I am 63 and retired. I have done multiple bicycle tours up to 600 miles around Lake Ontario. Now this boy in and old man’s body wants to hike the Appalachian Trail in the spring of 2016, at 64. Your articles on light backpacking have been valuable in making smart equipment choices. I can use some of my bike gear but the MSR Hubba Hubba tent and MSR WhisperLite stove have to go. I have some questions for you about gear.
NOTE: Click here to read my review of the newer, 2017 version of the REI Flash 45 backpack.
Backpack REI Flash 45
$129, 45L/2,745 c.i., 2 lbs. 3 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: medium (fits torsos 17-19 inches) and large (50L/3,051 c.i., 2 lbs. 4 oz., fits torsos 19-21 inches) rei.com
For most backpacking trips, when I’m not carrying gear and food for my family, I pack as light as possible and walk long days: I like to see as much wilderness as I can. For those trips, I prefer a backpack that’s light but still has decent support; I find that the virtually frameless ultralight packs with minimal support pull on my shoulders too much over the course of a 10- or 12-hour day of hiking. On a recent three-day, 65-mile hike in Yosemite, carrying a max of about 25 pounds, the Flash 45 hit that nice middle ground: lightweight, yet comfortable with the amount of weight I threw into it, and very functional.
Backpacks Granite Gear Leopard A.C. 58
$250, 3 lbs. 12 oz. (men’s regular)
Sizes: men’s and women’s short (fits torsos 14-18 inches) and regular (fits torsos 18-22 inches). Unisex shoulder straps S-L, men’s and women’s hipbelts S-XL.
Granite Gear Leopard V.C. 46 with Klymit AirBeam Frame
$230, 2 lbs. 6 oz. (men’s regular with AirBeam pack frame)
Sizes: men’s regular (fits torsos 18-21 inches) and long (fits torsos 21-24 inches), four sizes of hipbelts for both men and women. granitegear.com
How light do you want to go? With the Leopard A.C. 58 and the Leopard V.C. 46, Granite Gear offers nearly identical backpacks that both deliver a lot of performance for their weight and price. The main difference, besides capacity? One is a lightweight load-hauler with a traditional internal frame, the other a pack designed for ounce-counting ultralighters, with an optional upgrade to an inflatable frame. I wanted to compare the conventional plastic framesheet in the A.C. 58 against the air frame in the V.C. 46 with the AirBeam upgrade, which is one-third lighter.
Rechargeable Headlamp Black Diamond ReVolt
$60, 3.5 oz. (including its three rechargeable NiMH AAA batteries)
Max burn time: 12 hours with rechargeable batteries, 70 hours with alkaline (triple-power LED); 190 hours with rechargeable batteries, 300 hours with alkaline (single-power LED) blackdiamondequipment.com
[Note: See my review of the updated, 2017 version of the Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp, which replaced the version reviewed below.]
One of the few downsides of backcountry travel is the volume of alkaline batteries we burn through and throw away. So the first thing that attracted me to the ReVolt is that it’s rechargeable. Then I discovered that this headlamp not only treats the environment well, but it’s powerful, versatile, and pretty darn light and compact—an all-around winner.
Boots La Sportiva Hyper Mid GTX
$180, 2 lbs. 1 oz. (men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 38-47.5 sportiva.com
A boot hits a rare trifecta when it excels for traction in any situation, delivers enough support and comfort for backpacking, and weighs only as much as the lightest hiking shoes. The mid-cut, leather Hyper Mid GTX does all of those things. I wore them on a pair of backpacking trips that would put even a much beefier boot to the test: carrying up to 40 pounds on a four-day, roughly 40-mile September hike in the Olympic Mountains, including 10-plus miles off-trail with very steep scrambling in the Bailey Range and two days of wind, rain, hail, and snow and temperatures in the 30s; and a three-day, 17-mile, mostly off-trail hike in early spring through the rugged canyons of Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park. These boots shined by all measures.