Choosing My Gear

by Dudley


Over the years my pack has slowly shrunk... the incredible shrinking pack!

There are a few reasons for this.

  • Technology - Over time technology has improved the quality of gear and allowed for a more comfortable camping experience at a greatly reduced weight. Gortex, tent designs, improved fabrics, lighter and stronger alloys, etc. 
  • Experience - With many years under your belt, you have a better understanding of what you "really" need, and you further discover the many items you don't. Plus you also learn the limits of your own personal comfort levels depending on various weather conditions. Some people can get away with a much lighter sleeping bag, while others are just fine sleeping on an ultra-thin sleep pad. Experience can teach so much!
  • Money - As one "matures" there is often more money available for that fancy new piece of ultralight gear that will save you a few grams from your base weight. Grams quickly add up... and when you consider that over multiple 30 km days... it can be a lot of welcome relief for your old knees.

In order to compare with others, there is standard terminology.  First and foremost is Base Weight. It is the total weight of your entire gear kit, excluding consumables. Consumables are food, water, and fuel. 

Gearlist zpacks 800The Zpacks Arc Haul... is my go to work horse. Light, tough, comfortable, and carries lots!

Backpacking Styles:

  • Traditional - carries a base weight of over 20 pounds,
  • Lightweight (LW)  - carries a base weight under 20 pounds,
  • Ultralight (UL) - carries a base weight under 10 pounds,
  • Super-ultralight (SUL) - carries a base weight under 5 pounds.

So if we consider 10 pounds of consumables for a 5-day backpacking trip... then your Total Weights are 30 lbs for lightweight, 20 lbs for ultralight, and 15 lbs for super-ultralight. 

My Gear

Typically my base weight is never the same from trip to trip. Seasons, ecosystems, partners and length of trips are considerations. I also have my favourites. For instance... the Big Agnes Star Fire UL sleeping bag is uber warm and comfy, yet much heavier than my super light Big Agnes Pluton UL. On the other hand, my Zpacks 20º Quilt is in-between.  I've learned to love sleeping in my quilt and currently is my first choice when heading out the door.

Another example is my pack choice.  Typically my Zpacks Nero is the first pack I grab, however, it has its limitations. So when I need more volume or weight capacity ... I pull out my big boy workhorse - the Zpacks Arc Haul.   

GG Kumo36 stockThe Gossamer Gear Kumo 36 - the near perfect pack for self proclaimed ultra-lighters (image courtesy of Gossamer Gear)

Also, seasons play a major role. In the fall there are few bugs, so I can leave behind my repellent, EpiPen, and head net... yet it can be cooler, so a warmer bag or jacket may be considered.

The ecosystems also steer decisions. If I'm in bear country, I may want a bear canister... or perhaps bear spray. Also if it's a damper environment, I may choose a more forgiving synthetic jacket rather than down.

So much to think about... however they all fall into 2 main categories; comfort and safety.  How comfortable do you want to be, and how safe do you need to be?

tarptent protrailThe Protrail solo tent by Tarptent is light, easy to pitch, awesome ventilation, reasonably priced, and tough as nails - Frontenac Park, Ontario


Campologist Talk

A blog for campers by campers. Dudley is the primary contributor, with regular posts from Tracy and friends.