Tagged: My 3 Favorite…

Yup, I’ve been tagged… again. Ok, it was actually a few months ago when Tony actually tagged me (in THIS video), and I am just now getting around to responding… I gotta say though, picking “my 3 favorites” was a bit harder than I had first thought. Problem is, I like all of my gear…

So, after much thought, I decided that I would pick my 3 favorite pieces of gear from my most recent hike in the Olympic National Park. This did make it a bit easier since it narrowed down the amount of gear I had to choose from, however, it was still tough!

But, I managed to do it, and here they are, in no specific order:

LiteTrail Titanium Solid Fuel Cook Kit

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My wife actually got this cook kit for me last Christmas (2012). The specific kit that I have was one of the first versions that LiteTrail offered, which features the pot without handles and the windscreen that paperclips together. Since introducing this kit though, he put out another kit in which he added handles to the pot, and spot-welded the windscreen. But, at this point he does not have any of his kits in stock, and I am not sure if/when he will again. So, I am definitely happy that I managed to pick one up when I did, and to be honest, I am happy that it is the version without the handles, and with the paperclip windscreen.

I have a number of other cook kits, and I like them all for one reason or another, but for the last few months, the LiteTrail cook kit has really stood out to me for a few reasons:

  1. It packs small & compact. Everything fits inside the cook pot, which is small.
  2. It’s light. For EVERYTHING (and I do mean everything), it is only 3.5 oz!
  3. It’s the right size. By this, I mean the cook pot volume. 550 ml just works for me.
  4. It’s multi-use: my cook pot & my drinking mug!
  5. It’s efficient. I managed to use a single 14 g Esbit tab for both breakfast & dinner!

For these reasons, this cook kit has made a nice home in my pack, and likely will continue to do so for quite a while.

ZPacks Hexamid Solo Plus Tarp & Hexanet

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It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of ZPack’s gear, but that’s for good reason. It just works for me. The Hexamid Solo Plus tent was actually my first cuben fiber shelter, and as much as I loved it, I felt like going with the tarp and the inner Hexanet would suit my needs better. So, earlier this year I sold my tent and then turned around and picked up the tarp, and soon after, the Hexanet.

The Olympic hike was the first hike I used the Hexanet on (I had previously used the tarp on other hikes), and it was a great break in hike. I used it over 6 nights, and I’ve got to say that it kept me warm and dry each night, despite that we encountered blowing rain (to some degree) 5 out of the 6 nights. As well, 5 out of the 6 nights I (luckily) set the tarp up in the correct orientation into the wind, however, the last night I happened to set it up incorrect. So, each time the wind came over the pass, it filled my tent and the tent puffed out, however, it held tight all night long. The beak helped to deflect some of the wind, as well as some of the rain, however, I did find a couple of wet spots on the mesh wall the next morning. But it never got to me…

Anyway, here are a few reasons why I picked the Hexamid/Net as another “favorite”:

  1. It’s light. For everything (including stakes) it weighs 18.9 oz. For a double wall shelter though, this is awesome!
  2. It’s roomy. This is a personal preference, but for me, I have all the room I need to unload my pack inside it, as well as stretch out, and even sit up & change clothes.
  3. It provides options. I can set up the Hexanet by itself, the tarp by itself, or both together. As well, I can use the Hexanet inside (trail) shelters if need be.
  4. It’s easy to set-up, and I can set up the tarp first, then the inner.
  5. It keeps me dry when everything else is wet.

These are just a few reasons as to why I picked the ZPacks Hexamid/Net as another “favorite,” but I am sure I could come up with more if I needed. Fact is, I love this shelter, and after using it on my recent Olympic hike, it will definitely continue to be one of my “go-to” shelters…

Therm-A-Rest ProLite 3

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This one was somewhat of a surprise to me, sorta. A few months ago, it dawned on me that this pad (in a size small) only weighed 11 oz. This, along with the fact that I have always found my ProLite 4 pad (as well as my REI LiteCore 1.5 pad) very comfortable, was like a revelation to me. I prefer a flat surface to sleep on, which these pads are. This is likely why I prefer the NeoAir’s over pads by Exped & Big Agnes. To me, the vertical baffles create to much of a bumpy (for the lack of a better word) surface for me to sleep comfortably on.

But, I say “sorta” because I have never used a short pad like this due to the thought of leg-drop. However, at only 1 inch thick (when inflated – actually a little thinner when lying on top of it) I figured that I could use my backpack, or my Gossamer Gear 1/8″ ThinLight pad under my legs to compensate for the drop.  And I have got to say… I was right…

I slept better all 6 nights on this hike than I can say that I have any other night since I have been backpacking. Now, I am not saying that this is all due to the pad itself, some of this credit is likely due to the fact that I wasn’t so nervous due to the large group I was camped with. But, at the same time, I found that I was never uncomfortable lying on the ground either, so there is definitely some due-credit that goes to the ProLite pad for this.

So, a few reasons that I picked this pad as my final “favorite” are:

  1. It’s comfortable. (I put this as #1 for a reason…)
  2. It’s light. My size small weighs 11.2 oz!
  3. It’s tough. The bottom is a very tough 70D nylon material…
  4. It’s minimal. Only what I need, and not what I don’t need.
  5. It’s comfortable…. wait…

This pad is actually labeled as an “irregular,” although it functions as expected. (The difference is that I paid about half of what they regularly go for!) I have got to say though, I am very happy with this pad, and it will see plenty more use, especially for 3 season hikes. I am not so sure that I will be able to pull it off even in our Southeast winters though… For those hikes, I will just use my XLite!  🙂

So, those are “My 3 Favorites”… Like I said, I really do like all of my gear, but I will say that these 3 items/systems really stood out to me on my hike.  But please don’t take that as: the rest of my gear didn’t. I have got to say that everything I packed for this hike performed very well for me. I had no complaints with any of my gear!

And now to keep this tag going…

As I said, Tony Hobbs tagged me, and of course he was tagged before me. Rather than going in reverse order though, here are the future tags:

  1. Brian Green from Brian’s Backpacking Blog
  2. Barefoot Jake
  3. JJ from JERMM’s Outside (response HERE)

As well, staying true to the tune of the tag, I am asking each of them to just go with “3 favorite” whatever’s… it doesn’t have to be gear, it can be people, places or things… whatever they choose. As well, I know that they don’t all do videos so much, so feel free to just write it up on your blog. And of course, once they each do I will come back and add a link back to their response here on this post… just to keep it all nice and tidy!

And, as an extended tag, if anyone else reading would like to reply, feel free to do so and just leave a link in the comments section below!

So, that’s it. I now have one more tag that I need to answer to (thanks Cesar), but it may be a bit before I get to that one too…

Until then, thanks for stopping by!

~Stick~

Disclaimer: The items I listed in this post are my own, and I paid for them. I am not obligated to write about them, nor am I being compensated for doing so.

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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14 Responses to Tagged: My 3 Favorite…

  1. Justin says:

    Stick great feedback on the neoair. I agree the drop on of 2.5″ is to much to compensate with a backpack. When you use your prolite and the gossamer gear thin light pad do you leave your sit pad at home and use your thin light pad folded up strapped with shock cord to your zpacks zero?

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    • Stick says:

      Justin,

      I actually never carry a sit pad… I just use the Thinlight pad around camp if need be, or my rain kilt while on the trail if need be. Also, I prefer to carry the Thinlight pad in my pack rather than outside the pack. I will just fold it up inside the NeoAir.

      ~Stick~

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  2. Justin says:

    Stick thanks for posting back so quickly. I see what your saying about loading a pack properly in conjunction with a sleep pad to add structure. I was browsing online to see if I could find a thermarest prolite in sz small on sale and I’ve had no luck. I did however come across a thermarest neoair in a sz small with a 9oz weight (closeout of the old yellow ones). I wanted to see if you had any feedback on this pad as well as the transition between using a sleeping pad that’s a little longer than torso length coming from a standard length sleeping pad and the leg drop from a 2.5 inch pad ? I have a large neoair camper for car camping but it’s on the heavy side at 1lbs 14oz.

    Thanks
    Justin

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    • Stick says:

      Justin,

      The original NeoAir’s were my absolute favorite airpads on the market… I was (and am) quite disappointed when they stopped making them… Saying that, I preferred the regular size. As you noted, the NeoAirs are 2.5 inches thick, whereas my ProLite 3 is only 1 inch thick. I personally prefer not to use short air pads that are so thick since the leg drop is too much for me. With my ProLite 3 pad, the leg drop is not even really noticeable. Some folks use their packs, extra clothes, even an extra pad, or whatever they have available to help make up the difference, but I just can’t do it and be comfortable.

      If you already have the one NeoAir, I would suggest to lay on it with your legs hanging off and see how it feels to you. Maybe if you can swing it, even sleep on it this way over night. That should give you an idea if it is something that may work for you.

      ~Stick~

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  3. Justin says:

    Stick, I appreciate your blog and some of the education you’ve passed along. I was wondering if the prolite is flexible enought to be folded up and used as a pack support for a frameless model. Say for instance a zpack zero ?

    Cheers
    Justin

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    • Stick says:

      Thanks Justin, I appreciate it, and glad to hear you enjoy it. As for your question, IMO, yes it is. Saying that though, I have used the NeoAirs as my support, or for a better word, for structure in my frameless packs, and they have worked fine. However, using these flimsy pads as structure/support, is only one part of the puzzle… the rest of the pack needs to be packed appropriately, so that the entire thing works together. For this reason, I pack things loose so they fill the entire pack, as opposed to leaving a bunch of empty spaces. When a frameless pack is packed right, it can be just as comfy as a pack with a frame… at least this has been my experience. Others may disagree, but I also wonder if they packed the pack correctly…

      Hope this helps!

      ~Stick~

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  4. Jeff Whynot says:

    Stick, thanks very much. I appreciate the time you put into your response. As always, it was very helpful. For some reason, the whole weight/comfort balance is a challenge for me when it comes to a sleep system. The other challenge is rain gear, but that’s a story for another day.

    I agree with you about the comfort of sleeping on a flatter surface. Back in the “heavy days” when I first started hiking, I used the old Thermarest self inflating pads. They were very comfortable (never bottomed out) and I never got cold on one (no idea what the rvalue was). However, they were thicker than a Prolite and, even though they were state of the art at the time, they were much heavier. I still have those things and would crash on one at someone’s house!

    So, now with the thinner pad in the Prolite, bottoming out is a potential issue. However, I’m more optimistic since I’m about 25 lbs lighter than you and you haven’t had a problem. Another option in a shorter pad is the new GG Airbeam Sleeper. The medium size is about the same length as a small Prolite and comes in 2 oz lighter. However, you wouldn’t like it because of the vertical tubes…not sure if I would or not. The Prolite has an advantage in warmth with an rvalue of 2.2 (which shouldn’t be discounted), while there is no insulation value in the Airbeam. The Airbeam would pack down much smaller, I believe, and would not bottom out since it’s blown up to 2.5″ at the hips.

    Maybe I should just break down, open my wallet wide and drink the NeoAir Xlite Kool Aid. I’m certainly not there yet.

    Jeff

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    • Stick says:

      Jeff,

      Concerning the weight/comfort balance…. you did well to compare it to rain gear… They are both tough decisions to make, although, I would wager, the rain gear may be just a bit harder to get dialed in… at least for some anyway…

      My first air pad was a ProLite 4. I bought it used from a user on Backpacker.com. I was nervous about it, but once I got it, I was super happy! It is a great pad. I still have it. I also bought the REI LiteCore 1.5 (basically the same as the ProLite 4), and it is just as great. The only thing is, as I moved to going lighter, those pads kind of got cut due to the weight. That is when I moved to my Original NeoAir. Loved that thing, but eventually it gave up and had some tiny leaks somewhere, so I ended up getting the large XLite to replace it. It is fine, but I also got the ProLite 3 around the same time, and now for me, the ProLite 3 & Thinlight pad is my 3 Season system, and the XLite is now my winter set-up. I got lucky as this system really works well for me…

      Again, let me say that I will bottom out on the ProLite 3 when moving around, however, once I settle in, I have not noticed any bottoming out, even on my side.

      As for the GG Air Beam pads, they do look nice. Grant actually offered me one on our Olympic hike before they were listed, but I turned it down because I know how uncomfortable I am on vertical baffles. I was honestly sad about it too because it did seem like a nice pad. A few others used them on that hike, and everyone seemed to like them… But, you bring up a good point in that it is an uninsulated pad. Of course, here again, this will even vary from user to user, but with an R-Value of 1 or less, I personally wouldn’t want to use an uninsulated air pad but for summer time. After that I imagine I would have to add another pad to it to increase the warmth, so the weight will add up… Of course though, this is my assumption as I have never used this particular pad…

      If you do crack that wallet open, I will again say that I would purchase it from a place with a good return policy. Sleep on it inside, or inside a tent for a night or 2 to get an idea if it works for you comfort wise. If so, keep it, if not, send it back and try another one.

      I will also say that the Xlite and the Exped UL7 seem to be pretty popular pads, and are rather similar I think. (I can’t remember all the specs on the Exped pad off the top of my head.)

      Hope this helps!

      ~Stick~

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  5. Jeff Whynot says:

    Hi Stick…me again. I’m still obsessing over which sleeping pad I want. Your setup with the small size Prolite 3 with a 1/8 inch pad is interesting. You mention that you slept very comfortably. Did you feel your hips bottoming out at all with the pad? I’m a side sleeper mostly, so that’s always a concern of mine. I asked Will Reitveld of SW Ultralight Backpacking the same question. He has quite a bit of experience with this pad and he felt it was just barely comfortable for a side sleeper. I’m interested in your take.

    Thanks, Jeff

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    • Stick says:

      Jeff,

      As for the small ProLite 3 and 1/8″ pad, yes, I slept exceptionally well. As well, I am 5’10” tall and weigh (too much at) 200 lbs… I am also a side sleeper.

      When I blow up the air pad, I squeeze as much air into it as I can… for me, the firmer the better. However, via mouth, there is only so much one can get into it…. but, I am not like most that will let a little out so it is squishy. Saying that, I did feel my hips bottom out when moving around, specifically when rolling over onto my sides, however, this was just a bump here & there, and then once I got settled and stopped moving around, no more bottoming out.

      Is it as comfy as my bed at home? Nope, and neither are my thicker, XLite’s, or any others that I have tried. But the ProLite 3 & my NeoAir has gotten me closer to that degree of comfort than any other pad has…

      And this is the thing… comfort is purely subjective, and the only one that can decide if a particular pad is comfortable is for that person to use the pad and then make that decision themselves. Problem with this is, it can be costly. Best thing here is to look for deals, and buy from somewhere with a good return policy. I have no bad feelings about buying an air pad from REI or Backcountry, then use it once, and if it doesn’t work out to return it.

      I will also point out that lots of folks generally say that the thicker the better (in terms of comfort… keep in mind, the thicker the pad is, the harder it is to insulate as well because of the larger air pocket). I partly agree with that… The thicker pads will do a better job at keeping you from bottoming out, and with these pads, it is easier to let a little air out so it is squishier, and still have enough to keep the user from bottoming out. However, just because a pad is thick doesn’t necessarily make it more comfortable IMO. The biggest factor for me seems to be the alignment of the baffles. For me, I just can’t get a good nights sleep on pads with vertical baffles (Big Agnes, Exped, etc…) To me, it just feels like I am lying on a big pool toy; I can feel the bumps of each baffle, they feel to rigid and stiff in the wrong way, and they just don’t work out for me. OTOH, the horizontal baffles, like on the NeoAir is more comfortable to me. The baffles are smaller and tighter, so the surface feels more flat and natural rather than bumpy. Some folks also claim that the edges on horizontally baffled pads are not as stable as the ones on vertically baffled pads, and I can’t argue that fact, however, I have never once found them to be a problem and found myself rolling off the edges. I definitely do move/roll around in my sleep, but obviously not as bad as some… Of course, as I mentioned, I like my pads to be firm, so by blowing it up as much as possible and leaving it that way likely helps some… at least it must since I have never experienced this problem…

      As you can tell though, I prefer a more natural feeling pad…one that at least somewhat resembles my bed at home, and that is a pad with a flat surface. The ProLite’s are definitely flat. No baffles at all to distort the top surface, and this is why I like them so much. Even at only 1 inch thick…

      However, there are some other tricks that one can do to help with bottoming out… not necessarily to stop it, but to make it better. Setting up on grass as opposed to hard dirt, or even rock will help cushion the hips when they do bottom out. If this is not available, then grab some leaves, or some duff from around and put a layer of them under your pad/tent. If this is not possible, even extra clothes or your backpack (frameless), or anything extra you may have can help. If this is not even possible, just make sure you hike hard and long so you will be good and tired at the end of the night, or you can even take some sort of sleep aid…

      Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that comfort is to personal to decide on based on others opinions, cause that’s what they are… personal opinions. Of course, facts are facts, but there is more to the overall picture than simply cold, hard facts of 1 specific item. Heck, one of my buddies will routinely sleep on a 1/8″ ccf pad on a hard shelter floor… don’t ask me how he does that, but he does it!

      So, I am not trying to rival Will’s analysis, however, I don’t think that it is that easy to sum it up, at least not for anyone but himself. Same as my analysis… it is what works for me, and while others will, or won’t, I don’t expect others to always agree with me on it.

      Hope this helps some more…

      ~Stick~

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  6. Tony Hobbs says:

    What a great write up!
    Thanks Chad.

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    • Stick says:

      Thanks Tony, and thanks again for the tag. It ended up being more difficult that I first thought, but it was fun. A great way to interact with others, and share.

      ~Stick~

      Like

  7. milligan308 says:

    Very much a pleasure to read. While I do have experience with the Zpacks hexamid it is the original tent and not this configuration, I do like the tarp and inner, great choice. I haven’t used the ProLite 3 but the more I read your comments the more I want to get one for next summer. I must say I was shocked that you didn’t include your Pillow kit as a favorite.

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    • Stick says:

      Don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking the tent version, it is just that the tarp & inner net version works better for me.

      As for the pad, I am happy with it, and even more so that I got it at such a good deal. Really looking forward to using it on more trips though!

      And my pillow was probably 4th on the list…. it was actually the topic of a couple of discussions on our hike! 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

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