We first published this guide to making your own ultralight first aid kit a little over a year and half ago. In the lead up to this year’s backpacking and thru hiking season, thought we’d revisit it to see if anything we’d learned in the meantime might be worth adding. That, after all, is the first rule of traveling safely in the backcountry; pay attention, build experience and expertise, embrace learning and above all, be open adaptation.
The good news is that the original piece—written by our friend and long-time Hyperlite Mountain Gear supporter Andy Dappen of www.WenatcheeOutdoors.org—holds up. After consulting some other backpacking buddies who also happen to be medical professionals, we’ve got a couple new suggestions, and an edit or two.
All-in-all, the message is still the same: You can save yourself some clams and some weight by building your own ultralight first aid kit. Read on to learn how, and figure out what should—and shouldn’t–go into it.
As we bid another busy week adieu here at Hyperlite Mountain Gear HQ, we thought we’d pass along another absolute banger from The Provo Bros. Why, you ask? Well, aside from the fact that this particular video set off an eye-bulging, forehead-slapping, jaw-dropping jealousy chain reaction around the office (seriously, there were echoes)—sometimes it’s just really nice to watch people give the gear we make “what-for.” Read More
For this series of posts on ultralight nutrition, we tapped Boulder, CO-based sports nutritionist Brian Rigby. Brian holds a Master of Science in Applied Clinical Nutrition and is a Certified Sports Nutritionist through the ISSN (International Society for Sports Nutrition). As the owner of Boulder’s Elite Sports Nutrition, he consults athletes of all stripes on how to get the most out of their bodies and achieve better performance.
We thought we’d see what he might have to say about our own endeavors in the vein of extreme exertion. Look for more posts to follow, specifically on carbohydrates, fat and how to balance all three building blocks.
Our friend Robin Standish is nothing if not committed. Her dedication to life on the trail takes many forms: stacked up thru hikes, beautiful photographs of wild places and in this case, a well-thought-out, soulful investigation of the sidecar realities that going ultralight carries—out there, in actual practice.
Expect more dispatches from Robin this summer as she sets out to complete the last leg of the Triple Crown of hiking on the CDT.
It’s not necessarily news that it has been dumping snow this winter. Much to the delight of skiers and snowboarders everywhere, mountains across the country are up to their armpits. You can gloat all you want about sidling up to the all-you-can-eat powder gorge, but if you also happen to be planning on thru hiking the PCT this year, you might to want to change your tune.
Sometimes it’s the things that go unsaid that are the most telling. For instance, when people say that they’re into the outdoors, they’re also most likely not big fans of crowds. Sure, we might maintain that we’re just looking for a little peace and quiet, maybe some solitude, some unspoiled vistas, or fresh tracks— but no matter how you package your passions, “getting away from it all” is pretty much code for avoiding your fellow human beings.
Whether your taste for company runs more towards “prefers small groups” or full-on agoraphobia, if you’re a backcountry skier, untapped stashes devoid of the hoots and hollers of other powder harvesters are getting harder to find. In 2015, something like 3.2 million skiers and snowboarders slapped on a set of skins or snowshoes and got after it in the mountains under their own steam. That year saw an eight-percent increase in the sales of alpine touring gear, and the delta on that data can only have increased even more since then.
That means that increasingly, getting out into the good stuff means going further, faster. Suffice it to say, the kitchen sink approach—that pillar of the average ski touring gear list you’ll find on most sites—isn’t going to get you there (at least not like that).
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Mike Curiak’s adoption of ultralight techniques and philosophies evolved slowly, he says, as garage gear and his own DIY stuff became increasingly available. But now, Curiak, who owns and operates LaceMine29, a company that builds high-end, hand-built wheels for 29-inch bikes, fat bikes and 650b bikes, simply lives light.
Mike’s also no slouch behind a camera. Case in point: this astoundingly gorgeous account of his recent trip to Southwestern Oregon’s Siskiyou National Forest, an ambitious itinerary that included running some pretty serious water in an inflatable packraft.
For the 2016 Ouray Ice Festival Elite Mixed Climbing Competition winner, the secret to success was all in his head. We tapped him this week for training advice in the lead up to the 2017 event. What we ended up with was a peak into a philosophy that pays dividends in any outdoor pursuit.
Neil and Ian Provo have a good thing going. Just two years apart, they seem to have somehow managed to achieve the kind of sibling synergy more common in twins. One zigs, the other zags. Ian skis; Neil snowboards. Neil shoots video; Ian shoots stills.
Since moving to Utah in the early 2000s, they’ve put their uniquely comprehensive skillset to good use. Rarely pausing long enough for their gear to gather dust, they’ve progressed from committed powder hounds to fly fishing obsessives, bikepackers and serious wilderness explorers.
From time-to-time they’ll drop an edit, the kind of quick web clips that’ll make even the most committed office jockey spray coffee all over their cubicle. Pristine powder lines begging for tracks, gin-clear streams coursing with trout, veins of brown carpet single track cutting through obscenely beautiful backcountry terrain—these are the currency of the Provo Bros’ trade. Read More
And just like that, 2016 is almost over. It’s been another great, busy year here at Hyperlite Mountain Gear–one for the record books.
The good news is that it seems like the idea of doing more with less is really getting some legs. Like, big, burly I-just-yo-yo’d-the-PCT-legs. We put that notion to the test every day in our production and manufacturing, while our staff, ambassadors, friends and customers do the same on trails, crags, hills, mountains, rivers and trails across the continent and throughout the world.
Bottom line: some crazy stuff got done in 2016. We figured out how to make even more ultralight backpacks, shelters, tents and tarps per day, all without compromising our commitment to quality or our other core values–like producing everything here in our factory in Maine (in the good-old US of A).
That’s not it though. Some serious business happened in the field, too. So much so that we figured we’d compile a Best of 2016 list of things from the Hyperlite Mountain Gear blog, in case you missed anything.
Grab some left over egg nog (or don’t, maybe–how old is that stuff?), cozy up on the couch and prepare to get really excited about the year to come. 2016 was great, but 2017 is going to epic.
So you are intrigued by ice climbing, but it seems inherently “dangerous” and or way too expensive? It can be both of these things, however it can also be as safe as taking a Sunday stroll and not so expensive to try. There are several great ways to learn to ice climb, here’s how to get started. Read the rest of the article here.
Whoever started calling the holiday season “the most wonderful time of the year” obviously never spent much time on the top of a mountain at the height of summer. That’s ok though, here at Hyperlite Mountain Gear we like to say that there are only two types of people in the world: those who have yet to fall in love with life on the trail, and those of us who already have.
You probably have a few of the former in your life. You might overhear them say things like, “She/he is out in the garage messing with that scale again” or “He/she just disappears into the woods for weeks at a time with nothing but a backpack and comes home with a huge grin on his/her face.” Specifically, they may be uttering about, well… you.
If that’s the case, you might want to consider a complete re-working of your current Gift Idea Suggestion Strategy (GISS)–in the spirit of fostering maximal yuletide cheer, of course. After all, it could be all that stands between you and a veritable rainbow of ill-fitting new turtlenecks at the end of the month.
We get it: buying ultralight gifts for backpackers must be daunting. Ultralight gear is highly technical stuff by nature; simplicity, it turns out, is kind of complicated. That’s why we put together this gift-buying guide for gearheads, but tailored to non-gearheads. It’s cool: Just let us do the explaining for you, it’s our job.
All you have to do is paste this url into an email to mom/dad/grandpappy/bubbe/spouse/partner/sister/bro/friend, share it on their Facebook wall, link, tweet, etc. If we’ve done this right, you should be all set.
To kick things off, allow us to introduce the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Gift Ease Index (HMGGEI). It’s a numerical rating scale based on the relative ease of gift purchasing decision, from 1-10 with 10 being easiest and 1 being most difficult or complicated. We took into account things like price, awareness of the giftee/gearhead’s actual activities in the field, knowledge of current state of giftee/gearhead’s quiver and several quantitative overall radness measurements (ORMs) for the HMGGEI rating of each of our products. Here goes nothing!
It’s hard to believe, but the 2017 Ouray Ice Festival is coming right up. In just two short months, the world’s best ice climbers will descend on one of the world’s best ice climbing destinations for the weekend of January 19-22.
If you’ve been to Ouray before, you know the highlights: on-ice gear demos, the two-day contest, rubbing shoulders with pros from around the world and, of course, 100+ clinics for climbers of all levels taught by the best in the biz.
For now, that last bit is the kicker—these are some of the most in-demand ice climbing instruction sessions out there and they fill up fast. Sign-ups kick off Thursday, November 17 at 8am Mountain Standard time. As always, Hyperlite Mountain Gear will be there en force with our ultralight ice climbing packs and a special series of clinics taught by our climbing and mountaineering ambassadors. Here’s a quick overview of what’s happening, when. Take care of your registration and get dreaming about all of that fresh, clean ice that awaits you.
The essence of going lighter in the woods is not so much about gear, as it is about the adoption of a simpler, less cluttered approach to one’s time backpacking. Insofar as this philosophy relates to shelters, tarp camping fits the bill both tangibly and intangibly.
In the following article I’ll examine the benefits of tarp camping, as well as share some tips and techniques to minimize the perceived negatives. I’ll end the piece with an overview of environments in which the hiker is better off leaving the tarp at home, and going with a tent.
(1) Weight: Less materials mean that tarps are generally lighter than tents.
(2) Durability: Simpler designs equate to less that can catch, rip or break.
(3) Space: Tarps have the best space-to-weight ratio of all shelters.
(4) Versatility: Unlike tents, tarps can be pitched in a multitude of configurations depending on personal preference and the prevailing conditions. Not an insignificant factor, when you are hiking through areas in which potential campsites are few and far between.
(5) Ventilation: Less condensation issues than tents and bivy sacks.
(6) Less Expensive: Simpler design + less material = cheaper shelter.
(7) Nature’s Call: Sleeping under a tarp makes for an easier exit when you wake up at 2.35 am and you’re busting for a pee. No small thing for the chronologically challenged amongst us.
(8) Satisfaction: Being able to consistently achieve a taut pitch in a variety of configurations and environments, is a bushcraft skill that requires both practice as well as creativity (Note: The “inappropriate and droopy” setup is far easier to learn, and many hikers have been known to master it from the outset). However, once you have the hang of tarps, a rock solid pitch in challenging circumstances brings with it a certain sense of satisfaction; a bit like starting a fire in the rain or route finding with map and compass in rugged, off-trail terrain. Call it another arrow in your backcountry skill set quiver.
(9) Openness: The “open” nature of tarps helps to promote a heightened sense of connection with the wilderness. Zipping up and shutting out is not an option. If one of your goals when venturing out into the boonies is the diminishment of any “barriers”, be they tangible or intangible, that may exist between yourself and the natural world, shouldn’t the same principle apply equally during the evening, as much as it does over the course of a hiking day?
“Ok, ok… tarps may be spacious, light and relatively inexpensive, but come on man, what about tarp camping vs. bugs and rain?”
Sleeping under a tarp isn’t as uncomfortable as many hikers imagine. While there’s no denying that tarps don’t provide the all-around protection of tents, there are a number of tips and tricks that hikers can employ in order to minimize the influence of both insects and the elements:
When hiking in buggy areas, look for campsites that are both breezy and not too close to water sources.
Tarps are floorless (as opposed to ‘flawless’), so extra emphasis should be placed on finding sites with good drainage. Depressions, gullies and dished/overly-used campsites should be avoided if precipitation is on the cards.
If you are hiking at high elevations your tarp camping options may be limited unless you are carrying poles. That being the case, it is essential to plan ahead. If inclement weather is a possibility, either drop below the trees or alternatively pick up one or two appropriately sized sticks with which to erect your shelter at day’s end. If descending below tree line is not an option, pitch your shelter as low and tautly as possible; an umbrella can be quite handy for insurance purposes if things turn nasty!
To combat bugs, bring along four or five feet of gossamer weight noseeum netting, which can be used in either of the following ways: (A) Attach it to a clip on the inside of your tarp and then tuck it under your sleeping bag, or; (B) Employ what well known Triple Crown hiker Lint Bunting calls a “bug condom” (i.e. Before going to sleep drape the netting over your hiking umbrella, then tuck it into the top of your bag).
Unless I’m hiking in areas where the chances of wet weather is almost non-existent, I’ll invariably combine my tarp with a lightweight bivy sack (weight – 7 oz) that has a built in bug net window*. In addition to keeping the insects at bay, the bivy adds five to ten degrees of warmth to my sleeping system, keeps the splash back off my quilt, negates the need for a groundsheet and provides a little extra protection against punctures for my inflatable sleeping mat. *Note: If you would prefer the bug net section not to be directly against your face, you can attach it to a clip on the inside of the tarp.
For two people (or a solo hiker that likes lots of space), 8’x10’ is a great size. Big enough to keep the rain out, but not so large that you need a small football field area in order to pitch it.
For lone hikers, opinions and preferences vary in regards to dimensions. Personally speaking, for rectangular tarps I like 6’ x 9’ or 7’ X 9’. For square tarps, I wouldn’t recommend going any smaller than 8.5’ x 8.5’ (Note: I’m 6’1”) or any larger than 9’ x 9’.
Tarp Camping vs. Ultralight Tents
As much as I love tarps, they by no means represent a panacea to all of your backcountry shelter needs. There are certain situations and environments in which I will invariably opt for a tent over a tarp.
In consistently sub-freezing temperatures or in regions that are prone to extremely inclement weather (e.g. Southwest Tasmania, Fiordland and the Scottish Highlands).
Peak season in über-buggy places such as Alaska, Lapland, Scotland and Fiordland. As fond as I am of the tarp/bivy combo mentioned above, it’s nice to have a little more breathing room when the mosquito/midge/sandfly wagons are circling at dawn and dusk.
When hiking in developing countries. Over the years I’ve found it to be preferable not to have all my gear on display when bunking down in the vicinity of villages or nomadic encampments. Local people will invariably be curious as to the cost of backpacking equipment. The privacy of a tent helps in avoiding the inevitable question, “ how much does this cost?” Such queries can be uncomfortable, as they emphasize the discrepancy in material affluence between yourself and your hosts (Tip: In such situations, I generally try to deflect the question by indicating that the item was a gift from my family).
Cam Honan is an accomplished hiker who runs www.thehikinglife.com and as of 2016 has hiked more than 57,000 miles in some 56 countries across the globe.
(Spoiler Alert) Both trails require the essentials.
Word & Photos by Robin Standish
I finished the Appalachian Trail (AT) in mid December, 2015. Hoarfrost glazed the landscape, icicles lined the slick, frosty trail, and a damp, east coast chill seeped through ever layer I wore. It was time to be done, though it wouldn’t be for long. A few months later, when the feeling in my toes had returned, and my hiker hobble lessened, I headed for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I was confident in the hiking part, but was uncertain about how my gear setup would have to be altered.
Waking to the sound of rain wasn’t what I’d dreamed about. Although honestly, at first, I wasn’t sure that was even what it was. The optimist in my drybag hoped that it was Doom, just outside, slinging handfuls of sand at our tent while taking a selfie and mouthing ‘perf!’ at the camera. Once I scraped the crusted sand from my eyes and focused, I could see a million+ droplets beaded up on the outer skin of our ‘mid, a few hundred of them sliding earthward. Going to be a wet one.
In additions to endorsements from some of the most hardcore, mile-bagging, wilderness-dwelling customers out there, the Ultamid got some outstanding official recognition from a few exceptional media outlets as well.
Just in case you’re on the fence about joining the club, we thought we’d see if maybe this little nudge would help. We get it: our pyramid tents are a major investment. But without getting all sales-y, we wouldn’t make them if they didn’t represent the best damn balance of lightweight performance with exceptional durability out there. “Set it (up) and forget it” applies to things in the backcountry, too–and in the case of an Ultamid, you’ll be doing exactly that for years and years to come.
The Brooks Range has always intimidated me as a logistic challenge: expensive, remote, cold in the winter and buggy in the summer. But it is the largest swath of Alaska I haven’t seen, and with a lot of planning, we were able to do a long and remote trip within my budget. We had to have the route, logistics, and pace, dialed-in to pull off this ambitious trip. Our route evolved to be: fly to Anaktuvuk, float southwest on the John River, hike west to the Alatna River, float southeast on the Alatna to access the Arrigetch, cross the Arrigetch, float northwest on the Noatak River, hike southwest to the Ambler River, and float west to Ambler. 400 miles in 19 days.