Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2 Tent
Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2 Tent (courtesy, REI)

Can you help me lighten my backpacking load?

My wife and I are trekking in Chile and Argentina next summer, so we’ve decided to exploit the circumstances and replace most of our equipment with newer and lighter items. Can you build the ideal shopping list for us? Yonathan Tel Aviv, Israel

Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2 Tent

I love to shop and spend money, so I’m happy to spend your money as well. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start:

Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2 Tent

Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2 Tent Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2 Tent

Backpack: About 4,000 cubic inches should be right. Osprey’s Atmos 65 ($240) is exactly that, and it has lightweight but rugged construction, an excellent suspension, and handy features such as a sleeping bag compartment. Your wife might like Gregory’s Deva 60 ($250), which is slightly smaller than the Atmos and is fitted for a woman. Great suspension, convenient loading features, and ruggedly made.

Tent: The Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2 ($320) weighs just around three pounds and sleeps two. There’s a lot of mesh on that tent, so if you want something suitable for cooler nights, I like the Marmot Aeolos 2P ($335). And Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight CD 2 ($180) combines light weight (four pounds) and rugged all-weather construction. The one trade-off is that it’s not free-standing.

Sleeping bag: The Marmot Arroyo ($250) is a super-light (one pound, 11 ounces) 30-degree down bag. If you prefer synthetic for any reason, Mountain Hardwear’s Ultralamina +32 bag ($180) is warm, light (31 ounces), and compressible.

Pad: You can’t go wrong with the Therm-a-Rest ProLite 4 ($95).

Clothing: Well, you have thousands of options here. I would build my outfit around a set of Patagonia Capilene 1 ($38 for long-sleeve tops, $36 for bottoms); 200-weight Polartec fleece (REI Woodland Fleece Jacket, $38); sturdy hiking pants (Arc’teryx Gamma LT pants, $150 but you will thank me later); and a light rain shell (REI Shuksan Jacket with eVent fabric, $289). You can add outdoor or trekking wear (shorts and that sort of thing) from makers such as Ex Officio to round things out.

This should get you started. Light, useful, and comfortable stuff, all of it.

The 2008-09 Winter Outside Buyer’s Guide is on newsstands now. Look for it online soon so you can get prepped for gift-giving season—even if everything you pick is for yourself!