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Ultralight Backpacking: My Holiday Wish List


My wife and family asked me to list some of the near ultralight gear I want for the holidays, and I thought I’d share my wish list with you. Some of this stuff is a little esoteric if you’re not a lightweight backpacker and they now know to ask before they buy anything for me!

 Mountain Laurel Designs Bug Bivy

I’ve been lusting after this full length bug bivy from Mountain Laurel Designs for the past year. It only weighs 5.5 oz and would be perfect under a trap or in an a shelter. It retails for $125.


Grace Duo Tarp from Mountain Laurel Designs

I’m in the market for a new tarp and my ultralight mentor and friend Quoddy recommends the Spectralite Grace Duo, also from Mountain Laurel Designs. Weighing 7.8 oz., this is probably the lightest full size duo tarp available. It has a trapezoidal shape and a catenary ridge cut, including internal tie-outs along it’s 9 foot ridgeline. At $265 it would be an indulgence, but I’d put it to good use.


I really like Montbell’s Down and Thermawrap outwear: it’s very well made, very low weight, and very warm. I already own a pair of Montbell synthetic Thermawrap pants and a Montbell Ultralight down vest. Now, I’d like to replace my well-used MEC Primaloft jacket (weighing 14 oz.) with the Montbell Ultralight Thermawrap jacket shown here. The Thermawrap product line uses a synthetic fill called Exceloft which remains warm even when wet. This jackets weighs just 8.7 oz. in size medium and includes a DWR treatment over an outer ballistic nylon shell.


I’ve been using a Kindle, Amazon’s Wireless Reading Device that I borrowed from work this week and I’ve gotten hooked on it. It’s perfect for a geek like me who would otherwise have to lug around a lot of technical manuals. It only weighs 10 oz. and I might even consider bringing it on an early spring or late autumn backpacking trip when I have to spend 10+ hours in my tent while it’s dark outside. If you consider that a normal paperback weighs about 7 oz., that’s really not a high weight penalty. The cost of a Kindle is still a bit dear, but the electronic books for it are less expensive than paper ones, and it makes an excellent travel companion on business trips and vacations when you want to cut down on luggage weight and bulk.


I’m a big fan of Jacks R Better Nest underquilt for my Hennessy Hammock. I’ve tried a number of different cold weather extensions manufactured by Hennessy to extend my hammock into a lower temperature range but have been unsatisfied with the results (see my field test results for the Hennessy Supershelter). So when I saw that there was a new Winter Nest available, with even more goose down insulation, I new I had to have it. The Winter Nest weighs 26 oz. and contains 6 oz. more 800+ fill goose down than the regular Nest. Price is $299, which is not that bad because you can also use it as a quilt over a sleeping pad (Big Agnes Style) if you’re sleeping on the ground.


Platypus Cleanstream Gravity Filter

I am a hydration system geek and I’m always interested in trying out new filters and purification systems to see if I can improve on the convenience and quality of my First Need water purifier (none have even come close). However, I am intrigued by the Platypus CleanStream gravity based system ($80), introduced  this year and would like one for extensive field testing. Like all hydration systems, this will have it’s strengths and weaknesses, but the core concept is fairly sound. I like the fact that the different components can be replaced, so you could use wide mouth canteeens in cold weather to prevent freezing, or bring multiple “clean” bags to generate more water for multiple people. Given the size of the filter, it also looks like this might be a good winter water filter, since you can store it close to your skin to keep it from freezing. Lots of possibilities here.


I really like my existing set of “Trail” hiking poles from Black Diamond. They are perfect for 4 season use, but they’re a bit heavy. Instead, I’d like a pair of 3 season poles that are far lighter in weight, but rugged enough for steep ascents and pitching tarps or single walled tents in moderately windy conditions. I’d also like to move away from aluminum poles to carbon fiber ones, to reduce my lightning footprint on high peaks: I had a close call on the Long Trail this summer and I’m motivated to replace my lightning rods.

Gossamer Gear Lighttrek 4 Carbon Fiber Adjustable Hiking Poles

I have a friend who has a pair of Gossamer Gear Lightrek Trekking Poles and he’s always gushing about them (and his sub 8 lb. pack). Gossamer Gear has just announced a new version of these adjustable, carbon fiber poles and they look like they’d be perfect for my needs. They only weigh 6.8 oz. for the pair and extend from 90 to 140 cm, making them perfect for short and tall people and for pitching for tarps and tents. They also don’t come with wrist straps, which is a feature I really appreciate, since those straps just get in the way when you’re climbing rocky trail and you need maximum wrist flexibility. The Lightreks’ cost $140 for the pair, which is a bit dear, but that’s why their on my wish list.

Do you think Santa likes hiking, too?

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  1. Have you thought about the Sony Reader instead of the Kindle? Lighter, smaller, cheaper and most importantly no DRM. I've managed to resist buying one so far, but I'm sure a purchase is not far off…

  2. I hadn't even looked at it, but I will. Lighter and cheaper all sound like good reasons. Thx.

  3. Okay, here's my Christmas (or before) list:

    Snowshoes–Last winter, in a pinch, I borrowed a pair from our SAR team's old stash. You know, the kind that look like tennis rackets. Sunk to my knees! So it's MSRs for me.

    Headlamp–probably a <a href ="http://www.backcountry.com/store/PRT0012/Princeton-Tec-Apex-Pro-Headlamp.html&quot; target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Princeton Tec Apex, because it takes AA batteries, for one thing. I like all of my gadgetry to take the same batteries.

    A newer GPS–not that I don't love my 1999 Magellan, which still works just fine and seems to require fewer button-pushes to do what I want it to than my SAR teammates' much newer Garmins. But I want a new toy, too, so I'm thinking about a Garmin E-Trex Legend.

    And that's about it. Not a long list, but plenty of $$.

  4. I love it. Let's get a thread going!

  5. Santa came a little early for me this year, bearing a gift of the Rab Neutrino Endurance jacket. He made a great choice. I'm thinking he really needs to follow it up with the Haglof Rugged Mountain pants though…

    Deb – the MSR Lightning Ascents are fantastic snowshoes, I'd recommend them highly.

  6. Heh! My Santa showed up early this year…..with a Double Rainbow tent :-)

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