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A puritanical ultralightism has overtaken backpacking recently, complete with true believers using beltless backpacks, uncooked food, and tents without floorsfine innovations if you're hiking 35 miles (56 kilometers) a day and comfort is far down the priority list. But if you're strolling just a couple of miles to a weekend idyll at the lake, the new minimalism seems a bit absurd. Repeat this mantra: Comfort is good.
Go ahead and pack the roomy tent, the double-burning stove even the propane-fired hot-shower device. They're not just for car campingeverything here can be shoved into a (big) backpack for a short hike. The payoff? A significant boost in campsite cushiness.
All prices in U.S. dollars
Martin Backpacker: Stripped-Down Six String
The Martin Backpacker is welcome acoustic company for any trip. It's only 35 inches (89 centimeters) long and 8 inches (20 centimeters) wide and weighs just two and a half pounds (0.9 kilogram) (including its padded bag). The solid spruce top helps the guitar achieve a depth of tone that belies its slight dimensions.
Sierra Designs Nomad 4: Under the Big Tent
Minimalist backpacking tents work fine during slumber but can leave you fighting claustrophobia during waking hours. Not so with the Sierra Designs Nomad 4, a four-person shelter with a generous peak height and 56 square feet (5.2 square meters) of floor space. A 22-square-foot (2-square-meter) vestibule and copious gear pockets mean you won't be sharing precious real estate with soggy gear or your hiking partner's footwear.
At 14 pounds (5.2 kilograms), the Nomad 4 is reasonably lightweight, considering its size.
Want to see a backpacking ascetic cringe? Fire up the Zodi Hot Camp Shower when you reach your campsite. At 8 pounds (3 kilograms), the shower is a hefty luxury item; you'd be wise to induce your hiking buddy to carry the separate, 16-ounce (498-gram) propane-fuel canister (not included). Then combine them for three hours' worth of steamy hot water.
With two independently adjustable, 10,000-BTU burners, the Coleman Xpedition banishes forever one-pot surprises and long waits for burner space. Both burners are fed by a single, thread-on fuel cartridge. Unlike the bulky green camp stoves Coleman is famous for, the 26-ounce (809-gram) Xpedition folds flat for easy portability.
After the sun goes down, the UCO Duo offers the cozy glow of a candle in a portable, wind-resistant design. Unfortunately, mood lighting doesn't always cut it. Enter the Duo's bright, half-ounce (16 gram) LED light. Leave it attached to the candle lantern's base, or wear it separately as a headlamp.
Cowboy coffee has its place, grounds and all, but an alternative is to use the GSI Lexan JavaPress, a nearly unbreakable device that brews 33 ounces (about 1 liter) of coffee. GSI has versions that make 10 and 50 ounces (0.3 and 1.5 liters)and also offers such superfluous items as backcountry champagne flutes and cocktail shakers.
Mountain Hardwear Backcountry 72 Chair Pad
The Mountain Hardwear Backcountry 72 Chair Pad provides packable comfort, day and night. Insert a pair of aluminum stays into their guide slots, then clip together two buckles to transform the Backcountry 72 from mattress to chaise. Elapsed time? About a dozen seconds.
Photographs by Spencer Jones
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