Camping Guide: Fast & Furious

This Is the Pacific Northwest's Best Lightweight Backpacking Gear

From dehydrated Coava coffee to ultra-packable sleeping bags, here's how to shed those extra ounces.

By Benjamin Tepler May 22, 2018 Published in the June 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

0618 backpacking gear guide with numbers ljlamn

1. PackTowl Ultralite

Go ahead—jump into that alpine lake. This full-size towel purportedly absorbs four times its weight in water and dries 80 percent faster than a cotton towel ... all in a package the size of a handkerchief. 3.4 oz, $34.95 at

2. Voilà Instant Coffee Discovery Box

Bend-based Voilà takes high-end, locally roasted coffee—like Portland’s Coava, Sterling, and Upper Left—and dehydrates it down into a tiny package. Add 8 oz hot water, and enjoy a legitimately excellent cup of coffee deep in the backcountry. $16 for 5-cup box at

3. Therm-a-Rest Z Seat

Trivial though it may seem, this mini version of a sleeping pad quickly becomes an essential. It keeps your caboose warm, dry, and cushioned during rest breaks on anything from hiking trails to ski tours. 2 oz, $15 at

4. Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka

Portland’s rare outpost of Japanese outdoor gear-maker Montbell turns out a jacket with 1000-fill goose down and an überthin nylon shell. It weighs a scant 8.4 oz and can keep you warm in brutally cold conditions. $439 at

5. Brooks Cascadia 12

Pop on the PCT for a day hike, and you’ll find that many thru-hikers are wearing Brooks Cascadias. The venerable long-trail favorite will quickly replace your heavier, ankle-high boots with a super-supportive, cushioned midsole and a meaty tread pattern. 10.5 oz, $130 at

6. MSR PocketRocket 2 Mini Stove Kit

Sick of carrying the kitchen sink just to boil water for a Mountain House meal? The PocketRocket folds down, origami-style, into nothingness, while a nesting doll of titanium pot, heatproof plastic, and fuel keeps your system to the size of a roll of toilet paper. 9 oz (minus fuel), $80 at

7. Therm-a-Rest Space Cowboy 45

A sleeping bag with the water resistance and heat retention of a synthetic and the packability of down defies the laws of backcountry physics. The Space Cowboy lets you fall asleep en plein air and stays insulated on damp, dewy mornings. 1 lb, $150 at

8. Tenkara Rod Co Mini Sawtooth Package

If you’ve ever fantasized about backpacking into the wild, catching a fish, and eating it like a true pioneer, Idaho-based Tenkara Rod Co is your enabler. The carbon-fiber tenkara rod (a Japanese type of fly-fishing rod without a reel) telescopes out to 8 feet, 8 inches, shrinks down to the size of a Harry Potter wand, and weighs a mind-boggling 1.1 oz. $199 at

8. Benchmade Bugout Knife

This 3.25-inch steel blade from coveted Oregon knifemaker Benchmade is virtually weightless at 1.85 oz, and it keeps its edge like a champ. $135 at

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