Back in February of 2016 I ordered a Mountain Laurel Designs ‘Core 22L’ backpack for use as my primary summer backpack – it was my first backpack from MLD and it will not be my last – quickly fell in love with this backpack!
The MLD Core is offered in two different volumes, a 22L(1300ci) and a 28L(1700ci) volume – I went with the 22L knowing that I could get all of my gear into it and about three days worth of food. YMMV.
One really has to ask themselves what the targeted market is for a backpack as simple as the MLD Core. Let me try to share my thoughts on that.
It seems it is time for the hiking blogosphere to start posting their “Christmas Lists” – I have already seen three or four just in the last week.
I had an article about 95% of the way written, and decided to delete it and do something different. The idea pop’ed into my brain to write up ‘my favorite piece of gear from my sponsors‘, but the more I thought about that, the more I realized I just could not decide on a single piece of gear from a couple of my sponsors. For instance, I have over 2000 days of use with the Montbell Dynamo Wind Pants and my absolute love for the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket would make it impossible for me to pick between the two. (opps, guess I just gave away that companies two favorites, doh!). The same could be said of companies like Six Moon Designs and ZPacks. So I figured the only way I could make this happen is if I picked two pieces of gear from each company that sponsors me!
The Mountain Laurel Designs “FKT Quilt” is a synthetic quilt that is uniquely designed to help fill a niche in the quilt market, with a double layer of insulation on the lower half, and a single layer of insulation on the top half, thereby allowing you to leave at home your insulated leggings and insulated booties, for those colder nights.
I have been using the FKT Quilt since it was released. The idea and concept appealed to me so when it was time to acquire another quilt, something able to be used in warmer weather than the MLD Spirit 28 I have and reviewed, I just had to get one and give it a try. So has the idea/concept worked out for me? What are my thoughts on it?
I posted this over on my facebook page, but I have been getting a lot of people saying they refuse to use facebook and are thus not able to see everything I post, so I will likely be posting more short/brief posts here at hikelighter.com to correspond with posts over on facebook.
The Mountain Laurel Designs “Spirit 28° Quilt“, my first synthetic sleeping quilt, has proven to be an exceptional piece of hiking gear. The quality of build, the attention to details, the type of fabric used, and of course the ClimaShield APEX, all make the Spirit quilt my quilt of choice.
Last year when I decided to make the move away from using goose/duck down products I knew that the selection of synthetic quilts to pick from was going to be small. I also knew that I would not even bother looking. The amount of hikers I truly respect that have given the MLD Spirit quilt the highest praise that can be given, just made the decision for me. I was not disappointed. Exceptional, truly exceptional.
I know I am not alone when I say I am very excited to see shelter hit the market.
The Mountain Laurel Designs TrailStar has been one of, if not the, most desired and awarded cottage made shelter over the last few years. Its ability to handle horrific wind conditions has proven to hikers around the world that it is a shelter to be contended with.
For some of us though, we felt the original TrailStar just had to big of a footprint. I know I am not alone in that. Every time I have seen a TrailStar setup I just went “wow, that sucker is huge”. Those of us who have felt that way have been long waiting for MLD to release a smaller version of the shelter, and now they have done so.
Mountain Laurel Designs is stating that the LittleStar has a 15% smaller footprint.
They have also indicated that it “will handle wind as well or better than the larger TrailStar“, which of course makes sense as there is less material for the wind to sit and pound against, due to its 15% smaller size.
I have been using these rain mitts from Mountain Laurel Designs for a few years and absolutely love them.
There are actually very few rain mittss on the list of UL/SUL rain mits these days. The ones off the top of my head are the Mountain Laurel Designs, eVENT Rain Mitts, the Black Rock Gear Overmitts, and the ZPacks WPBCF Rain Mitts. The Black Rock Gear ones are the lightest ones out there (13.6 grams) but also the ones most prone to suffering damage because of their use of 0.34 cuben fiber and they are also the least breathable ones. The ZPacks WPBCF Rain Mitts are mid-weight (23 grams), and are 100% made from WPB CF so their breathablity is better than the ones from Black Rock Gear, but nowhere near as good as the (36 gram) eVENT ones from Mountain Laurel Designs.
As I have written so many times over the last few years, it is always my goal to go as light as possible, yet also strike a balance between weight and usability. This is one of those times when the additional 10-20 grams of weight are put aside for the fact of usability – specifically breathablity.
The announcement included the fact that (a) Sawyer has redesigned the water bladder material, (b) they have reduced the included bags from three bags to a single bag, and (c) they have reduced the price a few dollars.
Ron Bell, like a few of us in the hiking industry, have been in contact with Sawyer since the release of the Squeeze filter, about trying to resolve the high failure rate issues with the original Squeeze bag. Thankfully Ron has a larger voice than some of us and has actually been able to get some direct input on these new bags.
I, and others, have been huge supporters of the Sawyer Squeeze filter. But we have not been able to support the bags that Sawyer produced. The Squeeze filter itself is the absolute best filter presently in the hiking world on a performance to weight ratio. As I try to make a key point of within my review of the Sawyer Sqeeuze it is the only filter out there that provides us with an Absolute One Micron filter – and that word “absolute” is a big issue. Do a search for the word “absolute” on the CDC page concerning water filtration if you do not believe me. If you do not want to believe both the CDC and myself, just do a google search for “absolute vs nominal micron” and research it yourself. Simply put, as a backcountry hiker, what I want in my backpack is an Absolute One Micron filter, and the Sawyer Squeeze is the one filter out there that provides me that level of filtration – and does so at only 93.64 grams (3.303 ounces) Continue reading “Sawyer Squeeze – Updated 2013 Version”→
In the world of hiking keeping your hands and your feet warm are a vital key in the quest to having a successful hike. While your hands and feet, arms and legs, are not as vital as keeping your core temperature under control – a situation the vast majority of sul/xul hikers rarely face – the necessity of keeping ones hands and feet warm goes a long way towards the overall well-being, pleasure, and adventure, of being outdoors.
The Black Rock Gear Undermitts are perfecting for helping you keep your hands warm throughout most of the climates and conditions that most of us, all but those who go into the most extreme environments, face each and every time we go out.
For many years a lot of people have been using gear made by Black Rock Gear to keep their core temperatures as stable as possible. They have been the manufacture of the highly popular – and always in demand – Black Rock Hat which has been used pretty much around the world by those going out for a day hike to those hiking the highest mountains in the world. The Black Rock Hat gram for gram (19-25 grams / 0.67 – 0.88 ounces) is very likely the best down hat on the market and one or two of them are almost always in my backpack.
My Glove Layering System:
As a hiker in the Northern regions of California I encounter cold ocean wind, rain forest rain, and high mountain snow over the course of a year hiking. Having a good hand layering system has proven to be important to me.
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.