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Favorite Lightweight Sleeping Bag

There are numerous different options worth considering for ultralight sleeping bags or lightweight sleeping bags. When attempting to reduce weight, some makers of sleeping bags make the the bag smaller, and use less insulation. Often times this results in a sleeping bag that is uncomfortable to sleep in because it is overly restrictive – not allowing for free movement in the bag. Because these sleeping bags are tight fitting, they don’t allow you to wear additional insulating clothing to bed if nighttime temperatures drop below the comfortable temperature rating of the bag.

Some lightweight backpackers prefer quilts, while others prefer top bags. Top Bags are sleeping bags that only have insulation on the top of the bag. The bottom of the bag is either open, or only has fabric with no insulation under it. The theory is that when you lay on insulation, you compress it, and it loses its ability insulate. We have tried numerous different sleeping systems, and for the beginner we suggest they don’t go with a quilt or a top bag. However, that is a generalization, and once could easily argue that quilts and top bags are great for beginners given the right trip and conditions.

We suggest that a better option is to use a sleeping bag that is designed to accommodate the wearing of additional insulating clothing to sleep at night. This allows your insulated clothing to become an important part of your sleep system. It allows you to carry a sleeping bag that may not be comfortable at the minimum temperature you experience on the trail, but because it accommodates the use of additional insulated clothing the comfortable range of the sleeping bag can be extended into lower temperatures.

Montbell Ultralight Super Stretch Down Hugger

Our Favorite sleeping bags are the Montbell Ultralight Super Stretch down sleeping bags because they utilize elastic bands that allow the sleeping bag to stretch. This makes the sleeping bag very “roomy” and comfortable, but the elastic allows it to “shrink” up next to your body which reduces the dead air space your body needs to warm, and helps keep the warm air from escaping out of the sleeping bag.

Features
Super Stretch System
Montbell Super Stretch SystemMontBell’s patented Super Stretch System uses horizontal elastic stitching to draw the insulation closer fit to your body and keep heat in the bag – where it belongs. This stops drafts, eliminates cold spots and improves the bag’s thermal efficiency by reducing the volume of air your body needs to heat.

With the Super Stretch System, you’ll experience a freedom of movement like never before. The durable, elastic stitching gently stretches with you as you move. The result is a bag that keeps you toasty warm while accommodating changes in position. We have worked to create the ideal balance close fit and exceptional expandability – now you can kick back, read a book, do your yoga or simply get a good night’s sleep.

800 Fill Power Goose Down

Montbell 800 Fill Power
MontBell uses only the highest quality 800 Fill Power* Goose Down in our sleeping bag. After years of searching for the best down in the world, we found the Gray Goose. Unlike duck down, goose down has a comparatively large surface area and an exceptional down-to-feather ratio. This means that less down is needed to trap air, resulting in lighter, warmer bags.

MontBell chooses all gray goose down for its superior down-to-feather ratio. Then we gently rinse the feathers to rid them of allergy-causing dirt and dust. As a result, all MontBell down products are hypoallergenic, and since feathers are taken from the goose at the end of winter, that are laden with oils that improve water repellency. *Fill Power is a universally accepted standard that shows how many cubic inches one ounce of down will loft to.

15-denier Ballistic Airlight™ Nylon

Montbell Ballistic Airlight™ 15-denier Ballistic Airlight™ hollow fiber calendared nylon: All MontBell sleeping bags feature 15-denier Ballistic Airlight™ in both the shell and the lining. This new nylon replaces the 15-denier solid fiber nylon used previously. The calendaring process makes this fabric far more down proof than the previous nylon; imagine removing the ends from a tin soup can and then stepping on it, the can flattens and widens. When the nylon is woven and calendared, the result is fibers that are shingled on top of each other, and a fabric that is far more resistant to down leakage. This fabric weighs only 1.1oz per square meter. Despite its light weight, Ballistic Airlight™ is stronger than many fabrics that are twice as heavy.

  • Multi-Box Construction
  • In a standard bag, large pockets of down tend to flatten out and lose their loft and warmth. To combat this problem, MontBell uses Multi-Box Construction to partition each down fill compartment into six vertical sections and six horizontal sections. Each of the resulting cells is separated from the next by an elasticized polyester mesh that is very lightweight and breathable. Because each cell is small, the down maintains its loft. And, with greater loft and a closer fit, less fill is needed to keep you warm.
  • Neck Baffle
  • A shoulder collar prevents air circulation through top of the bag. EXP., #0, #1, #2 features this system.
  • Neck Adjuster
  • A drawstring adjusts fit around neck.
  • Tunnel Hood
  • A small face hole to improve warmth around your head and face. EXP., #0, #1 features this system.
  • Draft Tube
  • A draft tube prevents air from circulating through the zipper. #EXP., #0, #2 feature a double draft tube for increased zipper draft protection. #3, #4 feature a single draft tube.
  • Foot Adjuster
  • All MontBell bags feature a unique foot adjustment system. A drawstring has been added to the last baffle, allowing the user increased adjustability. For shorter users, the last baffle can be simply closed off completely, reducing the amount of empty space to heat.

Lightweight Backpacking Philosophy

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The “Lightweight Backpacking Philosophy” most commonly mentioned emphasizes a never-ending commitment to

  1. scrutinize packing habits in order to fine-tune minimum packing needs and
  2. aggressively seek out the smallest, lightest-weight, highest-quality gear available to satisfy those needs.

The Lightweight Backpacking Philosophy we embrace at Lightweight Backpacking 101 expands on that, and emphasizes the following:

  • Scrutinize gear, clothing, and food selection to fine-tune minimum packing needs.
  • Aggressively seek out smaller volume, lighter-weight, high-quality/high-performance gear and clothing.
  • Seek clothing and gear that can serve multiple purposes (multiple gear use).
  • Educate yourself on backcountry travel and safety, being well prepared for changing weather, wildlife encounters and whatever else may happen.
  • Use lightweight techniques to keep travel through the backcountry low-impact on both yourself and your environment.
  • Use products that provide the level of comfort you desire, even if they aren’t the absolute lightest available.

At Lightweight Backpacking 101 you will find information about lightweight backpacking, weight-reducing tips, gear that can be used for multiple purposes, general packing information, gear checklists, backcountry ethics, and much, much more.

Lightweight Backpacking Food

There are a vast array of food options for the lightweight backpacker. A very common option is dehydrated prepackaged meals. These offer low weights, often good taste, balanced nutrition and convenience. However prepackaged dehydrated meals are often very costly.

When planning a meal for backcountry travel it is generally recommended that carbohydrates make up 60-70% of your daily intake. These are easily fulfilled by pastas, rice, potatoes and other grains. Fats should make up 15-20% of your daily intake. Cheeses, candy bars, peanut butter, chocolate and other higher fat foods are best. 15-20% proteins are also needed. These are usually fulfilled by dried or canned meats, tinned fish, TVP (textured vegetable protein), peanut butter etc.

One item that can be a great help in prepping meals for the backcountry is a food dehydrator. Food dehydrator allow you to prepare jerky, dried fruits, vegetables, and sauces. This can mean that you only need to boil water to prepare a delicious meal.

Most of the packaging from the grocery store is to heavy and/or bulky. When packing for a trip make sure to repackage in ziploc or other resealable bags. These can also be used to eat out of to save additional weight.

When collecting water in the backcountry, water must be treated in order to protect us from bacteria and viruses. There are a variety of methods for treating and/or filtering your water. Filters are very popular and work by filtering out bacteria and viruses from the water. These are best for larger groups as they work fairly quickly, they filter 1-3 liters of water per minute. Many filters improve the taste of the water as well However there are a few downsides to the use of filters. Filters may become clogged with silt and sand, some companies have solved this problem by making the filter element cleanable in the field. Filters can also fail in the field, if this happens you are left to boil water to kill bacteria and viruses.

Our favorite is the Katahdin Hiker Pro filter, It is one of the lighter models and is cleanable in the field. Also the filter element may be replaced when the old one is no longer usable. The pump design in one of the most efficient pumps we have used.

Many lighter weight options are now emerging. One of our favorites is the Steri-Pen. This product uses Ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and viruses. The Steri Pen is also one of the fastest ways to treat water. This product will treat a quart of water in just over a minute. One disadvantage is you end up drinking the silt in the water. The best way to filter out undesirable matter in the water is to place a bandana over the bottle when you submerge it.

The lightest weight and most inexpensive option is chemical treatment. Chemical treatment is very effective and will kill everything in the water. These treatments either consist of iodine or chlorine dioxide. Our favorite is Aquamira which is now sold in a tablet as well as drops. Aquamira will treat all but the most questionable water within an hour and uses chlorine dioxide. We prefer the drops as they take less time to work than the tablets.

Lightweight Backpacking Gear

When selecting clothing for lightweight backing it is important to think about a “clothing system.” A clothing system typically consists of 3 layers, and allows you to effectively manage your body’s heating and cooling system. Scroll to the bottom of the page for a brief discussion of what we feel is the most overlooked piece of clothing to take along if you are backpacking. Companies like ProLite Gear specialize in lightweight backpacking, and can help you select the right gear for you. BackpackGearTest.org is a site where backpackers evaluate new gear in the field over a four month testing period.

Shelter
Do You Need A Tarp for Lightweight Backpacking? A few years ago a tarp shelter was your only practical choice for Lightweight Backpacking. Thankfully, advancements in materials and design have produced excellent options for lightweight tents and we suggest you go with one of these lighweight shelters if you are just getting started with lightweight backpacking. There are now several full solo tents that weigh a little over 2 lbs, as well as 2-person tents that weigh just over 3 lbs. A tent has obvious advantages over tarps. It keeps you out of the weather more effectively. It gives you more protection from insects. It gives you more privacy. However, even a good lightweight backpacking tent is heavier than your other options. Read about our favorite Lightweight Backpacking Tent.

Sleep System
A lightweight backpacking sleep system consists of a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and perhaps a ground cloth. When attempting to reduce weight, some makers of sleeping bags make the the bag smaller, and use less insulation. Often times this results in a sleeping bag that is uncomfortable to sleep in because it is overly restrictive – not allowing for free movement in the bag. Because these sleeping bags are tight fitting, they don’t allow you to wear additional insulating clothing to bed if nighttime temperatures drop below the comfortable temperature rating of the bag. For these reason we suggest that you utilize a sleeping bag that is designed to accommodate insulating clothing. This allows your insulated clothing to become an important part of your sleep system. It allows you to carry a sleeping bag that may not be comfortable at the minimum temperature you experience on the trail, but because it accommodates the use of additional insulated clothing the comfortable range of the sleeping bag can be extended into lower temperatures. Montbell Ultralight Super Stretch down sleeping bags utilize elastic bands that allow the sleeping bag to stretch. This makes the sleeping bag very “roomy” and comfortable, but the elastic allows it to “shrink” up next to your body which reduces the dead air space your body needs to warm, and helps keep the warm air from escaping out of the sleeping bag. The lightest and least expensive sleeping pads are closed cell foam pads. Read about our favorite Lightweight Sleeping Bag.

Lightweight Backpack
A well-designed backpack that fits you, has the proper capacity, and has the features that are appropriate for the specific task will help you maximize your enjoyment and hiking comfort. The most common mistake people make is purchasing a pack before they purchase the rest of their gear. We suggest you purchase a pack after you purchase your other items so that you know how much weight you need to carry, and the volume of pack you need(capacity). Overloading a small backpack by connecting equipment at the outside of the pack is a bad solution as it disturbs the center of mass and the load distribution. You should determine your needed volume for internal storage inside the backpack. It might seem strange to fit a backpack but it is definitely something that is very important. Most backpacks have adjustable hip belts, shoulder harness, and stabilizer straps but even then, the basic shape of the hip belt and shoulder harness could not be compatible with your body. Read about our favorite Lightweight Backpacks.

Cooking System
When Choosing a lightweight stove and cookset, be aware of your cooking needs and where you expect to hike. Climate makes a big difference on the performance of various stoves. Will you be traveling in larger groups, in pairs or solo? What type of climate do you plan to hike in? Will you just be boiling water or cooking a multi course meal? Ask yourself these questions before you chose a stove. Read about our favorite Lightweight Cooking Gear.

Lightweight Backpacking Clothing

Lightweight Backpacking Clothing

When selecting clothing for lightweight backing it is important to think about a “clothing system.” A clothing system typically consists of 3 layers, and allows you to effectively manage your body’s heating and cooling system. Scroll to the bottom of the page for a brief discussion of what we feel is the most overlooked piece of clothing to take along if you are backpacking.

Lightweight Shoes
Traditional backpacking shoes are notoriously heavy. That is because they are designed to support you carrying heavy loads. When you carry lighter loads like lightweight backpackers do, then you no longer need to wear heavy hiking books. Lightweight Backpacking enthusiasts typically choose light hiking boots or trail running shoes. Some choose to use sandals, but they lack support and stability when carrying a load on your back over rough terrain. Inov-8 is a very popular line of footwear among lightweight backpackers. Using lightweight shoes has an added benefit. The Critical Mass Ratio for walking is 5:1, meaning, every ounce on your feet feels like five on your back. If you can save a pound in footwear, it is the same as saving 5 pounds in your pack. FootwearBuyer.com is a great product search and comparison site for shoes and other footwear.

Lightweight Base Layer
The first layer next to your skin is called a base layer. It should be good at wicking(pulling moisture away from your body) to keep your skin warm and dry. Cotton is a poor choice for a base layer. Cotton gets wet and stays wet. Polypropylene is typically the least expensive and dries fast. However, polypropylene tends to “smell” very bad, very quickly. Producers of polypropylene base layers have attempted to control the “smell” problem using numerous different techniques, all of which don’t work, or don’t work very well in our opinion. We believe that base layers made from merino wool provide superior performance. Merino wool base layers wick well, provide good thermal regulation, resist fire, and don’t stink like polypropylene base layers. Merino wool base layers are being made out of lightweight fabric. We really like fabric that weighs 200 grams per meter for cool weather, and the newer 150 gram, and 140 gram material for warmer temperatures. We won’t go into detail as to all the performance advantages of merino wool on this introductory site, there are plenty of pages that go into great detail on that subject, and also discuss the properties that prevent merino wool for stinking like other base layers.

Lightweight Mid Layer
The next layer in the clothing system is the mid layer. Its primary purpose is to provide warmth, and so clothing that is to be used as a mid layer should have good insulating qualities. Synthetic or wool (especially merino wool) works great here. Generally, the material will not be next to your skin, and so the issue of “smell” doesn’t play as big of a factor. But even so, we have gotten pretty stinky in synthetics. However, the synthetic mid layers we have tried tend to be more durable than their merino wool competitors. You do get some performance advantage by layering a merino wool mid layer over a merino wool base layer, and the two layers work together as one for wicking. Our experience is that synthetic mid layers are not as warm as merino mid layers are. In general, the more air your clothing traps inside the warmer it will be. For colder conditions we really like the lightweight down jackets and vests from Montbell and Patagonia. These down jackets and vests are very light, and are highly compressible so that they do not take up much room in your pack. Down provides the most warmth per ounce, and doesn’t break down as fast as synthetic insulations when it is compressed.

Lightweight Outer Layer
The outermost layer in the clothing system is to provide protection from water and wind. There have been numerous advancements in material and fabric technology for outerwear, and staying on top of all of these new technologies is a challenge. Since this site is meant to provide an introduction, we will stick to the basics. The outermost layer is often referred to as a shell, and the material used should be waterproof/breathable.

 

 

 

Lightweight Wind Shirt
The addition of a wind shirt to your clothing system can add tremendous comfort and significant warmth, allowing you to wear lighter base layers, lighter rain shells, and lighter insulating garments during active exercise in cold conditions. The bottom line: a wind shirt extends the comfort range of your clothing system, and allows the other pieces to be lighter. Lightweight wind shirts weigh less than 3 ounces, and pack down small enough to be stuffed in a pocket. Do yourself a favor, get a lightweight wind shirt as part of your clothing system.

Lightweight Accessories

There are a variety of products out on the market that may add a great amount of comfort to your backcountry adventures without adding much weight.

One of our favorite products is the MSR Packtowl Ultralight. These towels weigh anywhere between 2-5 oz and are a nice item to have. We tend to throw these in our packs on nearly every trip and are great if you have a single wall tent that may experience mild condensation. Also good if you manage to get soaked in the backcountry.

Headlamps are more of an essential than an accessory. Our favorite is the Black Diamond Spot headlamp. The Spot has a variety of lighting settings, a powerful 1 watt led spotlight great for hiking in the dark, finding camp at night or hanging a bear bag. There are also three lower powered led lights that are better suited for camp use such as cooking, reading a book, packing, more general purpose use. This light weighs just three ounces with batteries, it is waterproof and will burn for up to 160 hours on a single battery.

Another great accessory item is a good pair of gaiters. We like the Mont bell Stretch Gaiters. They are best for dry climate hiking as they are made of a soft shell fabric. We use these to keep socks and foot wear clean and free from the dirt, sand, and debris that are common with wearing lightweight hiking footwear. These are very breathable but still resist bad weather.

If something waterproof is needed we prefer the Integral Designs eVent Shortie Gaiters. These are excellent for rain, spring hiking and wetter climates. The eVent fabric is the most breathable waterproof available. These keep you dry from the outside as well as the inside.

Favorite Lightweight Backpacking Tent

We looked at numerous different ultralight tents and lightweight backpacking tents in determining our top pick for Lightweight Backpacking 101. Many readers of this site may criticize us for selecting a tent instead of a tarp, or a tarp-like tent. Tarp shelters are lighter of course, and we have tested(and own) several excellent tarps and tarp like shelters. However, this website is for traditional backpackers that are just beginning the transition to a lightweight backpacking approach. We considered ease of use, stability, protection, roominess, and of course – weight. We prefer freestanding shelters for beginners, and even experts will appreciate their easy setup and stability, ability to be moved after accidently pitching them on top of a rock or uneven surface. Taking everything into consideration, our top pick was clear.

Big Agnes Seedhouse 2 Superlight

The Big Agnes Seedhouse 2 Superlight has a great space to weight ratio weighing under 3 pounds and providing 28 square feet! The tent boasts great weather durability, weight specs., spaciousness, and 3-season versatility. Shelters don’t get much lighter than this without sacrificing weather protection or stability. The Big Agnes Seedhouse 2 Superlight’s single-hubbed pole/clip system sets up quickly without guesswork, and the taut pitch offers impressive stability.

Why we like it:

  • Freestanding (our preference)
  • Lightweight
  • Roomy
  • Easy to set up


Specifications

Packed weight includes poles, fly, tent body, stakes, guy lines, stuff sacks, instructions, and packaging.

Trail weight refers to poles, fly and tent body.

Fast Fly weight refers to the poles, tent fly and accessory Fast Fly footprint.

  • Packed Weight: 3lb 6oz
  • Trail Weight: 2lb 14oz
  • Fast Fly Weight: 2lb 2 oz
  • Packed Size: 6.5″ x 16″
  • 28 sq ft.
  • Vestibule Area: 5.5 sq ft.
  • Head Height: 38″
  • Foot height: 22″
  • Floor Length: 84″
  • Floor width 52” at head, 42” at foot
  • Tent purchase includes tent body, fly, poles, stuff sacks and stakes. To extend the life of you tent floor, we recommend using a Big Agnes footprint or ground cloth.

Features

  • Free standing, three season, superlight backpacking tents
  • NEW DAC Featherlite NSL pole system – featuring “GREEN” anodizing, super light and strong 8.2mm poles with press-fit connectors and lightweight hubs
  • Single hub/pole system makes set up easy
  • Plastic clips attach the tent body to the pole frame for quick and easy set-up
  • Fly is 20D nylon rip-stop with a silicone treatment and 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating
  • Tent body is 20D nylon mesh for excellent cross ventilation
  • Floor is a bathtub design, 30D nylon rip-stop with a silicone treatment and 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating
  • D shaped door with mesh pocket above
  • Storm flap over vestibule zipper
  • All seams are taped
  • Superlight, X-peg stakes included
  • Footprint sold separately