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Some Backpacking Gear Ideas

I once paid $20 for a bivy sack. In case you don't know, a bivy sack, or bivouac sack, is a minimalist shelter for backpackers, climbers and other outdoor adventurists. It is basically a bag that you sleep inside of. $20 is also about the cheapest you'll ever see one sold for. They are more often in the $200 range. This one was cheap, because it was more or less just plastic.

Plastic! I realized I could just make one, so I taped together two large garbage bags and I had a four-ounce 7-foot long bivy sack. Like all bivy sacks, it got a bit damp inside after a night in it, but it made a great cheap and light shelter. The one I bought was 7 ounces, and most are closer to two pounds. I think it's time for a mass-produced lightweight, disposable (one weekend of use maybe?) bivy sack.

Other Possible Backpacking Gear

Here are a few creations that I have come up with when brainstorming about new ways to backpack and new products in this area. Some of these I have even created prototypes for, or partial models.

Lightweight Backpack

I once threw away an old backpack, but kept the frame. It was a tough aluminum frame, and when I tied a large duffel bag to it, the whole thing weighed less than two pounds and had a huge carrying capacity. Why aren't there packs out there this light? Just because nobody has done it yet. The idea is simple. Cut out the extras, and have a large sack attached to a light frame.

Sleeping Pad/Bivy Combo.

The idea here is to create a sleeping pad that is covered. The point is that it would be lighter than carrying a bivy sack and a sleeping bag pad. Why? Because less material would be required for the sack, since it wouldn't have to go under the pad. A sleeping bag might be incorporated into it as well, with the insulation primarily on top, since it is normally crushed underneath, making it of little insulating value. I think the whole contraption could be under two pounds for summer use.

Attachable Sleeping Pads

Sleeping bag pads insulate you from the ground and provide comfort. They only do this at the points of contact, which amount to less than 20% of surface area. In other words, there is a lot of extra pad, and therefore extra weight. The invention to resolve this problem would involve small pads that attached to your clothing at the hips, shoulders, knees, etc. They would only need to be a few inches wide, and velcro might work for attaching, as long as the total weight of the system was under the 10 ounces or so that closed-cell foam pads normally weigh.

Mesh Backpack

A mesh backpack would be light, even after accounting for six or seven plastic bags to keep the contents dry and organized. It would also allow you to see the contents, saving you time and trouble when looking for things. I actually saw one that weighed just four ounces (yes, I weigh things I see in stores), but it was a school pack for kids. Now someone just needs to make one with a larger capacity, which might still be well under a pound.

Pole-Less Tent

In place of poles, there would be two inflatable sleeves that criss-cross over the top of a dome-style tent. Rigidity could be insufficient for windy nights, but it's worth a try.

Note: Since I first wrote this years ago, at least two people have informed me that there is such a tent now (I haven't seen it yet). Many of these ideas are very obivous, and it is just a matter of time before they are actually implemented.

For more ideas, see part two on our page on backpacking innovations.

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Backpacking Gear Ideas