Photography and Review by Berne Broudy
AT A GLANCE
- Gear Review of 12 Lightweight Camping Accessories
- Cocoon – Silk Mummyliner
- Lightload – Camp Towel
- MSR – Packtowl Ultralite
- Quixote Design – Down Travel Pillow
- Big Agnes – Insulated Air Core Mattress
- GSI Outdoors – Micro Table
- Snow Peak – Titanium Cafe Latte Set
- Therm-A-Rest – Game Sleeve
- Brunton-Liberty Mantleless Lantern
- Golite – Paddler Stow Sacks
- Patagonia – Dragonfly Jacket
- Crocs- Cayman Waterproof Clogs
Heading into the backwaters often means getting away from it all, even some of the comforts of home that would be nice to take along. Traditionally, paddlers don't worry as much about the weight of their gear as, say, a backpacker. But any canoeist or kayaker who has paddled a full boat for multiple days knows that a loaded craft requires significantly more energy to propel than a boat packed for a day trip. Recently, ultralight gear has become the rage among adventure racers, backpackers, and other overland travelers. Now the trend is trickling down to paddlers.
Here we've selected a dozen of our favorite lightweight items. They're things that you might leave home without, or think twice about taking, if they weren't so darn small, light, and downright decadent. These are items that either are enjoyably unessential or offer extra comfort and versatility for less weight than traditional choices.
4.7 oz, $50-$75
For the ultimate sleeping experience, wrap yourself in a cocoon of comfort with Cocoon's Silk MummyLiner. This highly breathable, machine-washable double-stitched silk sack takes luxury camping to the next level. Silk keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It'll add an extra 10 degrees of warmth to whatever bag you already own, and can be used solo on steamy nights when any insulated bag is too warm. Plus, you can freshen up your sheets on the trail by giving this quick-dry liner a dunk when you take one yourself. The MummyLiner folds into a stuff sack so tiny it will tuck away almost anywhere. Features include a drawstring hood and a boxed foot end. For a more personal fit, try Cocoon's Adventure Nightwear silk travel pajamas ($42-$62), or for a less personal fit, Cocoon's double-size silk TravelSheet ($50-$65) will accommodate you and a friend.
0.5 oz, 12″ x 24″, $6 for a three-pack
Lightload's new vacuum-packed viscose towels will take care of all your camp chores, from kitchen cleanup to wiping out your boat. Superabsorbent, reusable, and biodegradable, these individually packaged towelettes come compressed to about the size of three stacked silver dollars. We don't usually get excited about doing the dishes or cleaning up around camp, but these towels made us change our minds.
3.6 oz, 27″ x 50″ (XL), $28
Taking a full-size towel on the trail is always tempting. Now there is no need to think twice. The MSR Packtowl UltraLite is so thin, absorbent, and soft against your skin that you'll want one with you on all your trips. Made of a soft, absorbent microfiber blend, the Packtowl UltraLite is the lightest, most compact full-size camp/travel towel available. It's as thin as a piece of paper, but has a sueded chamois feel against your skin. It's unbelievably absorbent and miraculously fast to dry. In XL, it's large enough to use as a beach towel, or to wrap around your entire body.
Down Travel Pillow
8.5 oz, 13″ x 17″ (large), $43
Clothes rolled up in a dry bag can pass as a pillow in a pinch, but waking up with your face stuck to the plastic, drool on your fleece, and a crick in your neck is never pleasant. So when we discovered Quixote's Down Travel Pillow, we knew it was worth the investment. Made from the finest European white goose down, Quixote's Down Travel Pillow ensures that your nights are restful and your dreams are sweet. This plump pillow is double-needle constructed for durability with a poke-proof, water-resistant microfiber shell. Add a Polartec pillowcase (1.1 oz, $15) to keep it clean. Cotton and flannel cases are also available. It comes in large and small in down and synthetic PrimaLoft.
Air Core Mattress
23 oz, $65-$70,
The latest invention from the folks at Big Agnes takes a good idea—the big, cushy inflatable mattress—and makes it lighter, more compact, and insulated. Big Agnes' new Insulated Air Core Mattress puts 2.5 delicious inches of cushioning comfort under your body. A layer of PrimaLoft insulation gives the insulated air core a 15-degree comfort rating. So whether you spend the night snoring beneath the stars or tucked in a tent, you'll have three seasons of sound sleeping. You have to blow it up, but it's more compact than any self-inflating pad.
18.4 oz, 11.25″ x 15.5″, $22
Made from sturdy aluminum, GSI's Micro Table is just enough table to keep dinner out of the dirt or sand, and the perfect height for camp-chair cooking. Prep your food, rest your plate and cup, or light your lantern and play a game of cards on the Micro Table. Just unfold the table and insert the included rods, and you instantly have a stable surface. The table folds up and slips into a compact stuff sack for easy transport and storage.
Cafe Latte Set
11.2 oz, $90,
The days of throwing your ground coffee into hot water and drinking the grainy liquid cowboy style are over, thanks to Snow Peak's titanium Cafe Latte Set. Now, for less than a pound of extra weight, you can brew a morning cup o' joe on the trail as good as if there were a Starbucks in your remote campsite. Heat your brewing water in the titanium Cafe Press (3.2″ x 5.5″), add your gourmet coffee, and French-press the grounds when the brew is to taste. Foam your milk with the titanium Milk Foamer (3.2″ x 3.6″) and sip away at your backcountry latte. The only drawback of this set is that it can delay morning departures when you're serving up seconds for your paddling pals. On the upside, everyone will be awake when you head out.
5 oz, $25
Anyone who has ever been stuck in a tent in bad weather, forgotten their book or journal, had their MP3 player batteries die, or been unable to think of anything new to say to their traveling companions will want the Therm-a-Rest Game Sleeve. A silk-screened tube printed with backgammon, chess/checkers, and mancala boards, the Game Sleeve slides over any 20-inch-wide inflated air mattress, or can be used on a flat rock, camp table, or even the sand. Red and black game pieces are printed with chessmen on one side and can be flipped or grouped for the other games. When the game is over, the sleeve, game pieces, and two dice pack up into a storage sack.
Liberty Mantleless Lantern
8.3 oz, $110
After too many years of carrying my heavy white-gas lantern to remote campsites, arriving with the glass broken or the mantles disintegrated into a fine white powder, I stopped carrying a lantern and made do with flashlights and headlamps. But nothing lights up a campsite like a lantern. Which is why I was overjoyed to find the Brunton Liberty. The Liberty has an unbreakable metal mesh mantle, and screws onto the same propane/butane fuel canister used by many stoves. The Liberty shines 80 watts of light on any campsite, hassle-free. There is no priming required, and you don't even need a match to light it. Screw the lantern onto the fuel, flip open the reflectors, and press the ignition. It comes with a compact travel case.
1-3 oz, 500-3,200 cu in, $20-$36
Light and durable, GoLite's silicone-impregnated nylon Paddler Stow Sacks provide a dry haven for canoeing and kayaking gear at a fraction of the weight of regular stuff sacks. The slippery material makes sliding the bags into your hatch a quick and easy chore. Paddler Stow Sacks are designed like a traditional stuff sack with an extra-long collar that twists and folds under a drawstring closure. The variety of sizes (from M to XL) means there is a sack to accommodate whatever you need to bring along. GoLite doesn't call these sacks waterproof, but ultra water-repellent. Our gear sat in a puddle under a leaky hatch cover on a multi-day trip, and the contents stayed bone dry.
4 oz, $135
Made from triple ripstop nylon, the Patagonia Dragonfly is the ultimate lightweight shell for cutting the wind and adding warmth. This versatile drawcord-waist shell is soft and not sticky against your skin. It's been DWR treated for extra weather protection. And it's so small, it'll stuff into the pocket of your PFD with room to spare. The Dragonfly is the perfect complement to a heavier paddling jacket that you might not need on warmer days or in camp.
Cayman Waterproof Clogs
6 oz, $40
Most water shoes get wet when you paddle. More than once I've wished I had a second pair for camp, but left them home because of space and weight. But Crocs' Cayman Waterproof Clogs are so light, pliable, and waterproof that now I always keep them on board. Crocs combine the comfort of clogs with the technology of soft, sturdy, and supportive closed-cell resin. Constructed with an orthotic heel, arch support, and tarsal bar, these light sandals provide enough support even for long walks and portaging. A textured foot bed stimulates your feet as you walk, and the perforated upper drains instantly. They're naturally antimicrobial, with enough non-slip grip to hold on any nautical surface, and have a flip-up heel strap. People regularly stop us on the street to ask about our shoes when we're wearing Crocs.