The Big Three

Pack

There are hundreds of different types of packs.  You basically have three categories: Sturdy, Comfortable, Ultra-Light.

Pick any two! 😀

There are always tradeoffs.  For short, weekend trips where you often make a base camp the pack choice is more about comfort and if you have room for the adult beverages.  Sturdy is best for serious Alpine use with lots of weight in ropes and climbing equipment or hunting where you are bush-wacking through brush.  Thru-hiking is less strenuous on packs and carry weight (almost) never gets above 40lbs.  So they can cut some corners, use lighter materials and lower the pack weight.   In the last 5 years I’ve moved from an Osprey Aether 85 (A solid workhorse pack at 5lbs able to handle 60lb loads), to an Osprey Exos 58 in 2014. (Lightweight at 2.75lbs)

I enjoyed using the Exos, an excellent pack for loads under 35lbs, but wanted to move down into the next weight category so this year I will use the Zpacks Arc Blast 60. (with options it weighs 22oz)  So far I really like it, but haven’t done any serious trips with it yet.  Once the newness wears off, we’ll see.

Shelter

This is a tough one for me.  In 2013 I made the shift to Hammock camping and really liked it.  Much more comfortable (for me) than tent camping; off the cold ground and with integrated bug netting an awesome way to camp.

Hammock camping on the JMT.

Hammock camping on the JMT.

The three negatives for Hammocks are:

  1. Privacy: A tent gives you a “Room” to change clothes, pee in a bottle (a guy thing) or just wall off the world if you choose.  Hammocks don’t give you that.
  2. Trees: You need something to hang the hammock off the ground with!  Back east or up north with the rainy summers there are lots of trees.  Not so much in the sierras or the desert southwest.  Yes, you can get creative and find fence posts, rocks or cactus to hang with.  But I’d rather spend my last few hours of the day making miles rather than engineering a place to sleep.
  3. Weight: Most light-weight Hammock/Tarp solutions weight over 3 lbs.  Most well over.

I chose a free standing double wall tent.  (Separate rain fly from the tent body with an internal frame)  Big-Agnes-Fly-Copper-Spur-UL1-2015The tent is the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1.  (CS1) The CS1 is a very roomy tent for a single person with a 90″ length (I like to stretch out) and lots of netting overhead to make stargazing awesome on those clear nights.  Roominess is important since I may have to wait out a storm or three on my PCT trip this year.

I have tried single wall tents and just can’t stand the occasional condensation.  With a separate rain fly you can pack that separately in the outside pocket of the pack and easily dry it out during lunch.  Even if you can’t dry it out, the main tent body can stay dry(er).  Single wall tents are harder to dry out; almost having to set up completely to air out.  And with a multi-day storm you end up with a wet tent the whole time.  Also, some double wall tents, like the CS1 allow setting up the tent with just the footprint, frame and rain fly, then once pitched add the main tent body.  A boon during a rain storm!

Sleeping System

This consists of the insulated ground pad and your sleeping bag or quilt.  I will ignore the requirements for Hammock camping since this is focused on the PCT hike I have planned.  I will be sleeping on the ground for roughly 150+ nights this year; comfort and warmth are king!  If I have a miserable night, it’s hard to recover and have a great day.

Most people when they think of keeping warm at night while camping envision a sleeping bag, typically Mummy style.

Mummy_bagThese are tried and true and do work well, but are heavier than they need to be because the insulation under your body is wasted; when you compress it with your body weight it looses any ability to insulate.  Wasted weight!  I have several sleeping bags and all have served me well, but I wanted to lower the weight.  I also don’t like covering my head.

Enter the sleep Quilt.  The concept here is that the insulation provided by the sleeping pad is all you need under you.

RENEGADE LOGO 2When you remove the “Bottom” of the bag, you don’t lower the warmth.  I used one brand of quilt (Hammock Gear) in my hammock in 2014 and was pretty satisfied.  This year I wanted an upgrade, so I went with the Renegade by Underground Quilts. (UGQ)  It seems to be a rock solid 20degF (20*) quilt that ought to keep me warm into the teens.  And it weighs a full pound less than a comparable sleeping bag.  They use DriDown which keeps it’s loft when damp, too.  Cheap insurance for accidents and major storms.

I like using these small Boutique venders.  They make the item to order right here is the good old USA and they stand behind their products!  The price usually isn’t much more than a high end product from the big-guys that is made overseas.  Well worth it!

My pad of choice is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite in the Long/Wide size.  This pad is 25″ wide x 77″ long and at 1.0 lb is as light as I can get and still have a 2.5″ thick comfortable pad that insulates.

This leaves me with the following tally:

  • Pack: ZPacks Arc Blast = 22oz
  • Pack Liner: Zpacks CF Waterproof = 2oz
  • Tent: CS1 = 44oz
  • Quilt = 24oz
  • Pad = 16oz
  • Total big three: 6.75lb

Almost into the Ultra-Light territory, but close enough considering my tradeoffs.

 

7 thoughts on “The Big Three

  1. my system is pretty solid but it did take a lot of research, experimentation, and cash. it is good to be a geek.

    $175 cuben ruck 8.5oz
    $180 tarp and polycro 8.9oz
    $100 hammock and suspension 9.6oz
    $210 30F topquilt 15oz
    $250 20F cuben-bottomed underquilt 14oz
    ==============
    total system was $915 retail though i wangled it down to $750
    complete it is 3.5 pounds. that’s just under 3 pounds for the shelter/sleep system.
    and if i have to go to ground it’s workable down to freezing (direct experience)

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  2. my system is pretty solid but it did take a lot of research, experimentation, and cash. it is good to be a geek.

    $175 cuben ruck 8.5oz
    $180 tarp and polycro 8.9oz
    $100 hammock and suspension 9.6oz
    $210 30F topquilt 15oz
    $250 20F cuben-bottomed underquilt 14oz
    ==============
    total system was $915 retail though i wangled it down to $750
    complete it is 3.5 pounds. that’s just under 3 pounds for the shelter/sleep system.
    and if i have to go to ground it’s workable down to freezing (direct experience)

    my dirt-sleeping setup is a half-pound lighter, and $150 cheaper (retail).

    i am planning to go to the ground setup through the desert section. i want flexibility and don’t want to compete for scarce hang-sites. maybe that’s a wrong choice. i would rather hang over hard and prickly ground than sleep on it. and it would be best to recover in-hammock while the body is getting its first exposure to the brutality of the trail.

    meh.

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    • The first 500 miles had so few places to hang you’ll be on the ground most of the time. (Or hunting for that oh-so-clever hang off a fence post) the Sierra wasn’t much better since half of the time you’re at or above tree line. Enjoy the trail!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes it did! I purchased 2oz of overstuff and I credit that to keeping the loft up through 140+ nights of use. Still kept me toasty in high 20s in Washington. Recommended.

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      • That’s great to know. Yes, I’ve been looking at the options UGQ have available. It’s a great product. If you don’t take price into account, it’s a difficult choice between it and the Katabatic Gear’s Alsek 22ºF. Thanks.

        Like

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