
personal hygiene itemsSnowballs00$0
knifeLight My Fire SL3
fuelEstimated Fuel Consumed, Including Snow Melting15.9450$0
waterAverage Weight In Water Bottle26750$0
day 1 menu (lunch, dinner)Day 1 Menu11.1315$14
day 2 menu (breakfast, lunch, dinner)Day 2 Menu22.2629$25
day 3 menu (breakfast, lunch)Day 3 Menu8.6244$3
Cost and Weight Summary
Cost and Weight Summary PoundsKilogramsDollars
(1) Total Worn or Carried While Hiking10.794.90$1,874
(2) Total Base Weight/Cost in Pack16.287.40$2,530
(3) Total Weight/Cost of Consumables5.272.39$42
(4) Full Skin-Out Base Weight/Cost (1) + (2)27.0712.30$4,404
(5) Total Initial Pack Weight/Cost (2) + (3)21.559.79$2,573
(6) Full Skin-Out Weight/Cost (1) + (2) + (3)32.3314.70$4,446


"A Virtual Pack (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008)," by Mike Martin, Ryan Jordan, Don Wilson, Craig Mortensen, Alan Dixon, Ken Knight, Steve Nelson, Addie Morstad, Will Rietveld and Janet Reichl. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2008-02-02 23:59:00-07.


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A Virtual Pack (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008)
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Richard Sullivan
(richard.s) - MLife

Locale: Supernatural BC
Marmot Helium vs. Montbell #1 on 01/28/2008 15:23:59 MST Print View

Wouldn't the Marmot Helium be a better choice at 7 oz less? Or the Helium EQ and save the weight of a bivy sack?

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Marmot Helium vs. Montbell #1 on 01/28/2008 18:25:16 MST Print View

Hi Richard-

The Marmot Helium or Helium EQ certainly would have made a fine choice for Bob's trip. As we plan for Bob to have a 4-season tent, the EQ version shouldn't be needed. As for the standard helium, Marmot apparently didn't have one on display at their booth for photos, so it didn't fit our only-gear-found-at-OR criteria.



Jeffrey Dunning
(boredomhero) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Cost revisited on 01/28/2008 21:00:30 MST Print View

OK, I'll bite. Even though I'm a summer camper I can manage to use my existing clothing and go for a winter camp trip with Bob. New sleeping bag, Pack, Probe,(I'll borrow a PIEPS from a friend!), plus that cool hat. The cost should be under $750..lets go!

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
(Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) OR Cascadia Gaiter on 01/29/2008 10:59:18 MST Print View

My wife and I have these and am very happy with them. They offer a lot of performance for their weight in full-on winter conditions with an abundance of snow!

bill keiser
(sharpstick) - F
Whiz Freedom = Whiz Easy on 02/01/2008 06:10:03 MST Print View

It looks like it is available now. They say they will ship from the UK, but it is pricy.
available from canada: $20 + $5

I'm going to show this to my wife. She's tried some similar products, but had a backup problem because of the small spout.

Bill Keiser

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Virtual Pack Complete on 02/03/2008 05:24:55 MST Print View

Hi All-

I just wanted to send out a quick note to let everyone know that the Virtual Pack is now complete.

Thank you for all of your comments and suggestions as we built Bob's kit.