The Way forward for Ultralight Backpacking, In accordance with Trade Specialists

The Future of Ultralight Backpacking, According to Industry Experts

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Ultralight backpacking has seen an enormous increase in reputation over the previous decade. Frameless backpacks and tarp tents that when constituted solely a distinct segment a part of the gear business are actually decidedly mainstream, and the ultralight cottage business is busier and livelier than ever. All this progress begs the query: what’s subsequent? To get the lowdown on the way forward for ultralight backpacking, we turned to a couple specialists—Dan Durston, who designs ultralight tents and packs beneath the moniker Durston Gear; Andrew McIntyre, the proprietor of cottage gear model Superior Wilderness Designs; and Lloyd Vogel, co-founder of Storage Grown Gear, a web-based retailer for ultralighters. Listed below are their theories, hopes, and sizzling takes about the place the world of ultralight goes from right here. 

Backpacker: There are a couple of key improvements over time which have modified UL climbing drastically, just like the introduction of silicon-nylon, sleeping quilts, and trendy inflatable sleeping pads. Do you assume there’s nonetheless room for main improvements like that, or are we reaching a plateau?

Dan Durston: Improvements may be within the design (like a sleeping quilt as an alternative of a bag) or within the materials (like sil-nylon as an alternative of canvas). I feel we’ll see continued improvements in each areas. I don’t have all of the solutions, however I feel there are substantial concepts nonetheless left to uncover that may enhance the operate of just about all the foremost gear objects like tents, packs, and sleeping pads. 

Andrew McIntyre: Material, design, and manufacturing processes will solely proceed to enhance. Along with materials like light-weight sil-nylon, we have now additionally seen UHMWPE [Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene] materials turn into more and more widespread over the past decade or so. This material is extremely costly in comparison with conventional nylon or poly materials, however as the value progressively comes down, I feel we’ll see extra of it integrated into tenting gear. Materials like the brand new Extremely lineup from Problem Sailcloth have already helped to make our packs way more sturdy and light-weight than they’ve ever been earlier than. 

Lloyd Vogel: I positively do assume we’ll attain an endpoint. The principle adjustments we see now are small issues [rather than major innovations], like vest straps for packs as an alternative of conventional shoulder straps. Many of those improvements are the results of the fusion of various sports activities into backpacking, whether or not that’s ultra-running, speed-hiking, or chasing path FKTs. I assume you can name it the brand new world of aggressive backpacking. 

SWD’s Rugged Large Wild 70L (Photograph: Courtesy Superior Wilderness Designs)

BP: Are there nonetheless “ache factors” in backpacking gear that haven’t been addressed?

Durston: Sleeping pads are one of many large ones. The shift to inflatable pads within the ’80s was an enchancment, and extra lately the shift to thicker inflatable pads, however there may be nonetheless a reasonably robust correlation between weight and luxury. Actually ultralight pads simply aren’t that comfy for lots of people. They work, however nothing like a mattress at dwelling. I don’t know what the answer is, however I’m optimistic that advances in supplies and design will allow higher sleep within the backcountry. Rain gear additionally doesn’t work nicely sufficient. Too many corporations have put breathability above being reliably waterproof, although the previous is ineffective when the latter fails. And even when rain gear does keep waterproof, you continue to slowly get moist from sweat, condensation, or water creeping in. It requires a radical rethink.

McIntyre: That is actually the place cottage producers shine. After we’re out on a visit and spot part of our package that we really feel is missing, we are able to go dwelling and tinker, or provide you with a brand new piece of drugs or an answer. The flexibility to do that quick—and even probably change our personal manufacturing on the fly—is certainly a perk of getting a small manufacturing facility near dwelling. Certainly one of our fundamental focuses over the previous couple of years has been to try to make an ultralight load-hauling pack that’s really comfy for heavy a great deal of 50 or 60 kilos, whereas protecting the pack across the 2.5-pound mark. It’s a void within the ultralight pack market that we don’t assume has been addressed very nicely. 

Durston X-Mid Pro 2
Durston X-Mid Professional 2 (Photograph: courtesy Durston)

BP: Are there any new merchandise or concepts you’re experimenting with or significantly enthusiastic about?

Durston: On the design entrance, I’ve an concept for a tent that could be a main rethink of freestanding tent design and—I feel—a considerable enchancment in storm-worthiness, spaciousness, and value. It’s additionally a really tough factor to get proper, so it is going to be a pair years till it’s prepared. On the supplies entrance, we’re working with a brand new associate who’s doing wonderful issues with composite supplies that will actually shake issues up. There are nonetheless some technological issues to unravel, however there may be lots of promise to take a step ahead even past the at present out there composite supplies like Dyneema and Extremely. 

McIntyre: We’re at present taking lots of what we realized in designing our load-hauling packs and making an attempt to use that to a a lot lighter total backpack that’s nonetheless very sturdy, comfy and has the flexibility to be pushed as much as 40 kilos or so when you really want it. Now we have packs in our lineup proper now that do that very nicely, however most of them are within the 1.5-2-pound vary. We’d actually like to begin entering into sub-20-ounce territory for a fully-framed and really comfy backpack.

Garage Grown Gear
Storage Grown Gear’s operation middle (Photograph: courtesy Storage Grown Gear)

BP: What is going to the world of ultralight backpacking appear like 15 or 20 years from now?

Durston: Advances in insulation will proceed to be very sluggish, however materials could change loads with extra composite and woven UHMWPE choices. Most backpacking gear is constructed from textiles, so a considerable advance right here would have wide-reaching advantages. We’ll additionally proceed to see extra electronics within the backcountry with the bettering weight and expertise of that discipline: higher communications, entry to info, sleeping pad pumps, and perhaps even electrical energy used for different functions like warmth and air flow. 

McIntyre: This business is rising and altering quickly. There are extra [fabric and material] choices out there to us right now than there have been even 5 to 6 years in the past, and my hope is that may proceed. Higher expertise at a decrease price will certainly be a game-changer for smaller manufacturers like us. 3D printing may ultimately turn into the norm for backpack frames and different structural gear. 

Vogel: If you happen to take a look at the Youtube or Instagram climbing influencers, so lots of them are ultralighters, or ultralight-adjacent. I feel that’s an indication of the place issues are going. Even when expertise and kit doesn’t change drastically within the subsequent decade or two, there will probably be a continued progress within the ultralight area of interest: extra cottage manufacturers, extra cottage manufacturers that flip mainstream, and extra folks out climbing and doing it in an ultralight method. The end result will probably be a much bigger, extra aggressive market that’s extra accessible for everybody.

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