October 28, 2013
If you've listened to any of the recent podcasts then you may know that I was at a 4 day wilderness survival camp last month with a few dozen other guys. At over 9000 feet elevation in Rocky Mountain National Park, we learned things like:
-How to make a fire without tools.
-How to find drinkable water & how to purify water.
-How to source food.
-The keys to building life-saving shelter.
-How to read the weather conditions and surrounding environment to avoid dieing.
-Mental techniques to ward off fear & going crazy.
-How to navigate during the day & in the pitch-black at night!
-How to make tools from natural materials.
-And much more!
Since I'm already a big fan of websites like “Art of Manliness” (ladies, don't worry – you'd dig it too) and also “My Kids' Adventures” (a freaking awesome website if you have kids and like adventures), I was very excited at the prospects of merging the concepts I learned in the wilderness and teaching my homeschooled twin boys some of these valuable survival techniques. So when I got home from the trip, one of the very first things we did was begin to create a bag of ultralight essential gear for our family hiking and adventure outings.
To put this kit together, I relied extensively on the expert advice from a guy who I happened to meet at the Colorado survival camp. His name is Aran Seaman – and although there were over 30 other guys along on the trip, Aran stood out as a dude who really knows his stuff when it comes to things like survival, adventure racing, gardening, and all things outdoors and “earthy”.
I quickly learned that there was a reason for this: Aran is actually the owner of a unique company in Vancouver, BC called “EarthEasy“. EarthEasy is Aran's family business, and they provide information and products for all things related to sustainable living, camping, outdoors, survival, and even living “off-the-grid”. I've actually added their blog to one of my favorites (if you click here to go check out Eartheasy now, you may even notice an article featured by yours truly!).
Aran was kind enough to provide us with a guest article outlining his top 5 ultralight gear essentials for your next hike or adventure race. If you have children, you will have fun assembling this kit with them as a learning experience, then taking them out on a trip to learn how to use your new gear essentials. If you're solo, you should highly consider grabbing these essentials and putting them into a light daypack for your next big hike or adventure race.
So without further ado, let's see what Aran has to say…and be sure to leave your own questions, feedback, experiences, or additions in the comments section below this post!
Ultra-light gear used to be a thing that only elite athletes with a large budget could afford. For the average person, if you were not willing to pay an exorbitant amount, you had to compromise by buying gear that was significantly heavier or bulkier. With limited space in your pack and a need to keep your overall weight as low as possible, this results in certain items being cut from the packing list, items that may actually be essential in the event of an emergency.
On backpacking trips I’ve had people asking to borrow my knife, or first aid kit – backcountry items that everyone should be carrying. When I ask them why they don’t have them in their pack the reply is inevitably: “oh, mine weighs way too much so I left it behind”.
If you are on a day hike or a multiday backpacking trip, every extra pound adds up, putting stress on your body, and reducing the enjoyment of your trip. It’s natural for people to leave behind gear they feel will weigh them down.
Thankfully, there are a number of new products on the market, which offer ultra-light and cost effective alternatives to the heavy gear you may be considering leaving behind on your next trip. Many of these products we now carry at Eartheasy – but you can also find most of them in your local outdoors store.
Here are the top 5 ultra-light essentials I personally recommend:
1. The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter – from $19.95
Weighing in at only 2 ounces (54 grams), this 8 inch long personal water filter straw allows you to drink straight from a stream. You can also scoop up water with your water bottle and drink out of it with the LifeStraw as well, if you prefer. It filters an impressive 264 gallons (1000 liters) of water, and uses no chemicals, batteries, or moving parts.
The LifeStraw uses human suction power to pull water through 0.2 micron hollow fiber membrane tubes, which remove virtually all bacteria, protozoa and turbidity in water. With a high flow rate, you can suck up a glass of water in only a few seconds. To top it off, retail sales of LifeStraw Personal water filters support the donation of LifeStraw Community water purifiers in schools in Africa.
As you can see, Ben has personal experience using the Lifestraw (and as you can also see, he's a bit of a rookie with it).
2. The Swedish FireKnife – from $37.95
A collaboration between the Swedish companies Light My Fire and Mora Knives, the Swedish FireKnife improves upon the famous Mora bushcraft survival knife, loved by millions worldwide. Manufactured in Sweden, the FireKnife features a 3.75” long flexible & sturdy blade made of Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel. The length is perfect for whittling & general camp activities. The handle of the FireKnife is high friction TPE rubber, which is extremely “grippy” and easy to grasp. Hidden in the handle, and secured by a clever twist-lock, is a magnesium alloy fire steel capable of producing a 3,000°C (5,400°F) spark.
The first time I used the Swedish FireKnife I was really impressed by how it felt in my hand. It was extremely lightweight, and comfortable to use. When striking the fire steel that comes with the knife, I was shocked by the sheer volume of sparks it produced. This knife, with sheath weighs only 3.4 ounces, and comes in a variety of colors.
3. The LuminAID Inflatable Solar Powered Light – from $19.95
The LuminAID solar light was created to provide a cost effective lighting solution for areas affected by natural disaster. LuminAID lights have been distributed in Haiti, India, Afghanistan, Rwanda, and dozens of other crises affected countries.
The LuminAID folds flat to fit in your pocket, and inflates to create a lightweight waterproof lantern. With 6 hours of charging, the LuminAID provides up to 15 hours of LED light. Weighing 3 ounces, the LuminAID is a perfect ultra-light lighting solution for emergencies or camping. The LuminAID is also durable, there are no mantles or glass covers to break. Retail sale proceeds of LuminAID support donations around the world.
4. The Adventure Medical UltraLight .7 First Aid Kit – $9 to $36
The days of sticking various band-aids in a zip-loc bag and heading out into the backcountry are over. Buy one of these Adventure Medical Ultralight kits, and rest assured that you will be covered for most minor injuries on 1 to 2 day hikes.
The ultralight, water tight series by Adventure Medical Kits offers kits ranging from 2.3 ounces to 12 ounces, depending on the number of people & days you need the kit for. Personally, I always carry the 8 ounce “.7” kit, as it is appropriate for up to 2 people. Taking care of yourself is good, but it’s always best to be able to take care of a fellow hiker you may find injured on the trail, or a less-prepared companion.
These kits contain blister & burn care items, duct tape, fracture & sprain wraps, medication, bandages & wound care.
5. The Titanium Snow Peak Starter Kit – from $89.95
This Japanese outdoor gear company has been around since the 50’s producing high quality, space efficient and ultralight alpine gear, but is just now making it to North America. Snow Peak primarily produces titanium equipment that uses little space, and cleverly unfolds when ready to use. The Snow Peak Starter Kit is a perfect example.
Everything you need to make a hot meal on the trail is provided with this titanium kit – stove, spork, cup & lid – and it all packs neatly together. Although the fuel canisters are sold separately, the kit is designed to accommodate them in the cup. The total weight of the starter kit is only 9.1 ounces. Priced competitively, there is no reason to not have hot food or tea on your next hike.
Putting it all together
Having a great time outside while being safe & prepared should be affordable to everyone. Outdoor recreation, from trail running to week long camping trips, will strengthen friendships and reward you with memories that will last a lifetime. The 5 ultralight gear essentials covered above will help to enable this, while keeping you within your budget.
Author Aran Seaman (pictured right) is an entrepreneur based out of Victoria, BC. He runs EarthEasy, a website about sustainable living, and also does interface design at clearconcept.ca. Leave your comments or questions below and either Ben or Aran will answer!