Getting a good night's sleep is right up there with eating well in the backcountry. It would be a contest to see which of those would get #1 billing. To get a good night's sleep you need to have a sleeping bag that fits you and is the right temperature rating and a sleep pad that allows you a comfort level you can handle. This blog is part one of two. In part one, we will give recommendations about how to select a sleeping bag and in part two we will focus on sleeping pads. Sleeping Bags There are a number of variables to consider when choosing your bag. It can be quite overwhelming, especially when ‘sticker shock’ takes over. You really don't need to have an unlimited budget to get a quality backpacking sleeping bag, but you do need to understand what you are looking for. Top 3 considerations: 1. Temperature rating: Consider what season you are anticipating using this particular sleeping bag for and choose a bag rated for the coldest temperature you expect to encounter. Often the rating in incorporated into the name of the product ---for example, Marmot Plasma +15 which tells you right of the bat that this bag is rated to a inimun temperature of +15. Other brands that do not incorporate the rating system into the name will have the rating on the tag and/or in the specs if looking online 2. Weight vs. roominess: When backpacking, you want to keep weight low without jeopardizing comfort or safety. For some, low weight overrides all other concerns (comfort, durability, convenience, price). For others, weight is less important than having a roomy bag for a good night's sleep. Most bags try to strike a balance between these extremes. 3. Type of insulation: Your main purchasing decision is between the types of fill: down, synthetic and the new DriDown™. Each of these fills have advantages and disadvantages and your personal choice will take into consideration where and when you are planning on using the bag.
Ratings: If you happened to take an independent survey at one of your local outfitters in the sleeping bag department regarding what was the most confusing about buying a sleeping bag you would likely hear ‘the ratings’! In the past sleeping bag companies all had their own independent rating systems so there was no way to compare or to be sure that the rating on the bag matched what you were looking for. For years the European companies have used the European Norm (EN) 13537 testing methodology which allows for easier comparision. Beginning in 2009 many of the U.S. based companies have also begun to follow this system. The EN methodology produces temperature ratings you can trust and compare head-to-head with the EN ratings on other brands' bags. If you know the temperature range you'll encounter on your overnight trip, you can compare EN-rated bags and confidently choose the one that will best ensure a comfortable night's sleep. Here's an example of the EN tag you'll find on all REI-brand 3-season backpacking bags: It is well know that women tend to sleep colder than men when comparing the same sleeping bag and the same conditions. The EN 13537 testing reflects this fact, so you'll see separate temperature ratings and terms used for men and women on the product tag. Please note: EN ratings are based on a sleeper wearing one base layer and a hat, and using an insulating sleeping pad under the bag. So---what to look for regarding rating? For women, look for the EN "Comfort" rating to decide if the bag will meet your needs. The lowest EN rating is their ‘Extreme” rating. This essentially describes a survival situation. At this temperature the bag will not keep you warm and toasty but is designed to keep a woman alive. What Temperature Rating Should I Choose? Sleeping bags that display EN ratings can be expected to provide comfort to the temperature stated on the bag, keeping in mind the variables described above. For non-EN-rated bags, select a bag with a comfort rating that is a bit lower than the lowest temperature you expect to experience. For example, if near-freezing temperatures can be expected, then choose a 20°F bag instead of a 35°F bag. For any sleeping bag, you can always vent it on warmer nights by using the double-zipper to open the area by your legs. Or, simply drape the unzipped bag over you. Here's a general rule of thumb on how sleeping bags are categorized:
- Goose-down fills are very light, compressible, durable and breathable. While initially more expensive, they offer great long-term value. The ‘down’ side of down is that you must be more careful regarding moisture. Down does not dry easily after it gets wet and also loses its warmth value when wet. So—this is probably not a good choice for use in an area of high humidity and frequent showers/storms.
- Synthetic fills excel in damp, cold conditions and have less sticker shock up front, these bags also retain their ability to keep you warm even when wet. The ‘down’ side of synthetic fills is that they are significantly heavier and less compressible than down a comparable down bag.
- A new product on the market is DriDown. This is goose down treated to resist moisture – a wonderful advancement for down bags!
||Temperature Rating (°F)
||+35° and higher
||+10° to +35°
||-10° to +10°
||-10° and lower
Non-EN rated sleeping bags: For non-EN-rated bags, select a bag with a comfort rating that is a bit lower than the lowest temperature you expect to experience. For example, if near-freezing temperatures can be expected, then choose a 20°F bag instead of a 35°F bag.
With the increase in recognition that women are indeed built differently than me we have seen a increase in equipment designed for women. Female specific backpacks are pretty common place at this time and now---women specific sleeping pads. These bags are specifically designed and engineered to match a woman's contours. When compared to men's bags, women-specific bags usually have the following characteristics:
Sleeping bag lingo: When shopping for a sleeping bag, you may read/hear some of the terms below. 1. Names of the parts of a sleeping bag: · shell · lining · fill 2. Sleeping bag styles: · mummy · rectangular · sleep quilts or bottomless sleeping bags 3. Features to consider: · hood or no hood---that is the quesiton · zippers—right, left, full and ½ · Stash pocket · Pad loops · Trapezoidal footbox
- Shorter in length
- Narrower at the shoulders
- Wider proportionally at the hips
- Occasionally, extra insulation in the upper body and/or footbox
I intended to write the second part about being an adventure travel guide before leaving on my latest trip (Exploring Utah's National Parks) but I'm glad I waited. Being in a spectacular place with a lovely and very diverse group of women reminded me both of how much I love guiding, how much work it is, and what qualities make for happy and successful guiding - at least for Adventures in Good Company. Different companies have different philosophies and non-adventure travel companies undoubtedly have different requirements. But here is what we think is important.
- Experience in the outdoors. Guiding is not the way to get experience, and going on trips where others are guiding is a good start but not enough. Having a base of personal outdoor experience, where you are responsible for yourself, is critical for developing both judgment and self-confidence.
"Good judgment is the result of experience. Experience is the result of poor judgment". You want to gain experience when you aren't responsible for the safety of others. Which is not to say that you won't continue to gain experience as you guide, but you want to have a sufficient base that you have enough judgment to not put others at risk.
- A keen interest in others' stories. If you are more interested in telling your stories than in listening to other people tell their's, then look for the types of guiding that are one day adventures (e.g. river rafting or ziplining) or are more oriented towards didactic teaching. A guide who loves to be the center of attention can be very successful short term; on longer trips, where group relationships are key to everyone enjoying themselves, the focus needs to be on group members. Interest in other people is not something you can fake for an extended period of time.
- Safety awareness. This is a particular challenge on adventure travel trips because adventure is not compatible with keeping people totally safe all the time. If you are hiking in the mountains, you need to know to avoid the predictable afternoon thunderstorm. But how about the unpredictable sleet storm that comes up? What have you brought with you to deal with emergencies and when do you turn back? Safety awareness is gained from experience, from talking to others, and from reading about others' mishaps.
- Patience. This is another quality that is impossible to fake over a long period of time. On adventure travel trips, many people are out of their comfort zone; even just meeting up with a group of unknown women can be an adventure. As a result, things that are obvious to you may not be obvious to them, timelines may not be clear, people go at different paces. Always keep in mind that everyone is truly doing the best job they can and your role is to figure out the support they need, not to become impatient.
- Organization and flexibility. It may seem like a paradox, but the more organized you are, the more flexible you can be. Guides need to have a clear timeline of the day in their mind; then if something comes up that is going to affect it, they can understand exactly how the whole day will be impacted.
Here's an example: Our plan is to arrive at point X at 6 pm. Some of the group wants to go on a side trail to an overlook and it will take about 45 minutes. If the day is clearly planned, then you know whether there are other aspects you can shorten to make it still possible to arrive at 6 pm. And if you are in touch with your groups' energy and needs, you can make a decision whether keeping to the 6 pm arrival time is more important than going to that overlook.
- Being your own best critic. You need to be able to look at yourself clearly, without beating yourself up, and see what you are doing well and what you need to change. If you look to others for validation, you can easily make safety mistakes. For example, you may need to tell people they can't do something they really want to do, if you are clear that it is not safe. (One of the hardest things I ever did a s aguide was tell someone on my Kilimanjaro trip that she would not be allowed to try for the summit). You have to be OK with people being mad at you. At the same time, you have to know when you have made a mistake, even if no one else recognizes it as such. You have to thoroughly look at why it happened and what you need to do differently so it doesn't happen again. And you need to do this without beating yourself up about it.
- Good technical skills and experience in the activity you're guiding. Frequently people who want to be guides focus only on this aspect- and it is very important. But in some ways its the easiest part of becoming a guide because you can take classes and then work on developing your skills in different ways (when I was into rock climbing 15 years ago, I used to practice how to "escape a belay" in my bedroom).
Guiding is an endless opportunity to learn new things, meet a variety of fascinating people, and learn about yourself. It isn't for everyone, but for those with a passion for the outdoors, travel, and other people, its incredibly rewarding.
My flight to Bhutan leaves in less than 20 hours – my suitcase is packed (it’s actually been packed for 7 days), work is caught up, and as far as I can tell all the “balls” I have in the air should remain in the air for the next two weeks (my fingers are crossed). I am not freaking out or driving all over town doing last minute errands. I just took my dog for a nice long walk, caught up via phone with my mom, and plan to enjoy my last evening at home with my husband.
Now – I am not saying all of this to brag – nor has every “day before a trip” been like this for me. But when working for a travel company like Adventures in Good Company, you have the chance to get your travel prep systems pretty fine-tuned. So I thought I’d share a few pre-trip organizational strategies that have worked for me.
Make Lists: I really don’t think I am a complete Type A personality, but I certainly have some Type A tendencies – one of those is my addiction to lists. I love making lists. Currently, under the notes function on my iPhone I have 28 different lists. I make lists early and often. I used to carry around a spiral notebook and paper planner everywhere I went until I weaned myself off of my paper dependence and transitioned to an electronic calendar and a love affair with the notes function on my phone.
The subjects of my lists cover many topics – but currently, those that relate to trip preparation include:
Items to buy
Phone calls to make
Items to pack on departure day
Before I leave…
To do at home
To do at work
To do when I get back from the trip
Reminders for family when I am gone
I compile these lists over time (i.e. 1-2 months) – when waiting for a meeting/appointment or just when things come to mind. That way I am pretty confident I have thought of most things come departure day.
Take Baby Steps: Do one thing each day to prepare for your trip. After you have your lists penned, it’s easy to get paralyzed with the amount of things you need to accomplish. For me, if I am overwhelmed, I shut down and may do absolutely nothing on the list. So, I negotiate with myself – I tell myself, “Just do one thing towards trip preparation today.” For example, make one phone call, do one errand. That one thing MAY turn into to two, but if not, you will still slowly chip away at the list at a pleasant pace.
Use Existing Resources: In this day and age, there is so much information available. When you have questions, or are looking for advice from an expert – look online. You can often type in your questions and find a few reliable answers. I often research reviews of products prior to purchase it just a few clicks. “Google It” is really a great piece of advice when you are unsure where to begin with a large project or small task. There are also tons of helpful resources on the web to help you prepare. For example: http://herpackinglist.com/ is a website dedicated to travel trips for women. And of course AGC’s International ebook which can be downloaded here below is a great resource to help you navigate the ins and outs of international travel.
There are just two examples of items that are available to few that will help you get organized, stay focused while preparing for your trip leaving your last day at home, peaceful and worry-free.
On our AGC participant packing lists, we include a short list of “optional” items to bring on a trip. By “optional,” we mean – if you have this item, then bring it! If you don’t have the item, then don’t worry about buying it because it is not absolutely necessary. Among those optional items, we often list “gaiters,” particularly on our trips that include hiking.
What are gaiters?
Many people are not familiar with gaiters. A quick Wikipedia search will tell you that: Gaiters are garments worn over the shoe and lower pants leg, and used primarily as personal protective equipment.
Why get gaiters?
Hikers, runners, snowshoers are among the outdoorsy folk who utilize gaiters. Some people wouldn’t leave home without them, while others don’t feel they are necessary. To use/wear them when outdoor adventuring is really a personal choice.
Gaiters can protect your legs, ankles, and feet from elements of nature.
When walking through dense vegetation they can protect your ankles and calves from getting scraped by branches and brush.
In snow and icy conditions, gaiters can be barrier to snow and moisture leading to dry, happy feet.
And even while hiking on a dry, well-maintained trail, dirt and pebbles can make their way into your boots and socks; over time and coupled with friction the presence of dirt and pebbles can lead to blisters. Gaiters cover the top of your shoes and keep such debris away from your feet.
There are a variety of gaiters and the type you choose will likely depend on your activity. There are trail gaiters, alpine gaiters, and expedition gaiters. For most AGC trips, trail gaiters are appropriate. Trail gaiters are lightweight, breathable, and provide basic protection against rocks, grit, and light rain while on mild-weather excursions. Among trail gaiters, there are short gaiters and long gaiters. The height of the gaiters you choose depends on how much protection you need. Low gaiters are ankle high, about 8" to 12" tall. These are best for less-than-extreme conditions when you just need to keep trail debris and rain out of your boots. Regular gaiters are calf high, around 15" to 18" tall. These are designed for rugged conditions such as hiking through deep snow, wet brush, or in bad weather. Depending on whether or not you plan to hike in shorts or pants will also affect your gaiter use. Some may feel that pants or a thick pair of taller hiking socks provide enough protection for their legs.
How to get gaiters?
Gaiters can range in cost from $30-70 and can be purchased at a local outfitter, larger sports equipment store or online. When fitting your gaiters, look for a snug fit. Most gaiter styles come in sizes, which are aligned with a range of boot sizes. When you try on gaiters, adjust the straps to make sure the fit is snug. Your goal is to achieve the best possible seal around your boots.
Getting girly gaiters?
There are even gaiters made specifically for women. Women's styles are typically shorter in height and have a bit more top girth to accommodate a woman's calf. Some companies market directly to women – and make gaiters with styles and colors like leopard and zebra prints, butterfly, hearts, and peace sign print. One such company is Dirty Girl Gaiters.
According to Dirty Girl Gaiters - Anyone can wear black gaiters! But a dirtXy girl's gotta do what a dirtXy girl's gotta do! Accessorize! Dirty Girl Gaiters keep the debris out of your shoes with style and sass. And you'll have something fun to look at while you hang your sorry head and shuffle your tired feet.
For more info on Dirty Girl Gaiters visit: http://www.dirtygirlgaiters.com/
And for more general information on gaiters visit:
We're frequently asked how one becomes an adventure travel guide. Less often asked, but at least equally important for anyone who is thinking about it, is what being a guide is actually like.
Everyone assumes that it is the best job in the world. And the reality? It is!! At least it is for some people. But the actuality may be different in some ways than it looks from the outside, so here are some things to consider. (The particulars of the job can vary with the specific trip or type of guiding you do; what I discuss here is most relevant to the trips we do).
- Hours can be very long. On a recent trip where I was a solo guide and preparing breakfast, lunch, and appetizers, I was working until 11:30 cleaning up and preparing for the next day; and then getting up at 6:30 am to make the coffee. Typically the guide is not only doing everything the participants are doing, but also putting a lot of time in during the trip to make sure everything runs smoothly.
- As a corollary, the amount of personal time you have is often effectively zero. I have learned how to take personal time while preparing dinner or brushing my teeth, but I'm always aware that it may end at any moment. If you need real personal time every day, guiding may not be a good fit.
- You should not expect to be physically challenged. Sometimes it happens, but remember that you have to have the energy at the end of the day to do anything that needs to be done - from checking in with everyone to getting the appetizers out. It's not to say that you can't be a little tired, but being exhausted just doesn't work.
- It's not your trip. Your job is to make sure that everyone is having the trip they want as much as possible, which may not really be the trip you would choose. For example, everyone may want to hike the shorter trail rather than go explore that very cool-looking canyon.
- You're part of the group but you're often apart from the group. While they're all sitting by the waterfall sharing stories, you're back at camp cooking or planning or cleaning. You may need to leave an interesting conversation because someone ro something else needs your attention.
- You can't always say what you think; in particular you need to learn what opinions to keep to yourself. The classic example is politics. You may assume that everyone who is interested in the kind of travel you are (especially women's adventure travel) shares certain political beliefs. You would be wrong. It may or may not be possible to facilitate an atmosphere of respectful sharing of diverse viewpoints, but it certainly won't work if you are other than neutral.
The question to ask yourself is whether you want to guide trips or you want to go on trips, because they are two very different experiences. Having a passion for travel and the outdoors is an essential starting point for an adventure travel guide, but it only gets you so far. You also have to have a passion for meeting and working with lots of different kinds of people, enjoy helping people have a great experience, and love sharing your knowledge about different destinations. If that describes you, then being an adventure travel guide may be a great choice.
In Part 2 we'll consider what it takes to become an adventure travel guide. If you are interested in spending a long weekend exploring the ins and outs of guiding, particularly if you are interested in working with Adventures in Good Company, consider joining us for our Leadership Training Workshop December 5 - 8 in Georgia.
There are several common fears about traveling as a member of a women's travel group: Will I be the oldest? Will I be the slowest? Will everyone else want to spend a lot of time shopping? (Answers: maybe, could be, possibly but not likely). We get asked these alot either before or after women sign up for a trip. But there is another largely unspoken fear and its time to get it out in the open.
Yup, after we get to a certain age, a majority of women snore. Sometimes its a delicate little snore and sometimes its a steam engine. But its pretty common. Some women are afraid that their snoring will keep their roommate awake. Others fear that their roommate's snoring will keep them awake.
On our health form, we used to ask 1) do you snore? and 2) does snoring bother you? But both questions have problems. Many women simply don't know - if we don't share a bed with someone who is willing to tell us and we don't wake ourselves up, we have no way of knowing whether or not we snore.
The problem with the second question is that snoring bothers almost everyone, including women who snore. The only people who aren't bothered are those that sleep deeply (not so common once we're over 40) and those with hearing problems (increasingly common as we age but not usually so profound as to completely muffle everything). It seems unfair to "punish" women who snore by making them sleep with other snorers if snoring bothers them. As irritating as snoring can be, there is absolutely nothing an individual can do to control it.
Fortunately there is another solution and this is the one we're suggesting now: earplugs. I first really learned about earplugs when I was on our Tour du Mont Blanc trip about 9 years ago. One night 12 of us were sleepig in one large room without too much space between our mattresses (it's a very unusual trip that way). I just happened to be sleeping next to someone who was a big fan of earplugs, and most importantly, knew how to use them. She taught me, I followed her advice, and the next morning woke up after a good night's sleep. Several people started commenting about how much noise there had been in the room and how much snoring had occurred. I hadn't heard any of it. Now earplugs are part of my toiletry kit. And whenever someone tells me that earplugs don't work for them, I make sure they are using them correctly.
The trick is to make sure they are compressed before you insert them and then to straighten your ear canal as you slide them in. Since this is a bit difficult to explain, watching this excellent youTube video will help. If snoring bothers you but you don't like having to pay extra for your own room to assure a peaceful night, this will be the best 5 mintues you spend this week.
Guest post written by: Lisa Franseen, AGC Guide
Packing up to leave for a recent trip on the Colorado River, I felt a twinge of angst as I threw my cell phone in the suitcase to leave behind. “When was the last time I was without this constant companion?” I might pride myself in “unplugging” regularly, but certainly not for fifteen days!
The average person spends about eight hours every day engaged with digital technology – cells phones, texts and emails, Facebook, blogs, twitters, googling, and gaming. And yet, a trip floating through the Grand Canyon means, literally, unplugging from this electronic “noise” and leaving our lives behind. Are there mental and psychological benefits from doing so? Or negative impacts if we don’t?
Only a half hour a day outdoors in nature has been shown to increase our ability to focus, concentrate, make better decisions, and to feel less stressed out. Research journals are now filled with studies that show the beneficial effects of being in nature. Those of us who already play regularly outdoors don’t need research to tell us this but, unfortunately, in our “civilized” lives the average amount of time spent outdoors is only four minutes a day. That’s about the time it takes to get back and forth to our cars!
Add to that dismal statistic the negative impact of never unplugging. Using canyon language, perhaps it’s now the norm to be drowning in a digital flash flood. Twenty years of studies on children have found that too much “screen time” (more than one to two hours per day) leads to obesity and poor nutrition, learning and focusing difficulties, poor social skills, and higher rates of depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, irritability, and behavioral problems. I have a client in my counseling practice who is trying to break his 6000-text-messages-per-month habit.
Given the realities of our daily lives, it seems all the more important to build in time to unplug; to replace the virtual with what is real. Paddling through the Roaring 20’s, I’d long forgotten about my cell phone! The banter of our river tribe on a backdrop of silence bouncing off canyon walls quickly replaced that old urgency to communicate virtually. And, after two weeks of gazing uninterrupted at layers of sandstone and limestone, or the passing of stars across the slit in the canyon walls, I knew the canyon had truly awoken me.
Lisa Franseen, PhD, is an ecopsychologist and was in private practice in Traverse City, Michigan until October 2011. Burned out on insurance companies and bureaucracy, she is now skiing somewhere in the Rockies, and a guide for Adventures in Good Company.
Someone on one of our recent hiking trips suggested that we should increase the amount of water we recommend carrying from 2 liters to 3 liters, particularly on one hike. I had done that hike a few years back and knew I didn't even finish my 1.5 liters on it, but it got me to thinking: how do you know how much water to carry?
It's an important question: too little water and the resulting dehydration will leave you feeling tired, headachey, and grumpy. But too much water and your pack ends up weighing more than it needs to. Each quart is 2 pounds, so 2 extra quarts means 4 extra pounds, not an inconsiderable amount.
Each person is different in what they need, and the only way to find out what you need personally is from experience. When you first start hiking, err on the side of carrying too much. For most people on most hikes, carrying 2 or 3 liters is sufficient. Carry more if the weather is hot, the terrain is challenging, or the trail is long and there isn't any chance to replenish your water supply. Drink as often as you're thirsty. If you're using a hydration system (which I personally recommend), sip frequently as you hike along. Never let yourself get significantly thirsty and if you're sweating, also be sure to stop and eat salty snacks at regular intervals to replenish electrolytes.
At the end of every hike, you should be asking yourself:
- how much did I drink?
- how do I feel?
- what were the weather and terrain conditions?
- when was the last time I peed?
This last question is important. You may be feeling fine but if its been 8 hours, you need to drink more often. The lesson for you is that you cannot completely rely on thirst or how you feel as your sole guide.
By paying conscious attention to the above questions, you will learn over time how much you need and when you need to bring more or less than usual.
P.S. The picture was taken in the Austrian Alps, where water flows direcly from springs and is safe to drink without purifying - a rare pleasure!
For years, my exercise routine included cardio (running/walking, cycling, stair master, etc.), upper body weight training, and abs. I figured that my cardio routine was ‘enough’ exercise for my legs, so I could skip lower body weight training. After hitting a plateau (i.e. I didn’t see much improvement in my fitness level and my body just got conditioned to the same exercises), I consulted a personal trainer. She gave me a workout routine that included LOTS (or at least more than I had ever done) leg toning exercises. She explained that while cardio was working my legs, to really feel the benefits and see improvement – lower body resistance training is a key element in the workout mix. Hesitantly, I began to incorporate leg exercises into my workouts, and…she was right! Within a week or two I broke my plateau and began to see progress in my fitness level and leg shape. She made a believer out of me.
If you’re looking to break your own plateau, increase your fitness level, or train for a hiking trip, lower body resistance training should not be pushed aside. You see, your largest muscles are in your legs. Large muscles have the capacity to burn more calories than small muscles. So when you work your legs the calorie expenditure is greater than small muscles in the upper body or core. And as your body becomes comprised of more muscle and therefore less fat, your metabolism also increases – that is, when walking to your car, even sitting and breathing you will burn more calories. With your improved fitness and leg strength, that outdoor adventure vacation that you’ve been unsure about, can become an ENOYABLE reality.
To begin this leg journey, review the chart below. It includes recommended exercises for each AGC trips rated levels 3-5. Within the table there are suggested leg toning exercises. The intensity/duration of the exercise is broken down into levels 3, 4, and 5 (L3, L4, L5). If the L3 recommended exercises seem too much for you, then do half of what is recommended. And again these exercises should be done in conjunction with a cardio program. For more on that, see past blogs Training Tips (Part I of III): 3 Month Sample Cardio Routine and Training Tips (Part II of III): RPE Decoded for Active Travel .
If you're making the switch to lightweight backpacking, one of the easiest ways to decrease weight is to get a new tent. Yes, it can be hard on the wallet but it can make a big difference. So here are some things to consider.
When do you intend to use the tent? It's hard to get a tent that's suitable year round in any condition but also lightweight. But if like most of us you're mainly thinking of backpacking during the spring, summer, and early fall, you don't need the heavy duty, double wall 4 season tents. A good three-season tent can be quite lightweight.
How much do you want to pay? The hardest part is balancing the weight with the price. Unfortunately the lightest weight tents are usually the most expensive. That being said----any solo tent that is 3 pounds or lighter is a good tent and often you may be able to find a really good deal in a very unexpected place. I found a Eureka Spitfire on sale at Gander Mountain one year for $50. The tent weighs in at 2 lbs 12 oz and is a great little tent!
Be aware that occasionally the tents come in pieces. For example, the top and the floor may be sold separately. Not many are like this but there are a few, and when you first look at the specs, they may seem really lightweight. But in actuality there is no floor and often no rain fly so they would need to be added.
What kind of shelter do you want? Tents aren't the only option. There are basically 4 types of shelters:
- Tents These have enclosed sides, floor, and a rain fly. There are 2 types of tents.
- Freestanding, which means they do not require stakes to set up and are 'stand alone' type shelters These shelter are usually the easiest and fastest to set up.
- Non-free standing which means they need to be staked out to stay erect. These tents take a bit more 'practice' to set them up quickly.
- Tarps These are really just a big rectangle of fabric that you set up as a shelter. This is actually fun to do but does take practice. Tarps are not generally completely enclosed shelters and do not have a floor.
- Hammocks Yes, they are hammocks but they are completely enclosed (with mesh), rear entries, and a rain fly.
- Bivy Sacks This is a waterproof, breathable 'tiny' tent that is just big enough for you, inside of your sleeping bag. There is a structured part of the bivy sack that elevates the fabric from about your chest to over your head. These structures fit closely around the sleeping bag and there is no space for gear or sitting up.
What features do you want? There are a lot of really cool features that come with some tents. However any feature is usually going to add weight, so a really good lightweight backpacking tent is pretty devoid of features. If the tent you end up purchasing does have extra features (such as gear lots, extra ties, extra loop, etc) you can eliminate them and reduce the packed weight of the tent.
Additional things to consider when purchasing are the following:
- how do you get in and out
- how much head room is there
- same for foot room
- make sure that you 'fit' in the tent. Not all 1 person tents are created equal!
- is there room for gear in the tent or is there a vestibule (this is not a necessity)
- how easy is it to set up
- what kind of rain fly is there
- are there mesh panels or vented flys for ventilation to reduce condensation? Condensation is created by breathing inside the tent, which warms the air. When that warm air hits the sides of the tent, which are exposed to the chiller night air, the moisture in the air condenses out. Keeping this to a minimum reduces the moisture build up inside of your tent and keeps you and all your gear dryer.
Below is a list of great websites and tents. Each has a bit of a different twist on design and set up but these are definitely the lightest 1 person tents out there right now. A couple of the websites for the tents also have other lightweight gear as well so I'll tell you from experience it's really easy to get sucked in and end up spending lots of time 'looking'!
1. My personal solo tent is a Tarp Tent and the model is the Contrail, weight 24.5 oz. They have another tent that I am hoping to purchase shortly----the Sublite at 19.5 oz
2. http://www.lightheartgear.com/ A great website---business is owned by a woman who designs and makes all the stuff. (although I think she is now into production) Her tent, Lightheart Solo Standard, is 24.5 oz and a beautiful tent. A bit pricy but good tent! She also has a Cuban Fiber LightHeart Solo tent (the newest fabric on the lightweight market and usually quite expensive)
3. Six Moons Designs can be found at http://www.hikelight.com/shelters.html Their Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo is 23 oz . They also have a cuban fiber one at just 15 oz.
4. REI They carry several mainstream tents. The following weigh in at 3 pounds or just a bit under and are excellent tents as well.
REI quarter dome (excellent value and can be under 3 pounds)
hubba by msr
NEMO (unique structure---air filled chambers are used for supports)
5. Finally----another type of shelter that many really like is the Hennessy Hammock. These are very lightweight and only require 2 trees for set up. You can see the Hennessy at www.rei.com
Happy (lightweight) backpacktng!