Welcome! Ultralight backpacking is my passion, and keeping up on new technologies, gear, and techniques relevant to UL backpacking is what floats my boat. I'm always looking for the lightest, most functional gear to improve a lightweight or ultralight backpacking kit, and report my impressions and field testing results here. For hikers wanting to keep up on the latest and greatest ultralight backpacking gear, this is a good place to hang out. Also, there is a lot of information here (and on our informational website Southwest Ultralight Backpacking) on useful techniques and backcountry etiquette -- food for thought for hikers wanting to lighten their load and their impacts.

My goal for Ultralight Insights is to understand, test, and report on new technologies and gear of interest to lightweight and ultralight backpackers. It's a passion after all, so we just plain enjoy talking about it. I hope readers will add their own wisdom and comments, respond to my questions, ask their own questions, and correct me if I get something wrong. Happy hiking! Will

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Outdoor Retailer Winter 2016: CAMPING AND CLIMBING GEAR

By Will Rietveld

Please note that this article simply highlights new lightweight gear of interest, and by no means is it comprehensive of the category or constitute a review of the item. It’s simply a collection of new interesting gear for lightweight backcountry travel.

Items featured will be available in spring 2016 unless stated otherwise

Steripen RealTree UV Water Purifier. The RealTree will be Steripen’s smallest and lightest water purifier. It’s basically the Freedom without the integrated flashlight feature, making it a smidgeon lighter at 2.6 ounces. Like the Freedom, it has a built-in USB rechargeable battery and a lamp that will provide 5000 treatments. It will purify a pint of water in 48 seconds. MSRP is $70, compared to $100 for the Freedom. I didn’t like the flashlight feature of the Freedom anyway; it sometimes came on by itself inside my pack, draining the battery, and I never used it as a flashlight for the same reason. Finally, I don’t care for the camo theme on the RealTree because it makes it easier to lose; I would personally prefer a bright color so I don’t misplace it. Available in June 2016.

CAMP Essential Light Mat. The Light Mat is part of CAMP’s Essential line of gear that is designed to be so lightweight and functional that you will not want to leave it behind. I found several items in the Essential line to report on. The Light Mat is a full size 18x71-inch sleeping pad made of coated ripstop nylon. Note that it is fairly thin, about 1.5 inches, and it does not have any insulation at all, just air inside. The weight is 11.1 ounces and MSRP is $60. Available now.
Ace Camp Mosquito Headnet and Mosquito Canopy. The Mosquito Headnet weighs an ounce or less and costs $6. The A-frame shaped Mosquito Canopy are be available in 1-person and 2-person sizes for $35 and $40, respectively, and can be adapted to fit inside most tarps. That’s a great value. Weights are around 6 ounces and 9 ounces. Available now.

Big Agnes Fly Creek Tent With Mountain Glo. Big A’s Mountain Glo tents have been a big hit, and the technology is trickling down into their extensive tent line, even their ultralight tents. According to BA, the Mtn Glo feature, without the battery, adds only 1 ounce to the weight of the Fly Creek 2-person tent, but that weight is offset by a new pole structure that reduces weight and adds 25% more volume. Trail weight for the Fly Creek HV UL2 Mtn Glo model is 2 pounds and MSRP is $440; available in June 2016.

Black Diamond Couloir Harness. This new lightweight harness weighs just 7.6 ounces and costs $65.

Big Sky International Chinook 1P+ Tent. This is a three pole double-wall tent with an expandable floor feature – the floor can be narrowed to increase vestibule space, or widened to accommodate a second occupant. However, it’s a single door tent, which is not convenient for two people. A plus is the inner tent is a solid fabric which helps to keep dust and snow out and hold heat in. The floor is a durable 40 denier coated ripstop. Weight is 3 pounds 11 ounces and MSRP is $499. Available now.

Big Sky International Glacier Extreme Tent. This is a four-season three pole two person tent that weighs just 3 pounds 9 ounces. It has an end entry, solid fabric interior, two top vents and 40 denier floor. MSRP is $499; available now. This is one of the lightest four-season tents currently available, but there is not much vestibule storage; an add-on vestibule is planned.

CAMP Sky Carbon Trekking Poles. These 3-piece poles adjust from 115 to 135 cm and are 36 cm collapsed. They are made of carbon fiber and aluminum alloy. Weight is 13.3 ounces/pair and MSRP is $150.

CAMP Corsa Ice Axe. At 7.1 ounces, the Corsa is claimed to be the lightest ice axe in the world. The head and shaft are 7075-T6 aluminum alloy. Available in 50, 60, and 70cm lengths. This is the perfect ice axe for backpackers who might need an ice axe on early season trips. MSRP is $160. Available now.

Hydrapak Arctic Fusion Hydration System. The TPU foam insulation on the drink tube has been tested to -20F for 1 hour. It has an 85 fluid ounce TPU reservoir with a center baffle and a slide top closure for easy filling and cleaning. Total weight is 5.5 ounces. The tube can be purchased separately for $20, or the whole system for $40. Available spring 2016.

Hydrapak Seeker Flasks. The new Seeker Flasks, made of TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane), are so tough you can stand on them. They will be available in 1 liter (1.3 oz/$19), 2 liter (1.7 oz/$21), and 3 liter (2.1 oz/$22), which is similar to Platypus and other flasks. They have attachment points so they can be attached to a pack or limb in camp. Their 42 mm Flow Control cap allows you to drink or pour with ease. Available spring 2016. At this time there is no drink tube available so you can use the Seeker as a hydration reservoir.

Hydrapak Ultraflask. This type of water bottle isn’t just for ultra runners; it would also work well in a shoulder pouch for ultralight backpacking. When hiking where water is plentiful, it saves weight by carrying only a small amount, and the Ultraflask provides easy access. You simply squeeze it to dispense water. It’s available in spring 2016 in two sizes: 450 ml (1.3 oz/$19) and 600 ml (1.4 oz/$21). It’s made of very durable TPU plastic. 

Klymit Inertia Ozone Sleeping Pad. As with other pads in the Klymit Inertia series, this one is also full of holes to save weight. The unique feature of this pad is its attached pillow. Pad dimensions are 21.5x72 inches, weight is 12.5 ounces, and MSRP is $89. A bonus is it blows up very quickly.

Snow Peak LiteMax Titanium Stove. At 1.9 ounces, the LiteMax is now Snow Peak’s lightest stove. It does not have a piezo igniter, and one is not currently available as an add-on accessory. It produces 11,200 BTU, a tad more than their Gigapower stoves. And it’s very collapsible. MSRP is $60; available now.

Sea to Summit Ultralight Sleeping Pad. The recently introduced STS sleeping pad line has already gained a reputation for being comfortable and supportive. The Ultralight model is the lightest in the series. I want to point out that the Ultralite is available in a Short version, which is actually a mummy length measuring 21.5x66 inches, weighs 11.5 ounces and costs $100. The full length pad (shown) is 72 inches long, weighs 12.5 ounces, and costs $119. It’s temping to get the full-length pad. Available now.

Travelon Packable Multi-Pocket Backpacks. Two styles, lots of pockets as the name implies, lightweight, 8 ounces, $35, available now.

Yukon Charlie FlipOut Trekking Poles. This is a three-section collapsible pole available in carbon fiber or aluminum. The carbon version weighs 12 ounces, costs $99, and is available now. The first section provides adjustability from 110 to 130 cm, and its 35 cm long when collapsed. Available now; this is a great value.


  1. A SteriPen Freedom without that stupid light!!!! Going on my buy list, for sure!

    The "Snow Peak LiteMax Titanium Stove" has been around a few years. Specs you listed seem to be the same as I already have. What is new about it?

  2. Hi Everyone, there are a total of 8 articles for my winter 2016 OR coverage. Each article is a separate category of gear. Click on "Outdoor Retailer" in the topic bar to read them all. Will