Tag: ultralight

backpackingblogcampingGoing Lighter

A lighter kind of philosophy

As I came up over the ridge I couldn’t help but feel that maybe, just maybe, ultralight is not always the perfect solution for every backpacking trip. I stood there, wet, tired and miserable. I had just hiked 15 kilometers on a cold rainy afternoon along the Laugavegur trail in Southern Iceland. The trail stretches roughly 75 kilometers from the north in Landmannalaugar down to the south in Skogar. I made my journey in mid June a week after the trail had just been opened for the season. Snow was still prevalent along this part of the trail from Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker. I flew in from Stockholm to Reykjavik and arrived around 9 in the morning. From there it was about a 4 hour bus drive along thin gravel roads, streams and an endless view of mountains and volcanic ash.

After 12 hours of traveling I just wanted to move, I needed to get out and walk and even though I arrived at Landmannalaugar at 4 in the evening, I made the decision to just walk. I couldn’t be bothered by the massive rainfall or the awesome hot springs. I pulled out my rain jacket, adjusted my backpack and made my way.

I arrived at that ridge after about 4 hours of hiking in wet, cold snow feeling like shit. Sure the first hour was a blast, but the rest, not so much. I just wanted to get somewhere warm and pitch my tarp for the night. When I reached that ridge overlooking the campsite the only thought that came to mind was “fuck”. My shitty day is turning out to be only worse, what I wouldn’t give for a 4 season, two layer tent, a thick winter sleeping mat and bag. Perhaps even a warm bed and shower. I looked over at the cabin walked in and requested a bed for the night. Of course I wasn’t alone here, all the beds were taken. I resigned and accepted the fact that tarp it would be.

When I stood there looking over the campsite, dread creeping in on the knowledge that I would now have to walk from the warm cabin down to the campsite about 100 meters away, cold and wet, walking in knee high snow in my mesh trail runners, knowing all too well that my night was about to be much worse than my day. I was unprepared for a winter hike, the thought that I would be hiking in knee high snow in the middle of June simply didn’t occur to me. While I tend to plan well, and pack warm. A tarp, trail runners and a torso pad with a summer quilt are not always the best choices for a winter hike. To make matters worse the campsite was placed at the bottom of a deep valley with no trees or wind shields in place. The wind was screaming down the snowy mountain side.

After a while I was finally able to set up my tarp in the volcanic ash, placed out my torso pad on my plastic trash bag ground floor and in the end, I was longing for that warm bed. The feeling of dread overtook me later on when I was really warm in my bag and had to get out, walk that 100 meters with frozen shoes on because I had to take a raging piss.

The moment of change

It was in that moment lying in my warm sleeping bag, knowing I would have to get up, get clothed and put those freezing cold shoes on and hike 100 meters in that snow in the middle of the night just to take a piss, that my love for ultralight backpacking and hiking altogether started to dwindle. This is how backpacking works, it tests us mentally and physically on all levels. This first days are always the worst. 

When I crawled back into my sleeping bag, wet and miserable I started to re-think how I would like to tackle these situations in the future. I started to wonder if the entire trail would be like this or if it’s just here, at the northern end of the trail. In any case I started to write down what changes I wanted to make to my gear. What worked what didn’t and so on. I wanted to find a good compromise of weight and comfort as well as usability in all situations. I found that while my general backpacking weight is very light, a base weight on this trip of about 2.5 kilos (5.5lbs), it was lacking in overall comfort and safety for surprise conditions. When I started to write everything down I found that I made certain compromises that were simply not necessary: I could easily hold the same weight with more comfort and safety without crossing the threshold to “stupid light”.

Some of the bigger changes I had to make was to my torso pad and sleeping mat (I carry both a blow up wide torso pad and an evazote sleeping mat) these together weighed about 500 grams. I also had to re-think my trailrunners. Not necessarily changing from trails runners to boots, more changing to a different form of trail runners.

Why not boots? Well, to be honest that first day I was longing for a pair of nice warm boots, longing for the comfort and warmth boots can obtain in cold, wet climates. Then I made my way into that first hut at Hrafntinnusker and saw that everybody’s shoes and feet were wet and cold. The only difference is that my shoes would be dry in the morning while everybody else will have to put hot warm feet into wet cold boots that would stay wet and cold the entire trip. On top of that I really like when my feet get hot in trail runners that I just plow through some cold water and voila! Cooled down and ready to go. What I wanted to change in my shoes was the sturdiness, I was sick and tired of stubbing my toe along the trail and it hurting like hell afterwards because my trail runners are the equivalent of walking barefoot as far as how much protection they give.

I was also looking at perhaps changing my tarp to a more traditional tent – heavier of course than what I have, but still keep me within my 3 for 3 goal, the 3 for 3 I talk about extensively in my book Ultralight and comfortable. It’s basically your biggest three items under 3 kilos. (Tent, sleep system and backpack)

I also started to re-think just what my goals where, the truth is, backpacking is not a black and white equation. I can’t give you all the answers and what will work for you specifically. I am constantly trying out new variations along new trails. I personally don’t like hikes longer than 14 days, you might like month long trails. More power to you. I also at this moment in my life have zero ambition to climb mount Everest or hike the entirety of the Appalachian trail.

In the end

My gear choices worked very well, but what had me thinking was that I had left very little margin for error. As I stated earlier, I am quite good at planning my trips, and forseable problems that might occur. I had even understood that there would be snow along the northern section of the trail. But for some reason it seemed to have slipped my planning. It turned out that the rest of the trail was more what I planned for, and I had a great time.

I did start to re-think my packing though, and it’s quite easy to go stupid light, and it’s something I still do from time to time and it’s usually in conjunction with arrogance. Sometimes I just take certain situations for granted because I am too comfortable with my own experience and skill. While it’s good to have knowledge and skill, it’s no crutch for making stupid decisions.

A thought

With that said, I want to propose a different approach to the ultralight movement, or at least my own movement of the Ultralight and comfortable variation. Just as the heavy miserable community or traditional backpacking community obsesses about “ruggedness, survivor, name brand” and so on. The ultralight community has a tendency to go overboard on the “ultralight, superlight, grams, ounces”. We spend so much time obsessing about weight, that somewhere along the lines we have to lift our eyes a bit and realize that different hikers have different goals. I would also like to suggest that lighter is not always more comfortable. Sometimes a backpack that weighs 1.3 kilo with a sturdy frame, hip belt and good carrying capacity is a much better choice than the 300 gram Ikea bag sewn into a backpack – for any purpose.

So we have to find a good medium, maybe we still have to obsess about the weight, but we have to take into consideration comfort, distance of hike and of course the goals of the hiker. When I made that trip in Iceland I couldn’t help but stare at everybody and think “those poor bastards, they simply have no clue”. I can only assume that everybody looked at me at thought “wow, that guy is simply amazing with his ultralight gear.. Looks like he is flying over the terrain”.

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A night in paradise: video and gear list

Hammock glamping.. that’s right, glamping maxed out, and no shame at all. The first real day of spring has arrived in Stockholm so I did what any highly motived government employee would do: I ditch work early, packed my backpack and headed to the lake.. This particular area is called “Paradiset” – The paradise. I agree. I love this little area and it’s only about a 15 minute drive from my house in Farsta.

No long walk, no ultralight, no dehydrated fodder – just glamping. I made an awesome little lentils, carrots and broccoli casserole in a thick and heavy Trangia kitchen set along with freshly grinded coffee beans in a snow peak coffee press. I slept like a king in the REI quarter dome hammock system (assuming kings sleep well of course). All in all it was just a great night out and one that was sorely needed after the long and depressing winter.

Testing different editing options, I edited this video completely on the Ipad mini using Lumafusion. Not a perfect edit but good enough.

Full gear list:

https://lighterpack.com/r/8nul9i

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Sarek national park in Video part 1

So I finally got around to editing some of my Sarek video from july, I’m not really sure the direction I want to take the films.. should they be long, with long melodic segments of nature and so on, or do I cut it down like I did here to show what I want to show then move on? It’s one of those issues I have with video really.. What is it I want to show? Do I talk, do I not talk? Let me know what you think and I will keep it in mind for the next videos.

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Gear review: Fizan compact trekking poles

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a representative from Massdrop on writing a review for one of their upcoming massdrops. For those of you not familiar with massdrop it’s a community or social shopping network that sets up different products for ridiculously cheap prices. For example right now they have an 800 down Enlightened Equipment high quality quilt on sale for 189usd. So the prices are fantastic and the products on offer are often of the highest quality.

Being the kind of guy I am, I have no problems exchanging my time for products and doing a review as long as I can fit it into my schedule. Also it’s not unusual for me to get request to do reviews for products and companies in the USA as a lot of my visitors to this site come from the USA. (Not so strange considering I write in English and come from the USA myself).

With that said, I have known about Fizan as a company for some time as they make trekking poles that are known throughout Europe as a high quality brand. I’m not sure if the products exist in the USA, but in Italy and Europe they have been around since the 1950’s and still being made in Italy.

The timing for Debbie over at Massdrop couldn’t have been better as I was in the market for a new pair of trekking poles as I’m not completely happy with the ones I have. I was in the market for highly adjustable, lightweight, aluminum poles. (I keep breaking my Carbon fiber poles). Feeling I would be more than happy to sacrifice some weight for the added strength of Aluminum.

Weight:

Anyway, I got my Fizan compact trekking poles in the mail a few days ago and I was immediately surprised by the writing on the poles ”worlds lightest trekking poles 158grams”. I thought – bull… But to be honest they are the lightest adjustable poles on the market which is pretty awesome. (Correct me if I’m wrong here). My current carbon fibre adjustable poles weigh in at 184 grams each. These with the straps and baskets weigh 175grams. Take off the straps and baskets (which I normally do) and were down to 158grams each. Light.

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175 grams with the basket and strap on. Hard to find Carbon fiber adjustable poles at this weight.

Quality

As I stated I haven’t had a whole lot of time to test these out, I have been out a few nights and walked a total of about 65 kilometers with varying weight on my backpack and with two different tents. (The MLD Duomid and the MLD Trailstar). The poles have held up well (holding the tents up) even in some really heavy wind and rain on one of my nights out.

The Fizan compacts use a three part proprietary interlocking system, that they have been using for years in their compact system without problems. I find no reason to doubt this interlocking system.

To be honest, I have no real issues with the quality here, as I said before, Fizan is a well known brand and I have had their poles once upon a time a few years back, they never let me down. I don’t feel like this will be issue with these poles either.

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Looks and feel

I think these poles look good, as good as trekking poles can look that is. They are still old people sticks (joke from my book), but do what they are suppose to do. I have seen much uglier poles. They do however feel fantastic. Weight and balance and even the tiniest of attention to details really stand out. I like the feel of the straps and how small the poles pack down to due to the three part adjustable system.

The color on the Massdrop sale for these pole swill be blue and not the red that is seen in these pictures.

Size

My Fizan compacts are adjustable from 58 centimeters (23 inches) to about 132 centimeters (52 inches) maxed out. In other words perfect from any toddler sized human to about my size 190cm (6’3”).

 

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The Fizan sticks holding up an MLD Duomid + Innertent

Specs:

Weight with straps and basket: 178grams each

Height: 58cm (23 inches) – 132 centimenters (52 inches)

Material: 7001 Lightweight Aluminum

Locking: Proprietary Flexy internal locking system

Grips: Ergonomic EVA foam grip with rounded plastic top

3 sets of removable baskets: 35, 50, and 95 mm

Suggested price: $59.99

Massdrop start date: Monday, June 5 at 6 a.m. PST.

Address for the massdrop site and sticks:

https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-fizan-compact?utm_source=Iterable&iterableCampaignId=122529&iterableTemplateId=178324&utm_campaign=massdrop_x_fizan_compact_trekking_poles&mode=guest_open&referer=C9BLKJ&utm_medium=email

 

PROS:

Lightweight adjustable poles

Aluminum

Extra baskets

Cheap (to be honest, I’m surprised by the price on these.. This is cheap)

Great brand

Made in Italy

 

CONS:

Aluminum (You can get lighter with non-adjustable carbon fiber)

The tips on these are wider than standard trekking poles which means the pole extender on the MLD Duomid won’t work. That’s why in the picture above I use PVC piping instead of the carbon fiber pole extender.

Perhaps shouldn’t be used as ski poles…. . .


The Fizan compact poles are an excellent compliment to the MLD Trailstar as they are highly adjustable.

 

TO read more about these poles check out this excellent, detailed review:

https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1797/upcoming-massdrop-x-fizan-collaboration?utm_placement=3&referer=PYEQYA&mode=guest_open&utm_campaign=Automated%20Daily%20Promotional%202017-05-26&utm_source=SparkPost&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Daily%20Promotional&utm_content=1495797900732.028910651407058611965059

 

backpackingessentialsGearGoing Lighterultralight

The UL Jacket – Essential gear for any backpacker

I once wrote an article a long time ago about the ultralight wind jacket and how I felt it was the single most important piece of gear for any backpacking regardless of your weight preferences. (Whether you enjoy ultralight or prefer being heavy and miserable.. ) I would like to propose that the second piece of essential gear for any backpacker would be an ultralight down jacket (synthetic works as well but usually heavier for the same warmth). For the last 3 years I have been using a lightweight down jacket that weighs at around 180grams for the XL size. (Haglöfs L.I.M essens down). I find this jacket much like the wind jacket allows me to leave a few extra layers at home. And the down jacket combined with a wind jacket is hard to beat in weight to warmth ratio.

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When I talk about ul down jacket I mean any down jacket under 200grams for a large size.

My typical three season layer scheme looks something like this:

Wool or bamboo fiber Shirt 150grams – main layer always on

Windjacket with hood 80grams – Always with me and depending on weather usually always on (in the nordic regions of the world)

Down jacket 188grams – I usually put my down jacket on the minute I stop for the day. It’s very rare that I actually need this while hiking.

Total weight: 418grams or about 1 lbs.

That’s it. That’s my entire upper layering system for most three season hikes. If it’s raining I put my rain jacket on (so fourth layer). And depending on how long I am gone I usually don’t bother with a an extra shirt to sleep in, unless I will be hiking in wet and cold regions. Also, as you can see, I don’t bother with sweaters or thicker shirts or anything else that usually becomes redundant and heavy when you have a light down or synthetic jacket. Most sweaters, wool or otherwise, are going to be heavier than a down jacket and won’t be anywhere near as warm.

This setup will easily keep me warm to down around 30 degrees farenheit. So even on cold nights when the temperature will drop to 20 degrees, I can keep warm and snug at night in my three season gear (quilt, sleeping pad and down jacket).

As with any high quality UL product, lighter usually means more expensive, but there are always exceptions to this rule. However no-matter what, your never going to get into silly money prices that you could end up paying for when purchasing main stream products that weigh much more. If you inclined to do so, there are a few MYOG patterns and kits for synthetic and even down UL jackets. When my current jacket breaks down I will probably replace it with a synthetic jacket. Main reason being that I use this same setup even in the winter with the inclusion of a thick down puffy, which creates more moisture, and that breaks down my inner down. So, a synthetic would fix this problem.

Ultralight Down and Synthetic jackets:
Haglöfs L.I.M Essens down
Western Mountaineering Flash jacket
Yeti streto ultralight down
Crux turbo top
Mountain Hardware ghost whisperer
Mountain hardware Micro Thermostatic (synthetic)
OMM Rotor smock (synthetic)

These are just a few of the ul jackets currently available as of this writing.

If your interested in sewing your own:

The kinsman insulated pullover is the best design I’ve found

http://thru-hiker.com/kits/kinsman_kit.php

hobbiesLiving simplyminimalismminimalistsimplicity

Minimalism and hobbies?

This one is difficult for me. To be honest, I have had many, many hobbies and I don’t mind buying stuff for my different hobbies. One major change I have made since becoming minimalist is limiting the amount of hobbies that I have. In fact, I am now working towards one hobby at a time with perhaps a longer life than my previous adventures. So instead of me having 5 different completely separate hobbies that I go at about 150% for 2 months at a time, I now try to limit myself to just one hobby that might have a few offshoots but still part of the whole.

An example of this would be do I choose photography or working on cars? While photography can certainly be a lone hobby, it tends to work well with my other hobby of backpacking. So cars will have to go. What more can be incorporated into my backpacking hobby? Photography, recipes (making food for the trail), traveling in general, writing and even MYOG (make own gear). However, if I were to pursue all of these separately with 100% focus they would be too large and expensive to accommodate for any other hobbies. Read More

backpackingGearGoing Lighterultralightultralight backpacking

Is ultralight right for you?

I have a lot of readers on this blog, some for recipes, others for my posts on minimalism and still a bit more for photography. But the the majority of my readers are here because they enjoy (hopefully) my articles on ultralight backpacking. While my packing for some people will seem ridiculously light, for others they may think I’m a bit hyperbolic calling myself ultralight as they run around with a plastic bag tarp and a fanny pack. I will be honest with you here, my blog should have been called ”comfortable in the wild”. My packing is somewhere between ultralight and lightweight if there is a pounds grading system that I don’t know about somewhere.

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The truth is that while I am convinced lightweight packing will work for everybody regardless of needs, ultralight backpacking is probably not for everyone. I have experienced a few nights while the cold mountain winds blew down from treeless mountain tops right underneath my tarp and into my bones, where trying to find a ”dry” patch up land to put my ground floor on, and when mice have creeped into my sleeping quilt looking for food, that I truly thought to myself ”maybe a little more weight would be worth it.”

In most climates I truly believe that a simple tarp, sleeping pad and lightweight quilt is all that is needed along with a lightweight pair of pants and a thin t-shirt. And that’s one of the tricks of ultralight backpacking, or perhaps downfalls of using the word ”ultralight”. We get so focused on ultralight that sometimes it’s easy to forget about what might actually be best for the planned route or trek. I think most ultralight backpackers have had similar thoughts, ”maybe this just isn’t for me”. But then when we are bouncing up a steep mountain after a 10 day hike feeling fresher than when we started, that we forget about those bad moments.

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I want to propose that sometimes it’s o.k. to give up the title ultralight if it means added warmth, security and comfort. It’s one thing to hike a summer hike along a well travelled trail and quite another to do backpacking along desolate wild regions in the far corners of the planet where the closest help is 500 miles away. It’s o.k. in these conditions to bring a proper freestanding tent that will give you a piece of mind. It’s o.k. to bring an extra gas canister, layer of clothing or even warmer sleeping bag than what the forecasts are predicting.

Just remember that the most important factor when backpacking an especially ultralight backpacking is knowledge. Knowing whats in your bag, knowing how to survive even the shittiest of situations, knowing how to make a fire 10 different ways, to keep warm with minimal gear, were to find water and so on.

While ultralight might not be for everyone, certainly everyone would be just fine with lightweight gear. There is simply no reason to carry a 4 kilo / 8 lbs backpack with todays technology. There is simply no reason for a lone backpacker to bring a 5 kilo /12 lbs freestanding tent when even Hilleberg are now making freestanding tents at around 1.5 kilos / 3 lbs. There is no reason to carry a 3 kilo / 6 lbs sleeping bag or a stove that weighs 1 kilo / 2.2 lbs.

Gear choices:

Traditional weight grams lbs. Lightweight weight kilo lbs. Ultralight weight grams lbs.
Backpack Backpack Backpack
Fjällräven Kajka 3,6 7 HMG Sidewinder 4400 0,98 1,8 Zpacks arc-blast 0,6 1,3
tent tent tent
Hilleberg Keron 5,5 12 Hileberg Enan 1,2 3 MLD Solomid Cuben 0,34 0,75
sleeping bag sleeping bag sleeping bag
Fjällräven Sarek 3 season 1,3 2,8 WM Summerlite 0,61 1,3 WM Summerlite 0,61 1,3
Sleeping mat Sleeping mat Sleeping mat
Exped down 9 1,2 2,6 Thermarest xTherm 0,58 1,2 Small Thermarest xLite 0,2 0,44
Total big three: 11,6 24,4 3,37 7,3 1,75 3,79

As you can see – for most three season and even four season hiking, the traditional backpacker is looking more and more pointless. I would suggest that with the lightweight setup and would be just as comfortable in camp, but with the added benefit of getting to camp fairly comfortably. There is of course always an exception: Ignorance means you need more and heavier gear. As a weekend warrior who is not interested in more than just cooking hotdogs over a stove then who cares. Polar adventures in the middle of winter are probably also another exception. Winter camping is a different beast altogether as survival is more important than weight. Though, I can personally attest that with a few extra layers of clothing in your bag and a proper sleeping mat, it’s not very difficult to sleep comfortably even in the coldest of situations.

I fall somewhere between ultralight and lightweight. My main focus is on being comfortable and safe, than comes ultralight after that. But I will always have weight as a determining factor in the gear I buy and if I have to choose between a backpack that holds 65 liters and weighs 3.6 kilos / 8 lbs or a backpack that holds 65 liters and weighs .980 grams / 2 lbs, I will always take the lighter backpack. I also find that I prefer I little more ”rugged” pants than ultralight windproof pants. Simply because it’s not unusual for me to go off trail and in those situations I almost always get holes in my ultralight wind clothes. In fact most of my clothing has silver tape all over then… not by choice. In the winter I prefer proper winter boots with knee high gators, in late fall in Sweden when the landscape is filled with shin high water, I prefer running shoes with knee high overboots.

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Backpacking for me is about having fun and enjoying every minute of being outdoors. Even on long hikes I can bring a trangia kitchen set to do proper backpack cooking. Nothing beats a freshly caught trout over a fire, or a trout casserole with freshly picked berries. I’m not trying to beat any records, I’m not trying to impress anybody, I’m just a wondering soul who loves being in the outdoors and I want to make my time out as enjoyable and comfortable as possible.

If you are looking at doing the Pacific coast trail I would suggest gravitating towards the Ultralight packing. If you are taking a weeklong trip to the wilds of Alaska, personally I would prefer the lightweight setup. Though certainly it could be done with an ultralight kit as Andrew Skurka has proven. If your just going out to drink a few beers with your friends over a campfire and camp not more than a few miles from your car.. who cares. Bring the Kajka and Keron – they both look pretty damn impressive.

Recipe

Recipe: Pecan chocolate mush bar

I’m weak as hell when it comes to chocolate.. Or most things that require any kind of self discipline for that matter. But chocolate gets me the most, I’m surprised I still have all my limbs or at the least can still walk with the amount of chocolate I consume.. Maybe it’s all the hiking.

In any case what could be better than pecans, dates, walnuts and chocolate? An awesome and simple recipe that really spices up the ordinary dates based raw bars. Read More

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The art of getting shit done

“There is no reason for you to think that any man has lived long because he has grey hairs or wrinkles; he has not lived long – he has existed long.” Seneca

Maybe it’s that time of year, being new year or something that I feel it’s important to share my own thoughts on goal setting and achievement.

I wrote a similar piece to this a long time ago, perhaps 2010 when I was running my Hedge fund and stock blog. As times change so do my interests and hobbies. However, I find that my action plan is always the same, and I think this post sums it up pretty damn well. I get the question a lot about how I manage to get so many of my projects done and how I find the time to do them. Read More