Jun 25, 20162939 views

Recommended "Big 4"?

I saw the "Big 4" reference under "Why go ultralight?" post, and was curious what people would recommend, if you were buying a pack, tent/shelter, sleeping bag, stove/pot, and sleeping pad from scratch?
Most of the gear I have works fine, and was acquired over the years when something I needed was heavily discounted. My current gear includes (all older models, weights are from the product pages, I have never weighed them myself):
  • REI Quarter Dome UL: 4 lbs 4 oz with everything, 3 lbs 11 oz. 'minimum trail weight'. Great "1.5 person" tent.
  • Kovea Supalight + Stoic 750 mL pot: 2.1 oz stove, and I believe 3.9 oz pot.
  • Jan sport Big Bear 82: 3 lbs, 13 oz. It was really cheap, and works fine, although the straps aren't perfect.
  • Mountain Hardware Lyell -15 C: 3 lbs, 12 oz. Yes, it is heavy. It is also very warm, and can cover two people when unzipped in warmer weather.
  • Ridge Rest pad: Not sure of the weight, but I cut it to 3/4 length, and it feels very light, although is increasingly uncomfortable as I get older.
I am happy with the stove and tent. But was curious, if you were to upgrade any of these items with something that -- could serve in 3-4 seasons and for trips of up to a week (i.e. a two-person tent, not a bivy, a large backpack that can be cinched down, not a daypack) -- what would you recommend? Bonus points for something on the cheaper side.
Tent, and view, on my last outing:
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Great advice here already, so don't know that I have anything further to contribute. I'm always weighing a decision between item weight, budget, and what I know my body prefers. I also live in Alberta, Canada (ie. 9 months of winter and 3 months of bad skiing). Here's what I'm currently using in the quest to get lighter and find stuff that works for me (does it ever really end?):
Sleeping bag: Western Mountaineering Terralite. I'm a cold sleeper and a tosser/turner. I sleep very poorly in mummy bags. This is working well so far. Still not as light as I could go though. Sleeping pad: Nemo Tensor 25R Insulated. I prefer a wide rectangular pad to help with my tossing/turning. Pack: Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor. Lightish, but I could go much lighter. Super comfy for me, and this one bag covers every kind of trip I take all year round. Tent: Tarptent Notch. I always use trekking poles (knee issues) so I wanted them to be part of my shelter. Not yet willing to pay the $$ for a DCF anything, especially with exchange/duties coming across the border. For my 2p tent I have an MSR Nook, which has served me very well when I’m going with a friend.
That's where I'm at so far. Around 8lbs. Definitely a huge drop in weight from what I used to carry even 10 years ago. Happy to discuss the rationale for any of these choices.
After much research that I feel like paid off for me this is the list of gear that I chose to update all of my older equipment. I'm happy to say that I was able to find a lot of cottage industry vendors to supply me with very light Compact and affordable gear. this list is a couple of weeks old and I have made a few changes but my base weight is still just around 10 lbs for summer time. I've spent about a thousand but that's for a complete refit. there are many other backpacks and Tents to choose from as well as pads and bags. there are quite a few hammock options that come in around the same weight of 2 lb and the cost can be about the same but generally is more expensive.
https://lighterpack.com/r/ccg0sj
Since I've already posted here with some recommendations, I'll ad posts as I see/try out/talk to folks who have tried gear. If I no longer recommend a piece of gear from a previous post, I'll mention that as well. I want to help anyone who is starting to look into ultralight gear.
- Tent - -Gossamer Gear The One/The Two - Very similar to the Zpacks, but half the price. weighs a bit more, but saving 300$, so pick your poison I suppose. It has a huge vestibule which I really like and is a good option if you want a non-free standing tent to save weight on poles. --Zpacks duplex - most expensive and not free standing, but far and away the lightest and most people I've heard of swear by it especially if you use tracking poles for hiking anyways. --Nemo Blaze 2p - It's what I use and it's working great for me. It's a tight fit for two, but having the added stability of using poles makes it pretty worth it for me. -Previous entries - Nemo Dagger - After talking with someone who's used it, it doesn't really stand out to me anymore. Go with a hornet elite or blaze if you're really interested in nemo as a brand. Big Agnes Copper Spur - If we're talking ultralight, then this really isn't a good fit. Is it light for a free standing tent? Absolutely. Would it work great for for most? certainly. It's just not really in an ultralight category for weight. would 200% still recommend for backpacking in general. **get titanium shepherds hooks as well. They're not super expensive and they are worth the weight saving IMO since they're not super expensive.
-Pack- -Osprey Exos 48 - Really great quality and big enough for pretty much anything if you're packing ultralight short of camping for more than a week. Often on sale too. This is one of my packs -Gossamer Gear Mariposa - My other pack that is personally my favorite when it's loaded. More expensive, but super comfy. and under 2 lbs for 60l...just a great combination. On their website, they have old models you can get for cheap; some really great deals. with a back pad you can take out as a sitting pad and a fram you can remove if you want to shed more weight, it's flexible as well. This would be my highest recommended out of any piece of gear. -Granite Gear Virga 2- a lighter version of the crown. It is frame-less, so having heavy loads wouldn't be comfortable, but for ultralight it's great. Akwward if not fully loaded since the balance would be off without a frame, but if you're fully packed, and light, it's nice. - Previous entries - - Granite Gear Crown2 - I've read good things. I haven't tried it, so I'd just look at reviews. I chose the mariposa over this one, but I was close to ordering this.
-Pad - -Big Agnes AXL insulated- I use it. I love it. I haven't taken it to anything super cold, but it's great for a side sleeper. a bit on the expensive side, but I think it's worth it because there is nothing worse than having a crap night's sleep and hiking in the morning. -therm-a-rest - tried and true. I have an x-therm, and it's just fine. Not my favorite because of the edges and rolling off, but it's pretty comfy. -Outdoorsman lab - there are a couple models, but they're all pretty inexpensive. I haven't tried it, but they get amazing reviews. -Previous entries- -closed foam - I can't say I really endorse closed foam any more with how light sleeping pads are. Better to have the bit of added comfort in my opinion. Since you can get short pads to even cut weight on a inflatable pad, I don't see closed foam as being worth it for the bulk.
-Bag- -Enlightened equipment enigma - What I use when it's cold. It's my 20 degree bag. I can't camp below that, so I don't care about anything warmer than 20 personally. -AEIGISMAX - I have a 30 degree version and use it like a quilt. for the price....amazing. You really can't get a better deal on a down bag IMO and it's super light. Care for it well and it will last.
-Previous entries- -REI Magma - I've had more experience with my AEIGISMAX now, and at this point I can say this bag probably isn't worth the price. Go with the aeigismax on amazon if you want a cheaper bag.
I was actually in the market for new gear when I came across this tread and found it a great launching off point. It has been a little while since I had a proper backpack trip in the states, and I had been using heavier, more comfy, car-camping gear for some time. I'm planning a couple short overnights this year and working up to some longer treks. Here's what I got:
Nemo Hornet 2P - 37 oz (+6.9 oz for footprint) Massdrop/Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 Quilt (Long/Wide) - 25.2 oz Massdrop/Klymit Ultralight V (Long) - 25.6 oz (+2 oz for pillow)
I have an older Kelty bag that I used traveling through Australia and New Zealand that I like, I need to dust it off and check its weight. I don't need a new pack, but I've always liked the look of Osprey's bags, and the Atmos or Exos look really nice.
So far, I'm in for like $750 on new gear (trying to stay under $1k), but I'm at about 6 lbs total on tent and sleep system. Going to do a test run next week and see if I need to get comfier pad/pillow (I'm getting to be an ol' softy). Really excited about the tent and quilt!
Not in a rush, but the next step: stove/cookwear... The jetboil seems a little overkill, but efficient. I like the look of the MSR Pocket Rocket with the Quick 2 System but it may be on the heavy side. Need to decide what I'm really going to be cooking first...
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I've always sheltered it from the wind one way or another, so I can't say for sure. My main complaint, if anything, is the surface area to hold the pot is kind of small, so if you were using something like a big pot it wouldn't be great. It ideal for mugs.
MrToast
I echo the recommendation for the BSR for mugs or small pots, even though I'm now experimenting with alcohol and esbit. On my hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail, I went with cold soaking and left the stove at home. Instead of hot coffee, I went with Carnation instant breakfast plus Starbucks Via for a cold mocha. Another way you could save weight would be to try an inflatable torso/short pad (maybe 9oz) and use your pack for your legs. Alternately, cut up your old foam pad to use for your legs, which could double as a frame for a light pack and as a sit pad. Happy trails!
I started looking into ultralight because I have crummy knees that tend to get sore quickly if I'm carry a heavy load. To put it bluntly, ultralight isn't cheap. You're carrying as little as possible, but each piece WILL be more expensive. I'm not a gram counter by any means since I do carry some luxury items like a pillow, but your big 4 will be somewhat expensive. For a big 4, I'd recommend the following (trying to include a variety, but to a certain extent you get what you pay for).
- Tent - --Big Agnes copper spur ul2 (platinum if you want to save more weight). Certainly one of the most popular. durable enough so you don't really need a footprint depending on the type of ground. Free standing too which I know a lot of people prefer. --Zpacks duplex - most expensive and not free standing, but far and away the lightest and most people I've heard of swear by it especially if you use tracking poles for hiking anyways. --Nemo Blaze 2p - It's what I use and it's working great for me. --Nemo dagger - I always go with 2 people, but this is probably what I'd use for 1 person besides possibly a zpacks. **get titanium shepherds hooks as well. They're not super expensive and they are worth the weight saving IMO since they're not super expensive.
-Cook system - --BSR Ultralight burner - 17$ for a 1.5 oz. stove....nothing really better for the price IMO and it heats great. It's worth it and super cheap. **I cold soak so I don't have much of an opinion on pots, but I'd probably look at toaks titanium cup. Something that gives you 2 cups since you shouldn't need to heat more than that at a time. Or you can look into cold soaking; it's great in the summer especially.
-Pack- -Osprey Exos 48 - Really great quality and big enough for pretty much anything if you're packing ultralight short of camping for more than a week. Often on sale too. This is one of my packs -Gossamer Gear Mariposa - My other pack that is personally my favorite when it's loaded. More expensive, but super comfy. and under 2 lbs for 60l...just a great combination. On their website, they have old models you can get for cheap; some really great deals. - Granite Gear Crown2 - I've read good things. I haven't tried it, so I'd just look at reviews. I chose the mariposa over this one, but I was close to ordering this.
-Pad - -Big Agnes AXL - I use it. I love it. I haven't taken it to anything super cold, but it's great for a side sleeper. a bit on the expensive side, but I think it's worth it because there is nothing worse than having a crap night's sleep and hiking in the morning. -therm-a-rest - tried and true. I have an x-therm, and it's just fine. Not my favorite because of the edges and rolling off, but it's pretty comfy. -Outdoorsman lab - there are a couple models, but they're all pretty inexpensive. I haven't tried it, but they get amazing reviews. -closed foam - I don't use one since I sleep on my side, but if you're a back sleeper, look into them. bulky, but can save a lot of weight.
-Bag- -Enlightened equipment enigma - What I use when it's cold. It's my 20 degree bag. I can't camp below that, so I don't care about anything warmer than 20 personally. -AEIGISMAX - I have a 30 degree version and use it like a quilt. for the price....amazing. You really can't get a better deal on a down bag IMO and it's super light. Care for it well and it will last. -REI Magma - I've read good things in terms of a "mid tier" bag. I personally think AEIGISMAX is a better investment, but you might like this better.
I started out UL by reading a ton of stuff on the internet and watching youtube videos. I hammock camp as we have plenty of trees in MI. Silnylon is a great option if cuben is too expensive. I got my tarp from UGQ and it worked great for 1.5 years (about 30 days of camping time) and going strong. Mountainsmith makes a great UL pack Haze 50 (now improved design Scream 55) which you can get on sale/coupons for about 125$. It's underrated for what it is and I agree not the best design with outer two tube shaped pockets. I work with mine with tarp in one and hammock, misc stuff in the other. I use a down quilt as well. For winter camping, I'm looking at MLD Duo tent and/or Borah Gear bivy and yet to purchase them.
Im Planning my First Trip and Found this to be Helpful for keeping track of things >> Backpacking Gear Planner 2.0 found the Video for it on youtube

a while back and the Download site is in the description or you can go directly here http://blackwoodspress.com/blog/2755/backpacking-gear-planner-2/ >> check out the video if your unshure
All depends on the terrain and climate. Here in Australia if you insist on a tent you are going to need a free standing tent since there is rarely any real dirt for pegs. Big AgnesCopper Spur 2 because it's light and roomy with the option of opening the doors on a rainy/dewy night, and if the rain doesnt stop, you can always invite a friend in for a game of cards and a chat. When it comes to light packs you cant pass Zpacks. Their Duplex tent comes in a free standing version, but I have yet to get a decently taught pitch with it.
Sleeping mats? Neo air, take your pick of the range to suit. If you find mats too narrow, get a large (25inch wide) version and cut the excess length off. Look it up on You Tube, its easy peasy. Fed up with puffing up a large volume pad? Invest in an Instaflator. 20grams (0.6 oz) and you can fill your pad in three puffs.
Beddy time insulation? Zpacks waterproof down quilt and a Blackrock Beany. Dont forget to attach the beany to you collar with a cord and alligator clips though. They tend to blow away when you last expect it! Mine blew clean accross a canyon, so light and water repellant it justskidded across the water ending up in some tree branches !
Bon Voyage...
Get the Osprey Exos 48. Campsaver routinely has it with coupons down to $150 and the suspension system makes it amazing, plus it is over a pound lighter than your pack above. Osprey has consistently refused to work with Massdrop from what I have seen, but those prices are hard to beat anyway.
I think your line of thought is correct. Upgrading from your current sleeping bag to a good quilt will not only drop weight, but will be way less volume, and more comfortable to boot. If I were in your position that'd be my first upgrade too.
I was nervous about condensation with a single walled tent, but since getting one it has been about the same as, or better than, it was in my old double walled tent (the mesh never really seemed to help me that much and my single walled tent vents better than the old tent).
Thanks to all, those are some great suggestions! Really nice to see the variety of what people are using. @JerkyKen, regarding cheap and light, when I re-started out backpacking again as an adult (I went some as a kid, then didn’t go for a while), I used the same pack I had when I was younger, wore plastic bags in my tennis shoes to keep my feet dry, and had old fleece to keep warm. That was indeed ultralight (sort of) and ultracheap, but the backpack eventually ripped apart and I wanted something a little more comfortable and durable. @NewGuy, yes, I just got a hanging luggage scale. It can’t weigh my toothbrush, but it seems more accurate than I expected and I can hang most of my gear on it… good enough for my ‘aspiring, sort-of-lightish style’ I think.
@DannyMilks, thanks for your detailed response! I have made alcohol stoves in the past and never found them to work very well, especially in colder weather, but maybe the factory-made ones are better now. I like a double-walled tent for when I am in wet climates, and had actually looked at the Double Rainbow before. I've tried sleeping under a poncho, and in a bivy, but got wet under the poncho and was just camping with friends in the snow when I used the bivy. Neither quite fit my needs anymore.
@raptelan, @prismatica, and @Newguy, thanks for laying out the exact gear you use. Looks like some nice gear and well put together combos... and ultralight. I should have mentioned before, I have a pair of basic Black Diamond trekking poles and a Mountainsmith PCT 45 pack somewhere, but both seemed to have walked off with friends or family, to return at some unknown future date. Plus, my sleeping bag didn’t fit in that pack, so I couldn’t use it for overnights anyways. @Newguy, I'm about 1.72 m, and like a little bit of headroom, not a palace, but not completely cramped either. Thanks for the advice you already gave, those look like some nice options.
At everyone, I just took out my sleeping bag (see the pic), and realized it is much larger than I remember. That will probably be the first thing I upgrade for warm weather. I borrowed a friend’s quilt recently (actually, one sold on MassDrop) and that made a big difference. I am not looking to spend that much money (ideally less than a few hundred USD total, so will likely be shying away from Cuben fiber and other exotic materials. Sounds like a quilt and pad (something like the Klymit Static V Lite (Insulated) would be a good start. At some point in the future, perhaps I will then upgrade to a Double Rainbow or Big Agnes Scout, or whatever else is cheap(er) and light at that moment.
Picture (L back to R front): JanSport Big Bear 82, 3/4-length ridgerest (originally belonged to my dad, still going strong), REI QuarterDome UL, Stoic 750 mL pot, Kovea Supalite stove, and a massive Mountain Hardware Lyell -15 C/-26 F sleeping bag folded in half, with stuff sack on left.
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Rinji
Ah, as for the alcohol stove, a little trick with guiding, bring a tea candle and use it to heat up the metho, or whatever you use, or make sure the fuel is warm and in the center of your pack. not the best idea, but if you are like me and only use alcohol stoves (there are times i will change to white gas for extreme weather), thats your best bet. but yes, it more of a hassle and depends on what you really want out of it. cheers! more tips please!
Yes, you can save a bunch of weight on the pack itself, but the rest of your list really needs to be lighter to carry a UL pack I think. The sleeping bag is pretty cut and dry. A lighter weight quilt or bag that uses lighter materials. If you love your bag, then get a light weight synthetic quilt to just use for warmer weather like an Enlightened Equipment Prodigy. I like synthetic for warmer weather in case I sweat then I don't have to worry about saturating the down so I use a 50* synthetic quilt that weighs 11.2oz.
For shelter, I like to break it down like this. UL shelters are UL because of a few key items: They use light materials like Cuben Fiber (now Dyneema Composite). Do you want to spend $$$? They use trekking poled instead of tent poles. Do you carry trekking poles? They have less space or head room. Do you want a palace or are willing to make this sacrifice to save weight? Do you hike in overly-humid areas where double wall is a must? The lightest shelters are nearly all Single Wall but will result in some condensation.
Case and point, the Zpacks Duplex is one of the most popular shelters out there. It has tons of room but otherwise, it checks all those boxes. It uses trekking poles for support (or optional tent poles that some weight back, or you can use carbon fiber poles in place of trekking poles), it is made of Cuben Fiber (so it's very expensive), and it is single wall (condensation might be an issue).
So here is where more information comes into play. What's your budget? Do you use trekking poles? How tall are you ad how much space do you want? Will it be used with a partner? Where do you mostly hike? Answer those and I'm sure I can make some solid recommendations.
Here's a mid budget setup: 43 oz Tarptent Double Rainbow Tent (http://www.tarptent.com/double-rainbow.html) 20 oz Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt (https://www.massdrop.com/buy/enlightened-equipment-revelation-quilt or http://www.enlightenedequipment.com/revelation/) 24 oz Gossamer Gear Gorilla Pack (http://gossamergear.com/gorilla-ultralight-backpack-all-bundle.html) 20 oz Insulated Klymit Static V Lite (https://www.massdrop.com/buy/klymit-insulated-static-v-lite or http://www.klymit.com/insulated-static-v-lite.html)
Saves you 26 oz on the tent, 40 oz on the bag, 37 ounces on the pack, and adds probably 10 ounces on the pad (but worth the weight, in my opinion). If you want to go cheaper on the pack, REI used to have a Flash 45 pack that was 40 oz, I think, and you could probably get it used on ebay for cheap.
Edit: meant to say Insulated Klymit Static V Lite
@Rinji - You pose some great questions and you're working with a common issue - budget. I think so far you've gotten some helpful responses, like questions about you typical camping conditions, get a scale and start weighing everything, and first lighten your load before you downsize your pack. I'm happy to give you my two cents, but I'd be very interested to hear specific gear recommendations from other ULers. ( @newguy @JerkyKen)
Your cooking setup is good as is. You could go a bit lighter with an alcohol stove, but it sounds like you usually camp with a partner so I'd stick with your existing setup.
Your pack is actually not terribly heavy, and this would be the last thing to change, as already discussed. So that's good news for you.
The first thing I would suggest is a lighter sleeping bag. You have a killer winter bag now, so your next one should be a 20-35° bag or quilt. You can get something for 1-2 pounds less that will take up a lot less volume in your pack. There are a range of options around $100-250. Kelty and Klymit make the most affordable down bags in that range, and Enlightened Equipment has the best quilts.
Your tent is on the heavier side, but you might be able to lighten it up a few ounces by changing out the guylines and stakes, and this would cost $15-30. Also, you have the option to only take the mesh inner if you know you won't get rain (an option in California), or only bring the fly if you're worried about rain but not bugs. But eventually this would be the next piece of gear to improve. You could try tarp camping, which is cheap and light. But if you're looking for something a little closer to a tent, I would suggest a tarp tent - usually a single/double wall hybrid. My personal favorite is the TarpTent Double Rainbow - 2.5 lbs for two people, plenty roomy, and possible to set up in freestanding mode. Big Sky Soul x2 is another good option, and has a more traditional design.
You can get a more comfortable insulated air pad, but it wouldn't be as light or affordable as the Ridge Rest. So, I guess this is one area where a lot of us have decided it's worth the weight to have a better night's sleep.
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TarpTent Double Rainbow in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
A $10 kitchen scale from Amazon should be the first thing you buy before you buy another piece of backpacking gear IMO. Once you have that, you can build an accurate spreadsheet down to the ounce and you will be surprised to see what you can do to lighten when you can visualize every piece of gear down to your toothbrush and determine how to go lighter without even touching the big 4. Those should really come last and once you get there, I would look at the pack very last since you wouldn't know how small your other items will go. I was really surprised by the lack of compression for my first cuben shelter, takes up way more room in the pack.
Before recommending anything it would be helpful to know where you backpack. Temps., bugs, general weather all play a big role in selection.
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Weigh things yourself. Mfg. weights are usually optimistic at best. If you weigh every single item you take you would be better informed as to where weight could be culled. You most likely be appalled at how much you are actually carrying. You could easily shed pounds replacing your heaviest items. Even then adding more weight for a cushy pad you could still be pounds lighter than where you are now. Google ultralight ultra cheap
JerkyKen
Okay. Thanks for the advice. I don't have an accurate scale right now, but will try and weigh the gear when I get a chance.