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

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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!