A year after my last update to my backpacking kit, and already things have changed significantly again. What’s perhaps most interesting, is in my last update, I’d transitioned to the Gregory Baltoro, in large part due to the heavy weight of my full frame DSLR gear. Although by the time I’d written that update, I’d made the transition to a lighter mirrorless setup. Well, I’m getting back to my smaller, lighter, faster days. But enough of spoilers, let’s get into the nitty gritty.
1. Backpacking Gear
Above from top to bottom and then left to right.
|NorthFace Mica FL 1||This one-man tent offers a nice balance between roomy[/table_header] for a 6-foot hiker and lightweight. And since it is partially freestanding, it’s easy to set up and arrange before staking it down.||2 lb, 6 oz|
|Marmot Phase 20||Update: I bought my light 30-degree bag during a particularly warm year. And for the most part, we’ve had very little of true shoulder season weather for quite a few years here in the Pacific Northwest. So between leaving my 20s and facing some true Fall trips, I was in need of something a little warmer. The Phase 20, even though only 10 degrees warmer on paper than my old Sierra Designs Cal 30, is quite a bit warmer in the field. And for a mere 5 ounces extra, it’s well worth the weight.||1 lb, 10 oz|
|Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite||While not the lightest sleeping pad I’ve carried, the comfort and room offered in this pad is well worth the pound of weight. I’ve gone back to ultralight options and regretted the decision each time.||1 lb|
|Therm-a-Rest Z Seat Pad||This super light ground insulation is perfect for quick stops to keep your rear dry and warm. It is super light, and nicely supports the bottom of my pack to keep it standing upright when I put it down. At a mere two ounces, it’s well worth the weight.||2 oz|
|Eno Sub 7 Hammock||This is one of the lightest hammocks made. The clever fully adjustable attachments make this a flexible backcountry seat. Although it requires trees to set up, it’s lighter than any free standing chairs I’ve seen and far more comfortable. I haven’t yet made the move to a hammock tent, but that is an obvious next step. When I’m trying to go lighter, this is often an item that gets dropped. When I do bring it, the Therm-a-Rest gets dropped.||12 oz|
|10+ Essentials Kit||Weighing in at just over a pound, this has many of the key essentials you need for an emergency in the backcountry, along with a few nonessentials. Included in this kit are matches, fire starter, repair kit, compass, Leatherman, duct tape, extra cord, emergency cash, sunglass clips, bug head net, chaffing cream, and backup water filter.
Update: a change in gear increased the weight of this bag by an ounce.
|1 lb, 3 oz|
|First Aid Kit||This is the one piece of gear that almost every backpacker carries yet hopes he or she will never need to use. However, when you do need to use it, this well-stocked kit has enough to deal with a variety of maladies.||1 lb, 8 oz|
|Hard-sided Water Bottle||Update: I often carry one hard plastic water bottle now. Not a Nalgene, but heavier than my Platypus. I have found the Platypus tends to leak more now-a-days. Sometimes I leave this behind and drink straight from the BeFree.||3.5 oz|
|BeFree 1L Water Bottle||This water bottle filter is super easy to use. You can drink straight out of it, or use it as a squeeze filter.||2.3 oz|
|HydraPak 2L Water Bottle||Update: I added this as a backup in case the BeFree springs a leak (which they have a tendency to do). It is compatible with the BeFree water filter, and I believe a bit more sturdy. It also has extra capacity, giving me up to 4 liters of carry capacity in a pinch.||2.7 oz|
|Pack Cover||A pack cover is a very useful tool. It helps keep your gear dry while hiking, even if it’s too warm for a poncho. It also helps organize and keep gear at camp clean.||4 oz|
|TP||An obvious requirement. My bag is running a bit low in this picture. My TP kit includes toilet paper, extra bags for packing it out, and hand sanitizer. I’ve always been bothered by how many plastic bags I go through with my TP kit, so I’ve since replaced the plastic bag pictured above with a small nylon stuff sack (that I already had). This has added an ounce of weight, but is worth the weight for a more sustainable solution.||3–5 oz|
|Deuce of Spades Trowel||This light trowel is more sturdy than the old plastic trowels and lighter. It has saved 4.4 ounces—well worth the $20 I spent on it.||0.6 oz|
|Jetboil Mini Mo||With all the stove options out there, the Jetboil is still the most efficient one I’ve encountered, if not the lightest. However, with the Jetboil, I’ve lasted entire summers on a single fuel canister, and I get out a lot. One of these days, I may go in for the lighter version. However, if I’m really trying to go light, I bring my 4–6 oz alcohol stove and pot combination instead.
Update: On occassion, I bring my SnoPeak Giga with a Toaks Titanium pot (2.8 ounces including the mest bag to hold it all together). It’s a great space and weight saver, but it burns through far more fuel. I’ve heard the newer versions are more efficient, so I’m tempted to give that a try.
|Origami Bowl||These bowls are great. You can get a set with bowl, cup, and plate, however, I find just the bowl works perfectly. It can be used as a cup, it’s big enough to put any meal into, and it can be opened completely for use as a plate or cutting board or simply to lick clean.||1 oz|
|GSI Backpacker’s Mug||Update: I tend to use freeze dried packages for dinners, and for breakfasts I’ve been doing a lot of high protein oatmeal that requires sitting in a covered container to properly hydrate. So I tend to bring my mug out more often these days, instead of my origami bowl.||3.5 oz|
|MSR Long Spoon||Very light and long enough to reach into the depths of a freeze dried package. Blue for character.||0.5 oz|
|Ursack||The Ursack is a convenient bear-resistant food storage solution. Compared to bear canisters, it’s a huge weight savings (though some areas still do not accept the Ursack as a replacement for Bear Canisters). Compared to a stuff sack and bear line, it’s about 5 ounces heavier. However, since you don’t have to hang it 10 feet off the ground, the convenience is worth accepting some extra weight.||7.8 oz
|Black Diamond Storm||The Black Diamond Storm has much greater reach than many headlamps when navigating in the dark and is quite weather resistant. Unfortunately it is not rechargeable, so I have to bring my own rechargeable AAAs.||3 oz (with battery)|
|Delorme inReach Explorer+||This is a combination GPS communicator and navigator. It allows for fully custom text messages to be sent from anywhere in the world. When paired with an smart phone, it makes a powerful GPS navigation tool. I carry it for emergencies, sending out a location beacon every half hour to hour in the event something should happen to me.
Update: I upgraded to the new version, which has maps built into it, allowing me to not have to rely on just my phone for navigation.
|Anker 10,000 or 20,000 mAh Battery||On longer trips, sometimes some extra power is needed. If that is the case, this is the battery pack I’ll bring. It can be attached to an optional solar panel also made my Goal Zero, but few trips require more power than it already carries.
Update: I simplified my setup and have two batteries now. Both are extremely small and light for their capacity.
|3″ Lightning and Micro USB Cables||These tiny, super light cables allow my to charge my iPhone, headlamp, inReach, and camera batteries while in the field.||< 1 oz|
|OAproda NP-W126 Micro USB Charger||For charging my Fujifilm batteries in the field.||< 1 oz|
Update: To save weight, I put these items in my camera bag now.
|iPhone 6 Plus in Waterproof Case (not pictured)||My iPhone holds almost unlimited maps, trail guides, flora and fauna guides, and more. When paired with the inReach, it makes a great GPS navigation system.
Update: I’ve since upgraded to the iPhone 6 Plus, which offers a much larger screen for backcountry maps.
|Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H3 Earbuds (not pictured)||Sometimes I feel like some tunes in the backcountry. Although mostly these are for calling family on my way home to let them know I’m safe.||< 1 oz|
|Paper Maps (not pictured)||Never leave home without them. iPhones break and run out of battery power. I always have paper maps and a compass to be safe.||2–4 oz|
My clothes are perhaps the most flexible of the gear I bring. The exact combination depends on the time of year, the weather report, and the length of the trip. But this is a pretty good approximation of my standard outfit.
Again, top to bottom, then left to right.
|Therm-a-Rest Pillowcase||Not quite clothing, though my clothes often are stored in this. This pillow case helps control my clothes for a comfortable night’s rest.||1 oz|
|Pack Towel||For drying things off and keeping the sun of my neck and ears.||4 oz|
|2 OR Echo Tees||Great for hiking. Depending on the trip, either 2 long sleeve or 1 long and 1 short.||5–7 oz each|
|GoLite Silnylon Poncho Tarp||The poncho is the most versatile and light rain wear out there. It’s big enough to cover both my and my backpack. On day hikes it can double as an emergency shelter. On wet overnights, it can be an extra space to escape the rain.||7 oz|
|Outdoor Research Halogen Hoodie or Cirque Jacket or Radiant Fleece Shirt||This light hoodie has breathable soft-shell along the sides of the body and arms for extra ventilation. It is great as a summit hoodie or warm weather jacket. Depending on the conditions, I’ll bring one or more of these light jackets, plus one of the heavier jackets below.||13 oz|
|Outdoor Research Neoplume Jacket or Transcendant Hoodie||Without the soft shell sides, this is a much better all around insulator. For colder conditions, this jacket is a must. Neoplume for warmer weather trips, Transcendant for the shoulder season.||15 oz|
|Fleece Cap||For warming the noggin.||2 oz|
|OR Active Ice||For keeping the sun out of the eyes and off of the face. The OR Active Ice is a light, foldable cap that also has a neck skirt for keeping the sun off my neck, ears, and sides of my face.||3 oz|
|Thermal Bottoms||In the summer, this is generally more than enough leg warmth. Lightweight and wicking, they are a good base layer if things get cold.||10 oz|
|Ex Officio Briefs||They are boxers, they are swimming shorts. They keep everything from chaffing too badly. These are my favorite backcountry underwear. Though it would be nice to have something looser for camp.||2 oz each|
|OR PL Sensor, Stormtracker, or Extravert Gloves||For warming the handsies. Windproof for good measure. It really depends on the conditions I expect to find. The Stormtracker are my go to gloves. I bring the PL 100-Weight gloves for lighter trips, or the Extravert for snowier trips. Or I bring PL 100 or 400-weight plus the Stormtracker or Extravert for dry camp gloves and wet active gloves.||2-6 oz|
|2 Pairs of Smartwool PhD Hiking Socks||The socks last long and remain soft.||3 oz each pair|
|REI Zip Off Pants or OR Voodoo Pants||They are pants, they are shorts. The zip off part zips fully up so that they don’t have to slip over your boots. The softshell material makes them heavier, but more durable and water resistant. Sometimes I bring the very light Voodoos instead. They don’t zip off, but they save weight and are so light I generally don’t need to convert them.||11–16 oz|
|Outdoor Research Mud Gaiters||For keeping things out of my boots. These are great with light snow conditions, or to keep dust, dirt, and mud out of my boots as I walk.||4–5 oz|
In colder weather, I have some additional components that I add to the mix.
|Outdoor Research Synthetic Puffy or Virtuoso||The name of this jacket is escaping me at the moment, but it’s significantly warmer and puffier than two jackets I normally bring. For true winter conditions, the Virtuoso is the jacket to bring. It’s heavier, but it is very warm.||1 ln, 4 oz|
|Outdoor Research Paladin Rain Jacket||A full rain jacket is important when playing around in the snow. It also allows for some better insulation options when hiking. If there is going to be a lot of wet, a lot of windy, or a lot of snow, a rain jacket and pants often go with me.||1 lb|
|Marmot Full Zip Rain Pants||Full zip allows them to get on and off easily, especially over my bigger winter boots.||12 oz|
|Neoplume Pants||When the conditions are going to be particularly cold, these pants help keep warm the lower half. Again, the full zip make them easy to get on and off.||1 lb, 2 oz|
And finally, the footwear. On the top, my 3-season hiking boots (about 2 lbs together) and my crocs for around camp and river crossings (12 oz). On the bottom, my winter/alpine mountaineering boots. They are much warmer, much more water proof, and much sturdier for kicking steps.
Update: Those three season boots did not work out too well. They died within a season. I was using Salewa’s for a few years, which were great, but recently just replaced those with Salomon GTX.
3. The Packs
I’ve tried a few of Gregory’s lighter packs, but as of yet have not found one as comfortable as the Baltoro. I have 2 versions of the Baltoro. The Baltoro 65 is my main big trip pack and is plenty big for most of my needs. It comes in at just around 5 pounds.
One bonus feature of the Baltoro is the top lid. The way it is setup, there is a pocket that is perfect for a telephoto lens.
Update: While I still have the Baltoro for bigger trips, I use my new Osprey Mutant 38 for most trips. This pack is a 38 liter mountaineering bag that packs like a 45 liter. It’s a bit tight still, but when trips get a bit longer, I can usually fit everything by moving my tent and maybe also my sleeping pad to the exterior of the pack. At 2 pounds, 13 ounces, it is nearly half the weight of the Baltoro.
4. Camera Equipment
Where I once generally carried 10 pounds of camera gear, I now carry around 6–7, and that includes a tripod. On trips where I think wildlife is likely, the weight savings is a little less (9.5 lbs instead of the 11.5 lbs with my old Canon gear), but it is still significant. And there are other benefits of my switch to Fujifilm that make it a super fun camera to shoot with. I talk more about the switch in another post.
Update: Last year I moved to the Fujifilm X-T1, and now I’m shooting with the amazing X-T2.
My full camera kit weighs a honking 6–7 pounds. It’s not light, but photography is a passion for me, and so far, the effort is worth the reward. I talk more about how I carry my camera gear in this article.
|Tenba DNA 8||Update: I eventually got tired of always reaching behind me for lenses. With my new mirrorless setup, I’ve been able to move to a small bag that carries everything I need, and doubles as a shoulder bag for running around camp or on quick side trips. It does add weight, however it also saves 4 ounces in neoprene sleeves for lenses.||1 lb, 3 oz|
|Optech 2-Filter Pouch||For carrying all my filters when backpacking. With the move to mirrorless, I’ve also reduced the number of filters I generally bring out. This small and light filter pouch carries an ND Filter and Polarizer for my Fuji 14mm and an adapter for my 23mm or 35mm lenses.||3 oz|
|Cleaning and Maintenance Kit||This kit is the basic cleaning and care kit. It includes: a micofiber cloth, Giottos Rocket Blower, Lenspen, and filter wrench.||6 oz|
|Canon Remote Switch||This remote release allows for some advanced photography techniques with slow exposures. It also allows me to release the shutter while the camera is stable without causing any camera shake.||3 oz|
|Fujifilm X-T2||Update: Similar form factor to the X-T1, a bit bigger and heavier, but well worth the upgrade. Weight includes battery and SD card.||18 oz|
|Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R||This is my wide angle landscape lens. Replacing the Canon 16-35 at a 1/3 of the weight, this lens is not quite as wide as my Canon, but it is faster and I love shooting with small, fast primes.||8.3 oz|
|Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 or 35mm f/2||Update: After moving to Fuji, I moved even more heavily into prime lenses. I generally carry either teh 23 or 35 as a weather sealed lens to compliment my ultrawide 14mm.||7.5 oz|
|Fujifilm XF 55-200mm or 100-400mm||Wildlife photography is one of the reasons I bring a camera, so a good telephoto lens is essential. Luckily, I have two to choose from.
The 55-200mm can be a bit short for wildlife, though often I find with patience and quiet, wildlife often will get close enough for this lens to do the trick.
The 100-400mm is much better for capturing a variety of wildlife, especially if I bring the 1.4X Converter as well. Combined, this gives an 840mm equivalent field of view on a full frame sensor. It’s heavy, but can be worth it, especially when visiting places that I often find wildlife.
|1 lb, 4 oz or 3 lbs|
|Fujifilm XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR||I picked up a used copy of this lens, with the intent of using it when I want to go super light or plan on heading out in nasty conditions, where changing lenses is not idea, and the weather resistant treatment would be beneficial. I’ve brought it out once so far. It’s not long enough for serious wildlife, not fast enough for serious bokeh, and wide enough for sweeping landscapes. So generally, it’s just not as fun a lens. But the idea of having an all in one of this caliber is nice, and the potential weight savings on trips is worth noting. We’ll see how often it works it’s way out on trips with me.||1 lb, 1.3 oz|
|Circular Polarizer Filter||Circular Polarizers are amazing for cutting the glare off leaves, water, and other surfaces with a high sun.||2 oz|
|ND Filters (6-stop or 10-stop)||ND filters allow for slowing of water and clouds to show the smooth motion and make landscapes pop. In direct sun, a 10-stop filter is needed to slow the shutter speed enough to make these kinds go landscapes pop. In shade, a 6-stop filter is generally better. Though I don’t usually carry both.||2 oz each|
|Extra Batteries||Of course, you need power to operate your camera. Don’t waste all that weight only to fall short on power during your trip. I find the NP-W126’s last 300 shots or more. I generally go through more than 1 a day, especially when shooting long exposures and star trails.||3 oz each|
|Extra SD Cards||I don’t usually need to bring this with the dual card slots on the X-T2. I have enough space for any but the longest trips.||< 1 oz|
|Sirui Ultralight Traveller||Tripods are essential for night photography and slow exposures. This is a super light tripod. It is short, but fully functional.||1 lb, 12 oz|
|UltraPod||Update: For lighter purposes, this UltraPod is perfect. It’s super light and can handle a vareity of situations with my small prime lenses.||6.25 oz|