Double Duty: Lightening Your Backpacking Load with Multi-Purpose Gear

“If you can’t ride two horses at once you shouldn’t be in the circus.” – James Maxton (1885­-1946)

Text by Cam Honan


One of many ways in which a hiker can lower his or her pack weight is by using multi-purpose gear. A standard backpacking kit is literally full of such items.

Before heading out into the wilderness on your next big trip, try the following exercise. Clear the living room floor and spread out all of your stuff. Examine each and every article and ask yourself three questions:

  1. Do I really need it?
  2. What will happen if I don’t have it?
  3. Am I already packing something that would do the same job?
CamHonan Umbrella
Umbrellas provide protection from both the sun and rain. The wind? Not so much | Death Valley, Lowest to Highest Route, CA, 2014

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The Hardest Thru Hike in the World

If not the most difficult, a hike below the rim of the Grand comes close.

Learn about Ambassador Rich Rudow’s thru hike & Hyperlite Mountain Gear CEO Mike St. Pierre’s planning & prep for his 2 section hikes.

The UltaMid in Tuweep Valley as a snow and ice storm rolls in during Rich Rudow's thru hike below the rim of the Grand.
The UltaMid in Tuweep Valley as a snow and ice storm rolls in during Rich Rudow’s thru hike below the rim of the Grand.

More than four thousand people have summited Mt. Everest. Two hundred and fifty people have walked 7,900 miles to complete the triple crown of hiking (walking the PCT, CDT and AT). Twenty-four astronauts left the Earth’s orbit for the moon. But only 12 people have ever walked the length of Grand Canyon in one continuous push and just a handful have done it in sections. Why? There are no towns for resupply, no base camps for logistics support, and in fact, no trails for the vast majority of the 700 miles. Traversing Grand Canyon is like walking a complex three-dimensional maze with delicate routes that include hundreds of thousands of vertical feet of scrambling and climbing up to low class five terrain. There isn’t a guidebook, and beta is sparse. To most people, this thru hike seems impossible. But for people like Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Rich Rudow, the foremost expert on slot canyons in the Grand, Hyperlite Mountain Gear Chief Adventure Officer (aka CEO) Mike St. Pierre, and a handful of others it’s not only possible, but one of life’s most exciting challenges. Rudow finished his thru hike late in 2015; St. Pierre has achieved the first two sections of the hike, and plans on finishing the entire journey within the next few years.
Read more.

Long-Distance, Lightweight Thru Hiking Gear List (for the Grand Canyon)

Stripped Down Thru Hiking Gear List for Extreme, Lightweight & Extended Backcountry Adventures, By Mike St. Pierre

Long-Distance (Lightweight) Thru Hiking Gear List

“I used this thru hiking gear list for my Grand Canyon section hike, but minus the technical climbing and canyoneering gear, it’s basically what I’d bring on any long-distance section, thru hike or weekend backpacking.” -Mike St. Pierre 

Photos & article by Mike St. Pierre

As an ultralight long-distance adventurer, I dial in my systems to conserve energy with every step I take. The lighter my gear, the further I can go; the less weight I carry, the less the strain on my body and the less food I need. Going light just makes sense. And it absolutely doesn’t mean I’m uncomfortable when in the backcountry. I’m always warm enough, well fed and hydrated, and I sleep well at night. In this blog post, I share my thru hiking gear list from my recent 200 mile off trail section hike below the rim of the Grand Canyon. This extreme adventure incorporates long-distance hiking, rock climbing, canyoneering and serious map and compass skills, and is one of the most difficult thru hikes in the world. Water is scarce, established trails nonexistent, and the terrain is steep and difficult to navigate. It’s a trip that fewer than three dozen people have done (consider that 40 people summited Mt. Everest in one day in May 2016!). However, despite the specialized nature of some of the technical gear I carried, the basic equipment I bring on any thru hike or long-distance backpacking is the same. And my pack base weight is typically 8-15lbs., depending on the discipline. Check out my full gear list below.

Read the first two articles in this series here: “Planning & Prep: The Thru Hiker’s Guide to Multi-Sport Expeditions” and “Thru Hike Expedition Gear Planning & Food Prep.” As well, I detail my food planning for my first trip to the Grand in, “Food Prep & Recipes for Ultralight Thru Hike Adventures.”
Check out St. Pierre’s Gear Checklist.

Thru Hike Expedition Gear Planning & Food Prep

Stripped Down Grand Canyon Gear List, Food & Cache Prep For Major Thru Hikes, By Mike St. Pierre

Expedition Gear Planning & Food Prep for major thru hikes.

In the first post of this series, I discussed the logistical planning for serious thru hikes and backpacking trips, including gathering beta on and visualizing your route. Once you know where you’re going and how long you’ll be on your trip, you can determine the gear and food you need, plus plan out the caches you’ll have to prepare. For people doing the Appalachian Trail or Continental Divide Trail, your “caches” are your resupplies; for people hiking below the rim of the Grand Canyon, it’s a bit more involved.

Gear List:

Gear is the critical tool that can make the difference between a fantastic experience and a miserable experience, or a successful trip and an unsuccessful trip. On the other hand, the more skill you have the less gear you need. And, as we discussed in Part I, the more information you have the better prepared you’ll be. This extends to your gear. Know where you going and what you’re doing, and you’ll be able to choose exactly the right gear for the conditions (and leave behind what you don’t need). For example, if I’m going for an overnight trip in the fall and the weather is clear, there won’t likely be bugs. So I might not need to bring a shelter, or I might take something very minimalist like a 6′ by 8′ Flat Tarp. On the other hand, knowing that the temperatures are going to range wildly on my Grand Canyon thru hike means I have to have a puffy jacket, clothes and sleeping system that can handle anything from 15- to 90-degree weather.

Grand Canyon

Subsequently, I carefully planned our gear list to address the climate, time of year and all the different types of terrain we would cover. I made an excel spreadsheet and listed out everything I thought I would need. I then calculated the weights of everything and the calories per day I would need to carry that weight (and to stay warm and energized for the long miles we were hiking). I knew I needed to carry eight to ten days of food to get to the next cache, plus at least 12lbs. of backpacking gear, my camera, plus 6lbs. of technical gear that Clay and I would share. That and the food would put us each at 30lbs. Throw the four to six liters of water required to carry on top of that, and our packs fluctuated between 25 and 50lbs.

The next thing I did was shake down my own list. Read the rest of the post and check out photos.

Prepping For a Grand Canyon Thru Hike (a guide to multi-sport expedition planning)

Stripped Down Grand Canyon Thru Hiker Beta, Logistics & Route Finding, By Mike St. Pierre

Grand Canyon Route Finding & Logistics

By Mike St. Pierre, Photos by Mike St. Pierre & Clay Wadman

Planning and prepping for any major backcountry adventure, whether the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail or a section hike below the rim of the Grand Canyon, is logistically challenging. And unless you’re the first thru hiker, canyoneer or climber to map and explore the route, you must rely on information gathered from numerous sources, from Google Earth to the people who first explored the area. I prefer more remote trips as the lack of information makes them more adventurous. Plus, the fewer the resources you have to depend on, the more careful you have to be and the more you have to rely on your own experience to accomplish the feat (so you’d better have a lot of experience for bigger adventures). However, the popularity or the remoteness of your trip is relative; you’ll have a greater chance of success if you know what you’re getting into. You’ll also more likely succeed if you travel simply, use gear wisely and constantly refine and lighten your systems. This thru hiker approach is applicable whether you’re a long-distance backpacker or a climber, packrafter, skier, or passionate backcountry adventurer of any kind.

The Way of the Thru Hiker 

Experienced thru hikers have walking dialed. They know exactly what they need to be efficient and conserve energy because they walk all day long. I took a thru hiker’s approach in very carefully planning the second leg of my section hike below the rim of the Grand Canyon. I made sure to have exactly what I needed and nothing more. I dialed in my knowledge of the terrain, weather, water sources and resupply points by doing extensive research. And I reached out to more experienced Grand Canyon thru hikers, rangers and other experts.

Subsequently, when I embarked on my 200+-mile thru hike/canyoneering adventure this March, I felt ready to go bigger and further, increasing my mileage and distance. I had already done the first section over two weeks in the fall of 2015 with Rich Rudow, whose decades of experience make him one of the foremost experts of America’s biggest canyon. He spent a full year plotting his path, the gear and his caches for his 57-day, 700-mile thru hike below the rim (Read more). I joined him for his first two weeks. Despite the gnarliest terrain and harshest conditions I had every experienced (or maybe because of them), I caught the bug and immediately started planning the second leg of my journey. I also trusted my own 15 years of experience in ultralight backpacking techniques.

So how did I do it? Of course, I can’t download my life’s experience with ultralight backcountry travel and gear in one article, but here’s an overview of how I planned my trip. It’s not comprehensive, and you shouldn’t assume you can thru hike below the rim of the Grand Canyon based off what you learn from these articles. But in this three-part series of posts, I’ll share the most valuable things I’ve learned from my backcountry experiences. They culminated in this section hike, which was definitely the most difficult and challenging adventure I’ve embarked on to date. Read the rest of the article and check out photos.

The Rebirth of American Manufacturing

Making American Manufacturing Great Again

Happy Earth Day!

“…We will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt and phony financial profits. Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last, an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.” — President Obama, January 2012 State of the Union

Earth Day: And The Rebirth of American Manufacturing I love walking into the shop every day, smelling the lacquer and hardwood of the 180-year-old floors of the Pepperell Mill and hearing the buzz of the sewing machines used by the few dozen stitchers and cutters who work for Hyperlite Mountain Gear. They sit in sun that pours through tall windows built before the days of consistent electricity—windows that used to offer the only light employees would have to work by.

When my brother, CFO Dan St. Pierre, and I started this company we decided to make all our packs, shelters and Stuff Sacks right here on Main Street, USA. As a young start-up, we didn’t really see any other way of running our business. And as we grew, we realized the numerous financial, environmental and social benefits to producing domestically.

We believe “Made in the USA” is a worthwhile endeavor that benefits our customers, our company, the community where we do business and, especially, our employees. Our employees come from all walks of life and are of all ages. Some are expert seamstresses who previously worked for the textile industry, while others are newly trained young folks just starting out their factory careers. All are highly skilled craftspeople who care deeply about the quality of their work. They’re from Maine, after all, a place known for its true grit and work ethic. Really, they are the reason we exist, and I appreciate them every day that I come to work. So, we offer them above-average wages and health benefits. Read the rest of the post.

Dyneema® Fabric & The Ultralight Movement


A silent revolution is changing the outdoor industry. Some call it “the Ultralight movement.” New, extremely light and durable backpacks, tents and tarps, sleeping bags and clothing have been available for a few years now. These products have been winning editors awards from outdoor blogs, as well as being raved about by early adopters. Ultralight gear is radically changing the hiking and climbing experience. This is the first in a series of videos by The Dyneema® Project. It focuses on entrepreneurs of the Ultralight movement, including Hyperlite Mountain Gear CEO Mike St. Pierre. The Ultralight movement is fueled by Dyneema® Flexible Composites, a revolutionary strong and lightweight fabric formerly known as Cuben Fiber. It’s also fueled by innovative companies such as Hyperlite Mountain Gear, that build durable, lightweight, minimalist, design-driven gear.

 

 

Adventures Below The Rim: Days 10-15 In the Grand Canyon

Grand CanyonHyperlite Mountain Gear CEO Mike St. Pierre’s account of his Grand Canyon thru hike is coming to a close with this third and final installment. This week’s post will contain his journal entries from day 10 to 15, which feature a flash flood, extreme rain, a summit attempt and a sad goodbye.

Readers should absolutely not consider this a guide to hike the length of the Grand Canyon below the rim. Rich Rudow carefully planned this adventure over the course of a year, after spending decades exploring the Grand Canyon. There are no trails at all, anywhere, and water sources are extremely limited and difficult to find. To see more photos, please visit our Thru Hike Below the Rim of the Grand Canyon Facebook photo album. Read Days 1-4 and Days 5-9.

Day 10–Today was supposed to be a layover day, but we are skipping it due to getting behind while the other two gentlemen were with us. Instead, as a reward for the hard push to just get here, we are forgoing the 4:30a.m. wake up call and sleeping in. On the move by 9:00 a.m., we are all sore and tired but welcome the sleeping in.

We traversed saddle canyon, 49 Mile and 49.9 Mile canyons. Super hard, but exhilarating day traversing three huge canyons; these things are big and take hours to hike around. Came across some rock art that dated back to 800-1000 years old, cool to find and see. Downclimbed from the top of the Redwall to the Little Nankoweap drainage and then down to the Colorado River. I felt like I was in “Lord of the Rings” on the route down; it was jaw dropping, technical and steep. We got off the Redwall after four days and camped at Little Nankoweap on the river.

6:30 p.m. Washed clothes inside a Hyperlite Mountain Gear large roll top stuff sack in the river by adding a little gravel and soap and swishing it around. It worked really well. Sipped margaritas and inhaled 1500 calories for dinner. I’m too tired to write right now, but it was an amazing day. Read the rest of the article now.

Adventures Below The Rim: Thru Hiking the Grand Canyon, Days 5 to 9

Thru hiking the Grand Canyon.Continuing on last week’s post about Hyperlite Mountain Gear CEO Mike St. Pierre’s 16-day thru hike adventure through the Grand Canyon, St. Pierre shares his journal entries from day five through nine. This week features destroyed gear, hyponatremia, two members of the crew dropping out and getting sick because of bad water. 

Note: Readers should absolutely not consider this a guide to hike the length of the Grand Canyon below the rim. Rich Rudow carefully planned this adventure over the course of a year, after spending decades exploring the Grand Canyon. There are no trails at all, anywhere, and water sources are extremely limited and difficult to find. To see more photos, please visit our Thru Hike Below the Rim of the Grand Canyon Facebook photo album. To Read the first installment of this series, please click here.

Day 54:15 a.m. wake up. We hiked two miles to 25 Mile Rapid and arrived at 8 a.m. Filled up on water, and there was a discussion to stay there due to one of the crew not feeling well. Not the best of ideas as we would have been totally exposed to the sun. We thought we were at Cave Spring (which we were not) and agreed we really needed to get a few more miles in before the heat was too unbearable on top of the Redwall Limestone (This layer averages about 335 million years old and is composed of marine limestones and dolomites). From 25 Mile Rapid, we left the river to hike up above the Redwall. We hiked two miles to Tiger Wash. There was a break in the Redwall that allowed access to the river via a steep 500′ downclimb. We rested during the hottest hours of the day with plans to push on to Fence Fault, another break in the Redwall with river access 3.5 miles down river. Two of the crews feet are in total disarray and not sure how they are going to make it 10 more days. My shoes are falling apart and will need serious repair when we get to our next cache. We are almost a full day behind.

7:45 p.m.we came 1.5 miles short of our destination of Fence Fault as night came over us. We are still 400′ above the river on top of the Redwall. By headlamp we downclimbed into the top of a slot where we found some potholes of water in one of the drainages that cut into the Redwall layer. We made camp here. We followed the slot and it ended up being a non-technical canyon that ended at a 400′ drop straight down to the river below. Two of the crew decided to bail on the rest of this leg at South Canyon due to severe blisters and continual heat exhaustion. That’s the right choice for these two. We are logging about four to six river miles per day, which equates to eight to 10 miles on foot. Hard, hard miles. All our shoes are seeing severe wear. My sole has a four-inch split running down it, and the sticky rubber sole layer is starting to peel off. Not good! I’m totally whipped tonight and starting to get more and more sore.

It’s truly hard to wrap your head around the scale and magnitude of what has, can and does happen in this place. When you have a chance to reflect, even on what we get to see each day, it’s truly jaw dropping.

Read the rest of the post here.

Adventures Below the Rim: 16 Days, 200 Miles in the Grand Canyon

Mike St. Pierre stands high above the Colorado River.
Mike St. Pierre stands high above the Colorado River. He is wearing the Southwest Pack, which recently won SectionHiker.com’s “Gear of the Year” Award.

Walking the length of the Grand below the rim takes years of planning and significant backcountry navigation skills. Our CEO Mike St. Pierre accompanied slot canyon expert Rich Rudow on part of his more than 600-mile thru hike below the rim. In this series of blog posts, we will explore the nature of this extreme thru hike, plus share St. Pierre’s diary entries from the trip. In parts of this series St. Pierre details the path they took. However, readers should absolutely not consider this a guide to hike the length of the Grand Canyon below the rim. Rudow carefully planned this adventure over the course of a year, after spending decades exploring the Grand Canyon. There are no trails at all, anywhere, and water sources are extremely limited and difficult to find. To see more photos, please visit our Thru Hike Below the Rim of the Grand Canyon Facebook photo album.

Only two-dozen people have hiked through the Grand Canyon from Lees Ferry to Pearce, and those who have all did it differently and at different paces, says Tom Martin. Martin, the author of “Guide to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon: From Lees Ferry to South Cove,” hiked the trail over 42 years. Twelve have done it as a thru hike and 12 as a section hike, two have walked the south side in a push, and ten the north side. Only three people have done the distance on both sides of the river: Robert Packard in segments; Andrew Holycross as a thru hike on one side and in segments on the other; and Robert Benson as a thru hike on both sides. Park Ranger Todd Seliga, who has done the north side twice, is the only person to do the thru hike on the same side more than once, and holds the record for hiking it in 24 days.

“Any way you look at it, that’s a mighty small number of people,” Martin explains. “To attempt to put this in perspective, about 5,000 folks have made it to the top of Everest, and over 300 have climbed K2.”

As reported by Outside Mag’s 2012 Adventurer of the Year and Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Rich Rudow in our post, “Below The Rim: Extreme Grand Canyon Thru Hike,” the terrain is just too difficult, complicated and devoid of water. It takes years of experience and careful planning and preparation to hike the 500 to 700 miles along the river and up, down, through and across the canyon’s different cliff bands.

On the other hand, says Martin, while it’s an extremely difficult endeavor, the key reason it’s rarely done is that it’s been off most peoples’ radar simply because there is no trail for the journey. “Yes, it is true that in places there are trails going the length direction in Grand Canyon, the Tonto Trail being the most well known. As more people make the journey, a trail will no doubt be created, making the walking and the very nature of this journey much much easier.” Rudow and Chris Atwood are currently trying to become the 13th and 14th people to finish this extreme thru hike. Dave Nally accompanied them for 24 days and 300 miles, and Pierre joined the adventurers for 16 days and 200 miles. Both Dave and Mike plan on finishing the trip in upcoming years. Read Mike St. Pierre’s Grand Canyon Thru Hike Diary!

2 Calorie-rich, Ultralight Backcountry Breakfast Recipes

Stripped Down Home Packaged Ultralight Backcountry Breakfast Recipes, By Mike St. Pierre

In preparation for 16 days of extreme thru hiking through the Grand Canyon, Hyperlite Mountain Gear CEO Mike St. Pierre spent countless hours developing ultralight backcountry breakfast recipes. He weighed, measured and then vacuum sealed all his creations. Two of those recipes are included below. Read more of his recipes in his article “Food Prep & Recipes for Ultralight Thru Hike Adventures.” Share your recipes with us at info@hyperlitemountaingear.com.

Ultralight backcountry breakfast recipes: oatmeal

Thru Hiker’s Oatmeal (620, weighs 4.7oz)

  • ¼ cup dried instant oatmeal
  • 2 tbsp. sunflower seeds
  • 2 tbsp. Pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp. raisins or other dried fruit
  • ½ cup freeze dried apples
  • ¼ cup powdered milk

Grand Canyon Granola (600 calories, weighs 5oz)

  • Cup of granola Bulk bins from Whole Foods or your local grocery store
  • ¼ cup powdered whole milk
  • 2 tbsp. raisins
  • 2 tbsp. nuts (pine nuts have a lot of calories)

For more recipes ideas, check out our Food & Recipes blog posts.

Food Prep & Recipes for Ultralight Thru Hike Adventures

Stripped Down Ultralight Recipes, By Mike St. Pierre

I live for adventure. I love owning and operating a growing ultralight outdoor gear company (even the stress and chaos!) But I thrive in the middle of nowhere. The backcountry is where I perfect our packs and shelters, come up with new product ideas and continue to hone my lightweight/minimalism skills. This fall I’m heading into the Grand Canyon for 16 days to accompany the foremost expert on that natural wonder of the world, Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Rich Rudow. Rich is thru hiking about 700 miles down river and then back up the other side, all below the rim of the canyon and all off trail. The route is roughly mapped out, but the terrain will dictate the path; some days we’ll be walking (or bushwhacking) by the river and other days we’ll be scrambling 4th– and low 5th-class terrain through the seven layers of rock that make up the cliffs of the canyon; we may hike up to 6000 feet on any given day, gaining 3000 to 4000 feet in elevation. In this Series of blog posts I’ll be focusing on what it takes to prep for a major expedition like this. This first post is about ultralight food preparations for a multi-day thru hike in the backcountry. Plus, I’ve included some of my recipes.

Table2

Read the rest of the article & get some backcountry recipes, including our favorite,

Ultralight Gear List For Thru Hiking & Backpacking

Stripped Down Ultralight Gear List (3-season), By Mike St. Pierre

Mike St. PIerre - Grand Canyon 2016

by Mike St. Pierre

Going lightweight is not just a goal for my backcountry travel; it’s how I live my life. I believe embracing lightweight translates to going further, faster and suffering less in general. Less gear (and ultralight gear) equals more adventure. In terms of outdoor escapades, the first thing I did to lighten my load was address the “Big Three” (aka “Three Heavies”): my pack, shelter and sleeping systems. This article outlines what I take with me on the trail during the warmer months. Plus, I offer some recommendations for stoves, clothes, filters, shoes and more.

Read Mike St. Pierre’s list here.

Stuff Sacks for Thru Hikes & Backpacking Trips

Stripped Down Stuff Sacks for Redundancy & Organization, By Mike St. Pierre

Grand Canyon

Most backpackers and thru hikers use stuff sacks. And more often than not, they aren’t as light as they could be or as water resistant as they should be. I always consider three key things when choosing my stuff sacks for thru hikes—Do they help me organize my pack? Do they protect my stuff? Are they lightening my load? If a stuff sack doesn’t answer all these questions, I won’t use it.

It’s easy to overuse stuff sacks. I’ve done it. All thru hikers have, especially when they’re just starting out. After all, most outdoor gear you purchase comes with a nice stuff sack. And it feels good to see all your stuff neatly lined up with its own little baggy. But is it necessary? Not likely. Read on…

Why Cuben Fiber? It Just Makes Sense

Stripped Down Dyneema® Composite Fabrics (formerly Cuben Fiber), By Mike St. Pierre

Jesse Bailey and Rita Quinn working on a Green Cuben Fiber Ultamid.
Jesse Bailey and Rita Quinn working on a Green Cuben Fiber Ultamid.

It’s white, it’s crinkly, it’s waterproof and it feels like it weighs about as much as a tissue paper. But what exactly is Dyneema® Composite Fabric (formerly known as Cuben Fiber), and why use it?

When I first delved into the world of ultralight backpacking, I combed the Internet trying to find a technologically advanced material that would change my backcountry experience. The fabrics used at the time had major limitations. For example, Silnylon, the primary lightweight fabric used, absorbed moisture and swelled and sagged, requiring constant re-tensioning. The slippery material also forced people to put liquid glues on the floors of their tents to keep their pads in place. Worst of all, silnylon is made when both sides of a thin, woven nylon fabric are saturated with liquid silicone, and there were no standards for these silicone coatings. So basically every batch was different. So when I discovered a small cottage industry outdoor company using Cuben Fiber I did some more research. Read the rest of the article here.

Why You Won’t Freeze or Starve Going Ultralight

Stripped Down Ultralight Backcountry Travel, By Mike St. Pierre

going Ultralight doesn't mean freezing your butt off or starving
Going ultralight doesn’t mean freezing your butt off or starving.

People new to thru hiking and backpacking often don’t realize they need far less than what they think or what their local big box outdoor store salesperson tells them they need. They base what they bring on their fears. Don’t fall into this trap. Understanding what you need is the secret to knowing what you don’t. You absolutely need something to sleep on, to sleep in and to sleep under. Plus you need insulating layers, waterproof layers, some kind of water treatment, a knife, a headlamp and the right kind of food at the right time. Anything else is gravy. I’m not saying you must leave your nonessential, favorite items behind; I simply recommend you strip down to the bare essentials, and then rebuild your list from there with your wants.

These are some common fears or questions we’ve heard over the years:

  • How warm is that tent?
  • I’d better bring 2 layers of fleece in case I get cold!
  • What if I don’t have enough food?
  • I need a stove to cook.

These fears are misplaced, and here’s why.
Read the rest of the article here.

What is Lightweight exactly?

Stripped Down Philosophy of Going Light, By Mike St. Pierre
Evolution of going lite

By Mike St. Pierre, illustration by Steve Graepel

Read the other posts in the series, “Going Light: Not Just about Buying Lighter Gear” and “Going Light: The Evolution of Lightweight Gear.”

The first few days Cheryl Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail she could barely lift her pack. Most people reading this likely remember that feeling from early backpacking trips. Each step you took felt crushing, as obscene weight drilled your heavy, boot-clad feet into the dirt. Your hips ached and chafed almost immediately. Your back contorted in multiple directions (despite the fact that you stood up straight, sort of). Those were the days when you went “heavy.”

You didn’t do this because you wanted to; you just didn’t know better. I sure didn’t. Like I said in last week’s post, I practically brought a kitchen drawer full of steel utensils on one of my early pack trips. But, since then I’ve learned a few things, and I’ve adopted a going light philosophy. Less gear equals more adventure!

What is lightweight?

Read more about the going light philosophy…

Your Backpacking Gear: Weigh Everything

Stripped Down Weigh Your Pack Technique, By Mike St. Pierre

In this post, Mike St. Pierre discusses how you should always weigh your backpacking gear. Photo by Brad Meiklejohn
Photo by Brad Meiklejohn

“You can’t know what your weight options are for going lighter if you don’t know how much your backpacking gear weighs.” -Mike St. Pierre

Most ultralight backpackers, blogs and mags that write about lightweight travel and many alpine climbers recommend you weigh everything before embarking on backcountry adventures. I wish I’d known this in my twenties when I started adventuring in the backcountry. I didn’t realize the benefits of weighing all my backpacking gear until after I sustained a knee injury carrying excessive gear up Clingmans Dome (6,643’), the highest point in Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I brought steel utensils from my kitchen drawer, burly hiking boots, and all the ridiculously heavy gear you buy without thinking because “you need it.” As my knees healed, I started to put together my first Excel spreadsheet.

The theory behind weighing all your gear is you can’t possibly know what your weight options are for going lighter if you don’t know how much your gear weighs. I broke down items into categories and then subcategories. For example (not comprehensive):

  1. 1) Sleeping system (shelter, sleeping bags, sleeping pads…)
  2. 2) Cooking system (stove, pot, utensils…)
  3. 3) Clothing (shoes, rain gear, long undies…)
  4. 4) Hydration (water bottles, bladders, filter…)

Read the rest of Stripped Down #3 here

Stripped Down: Community Tips

    Go light. Hike in your socks :)

Comments moderated by Mike St. Pierre

Thanks so much to our community for providing so many good tips & tricks to lighten your load. We’ll be expanding some of these into blog posts in the upcoming weeks.

  • From Charles Greenhalgh via Instagram (@daily_maple): Use a very large poncho. It provides protection from rain, but breathes really well and covers your pack and your legs to the knees. It can also serve as an emergency shelter. Charles has waited out hailstorms on the trail and made lunch under his poncho.
  • Thanks to Chris (@snow_slog) who advised us via Instagram to take a smaller pack than normal because it forces you to pack less. This brings to mind something I often tell my customers; I recommend you buy your pack last. By purchasing all your necessities first, you can figure out the lightest, best options for you. And then buy a pack that reflects those purchases. Buy a big pack from the get-go, and you’re just going to fill it, often with unnecessary stuff. Read the rest of the community tips…

Trekking Poles Are The Bomb

Stripped Down How & Why to Use Trekking Poles, By Mike St. Pierre

Photo by Cody Cobb.
“Trekking poles are the difference between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive when you’re on the trail.” -Max Neale, writer & adventurer (@nealemax on Twitter)

Text by Mike St. Pierre, Photo by Cody Cobb.

Trekking poles prevent muscle damage and soreness. It’s true, and not just because I say so. The UK’s Northumbria University did a study in 2010 and found the test groups that used poles, “demonstrated a reduced loss of strength and a faster recovery immediately after the trek compared to the control group.” They drilled it down even more, finding the levels of the enzyme creatine kinase (indicating muscle damage) were significantly higher in the non-pole group, while “the trekking-pole group’s levels were close to the pre-trekking levels.” I.e. muscle damage was negligible when people used poles. Various studies have shown that using poles can reduce the impact on your knees from 25-40%. Cool, right?

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