Earlier this year I set out to find an alternative way of hiking in the hot sunny weather of Southern California. Something that did not involve me getting sunburned or carrying the heavy 8.11 ounce GoLite Umbrella that I and many other long distance hikers have used for years. Granted I turn a rather nice shade of golden brown when I get a nice bit of sun on me, but living under the Redwood forest canopy of Northern California for the better part of two decades has not allowed me to keep that nice suntan that I always had while growing up in the Mojave desert. Recently I have been hiking different sections of the PCT in SoCal, and spending time in Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley, trying to find the best route for my Highest to Lowest trail/hike I am planning.
I was able to find a number of different companies claiming that they provided SPF clothing that was in the 15-30 range, but the real stand-out in the sun clothing world was a product line called “Solumbra” from a company called Sun Precaution. This is a company that designs and makes all of their clothing in Seattle Washington USA.
As most of my longtime readers know, I rarely write reviews on pieces of gear (clothing, shelters, backpacks, whatever) that I have not tested a lot and for a long time. I will typically spend an entire hiking season (or sometimes three or four) before I contemplate writing a review for a piece of gear – this is what makes me stand apart from other authors and gear reviewers in the outdoor community, along with the fact that I traditionally only focus on SUL/XUL hiking. There have only been a few rare exceptions when I have broken that rule of mine, and I think with this clothing from Sun Precaution it is going to be one of those times — the reason being: sometimes a product just proves itself from the very get-go, and this clothing proved itself to me within the first two weeks of me using it. Truthfully, it proved itself within a matter of hours, but I gave it a good three or four days before I allowed myself to whisper to myself “wow, this stuff actually works!”
A number of months back I wrote an article and corresponding spreadsheet which went into detail many of the lightest fully enclosed solo shelters on the market. It quickly and to my surprise, became a sort of de facto reference guy for hikers around the world. Since it was published I have received countless requests to put together a similar article that focused on two person shelters. So a number of months ago I started working on compiling the mass amount of data that is required to put together an article and spreadsheet of this kind. It has taken me much longer than I expected it would, but I am now ready to release this.
I think it is important to note a few things from the very start.
First is the fact that I had initially set some minimum and maximum weight limits for the chart and have had to change it along the way. I asked the public for feedback and asked many cottage owners for feedback regarding this as well. It was wonderful. I have, however, made slight modifications to the maximum weight limit that will be focused on within the chart. Details of why are explained below. What I would like to mention is that I have received an amazing amount of feedback from almost all of the cottage owners. It has been an honor and pleasure.
Next aspect to note is the fact that this is not an all-encompassing list of the lightest two person shelters in the world.
There are a number of reasons for this, but the two primary reasons are:
(1) I initially set some criteria for what the spreadsheet would be based on in regards to Total Shelter Weight. Along the way the maximum weight changed a few times, all as a result of the list of shelters becoming much too long to detail them all; it would have taken countless hours of work. As it is this article has consumed a little over 65 hours of work and over two hundred emails. There simply had to come a point where I was forced to reduce the maximum weight limit in order to reduce the amount of work, the complicated, and length of the spreadsheet. When I started this article there were a number of shelters that I wanted to include but they ended up being well over 1300 grams Total Shelter Weight – and if I were to include them than people would make the case that I should have included others in the same weight category, and a list which is already long enough would have become three to four times longer. I very much respect these cottage companies out there producing amazing two person shelters that are in the 1000-1200 gram range, make no mistake about it.
(2) There are a number of companies out there that fail(ed) to provide the true weights of their shelters. Most of them simply do not list accurate Total Shelter Weights on their website. There were around a half-dozen companies that I emailed asking for accurate numbers on their shelters and they never responded. I would be doing a dis service to my readers to pull numbers out of nowhere and use them just for the sake of including a specific shelter. Companies that do not publish exact weights of their shelters are doing nothing but losing business. I can say that for a fact, as last year I was looking at one specific shelter that I really wanted, but the company fails to list accurate weights of their shelters. Rather than dealing with the back-and-forth emails to try to get it out of them, I simply moved on and purchased a shelter from another cottage manufacture. So again, there are a few shelters on the market that I highly suspect might be less than 900 grams, and even more under 1300 grams, but because they fail to provide technical details about their shelters on their websites, and in many cases never responded to my emails, their shelters are not within the chart. I make no excuse for this. I simply will not make up numbers on my own because a company is unwilling to provide information that their customers should have.
I figured with it being mid-June that I should probably start putting some thoughts into the 2012 shoulder and winter hiking season. If you have been following my articles for very long you know I am not a big fan of that white stuff that so many others seem to enjoy so much, and thankfully here in the Redwoods of Northern California we do not get a lot of it.
Earlier today I was catching up on some fellow hiker articles and one of my favorite hikers from New Zealand posted a article about his planned base-layer for the rest of the year, and that is what got me thinking that it is getting close to that time of the year where I need to start planning my own setup.
So below I will outline what I am planning at this point in time for my 2012 shoulder and winter hiking season clothing setup. I would love to have other hikers out there who are planning and writing up their own shoulder/winter gear lists drop me a comment with your own setup! Each year the hiking industry is getting larger and larger and I am sure there is gear out there that some of you are using that I have no idea even exists and could be better than what I am planning to use!! Continue reading “Preparing For Shoulder/Winter Season, Clothing”→