Battle for the Featherweight [Backpacker] Title
We pitted a traditional mountain-man minimalist against his new-age, techy counterpart to decide who will take home the crown in the Battle for the Featherweight [Backpacker] Title.
By Mountain Outlaw Staff
Backpacking gear reviews come in many forms: headlamps with the most red-light strobe settings; the top five roomiest tent vestibules; the most efficient titanium-coated spork on the market.
But rather than test the industry’s micro solar chargers (What? You’re backpacking!), Mountain Outlaw’s editors are giving our readers practical backcountry knowledge combined with beta on some of the lightest backpacking gear on the planet. Weight matters.
Backcountry technique: Minimalist
Gear weight: 18 pounds
Philosophy: “The less you carry, the less you have to buy.”
“I have two to three uses for everything. Carrying less doesn’t mean you have less. I’m sustainable out there.”Jeff Saad takes his backpacking seriously. He starts his campfire with flint and steel. If it’s raining, he heats oatmeal with U.S. government-issue tri-oxane tablets and he once poked holes in a trash bag to avoid carrying a waterproof jacket.
Saad is all about packing light – his gear weighs all of 18 pounds. He doesn’t carry a tent (sleeps under a tarp). He won’t pack-in a camp stove (cooks over open flame on an ancient 6-by-3-inch grill grate and a 1-liter titanium pot). He strains coffee grounds through his mesh tarp bag to avoid the bulk of filters. He’s a minimalist and proud of it.
Occupation: Outlaw Partners’ Media and Events Director
Backcountry technique: Light, technical, ultramodern
Gear weight: 25 pounds
Philosophy: “I have the equipment I need to be quick on the trail and not sacrifice anything that will help me enjoy the mountains to the fullest.”
Ersin Ozer is on top of his gear, gizmo and gadgetry game. New gear is lighter, he contends, and he’s willing to back it up. We outfitted Ozer in the latest, lightest gear we could find to see how he fared against Saad and his minimalist technique. Ozer believes sporting light, efficient gear ensures he won’t be caught with his rain fly down.
by Ersin Ozer
Oboz Firebrand II BDry hikers
1 pound, 2.3 ounces
Built with variable terrain in mind, these lightweight kicks are versatile. They were tested through shallow creeks, traversing scree-covered slopes, and tromping in the mud. The best features, in addition to waterproofing, are the tough, reinforced rubber toe caps and snug BFit Deluxe insoles that support high-impact zones underfoot. $140
Arc’teryx Altra 50 Backpack
3 pounds, 4 ounces
Backpacks have traveled far since the days of bulky, aluminum frames. The Altra 50 is built lightweight and strong with ripstop fabric and a 50-liter chamber including side and top access zips, one-handed side pockets, and a lid with two zippered compartments – and still has room for a 2-liter hydration bladder. The narrow profile hugs your body and adjusts easily to minimize pull and maximize mileage. $289
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent
2 pounds, 5 ounces
With enough room to sleep two, plus your dog, the featherweight Fly Creek UL2 takes up minimal pack space while keeping you light on your toes for that extra mile. This tent is a breeze to set up and take down, and its breathable nylon and poly mesh eliminate perspiration for a dry night’s rest. $350
New for 2015 and 3 ounces lighter than previous Flash models, the Flash Lite cooking system is perfect for multi-day treks and a critical asset during fire-restriction years. Throw in the Jetboil Coffee Press attachment – which stores inside the 0.8-liter vessel – and you’ll have two cups down before your buddy using his caveman method boils his water. $100
Duckworth Maverick Snorkel Hood
7.5 ounces, men’s large
These threads are made with 100 percent merino wool from Montana-raised sheep and the Maverick Snorkel makes an ideal baselayer for a big day on the trail. The close-fitting hood keeps your dome warm at night while you’re hanging by the fire and it’s designed to fit under a bike or climbing helmet. $120
Our conclusion: Minimalist or modernist?
Both philosophies have their place on the trail, but no matter what route you decide to take, remember the importance of preparation and savvy.
Be familiar with your surroundings. Carry a map, compass and, if you’re in Montana, bear spray – and tell someone where you’ll be and when to expect your return, lest you suffer an “Into the Wild” fate. Have the necessary skills before you head into the mountains. – Joseph T. O’Connor
This story was first published in the summer 2015 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.