When saving ounces, this is the lightest multi-tool kit to carry. It’s got your knife, pliers, wire cutter, scissors, file, and two screwdrivers in only 2 ounces (57 g). Some folks use it as a keychain fob; I primarily carry it while backpacking and biking. The current best model is PS4.
This is a fantastic featherweight self-supporting one-person tent. It is among the lightest tents you can buy. Together with its fly and tent stakes (but minus its compression stuff sack), the Obi Elite 1P weighs only 2 pounds (0.91kg)! Having an ultra-lightweight tent makes a huge difference when you’re on a long hike or bike trip. There are lighter tents that re-use hiking poles for support, or don’t have an outer fly cover, but none that are self-supporting and double-walled like this one. (A double wall really minimizes moisture buildup.) The Obi gives me enough room to sit up inside, so I can change clothes and store some gear and be covered by a fly and withstand a good rain and wind.
I used this everyday for a month on a recent trip. I would giggle each time I set it up because it practically assembled itself. I could set up the tent and fly in less than 3 minutes, and pack it up even faster. The technology of all the best lightweight tents is primarily made by one Korean company which manufactures the precision poles, elastic, hubs, and very clever fasteners called Jake’s Feet which make it so easy to erect and strike. A great tent these days is a precision collapsable machine. Nemo has arranged these parts into a super design. Every detail is well-thought out, from the placement of zippers, interior pockets, color coding of poles. I can not think of much to improve. For instance it has a large side entrance making entry and exit a breeze, whereas many other lightweight solo tents have an narrow end entrance.
The Nemo Obi Elite 1P is expensive; you can get great one-person tents only a few pounds heavier for hundreds of dollars cheaper, such as the previously reviewed Sierra Designs tent. But over decades of hiking I have discovered a direct inverse correlation between the amount weight I carry and my happiness. And like the best tools, it gives me pleasure each time I use it, and with care will last a long time.
Nemo makes a regular, non-Elite 1P version with slightly heavier hi-tech fabric (total weight 2.7 pounds) and a slightly better pole arrangement that is $50 cheaper. I have used this one with satisfaction. In fact, if you can spare the few extra ounces, the Obi 1P is for sale at substantial discount from Amazon, and is the one I would recommend.
The MEC Duffle Bag is simple, inexpensive, light-weight and very well made.
Compared to suitcases and rolling duffels, these bags are light-weight, and useful for flying if you need to transport a lot of “stuff” (particularly if the stuff is only accompanying you in one direction). The bags collapse, and can be stuffed away when not needed for storage or transport.
I have used the extra large model for a variety of journeys over a couple of years. There are handles on top and at the ends for easy grabbing, and a removable shoulder strap is included. The carrying handles are serviceable as backpack straps, if needed. The zippers are solid (YKK), and haven’t caused me any problems. Heavy duty nylon and webbing is used for the sides and the straps, and though not waterproof, the materials are highly resistant to tears and pulls… and washable.
In Vancouver, Mountain Equipment Co-op is legendary for high quality, inexpensive outdoor and active gear (see Turtle Light, previous Cool Tool) and they have started expanding across Canada.
[Note: If there is an American equivalent for this product let us know and we'll update the post. --OH]
Insanely light trekking pole. The lightness (less than 4 oz) means you can twitch it really fast to catch yourself because the pole doesn’t have a lot of inertia to overcome. It means your arm and hand tire far less in a day of swing-and-place. It means when you lash it to your pack, it adds little to your burden.
This pole has proved its durability for me on a range of hikes from casual to intense, in a variety of terrains. Adjusting the length with an untwist and retwist to lock is easy and reliable. Since they’re usually sold by the pair, you have a spare in reserve. (Trekking with two poles feels like skiing without snow for me; awkward and hand-encumbering. I like to be a three-legged creature in the bush, always able to brace for stability, striding like a pilgrim with staff.)
Since the 1980’s I have used many small camp stoves, but none compares to the Svea 123. This stove is famous for working well at high altitudes. It is light, reliable, simple, and will boil water fast. It does lack a simmer setting, even on its lowest setting. And it can be a bit much for some things, but when camping or backpacking a long simmer is rarely desired.
This uses standard white gas (Coleman Fuel) and can be refilled from partially full, giving it a great advantage over disposable cartridge pressurized gas models. It is fully self-contained which is a nice advantage over other stoves such as the Whisperlite, but at the expense of fuel capacity.
It has been made, nearly unchanged, since 1955. This is a testament to its reliability and usefulness. If I had to choose only one outdoor stove to use ever, this would be the one.
[For more information Optimus has a PDF fact sheet for the Svea stove. And, lastly, there is an excellent thread I highly recommend folks read explaining why the Svea stove is different (read: really reliable) over at Amazon.--OH]
My mountain rescue friends say this is the bible of avalanche survival knowledge. Now in its second updated edition, it is a readable, immensely informative dissection of how avalanches happen, and how to avoid them — and what should be done when they aren’t avoided. Neither overly technical, nor dumbed down, the book is near perfect in pitch, telling you important stuff in vivid and interesting ways. It’s generally recognized as the best source on the subject of moving snow. I read almost the entire book even though I am not often in avalanche terrain, just because the information is so clear, insightful, and brilliant in the details. More outdoors fans are winding up in avalanche territory; These insights could save your life.
A generalized graph of European avalanche victims who were completely buried and in total contact with the snow (no people in vehicles or houses). After 15 minutes the percent recovered alive drops precipitously. Half of victims are dead within 25 minutes. The graph does not include victims killed by trauma, which account for about a quarter of avalanche deaths in the U.S. and about half of avalanche deaths in Canada.
People are getting slaughtered by avalanches. I don’t think slaughter is too strong a word considering that between 1990 and 2007, 423 people have dies in avalanches in the United States, averaging 25 per year and 15 per season in Canada, and the trend is on a steep upward slope that shows no signs of abating.
Almost all avalanche fatalities involve recreationists, most notably snowmobilers, back-country skiers, snowboarders, and climbers, in that order. Almost all are very skilled in their sport, male, fit, educated, intelligent, middle class, and between the ages of 18 and 40. Does this sound anything like you?
There is hope. In 93 percent of avalanche accidents, the avalanche is triggered by the victim or someone in the victim’s party. Which is good, because as the Pogo cartoon says, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
The good news is that we have two important things going for us: first, we have a choice, and second, we already know the enemy. The bad news is that the enemy is us, and that is the hardest enemy of all to conquer.
Snow Is Like Silly Putty
Go to nearly any lecture on avalanches and chances are good that you will see the instructor pull out their trusty Silly Putty. (I’ve also seen people use a mixture of cornstarch and water.) This is the only way I know how to demonstrate the visco-elastic nature of snow. Silly Putty, like snow, exhibits both a viscous and elastic nature. If you roll it in a ball, you can bounce it (elastic energy). But snow (and Silly Putty) also flow viscously; like the proverbial molasses in January.
The most interesting part of the snow-Silly Putty metaphor is that when deformed slowly, it flows like taffy, but when deformed rapidly, it fractures like glass. The take-home point is: Snow is very sensitive to the rate at which it is deformed. This is probably the most important property to remember about snow, and it’s the cause of most avalanche fatalities. In other words, snow, just like people, does not like rapid change.
Snow behaves viscously when it moves slowly as demonstrated by this roof glide. When strained to its breaking point, it behaves elastically and fractures.
Cracking snow is an obvious buzz from the avalanche rattlesnake. Don’t take another step! Here, a 40-foot crack shoots out from my wife’s skis. She was able to crack the fresh wind slab by safely standing on the flat of a ridge and watch the crack propagate below her. Luckily, the slope below is barely 30 degrees and is a good, small, test slope. (Wasatch Range, Utah)
Unless you practice regularly with your beacon, you probably won’t be able to find your partners in time to save their lives.
Some weekend sports outings – climbing, skiing, camping, shooting, etc. often require many, many trips back and forth to the car to load and unload all of the things necessary for the weekend. I counted once and found that I made 8 round trips to the car for all of my backcountry ski gear to bring it back into the house at the end of a weekend.
The Big Foot Bag allows me to move everything in one single herculean trip. The “big” in “Big Foot Bag” is not an understatement. I have the *smallest* bag made by this company at 114L and 1.5m long. The *largest* bag they make is 1050L and 3 meters long. (It should probably come with a trailer hitch and wheels.)The innovative part of the design is that it lays out completely flat when unzipped, allowing you to pile everything in the center, fold it over like a taco, sit on it, and zip it up quickly. The 600 denier Cordura is coated on the inside and there is a storm flap, allowing it to function as a water resistant rooftop carrier if desired.
Yes, it’s only got a 6 month warranty, but I think this is more reflective of how hard people use them (the website illustrates them carrying mulch, firewood, and rocks) rather than their construction quality. We’ve had ours for four years and it still looks like new. Sure, there are big cargo bags of more durable construction out there (YKK zippers and 1000D Cordura would be improvements), but none of them approach the sheer size and ease of use of the Bigfoot.
By means of insightful hand-drawn diagrams, Eric Sloane gives the best explanation I’ve ever seen of how weather works. Originally created to help sailors 50 years ago, it works for pilots, outdoor explorers, and anyone else dependent on a change of weather.
My first backpacking trip was a hike to a trail shelter in Shenandoah National Park in the early seventies. My brother and I carried frame-less canvas backpacks with webbing shoulder straps that my dad padded with upholstery foam. I don’t recall the sleeping bags or much else about the gear we used because my brother and I were much more interested in the creek near the shelter.
Dad poured over Colin Fletcher’s new book, The Complete Walker, and so did I. We studied his techniques and emulated them. We wrote away for catalogs and made a few pilgrimages to Vienna Virginia from our home in Fall’s Church to a backpacking and camping gear shop (what was the name of that place?) to buy what we could afford and that wasn’t much.
Forty years later we are inundated with a torrential stream of gear and advice making the “right” choice nearly impossible. Colin Fletcher’s simple gospel has fractured into dogmatic schisms, each with their holy book, magazine or website. Now there are backpackers, lightweight backpackers, ultralight backpackers and many flavors in between. I’ve read many backpacking books, tons of articles and blog posts and have grown tired of their often circular logic, rehashed advice and wondered if advertising dollars skewed their opinions.
Andrew Skurka’s new book, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, will change the way we sling a pack on our backs and hoof it into the wild just as Fletcher’s Complete Walker once did. Fletcher’s first books recorded his monumental treks (The Thousand Mile Summer and The Man Who Walked Through Time) and these expeditions resulted in The Complete Walker. Skurka’s stunning 30,000 miles of trekking over the past decade have resulted in The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide. His writing is as focused, practical and essential as his twenty pound pack – there’s nothing in it you don’t need.
My most successful backpacking trips have been those for which I had honest, accurate, and correct answers to three critical questions: 1. What are my objectives? 2. What are the environmental and route conditions that I will likely encounter during my trip, such as temperatures, precipitation, and water availability? and 3. What gear, supplies, and skills will best help me achieve my objectives and keep me safe and comfortable in those conditions?
Skurka’s writing may lack Fletcher’s prosaic warmth but is at least as effective. It’s a great counterpoint to a lot of outdoor how-to books that, in their attempt at warmth, become cloying and unfocused.
The first section of the book asks and answers the questions that many don’t think to ask until they are out on the trail with too much and/or too little gear, blistered feet, and soaking wet with no hope of getting dry; why am I doing this? Skurka uses his first real backpacking experience (a through hike of the Appalachian trail!) to explain what you are getting yourself into. He offers direction and advice that, if heeded, will save readers a great deal of discomfort.
An extensive analysis of the construction, function and use of gear follows. Skurka explains why and how things ought to work in a way that makes choosing gear relatively painless. While he does mention specific models and manufacturers, he goes well beyond the model number. The final section of the book offers gear lists for several different environments.
If you don’t think this sounds like anything new in one way you are right; there isn’t much new information in the guide because you don’t really need new information. When The Complete Walker was published forty plus years ago there were only a handful of books on the subject; now the amount of information out there can bring your trip planning and gear research to a standstill of indecision.
In this age of limitless information I value expert advice and observation presented between the covers a book. Those covers ward off distractions and focus our attention on information that really matters.
The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide is my new go-to resource for backpacking gear information that’s truly useful.
The Evernew Water Carry bladder is the equivalent of a Camelbak that you don’t have to drink out of with a hose, and it’s the best solution for carrying water on a day-to-day basis that I’ve found. A few months back I got sick and tired of trying to find a place for my bulky stainless steel water bottle in my day bag, and decided to try out the Evernew bladder after a friend recommended them. They are especially popular amongst the ultra-light crowd given their light weight (mine weighs around an ounce when not filled) and superior packability (they can be rolled up to the size of a hi-lighter). Another bonus is that TSA won’t take it away from you when it’s empty (or at least they didn’t take it away from me on my most recent trip) allowing you to refill it once you get through security.
The beauty of the Evernew bladder is that when it’s empty it takes up absolutely no space, and when it’s full the flexible nature of the polyethylene means that it conforms to whatever space you put it in. At first I was worried that I would quickly tear a hole or somehow spring a leak in what I assumed to be a less-than-robust plastic, but after 6-months of hard use both of mine are still going strong. I’ve dropped them on sharp granite, shoved them to the bottom of my pack filled with rigid objects, stored them rolled up and have yet to find any signs of impending failure. The cap has never come loose, and I have never had one leak. Another benefit is that they can be retrofitted to work just like a Camelbak, all you have to do is buy the hose accessory that screws on.
The bottle I use on a daily basis holds .9 liters which is my sweet spot, but you can also find them in 0.6 and 2L varieties. They are designed so that when full they can stand on a flat surface unlike the bags that come in Camelbaks. Given that Evernew is a finicky Japanese supplier, these bottles can be hard to come by, but are well worth it if you can find them in stock. I do know that Platypus has a similar system out that is equally well-reviewed, but I can’t personally comment on their quality.
Many will rightfully point out that this bladder is made out of plastic. Like many of you I try to avoid plastic products, but in this case the Evernew is hands down better than anything else I’ve tried. Unlike other containers I’ve used it contributes absolutely no plasticky odor or taste to my water. While this may not be an indication of the relative likelihood of contamination I do what I can to minimize any risk (notably, I never fill it with boiling water, or leave it in the sun for too long).
[Note: Evernew is a finicky company, and stock of these water bottles frequently come and go. Several people have recommended these Platypus bottles available from Amazon as equally useful alternatives.--OH]