Backpacking Gear Advice: The Three ‘Biggies’:

hand-drawn-backpack-pencil-sketch-two-zippers-two-external-pockets-41739967I wrote this in reply to a query from a reader about what backpack, tent, sleeping bag he should buy. As you can see, I do not always recommend people ‘buy’.

Hi (Reader) – and Thanks. As you can probably see from my light posting – and from my post this morning ( , I haven’t quite recovered yet from my trip to Nepal. Nonetheless I tried to respond to your post the other day, and had written a couple of paragraphs when I lost the lot with a power outage! So, I will try again:

I have had the old Mariposa (@600 grams) for years. For some reason GG have blown the weight out to nearly 1,000 grams. Mostly this is in the ridiculously heavy hip belt (See: ) In contrast, my Zpacks Zero (previously called: Blast) pack in Dyneema weighs 380 grams with pad sleeve, rear and side pockets (one long for a tent), tie downs etc. Add @ 60 grams for the Air Beam pad. It carries about 54 litres inside. Della has sewn a handy inside pocket in mine for stowing important things like passports etc in a secure, easy reach manner).

If you use Sea to Summit Ultrasil Compression bags ( ) you can fit much more than this, and you can tie stuff on top as well (  or ). Plenty big enough even for a trip of once month carrying all your own food and even a pack raft for crossing rivers ( &! Joe (says he) will not do the pad sleeve any more, but he has a shock cord pad attachment which will work just as well (See: Scroll down). This will provide plenty of load transfer and comfort for a pack up to eg 15 kg – and you should try to keep under 10 (inc food) and say 6 for your lady!

I think you would be hard put to find something lighter and warmer than Zpacks double sleeping bag (or quilt) though you could make one very similar. If you are used to a hood, you should buy (eg) two of these as well. they are also great for cold nights/mornings: Others make a similar thing. The Triplex tent is very good for weight, but I think my designs are better – and certainly cheaper. I have not yet completed them (I know) and when I do I think I will offer them to the public as a pattern to purchase – maybe as a kit  Later I may think about having them made in a low labour cost country – I am getting ahead of myself here. However I will give you one/more for your own use, but I have not quite finished the  yet (Soon – I will get better!), but in the meantime I think you should have a go at this one ( ) in Tyvek yourself – which I think the instructions are transparent enough for the intelligent person to work out (with maybe a bit of prompting) See also: ).

When you are happy with it, you can order the silnylon from and make an even lighter one. I think you will be happier with it, have a tent which goes up (and stays up) quicker than Joe’s and which will cost you a fraction of the price. You will find it quite easy to make (the roof), and once you have that, you can play around with the floor to your heart’s content – and will get it right (eventually). The roof (in Tyvek) weighs 607 grams. In silnylon it will weigh 560 grams with the poncho floor –  a little more if you want a sewn in floor with overlapping mosquito net door, but still not much more than 600 grams plus pegs and guys (@100 grams). It will be much cheaper than a cuben fibre tent – and you can now make field repairs to silnylon with  so that cuben is (almost) obsolete!

PS: Backpack Sizing: Some really good advice here: & . The advice applies equally well to other brands of backpack.

PPS: Your height/weight is not a reliable guide. NB: My opinion is that hip belts do not work well for everyone. Some folks may be more comfortable and walk more freely without them altogether. Fatter people (as I have been most of my life) will probably do better with a simple webbing (3/4’ even) hip belt. Thinner folks might benefit from a wider hip belt. They do not need to add much weight. Zpacks hip belts – available separately for sewing on yourself (enquire) weigh approx 50 grams! (See ‘Padded Belt’ here; Scroll down).

PPPS: Instead of buying a pack, you might think of making one. I recommend Ray Jardine’s backpack Kit ( As you will see, there are two options, one with a hip belt. Be careful which you order, as the hip belt can’t be added later (according to Jenny). If you are happy with it, you could always make a tougher one eg out of Dyneema at a later date. (Two weights of Dyneema available eg. here: You will notice they also have many other interesting projects – including a backpack/s. One advantage of making your own is that you will know exactly how to fix it in the field – should you ever need to!

PPPPS: Please also read: For example, I really think you should consider Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus pack (though I have not yet owned one – I will), Zpacks Arc Blast (which I am going to borrow from my son-in law soon and review) and Gossamer Gear’s Gorilla backpack (which I reviewed here: and which I will figure a way to put a lighter hip belt on (stay posted).

PPPPPS: You can readily shave around 300 grams off Gossamer Gear’s Gorilla (or Mariposa, etc) backpack by taking out the aluminium stay, removing the hipbelt and replacing it with an ultralight webbing belt, and replacing the Sitlight pad with an Airbeam pad. The pack will ride just about as well (well, just as well when you are only carrying a few kgs) and transfer weight to your hips, and you will have saved the weight of over half a day’s food! See:

I think if you utilise these: or their heavier completely waterproof Event iterations or tie one on top as needed you can fit enough in a Gorilla-sized pack which is a much more comfortable size on shorter journeys. However, I reckon that I can carry all my gear and 30 days food in/on a 54 litre pack!

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