After sampling multiple closed cell foam and air mattresses on trips ranging from single nights in the Appalachians to multi-day trips on snow, I can confidently say I’m not really sure why someone would use any other camping mattress besides the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite and Xtherm. On 90% of trips, one of those two mattresses will be my go to. But it’s not without its downsides, so I will look to highlight why I personally think the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite is the best mattress on the market but also some of its pitfalls.
Family and friends of adventurers, we understand shopping for us for the holidays is difficult. We get it that our alternative lifestyle of living out of cars and rucksacks makes us seem foreign to normal people. We don’t wear jewelry or fancy clothes; our gear is honed for very specific purposes; and what you know about us is based on hair-raising stories and Facebook pictures. So I want to help you on what to shop for that special family member who shows up with a ratty beard and uncombed hair for the holidays. I put together a gift list that may help guide your shopping. Continue reading Backpacker gift guide 2016→
I finally got around to putting together a video of me packing up my Salomon Skin Pro 10+3 running vest. Several people wanted to see exactly how all the stuff I needed for my attempt on the Appalachian Trail unsupported record last summer could fit into a 10L pack. I hope this provides some insight into the possibility of some crazy ultralight backpacking!
With temperatures dropping I put together a list of my absolute favorite winter backpacking gear that I’ve found over the years. Snowfall, high winds, and cold temperatures means gear has to be durable, warm, versatile, and of course as light as possible. The harsh conditions put tremendous strain on gear and the varying conditions often require very specific tools. I attempted to address several pieces of the various winter backpacking gear in this post. I’ve divided the list into super cold and mild cold (Heavy and Light) alternatives. These are relative definitions, but for a guy who took a 50 degree quilt down to sub-freezing temperatures, super cold would start at sub-zero Fahrenheit. Continue reading Winter backpacking: best gear→
I’m super stoked about some new pieces of ultralight backpacking gear I got in the last few days. At 2.19 ounces, the Asics Top Impact shorts were the biggest drop from my gear weight in months. They’re incredibly comfortable but with their minimalist design, tend to be a little revealing. So far they’re the lightest shorts I could find and weigh in at little more than a Snickers bar. I guess I’ll just have to get used to all the ladies checking out my sexy white thighs.Continue reading Final ultralight backpacking gear modifications→
With a solid training week coming to a close and preparations reaching a lull, I wanted to take a moment to review a piece of gear that is going to be invaluable to me on my upcoming Appalachian Trail self-supported record thru-hike attempt, my Enlightened Equipment 50 degree Enigma quilt.
To give some background, a quilt is similar to a sleeping bag, except sports a simpler, more efficient, and lighter design. While a sleeping bag wraps all the way around you, a quilt maximizes the insulation by only covering above you and letting the sleeping pad take care below. They usually come without a hood or with a detachable one. To most new backpackers they’re daunting for their simplicity in the same way that new hikers flock to tents over tarps. Unfortunately this kind of misunderstanding really halted the quilt’s progression as an innovative piece of backpacking gear. For years quilt companies simply didn’t have access to the top fabrics and were way behind the field in design. The fully enclosed counterparts were often lighter despite being fundamentally inefficient.
When I started checking out the market for new, lighter gear to replace my battered gear from my previous trips, I was elated to find Enlightened Equipment leading the way in lightweight sleep systems. Their 10 denier nylon fabric matched that of the outdoor gear giants and the option for 800+ fill down showed their dedication to using the highest quality materials for their quilts. I continued my search for competitors to make sure EE was truly the best and nothing came close. There was no getting around it, I needed an Enlightened Equipment quilt for my hike and to carry anything else would put me at a disadvantage from the gun. Continue reading Review: Enlightened Equipment Enigma quilt→
I may be delving into the realm of ridiculously lightweight but if that’s your thing, you may find some good ideas here. The original Buff® truly is multifunctional headwear. Previously on my trips I carried a bandanna as a pot holder, sweat wiper, rag, mud cleaner, napkin, and towel but a Buff acts equally well as replacement for all those uses. Additionally, while a stocking cap is certainly warmer than a Buff, it only serves one single function. The Buff, however, can be manipulated into a balaclava, can be used in warmer temperatures to keep sweat out of my eyes, and can protect the back of my neck and forehead on sunny hikes.
I’m usually a pretty serious advocate of buying brand name gear when your life depends on it. Recently, however, I’ve needed things that are so specific for what I am doing that they simply aren’t marketable. Last year, I made gear to allow me to safely paddle a kayak from Key West to The Tortugas which required a sail, cockpit cover, sea anchor, and outriggers among other things (click the links to see the designs). But recently, I’ve set my eye on a backpacking trip necessitating the lightest gear and have been seriously disappointed with the options currently on the market. I was very impressed with the light weight and affordability of my 7 ounce silnylon Integral Designs Siltarp 1 that I purchased last year. But I figured using a similar rectangle design with Cuben fiber instead of silnylon could drop that weight even further. I did some calculations and figured I could make a Cuben fiber tarp using ZPacks materials that weighed just 2 ounces. Continue reading DIY: Two ounce cuben fiber tarp→