Hike Prep: Loyalsock-Link Loop

Loyalsock Canyon Vista in summer.

This weekend I’ll be leading a great group from Berks-Lehigh Hiking and Backpacking on a 25-mile, 1-night hike on the Loyalsock-Link Loop in Pennyslvania’s Loyalsock State Forest and Worlds End State Park. This hike will start at the eastern terminus of the Loyalsock Trail. When we reach Worlds End, we’ll pick up the Link Trail and head more or less back the way we came. We’ll rejoin the Loyalsock Trail and hike back to the cars.

Gear Choices

The weather forecast is still in flux. I’ve seen forecasted overnight lows ranging everywhere from 9-30 degrees, so I’m going to plan for 9 degrees. This might make me carry some things I might not end up needing, but I want to get my packing done early. My total bas weight will be right around 10lbs for this trip.The extra gear will also give me an opportunity to use my Gossamer Gear Gorilla pack, which normally has too much volume for my purposes. I haven’t really had the chance to give this pack a fair trial, and I’m looking forward to carrying it.


My Gorilla: Packed and Ready to Go

My shelter as (almost) always will be my Zpacks Hexamid Solo Tarp. In order to help cut the cold wind, contain a little extra heat, and add some extra protection from precipitation, I’ll be supplementing my tarp with a Katabatic Gear Bristlecone Bivy. The Long/Wide size only weighs 9oz, but provides enough space for me and my dog.

For sleeping, I will be using 2 pads. My Exped SynMat UL 7 is pretty warm but isn’t quite enough, if the temps drop into the teens. I’ll be adding a torso length Z-Lite Pad to provide a little extra insulation. I’ll be covering up with a 10 degree Enlightened Equipment RevelationX quilt. A balaclava and all my layers can provide a little extra boost just in case the mercury really starts to drop.

Since I’ll be freezer bag cooking, my cook system’s main purpose will be boiling water. For that job, the Trail Designs Caldera Cone Ti-Tri and Gram Cracker stove suit my needs perfectly. Esbit isn’t usually my fuel of choice, but I was out of alcohol. This decision was based on laziness, but it actually saved me about an ounce of weight. The Gram Cracker is lighter than my alcohol stove, and this way I won’t need to carry the weight of a fuel bottle.

Those were just the basic highlights, but you can check out my complete gear list HERE. As always, thanks for reading!


Trail Designs Caldera Cone Ti-Tri


L to R: Tennis Ball Tube, Stormproof Matches, Caldera Cone Classic Ti-Tri Windscreen, Bic Lighter, 12/10 Stove, Evernew 640ml Tall Pot, Foil Lid, Fuel Bottle

Hey everyone! I just thought I’d give you a quick blurb about the cooking system I’ve been using on my last few trips. This system is centered around the Trail Designs Caldera Cone. I’ll go through each piece, then give you a quick idea how it all works together.

Trail Designs Caldera Cone Ti-Tri Classic: This is a very fancy ultralight windscreen/pot stand. These are sized specifically to fit your pot. The lip of the pot rests right on the upper edge of the cone, which limits the amount of heat that can escape into the air. Instead, this heat is held closer to your cook pot to help heat it more efficiently. This item can be used with alcohol, Esbit, or even wood heat! These are a little heavier than your typical foil windscreen (1-2.5oz, depending on which size you need), but you should be able to even things out by carrying less fuel (or no fuel if you use wood). At $80 this is pretty steep, so you can chalk it up as a luxury. This comes with an alcohol stove, Esbit stove, fuel bottle, and measuring cup.

12-10 Stove: This double-walled Pepsi can stove w/ integrated primer pan comes with the Caldera Cone. Supposedly, it was designed specifically for this system and no other stove will do. Since I’ve never used another stove in this set-up, I have no comment. Lighting the stove with my lighter wasn’t immediately easy, so I gave up. In my rush to get food in my belly, I completely forgot that this stove had a built-in primer pan, which would have solved my problems if used properly, haha. Matches worked perfectly for me. (0.5oz)

Tennis Ball Tube: Since the Caldera cone can be easily bent, and its sharp edges could cut other gear, I roll it up and stick it in this tube. I put my matches, lighter, camp towel, and foil pot lid in the tube as well. The stove fits almost perfectly in the end of the tube as a cap. (1oz)

Evernew 640ml Tall Titanium Pot: This is just your run of the mill titanium pot. It hold a bit over 2 cups of water and doubles as my coffee mug. In order to save weight, I use aluminum foil as a lid, which works very well for me. Like most titanium pots, it is pricy, but who can resist titanium? (2.4oz)

Fuel Bottle: This is just an 8fl oz squirt top bottle. I’ve labeled it, so that no one accidentally drinks out of it. (1oz)

All in all, this system works very well. After a few trips and some non-scientific testing, I’d have to say that Trail Designs’ claims about fuel savings are true. On my last trip, I boiled about 12 cups of VERY cold water (ice crystals forming), and used right around 6fl oz of fuel. My old setup (alcohol stove with a foil wind screen), would have probably required an extra 2-3oz of fuel to boil the same water. I wasn’t sold on the extra weight of the windscreen at first (I’m still not completely sold), but I’m going to give this system another chance on my next backpacking trip. If you have the money laying around, give it a try!

Update 4/15/13: I used this setup again this weekend, and ended up only using about 2/3 of the fuel I had rationed. It’s working out really well for me! I remembered to use the stove’s primer pan this time, and it lit very easily with my mini Bic lighter. I’m fairly certain that I’ll keep this system in my normal rotation… At least for a while haha.

Cheap and Free Ultralight Gear

So you want to try ultralight backpacking, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a new hobby? In this article you’ll find sturdy, lightweight “alternative” gear that won’t break the bank.

Finding newer and lighter gear inevitably means spending more money, but there are areas of your ultralight backpacking system that can be improved cheap (or even free) items around the house.

Camp Kitchen

Stoves: You can make your own camp stove out of an empty soda can or even a cat food can! These weigh less than an ounce and have no parts that can fail in the field (valves, seals, etc), and unlike conventional stoves, the fuel (HEET or denatured alcohol) can be found in most gas stations/hardware stores, if you need to resupply mid-hike. The bottom line: $0.50-$1.00!

Water Bottles: Any plastic bottle will do! Many backpackers like to use SmartWater or Gatorade bottles from the grocery/convenience store. These are MUCH lighter than Nalgene bottles or CamelBak reservoirs, plus have one added advantage: If it gets scuzzy or gross, just recycle it and pick up a new one! Small ones also work as a flask (for your backcountry cocktail needs) or a fuel bottle for your alcohol stove (Just be sure to label it properly!). Bottom Line: $1-$2!

Cutlery: I love my long titanium spoon, but $7-$20 might be a little steep, if you’re trying to assemble a full backpacking kit on a budget. For short trips, “borrow” a sturdy plastic spoon and/or fork from a fast food joint. It’s even lighter than my titanium spoon, and you can just toss it when it gets ratty. Bottom line: FREE!

Condiments: Full bottles of condiments and spices can be cumbersome and heavy. “Borrow” ketchup, mustard, mayo, jelly, sugar, salt, and pepper packets when you visit restaurants. That way you only pack what you absolutely need. Bottom Line: FREE!


  • Toothbrush: Sounds dorky, but cut one in half to save size and weight ($1)
  • Toothpaste: Make toothpaste dots! (Free! you have toothpaste at home anyway!)
  • Hand Sanitizer: Smallest bottle humanly possible ($1)
  • Soap: Dr. Bronners or Coghlan’s soap (Both cost about $3 for 2oz). Repackage into smaller bottles to save weight ($0.25 or free if you reuse household dropper bottles).
  • Toilet paper: Pull a few days worth off your roll at home. Package in a ziploc (free!).
  • Trowel: Use a stick or one of your tent stakes instead! (free!)

Tools and First Aid

Knife: This one isn’t for everyone, but I’ve learned that I almost never need a knife while backpacking. At most, I use it to cut cord, bandages, moleskin, or to open food packaging. I pack either a utility knife blade or a single edge razor blade as my “sharp thing”. You can make a little sheathe from a cereal or granola bar box! Bottom Line: Pennies!

First Aid Kit: People tend to go overboard when it comes to these. First and foremost, don’t pack items beyond your level of training. Just because Cabela’s sells backcountry staple/suture kits, doesn’t mean you have the skills to use it. Also, snake bite kits are useless. Make your own first aid kit! You can also use other gear (trek poles, clothes, utility cord) to pull double duty for first aid. Start with a Ziploc baggie. Fill it with:

  • 5-10 Band-aids (various sizes)
  • 2 sterile gauze pads
  • Smallest roll of athletic tape you can find
  • A few single-use packets of triple antibiotic ointment, alcohol pads, hydrocortisone, etc
  • 2 or 3 butterfly closures
  • Precut moleskin for blisters
  • A few doses of ibuprofen, anti-diarrheal, and any prescription meds you need.

Bottom Line: $10 at most

Repair Kit: 

  1. Wrap a few feet of duct tape around your water bottles or trek poles. Use it to patch holes in just about anything. Even works for first aid (in a pinch). Don’t bring the whole roll!
  2. If you like to have a sewing kit, pack a few feet of dental floss and a needle. Floss is stronger than common thread and works great for field repairs. Don’t bring the plastic container!
  3. Superglue: Fixes everything from gear to lacerations!
  4. Utility cord: 50 feet is enough to replace shoe laces, fix your tent’s guy line, and hang a bear bag! ($13 for the stuff I use).

Bottom line: Even with the expensive cord I use, less than $25.

Do you have any more suggestions?