Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

UL Beginners Guide: The Big Three

Starting out with UL - ultralight - backpacking is often a decision because one doesn't enjoy lugging around 20 or more kilograms of weight on ones back, or because its physically not possible anymore to carry that much in the outdoors. So where and how does one start? There are many different opinions on this, and this is my subjective take on it.



Because a weight scale which measures in grams isn't a common household item, such a scale might be a good first investment. Also the book "Lighten Up!" from Don Ladigin is a very good investment, and if its just for the fantastic illustrations from Mike Clelland! A subscription to backpackinglight.com is a smart choice if you're into MYOG and in-depth gear reports. Also otherwise its a superb website for finding information on all things UL.

But lets talk some gear. Going UL I would start with replacing the big three: backpack, shelter and sleeping system. These are the most heavy items of a normal backpacker, and give the UL novice a very good opportunity to slash unnecessary kilos left and right. For comparison I will list my own gear as I was a normal backpacker, so we can add up in the end and I can show you how much weight you can lose. So, I had a Gregory backpack which was 2,9 kg, a sleeping bag which weights 2 kg, a Therm-A-Rest mat which is 730 g and no tent, but lets say I would have had a tent of 2,5 kg. That makes a weight of 8,13 kg. So, lets start with the backpack!

Nowadays I have an ULA Ohm backpack which I can recommend without a doubt to anyone who is looking for a sturdy and functional UL backpack. However, while not expensive at 130$ you will pay postage and most likely customs which can make that number grow easily to 170€, and you can't try it on. A backpack which you very likely will find at your local outdoor shop for trying on is the GoLite Jam. Its 753 g which is usually a quarter of what a conventional backpack weights, and its cheap as well at 125$. It also comes in many different colours, of which I like the black one best. Ultralight Outdoor Gear, which have superfast delivery times and good prices, sells the GoLite Jam for 70£, which is 80€ at the moment.

Next is the shelter. I just read about a guy who is carrying a 5 kg tent with him, alone. I believe normal tents nowadays are around 2 - 3 kg, but also that can be substantially decreased, as there are just as functional and storm-prove UL tents out there. However, the first question you should ask yourself is if you want a tent or a tarp. I will go with a tent in this Guide, but a tarp is just as good, and they are ridiculously light, so decide for yourself. I have a Tarptent Scarp 1 which I again can recommend. However, today I would go for a Tarptent Moment. Its 810 g and sets up very quick, and the design is beautiful - a small Scarp 1, I would say =) The Moment costs 215$, which is not expensive in my opinion considering that it is made in the USA, and an added benefit is that you know to whom your money goes (Henry Shires that is, the owner of Tarptent - great guy). 215$ are around 150€, on top come shipping and customs.

That leaves us with the sleeping system. Lets start with the mat, an important part of your sleeping system, as it isolates you from beneath and ensures that you are lying comfortable. The Therm-A-Rest NeoAir is a real revolution on the market, but at 71£ (80€) for the small one its not really cheap. However, the Small NeoAir weights 260 g and packs very small; and I firmly believe in the principle of buying good quality once instead of crappy quality many times again. That leaves us with the sleeping bag. I guess a quilt is maybe to experimental for the UL novice, so you can pick up a RAB Quantum 250 Down Sleeping Bag. At 630 g you get a very light three season sleeping bag, filled with 250 g of goose down. It will set you back 152£ (173€).

So, your average weight for backpack, sleeping system and shelter would have been 8130 g, and after an investment of 483€ (plus shipping and customs) you would have decreased that weight to 2453 g - less than one third of what you've carried before! That's over 5,6 kg off your back, and you are now just as comfortable, warm and safe on the trail than previously, but most likely will be able to walk more kilometers, climb more mountains and take along a little extra weight which you wouldn't have taken before (like the DSLR camera).

Tomorrow I will continue my little UL Beginners Guide and look at some lightweight clothes and shoes, until then I am looking forward to your suggestions for decreasing the big three!

Pirkan Taival: Kuru - Helvetinjärvi NP - Ruovesi

Late on Friday afternoon I walked to the bus station, and after a longer than usual bus ride I started walking in Kuru at 16.45 o'clock. The first 15 km were familiar terrain as I walked it not so long ago, and I made good speed, arriving at Isokalliojärvi already two and half hours later.




The trail uses forest roads like this one for some parts of the trail...


... and goes over rocks on other parts...


... another part of the path, this time through shrubs and moss.


Red whortleberry next to the path. Plenty of them, and delicious.


Wildlife.


More wildlife.


View.

From Isokalliojärvi to my campsite it were still 9 km, and the sun slowly was going down. I enjoyed the well marked path, and the smell of the forest in the evening. I passed by an occasional house in the middle of the forest, previously a farm now used as a summer cottage. Dogs were announcing my passing by, and curious faces looked out of the windows, wondering what a lonely wanderer is doing at this time still on the path.


The last sun rays illuminate the forest.

I arrived about two hours later at my campsite at Heinälahti, and looked for a good spot to put the Scarp 1 up. A couple which was sitting down at the water, watching the last bit of light from the sun behind the horizon, observed me curiously as I put up the Scarp 1 and started to cook with the BushBuddy. While waiting for the water to boil, I inflated the NeoAir and rolled out the sleeping bag. The pasta was simmering, and after a quick wash and putting on fresh clothes for the night I devoured my dinner. A look at the night sky was what rewards one for a trip into the wild: High trees aiming for the stars, which were plentiful. A beautiful sight to behold. I walked to the Scarp 1 and slipped into my sleeping bag, hoping that it will keep me warm enough this night.


Dusk at Heinälahti campsite.

It didn't. At 4.50 o'clock I woke up from the cold. I opened the inner and the fly to take a peek outside. Dawn. Remembering that cjw from hiking and climbing in Japan takes some of his most stunning photos at this time, I decided to put on the pants and grab the camera, and see what I can do.


Dawn.

I took a few photos, and decided to go back to sleep. At 7.30 o'clock it was light inside my tent, and I decided to get up. Gear out of the Scarp 1, deflating the NeoAir and packing all together. Brushing my teeth while boiling water for my morning coffee. Enjoying the view. The fresh air.


Heinälahti campsite, fireplace.


The money shot?!


Breakfast.

I tried to be fast, but still it took me nearly two hours to pack up and start walking. My neighbours still were sleeping by the time I left. I had the path to myself, and soon passed by Haukanhieta campsite, where people were slumbering in their huge FjällRäven and Halti tents. As I walked by Iso Ruokejärvi campsite, people were already up and making breakfast. A friendly "Terve!" as a greeting and I walked on.

I had a Mammut Geocache with me to hide at the Helvetinkolu (Hell's gorge), so I climbed it down with backpack and all. At the day trip hut grandparents were grilling sausages for the grandchildren, and although I was hungry I decided to continue walking for a while. It was 12.30 o'clock as I reached Luomajärvi campsite, the place I wanted to camp that night. But can I sit still and do nothing till dusk? No. The decision to walk to Ruovesi was made. 14 km, three hours time to catch the last bus. No lunch.

Utterly exhausted after jogging the last kilometer I reached the bus just in time. The chanterelle mushrooms I collected on the way were made into a delicious sauce by my girlfriend, and a pleasant Saturday evening and Sunday was had. Thoughts on gear I will post during the week, but in short, everything performed excellent - the sleeping bag will be replaced this week, allowing me to sleep longer on future trips.


The path continues.

All photos taken with Canon EOS 50D + EF-S 17-85mm lens. Click the photos to see them bigger.

Gear Talk: Tarptent Scarp 1 Initial Review

I hear you, dear reader: "Why does that bloody bloke not yet write an review about the Tarptent Scarp 1 - he has it nearly one and half weeks!?" Well, I simply didn't yet have time to sleep in it - "Excuses, excuses!" I hear you say. Yes yes, though this weekend, hopefully, I will be able to take it out for a night or two, and then in September for a bit more. But until then, read on about my initial views on the Scarp 1 from Tarptent! "About bloody time!"

TT Scarp 1

James wants one, Martin has one, Dave even would get one and Chris is testing one already since a long time. Yes, I am talking about the Scarp 1 from Henry Shires Tarptent. I got mine one and half weeks ago, and have had the chance to put it up already twice, to take some photos and convince myself of the fine craftsmanship that went into this tent.

Let me start with the reasons why I wanted this tent. I love the design: two entries, two vestibules, a large interior in which I can sit comfortably in, four season capable and storm worthy. Ah ja, there's also the low weight - mine is 1347g light, and that includes the stuff sacks, eight stakes and the pole. I also have the extra crossing poles which weigh in at 342g, and the Tyvek ground sheet which is 111g.

The crossing poles give me flexibility, which I really value. I could for example decide to just take the inner on a hot summer night, if I know its not going to rain but want protection from insects. In the autumn and spring, when there's no insects around, I can just take the fly and the ground sheet and have a tarp-like tent. And in the winter I take the crossing poles with me and should be able to take whatever the weather gods decide to throw at me.

Putting it up is easy, the first time I put it up I needed eight minutes, the second time six so I guess the next time I can get that down to four and then start to aim for the two minutes with which Tarptent advertises it. You need six stakes, though I carry eight with me and some extra guyline in case its extremely windy or that I lose one. The free-standing option with the crossing poles is great if you're in the hills and can't find a spot where to stake out the tent - very handy for the Fjells in Lapland.

Another reason for me getting the Scarp 1 was that I like to support the cottage industry if I can. My backpack was made in a garage in Utah, my stove in Canada and my tent was made in Seattle. I know where my money went, and I can contact the owner of the company directly if I have a question. That is something I value. Finally, the tent was cheap if I compare it to other tents with its capabilities. For a Hilleberg or a Terra Nova tent I easily would have paid double of what I paid now.

TT Scarp 1

Finally, if you're talking about the Scarp 1 you can't finish without mentioning Franco. I consider Franco an expert on tents, and he has the Scarp 1 already quite a while and was able to play around with it extensively. He has a variety of very useful articles published on the BPL.com forum, and here are his Scarp 1 articles in one spot - Enjoy!

Storing the Scarp 1
How strong is the Scarp 1?
MYOG Scarp 1 wind curtain
Scarp 1 for two people
Tarptent Kocheda - a Scarp 1 mod (Franco doesn't recommend this mod anymore because of possible friction of the crossing poles with the fly, but I included it for completion's sake)

A big "Thank You!" goes to Franco who gave me permission to link to his articles.

TT Scarp 1

I'm looking forward to take it out into the hills and forests and spend some time sleeping and living in it. Until then I hope you found my initial review useful, and if you got questions, comments or observations - leave a comment!