Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent Options

Weight is the enemy of every ultralight backpacker. Ounces can quickly add up to pounds, and more and more pounds can equal an uncomfortable backpacking trip. It is easy enough to leave non-essential gear items at home, but if you are expecting wet weather conditions on you trek, you will need a tent to add needed protection from the elements.

Tents come in all shapes and sizes. Solo tents and bivys are perfect for ultralight backpackers. But they are tight for space and many backpackers like the flexibility and extra space offered by a two man tent. Below, we will go over the best tent/bivy/tarp options for ultralight backpacking, starting with the most minimalist and moving towards the two man tent options.

Minimalist Options (Tarps/Bivy Sacks)

Black Diamond Beta Light Ultralight Tent – $199

[amazon_link id=”B000RVX27K” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Black Diamond Beta Light Shelter Blue/Silver, One Size[/amazon_link]The Black Diamond Beta Light is designed to be used with your trekking poles to provide you with a lightweight outdoor shelter. If you don’t hike with trekking poles, this won’t work for you. This is a fantastic minimalist option that provides great protection from rain without adding more than 19 ounces to your pack. It is lighter than a bivy but has more space than one, since two people could sleep dry underneath one. For those of you who want rain protection without having to haul around a tent, this is the option for you. [amazon_link id=”B000RVX27K” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Click here[/amazon_link] to purchase yours today.

Outdoor Research Advanced Bivy – $300

[amazon_image id=”B000VVHYE8″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Outdoor Research Advanced Bivy (Mojo Blue, One Size)[/amazon_image]

When it comes to bivy sacks, especially options that are 3 season capable, the Outdoor Research Advanced Bivy is our favorite model on the market. It features 3 layers of Gore-Tex Respiration Positive fabric, a durable hydroseal coated waterproof nylon floor, and completely fully taped seams to keep ground water out. Two shock corded poles allow for sturdy head space, but can be left behind for extra weight savings. What really sets this bivy apart from others is the internal volume. There is  a ton of room for a high-loft down sleeping bag and sleeping pad, and there are integral loops for attaching the pad to the bottom of the bivy. This bivy sack comes in at 37 ounces, so it is a nice ultralight option for solo backpacking. [amazon_link id=”B000VVHYE8″ target=”_blank” ]Click here[/amazon_link] to order your Outdoor Research Advanced bivy today.

One Man Tents

Eureka! Solitaire – $69

[amazon_image id=”B000EQCVNY” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Eureka! Solitaire – Tent (sleeps 1)[/amazon_image]

The Eureka! Solitaire solo tent has taken the good points of a bivy sack and expanded it out to a tent. Instead of feeling couped up in a constrictive bivy sack, the walls are 2 feet high the length of the tent. Without the rain fly on, the entire tent is made of mesh for excellent ventilation on warmer days and for stargazing at night. The weight is very manageable for one person, at only 41 ounces. For all the extra space in this tent compared to a bivy, the extra few ounces are worth it for me. And the price (always subject to change) of under $70 is a steal! To get your Eureka! Solitaire solo tent today, [amazon_link id=”B000EQCVNY” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]click here[/amazon_link].

ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 1 Tent – $119

[amazon_link id=”B00B9GCRL4″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 1-Person Tent[/amazon_link]Another great option for a solo tent is the Alps Mountaineering Zephyr. This tent comes in heavier than the Eureka! Solitaire, but boasts a lot more interior space and comfort. Weighing 62 ounces (3 pounds 14 ounces), it is by no means a light weight tent (and some two man tents weigh the same or less), but the tall walls add an amount of comfort that a lot of backpackers seek from their tents. Maybe this doesn’t fit in our ultralight discussion here, but if you are alright with sacrificing a little bit of weight for a lot of comfort, the Alps Mountaineering Zephyr is the solo tent for you. [amazon_link id=”B00B9GCRL4″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Click here[/amazon_link] to get yours today.

Two Man Tents

Nemo Equipment Meta 2-Person Ultralight Trekking Tent – $319

[amazon_link id=”B0035EJMTI” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Nemo Equipment Meta 2-Person Ultralight Trekking Tent[/amazon_link]The Nemo Meta two person tent is our favorite ultralight option out there right now for a few reasons. First of all its weight – an astonishing 47 ounces (2 pounds 15 ounces) – is outstanding for a two person backpacking tent. This weight is achieved by utilizing your trekking poles for the construction of the tent body, so if you don’t use trekking poles again, this tent isn’t for you. There are also well placed vents on this tent that allow for exceptional air flow. The internal floor space is 37 square feet, with an additional 22 square feet of vestibule space for gear. That is a lot of floor space for two people. There are other 2 person tents out there with weights close to that of the Nemo Meta, but they are cramped (often with less than 30 square feet and a tiny vestibule area). This is a very comfortable and ultralight tent option, usually two characteristics you have to choose between. To get your Nemo Meta two person trekking tent today, [amazon_link id=”B0035EJMTI” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]click here[/amazon_link].

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Person Tent – $369

[amazon_image id=”B00GSYH5IC” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2-Person Tent – Silver/Gold[/amazon_image]

The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 is another exceptional two person tent. Another ultralight tent option, coming in at 42 ounces (2 pounds 10 ounces), the Fly Creek could easily be divided between two backpackers or carried solo. The internal space is cramped when compared with the Nemo Meta above (only 28 square feet of internal space, with only an additional 7 square feet of vestibule space), so it is not as comfortable. But it does shave 5 extra ounces off the overall weight, and you don’t need your own trekking poles to set up the tent. This award winning tent (winner of Backpacker Magazine’s Editors’ Choice award in 2010) is one of the lightest two person tents on the market. For ultralight backpackers, that is the most important factor. To get your Fly Creek UL2 from Big Agnes, [amazon_link id=”B00GSYH5IC” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]click this link[/amazon_link] today.

Summary And Backpacking Samurai Thoughts

There are several things to think about when investing in an ultralight backpacking tent, starting with the overall weight. Do you plan on sleeping in your tent alone? With another person? Your dog? Do you like having extra space for gear storage? Can you handle cramped quarters? Do you like to sleep under the stars? What will the weather be like? Think about these questions as you browse our favorite ultralight backpacking tent options on the market today. Hopefully this article will help you to choose a tent that fits your needs.

What is your favorite ultralight backpacking tent? Do you prefer the bivy sack to the tent? Are you a true minimalist that sleeps under the stars/tarp? Let us know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

The Top 5 Down Sleeping Bags – Weight, Warmth Important

Down is one of two types of sleeping bag filling (the other being synthetic filling). Down has fabulous insulative properties, but only as long as it remains dry. Down is also very light for the amount of insulation it provides compared to most synthetic insulation out there. Down is also downright soft and comfortable!

When it comes to choosing the best down sleeping bags on the market today, several factors have to be considered. Price, weight, comfort, and warmth rating are all important factors for backpackers out there. But they all vary depending on the type of hiking. If you like to backpack in the summer only, you won’t worry as much about the warmth rating. Weight is an especially important consideration, especially for the minimalist or ultralight hikers.

This was a difficult task in rating the top 5 down sleeping bags on the market, especially since there are so many different needs. But we think we have a very good list based on the considerations mentioned above. Below you will find our top 5 down sleeping bags.

#5 – Kelty Cosmic 0, 20 Degree $150-$220

[amazon_link id=”B009PRMZMA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Kelty Cosmic Down 0-Degree Sleeping Bag, Autumn, 6-Feet[/amazon_link]Kelty is one of those brands that you just love because of the impressive value that you get from their products. The price of this bag compared to the others on this list is what bumped it into our top 5. Coming in at $150 for a 20 degree bag and $220 for the 0 degree bag, the Kelty Cosmic is a great deal for the amount of warmth you get. 550 Fill-Power Down is used as the insulation, which is heavier than higher power down, so the bag is a little on the heavy side (for this list). The regular 20 degree version weighs 2 lb 7 oz, the regular 0 degree weighs 3 lb 12 oz. This is a fantastic 3 season sleeping bag that won’t break the bank. Click the image or one of the links below to buy yours today!

[amazon_link id=”B009PRMZMA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Kelty Cosmic 0 Degree Down Sleeping Bag[/amazon_link]

[amazon_link id=”B009PRNEY8″ target=”_blank” ]Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree Down Sleeping Bag[/amazon_link]

#4 – Marmot Helium 15 Degree $400-$470

[amazon_image id=”B000JM9ODI” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Marmot Helium 15 Sleeping Bag – Cobalt Blue/Dark Azure Long/Left Zip[/amazon_image]

There are two down sleeping bags on this list by Marmot. And while they are the two priciest bags, they are amazingly soft, warm, and lightweight. They are also both Backpacker Editors’ Choice award winners, with the Helium winning 2008’s Gold award. The Marmot Helium is the lower priced of the two, ranging between $400 and $470, depending on whether or not you want the added waterproof and breathable MemBrain outer fabric, which bumps the price up. Lightweight 850+ Fill-power goose down will keep you toasty warm down to 15 degrees without adding too much to the overall weight.  Each weighs 2 lb 5 oz, which is light for a 15 degree bag, and it compresses into a very small package. The Marmot Helium is a fabulous choice for its warmth, weight, and comfort, even if it is a little on the expensive side. Click on one of the following links for more purchasing information.

[amazon_link id=”B015OVGCNS” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Marmot Helium[/amazon_link]

[amazon_link id=”B0037SN2Z2″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Marmot Helium MemBrain[/amazon_link]

#3 – Sierra Designs Nitro 0, 15, 30 $250-$400

Sierra Designs Nitro 30 Degree 800 Fill Down Ultralight Sleeping Bag (Long)

Sierra Designs Nitro down sleeping bag is our #3 rated option, and for good reason.  Their bags are labeled as ultralight, and this isn’t an exaggeration. Their warmth-to-weight ratio is fantastic, and their price fits right in with other bags on this list. The 0 degree Nitro has a price tag of $400 and a weight of 2 lb 15 oz. The 15 degree bag costs around $300, and weighs 2 lb 2 ounces. The 30 degree Nitro is a great 3 season bag that costs around $250 and weighs a measly 1 lb 10 oz. With 800 Fill-power goose down, you will stay nice and warm even on cold nights. The stretchy baffles around your upper body help you feel like you aren’t mummified, and the footbox on the 30 degree Nitro zips open for a nice cool draft on warmer nights. The Nitro by Sierra Designs is a great choice of down sleeping bag for any season. If you are interested in getting this sleeping bag, visit Sierra Designs‘ site today!

 

#2 – Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0, 15, 32 Degree $200-$400

[amazon_image id=”B00BQ743B8″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Mountain Hardwear Unisex Phantom 0 Bag Reg RH RED[/amazon_image]

Coming in at #2 on our list is Mountain Hardwear’s Phantom series of down sleeping bags. There is a 0 degree, 15 degree, and 32 degree option, in men’s and women’s.  They range in price from $200 (the 32 degree option) up to over $400 (the 0 degree option). The Phantom employs 800 Fill-power goose down, which offers excellent warmth-to-weight ratio as well as a soft and comfortable lofty construction. They also feature down filled draft tubes that keep cold from seeping into your bag at the openings and zippers. The 0 degree bag weighs 2 lb 10 oz (for the regular size), the 15 degree bag weighs 2 lb (5 ounces lighter than the Marmot Helium), and the 32 degree bag weighs a paltry 1 lb 6 oz. Light, warm, comfortable, and competitively priced, the Mountain Hardwear Phantom series of down sleeping bags is a winning bag for all seasons. Below are the links to get more ordering information on the Phantom bags.

[amazon_link id=”B00BQ741YW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0 Degree Down Sleeping Bag[/amazon_link]

[amazon_link id=”B00AYH8DQ2″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15 Degree Down Sleeping Bag[/amazon_link]

[amazon_link id=”B00EF43QTE” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Degree Down Sleeping Bag[/amazon_link]

#1 – Marmot Lithium 0 Degree $490-$550

[amazon_link id=”B0161YP4T0″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Marmot Lithium MemBrain Down Sleeping Bag, Regular-Left, Orange[/amazon_link]Our #1 rated down sleeping bag is the Marmot Lithium. This bag is very similar to the Marmot Helium down at #4, but with extra insulation that should keep you warm and comfortable down to 0 degrees. It is also a Backpacker Editors’ choice winner. The Lithium does this by utilizing the same 850+ Fill-power goose down that is employed in the Helium. This down offers the best warmth-to-weight ratio. This sleeping bag compresses to a very small overall size, which when coupled with its weight of 2 lb 12 oz, makes for a very portable, lightweight, and compact package. The Lithium MemBrain ($550) adds a breathable waterproof fabric to the outside of the bag, increasing its durability while protecting the insulative properties of down. One reviewer notes that this bag is “as light as a feather and warm as a oven.” Well said. This is the winner of our survey and is rated the best down sleeping bag on the market. Click one of the below links to get the #1 down sleeping bag today!

[amazon_link id=”B0161YP4T0″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Marmot Lithium[/amazon_link]

Summary

Obvisouly, with only 5 spots on the list, we had to leave off some excellent down sleeping bags. What did we miss? What is your favorite down sleeping bag? Did we get the list right? Let us know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

The Asolo TPS 520 GV Backpacking Boots

[amazon_link id=”B000HXEOBG” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Asolo Mens TPS 520 GV Hiking Chestnut Man-Made Boot 11.5[/amazon_link]Recommending hiking boots is a difficult thing to do. There are so many different brands and types on the market today (reference part 1 of our hiking boot guide), not to mention so many different aspects to finding the perfect fit (reverence part 2 of our hiking boot guide). Even though there are so many options out there, I have been using a pair of backpacking boots for several treks, and they are simply amazing. I decided to review these boots and give them my seal of approval. The are the Men’s Asolo TPS 520 GV backpacking boots. Let’s look at the features of these heavy duty boots below.

Features Of The Asolo TPS 520 GV Boots

For starters, these boots are made with a full grain leather upper, which provides a nice water barrier as well as a durable upper. They are lined with a Gore-Tex liner, which adds additional waterproofing, but allows adequate breathability. The cushion is a soft Lite 2 anatomic footbed. The outsole is Asolo’s triple power structure vibram rubber dual-density outsole. Here is an image of the different layers of the bottom of the boot.

Asolo TPS Sole

The boots are a light 28 ounces each, which feels light for heavy-duty boots built with full grain leather. They also feature a higher cut upper, which will keep out most trail debris.

Product Specs

  • Upper: Water resistant full grain leather 2.6-2.8 mm
  • Lining: Gore-Tex performance comfort footwear
  • Lasting Board: Asoflex 00 MR
  • Anatomic Foot Bed: Lite 2
  • Sole: Triple Power Structure Asolo/Vibram rubber-PU (dual-density)
  • Fit: MM/MW/ML
  • Weight: 1/2 pair: 820 grams

Backpacking Samurai Thoughts

Out of the box, I have never had a pair of boots that were as trail ready as the Asolo TPS 520 GV boots were. The break in period was almost non-existant. They are very comfortable as well. One review I recently read stated the following:

“built like a tank, feels like a mink coat”

That pretty much sums up these boots. They are very durable, as I have been on several hikes already with minimal wear. I fully expect to get 10+ years of service out of these boots. They are also built very sturdy, offering great ankle support when carrying heavy loads on uneven terrain. And best of all, they are very comfortable. That same reviewer also said:

“If there is only one piece of gear I could save from a fire,

it would be my Asolo boots.”

The funny thing is I think I agree with the reviewer! One downside of these boots is their price tag of ~$280, but for 10+ years of service, this is a worthwhile investment. You need to take care of your feet, especially when hiking with a heavy load. The Asolo TPS 520 GV boots are, in my opinion, the best backpacking boots on the market.

Make sure you get the right fit. Don’t be afraid to return them if they don’t fit right. The come in men’s and women’s. Click on one of the following links to purchase yours today!

[amazon_link id=”B000HXEOBG” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Men’s Asolo TPS 520 GV Backpacking Boots[/amazon_link]

[amazon_link id=”B000XRFWV2″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Women’s Asolo TPS 520 GV Backpacking Boots[/amazon_link]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

A Guide To Finding The Right Hiking Boot – Part 2

Asolo Hiking Boot

Alright, from part 1 of our hiking boot guide, you now know the different types of hiking boots, as well as the differences in the materials used and how they are put together. Now let’s jump into the most important aspect of choosing a hiking boot – the fit.

Hiking Boot Fit Guide

I have been on too many hiking trips in the past with improper footwear, and let me tell you, this can sabotage a hike faster than just about anything else. Blisters, black toenails, and rolled ankles are the common side effects of an improper fit or of improper footwear on the trail. To minimize these effects, not only do you need to choose the right type of footwear (high-cut boot for rough and uneven terrain hiking, for example), but the fit needs to be as close to perfect as possible.

Before You Shop

To achieve the right boot fit, you need to do a few things before you go to the store or start shopping online. Take a good look at your bare foot. What features do you see? Do you have runners toe (second toe longer than your big toe)? What about your foot’s arch? Is it flat or is it a sharp arch? Do you have a chronic sensitivity in one part of your foot (ie neuroma or plantar fasciitis)? Remember these features or sensitivities when you start trying on shoes.

Measure your feet before shopping. The process of trying on several different shoes will take a lot of time. Having a good idea what your shoe size will be will help narrow down the search. Measure your foot’s length, width (at widest point, usually just behind the toes), and arch height. Below is a good sizing chart to use, with instructions on measuring your feet correctly.

Foot Measurement Instructions

Another great way to measure your feet and have an accurate guess of your shoe size is to use a Brannock Foot Measuring Device (pictured below). If you don’t have access to one, you can do this when you go to the store. If you are shopping online, it might be a good idea to go to a shoe store and use their measuring device to know your measurements.

Brannock Foot Measuring Device

Brannock Foot Measuring Device

Finding The Perfect Fit

Store Shopping

Now you are ready to head to the store to try on some boots. This is going to take some time. You might get lucky and find the perfect fit on the first pair of shoes you try on, but not likely. So plan for a couple hours of fitting, and make sure you are shopping somewhere that you can ask questions. The first thing you will want to do (if you haven’t at home) is take your measurements on one of those foot measurement things, called Brannock foot measuring devices (pictured above). But remember to do this with the socks that you will be hiking with, along with any other inserts you plan to use (such as a liner or gel sole insert). It’s OK to just measure your feet at home (since you are getting an estimate of your measurements), but when you are actually fitting your boots, you MUST include these other items.

REI Salt Lake

REI Salt Lake

Have a plan when you go to the store. For example, I bring a notebook with me and take notes as I go. This is especially helpful if you are switching between several different brands. Sizes aren’t usually consistent across brands, which can get confusing and hard to remember. While trying on each pair, walk around the store, and if possible, go up and down stairs and up and down inclines. Spend some time in the shoes. Move on if you feel any pinching, squeezing, or discomfort anywhere. Be sure to lace each pair up like you would on the trail. Remember that your toes shouldn’t hit the end of the toe box, especially while coming down the inclines. Adjust the laces to see if that helps.

Here are a few good fitting tips to consider when sizing your hiking boot:

  • Your toes should wiggle freely at the end of the boot with your heel against the back of the boot. This ensures that you have the right length.
  • Your feet should not slide side to side while walking in the boot. This ensures that you have the proper width.
  • The space all around your foot (top, bottom, sides, front, and back) should be snug, remembering that your toes should be able to wiggle freely. This ensures that you have the proper volume.
  • If your foot slips around while you are on the trail, you will develop blisters and jam your toenails when going down hill (black toenails). The fit should be snug, but not squeezing your foot at any point.

Try on several different pairs, and don’t settle on a pair because they look cool, fit your budget, or because the sales rep likes them the best. You are looking for the perfect fit, and that is the most important reason to choose one boot over another. Sure, if you are looking for a full-grain leather boot over a synthetic boot, or low-cut over high-cut boots, those are important considerations as well. So to narrow down your choices, only try on boots of the specific type you are looking for rather than every boot in the store. This will prevent you from choosing a boot for any other reason other than the fit.

Narrow Your Options

After you have tested several pairs of shoes in the store, make a list of 3 or 4 pairs that could be winners based on the fit. Once you have that list, you can narrow down your list based on the features you like from the boots on your list and based on your budget. Just make sure you aren’t sacrificing fit and comfort for anything else, especially for something that is purely cosmetic. You’re not walking down the runway of a fashion show. Comfort is key.

Hiking Boot WallWhen you decide on a pair, be sure to wear them at home for several hours. Walk around your home (keep them clean, of course, so you don’t mess them up so much that the store won’t allow a return). Make sure after a day or two that they are still the most comfortable they can be. If not, don’t hesitate to take them back and try a different pair. Let me reiterate that point again – don’t hesitate to take them back and try a different pair if they don’t fit perfectly. This is really important.

Online Shopping

What if you are not fond of shopping in stores? Buying hiking boots online is a little bit more complex than buying any other pair of shoes online, especially since the fit needs to be as close to perfect as possible. But it can be done. What I recommend is taking exact measurements of your feet. Be sure to shop with retailers that allow returns, and purchase a few pairs that are close to your measurements to try out. Wear them around for several hours until you find the pair that fits you the best. Don’t be afraid to send a pair back and request a different size. Remember, the key is to find the best fit possible.

Another tip for online shoppers is to stick with a brand you have used and liked in the past, as many brands will have consistent sizing between models. If all else fails, have your foot measured at a local shoe store, and use those measurements in your online shopping. I have even tried on hiking boots at my local outdoor shop (which has very high prices) to find the boot and size I like, and then found the same boot online for much less.

The Bottom Line

“Be good to your feet and your feet will be good to you.” Remember this saying as you go about finding the hiking boot that best fits your hiking needs. It is not uncommon to have tired feet after a long, rough hike. But a good pair of hiking boots will make it so you spend more time enjoying the hike, nature, and your friends and family than you do noticing the aches and pains on your feet.

North Face Hiking Boot

This wraps up our two part hiking boot guide. This guide will be made available in the form of a free downloadable E-book, so keep an eye out for it. What did we miss? What has helped you find your perfect pair of hiking boots? Any suggestions for our readers? Please feel free to leave feedback or ask questions in the comment section below. Happy trails!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

A Guide To Finding The Right Hiking Boot – Part 1

Asolo Hiking Boot

Choosing The Right Hiking Boots

When it comes to backpacking, choosing the right hiking boots is one of the most important gear decisions you will make. ‘Take care of your feet and your feet will take care of you.’ It is a simple saying, but it really does ring true for backpackers. Comfort for your feet is essential on a backpacking trip, so the same care that you choose a backpack you need to devote to choosing the right hiking boots. A perfect fit is what you are ultimately looking for, and that perfect fit will allow you to hike farther with less pain, allowing you to enjoy nature and the great outdoors to the fullest.

There are several different things to think about when looking at and trying on different hiking boots. Ask yourself these questions:

What type of hiking will I be doing? For how long? In what weather? On what type of terrain?

These questions will hopefully help you to start narrowing down your boot choices. In part 1 of our hiking boot guide, we will look at the types of hiking boots out there, as well as the materials and construction used to put them together. This will help you narrow down your options before you start trying some on. Let’s look at the types and characteristics of hiking boots below.

Types of Hiking Boots

Light Hiking Boots

There are three basic types of hiking boots. Light hiking boots are low-cut shoes that look like trail running tennis shoes. They usually have mesh materials for easy breathing and beefy rubber soles for traction. They are lightweight (compared to other boots) but don’t offer much ankle support or load cushioning. Since they are lower around the ankles, dirt, pebbles and debris will easily get into your shoes, so it is advisable to utilize some gaiters. These are perfect for short day hikes or some overnight or weekend trips that keep you on smooth trails, with little off trail hiking. The image below is an example of a light hiking boot, the [amazon_link id=”B000LP2MH8″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Merrell Moab waterproof trail shoes[/amazon_link].

[amazon_link id=”B000LP2MH8″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Merrell Mens Moab Ventilator Hiking Walnut Leather Shoe 11.5[/amazon_link]

Mid- to High-Cut Hiking Boots

The second type is your basic mid- to high-cut hiking boot. These are the standard hiking boots that are heavier than the light version but offer much more ankle support and cushioning for heavier loads and longer hikes. The higher cut also helps to keep out dirt, pebbles and debris better than the lower cut trail shoes. These boots will allow you to hike more uneven terrain for multiple day or extended trips. The first image below is the [amazon_link id=”B004D3C8LE” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Merrell Moab Mid waterproof hiking boot[/amazon_link], which is a mid-cut hiking boot, and the second image is the [amazon_link id=”B001N0IJWC” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Asolo Flame GTX hiking boot[/amazon_link], which is a more high-cut hiking boot.

[amazon_link id=”B004D3C8LE” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Merrell Men's Moab Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots - Earth 10 - Regular[/amazon_link]

[amazon_link id=”B001N0IJWC” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Asolo Flame GTX Hiking Boot Wide 10 Cortex/Dark Brown[/amazon_link]

Backpacking/Mountaineering Boots

The third type is the heavy-duty backpacking hiking boot (often referred to as mountaineering boots). These boots are rugged, insulated, offer full support and cushioning, and allow you to attach crampons for glacier or ice navigation. The image below is of the [amazon_link id=”B0018SB9VC” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Zamberlan Vioz GT backpacking boot[/amazon_link], which is an all season heavy duty high-cut hiking boot. The second image shows the [amazon_link id=”B004IWRKH2″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Salewa Rapace Gore-Tex mountaineering boot[/amazon_link], which is crampon compatible and suitable for all seasons.

[amazon_link id=”B0018SB9VC” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Zamberlan Men's 996 Vioz GT Hiking Boot,Dark Grey,8.5 M US[/amazon_link]

[amazon_link id=”B004IWRKH2″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Salewa Men's Rapace GTX Trekking Boot,Grey/Yellow,9.5 M US[/amazon_link]

The more rugged your terrain is and the more weight you are carrying, the better off you will be with more ankle support and cushioning. As you might expect, the price usually goes from low to high from the light to the heavy duty boots. Now you are aware of the different types of hiking boots. Now let’s look at how they are put together.

Hiking Boot Construction

Understanding how hiking boots are put together will give you a better appreciation for what each type of boot is trying to accomplish, and will further help you to narrow down your search.

Upper

Starting with the top of the boot and working down, let’s look at how they are built. The top material is the portion of the boot that laces up on the sides and on top of your foot, as well as the material up the back. Leather is a common material used in hiking boots, but synthetic materials are also common nowadays.

Full-grain leather is the most durable material for the top of your boot. It is water resistant and abrasion resistant. It is heavy duty material, used mostly on backpacking and mountaineering boots designed for heavy loads and extended trips. It offers great ankle support as well. Full-grain leather is heavy and not very breathable. It is also stiff, and requires you to break the boot in for a longer period of time. Also expect higher costs associated with full-grain leather boots. Here is an example of a boot that employs full-grain leather construction – [amazon_link id=”B002YM2LD6″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]the Asolo TPS 520 GV hiking boot[/amazon_link].

[amazon_link id=”B000YHUCSY” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Asolo Mens TPS 520 GV Hiking Chestnut Man-Made Boot 9.5[/amazon_link]

Synthetic materials on the top of the boot are also common on many hiking boots on the market today. Synthetic nylon and polyester are lighter, more flexible, and cost less than leather. Because they are more flexible, they break in a lot easier than their leather counterparts. They are, however, not as durable as leather. You will usually find synthetic materials on the lower cost light hiking shoes, like the [amazon_link id=”B0050CEOSM” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Merrell Trail Glove hiking shoe[/amazon_link] pictured below.

[amazon_link id=”B0050CEOSM” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Merrell Mens Trail Glove Casual Black/granite Leather Shoe 11.0[/amazon_link]

There are some leather-synthetic combination uppers (split-grain leather and nubuck leather is often paired with nylon), which combines the breathability and flexibility of the synthetic material with the durability of the leather. The [amazon_link id=”B004KKZ6SW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Keen Targhee II Mid hiking boot[/amazon_link] below features a nubuck-nylon combination upper.

[amazon_link id=”B004KKZ6SW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]KEEN Men's Targhee II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot,Dark Earth/Neutral Gray,11.5 M US[/amazon_link]

Keep in mind the terrain and weather you intend to hike. If you expect wet conditions, consider adding a weatherproof lining to your boots. These linings are usually some kind of Gore-Tex material. These liners will add a layer inside your boot, so if you intend on using one, be sure to fit your boot with the liner (we’ll cover the boot’s fit in part 2). Including a liner will also add insulation to your feet, which is a good thing in colder weather, but not so good in warm weather.

Midsole

The midsole is the part of your boot that cushions your feet (directly under your feet). The midsole cushions your feet from the shocks of hiking while on the trail. This portion of the boot will also help determine the boot’s stiffness. Most hiking boots utilize ethylene vinly acetate (EVA) or polyurethane as the midsole. EVA is cheaper and lighter, and can vary in density at different parts of the foot. It is less durable than the more expensive polyurethane, which is usually more stiff (often found in the heavy-duty backpacking and mountaineering boots).

Shank and Plate

Underneath the midsole is the shank. The shank’s purpose is to add stiffness to the midsole. They can vary in length, from covering the entire midsole to only portions (heal and pad). Underneath the shank, many hiking boots include a plate. This is another support level that adds stiffness to the midsole. They are flexible, and their purpose is to protect your feet from sharp rocks bruising your feet.

Outsole

Below the support layers lies the outsole. All hiking boots utilize rubber, and the hardness of the rubber varies greatly. Harder outsoles are more durable and better suited to rough terrain. They can feel more slick and have less grip on certain surfaces. Softer rubber outsoles are more grippy, but also are more susceptible to wear and tear. There are also many different tread patterns, and they vary by brand and hiking boot type. Most backpacking boots feature a heel break, which is a tread pattern that adds extra traction when descending hills with a heavy load on your back (lug pattern on the outsold pictured below).

Outsole heel break

Construction

Putting all of these pieces together is usually done by the use of adhesives. It is fast and easy to put them together this way, and generally a durable way to do it. Just beware that high heat can ruin the adhesives holding your boots together. Don’t put your boots next to a fire to dry, and don’t keep them stored in a hot area or vehicle.

Now That You Know The Types And Materials . . .

Now that you know the different types of hiking boots and also what materials are used and how hiking boots are put together, you will better be able to choose the type and finish you need for your hiking needs. But how do you choose what size to buy? The fit is the most critical step to choosing a hiking boot. Click here for part 2 of our hiking boot guide, where we will cover how to find the right fit for your hiking boot, as well as some in-store and online shopping tips.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

New To Backpacking? Get Started For Under $300

Are you interested in backpacking, but not willing to commit a large amount of money upfront until you know you are going to like it? Are you on strict budget? If you answered yes to either of these questions, this article will hopefully help you to see that you don’t need to spend a small fortune to get into this great hobby. Below, I will go over some of my favorite low cost (but still high quality) gear to consider.

For the sake of this article, we will assume you have no backpacking gear. That means you will need to buy a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and other items to keep you going, less the consumables (food, fuel, etc). Let’s say you have a strict budget of $300 to get all the gear you need to go on a summer weekend (3 day, 2 night) backpacking trip that is more or less on a flat trail.

Here is a breakdown of the items, and below will be more details of the gear choices:

  • Backpack$115 [amazon_link id=”B009R4CV3E” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Kelty Coyote 80 Backpack[/amazon_link]
  • Tent$110 [amazon_link id=”B0043HH5CW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Eureka! Apex 2XT 2 Person Backpacking Tent[/amazon_link]
  • Sleeping Bag$40 [amazon_link id=”B006WPZBBA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Ledge Sports Scorpion 45 Degree Ultralight Sleeping Bag[/amazon_link]
  • Water Prep – $25 [amazon_link id=”B004DZMD08″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Seychelle 28 Ounce Flip Top Water Filter Bottle[/amazon_link]
  • Food Prep$10 – [amazon_link id=”B000P9IR8I” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Stainless Steel Mess Kit[/amazon_link]
  • Total Cost = $300

Backpack – $115

[amazon_link id=”B009R4CV3E” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Kelty Coyote 80 Internal frame Backpack, Forest Night, Medium/Large[/amazon_link]For the backpack, the Kelty Coyote 80 [amazon_link id=”B009R4CV3E” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]can be picked up off of Amazon currently for $115[/amazon_link]. That is a great deal for a backpack that boasts 78 Liters (4750 cubic inches) of interior space. This is more than large enough for a 3 day excursion. It is more suited for a longer trip, but at that price point, it’s hard to pass this deal up. Additional features in this pack include:

Bag Features:

  • Top loading
  • 420-denier polyester Ball Shadow body fabric
  • 420-denier polyester Oxford reinforcement fabric
  • Hydration compatible
  • Reservoir sleeve
  • Front-panel access
  • Zippered side pockets
  • Mesh water bottle pockets
  • Side compression straps
  • Load stabilizer straps
  • Spindrift collar
  • Ice-axe loops
  • Daisy chain
  • Key fob
  • Zippered waist belt pockets
  • Lid converts into lumbar pack
  • Carry handle

Suspension Features:

  • CloudLock II adjustable suspension
  • LightBeam II dual aluminum stays
  • HDPE frame sheet
  • Removable HDPE reinforced dual density waist belt
  • Padded shoulder straps
  • Ventilating back panel
  • Load-lifter/stabilizer straps
  • Sternum strap
  • Patented Scherer Cinch

Specifications:

  • Capacity: 4,750 cubic inches (78-liters)
  • Weight: 5 lb. 9 oz.
  • Measures 16 x 34 x 16.5 inches (W x H x D)

Highlights of the Kelty Coyote 80 backpack are the price point, the capacity, removable waist belt and lid (converts into hip pack), and construction. The pack is on the heavy side at 5 pounds 9 ounces empty, but as long as it isn’t over packed for a 3 day trip, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Tent – $110

[amazon_link id=”B0043HH5CW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Eureka! Apex 2 - Tent (sleeps 2)[/amazon_link]The tent of choice is the Eureka! Apex 2XT tent. This is a lightweight 2 person backpacking tent that is also a very palatable price right around a hundred bucks. We chose the Apex 2XT tent because of the price, as well as a few features, such as: the 2 door design with 2 vestibules totaling 27 additional square feet, solid construction, and light weight (6 pounds 5 ounces). Here are some additional features and specifications:

  • Seasons: 3
  • Sleeps: 2
  • Floor dimensions: 7′ 6″ by 4′ 11″
  • Center height: 3′ 10″
  • Minimum weight: 6 pounds, 5 ounces
  • Frame: Freestanding, shock-corded fiberglass
  • Vestibule: 2, with 13.8 square feet of storage each
  • Storage pockets: 2 mesh
  • Clothes line loops: 4
  • Flashlight loop: Yes
  • Warranty: Lifetime

This is great tent, and for the price, you won’t be disappointed. [amazon_link id=”B0043HH5CW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Pick yours up today[/amazon_link].

Sleeping Bag – $40

[amazon_link id=”B006WPZBA6″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Ledge Sports FeatherLite +20 F Degree Ultra Light Design, Ultra Compact Sleeping Bag (84 X 32 X 20, Red)[/amazon_link]Since this is a summer trip, we can get away with suggesting a summer sleeping bag. And that is completely fair, because if you are new to backpacking, you probably don’t want to get into a cold weather trip right off the bat because you might ruin your outlook on the hobby. Start with a mild, warm weather trip to see if you like it first, then as you get more experience and become more adventurous, expand. Back to the sleeping bag of choice – [amazon_link id=”B006WPZBBA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Ledge Sports Featherlite 20 degree ultra light sleeping bag[/amazon_link].

The price is right at $40, and the weight is also a bonus coming in at 3.4 pounds. This sleeping bag is nice because is compresses well and takes up minimal room. It is a synthetic fill sleeping bag, so even if it gets wet, it should keep you warm down to 30 degrees or so. It also comes with a stuff sack. Pick up one of these affordable 3 season sleeping bags today!

Food and Water Prep – $35

For cooking your food, this [amazon_link id=”B000P9IR8I” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]stainless steel mess kit[/amazon_link] is just right. It offers a frying pan, pot, two lids (plates) and a plastic 8 ounce cup. At just over $10, all you need to have is a bed of hot coals and you can cook food or heat water.

[amazon_link id=”B004DZMD08″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Seychelle 28oz Flip Top Advanced Filter Water Purification / Filtration Bottle[/amazon_link]As for purifying your water, the [amazon_link id=”B004DZMD08″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Seychelle 28 ounce flip top water filter bottle[/amazon_link] is a high quality option that is affordable ($25). It removes 99.99% of bacteria, virus, contaminants, and pollutants from water. It can filter up to 100 gallons of water, depending on the quality of the water (dirtier water = less filtering capacity). It weighs just 11 ounces and you can fill it up from any body of water along the trail.

The Bottom Line

If you are just getting into backpacking, and you are worried that you won’t like it, it doesn’t make sense to spend a ton of money on gear. I can tell you that if you like nature, exercise, the outdoors, and camping in general, you are going to absolutely love backpacking. But keeping your start-up costs low just in case you don’t is a good idea. The nice thing about all of these items is that they could all be sold used to recoup most of your money if you decide you don’t like backpacking. Another nice thing about all of these items is that if you do like backpacking, they are high quality products that you will be able to enjoy for a long time.

Use this list to find the right gear for your needs. This is just a list of the most essential gear items. I didn’t include hiking boots because they require such a specialized fit and vary greatly in price. For a flat 3 day hiking trip, sturdy tennis shoes should be alright. Other items might include a good flashlight, first aid kit, survival kit, GPS, fitted hiking boots, multi-tool or pocket knife, and a sleeping pad. They will greatly increase your comfort and safety in the backcountry. As always, happy trails!

Do you agree with this list? What would be your $300 starting setup? Leave a comment below. Thanks!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

CRKT Guppie And Eat’N Tool Combo Review

When it comes to compact, portable multi-tools on the market today, it is hard to compete with the Leatherman Juice or Squirt lines. CRKT has released a new take on the small multi-tool, the CRKT Guppie. My first glance at the CRKT Guppie left me shocked, as I have never seen a multi-tool this size based around an adjustable wrench. The idea is different than the traditional multi-tool idea of building the tool around a set of pliers or scissors. Was it a good idea? Read on for my in depth review of the CRKT Guppie and the additional Eat’N tool that came with my combo double pack.

CRKT Guppie Multi-tool

[amazon_link id=”B001F3XAUI” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]3325 CRKT GUPPIE MULTI TOOL[/amazon_link]

The Guppie boasts the following features:

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Folding 2 inch blade
  • Removable bit carrier with LED light
  • Phillips driver bits (2)
  • Flat head driver bits (2)
  • Carabiner with Bottle opener
  • Belt clip

The Dimensions are as follows:

  • 4.1 ounces total weight
  • 3.5 inches overall length
  • 2 inch blade

Adjustable Wrench

CRKT Guppie Wrench

Opened Wrench

Starting at the top of the features list is the adjustable wrench. The idea of having a portable adjustable wrench built into a small multi-tool is fantastically novel. Capable of opening up to 1/2”, the adjustable wrench offers the ability to tackle most small scale jobs. My Guppie has no problem gripping the nut securely, contrary to a lot of complaints. The main issue I have with the wrench is the shape. If the nut is not fully exposed, it is difficult to reach it. There also isn’t a whole lot of handle to grip to generate leverage with. For most jobs requiring an adjustable wrench, this one will work fine. Remember that this is a pocket multi-tool, and is designed to give you options while away from your shop and other tools. In a pinch, the Guppie wrench is better than the alternatives (ie hauling a large set of adjustable wrenches everywhere you go or having none). This nice feature might interest you if you an avid mountain biker.

Blade

CRKT Guppie Blade

Blade

The folding blade is a tool usually found on every multi-tool iteration out there. The 2 inch folding blade made of 2CR13 steel is hollow ground to a drop point, and is not serrated. I like the fact that the Guppie has a blade. I like to have backups with every carry system that I employ, and the blade on the Guppie gives me a backup blade. But that being said, the blade on this tool is just that – a backup. There is no locking mechanism with the blade, making it a little sketchy to use. Just the way you have to grip the tool to cut anything wraps your fingers underneath the blade. I found the blade to be sturdy and durable, but the edge left something to be desired of a blade out of the box. It wasn’t completely dull like other reviewers have said, but I needed to sharpen it to give it a decent edge. Time will tell how the blade holds an edge. As with the adjustable wrench, having a blade when you need it is better than not having one at all, and this tool gives you a nice, sturdy (even without the lock) 2 inch blade.

Bit Driver

CRKT Guppie Driver

Driver

Having removable driver bits is another idea that I think is fantastic for a small multi-tool. Most other multi-tools have a Phillips and flat head driver built in, but you are left with the one size. I have also found that with the Phillips head screw drivers on Swiss Army knives and Leatherman tools I own, they get stripped out with minimal use and you are left with a Phillips head driver that is ineffective. With the Guppie, simply replace the Phillips head driver bit with a new one. The bit carrier is held to the main Guppie tool by a strong magnet. Some reviewers have said it doesn’t stay attached while in a pocket or bag, but I haven’t had any issues with this at all. The bit carrier holds 4 standard hex bits, so you can mix and match your own (star driver, square, Phillips, and flat head).

CRKT Guppie Bit Carrier and Light

Bit Carrier and Light

The carrier has a lanyard hole on one end (which makes it easy to carry the bit carrier separate), and has a small LED light built in the other end. The light is powered by 2 CR97 batteries and features 1 small LED bulb. The light isn’t terribly bright, but it is now the only multi-tool that I own that has the option of a light. This has been a gripe of mine for a long time. I said above that I like to have backups, and several times when I have needed a light, I have either forgotten my every-day carry light but had my multi-tool. This little light is a pleasant feature, and a much needed backup.

Carabiner Bottle Opener

CRKT Guppie Carabiner Bottle Opener

Carabiner Bottle Opener

The carabiner bottle opener is a simple feature, also one that is incorporated in just about every multi-tool out there. I have never had much use for this feature, but if you need the assistance of a bottle opener after a long hike, whip out your Guppie and there it is.

CRKT Eat’N Tool

[amazon_link id=”B004YY369K” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]CRKT EAT N TOOL BEAD BLAST[/amazon_link]

My Guppie came in a combo pack with the Eat’N tool. It boasts the following features and dimensions:

  • Spork
  • Metric 10mm, 8mm, and 6mm wrench cutouts
  • Flat head screwdriver/pry tip
  • Bottle cap lifter
  • Small pocket carabiner
  • 3CR13 Stainless steel
  • 1.5 ounces
  • 4 inches long

The idea of a spork with additional tools built in is innovative. I have used this spork in the backcountry, and its weight allows me to pack it on ultra-light trips without hesitation. The ‘spoon’ part could be more concave, as it seems that it is a little shallow as far as spoons go. The ‘fork’ prongs are a little bit too blunt and thick, limiting their ability to grip food. One thing I noticed about the fork prongs is that if they were sharper and longer, carrying this tool in your pocket wouldn’t be very comfortable, and is probably why it was designed the way it was.

The handle is a little shorter than I would like it to be. This either limits the reach you have for food in a container or guarantees that your fingers will be swimming in your food. In the backcountry, this isn’t a huge concern since I usually skimp on fancy cutlery in order to save weight and space in my pack. Having anything at all to eat my food with other than my fingers is a luxury I never had before this tool.

I don’t see myself ever using the other features on the Eat’N tool, except for maybe the pry feature (for prying open a can of tuna while on the trail, for example). I usually don’t use a conventional camp stove in the backcountry, I use a homemade alcohol stove (ultra light). I assume the metric wrench cutouts will fit most nuts on stoves for backcountry repairs, but I would imagine if my camp stove broke or went out in the field, I would cook over an open fire or eat my food cold before attempting a bush-fix with pressurized fuels.

Backcountry Samurai Thoughts

The CRKT Guppie and Eat’N tool fared well with my backcountry testing. While some of the tools weren’t that useful for my activities, other outdoor activities might find more utility out of them. The ideas and innovation on the Guppie and Eat’N tool introduced new features that I haven’t seen on other traditional multi-tools, and this is a nod to the engineers and CRKT. The price is in line with the features offered, and I would say this multi-tool set is of much better quality and usefulness than other similarly priced multi-tools. Overall, I think the idea of building a small, compact multi-tool around the framework of an adjustable wrench (or in the case of the Eat’N tool, a spork) works.

Weighing just over 4 ounces (similar to the Leatherman Juice S2’s weight of 4.4 ounces), the Guppie is a good addition to any outdoorsman’s loadout. The Eat’N tool comes in even lighter, and offers some usefulness to backpacking that I haven’t found with any other multi-tool. Remember that these tools offer additional options. As long as you aren’t expecting the Guppie blade to be your primary backcountry blade, or the LED light on the bit carrier to be your primary camping light, but rather backups, these tools will offer value to your outdoor experience. Click on the following link to purchase your CRKT Guppie multi-tool or CRKT Eat’N tool today!

[amazon_link id=”B001F3XAUI” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]CRKT Guppie Multi-tool[/amazon_link]

[amazon_link id=”B005AONQS4″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]CRKT Eat’N Tool[/amazon_link]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

Backpacking Stocking Stuffer Ideas

With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about gifts for the backpacking enthusiast in your life. Most backpacking ideas are a little on the large size to stuff into a stocking, but there are smaller gadgets and tools that every backpacker would be thrilled to see in their stocking this Christmas.

Water Treatment Items

These microfilters and purifiers are perfect to stuff a stocking with. Remember to take them out of the boxes, as this will make your job much easier!

 

Fire Starters

These fire starters make perfect stocking stuffers!

 

Cookware

These are some smaller cooking items that make perfect stocking stuffers.

 

Mischelaneous Camping Gear

Here are some other good ideas for stocking stuffers for the outdoor enthusiast.

Happy shopping and Merry Christmas!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

What Food To Bring On An Extended Backpacking Trip

Any time you spend more than a weekend in the backcountry, carrying enough food is an important consideration. You can always supplement your packed meals by catching native fish or picking wild berries, but you definitely shouldn’t count on these sources of food to survive. What should you pack for a week-long or longer trek? Below, we will go over the basics of planning your backcountry meals for an extended stay backpacking trip.

The Building Blocks Of Life

Food and water are essential for human survival. Most humans can’t live longer than three days without water. Hiking rough terrain with a heavy backpack requires constant water consumption. Depending on activity and body mass, humans can live as long as two weeks without food. But surviving more than a day or two without food limits your ability to find more or get to safety. Since you won’t be able to carry a weeks worth of water on your back, you will need to purify water along the way. This is easy enough to do with a filter (MSR Sweetwater, Katadyn Vario) or by boiling the water, as long as you are hiking near a water source.

Food is a different story. Unless you are Bear Grylls, foraging for food on the trail won’t be an option. You will need to plan on bringing all the food you will need along, and that means packing it all in your bag.

What You Need

The typical caloric intake for an average adult per day is 2000. This will more or less result in no net gain or loss of weight, under regular day to day activity. Backpacking on even flat terrain can be a strenuous physical exercise, let alone on rugged mountain terrain. You should plan on consuming somewhere between 2500 and 3000 calories per day or more, including at least 30-50 grams of protein. This will sustain your frame during the trip and will keep you fueled for the oncoming miles.

Portability Vs Palatability

The argument of portability versus palatability has raged on for decades among the backpacking community. A hot meal after a long hike can seem very refreshing for many hikers, yet a hot meal means you will probably need to pack a camp stove, pot, and hot meal ingredients, which will add extra ounces to your pack. Ultralight minimalist backpackers go to the other extreme of eating trail mix for three meals a day. A healthy balance is necessary here, because some hikers lose their appetite during hot days or at higher altitudes. A hot meal might not seem appealing on those days, and a more light meal might suffice. On the other hand, a hot meal on a cold or wet day might be the morale boost that you need, where cheese and crackers might come up short.

A food item might also be super portable and palatable, yet it just doesn’t work on the trail. For example, peanut butter is a high protein, high energy food that is light and easy to transport. But try to find a good way to get the peanut butter out of whatever you have transported it in. It just makes a mess. If you’re a peanut butter lover, it might be worth the hassle. If not, the dispensability is a nightmare.

Hot Meal Options

MREs

[amazon_link id=”B007HOB4FC” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]MRE (Meals, Ready to Eat) Premium case of 12 Fresh MRE with Heaters. 5 Year Shelf Life.[/amazon_link]Most of us are familiar with MREs. These military rations are packed with calories, and can be supplemented with small snacks throughout the day. Most MREs can be coupled with a one-time-use MRE heater, so you won’t need a stove or other cooking supplies. There are many different entre options available, and plenty of sides to go along. A full MRE meal can have as much as 1500 calories by itself. These are easy to prepare, and loaded with nutrients to keep you going.

MREs are bulky and heavy. You don’t need any water to cook them, which is a plus. However, that means you are carrying extra water weight within these packs. If you have tried an MRE, you might not have been impressed with the flavor. A lot of hikers are particular about what they eat, and MREs usually don’t make the cut based on flavor alone. But if you are looking for an easy hot meal, these are great options.

Freeze-Dried Meals

[amazon_link id=”B000G2TOMM” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Mountain House 72-Hour Emergency Meal Kit[/amazon_link]Mountain House used to own the freeze dried meal market. Now there are a lot of companies offering these type of backpacking rations. Freeze dried meals come in sealed mylar pouches (for a decent shelf life), and there is probably a wider variety of meal options than MREs. The nice thing about these hot meals is that they are dried – meaning there is no extra water weight inside the pouch. They are easy to prepare, and taste much better than MREs.

You will need to boil water to add to the pouch (so what you gain in not having to carry the water weight, you lose in the extra weight of a stove, fuel, and a pot), and the food takes time to reconstitute. These are also great options for hot meals on the trail.

Other Hot Meal Options

MREs and freeze dried meals might be the most convenient hot meals available, but can be a little pricey. If you get creative, you can easily create your own trail meals out of ingredients from your pantry. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Cup of Noodles
  • Pasta And meat Sauce
  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Instant Soups
  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Tuna Helper
  • Spam, Tuna, Salami, Salmon

These meal ideas are easy to prepare, and you can create your own portions with ziplock bags.

Cold Meal Options

A lot of backpackers will plan at least one hot meal per day, and this is usually dinner (extra prep time). Breakfast could also easily incorporate a small hot meal (oatmeal with hot chocolate or coffee/tea), but is a good time to go with a quick and easy cold meal. This is where some creativity comes in.

  • Cliff bars
  • Granola bars
  • Trail mix (home made or store bought)
  • Cheese and Crackers
  • Chocolate
  • Nuts
  • Dried Fruit
  • Crackers (animal crackers, Ritz, Triscuit, etc)

The key here is to have a variety of snacks to eat. If you only plan on having one hot meal per day, the rest of the day will be cold foods. The better the variety, the more likely you will keep up with your caloric needs. Taste fatigue can occur if all you eat throughout the day is trail mix. Candy bars are a nice break, but melt easily.

Drinks

Many backpackers get tired of the taste of water on long trips. Having some flavoring powder to liven up your water will do wonders for your morale. GatorAide and PowerAid both make electrolyte replenishing, water flavoring powders. Crystal Light pouches are a sugar free option. The small single serving packets are very light, and easy to add to bottles and hydration bladders.

Pack some instant hot chocolate, cider, tea or coffee for morning/evening sipping pleasure. These packets weigh next to nothing as well, and will help warm you up when it’s cold outside.

Packing It All Up

Backpacking Ziploc MealsBecause your food will take up a good portion of your backpack’s internal space on an extended backpacking trip, it is important to save as much space as possible. Remove unnecessary packaging from foods. For example, take crackers out of their boxes and pack them in single serving Ziploc bags. Remove MREs from their bulky packaging.

Organize your large meals together inside their own Ziploc bag. Label them accordingly. If you are planning group meals, besides organizing your pack, this will also make it easy to pull all the necessary ingredients together for the meal.

Remember to keep snacks within reaching distance. You don’t want to have to take your pack off to dig out some trail mix. Most backpacks have waste belt pockets, which work out perfectly for holding hiking snacks. Another reminder: if you are hiking in bear country, follow all the essential bear country food packing and hanging tips. This will prevent a potentially dangerous encounter. Below, you can click on the image to purchase the Backpacker’s Cache.[amazon_link id=”B0002ZB5Y8″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Backpackers' Cache - Bear Proof Container[/amazon_link]

Just In Case

Preparing backpacking meals can be one of the most time-consuming planning steps of trip planning. Make sure that you go over the daily menu to see that you are getting enough calories and nutrients to keep you going. It is also a good idea to pack a few days extra meals or food, just in case you get stuck in the backcountry longer than expected. Here are some menu ideas, calorie counts, and pictures to help you get started. Happy camping!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

How To Plan An Extended Backpacking Trip

Backpacking in the Grand Teton National Park, ...

Backpacking in the Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Backpacking is a great way to spend time in the great outdoors. Carefully planning your trip is essential for your safety as well as your trail comfort. There isn’t anything worse than getting partway down the trail on the first day of a multi-day trek only to find that you have forgotten an essential piece of gear. Forgetting a piece of gear on a weekend trip is one thing; for week-long or extended trips, it can become a safety issue. Below, we will go over several tips on planning an extended backpacking trip so that your hike goes smoothly.

Plan Your Party

Are you a solo hiker, or do you prefer to hike with others as part of a larger group? If you aren’t an experienced backpacker, you might want to go with at least one other person. Most of us know the story of Aron Ralston, who was hiking alone in a slot canyon in southern Utah and ended up having to cut off his own arm to escape alive. Hiking in a group not only gives you company on the trail, but provides protection from wild animals and safety when emergencies strike. Safety in numbers applies here.

Remember to choose companions that have similar abilities and likes. Some hikers like to hike fast, while others like to take more breaks and enjoy the views. Some like flat terrain, while others prefer rugged mountaineering. If you put different types of backpackers in the same group, one type is bound to be unhappy with the pace, terrain, etc. Keep this in mind while planning your backpacking party.

Plan The Route Details

A simple dry magnetic pocket compass

Planning an extended backpacking trip can be tedious, especially when there are multiple voices expressing their opinions. But that doesn’t mean that you can skip this step. Make sure everyone is on the same page before you start hiking. In this stage, you need to plan the exact route that you will be hiking. This will allow you to determine the total length, the duration of the trip, and each day’s mileage. Think about the geographic location and the time of year. These factors will greatly weigh on what gear you pack. Invest in some high quality topographical maps of the area, and learn how to read them. Also learn how to use a compass, so you can navigate with these maps. GPS devices are nice, but they are heavy and they could fail you at any time. Make sure you have a backup plan to getting around in the backcountry.

Check local regulations for backcountry permits, fishing permits, camping restrictions, campfire restrictions, or other special considerations. Will you be hiking in bear country? If so, remember to follow guidelines about proper food storage.

Gather Your Gear

Once you know the nitty gritty details of your trip, it is time to gather the gear together and pack it all in your backpack. This makes a great pre-trip activity for your group, so get everyone together to assess the gear situation. Remember to think about the weather and temperature conditions of the terrain you will be hiking. There is a significant difference in the weight of sleeping bags, for example, for cold vs. warm weather camping. If you will be hiking in the mountains, the weather can turn at any moment, so it is wise to have warm clothing just in case.

Backpack

[amazon_link id=”B001BBIMPM” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Gregory Denali Pro 105 Mountaineering Pack (Chili Red,Large)[/amazon_link]For an extended backpacking trip, your backpack needs to be large enough to carry all the gear you need. Food will take up a ton of room on a week-long or longer hike. Expect to use a backpack with at least 4000 cubic inches of internal storage, if not more. Here is an article on the top 5 expedition backpacks on the market, and is a good resource for choosing your pack.

Food

You will generally want to have between 2500 and 3000 calories per day while on the trail. The more strenuous the hike, the more calories, and particularly protein, you will need to replenish your body. For extended backpacking trips of a week or longer, it can be a challenge to pack enough food to last the trip. Remember that dry food is lighter than wet food, and it is a good idea to pack a few days of extra emergency food, in case you get stuck. Here is a more in depth article on planning your extended backpacking trip food and meals.

Food Prep

[amazon_link id=”B005EM37UY” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Jetboil Sumo Titanium Personal Cooking System (Sand)[/amazon_link]Food preparation items can easily be distributed among the backpacking party. Split the fuel, stove, and pots up to even out the weight.

Water

It will be impossible to carry a weeks worth of water on your back, along with the other essential gear items. This is where it is very important to plan your backpacking trip near water sources, such as rivers, streams, and lakes. You don’t have to hike along a river or stream the entire time, but make sure you have stops at several watering holes per day.

[amazon_link id=”B003A1MURC” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Handheld UV Water Purifier[/amazon_link]There are several ways to purify and carry water. Backpacking filters such as the MSR Sweetwater and Katadyn Vario are great for large groups. The SteriPen Adventurer Opti is an ultralight portable method for sterilizing your water. You can always boil it on a camp stove, but this will require extra fuel, which means more weight. Water bottle filters are also another way to go, since they incorporate a filter within your carrying mechanism.

Tents

Most minimalist backpackers tend to shy away from tents, since they are trying to carry the least amount of weight possible. Sleeping under the stars has its perks, but for an extended trip, you are bound to have a few foul weather nights. There are tons of backpacking tents on the market today. The key is finding a backpacking tent that offers the right balance of comfort and durability, while being as lightweight as possible.

[amazon_link id=”B0036GT87G” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2 Person Tent[/amazon_link]One of the best lightweight backpacking tents on the market is the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2. There are several other options under the Tents category. The nice thing is that these tents are all 2 person tents, so you can break up your party into groups of two and distribute the weight around.

Sleeping Bags

[amazon_link id=”B0034HTDAY” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Marmot Helium MemBrain Down Sleeping Bag, Regular-Left, Blue[/amazon_link]The sleeping bag you pack really depends on the time of year and expected weather of your backpacking location. If you plan on cold, inclement weather, opt for a synthetic bag rated at least 20 degrees below the expected temperatures. Synthetic sleeping bags will keep you warm even if they get wet, but are typically heavier than their down counterparts.

Clothing

Many beginning backpackers fail miserably when it comes to packing the right clothing for their trip. Here is what you need to think about:

  • What is the weather like?
  • What time of year will I be hiking?
  • How cold do the nights/early mornings get?
  • How warm are the afternoons?

The answers to these questions vary immensely depending on where you decide to trek. But generally, you want to remember a few things when packing clothing:

  • Avoid cotton
  • Use clothing that will keep you warm even when wet (think wool and synthetic fleece)
  • Pack clothing that layers well (synthetic base layer, insulating layer, and outer layers)
  • Pack extra high-quality hiking socks – these are vital to keeping your feet healthy and comfortable
  • Don’t forget rain gear

As for how much clothing you should pack, this is really up to you. You will be dirty in the backcountry; there just isn’t any way around it. If packing a few extra shirts and undergarments helps you stay comfortable, then do it. Otherwise, try to get the most use out of each article of clothing that you can. The less clothing you pack, the more space you have for other gear items.

Hiking Boots

[amazon_link id=”B002LH40EC” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Scarpa Men's Bhutan GTX Man Hiking/Trail,Mud,43 Wide EU/10 Wide US Men[/amazon_link]The hiking boots that you use are very important to your comfort and ability to hike rugged terrain. Take your time choosing the right boots. Go to an outdoors supplier, and talk to an expert on the right fit. Make sure they are comfortable with the socks you have, as most wool-blend hiking socks are extra-thick. For more on choosing the right hiking boots, read our 2 part series here.

Miscellaneous Gear

The following list is not all inclusive of what you should bring, but is a good starting point for you rounding out the gear you might want to bring along.

  • First aid kit
  • Personal hygiene kit
  • Fire starting kit
  • Fishing kit
  • Flashlights (headlamps, lanterns)
  • Trekking poles
  • Binoculars
  • Multi-tool
  • Pocket knife

Camp comfort items – the following are a few comfort items, only if you have the space to carry them.

  • Small camp chair
  • Sandals
  • Swimming suit
  • Book
  • iPod

Trim Excess Weight

As you start to narrow down the gear you want to pack for your trip, get a scale and weigh everything. Tally up the total to see where you stand. At this point, you will want to start trimming excess ounces. Ounces add up to pounds, and too many pounds equals an unpleasant backpacking trip. For each item, ask yourself this question:

  • “Do I absolutely need this item?”

If the answer is no, leave it at home. If the item is a comfort item that you are not ready to live without on the trail, do your best to find the lightest alternative on the market. Another way to justify an item is to make sure it serves more than one purpose (the Jetboil cooking system utilizes a synthetic lid that also doubles as a throwing disc, for fun at the base camp).

As a group, distribute any gear items that serve a group function, such as tents, cooking items, etc. There might be more able backpackers in the group that can carry additional weight. If so, see if they would be willing to shoulder more of a burden to help out smaller framed hikers or novices.

Pack And Practice

Arcteryx Bora 95 Packing Guide

It might be worthwhile to plan an overnight or weekend practice run for the group. Pack up your bags and gear as if you were trekking for the duration of the extended trip, but just spend a night or two on the trail. This is a great way to make sure you have everything you need, as well as to test the load and weight of your pack. You might have packed too much, or maybe you feel like you can shoulder more weight. You also might find that the load is distributed incorrectly in your pack. All of these insights will help you have a more enjoyable time on the real extended trip.

Inventory Check

Before you leave, make sure everything you need is in your pack. A checklist is a good way to accomplish this, and also have a buddy look over your list and gear. This is also a good time to make sure everything is in working order. Test your water filter, camp stove, GPS (spare batteries), flashlights, and other items. Replace filters or batteries if you need to.

Itinerary

Before you take off, make sure you leave a detailed itinerary with a friend or relative that isn’t going on the hike. Include the route and location, the duration, where you plan to camp, who is hiking with you, and when you expect to return. If there are any problems in the backcountry, they will be able to get a hold of search and rescue to come find you and your party. Just don’t forget to contact them when you get home!

Bear Country Hiking

If you are planning on hiking in bear country, don’t think that your large group will keep a hungry bear from snooping around your campsite. Be smart and use bear-proof canisters for food. Also, don’t use a tent that has previously had food in it. This can cause dangerous encounters while you are sleeping.

Hang ALL of your food (snacks, meals, ingredients, even sealed energy bars and gels) from a tree. DO NOT bring any food inside your tent. This also goes for anything scented, such as shampoo, hair products, lotions, toothpaste, deodorant, gum and candy.

[amazon_link id=”B002E6VAHK” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Frontiersman Bear Attack Deterrent with Hip Holster[/amazon_link]Pepper spray has been proven to be one of the best deterrents of an attacking or charging bear. If you are hiking in bear country, at least a few members (if not everyone) should have a canister of bear spray.

Have Fun!

Remember that backpacking is a great way to spend time in the great outdoors with family and friends. It takes a lot of work to plan and put together an extended backpacking trip, but the effort is well worth it to get away from the cares of the world. Good luck and have fun!

What did we miss? Leave comments below to add to these tips.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail