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

Saturday, April 29, 2017

GEAR REVIEW: Gossamer Gear GVP Ultralight Stove System

By Will Rietveld

This cook kit is made in heaven for backpackers on the lower end of Ultralight, and those who want to break the 5 pound base weight barrier.

Leave it to GVP, aka Glen Van Peski, the UL Master, to come up with the lightest cook kit for one person. The Gossamer Gear GVP Ultralight Stove System can weigh as little as 3 ounces for a complete cooking kit. That should get your attention.

The Gossamer Gear GVP Ultralight Stove System is sold as an Esbit fueled cooking system. The specified total weight is 4.2 ounces.

There are zillions of lightweight and ultalight cooking systems out there, available for purchase or hand made, each one with some good testimonials. My review of the Gossamer Gear system will add to that list. This review describes what the Gossamer Gear GVP Ultralight Stove System is and how it performed for me. I don’t make any attempt to compare it with other systems.

Specifications and Features

Gossamer Gear (www.gossamergear.com)
GVP Ultralight Stove System
Esbit tablets (3 pack)  45g; aluminum heat reflector  3g; Cuben cozy 15g; Esbit Stand 1g; Silicone band  5g; metal pot lid 4g; plastic lid 4g; 22 oz / 650 ml cook pot  20g; windscreen cone 22g
Total Kit 4.20 oz/120 g


Since I’m a gram pincher, I was originally attracted to the Gossamer Gear GVP Ultralight Stove System because of its minimal weight. However functionality and durability are equally important. For me, the important elements of an ultralight stove system are:
  • Minimal weight
  • Compact
  • Sized for one person
  • Wind resistant
  • Burns alcohol fuel
  • Fuel efficient
  • Adequately durable
  • Good lifespan
  • Easy to setup and use
  • Compatible with my cooking and eating techniques
 As you can see from the component list, the GVP Ultralight Stove System uses Esbit fuel tabs. The main advantage of Esbit is its more energy dense, so it will boil water about twice as fast as alcohol fuel. The disadvantages are the fuel tabs are somewhat expensive and hard to find, smell terrible while burning, and coat the cook pot with soot.

I personally dislike Esbit and prefer to use alcohol fuel. Why? Because it’s cheap and easy to find, doesn’t smell (much), and is clean burning so no soot. The disadvantage is it’s slower; it takes about 10 minutes to boil a pint of water. That’s not a problem for me because I can do camp setup or takedown while the water is heating.

I wish the Gossamer Gear GVP Ultralight Stove System were also available in an alcohol version; it would be a simple matter of substituting an alcohol burner and small fuel bottle for the Esbit stand and Esbit tablets. They could even leave out the fuel bottle because the bottle size depends on trip length; I have an assortment of bottle sizes that I use.

When I received the Gossamer Gear GVP Ultralight Stove System I made a few adjustments to meet my criteria (above list). First, I trimmed a little weight by removing the silicone pot band. Then I substituted a Zelph StarLyte alcohol burner (0.45 ounce with its cap) for the Esbit stand. The remaining components are all functional. Overall, the adjustments were minor to make the stove system meet my needs. The weight of that configuration is 3 ounces.

The Gossamer Gear GVP Ultralight Stove System as tested weighs just 3 ounces. The components are:
  1. Titanium Caldera Cone – sturdy and durable.
  2. Cook pot – Foster’s beer can cut down to 22 ounces, then rimed and ridged to increase durability. Height is 4.25 inches.
  3. Aluminum pot lid with steam vent and lift tab.
  4. Plastic pot cover – this serves a dual purpose: seal the pot to shake a drink to mix it, or add water and shake the pot to clean it.
  5. Soft aluminum heat reflector – to put under the burner.
  6. Zelph StarLyte alcohol burner – available at www.woodgaz-stove.com for $12 plus $4 shipping. It comes with a plastic lid (not shown). I like this burner because it’s very lightweight (0.45 oz with lid), compact (fits perfectly in the packed kit, fuel efficient, and excess fuel can be stored inside the stove without spilling. The burner is packed with fiberglass, which holds the fuel inside.
  7. Plastic fuel measuring cup – this is simply a medicine cup; it’s useful because I can’t see how much fuel I’m adding to the burner, so it’s best to measure it.
  8. Cuben Fiber cozy – for keeping food hot while it’s hydrating, and warm while eating. It also serves as a carry bag.
The spoon is not included in the cooking system.


I tested the Gossamer Gear GVP Ultralight Stove System on two backpacking trips in the remote backcountry of Canyonlands National ParkUtah.

I prefer to place the stove on a flat rock to use it, rather than disturbing the ground. As you can see, it’s very compact when set up.

Even though the cook pot is small, you can still cook fish in it, in this case trout cut into chunks. The technique is to put the fish sections into the pot, fill the pot with water up to within about 1 inch of the top, bring the water + fish to boiling, cover and place the pot in the cozy for 10 minutes, then eat.

 I typically only cook at dinnertime. I fill the pot about half full with water, bring it to a boil, dump in my dinner (about 5 ounces dry weight fills the pot when cooked), bring it back to a boil, then put the pot into the cozy to hydrate. I eat directly out of the pot with the short handled spoon shown; no long handled spoon required. For desert I eat a protein bar.

For breakfast I drink a cold mocha consisting of a powdered nutritional shake mix plus a teaspoon of instant coffee, shaken in the cook pot, followed by a cereal or granola concoction hydrated with cold water.


With the routine described above, I use less than 0.5 ounce of fuel a day, which is a small bottle for a typical trip. For someone who enjoys a hot beverage or two every day, the amount of fuel will double or triple.

I really like the shortened Foster’s can cook pot; it’s easy to reach the bottom with a short handled spoon which also fits neatly into the kit for packing. And it’s easy to clean. A full-height Foster’s can has enough volume to cook for two people, and can be used on the cone provided in this kit, but it requires a long-handled spoon to reach the bottom and is harder to clean. I usually only boil water in it and hydrate in another container.

The titanium caldera cone is also a big plus. It’s strong, durable, and works for a long time. I have tested the aluminum version and find it easily bends out of shape and the connection doesn’t work very well after some use.

The Zelph StarLyte alcohol burner is a good match for this cooking system, but most any small/compact alcohol burner will work.

The Cuben Fiber cozy is very nice; it also serves as a carry sack to contain and protect the kit.


In my 17 years of gear testing and reviewing, including several years as Backpacking Light Magazine’s cooking systems editor, I have tested a lot of cooking gear of all types. I can say unequivocally, for a solo cooking system, the Gossamer Gear GVP Ultralight Stove System can’t be beat. After all, it was created by the UL Master himself – Glen Van Peski – so you know it’s very refined and as lightweight as it gets.

Glen prefers Esbit, I prefer alcohol, but that’s a personal preference thing. The system works equally well with either fuel, and it would be nice if Gossamer Gear would offer that choice.

The $90 price tag is a bit steep, but the main components are custom made for Gossamer gear and sold in limited quantities. Once you make the purchase, you will have the lightest, most compact complete solo cook kit currently available. It will last many years with reasonable care. This cook kit is made in heaven for backpackers on the lower end of Ultralight, and those who want to break the 5 pound base weight barrier.

Another reason for getting it is its simply ultralight elegance, a key component in a well thought out ultralight kit, and something that really makes you feel content – like owning a Tesla.

GEAR REVIEW: Topo Terraventure Trail Shoe

By Will Rietveld

Topo has found a way to maximize the performance of the Terraventure with the least amount of weight.

According to one study, taking 1 pound off your feet is equivalent to taking 6 pounds out of your backpack, so lightweight shoes are an important component of an ultralight backpacking kit. But not any lightweight shoe will do for backpacking, especially over rough terrain. My choice for ultralight backpacking footwear is lightweight, supportive, cushioned, grippy trail running shoes. That is the context of this review.

I have wide feet (E width), so my preference is shoes with a wide toebox so my feet can splay out. That feature also helps a lot when my feet swell during long hikes or runs. The toebox area is the only area where I want the extra width; I want the heelcup to be snug.

The Topo Terraventure is designed for running on rough trails, which makes it a good candidate for ultralight backpacking. (Topo Athletic photo)

Topo shoes are one of the few shoe brands offering that combination. Most others are simply “medium width”. I previously tested the Topo Hydroventure, a waterproof-breathable shoe made with eVent DVdry LT membrane and construction, and my feet loved them. Is the Topo Terraventure just as good?

Specifications and Features

Topo Athletic (www.topoathletic.com)
10.2 oz/shoe (men’s 9); 11.4 oz/shoe (men’s 12 tested)
No-sew construction, nylon mesh upper with polyurethane overlays, wide toebox, fitted heel cup, gusseted tongue, Ghillie lacing system, 3mm heel to toe drop, flexible forefoot TPU rock plate, high-traction outsole, EVA midsole


The Terraventure’s upper is nylon mesh with polyurethane overlays, and no-stitch construction.

An aggressive outsole lug design provides serious traction.

Soon after the shoes arrived I took them on a 12-day camping and hiking trip in the TucsonArizona area. The rubber outsoles have loads of grip and rarely slipped.


Although the Terraventure has a fully gusseted tongue, I prefer to wear short lightweight gaiters over them to keep debris out, especially when hiking off-trail.

Over four months of testing I wore the Terraventure on 44 day hikes and one backpack, for a total of 48 testing days. Trail conditions varied widely: desert granite, hardpacked snow, frozen mud, slickrock, rocky trails, Utah sand, and steep dirt trails. I wore them trail running several days. The backpacking trip in Utah’s Canyonlands country included class 3 scrambling, bashing through brush, and walking sandy washes.


Fit – I found the fit to be the same as the Hydroventure, a wide toebox and snug heelcup. However, since my measured shoe size is a 12-E, I found the toebox none too wide. I had to wear thin socks in them to avoid scrunching my toes. The wide toebox is a welcome feature, even for h  for hikers with normal feet, because their feet pancake out on prolonged hikes.

Breathability – The mesh nylon upper provided good breathability; only a coarse mesh upper would provide more, but that has its disadvantages -- your toes get very dirty and sand enters easily. I wore the shoes in 89F temperatures in southern Arizona in relative comfort.

Traction – The Terraventure has a 6 mm rubber outsole with a very aggressive tread. Traction is outstanding.

Stability – The forefoot TPU rock plate insulates my feet from sharp rocks, while providing the right amount of stiffness for edging. For downhill hiking I like to tighten the laces over my instep to prevent toe jamming, and the Ghillie lacing system holds firm in that location without slipping.

Comfort – The EVA midsole is 14 mm in the heel and 11 mm at the ball. I found cushioning to be very good, but not as good as some other brands with enhanced cushioning. The Ghillie lacing allowed me to simply tug on the lacing to tighten it over my instep to enhance stability, especially on descents, while remaining looser in the lower section for maximum toebox width.

Durability – The Terraventure is amazingly durable. After 48 days of hiking on rough trails, off-trail bushwhacking, and some trail running, the uppers look like new and the outsoles are only lightly worn. The only evidence of use is some scuffing on the edges of the outsole.

Cleaned after 48 days of use, the only sign of use is some scuffing on the edges of the outsole; the nylon mesh upper looks like new. The outsole is worn some, but there is still a lot of life left in the shoes.

The only issue I had with the Terraventure is fine Utah sand sifts through the nylon upper when hiking in dry washes. In that situation I had to remove the shoes frequently and dump sand out of them.


 My overall evaluation of the Terraventure is very similar to the Hydroventure I previously reviewed: the Topo Terraventure is one of the best hiking shoes I have tested. Their wide toebox is what allows me to wear them in the first place, and all of their features add up to a near perfect shoe for ultralight backpacking and day hiking. For their minimal weight, their fit, comfort, traction, and durability are amazing.

An article I would like to write in the near future is my concept of the perfect shoe for ultralight backpacking. And a perfect example of that shoe is the Topo Terraventure.

I really like no-stitch upper construction. Over the years I have tested and reviewed numerous hiking boots and shoes, and found the nemesis is stitching at the fifth metatarsal head (the widest part of your forefoot on the outside). Hiking off-trail and sliding down scree slopes (scree skiing) puts a lot of wear on that exposed area, which wears the stitching through, and the seam comes apart. With no-stitch construction that problem is eliminated (see photos above).

The Terraventure is the most durable trail running shoe I have tested, and I have tested a lot. I usually end up with holes in the mesh in shoes with mesh uppers, but the Terraventure’s nylon mesh upper is essentially unscathed. It helps a lot to have a good polyurethane rand just above the outsole to protect the upper, and in particular a polyurethane overlay at the fifth metatarsal head, as described above and shown in the photos.

The aggressive traction outsole is another component of this shoe I especially like. It provides phenomenal traction, which is a necessity for hiking. At the end of my testing, there is still plenty of life left in the shoes.

For a shoe designed to provide stability on rough trails, the Terraventure is on the lighter end, which I also appreciate. Topo has found a way to maximize the performance of the Terraventure with the least amount of weight.

Finally, at $110 the Terraventure is a good value compared to stability shoes by other brands that cost $20 to $30 more.