Sunday, November 3, 2019

2020 Updates and My Updated, Current Gear Lists

Introduction and General Updates

Another winter is just around the corner, and a new year soon after.  So I thought I'd give some quick updates as well as show off my new and improved gear lists.  These gear lists I don't see changing very much for the next few years at least, and that's how my gear lists have been for the past few years, with a few exceptions.  Overall I am very happy and confident in my dialed in kits, and hope to continue to get good use out of them.  

I still go out backpacking about as much as I have been doing the past half decade or so, which is not as much as I would like.  But this is changing, as most of the reason I had to cut back on my time spent on trail has been due to being a proud father of two.  Well the kids are growing up and slowly but surely I'm getting more free time back, so more solo trips are in the works for the future.  But of course my family and I all love nature, so we also spend a fair amount of time out there together, doing car camping, day hikes, and shorter backpacking trips.  All in all, I can't complain much.

But because I've had less free time due to family and work obligations, combined with the fact that my gear hasn't seen as many changes or experimentation due to being pretty contented with my kits, this has resulted in much less content here on my lil' old blog.  But there will still be trail guides and trip reports to come, and the occasional gear ramblings, some of which I will get to shortly.  

I will continue to slowly but surely chip away at The Troll Trail, which was/is a big project to undertake.  I am looking at this project as a long term commitment.  After I finish hiking and documenting the whole thing, the next step will be to spread the word and raise awareness.  This will probably take another half a decade at least, and perhaps more.

Below are all five of my solo wilderness backpacking gear lists, in order of lightest to heaviest base pack weight (BPW).  I will give context and some reflections on key choices and details, and of course the obligatory link to a LighterPack spreadsheet.  Please note that the conditions (such as average low temperatures), locations, and other extra info (like clothing worn) can be found on the LighterPack links.  Of course these gear lists are not set in stone, and there are other trips I take that require different choices, but these are the ones that I will use about 90% of the time.  And as always, I am still not sponsored or get any gear for free or any of that.  Okay, now let's get down to it.


My lightest BPW at 3045g/6.7lbs goes to my summer kit, which should come as no surprise:

This setup is for the classic, random trip at the height of summer.  Maybe just an overnight trip down to a lake I like to swim at, maybe a short section hike of local trails, this kit is pretty straight forward.  But there have been some recent improvements.  I got a custom made net tent that is both lighter weight (260g/9.2oz vs 330g/11.6oz) and much larger than my previous net tent.  Inside I am able to sit up with ease with plenty of headspace.  

For the past few years I have been using my MLD Burn, and I liked it so much I got another one, only in DCF rather than Dyneema X.  The Dyneema X is slightly lighter (395g/13.9oz vs 450g/15.9oz) than the DCF version, and is more durable.  I tend to do a lot of bushwhacking/off trail adventuring, especially in the summer in familiar areas, so the added durability of Dyneema X is nice to have.  The lighter weight is due in part to smaller shoulder pads, so heavier loads are not as comfy with this pack--but this is not an issue in the summer when both my BPW and consumables (due to shorter trips) are lower.


Next up at 4130g/9.1lbs is my fall and spring season kit.  My BPW during this season is at times lighter (~3.8kg/8.4lbs) if the temperatures are not as cold, like in the early fall and late spring, but this gear list good for the colder temps on average for these two seasons: 

Again, pretty straightforward--but one important detail to highlight is that this is for trips well below treeline, in the relative comfort of thick Swedish woods.  I've tested my custom UL Enchilada quilt down to around -2C with my sleep layers, my Borah down vest, and in my bivy.  I slept well, but to be on the safe side when pushing the temperature rating I opt for my Torrid puffy jacket to compliment both my sleep system and for sitting around camp.  I also am a huge fan of using my backpack frame foam pad in my foot box for added warmth to my feet and legs.


Now to quite a specialized gear list for summer trips above tree line to the alpine mountains of Sweden and Norway--the 4260g/9.4lb fjäll kit:

It is a bit of a mix of gear from different seasons.  For example, my clothing worn is my summer outfit, but I pack my spring/fall sleeping bag, my wool leggings rather than my silk ones, a warmer sit pad that I can use to bump up my sleep setup, etc.  This is due to the chaotic nature of hiking in the fjäll.  Even in the summer it can go from 20C and sunny to frosty -1C nights.  I also swap out my go-to shelter combo of tarp and bivy or net tent for my newest addition to my kit, which is the MLD Duomid plus a matching MLD solo XL inner net.  This will not only be my shelter for solo trips to the fjäll, but also when my wife and I go together.

As mentioned weather can be crazy up there in the mountains, with not only big shifts in temperature, but also wind and storms created by the micro-climate at higher elevations.  Combined with the fact that often you're above treeline hiking there, there is little to no cover, so a solid 360 degrees of protection from the elements is good to have.  One can rock a tarp up there, but with the lack of trees you have to rely on sticks and/or trekking poles, which is an added complication, not to mention not as much cover from harsh weather.  While hiking in the fjäll I will be taking with me a simple wooden hiking staff.  This is a cheap and easy solution for now, but in the future I will most likely upgrade to a carbon fiber or titanium hiking staff.  I've tried trekking poles in the past and they are just not for me.  I much prefer either hiking without any, or using only one staff.

I could arguably leave my water filter at home for fjäll trips, as the quality of water is often excellent--indeed, some of the purest wild sources of water on earth--but this is mostly for peace of mind around campsites with more people around.  The summers here draw lots of not just backpackers, but other tourists that take day hikes into the fjäll.  Plus this also opens up less than ideal water sources to re-fill my bottles, such as rain puddles and bogs, so I don't have to hike out of the way to pristine tarns and springs all the time.


This gear list is for a specific trip I have coming up next spring that is further up north in Sweden on The High Coast Trail (Höga Kusten), clocking in at 4490g/9.9lbs:

I'd describe it as a "winter-lite" type of kit, with days being mild (around 2-5C) but nights going below freezing--plus if there are any cold snaps, conditions can get really damn cold.  So I have extra layers, a much warmer sleeping quilt that also deals exceptionally well with humid conditions (synthetic and down insulation hybrid), a dedicated pair of toasty warm sleep socks, etc.  However there are a few things that get left behind, which is nice.  For instance no head net because it's not bug season, and no water filter due to the cold.  

Water filters can freeze and get ruined in the cold, but it's easy to manage without it because I'll either be boiling water for drinks and meals or drinking from clean sources.  As I mentioned earlier, in the summers more people can make water sources dirty or tainted, but in the other seasons there are far less people around, which in turn leaves water sources cleaner/safer.

Really looking forward to this trip!  I've read and heard a lot of good things about this trail, and it's a shorter one that I will be able to finish in one go.


Finally on to my heaviest gear list at 5345g/11.8lbs, which is for fair weather summer packrafting trips:

Obviously the packrafting gear is what makes this the heaviest BPW, but overall my pack remains pretty light because these trips are only 2-3 days tops.  So less food to worry about.  I could go lighter by swapping out my inflatable sleeping mat for a foam one (like I use in my regular summer kit), but there are quite a lot of trail shelters on rivers and lakes for other paddlers.  Canoeing and kayaking is popular here, which makes for plenty of water trails to follow, which often have nice campsites on the shores to take advantage of.  Sleeping on hard wooden floors is much nicer with an air mat than a foam one.  Another added benefit of inflatable pads is less bulk, which is convenient when you strap your pack to your packraft and want it to take up as little space as possible.


And those are all of my UL gear lists for solo wilderness backpacking.  I don't see all that much changing anytime soon, but only time will tell.  Everything has been put to the test with one exception, my new MLD pyramid shelter.  But it's one of the most positively reviewed shelters in the UL community, and my initial impressions are very positive after playing around with it in my backyard.  I'm really looking forward to getting it out there.  So I'm really happy with my gear and life as an UL backpacker.  If only I could take more trips!  Everything is dialed in and ready for future thru-hikes that I dream about.  Soon enough things will move from the dream stage to the planning stage for these longer adventures.

Hope this was helpful and/or interesting for you to read.  Peace!