Gear Guy

What’s the lightest gear for tackling the Continental Divide Trail?

I'm planning a through-hike of the Continental Divide Trail this summer, and I want to go ultra-light. What's the best tarp to use—the easiest to set up, the best in wind, and so on? Syd Seattle, Washington

Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.

Ah, the Continental Divide Trail, aka the CDT. That’s a formidable undertaking—3,100 miles, from Canada to Mexico, through the roof of the nation. The trail traverses Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.

I appreciate your desire for minimum weight. One thing you might consider is the two-pound, seven-ounce MSR TrekkerTarp ($129; Using your trekking poles for support, it can be configured much like a tent or as a shelter with a covered front “porch.” You can even add a mesh, bug-proof insert ($79), although this will add nearly two pounds. GoLite makes a tarp called the Cave 1 ($119;, a very spartan system indeed. But, set up properly, it’ll keep the rain off and weighs only 14 ounces. Add a 12-ounce bug shelter underneath, also from GoLite, for $69.

The alternative is to get a super-light tent, which would have the advantage of much better wind resistance and, of course, built-in bug netting. But that’ll add a pound or two. Sierra Designs’ Ultra Light Year CD ($189; uses light materials and a trim design to pare the weight down to two pounds, nine ounces. Pack only the fly and a ground cover, and you can trim that load to one pound, 11 ounces. Bibler’s single-wall I-Tent ( comes in at just over four pounds, but this is probably the most weatherproof four pounds out there. Alas, the price is a burden—$539. I also like The North Face’s Canyonlands ($179;, a solo tent that weighs just over three pounds.

Whatever your choice, hope you have a great hike!

promo logo