Camping is a load of fun and it’s more or less a cheaper way to travel close to home, or far from home. In Australia, we are fortunate to have a range of camping specific stores, like BCF, Ray’s Outdoors, Kathmandu, Mountain Designs, and the list goes on.
Browsing around for gear for the Munda Biddi trip appeared to be a little different than your average camper van holiday, mainly because of the weight factor. We would be pulling the gear along in a trailer attached to the bikes. We also weren’t seasoned long distance riders and didn’t expect to make it into town for the night, which meant we would be camping in the bush. Evenings before the trip were spent hunched over calculations and debates with Derek over necessity of some of the gear. Our ideas of necessity were quite different but there was one thing we clearly agreed on, and that was coffee, mug and plunger. In the end, we did still manage to over pack for the trip!
Often I ask where do you draw the line, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking every single gadget is needed. While a good quality gear piece can provide great joy along the trail, it all comes down to personal preference and also the question, is it worth the extra weight? Necessity or not, here are a couple of top notch lightweight camping gear that served us well along the Munda Biddi trail;
The black diamond apollo hiking lantern (or as I call it ‘Alien spider’) is a versatile camping piece, it can be hung inside the tent or the legs unfolded and placed on a hard surface such as a picnic bench. The lantern is super bright and can also be dimmed via a switch. It’s hard wearing and can be knocked around in the packs, and takes AA batteries. The lantern is particularly good for hiking a trail where weight is an important consideration, this is the only light you’ll need and It’s also considerably lighter than a torch.
Weight: 220 grams
This 3 piece stainless steel construction cookset comprises of two equal sized pots,1 lid that fits both, and a removable handle. It’s ideal for two people, does not retain flavour from meals, and compact to pack. It even has a small pouch for storage. If you need to be a little more creative with packing, the pots can double as a bowl and the lid as a plate. They work well on a fuel stove, I haven’t tested on a camping fire and to be honest I don’t think I will because it’s not a heavy construction.
If you are wanting to shave the weight even more here, there are lighter aluminium pots on the market. I wasn’t too keen eating warm foods from aluminium and was willing to trade a little more weight for less exposure to aluminium. It all comes down to personal preference and this is something I felt strongly about.
Weight: 733 grams
Before we invested in a GPS system, we used paper maps along the trail.This waterproof map case can fit a large map or a couple of documents. There is a hole for attaching a compass. It can be folded without cracking and is apparently freeze proof. The velcro feels tough. Good for winter day hikes, we use the map when we go mountain biking around Western Australia, it’s easy to pull out from the backpack.
There are a couple of dry sack bags on the market, the Sea to Summit range comes in a variety of bright colours and sizes from 1L to 35 L. Not just for hiking they are also great for suitcase packing and separating clothes in a backpack. Also great for storing your valuables for quick easy access. We use them on our day bike rides in winter. While the fabric is waterproof it isn’t fully submersed in water. For electronics we double bag.
Cheeki 2 x 420 ml cups & Kathmandu Coffee Press
The Cheeki cups are made of food grade (#304 premium grade) stainless steel, they stack and do not retain flavour. They hold the heat of a hot drink or cup of soup for a little longer than plastic construction. I like the height of these cups, we often use the cups for eating our mushy mushroom rice along long distance trails where kitchen utensils need to be kept to a minimum.
The coffee plunger doubles as a mug, while it’s said to be insulated, the heat doesn’t hold for too long. It is BPA free and the plunger piece is stainless steel. We scored a special, I would recommend waiting for a sale to purchase this, as I don’t think it’s worth the regular price of $59.98. Buy good quality beans and the coffee is really enjoyable. The plunger piece is a tight fit into the cup and the lid is not spill proof.
Growing up in Australia, it’s been drummed into my little head to always carry water whilst in the bush. Some trails have water storage but quite often they run dry. That said, water storage is an important consideration in Australia. The MSR water bladder is available in several sizes and we went with the 2L and 4L. The bladder is made in USA, BPA free and can handle water temperatures from freezing to boiling. Made from abrasion resistant cordura it’s one of the rare bladder not made from cheap China plastic. We’ve had a few plastic ones in the past and they developed holes. There was initially a slight canvas taste to the water but it disappeared after a few uses. I love a product that is multi use and an adapter (separate cost) is available to turn the bladder into a solar shower or hydration bladder kit, this saves weight and extra money in purchasing these typical standalone products. We use the bladder and hydration adapter for day bike rides, it slides into the backpack and the mouth piece clips to the front of the backpack perfectly, also lighter to carry than a stainless steel water bottle. Like any water bladder, there is some maintenance required to ensure a longer life. After using the bladder make sure it drys completely before packing it away. I hang it up for a day or two. The only issue I had had to date is a leaky nozzle on the adaptor which can easily be replaced by one bought at the local camping store.
Weight: 2 179g, 4L 196g
Weight of hydration adaptor, 55.3g
Is a sleeping mat luxury item for camping? Heck yeah! Navigating through the myriad of ‘fancy’ features like air sprung cells, metalised layer, TPU lamination was somewhat of a brain spin into a Rick and Morty world. The prices vary greatly for hiking specific sleeping mats. The Exped was the cheapest lightweight sleeping mat we could find on the market. To be honest I was a little apprehensive, thinking it would be the first item to break in the Australian bush where sticks can puncture car tyres (true story). With that said, the mat does include a repair kit.
The Exped Mat is made of polyester and non toxic foam. The self inflating feature and that alone is cool – two valves inflate and deflate. After a day of travel on the trail, the handy feature means less work for you. Unroll and activate the inflate valve, put on the kettle for a cup of tea, and within 10 minutes or so, presto, the mat is inflated. To speed up the process simply blow directly into the valve. Depending on your time restriction, deflate may need some assistance to roll nicely back up into the stuff sack.
Sleep wise, the mat rewards with an evening of comfortable slumber, particularly in winter where the ground is cold and damp. The 2.5 cm thickness is dreamy, especially in the middle of the forest! Being an incredible light weight of 325g, there is a compromise and the XS is 3/4 length. It’s worth double checking the measurements before purchase. Lastly superseding the service for a reliable product, Exped individually test each product for air tightness.
Sustainable camping gear is better
You don’t necessarily need to go on an extreme hike to enjoy the benefit of lightweight camping gear because the best thing about the gear is, its superb usability on the simplest of day hikes or even a trip to the beach. I can’t help but think of the irony of going out into nature with all this plastic and a car load of gear in a throwaway society. Lightweight gear works not just for the weight factor but it’s minimal impact to the environment because it’s made to last and not to throw away after a year or so. Lightweight gives you confidence to venture deeper into bush, forest, desert and with luck disappear from civilization.