Below is a guest post by Tim Hopper about gear recommendations for ultralight backpacking for tall people. Many of these tips could be applied to camping in general. This post was originally on UltratallUltralight.com
I’m 6′9″. This doesn’t just result in copious comments from strangers, it also makes many activities difficult.
However, due to my height, the gear available to me is limited. When I thumb through Backpacker magazine’s annual gear issue, I breeze past the shoes, jackets, shirts, pants, tents, sleeping bags, and packs because most of the items won’t fit my long body.
Over the last six years, I’ve gradually made my pack lighter and lighter. Along the way, I’ve learned a good amount about what will and won’t work for an unusually tall backpacker. I am trying to share that information here in hopes that others can benefit.
At the same time, I’m far from satisfied with the gear I have in my pack. I would love for you to join the conversation about how the ultratall can enjoy the backcountry. Please leave your comments at the bottom of the page.
- Height: Just under 6′10″ (approx. 208 CM)
- Weight: Approximately 260 lbs currently
- Inseam: 35″
- Waist: approx. 37″
- Shoe size: 16 US
- Shirt size: Medium or large extra tall
I carry a tall ZPacks 54L Arc Zip. It cost me $324.00 in 2015. It weights 1.3 lbs. It’s very comfortable, and I love it.
Notes: Before I started transitioning to ultralight backpacking, I carried a ULA Catalyst. It cost me $235.00 in 2009. Ron Bell, founder of Mountain Laurel Designs told me on Backpacking Light that they frequently make packs for tall folks.
Sleeping quilt and mat
I use a custom quilt made by Goosefeet Gear. It is overstuffed with 850 FP DownTek, in 1.75″ vertical baffles. There are snaps and a drawstring to create a footbox. Goosefeet sized it based on some measurements I gave them, and I am extremely happy with it. It weighs 1.5 lbs and packs into a 5L stuff sack. It cost me $395 in 2014.
I use a Gossamer Gear Airbeam Sleeper inflatable pad in the wide, torso length size. It cost me about $100 in 2014. It weights 0.9 pounds. I sometimes carry a 3 oz foam pad for extra insulation.
Notes: Buying sleeping pads isn’t too difficult since they often don’t need to be the full length of your body. Buying a bag or quilt is much hard. I highly recommend finding a small shop like Goosefeet Gear to make one to your specs.
Before getting the quilt, I had the enormous and warm Sierra Designs Paul Bunyan mummy bag. It weighs 4 lbs!
I talked to Nunatak about a quilt. They said they’d do it for around $500. ZPacks and Feathered Friends said they wouldn’t do a custom quilt. Ron Bell, founder of Mountain Laurel Designs told me on Backpacking Light that they frequently make quilts for tall folks.
I sleep under a Bearpawwd 8′x10′ silnylon, rectangular tarp pitched between two trekking poles. It weights 1.1 pounds. It cost me $71.00 in 2015.
On the ground, I have a 105″x48″ piece of 0.007″ thick Tyvek. It weighs 8 oz.
Notes: Finding a tent that will fit me inside and keep me dry has been nearly impossible. An advantage of this shelter is that my wife and I can both fit under it easily. Before I got the 8×10, I had a MacCat Deluxe from Outdoor Equipment Supplier. It was big, but I was afraid that it wouldn’t keep me dry in the rain due to the cut. I am considering buying a customized sized, cuben fiber bivy from Borah Gear as additional protection from wet ground and insects. I have talked to some other manufacturers and modifying their tents. ZPacks and Hyperlite Mountain Gear are unable to customize tents on a one-off basis. Yama Gear is willing to add length to their Cirriform tents. I started a thread on the topic of tents for the very tall at BPL. It’s worth reading through.
I carry the Leki Aergon poles. I hike with them and use them to pitch my tarp. I am happy with them.
Clothes are surprisingly hard to buy. I wish I could go buy everything Andrew Skurka recommends, but most of it wouldn’t fit me.
Currently have the Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pant in a 38×34. Buying hiking pants in a 34″ inseam is easy; 36″ is much harder. I have REI Sahara Medium Tall shirts in long and short sleeve. REI has tragically stopped selling these; I bought two of each last year, thankfully. If anyone has a good alternative, please let me know. I typically wear Under Armour Men’s HeatGear Sonic Compression Shorts in a size Large.
I typically sleep in large, tall Cabela’s Men’s E.C.W.C.S. Polar Weight Hoodie with Polartec Power Dry or a Cabela’s Men’s E.C.W.C.S. Power Dry Silk-Weight Crew with Polartec top; neither is long enough. I have a pair of black thermal pants that I’ve had for ten years that I wear on my legs.
I have a large, tall Marmot PreCip Rain Jacket. It was soak through when I hiked in it 8 hours of heavy rain a few years ago, but it’s great for light rain. I have a pair of cheap, generic rain pants I picked up somewhere along the way; they’re not long enough.
Luke from Luke’s Ultralight told me he’ll add extra length to his Argon Wind Shirt. I suspect he would do similarly for his rain gear.
The shoe selection at size 16 is very limited. I hike in the Columbia North Plains Vent shoe; they’re fine. I have some Keen: Targhee II Mid boots I used to backpack in; they’re very light, which is nice.
I don’t have any trouble with XL socks; they typically say for feet up to size 16, but they fit my size 16 feet. I typically wear wool quarter socks.
I carry a $20 NWT Men’s HAWKE & CO Packable Down vest that I bought on eBay a few years ago. It’s not long enough to be fashionable, but it’s cheap, light, and warm; I highly recommend having one.
I have a large Sunday Afternoons Sun Tripper Cap. It’s very light and folds nicely to stuff in a pack.
I carry a pair of Outdoor Research liner gloves.
I don’t have a wind shirt and haven’t been able to find anything that has sufficiently long sleeves and waist; I would love to have something for windy mountain tops and running on windy mornings. The large Patagonia Houdini Jacket didn’t fit me. I have considered trying a ZPacks Ventum. Luke from Luke’s Ultralight does custom sizing for his Argon Wind Shirt. I asked about extra torso and sleeve length. He told me, “If you need 2″ more or below its free. Above that its $10 more for the argon wind shell.”