The following pages are focused primarily on backpacking, but most of the observations are applicable to a variety of outdoor activities. I have written my recommendations on a variety of topics including:
- Sleep System
- Shelters (tents, tarps, hammocks)
- Kitchen Gear: Stoves, Cookwares, Water, Food Storage
- Other Items: Knives, Lights
The key to ultralight is to use your head… having enough experience to know how to deal with various situations, and to carefully think about what is needed (or more likely not needed).
I was the prototypical boy scout. I wanted to “be prepared” for any situation, so I carried everything including the kitchen sink, whether or not it was likely to be needed. Over time I have come to appreciate the ultralight backpacking and climbing styles popularized by Ray Jardine, Mark Twight, and the folks at BPL. While I don’t completely embrace all their ideas, my approach has been strongly influenced by them.
I spent a year trying super ultralight (SUL) approach. SUL is carrying less than 5lbs. I recorded my super-ultralight gear list. I don’t do this because I like more comfort. I also figure out that while I can push and do 30 or even 50 miles on a summer day, that my sweet spot is more like 15-25 miles/day. I have found that my light-weight approach captured in my 3-Season Gear list keeps me as safe and comfortable as my heavy-weight friends in camp, and is significantly more comfortable when I am moving.
If you haven’t figured it out yet… I am used to be a gear-a-holic. I was obsessed with figuring out what was the best gear. Pretty much every weekend I was doing at least a short trip to test a new items. It seemed like I was spending more time thinking about gear than using it.
After several years I decided to limited rein my spending, and to get more focused on using rather than buy gear. I started that transition but committing to a zero-cash spend. If I wanted something new, I had to sell items I already owned to cover the cost. Around 2011 I locked in the gear I am still using today except for items that had to be replaced because they wore out or were lost.
Lists and Reviews
Other information you might find useful include:
- Interesting Gear Lists
- Reviews by Mark
- history of Mark’s Goto Gear
- Informal History Of Backpacking Equipment in the 60-70s (the golden years)
- Backpacking for Cheap
- Outdoor Gear Retailers: sf bay area, select locations, web
- Favorite Cottage Manufacturers: Gossamer Gear / MLD / Tarptent / Zpacks
- Favorite Main Line Manufacturers: Arcteryx / Montbell / Patagonia /
- Massdrop ultralight and outdoors for good values sold for a limited time
- Edible Gear by EAT (Eastern Active Technologies) was a funny parody site. Try ordering something.. the error message is great
Other People’s Recommendations
I am not following outdoor gear as closely as I used to. As a result, some of my recommendations might become dated. There are several sites that I use when I am to see a list of current products that are likely to have category leading performance:
- Cleverhiker comes closest to my personal taste in equipment. While I don’t stack rank items exactly the same as they do, I never find myself saying “Why did they include XYZ in their listing?”
- Greenbelly Backpacking Guide has a recommended gear section (need to scroll down) which I find is very readable. I tend to agree with Cleverhiker in actual picks, but Greenbelly’s pages are often more complete.
- Adventure Alan does a good job covering ultralight equipment. I appreciated Alan’s articles in the early days of backpackinglight.com.
- Outdoor Gearlab covers a wide variety of gear types, but I never agree with their stack ranking. Sometimes items are in their list which I find myself saying “Really? You liked it?”. Most of the time items I think are the best appear in their lists.