Haeckel Col ~ Cross Country Route Detail

The easiest way to access the cross country route to Haeckel Col is from Sabrina Basin. It is about six miles on a maintained trail from the Lake Sabrina trailhead to Midnight Lake. Once at Midnight Lake follow the easy granite benches on the east side of the lake to the top of the ridge between Midnight Lake and Hungry Packer Lake.

The route up the ridge from Midnight Lake: 

Six Moon Designs Cuben Haven Tarp and Inner Net Tent

After years of searching for a lightweight two person shelter I finally settled on the Big Sky Evolution 2P/2D/2V free standing tent. I thought it was great, but at 3 pounds it just seemed like there should be a better option. . .

Big Sky Evo 2 person/2 door/2 vestibule free standing tent on the JMT.
 Then I found the Six Moon Designs Cuben Haven Tarp & Inner Net Tent.

Cross Country Loop Around Mt. Darwin via Haeckel Col & Darwin Col

After finishing a section of the Sierra High Route a few weeks ago I met a guy named Donn while hiking out through Sabrina Basin. We talked nutrition, gear, exercise, footwear and world politics while hiking a few miles to the parking lot. I rarely meet somebody who shares so many similar common interests, including a passion for cross country backpacking in the High Sierra.

I couldn’t believe it when he showed me a map of the cross country passes he had been scouting out for the past week. They were the same passes that I had been researching all winter. We decided to take one last trip of the season together, weather permitting. 

During the next few weeks we had to delay the trip due to the mid October storm, but we lucked out and took advantage of an unusually warm break in the weather last week. 

We started out by acclimating at Midnight Lake the first day. It's only a few miles to Midnight Lake from the Sabrina Lake TH so I was able to leave home in the morning and still get there in time to have dinner at the lake.

Sabrina Basin Trail Head.

Gould Pass ~ Cross Country to Rae Lakes

"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea".

That's what I was thinking at the end of the first day of this loop hike out of Onion Valley last weekend. Although there were some challenging moments it was a fun trip. Thanks to Maverick at High Sierra Topix for the route suggestion, I would not have been aware of this alternate route into Rae Lakes without his recommendation. 
I started out leaving home at 3:30 am on Friday after working till midnight. This seems to be my routine when trying to leave town for a long weekend, but I was feeling good and the excitement of a new adventure in the High Sierra kept me going. The ranger sent me on the way at 8:30 am and with a walk-in permit in hand I headed up to the Onion Valley TH.

Onion Valley Trailhead

John Muir Trail Thru Hike: Day Eleven

Tarn above Guitar Lake to Whitney Portal: 16.5 Miles

Sept. 22nd, 2011.

I woke up to the sound of groups of hikers passing by at 3:45 am. They were heading up the switchbacks by headlamp. I wasn't comfortable hiking on an unfamiliar trail at high elevation by headlamp, so I relaxed and dozed off.

Within an hour or so I could see their headlamps on the side of the mountain, way way up toward the top. A friend had told about seeing this same thing many years ago, and now here I was.

By 6:30 am I had gathered my gear and while wearing every piece of clothing I had I started up the trail toward Mt. Whitney. For the first 20 minutes it was seriously cold, but soon I removed almost everything and hiked there rest of the way in shorts with silk long johns, a wind breaker and lightweight hat/gloves.

The views of Mt. Hitchcock and Hitchcock Lakes in the sunrise was beautiful. While hiking up toward Trail Crest I passed a few bivy camp sites (possible camp spots for next time). The trail was basically dug out of the granite most of the way. There was a storm passing from the east and although it was sunny there was snow blowing over from the other side of the ridge.

Sunrise on Mt. Hitchcock.

John Muir Trail Thru Hike: Day Ten

Tyndall Creek to tarn above Guitar Lake: 13.5 Miles

Sept. 21st, 2011.

This was a relaxing day with low mileage and easy terrain. I stopped to clean up a bit at the Tyndall Creek crossing and made my way through some lightly forested areas toward the Big Horn Plateau. The amazing views of the Kaweah mountain range started to open up through the trees. . .

and soon I was on the plateau. . .

Lightweight Summer Quilt

This is a simple summer quilt with 1" baffles. After fooling around with a lot of different designs, dimensions and materials this final version of the summer quilt seems to be perfect (or whatever perfect is today).  


Momentum50 Black for the liner and Aegean Blue for the outer/shell. This is the latest and lightest breathable material from Thru-Hiker.com
30% overstuffed with 6.3 ozs 900 f/p down from Thru-Hiker.com
1" baffles spaced every 5" using 0.34 oz/sqyd cuben from Zpacks.com.
1/16" shock cord for the adjustable neck from Zpacks.com.
1/2" plastic D-Rings (questoutfitters.com)
Small metal eyelits (questoutfitters.com)


50" at the neck end tapering to 56" for the 2nd to 9th baffles, then tapering down to 40" at the foot end. The total length is 78". 

The loft seems to have come out over 1 1/2" probably due to the 30% overstuff. I think this should be good down to 40 degrees easily, and probably into the 30's with a silk base layer/puffy jacket/wind shirt/sleep socks etc.

Total weight is 12.48 ozs.

Here are a few photos: 

2012 Sierra High Route 9 Day Gear List

I will be doing the first section of the Sierra High Route this September with my backpacking buddy Dan.

Although this portion of the SHR is usually finished in less time, I have allowed extra time for some possible side trips (Mt. Sill or Agassiz) or for continuing on over Snow Tongue Pass into Humphreys Basin.

This list is similar to the gear I used on the JMT last summer, with a few new custom pieces of gear. Much of my gear is homemade (MYOG/'make your own gear'). For details of some of my custom gear projects check out the The Custom Shop.

So here is my initial gear list. Dig it!

Click for full size.

Cuben Kindle Dry Bag

Some good ideas are simple. The first time her Kindle gets dropped in a stream my wife will be hoping this was one of those good simple ideas.

The Cuben Kindle Dry Bag is made from 0.51 oz/sqyd cuben fiber and is made to fit a Kindle. All of the seams are taped with double sided cuben tape. The roll top is water tight and is attached to the body of the dry bag using hook and loop (velcro).

The total weight barely registers on my scale, but it looks like 0.1 oz (2 grams). . . and at that weight how can any of us leave home again safely without a custom Cuben Kindle Dry Bag?

The Cuben Kindle Dry Bag.

Ryan Jordan would approve!

0.1 oz.

Half Ounce Cuben Roll Top Dry Bag

Most of the lightest dry bags and pack liners that I've found are around 2 ozs, and that just seems way too heavy. So I made a simple roll top dry bag that weighs a half ounce using 0.51 oz/sqyd that is large enough to hold a 20 degree winter quilt and a puffy jacket. To some people it may seem a little extreme to go to all this trouble to save 1.5 ozs, but in this case the weight savings is 75% over the lightest alternatives.

This roll top dry bag is 26" x 18" and is made using a triple stitched flat felled seam that is taped on the inside. I used small 1/2" clasps attached to the bag using 1/2" gross grain webbing. The attachment points are reinforced with 0.51 oz/sqyd cuben fiber and cuben tape. 

Cuben Fiber Roll Top Dry Bag. 

Cuben iPhone Shoulder Pouch

The Cuben Fiber iPhone Shoulder Pouch is essentially a slimmer version of the popular shoulder pouches already offered by some cottage manufacturers. The size is perfect for an iPhone or slim camera (like a Canon Powershot ELPH 300HS). I included an adjustable exterior mesh pocket for smaller items and the whole package is easily  mounted onto a backpack shoulder strap. . . and it's lightweight. At 0.2 ozs is it the lightest iPhone shoulder pouch available?

The pouches are made using 1.43 oz/sqyd cuben fiber from Zpacks.com. I used one on the JMT last summer and it made it easy to access my camera, stickpick, aquamira and other small items while still being super lightweight.

Cuben Fiber iPhone Shoulder Pouch.

The Cuben Wedge

The Cuben Wedge is a simple tarp shelter design borrowed from the groundbreaking ultralight backpacker Glen Van Peski of Gossamer Gear. I have spent countless hours reading Glen Van Peski's gear lists and trip reports and I have purchased lots of gear from Gossamer Gear. I noticed he was using a very lightweight shelter called the Cuben Wedge, so I decided to make one for myself.

This tarp shelter is made using 0.51 oz/sqyd cuben fiber from Zpacks.com. Due to the simple design there is no need for a ridge line, which saves weight and simplifies the entire process. The tie outs with heavier 1.43 oz/sqyd cuben fiber material. The guy lines are lightweight Z-line also from Zpacks.

The first time I used this shelter was on a trip in the Anza Borrego Desert in winter. While camping on a large flat plateau we had heavy winds all night with gusts up to 50 mph starting at 3:00 am. Although all of the other shelters were blown down and damaged during the night, the Cuben Wedge made it through (I did have to lower the pitch into storm mode during the night).

The final weight: 3.5 ozs including guylines.

Here are a few pictures:

The tarp is 9 feet long before the side tapers, which allow for even more space to store gear. 

Ultralight Bivy

After reading many of the MYOG posts on BPL I started to get comfortable making most of my gear last summer. This is my humble attempt to give back a little to the online BPL community.

My goal was to make a bivy with a half length side zipper that weighed under 4 ozs while still having plenty of room for my shoulders/elbows and an inflatable sleeping pad inside the bivy. I also wanted something waterproof on the bottom with material that was durable enough to use without a groundsheet. My polycryo groundsheet was about 1.5 ozs anyway so if I could do all of this and keep it under 4 ozs I figured it was worth the effort. 

I used 0.51 oz/sqyd cuben for the bottom and 0.75 oz/sqyd Momentum 55 for the top. The cuben is available from Zpacks (http://zpacks.com/materials.shtml) and the Momentum 55 was available at Thru-hiker (http://thru-hiker.com/materials/breathable.php). Thru-hiker only carries Momentum 50 or 90 now so ymmv with the newer material. I would probably use their lighter stuff today (Momentum 50). The zippers and other hardware are available at Quest Outfitters (http://questoutfitters.com/). 

The bottom has an 8 inch bathtub floor all around. The idea with the tall sides is to use as much of the lighter weight cuben as possible and to provide some side protection from rain spray. The top has a slight 2 inch inverted bath tub (for lack of a better term) and there is an increase in height in the middle down by the foot end. The 10 inch total height seems to work for me. 

All of the seams are sewed using a french seam except the net/zipper area which has a double stitched flat felled seam. 

I used this bivy on a JMT thru hike last summer. Unfortunately there were storms during first four days. I slept under a 5.5’ x 8.5’ tarp and it worked out great. I sewed a small tab to the head end so I could attach a cord and lift it off my face, but I found it really wasn’t necessary. The net area seemed to be located just right and the material was kept off my face by my hat. 

I used an xl Kookabay inflatable pillow, GG torso pad along with a Kookabay Taperlite inflatable pad on top and a GG sitpad for my feet. This all fit inside with plenty of room for me and a puffy jacket. There is not enough room to fit a larger 2 ½ inch deep inflatable pad like a Neo-Air inside, although if needed I would just put it on the outside. I have tried the small, medium and large Neo-Air’s and finally found the ccf torso pad/Taperlite combo works best for me. 

The 0.51 oz/sqyd cuben seems to work fine as a ground sheet. I haven’t had any problems with leakage or unusual wear and tear.

The Momentum 55 is breathable and did shed some rain spray. Condensation was only a problem when I slept on the shore of Cathedral Lake with the cold wind blowing toward me off the lake. There was ice on the outside by my feet in the morning, but I was warm (and dry) inside. 

When it wasn’t raining I just slept under the stars. On the last night I slept on the west side of Whitney (by the tarn above Guitar Lake) and there were some heavy winds. I could feel my legs and feet being moved by something, but I couldn’t feel any change in temperature inside. 

I was a little unsure about using a bivy before the trip, but now I’m completely sold. I used an 18 oz quilt and slept warm and toasty (I wore an upper base layer, a windshirt and sometimes a puffy jacket, but only shorts/socks and no lower base layer to sleep). 

The dimensions are about 22” at the head tapering to 32” at the shoulders then tapering down to 24” at the foot end (all with the 10 inch height). To give some perspective I am 6 feet/190 lbs. Having enough shoulder/elbow room was important and it seems to have worked fine.

Camping above Palisade Creek on the John Muir Trail. 

Wearable Quilt

The quilt described below can be used as a sleeping bag or a warm puffy jacket, which is nice!

I am new to making my own gear and just recently started sewing on an old 1930's era Singer. I have learned a lot and been encouraged by the posts on Backpackinglight.com. Although I added some stuff myself for this quilt I mainly followed the directions on Thru-Hiker and Jamie Shorts website. For any other new-b MYOG people out there I would definitely encourage you to give it a shot. 

Some basics on the materials: The shell material is SevenD from TiGoat, the baffles are 0.31 oz/sqyd cuben from Zpacks and the Omni-tape and plastic hardware are from Quest or Zpacks. The down is 900 f/p from Thru Hiker.

The baffles are 1.5". I overstuffed by 30% much like the Zpacks quilts. The loft turned out to be about 1.75". 

The quilt is 78" long and is tapered to 50" at the top/neck, 56" at the widest and 38" at the foot. There is 1/16" shock cord with mini cord locks around the collar to gather the quilt around the neck without being too tight or uncomfortable. The top baffle is overstuffed to about 2.75" of loft.

The footbox is created using omni-tape along the ends and about 24" along the sides. I tapered the foot end to create a trapezoidal footbox similar to a Katabatic quilt.

The head hole is sewn into the middle baffle using 0.31 oz/sqyd cuben and omni-tape. 

The total weight is 16 ozs and includes 9.9 ozs of down without the removable trapezoidal footbox. With the removable trapezoidal footbox the total weight is 16.7 ozs which includes an additional 6 grams of 900 f/p down. I have used this quilt down to 25 degrees in the High Sierra and slept like a baby. I was wearing silk long johns and a lightweight Black Rock down vest. 

The quilt layed out without the omintape used to make the footbox. 

Quilt mode. 

Head hole for use in puffy jacket mode.

Making the head hole baffle. 

Tapered foot end ready for trapezoidal footbox.

Tapered trapezoidal footbox.

Tapered trapezoidal footbox (quilt is layed out upside down).

Removable footbox. 

1.75" of single layer loft. 

Quilt in puffy jacket mode (underpaid model).

Cuben Fiber Hybrid Backpack with Removable Internal Frame

After seeing some of the cuben hybrid material used on the Zpacks Exo backpacks, I decided to try some on my own version of a cuben pack. 

The idea with this pack is to make something big enough to hold a Bearikade Weekender or Expedition bear canister plus some winter gear, but still keep it around 8 ozs. I made one out of just cuben and used it on the JMT last summer, but calling it a 'prototype' would be pushing it. People usually passed me and said, "hey, homemade pack heh?". To make things worse it was made out of some bright blue cuben I got on sale on gearswap. 

I also wanted something that would hold up to 35 - 40 lbs if I needed to carry extra stuff for a few miles to our favorite Sierra waterslides this summer. I added channels for a removeable internal frame (taken from a GG Gorilla) to handle heavier loads. 

Plus, I wanted something that could take some serious abuse on the Sierra High Route this summer. 

The material is all available at Zpacks.com. The cuben hybrid is made from 1.43 oz black cuben on the inside and 50 denier polyester on the outside. It feels strong and tear resistent. 

For the pack design I borrowed generously from the Blast and Gorilla packs. For the shape of the shoulder straps I traced a North Face daypack. Some of the more original things added are adjustable elastic cords at the top of all the exterior pockets and adjustable pad straps. I like having two medium sized rear pockets instead of one large pocket. It makes it easier to find stuff after a long day.

The cuben hybrid material is attached to the bottom 3" of the pack and side pockets using a triple stitched flat felled seam. All of the attachment places are reinforced with cuben bonded to the main material at a 45 degree angle. The area where the shoulder straps attach to the main pack is triple reinforced. The internal channel for the removeable frame is made from the heavier cuben hybrid material. I noticed that the ends of the frame cut through the channel made from 1.43 oz cuben in the earlier prototype, but the hybrid doesn't rip. 

The total pack size is about 3,250 c/i. The main pack bag is 2,500 c/i, side pockets 300 c/i, rear pockets 450 c/i. The main pack is 6" deep, 12" wide and about 34" tall.

The total weight is 9 ozs (without the internal frame). The heavier cuben hyrid material added about 2.5 ozs compared to a similar pack I made with just cuben. The removeable internal frame adds 3 ozs. 

Side view (with internal frame and Gossamer Gear sitpad for back padding). 

The bottom 3" are made with the more durable cuben/nylon hybrid from Zpacks.com. 

Interior detail of the internal frame channels (without the frame)

Interior detail of the frame channels (with the frame)

Adjustable front pocket (open)

Adjustable front pocket (closed)

Adjustable side pocket (open)

Adjustable side pocket (closed)

Shoulder strap attachment detail. There is a third layer bonded at a 45 degree angle inside the pack. 

Ultralight Backpacking Essentials

Some of my backpacking buddies have been asking about a list of UL gear as a place to start lightening their pack weight. This is a brief list of some Ultralight Backpacking Essentials that have worked for me . . ,

What is Ultralight?

Ultralight simply means having a base weight under 10 lbs. Base weight is the weight of all your gear not counting consumables (food, water and fuel). 

Ultralight Backpacking Essentials:

A good place to save weight is with “The Big Three”: Your Pack, Shelter and Sleeping gear.
Using the lightest items below it is possible to stay around 3 - 4 lbs for “The Big Three”. . .
I am simply a humble amateur and although there are some experts I am not one of them. That being said here are some ultralight essentials that have worked for me:


I have one of these (but with a detachable hipbelt) and it’s great. This pack weighs 7.4 oz for 2,600 c/i’s, which is plenty of room for whatever kind of trip you want. Joe Valesko makes these by hand and did his 2,600+ mile thru hikes using this pack. It is made from super strong cuben fiber, it has a built-in padded hipbelt and carries 20lbs just fine. It looks a little strange, cut it’s cutting edge. The material is very strong for the weight. Frameless, so you just use your sleeping pad inside the pack to create structure. There are lots of options to customize as you wish. Current wait is about 4 weeks.


Zpacks Arc Blast: http://zpacks.com/backpacks/arc_blast.shtml

Comfortable for up to 20 lbs and the new carbon fiber external frame means a more comfortable fit and no sweaty back.


I have one of these. It weighs 24 ozs. It’s great if you want to carry a little more gear and weight. I used this one at Dinkey Dome when carrying gear for both Candy and I. It has an internal frame and it’s a good way to ease into the ultralight deal. Carries up to 35 lbs comfortably. Ready immediately.

I have one of these and it is Candy’s main pack. It weighs 8.1 ozs!. Great for loads up to 12 lbs total. It is delicate but extremely light.


Zpacks Arc Haul: http://zpacks.com/backpacks/arc_haul.shtml

Good for loads over 30 lbs. I just ordered one of these (as of 05/05/2015) and although there is a six week waiting list I was able to order it with several custom options. Sometimes on trips over 8 days I need a heavier pack to carry extra food or heavier winter gear. Review to follow!


Zpacks Hexamid Solo Tenthttp://zpacks.com/shelter/hexamid.shtml

I have one of the solo tents, it’s amazing. At 8 oz it’s the lightest fully enclosed tent available (10 oz for the twin). It uses a somewhat strange technique of putting your ground sheet on top of the netting. He also used this for his 2,600+ mile thru hikes. I got it without the optional “beak”.

Six Moon Designs Haven Tarp and Inner Net Tent: http://sixmoondesigns.com/tarps/69-haven-tarp-cuben.html

I use this modular setup when camping with my wife Candy. At 26 ozs it is the lightest two person/two door/two vestibule fully enclosed double wall tent available. It uses two trekking poles to setup. It's possible to use just the net tent on warm nights, just the tarp for 360 degree rain protection or both at the same time for a full double wall shelter. The tarp only weighs 10 ozs which is less than most one person shaped tarps with 360 degree protection (like the MLD solomid).

Six Moon Designs Skyscape Xhttp://sixmoondesigns.com/tents/ssX.html

This is a hybrid double wall shelter for one person. It is 80% double wall with only a small area that is single wall. There is an attached inner net, a bathtub floor, two vestibules and 360 degree protection. This is a very stable shelter as it uses two trekking poles in a V shape inside. The one I received weighs 14.5 ozs. I have used this in the High Sierras during all night storms for several nights in a row at 11,000 feet with no problems. Slept like a baby.

Mountain Laurel Designs Solomidhttp://www.mountainlaureldesigns.com/shop/product_info.php?cPath=47&products_id=137

This is the shelter that professional adventurer Andrew Skurka (see http://andrewskurka.com/ ) used on his 4,800 mile Alaska trip. Although it is advertised as weighing 11 ozs for the cuben version I custom ordered one with the lighter cuben fiber (0.51 oz/sqyd) and it only weighs 8.6 ozs. This is an amazing shelter. I used it during a five day snowshoeing trip last winter in the High Sierra and slept like a baby. It is a floorless shelter that provides 360 degree protection from wind, snow, rain etc. It does not provide bug protection and it does not have a floor so it is not appropriate for the early season when bugs are a problem. I use a poncho/ground sheet for the floor. If you are interested in photos of this shelter check out my trip report: Glacier Divide Winter 2013

Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape:   http://sixmoondesigns.com/tarps/GatewoodCape.html

11 oz solo tarp tent and rain gear and backpack rain cover. This thing provides full 360 degree coverage as a shelter AND it’s a poncho for full coverage rain gear AND it’s a pack cover in case of rain AND it can be used as a bivy/sleeping bag cover. This is a great multi-use item. I have one of these, and they are currently available. You can also get the Serenity Net Tent, an inner net tent to protect from bugs, or also to use alone to sleep under the stars. The inner net tent is about 8 ozs.


Another option is to use a tarp and a bivy. As a modular setup the good thing with this setup is that you can sleep under the stars but still protected from bugs etc by just using the bivy. . . or just the tarp for basic weather protection. . . or both for full protection. While on a JMT thru hike in 2010 I used a tarp and bivy setup that only weighed 7.1 ozs for both!

Here are links for the lightest tarp and bivy:

Cuben Fiber Tarps:


I used one of his 5.5’ x 8.5' cuben tarps on the JMT in 2010, it’s 3.2 ozs and very good quality).

Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight Bivy:


At 5.5 ozs this is the lightest commercially available fully functional bivy I have found. I made my own bivy and used it on the JMT in 2010. It weighs only 3.9 ozs. For details check out my: Ultralight Bivy.


Think ‘Sleeping System’ and you can use a much lighter sleeping bag along with silk long johns to extend the warmth range by another 10 degrees without adding any weight (I bring silk long johns anyway). May PCT thru hikers use these 40 degree bags. So even with this ultralight 40 degree bag, it’s possible to stay warm at below freezing temps. Nice.

Sleeping quilt:

Basically a sleeping bag without a bottom, quilts are really popular with ultralighters. The benefit is that you don’t waste down on the bottom where it will just be compressed and not useful. Also, you can totally spread out without the claustrophobic feeling of a bag. All of the down is on the top and sides. My next project is to make one myself using the Thru-hiker pattern. Quilts typically weigh about 16-18 ozs for a 30 degree temp rating. I’m not sure this is something you’re interested in, but here’s a few links:

Katabatic quiltshttp://katabaticgear.com/shop/category/sleeping-bags/ . I like these best and they consistently receive the highest ratings. 

Nunatak quiltshttp://www.nunatakusa.com/site07/arc_products/arc_specialist.htm . High quality, expensive.

Jacks-R-Better wearable quiltshttp://www.jacksrbetter.com/Wearable%20Quilts.htm . No need to bring a jacket.

My own custom made 12.5 oz summer quilt:


My own custom made 17 oz wearable three season quilt: 


My own custom made 23 ozs winter quilt: 



Sleeping Bag:

Mont-bell UL Super Spiral Down Hugger #3 (30 degree sleeping bag) with 800 fill power down.

24 oz sleeping bag for the long size. It features a diagonal stitching design that stretches from 57” to 81” for the inside shoulder girth. You can sit up cross legged while still inside. You can order directly from the Mont-Bell website or campmore.com and other online retailers. I have one of these in the ‘long’ size, although now I use a quilt. They are much more comfortable and lightweight.

Sleeping Pads:

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-Lite:

12 oz full length inflatable sleeping pad. This is a luxury item, but it is amazingly light weight and totally comfortable. This link is for the ‘regular’ size, its 20” wide, 6’ long and seems like it may be a little longer. 

Gossamer Gear Nightlight:

Torso length foam pad. It doesn’t get much lighter than this.

Klymit Inertia X-Lite Inflatable Torso Pad: 


Inflatable torso length sleeping pad. At 5.5 ozs this is the lightest inflatable sleeping pad I have found. It looks strange, but provides comfortable sleep. I use it with a Gossamer Gear 1/8" insulation pad.

Therm-a-Rest Neo-Air X-Therm: 


This is the lightest pad for serious winter/snow conditions. It is very warm and basically reflects your own body head back at your while insulating from the cold below. 

Misc. Items:

Ground cloth:

Gossamer Gear Polycryo:  

1.5 oz ground cloth. 40” x 96” is more than enough room for a solo ground cloth, and it’s a deal for $8.00 you get two.

Poncho/Groundsheet/Pack Cover: 


I made one of these with light material and it weighs 2.5 ozs (with sleeves). Amazing triple use item. If you consider the typical weight of even the lightest options for a groundsheet (1.5 oz), pack cover (1.1 oz) and rain jacket (5 ozs)  the Poncho/Groundsheet/Pack Cover saves over 5 ozs. 


0.2 oz 6.5” titanium stakes. The lightest stakes available.

Vargo 6.5" Orange Shepher Hook Titanium Stakes: 


0.28 ozs 6.5" titanium stakes with orange color. Although these are slightly heavier they are much easier to keep track of.

Carbon Fiber Rutalocura Stakes: 


0.2 oz 6" carbon fiber stakes. Better holding power as they are thicker.

Easton Aluminum Stakes: 



Caldera Keg:  

Although this is sold as a 6.3 oz complete cook set I just use the parts I need. I just use the Fosters can, lid, ‘cozy’ and a gramcracker esbit stove. With these options my entire cookset weighs under 3 ozs. Just use the Foster can as a cookpot/mug/bowl or whatever.

Winter Stove System: 


The extra weight of my winter stove system is due to the need to melt snow for water. Although the stove system weighs 5.4 ozs it is also heavier due to the canister fuel.

Eating utensil: 

The GSI Telescoping Foon is a spoon/fork combo that folds into half the size that can easily fit into your cookpot. These are delicate and most of mine have broken after a few years. 

Water treatment:

Aqua Mira is THE lightest and most convenient way to safely treat water. I repackage the A and B solution into smaller dropper bottles. By mixing the solution into a small mix bottle each morning I have everything I need for the day. All this for under 2 ozs.


¼ oz Dropper Bottles:

These are priceless, never carry more than you really need of all misc stuff. Superlight ¼ oz small bottles (they only weight 0.2 oz). I use these to repackage and carry everything from sun screen, bug repellant, campsuds, aqua mira etc. Here’s a link:

Stuff sacks:

Cuben stuff sacks are the lightest. I just make my own and I can hook you up with some good ones to start. Zpacks also has a great selection. A nylon stuff sack weighs 3 ozs. The same size cuben stuff sack weighs 0.20 oz.

Clothing ‘system’:

With these layers you’re good down to well below freezing, rain or shine for around 24 ozs. Multi-use as they are also part of the sleep system.

Base layer(s):

Smartwool merino wool microweight t-shirt. I can wear one of these for a week without washing and it does not get funky. Better than synthetic, amazing, 4 ozs. Cool in the summer/warm in the winter. Pricey but worth it:


Icebreaker also makes a quality merino wool microweight t-shirt. I took one of these on the JMT last summer and it lasted 11 days just fine with just a few rinses.


Silk long johns.

Good in the summer. These are multi-use. Worn at night or early morning under a wind shirt/pants to hike and they can also be used as part of your sleep system to warm up your ultralight sleeping bag another 9-10 degrees warmer. They only weigh 3.3 ozs each and are plenty warm for around a campfire in the summer. Amazing. The weight of these with wind shell pants is under 6 ozs, they are warmer than just jeans alone which are 24  ozs. . . dude!

Merino wool long johns.

Good in the fall/winter for colder weather. Smartwool makes microweight merino wool long johns. Amazing warmth for very light weight. These things weigh under 6 ozs each and I was sweating in the store trying them on. Good if you’re expecting very cold weather at high elevation etc.

Puffy Down Jacket:

Mont-Bell Ex Light Down Jacket:

5.7 oz ultralight, compressable and warm down jacket. I have one of these in large, it’s 6.1 oz for the large size. 900 fill goose down, super light, and super warm. A must have for UL packing.

Black Rock Gear Ultralight Down Vest:


4.9 oz ultralight down vest with 2.5 ozs of 900 f/p down!! I returned my size Large as it was a little too snug around the chest and neck. I'm 6' 200 lbs in the off season and down to 185 lbs after a long thru hike. I got an XL and it fits great. 

Wind shell/shirt:

I just made one of these using the Thru-Hiker.com pattern, it’s 2 ozs. The whole windshirt thing is big with ultralighters. Basically a windbreaker, it’s a great way to get an amazing amount of warmth/wind protection with very little weight. It’s also rain resistant, so you can wear it until/if the rain gets bad enough to get out your ‘serious’ rain gear.

If you’re interested in making one I already have the pattern, but it’s probably easier to just buy one. Mont-Bell makes a good 2.3 oz windshirt (with a hood!). It was recently very well reviewed on Backpackinglight:

Shell pants:

I also got the pattern to make my own from Thru-hiker.com for UL nylon shell pants, 1.9 ozs. I used to use those shorts with zip on pants legs which work fine, but the shorts were uncomfortable to hike in. Now I just use lightweight nylon Nike shorts to hike in and change into these shell pants if it gets windy/cold. This is just a preference thing. . .but bringing a separate pair of jeans and cotton shorts is out. My jeans weigh 1.5 lbs. Dude. Here’s a link to lightweight wind shell pants:

Rain gear:

DriDucks is the lightest, most breathable and cheapest way to go. They are a little delicate (especially the pants), but how often do you really need them anyway. $25 for the top and bottoms:


The TNF Triumph Anorak rain jacket: A 5.9 oz fully waterproof rain jacket and wind jacket outer shell. I have one of these in large. This is THE lightest rain/wind shell I could find. Expensive and sometimes hard to find in stock.


Trail runners are the UL shoe of choice. No need for boots if you’re just on a trail. I have put several hundred miles on my Montrail Sabino trail runners and they are just as light as my Nike running shoes. I like the non-gortex kind because they are lighter, breath better and if they get wet they just dry while hiking anyway. 

Gloves and balaclavas:

UL gloves and warm hats for 1oz or less each: I like Smartwool balaclavas and gloves available at REI etc or:



Down Beanie: 

This beanie is like a sleeping bag for your head. I use it while sleeping under the stars with a quilt down to 20 degrees and stay warm and comfortable. 


Down Booties: 

I used these down booties until I finally made my own. I bought a pair for my wife and she loves them. In the winter they are an absolute necessity after a long day:


In conclusion: 

There are an infinite number of possible gear options, but these seem to work for me right now. You will probably notice that much of my gear choices are made by small custom "Cottage Manufactures". I like the quality and of course it always feels good to buy from people who are dedicated to lightweight backpacking. 

A great place to get unlimited information and opinions about gear is Backpacklight.com. Check out their site for the most extensive collection of Ultralight information I have found: