In prepping for my summer 2017 fieldwork trip, I created a pre-departure list of items for a long-distance hike of ~40-50km. This list is mostly complete, except for clothes items (depends on the weather), specific food items, and research supplies (listed separately).
Since my last long trip into the field in the summer of 2016, I’ve transitioned from traditional hiking gear toward ultralight gear. I purchased the Hyperlite 4400 Ice Pack to replace my Osprey Daylight Plus backpack and the Hyperlite Daybreaker to replace my Thule Enroute Escort II (still my favorite backpack for daily use). I also switched out my Sea-to-Summit Dry Sacks (a great option) for Hyperlite’s Stuff Sacks.
Another improvement to the weight of my pack is in reducing the items I bring along for coffee brewing. If you know me, you know I’m picky about my coffee. I have a coffee house I love (Caffe Medici. Sup?) and I’m super weird about switching it up. At home and on the road, I use an Aeropress and a mechanical grinder with Spyhouse’s Orion beans. BUT, a trusted barista illuminated a better way of coffeeing in the backpacking world – Sudden Coffee. I’ll write a whole post on this, but for now, it’s safe to say that I’ve taken the Aeropress and grinder out of my pack. That’s a whole pound of weight savings.
Finally, I added on a personal locator beacon (PLB) since I’ll be hiking in remote areas for several days in a row. I chose the SpotGen3 and I’m testing it out this week. So far, it looks like a good buy and puts my mind at ease.
Stove | JetBoil MiniMo
Bear-Proof Storage | UrSack Minor
Odor-Proof Bags | OpSack
Utensil | Snow Peak Titanium Spork
Fire | Mini Bic, Waterproof Matches, Überleben Fire Steel
Dishes | Snow Peak 450 Titanium Mug
Water Purification | Potable Aqua Tabs
Water Treatment | Third Wave Water Powder
Coffee | Sudden Coffee Vials
Shoes | Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX Women’s
Down Jacket | Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket
Rain Jacket | North Face Gore-TEX Hyperair Rain Shell
Pants | Marmot Precip Pants Men’s
Socks | REI Coolmax & REI Smartwool
Sun Hat | Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero
Rain Hat | Outdoor Research Helios
Sunglasses | Rayban Wayfarer Classic
Face Mask | Indie Ridge
Bug Net | Sea-to-Summit Head Net
Day pack | Hyperlite DayBreak Pack
Sleeping Bag Liner | REI Cocoon
Seat Pad | Therm-a-Rest Z Seat Chair
Trekking Poles | Black Diamond Distance Z
Knife | Benchmade Combo Edge
Stuff Sacks | Hyperlite Stuff Sacks [small pod (2), large pod (2), nano (1), medium (1)]
Pillow | Hyperlite Stuff Sack Pillow
Water Filter | Life Straw Steel (with two extra filters)
Headlamp | Black Diamond Unisex Spot Light
Flashlight | Fenix UC35 960 Lumens, Rechargeable
Bear Spray | REI Counter Assault with Holster
Bear Bell | REI Counter Assault Bell
Water Bottle | Nalgene 900ml
Collapsable Water Bottle | Nomander 22oz
Wallet | Hyperlite Minimalist Wallet
Trowel | Coughlan’s Backpacker’s Trowel
Hand Sanitizer |Mini
Towels | REI Multi Towel (Large & Medium)
Toothbrush & Toothpaste | Mini
Sunscreen | Mini
Notebook | Rite in the Rain (no. 393/353N)
Pen/Pencil | Rite in the Rain (several different kinds)
Gear Repair | Gear Aid Seam Sealer 2oz
Google Pixel XL
Mini Camera | GoPro Hero 5 & a few accessories
Batteries | Energizer AAA Rechargeable 800mAh
Charger | Energizer AAA Charger
Power Source | Monoprice 20k
Cables | Pixel charger, Fenix charger, GoPro charger
PLB | SpotGen3
Soon after I decided to aim ultralight, I realized Hyperlite Mountain Gear was the best decision I could make in terms of a new pack. HMG makes extremely water resistant (pretty much water proof) packs from Dyneema® Composite Fabrics. They have several different styles, but I opted for the pack best suited for the work I do and the environments I’m in. This 70-liter pack is perfect for multi-day excursions in rough alpine environments. It comes equipped with ice tool attachments and a crampon bungee attachment system. It’s a pricey pack, but I’m confident I made a good investment here.
$375.00 (+ $10.00 for hip belt pockets)
So, after discovering Hyperlite, I realized I wanted to transition toward their product line. In addition to a long-distance pack, I needed a daily bag that I could use on shorter excursions in the field and in urban settings. I have a Thule EnRoute Escort II that I absolutely love, but it’s way too heavy to pack inside of my main pack and it’s got a bunch of pockets and compartments that add unnecessary bulk in field settings. So, I opted for Hyperlite’s backpack-style bag, which I understand to be just as strong as their traditional packs, but much smaller in size (17 liters). On another note, a consumer review on Hyperlite’s website said that this pack can fit a 15-inch Macbook. It’s fitted for a 13-inch version, but I’m hoping I can squeeze my laptop in there when I’m back home in Austin or on campus.
There are a bunch of options here. As of right now, I’ve packed my bag with the following: large pod #1 (sleeping bag), large pod #2 (tent, tent poles, sleeping bag liner, sleeping mat, and some extra socks), small pod #1 (stove, cooking items, backup map, water filter, filter replacements, extra map, glow sticks, gear repair kits, etc…) , small pod #2, nano stuff sack (first aid, since it doesn’t fit my phone), small stuff sack (all electronics), and a large stuff sack pillow (puffy jacket, socks, rain pants, underwear, tank tops, hiking shorts). This photo shows the pods and the pillow sack stacked as they would be arranged in my pack. There’s still plenty of room in the pods for more stuff if I need the space.
0.1 – 1.4 oz
$16 – $45.00
I purchased this 3-season sleeping bag last year on clearance at REI for less than $100. This year’s model is more than double that price, so I feel like I got a really good deal on it. I used it in 35°F weather last year and it held up great! Super warm. I also used it in 75°F weather and was totally happy its breathability. It’s lightweight and is filled with water-resistant down. As a side note, I wouldn’t recommend this bag to anyone planning to camp in high temperatures, i.e. Texas. This sleeping bag is extremely warm, which was great last year when I was sleeping in 30°F weather, but it was noticeably uncomfortable at 75°F. In the future, I’ll invest in a lighter sleeping bag for Texas summers.
$100 – $320.00
I debated between this four-season inflatable mat and a closed-cell mat for a while. After a lot of thought, I opted for the inflatable based on the smaller pack size (approximately the size of a 1-liter bottle) and consumer reviews based on comfort. I chose the women’s version, which is supposed to retain more heat. It’s also pretty lightweight, but isn’t the lightest thing out there. I knew I was sacrificing something in terms of extra weight, but I want to get a decent night’s sleep in the backcountry.
This is another place I opted for a heavier weight. In the future, I’ll probably switch out this tent for a Hyperlite shelter or tarp of some sort, but right now I need something that will fit both myself and my research assistant. Similarly, if I decide to hike or camp with a friend or my partner, I want the option to *not* have to carry two tents. The reviews are mostly very good for this tent, but I saw one customer review that complained about the weak waterproofing. I’m going to test it on a trial run before the long hike and hopefully I get a bit of rain to see how it holds up. For now, I’ll remain optimistic.
I purchased this camping stove last year on sale at REI for ~$80. Amazon’s current prices hover around $100. I like this stove because of it’s lightening quick boil time (~3 minutes), simmer setting, compact size, included bowl/cup, and overall simplicity. I had a cheap stove before this one (something in the ~$40 range) and this was a worthy upgrade. The downside of the JetBoil is that you have to use the proprietary fuel, but the benefit is that the brand claims to have optimized high-altitude and low-fuel level fuel efficiency.
$80 – $140.00
I opted for this product instead of a bear canister because this one packs down much easier. It’s made of bullet proof Kevlar material, but the company says that it’s not bear “proof.” It’s also not odor proof, so I paired this with some odor-proof bags to avoid attracting bears. I’ll also store it inside of a dry sack to protect food items. The total storage capacity is equivalent to 37-meals worth of freeze-dried foods. I’m not using exclusively freeze-dried foods, but there should still be plenty of room for everything in here.
This ice ax is lighter than most of its counterparts, but at the cost of length. On the other hand, it’s a super affordable tool as compared to similar items that cost triple what I paid for this. After reading through consumer reviews, I opted for this ice ax based on it’s light weight, positively rated functionality, and reasonable cost. (I’m also thrilled that the 4400 Ice Pack has an ice tool attachment system that perfectly accommodates the Petzl. It slips into a sleeve and ties down with an adjustable bungee.)
I’m not doing any serious ice climbing this summer, but I expect to come across the occasional slick ice that necessitates shoe hardware. (I’ve also read that these are great in slick river environments.) For that, I purchased micro spikes that fit over my hiking boot. They’re relatively lightweight and they fit great in the crampon attachment area in the front of my pack. I’m glad I don’t have to carry full crampons this time around – it saves quite a bit of weight. (If I were going full crampon, I would probably choose Petzl 10- or 12-pointers.)
I chose men’s version over the women’s version because the women’s version had ridiculous flowers on the calves. No thanks. These gaiters will help to keep both water and scree out of my boots and will protect my rain pants from damage if I’m wearing the micro spikes. I almost went with the Outdoor Research version, but one reviewer complained that the velcro attachments failed when they got wet. I placed it save and got these instead.
Merino hats are the best for fieldwork and long hikes in cold/moderately cold weather. They’re warm, they’re breathable, and they’re not too delicate. They’re also pretty inexpensive. I usually carry more than one hat with me, just in case I need extra warmth, but I’m toughing out this time around with a single hat and a fleece headband cuff.
The other bigger purchase I made for this trip was this pair of Gore-TEX hiking boots to replace the ones from last season (Magellan Women’s Harper). I went on a quick 3-mile hike with the new boots and I’m amazed at the difference between the pair I had and the new pair. My last pair crapped out after a week or so of hiking – their final day was the Hidden Lake Overlook in Glacier National Park, where the sole glue failed and the shoe pretty much fell apart. This time around, I’m stepping it up with some serious mountaineering boots that will withstand snow, ice, scree, mud, and all kinds of fun.
Appx. 32.0 oz
$190 – $240.00
Lightweight, down, quick-dry, durable, warm, breathable, and packs super tiny. I got this one on sale half price, but the full price isn’t too bad. I normally buy everything in black, but they have a white option that’s pretty sharp and a few colorful options (teal, navy, orange, red, purple), if you’re into that. It was a great purchase. Plus, it’s super, super comfortable.
$69 – $130.00
I got this jacket last year at REI’s annual markdown event for $30. It was in a bin of “damaged/opened items” with a note saying it had a “broken” zipper. (The zipper was detached. I fixed it in less than five minutes when I left the store. Total win for me.) Before that, I had a $40 rain shell from Amazon that worked fine, but looked and sounded like a big plastic trash bag. This jacket was a great upgrade.
$30 – $249.00
After opting for the inflatable sleeping mat, I was left without a regular mat to sit/kneel on in the field. I could have done without one altogether, but the low price, small size, and light weight of this item was tempting. I got one and attached it to the outside of my pack for easy access. In the field, I’ll have a place to sit if the ground is wet/cold. I’ll also be able to use this as a kneeling pad or a dry mat for anything I want to set on the ground. The mat is ultralight and packs small. I also really appreciate the bungee cord loop at the top, which has come in handy when I want to hag it to dry or clip it to my pack for easy access.
I picked up this item last year when I got my new sleeping bag. I can’t imagine not lining my sleeping bag with something. (Imagine hiking all day and then getting into your bed without a shower. No thanks.) In retrospect, I wish I was thinking about pack weight back then – it weighs in close to a pound.
Super lightweight poles that I got practically free from REI on an annual cash back deal with a $20 off coupon. At the time, I didn’t really see why a few ounces was worth the extra money, but I’m glad I got them when I did. They’re foldable and they fit perfectly on the outside of my pack. Black Diamond sells multiple tips for different terrains (snow, for example) and they ship their products with mini repair kits, just in case. The included wrist straps and velcro attachment loops are great, also.
12 – 13.0 oz (depending on size)
I use this version rather than the traditional Life Straw because this version has a removable filter. (I’ve gone through too many Life Straws to continue buying the plastic versions, but they’re great for single trips.) I can’t imagine going into the field without a Life Straw of some sort. With this item, I can drink from a wide range of water sources – it removes 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.9% of protozoa, and makes water taste better. It’s a bit heavy and it’s also pretty big, but totally worth it to have on hand. Suggestion: be sure to clear the device of water after each use.
Before I purchased this one, I was borrowing my dad’s super nifty rechargeable and ultra bright headlamp. It was a bit heavy, but it always worked great for me. I wanted to stop borrowing my dad’s headlamp, so I started to research lightweight options. I opted for this highly-rated LED headlamp (200 lumens) that has a strong battery life (200 hours) and is an overall great value. For a few bucks more you can get a lighter and brighter unit, but I have a great flashlight, so I’m comfortable with my choice.
3.20 oz (with batteries)
On that note, I love my flashlight. It’s really light for its brightness (960 lumens), has five brightness settings, a belt clip, a strobe function, and comes with a USB charger, a wall block, and a car charger. On its highest brightness setting, it lasts 1.5 hours, but on eco-mode it can last up to 150 hours (says Fenix). I’ve had this flashlight for a while now, so I don’t remember what I originally paid, but Amazon has them for around $90. It’s super durable.
3.49 oz (without batteries)
Like most people, I’ve cycled through a TON of water bottles over the years and I keep gravitating back to this one. My first Nalgene water bottle was a red wide mouth version from the University of Minnesota Department of Earth Sciences – I think they were tabling and I picked one up. After that, I tried a narrow mouth version and got annoyed that I couldn’t fit ice into it. (I live in Austin, so….) Then, I tried a plethora of water bottle types before cycling back to the wide mouth Nalgene. Other water bottle failures include heavy weight, clanking sound, low volume, funny taste, ANNOYING mouthpiece, hard to clean, expensive replacement lids, no way to fit ice, no mL marks, lack of harness loop, and awkward fit in pack pockets. Oh, and there were a couple that simply broke. Nalgene bottles are extremely durable. Now, I own at least three Nalgene bottles and I wouldn’t backpack without one.
So, even though I’m set on Nalgene bottles, I have a backup water bottle that squishes into my Hyperlite pod with my cooking stuff. Just in case I need a backup for any reason (I lose my water bottles, they break, someone else loses theirs), I have an extra that takes up very little room. It’s heavier than I’d like and it’s pricey as far as water bottles go, but it’s nifty. On another note, I’ll be honest and say that if I start cutting ounces to reduce weight, this is one of the first items to go.
I have an obnoxiously large wallet for daily city life use and, although I like it, it’s exactly what I don’t need on the trail – large, leather, full of pockets, and 12 ounces. Again, I turned to Hyperlite and, what do you know, they make a wallet! Score. So, this new item will be my go-to for stashing my ID, credit cards, safety info, and some cash. And, of course, it’s made from a super durable Dyneema®-Poly hybrid.
I own a few of these and I usually carry two in my pack. I got them for a backpacking trip in Australia and was thankful I did – when I saw other people hauling their beach towels and waiting a day for them to dry out, I was drying my towel in 20 minutes and packing it down to the size of a sliced bread sandwich. These towels are super light and pretty useful, but I can’t justify bringing more than one. I’m also having a hard time convincing myself that I actually need this in my pack. Sure, I’ll appreciate it in the field, but I can air dry when I need to and use a bandana for most other applications…If I start cutting ounces, this is going to go right after the Normander.
$15 – $20.00
I first used these on a 6-week backpacking trip to Australia a few years back. I tested these waterproof notebooks and pens/pencils in salt water at the Great Barrier Reef, in high humidity at Lamington National Park, and in puddles, mud, and mist at Carnarvon Gorge. After absolutely no complications in the field with these notebooks, I decided to stick with the brand for future field ventures. To this day, I go with the standard 393 journal version or a field version, but any Rite in the Rain notebook is great. Word of warning: don’t try to use regular writing utensils on these books. Sure, they’ll work, but as soon as they get wet, it defeats the purpose. Either write with a crayon like a child or get a Rite in the Rain pen/pencil (or a few). I have the twist pen, the click pen, and a mechanical pencil. One final note – I also have a case for my notebook and writing instruments, which keeps them from getting lost, but otherwise adds unnecessary weight. I don’t plan to take the case into the field, so here’s to hoping I’m either responsible enough or lucky enough to not lose all three utensils in the field.
$10 – $20.00
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better price for a backup battery. I’m sure I’ll laugh at this in a few years when backup batteries are either dirt cheap or obsolete, but for now: thank you, Monoprice for making a 20k mAh power source at a super low cost. This thing will charge my phone at least 5 times (maybe 6-7 times) and probably still has power for some other stuff. Plus, it has a little LED light on it. It’s heavy, heavy, heavy, but totally worthy of a place in my pack. What will I do if my phone, GoPro, flashlight, and headlamp all die? Hopefully, with this item, I will never have to know.
For this trip into the field, I purchased a Spot Gen III personal locator beacon. This item is primarily an emergency satellite communication device that alerts authorities if I’m in a life-threatening (one button) or a non life-threatening (a different button) emergency. However, it doubles as a GPS tracking device that lets my friends/family know where I am (links to Facebook, also). Plus, I can save my trip and review my path later – that’ll be nice when I get around to writing my field report. I came in under a promotional 50% off rebate event, so that was nice. Still, the total cost of the unit and the annual service was enough to make me cringe. If I end up needing the emergency function (I really, really hope I never do), then it’ll certainly be worth it. And if I never end up using it, it’ll at least give me and my family peace of mind while I’m on the trail or in the backcountry.
$150.00 (50%off with a rebate, so $75.00) + $200.00 annual service plan + $15.00 protection plan