Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Gear picks

At the end of every year, BPL editors put together a list of three of each of their favorite pieces of gear from the past year. It isn't a formal endorsement or an Editor's Choice award (a la BACKPACKER). Here's my entries, with one additional from my special lady.

Arctic mukluks by Steger Mukluks: My feet were warm and dry in a myriad of conditions with these muks on. For the UL hiker, they're 20 oz per foot of warmth. Try to get that out of any other full-on winter boot. You won't. Now I just need to figure out how to keep the laces from absorbing moisture and freezing at night...

Dixon Double Bivy by Oware (Dave Olson): I bought this for use with an Oware CatTarp 2 for the special lady and I, and we love it. The the Pertex has excellent water-resisting (almost water proof?!) capabilities and it kept us dry during a deluge in a poor camping site.

by (Joe Valesko): Simple design with a full features made this frameless pack my go-to when I didn't need to carry a tent. Solo, I could probably go a week with the pack size and more if I didn't cook. The design only gets better with the use of Dyneema in Joe's latest iterations.

Honorable mentions: GossamerGear LightTrek3s; Integral Designs MK1 XL; Integral Designs VB socks; MYOG torso pad (hacked Ridgerest).

And the pick for women, written by my fiancee: the GoGirl. The GoGirl is an FUD (Female Urination Device) offered at the wonderful price of $6.00 a piece! Simply put: women use the GoGirl to pee standing up. No longer do I have to go 1/2 mile off trail to find a suitable tree to drop trou behind. I can stand aside the path just like my fiance. Of course, it takes some practice...and I recommend using it with a skirt. The GoGirl is made out of medical-grade silicone so it reusable and germ resistant. And the best feature for ultra-lite backpacking is it's ability to keep its shape after being shoved, squished, and compressed into the tightest places in my pack.

[edited 1/4/10 for for clarity]

Saturday, December 26, 2009

New ZPacks in Dyneema

Long time gone from the blog, but here goes a resurgence.

Joe Valesko of is introducing a new line of packs out of Dyneema X fabric come January 2010. Dyneema X is the current gold standard for those looking for UL gear made out of bombproof materials. If you pay him enough, Dan McHale will make you a pack made out of nothing but Dyneema strands.

Dyneema X weighs about 4 oz/yd^2. This is about three times the weight of silnylon (post-impregnation). However, when the amount of fabric in the gear is so minimal (like that on a pack), the weight increase is proportional but not overly substantial. I'd be willing to guess that a stripped-down Dyneema X 26 will weigh in at about 9 oz. This is three times the amount of my stripped-down Z1.

Other pack makers use, or have started to use, Dyneema regularly in their packs. GoLite, Six Moon Designs and MLD all use Dyneema is some fashion or another. However, none of them weigh in as low as the anticipated Zpacks models. The MLD 2010 Prophet is about the closest you're going to get for a full-featured pack (defined as a rucksack with straps, size pockets and rear pocket). GoLite's Ion is about 9 oz pre-strip down, but that pack lacks external pockets.

I'm slightly biased in preferences, of course, because I love the simplicity of my Z1. But if you want a UL pack for that needs to be tough, Joe's new line should be fantastic.