2020 – All Change! New gear: an ultralight backpack, some luxury items, and cooking kit changes

Ozarks Horizon. Bell Mountain – Day Two. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

No, I’m not referring to COVID-19, though that has thrown a monkey wrench into my backpacking and hiking plans. I’m going to briefly talk about what I’ve been doing on the trails, plus some life and gear changes.

Backpacking in 2020

First up, although I’ve not been posting, I have been backpacking. I’ve been out on the trail for 17 nights and hiked 100+ miles so far this year. Before March, I visited:

In March, I unexpectedly returned to fulltime work and came out of semi-retirement. Working fulltime limits my backpacking opportunities, but in any case, at that point, the whole world decided to go to off the rails with COVID-19. Ironically, my work-load increased significantly.

Since March I have kept my self-isolating outdoors adventures short and local, visiting:

With work, honey-do lists, and my personal blog, things here have taken a back seat.

Gear Changes

I had earmarked 2020 as my ‘year of comfort.’ I planned to add to my luxury items and replace my cold weather clothing ready for the 2020-21 fall and winter season. 

Having worked for years to get my winter pack base-weight down to 21lbs, I didn’t relish adding luxury items without further reducing my base-weight first. After a long, hard, look at my packing list, I decided to purchase an (expensive) ultralight Zpacks Arc Haul backpack (23 oz), which instantly cut my carried weight by 3+lbs.

My luxury items

My only regret is that I didn’t buy a camp chair earlier. On my Paddy Creek and Bell Mountain Wilderness trips, I resurrected an old homemade wood burning stove and had so much fun using it I decided to find something a bit more ‘packable’ The Firebox Nano seemed to fit the bill, and it’s proved very good. It weighs more than my home-made stove, but it packs down very small.

My 2020 Cook-set. Slide the bar right, unpacked, slide the bar left, all packed away

Other gear changes

Using a wood-burning stove leaves soot and tar on my cook pot, so it’s no longer practical to drink straight from it. I brought out my old Ziplock plastic cup for a couple of trips. However, that isn’t easy to pack, so I checked around and found a double-walled titanium cup that stacks neatly inside my cook pot. Problem solved, though I gained a few more ounces doing so.

Morning Tea – Piney Creek Wilderness – Day Two. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

I love my stainless steel water bottle, but it doesn’t hold enough water. I decided not to go with the popular option of using smart water bottles and bought a traditional Nalgene bottle instead. It almost doubled my water capacity and saved an ounce or so too.

On the clothing front, I’ve bought the following:

  • ultralight rain jacket and skirt (yes, a skirt, it is much more flexible than rain pants, and who will see me wearing it on the trail in the rain?),
  • 800 fill down hoodie,
  • quarter zip fleece pullover,
  • fleece pants,
  • merino wool baselayer.

Both the fleece pants, baselayer, and pullover have added weight. But overall, I’ve still managed to reduce my weight — Just. Here are the figures:

Replacement gear-in: 6.63 lb
New items:2.35 lb
Gear-out – replaced gear:9.76 lb
Net saving:0.78 lb

And here’s the complete list.

In theory, I now ought to have my luxuries, warmer clothes, and a winter pack base weight around 20 lb. We’ll see.

What do you think?

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