“The wise man doesn’t give the right answers – he poses the right questions.”
- Claude Levi Strauss (1908-2009)
Once you have made the decision to lighten your pack load, the next step is to educate yourself in regards to the myriad of lightweight equipment options on the market.
- Jardine, Ray. Beyond Backpacking (Adventurelore, 01) and Trail Life (Adventurelore, 09). Basically the same book with a different title. Jardine was the man who popularised the current movement towards going lighter in the early 90’s. Whilst some of his ideas may not be for everyone, there is no denying that his innovative approach is founded upon extensive personal experience in a wide range of environments. Quite simply, the guy gets out there and does it. See Jardine’s website for details: www.rayjardine.com
- Jordan, Ryan (editor). Lightweight Backpacking and Camping (Beartooth Mountain Press, 05). This is one for the lightweight crowd who want to take the next step to ultralight (i.e. a baseweight of between 5-10 pounds).
- Berger, Karen. Hiking Light Handbook (The Mountaineers Books, 2007, 3rd Edition). Aimed at recreational hikers who want to lighten their loads without going to extremes.
- Ladigan, Don. Lighten Up! (Falcon Guides, 2005). A great introductory guide to lightweight and ultralight backpacking.
- Clelland, Mike. Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips (Falcon Guides, 2011) Includes 153 tips on going lighter, courtesy of the same guy who did the excellent illustrations for Ladigan’s book. Practical information mixed in with liberal doses of quirkiness and humour. Makes Ultralight backpacking sound fun and enjoyable………….thumbs up.
- Townsend, Chris. The Backpackers Handbook (4th edition, 2011). A comprehensive guide to backpacking written in a personal, down to earth style by a man who definitely knows his stuff. Highly recommended.
- Lichter, Justin. Trail Tested (Falcon Guides, 2012). A wealth of useful information on lightweight backpacking techniques from a guy who has walked the walk for more than 35,000 miles. One of the most experienced long distance backpacker’s on the planet, Justin’s journeys have taken him from Africa to the Himalayas to the Appalachian Trail in the middle of winter.
- Backpacker Magazine www.backpacker.com The annual gear guide gives an overview of prices, weights and other product specifications for hundreds of backpacking items.
Websites & Email Forums Magazines
- Backpacking Light: A wide-ranging source of gear reviews and ultra lightweight backpacking techniques. If you want to take the step from lightweight (ie. base weight of 10-20 lbs) to ultralight (ie. below 10 lbs), this is your best bet for online advice.
- Backpacking.net: Gear recommendations, email forum, online store and lightweight backpacking tips.
- Backpackgeartest.org: Gear reviews.
- Mark Verber’s Recommended Outdoor Gear: Gear reviews and general information on light and ultralight backpacking.
- PCT-L & White Blaze: Email forums for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and Appalachian Trail (AT) respectively. Whilst some of the information on these sites is specific to the trails themselves, they are also full of interesting advice from long distance hikers who practice lightweight techniques.
- Pmags.com: One of my favourite websites for all things hiking. Practical, too the point and with a little bit of humour thrown into the mix.
- Section Hiker: Gear reviews, how to’s and trip planning. Philip Werner, the site’s author, is one of the most prolific outdoor writers on the web.
Gear Company Websites
- Anti Gravity Gear, www.antigravitygear.com: Ultra lightweight equipment. I have used their Pepsi can alcohol stoves since 2007.
- Feathered Friends, www.featheredfriends.com: Specialize in quality down products. I have had my Helios Jacket since 2003 and it’s still going strong.
- Gossamer Gear, www.gossamergear.com: Ultra lightweight packs, hiking poles, sleeping mats and shelters.
- Granite Gear, www.granitegear.com: Lightweight, durable, well-made backpacks. Their Crown VC 60 is an excellent choice for hikers looking at lightweight internal frame models.
- Katabatic Gear, http://katabaticgear.com/: The best down quilts on the market. Conservative temperature ratings, top flight materials and workmanship; after using the Palisade 30° and Sawatch 15° quilts during my 12 Long Walks, my sleeping bag days have gone the way of the dodo.
- Marmot, www.marmot.com: Although not specifically a lightweight gear manufacturer, Marmot nonetheless produce some of the best lightweight sleepingbags on the market.
- Montbell, www.montbell.us: Wide range of ultra lightweight clothing and equipment. I highly recommend their windshirts, windpants and Thermawrap vests/jackets. Feather-like in weight, but not at the cost of durability or functionality.
- Mountain Laurel Designs, www.mountainlaureldesigns.com: Ultra lightweight gear. Reputation for quality and workmanship. Their tarps, bivys, packs and ponchos all consistently gain high marks amongst the ultralight hiking community. The MLD Burn has been my go-to backpack for three season conditions since 2009.
- Patagonia, www.patagonia.com: Although not specifically a lightweight manufacturer, Patagonia nonetheless produce several outstanding lightweight clothing options such as the Houdini Jacket, Nano Puff and R1 Hoody.
- Six Moon Designs, www.sixmoondesigns.com: I have never personally used it, but I have a couple of hiker buddies in the States who swear by the Gatewood Cape, a shelter/rain wear hybrid which weighs in at 312 grams (11 ounces).
- Tarptent, www.tarptent.com: The standard in single wall silnylon Tents. I have had my Squall since 2004, and it still rates as one of my favourite two-man tents. Well designed, lightweight, durable, reasonably priced products.
- Therm-a-rest, www.cascadesigns.com: Long time market leader in sleeping mats. Lightweight inflatable options include the Prolite series and the NeoAir. For closed cell mats try the Z Lite and Ridge Rest.
- ULA, www.ula-equipment.com: Arguably the most popular Lightweight packs in the US long distance hiking community.
- Western Mountaineering, www.westernmountaineering.com: Quality down sleeping bags and jackets. Amongst the US long distance hiking community, their products invariably rate right near the top.
- ZPacks, www.zpacks.com: Specializes in super light outdoor gear made of cuben fiber. Shelters, packs,sleeping bags and bivys. Their tarps consistently receive good reviews amongst ultralight hikers.