Lightweight Hiking Goes High-Tech
Titanium weighs less than aluminumÂ—and a lot less than steel. Titanium pots are expensive (figure about $40) but they are virtually indestructible, and the weight savings can be as much as a pound (depending on what you were using before). Warning: If you ever cook over an open fire, note that some models of Titanium pots come with plastic handles, which won't survive boiling water. So look for a brand that doesn't use any plastic.
It's irritating to carry something you don't use very often, isn't it? Especially when that something is heavy. Raingear falls into that category, especially in the summertimeÂ—but after one too many out-of-season surprise storms, I don't dare leave home without it, even though I grumble at the weight (My Patagonia rain jacket weighs in at 15 ounces, and my Northface rain pants are about the same). This year, however, I discovered Frogg Toggs. They're made of a proprietary waterproof-breathable polypropylene laminate, and the total weight for jacket AND pants is less than a pound. Designed for moderate foul weather, Frogg Toggs are great for three-season hiking in temperate climates, but you'll still want your heavy-duty Gore-Tex for the White Mountains or the North Cascades. They're also vulnerable to abrasion, so they're not recommended for bushwhacking or rock scrambling. But here's the real surprise: The set (pants and jacket) come with a price tag as lightweight as they areÂ—less then $70 for the set.
When I saw the Kelty Cloud listed in Backpacker at just over one pound, I had to check it out. ("One POUND??? For a PACK?") Turns out my suspicions weren't entirely unfounded. The Cloud is a modular system, and the "one pound" weight is the base weight, which means no hipbelt and no outside pouches. But even fully loaded with all the accessories, the Cloud still floats over the scales at about three and a half poundsÂ—decidedly svelte, considering some packs weigh in at twice that. The idea behind the modular system: Not everyone needs all the accessories all the time, and when you don't need them, they're nothing more than extra weight. The Cloud was specifically designed for climbers, who need a pack for summit day, but can get by without a hipbelt and all the extras. The Kelty rep warned me that the Cloud's suspension system isn't as heavy-duty as some of the expedition packs, so long-distance hikers, who use the packs day after day, might start feeling a little sore after a while. If the pack is stuffed to the gills, I agree. With six days of food and a mid-weight load of about 38 pounds, it did seem a little wobbly. But if you can keep the weight of the contents down, or if you're a weekend hiker who doesn't overdo it on the mileage, this might be the perfect pack for you.
Sleeping bag size and weight can be minimized both through good-quality materials and good design. Down is rated in "fill"Â—high-quality down traps more air (meaning it fluffs up more) per ounce than cheaper down. Good design (baffles to keep the down in place, zippers covered with draft tubes, a snug but not-too-tight fit) helps keep heat in. The Seattle-based company Feathered Friends specializes in down, and they've become a leader in high-quality down sleeping bags. My pick is their Rock Wren, which tips the scales at two pounds and claims a temperature rating of 30 degrees FahrenheitÂ—more than warm enough for most three-season hiking. If you're a warm sleeper and a summertime kind of hiker, check out the new Vireo, which weighs in at a mere one pound and is rated to 45 degrees.
Sometimes small items can give big weight savings. Bear-proof food canisters made their debut a few years back, but at three pounds, they attracted reluctant converts. (Think of how many Snickers bars you could carry instead!) A new company called Ur-Sack has come up with an alternative: a stuff sack made of Armada fabric (the same stuff they use in bulletproof vests). The sacks weigh between five and ten ounces, depending on size, and hold five to ten days of food. They've been field-tested by hungry bears in zoos, and the company posts updated information about in-field performance on its Web site. Warning: Proper food storage is extremely important in "problem bear" areas, especially in California's High Sierra, where the escalation of offensive strategies and defensive weapons between bears and humans is reminiscent of nuclear technology during the Cold War. In these areas, always check with local authorities on current food storage regulations.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication