Wednesday, October 24, 2012

LiteTrail - and Lightening Your Load

Although I’m already a lightweight backpacker with a year-round baseweight of 9-12 pounds on average, I continue to neurotically look at my gear to see if I can find a lighter alternative, find multi-purpose items, or otherwise just leave something behind if it isn’t entirely necessary.  My goal is to have gear that is highly functional and efficient which allows me to go further more comfortably without compromising safety or security.


Lightweight backpacking is still a niche.  Several cottage manufacturers continue to pop up and major manufacturers have made an effort to use lighter and high performing materials, but it’s still a small offering and finding accessories is challenging. is a fairly new online company started by Jhaura Wachsman.  He’s active on lightweight backpacking websites like BackpackingLight.  What impresses me about LiteTrail are principally two things.  First, LiteTrail stocks only high quality and high performance lightweight gear.  There is no confusion what market they are after – lightweight and ultralight backpackers.  Secondly, I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone better at customer care than Jhaura.  If you’re looking for someone who is thoughtful, knowledgeable, responsive, polite, professional and fair – Jhaura is a good guy to know.  I can honestly say it was only after visiting his site that I found myself focusing on gear which I thought didn’t need to be reconsidered.  Jhaura also helped me understand techniques he used to lighten my load which I hadn’t considered before and now my pack is lighter as a consequence.  Below are some examples:


LiteTrail’s 2.7oz  550 ml complete esbit cook system ($79) revolutionized my cook kit.  For the last several years, I have sworn by the Trail Designs Ti-Tri system and continue to believe it is an excellent and lightweight option.   When I first heard about it, my knee-jerk reaction was that I have no use for a 550 ml system.  My cook pots are generally 900 ml and I can get by with 700 ml as long as I don’t have a lot of water needs.  In my mind, 550 ml was just too small considering my intent was to boil approximately 3-4 cups to pour off 1.5-2 cups in a boil-in-a-bag food option and to drink the rest as a warm beverage.  550 ml simply wasn’t enough to accomplish this goal…or so I thought.


It was only after talking with Jhaura that he helped me understand a new technique.  He boils a full pot (16-18oz), which only requires some of the esbit tab, and pours it off into his boil-in-a-bag.  He then immediately puts the pot back on the stove, fills it with however much more water he needs, and allows the remainder of the esbit the heat the water as much as it can.  With this technique, he has the boiling water he needs for his main entrée and then has an extra cup or more of boiled or nearly boiled water which he can drink or drink some and pour some off in something else (i.e. instant potatoes).  The second cup of water doesn’t need to be boiling as I’m either drinking it or pouring it off into something where warm water will suffice which means I’m not overly concerned about boiling a full 3-4 cups and the related consumption of fuel.  All this on one esbit, in a much smaller cooking kit, and affords a cup to drink from that is actually “cup-size” instead of “pot-size”.  GENIUS!


LiteTrail offers a product called GLine (50 feet, $12.95) which is a super thin and super strong dyneema and might even be the lightest and strongest line on the market available in the marketplace.  Cordage is heavy and can add unexpected weight.  GLine is not and it’s very stiff which means it doesn’t knot up on itself easily but holds intended knots very well.  I’ve been using it on my tarps and other guylines for several months now.  It comes in bright orange or gray.  Oddly enough, I now carry extra GLine in my kit even though extra cordage was something I previously removed to save weight as I figured in a pinch I’d just use the cordage I have on my bear bag.  With GLine, it is so light and tiny, it is literally inconsequential in my pack and now allows me to have a clothing line amongst other possible uses.


LiteTrail offers a product called NyloBarrier ($4.80 for three) which is a much lighter odor proof alternative to heavier products like OPSAK.  OPSAKs are little more than a heavy duty zip lock bag, and if I’m being honest, they have failed on me more times than I can count after minimal use as the area around the zip lock tears away easily.  Truth be told, carrying an OPSAK has always been an irritant to me but I felt it was a necessary evil.  The NyloBarrier changed this as it offers the same protection from smells attracting animals, but it is much lighter.  It seals with two twist ties at the top, so arguably it isn’t waterproof, but my bear bag includes a cuben sack and between the sack and the snug NyloBarrier, I have absolutely no problems.


Legendary illustrator and NOLS instructor Mike Clelland was the first person I’m aware of to introduce the concept of premixing Aqua Mira in a smaller container for use during the day to save time mixing and waiting while over a water source.  Finding a tiny mixing bottle has been challenging though.  LiteTrail offer a .10 oz 3ml option just for this purpose.


Travel-sized items are often hard to find and clumsy repackaging can be problematic.  For something as valuable as seam sealer, it is nice the LiteTrail offers a travel size.  Other items like matches, tiny bags, ear plugs, etc. are also all sold.


LiteTrail also has a nice Gear Guide section with responsible suggestions which I found helpful.


If you’re tinkering with your kit or need lightweight gear, check out LiteTrail.


LiteTrail said...
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Stick's Blog said...

As usual, great write up man, and I agree with everything you said. jhaura is a great person to deal with and I like the products that he has in his store. I have a few of them myself (which he sent for me to check out) and I must admit, I like them all! He is a smart guy and as you said, he is incorporating smart ideas into the small things that sometimes get overlooked...

And I am going to have to pick up one of his cooking sets sometime soon and give it a try too...