The Big 3

The Big 3

Considered to be the three main components of anyone’s backpacking / hiking system, The Big 3 are generally going to be the heaviest and most expensive items you own.  The Big 3 consists of your backpack, shelter and sleep system, and your sleep system can be any number of things, but usually your sleeping bag / quilt and sleeping pad.

Below are my top choices for The Big 3.


zpacks-arc-haulThe ZPacks™ Arc Haul Backpack is the slightly more durable version of the ever so popular Arc Blast.  It features a total capacity of 62 L at a scant 24 oz / 680 grams with a maximum load carriage of 40 lbs / 18 kg.  I purchased the pack in June 2016 for $299.00 USD.  While some people will think that 62 L is not enough, those in the ultra light community will think that is quite a lot of space.  The main compartment has a volume of 49 L, while the outside pockets make up the remaining 13 L.  It features 3 outside pockets, 2 on the sides, most commonly used for storing water bottles, and a mesh back pocket that I use as a catch all.  I’ll put everything from my water filter, to some snacks, to my rain gear and even my wet socks after a river crossing.  I don’t know how I ever lived without an outer mesh pocket before.
The pack does have an external frame, albeit a lightweight one, but it does the job of transferring the load to the hip belt.  Depending on your load weight, you may or may not find a use for the hip belt.  I find that once I break the 25lb mark, I’m going to want to have a hip belt.  I can make do without one at a lower pack weight, but I like to have one either way, especially when on long distance hikes, when you may, at some points, be carrying several litres of water over long distances.  On the PCT, for example, I’m expecting to have to carry as much as 7 litres of water in the desert section.  That’s 15.5 lbs just in water alone!

With my base weight around the 15 lb mark, the ZPacks Arc Haul should be able to handle this load perfectly, and that is why I’ve chosen it as my go to pack for the PCT in 2017.

ZPacks™ Arc Haul Backpack | Weight: 24 oz / 680 grams | Price: $299.00 USD

 Tent / Shelter

zpacks-duplex-tentThe ZPacks™ Duplex Ultralight Two Person Tent is a pretty popular tent to use the in lightweight backpacking community.  I think it’s pretty close to being the perfect tent.  It’s large enough for 2 people or 1 person and their gear.  It’s lightweight, coming in at 21 oz / 595 grams, made from Cuben Fibre which is a water proof, non stretch material.  It also sets up using your trekking poles, or the optional tent poles, or even the free standing Duplex Flex Tent upgrade.

The tent features two side entry doors with a vestibule at both entrances.  it has plenty of ventilation as both doorways are completely made of mesh, and there is also a mesh panel between the bathtub floor and the overhanging roof.  The tent uses a total of 8 pegs to secure it to the ground, but only 2 are really required for the main anchor points.  I recommend using 6 to stake out the 4 corners and the to main anchors.

It’s important to find the right tent for your camping, backpacking or hiking style.  As this is essentially your home away from home.  Depending on how long you plan to be on trail for, you don’t want to be uncomfortable, cramped or weighed down by this piece of gear.

ZPacks™ Duplex Ultralight Two Person Tent | Weight: 21 oz / 595 grams | Price: $599.00 USD

 Sleeping Pad

neoair-xtherm-body-440-x-406The Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm is my go to choice for a lightweight, yet warm sleeping pad.  One of the best ways to ensure poor performance while hiking is to get a bad nights sleep.  The XTherm is a 2.5″thick blow up mattress with reflective ThermaCapture™ technology that traps radiant heat while the Triangular Core Matrix™ construction minimizes convective heat loss.  What all this means is that this pad is going to keep you warm at night.

The ground can be cold and will surely suck the heat right out of your body while you sleep, so having something between you and it is the best way to keep warm.  The thickness of this pad allows me to sleep on my side without my hips bones contacting the ground giving me pretty good support.

I’ve put a lot of miles on this pad and can easily recommend it to just about anyone.  Some people, however, may opt for the larger MAX version, which is a rectangular shaped version of this pad, rather than the mummy style pictured here.

Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm | Weight: 15 oz / 430 grams | Price: $199.95 USD

 Sleeping Bag / Quilt

zpacks-sleeping-bagThe ZPacks™ 900 Fill Power 20° Down Sleeping Bag is my choice for a sleeping bag.  ZPacks makes a lightweight sleeping bag / quilt in a lot of different options.  I chose a long / wide bag.  As part of the design, there is no hood on the bag, and as such the bag resembles a quilt.  It has a sewn in foot box, and a 3/4 length zipper that allows you to zip it up or leave it open like you would do with a quilt.  It ‘s also designed in such a way as that you sleep on top of the zipper when using it in sleeping bag mode.  When you lay on top of any down filled bag, you end up losing any insulation value underneath you, which is why it’s important to have a good pad under you.  Some companies will put a baffle next to the zipper to reduce any heat loss when the zipper is facing upwards, but ZPacks just leaves it bare.  There’s no point in adding more weight, and bulk to something that you can just put underneath you while your sleeping.

The other way to use it is to leave it unzipped and utilize it as a quilt instead.  Most people will use a quilt in a hammock system, but it’s becoming more and more popular these days to use one while going to ground as well.  You simply drape the quilt over yourself like you would do at home in your bed, the only difference is that you feet will be inside the sewn in foot box.  I find this to be quite comfortable and allows me to vent as needed on those warm nights, or zip it back up if I find it too drafty.  I think this is the best of both worlds.

ZPacks™ 900 Fill Power 20° Down Sleeping Bag | Weight: 19.8 oz / 561 grams | Price: $435.00 USD

These are the items I’ve chosen as my go-to pieces of equipment for my Big 3.  This may change in time, but as of right now, in November 2016, I’m pretty happy with my choices.

Total combined weight: 79.8 oz / 2266 grams | Total combined price: $1532.95