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Old 08-30-12, 08:32 AM   #1
nun
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Ultralight Evangelism. (slightly ironic)

There are a growing number of tourists that are using ultralight backpacking gear and combinations of old fashioned saddle bags, small rear panniers and the newer bikepacking bags on bikes that are anything but traditional tourers. So if you have a setup you'd like to share, post a few pictures and give us some highlights of your gear and tours. If you are still struggling up hills with 4 x panniers and a handlebar bag and have questions please post too. Here are some examples that have been previously posted.










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Title edited to indicate a measure of irony.
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Old 08-30-12, 09:05 AM   #2
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I have been tinkering with ultralight touring for a while now and have been doing it in stages. I am not sure where the line is between heavy, medium, light, and ultralight, but I have probably done the range.

I started with maybe 45 or 50 pounds of gear on my first tour (TA). The range is because the weight varied on the tour due to adjusting the gear list along the way.

Heavy (50#)

I worked my way to about 30 pounds on the next couple tours.

Medium (30#)

Then with more careful packing I got to light at 22 pounds.

Light (22#)

Next was ultralight at 14# and very careful packing.

Ultralight (14#)

The I did a MTB tour with an even lighter load with just over 10# of gear. This required some gear upgrades and very careful packing. The list on my journal for this trip shows a heavier weight, but it did not include some last minute changes.

Ultralight MTB 10#

I decided that my limit without missing anything much was probably about 8 pounds with my current gear, but I took a few extras like a nicer camera and GPS to get to 10# on my last trip.

I figure that I can shave my shelter weight by a pound or so if I want to spend on a DWR bivy to replace my current one and on a different tarp. I may do that before my next tour because I think the combo will also be more comfortable especially in wetter weather.

I wrote an article that documents my craziness and there are also journals for my trips as well.
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Old 08-30-12, 09:59 AM   #3
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Ultra light is usualy viewed as very uncomfortable, and very expensive.
I don't know about comfort, but as I don't make a lot of money, I would rather send in a student loan payment than buy high dollar gear. Plus I like the way older things look.
here is a rig that I took a five day trip on. It was winter, so did not have to worry that much about skeeters, so had a minimal hammock, BA air core, adventure medical thermal bivy and silk liner. Took my swiss army wood stove on this trip, more hassle than it was worth. It got down to about 28 one night, and all I can say is that I lived. The pockets look kind of deflated, because I was wearing most of the clothing that fit into them.



The best thing about this rig was the look on a bike shop owners face when I told him I was 300 miles from home! And when I read a "can I tour on this" thread, I usualy think of this trip.

Four days in Florida, in January on my three speed club style bike. Again a hammock, silk liner bag, alcohol stove and sierra cup, what I was wearing in the pic.


My first longish trip, six days. 180 miles to the Katy trail, then took the trail, train back, then most of the way home. For a first tour it was pretty light, Homemade Hennesy copy, fleece bag(never again), cannister stove, lots of clothing for the ST louis musuem and the like. Interesting thing, found this bike in a shed and rebuilt it, but did not replace the 27 inch tires that were all cracked and hard. No flats or problems! This was not really ultra light, but I am including it because we all have to start somewhere.


And this spring, this. These are bags I made, they are in the Florida pic as well. But here, they have a north face wasatch bag, a Eureka zeussII tent, larger than my usual hammock and space blanket, as well as BA air core, sno peak stove with one liter pot, fleece, cold weather hat and gloves, book, first aid, wet wipes, flip flops, headlamp, and other little stuff. This was a shakedown for what I might carry on a month long trip. The bags worked well, but I am currently making some that will fit this load more comfortably, and fit this bicycle better.


I guess that part of the fun for me is keeping it cheap. Every bike but the Centurion was found at thrift stores or yard sales and repaired. The Centurion was a NOS 1981 frame I actualy bought.
I don't weigh my stuff, but I guess that it might qualify as very, if not ultra, light. And while I have done trips with four bags, and might again, its more the simplification of not a lot of stuff that appeals to me.

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Old 08-30-12, 10:12 AM   #4
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Ultra light is usualy viewed as very uncomfortable, and very expensive.
I don't know about comfort, but as I don't make a lot of money, I would rather send in a student loan payment than buy high dollar gear.
Good point about the cost. FWIW I did a workup of what my gear cost assuming that folks would already have clothing and a few of the items on the gear list. It turned out that my gear at the time cost a bit over $1,000, not including the bike or those items that folks would typically have already. I did a list of reasonable alternatives with a budget in mind and came up with a bottom line of $330. If anyone is interested it, is in my article linked in my previous post. It is a section of that article marked as "Ultralight on a budget".
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Old 08-30-12, 10:40 AM   #5
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Good point about the cost... I did a list of reasonable alternatives with a budget in mind and came up with a bottom line of $330. If anyone is interested it, is in my article linked in my previous post. It is a section of that article marked as "Ultralight on a budget".
I like to encourage people considering bike touring (or camping or backpacking for that matter) to not be dissuaded if they cannot afford the latest and greatest. I don't have the latest and greatest of anything, except maybe for my very small little MSR headlamp which is pretty new and pretty great. I have been slowly upgrading my gear over the last 25 years. You should have seen the first time I went backpacking when I was about 11 or 12 years old. I put all the heavy stuff at the bottom of my bag, I had no belt on my pack, I packed WAYYY to much clothing with no regard to the weight, and through it all I still survived.

I still probably tend to packing a little too much. I have been known to give things away on my travels that I found I didn't really need.


Staehpj1, thanks for the link to the article. It's got quite a bit of helpful information.
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Old 08-30-12, 10:45 AM   #6
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Good point about the cost. FWIW I did a workup of what my gear cost assuming that folks would already have clothing and a few of the items on the gear list. It turned out that my gear at the time cost a bit over $1,000, not including the bike or those items that folks would typically have already. I did a list of reasonable alternatives with a budget in mind and came up with a bottom line of $330. If anyone is interested it, is in my article linked in my previous post. It is a section of that article marked as "Ultralight on a budget".
I don't think cost needs to be more than with traditional gear, in fact you can save lots of money on the bike and panniers etc and spend the saving on a good lightweight sleeping bag rather than carrying something that weighs 4 lbs. Also some ultralight equipment is very inexpensive, an example would be a pop can cook set. Most of going lightweight, or ultralight, is an attitude adjustment and deciding that you don't need that extra pair of shoes of trousers.
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Old 08-30-12, 10:46 AM   #7
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First off, here's my gear list for UL touring. Red items were cut last-minute.

I toured on a 29lb steel frame bike with about 11lbs of gear. I used a Sea to Summit e-Vent drysack strapped to my back rack, a small handlebar bag, and a Jandd frame bag. I was more comfortable on tour than I am in my own bed.

What? What did he say?



That's right!

I combined a Hennessey Hammock and a Thermarest air mattress and slept like a baby every night for 10+ hours. I had a set of wool clothes that kept me warm and a lightweight fleece summer bag, and I was warm down to 40 with wind on top of Mt. Hurricane, New Hampshire. I traveled 1,400 miles with the same pair of clothes and the same sleep setup night after night, even when staying with family I opted for the hammock.

Here's proof: (I set up a little low that night...)

DSC_0103 by Max Roman, on Flickr

Like a baby...


DSC_1170 by Max Roman, on Flickr

This is the actual size of the hammock, with the rainfly, wound up. It takes me 10 minutes to set up and 15 to put away, since I'm very careful winding up my cords.

My other gear included a comfy fleece jacket, a great raincoat, and a DSLR Camera on my back, in a Camelbak. I took 1,400 pictures over the month and became quite the competent photographer.

Going light for me was more than just reducing the effort on hills, which is great. At 22 years old, though, I can handle 60lbs of touring gear and still put miles in. Ultralight was about letting go of comforts that I was raised with as necessities and appreciating experience as the measure of happiness. Going ultralight let me stop thinking about gear and start thinking about life, and I wouldn't change a thing. Now that it's getting colder, I'll be buying a lightweight down sleeping bag. My goal is to camp for 4-5 days out of a 25L backpack all winter, and of course, bring the camera.

Here's some pictures of my rig:


Final Test for 3,000 mile August tour in Northeastern U.S. (Trip in 3 days) by Max Roman, on Flickr


2012 Northeast Bike Tour (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts) by Max Roman, on Flickr

And one of our campsites:


DSC_0737 by Max Roman, on Flickr

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Old 08-30-12, 10:52 AM   #8
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Here's my first cut at UL touring.



I cut way back from five packs and a bungeed stack on every horizontal surface, weighing in at well over 50 pounds of stuff. The load above weighs 17 pounds, and 4 of that is from the old panniers. Next step will be to ditch the panniers and go with silnylon bags, after the panniers wear out or find a new home. (The rig above just completed 4400 miles on the Northern Tier, including wet spring snow in the North Cascades, so I took some bulky insulation and weather protection. The load wasn't quite so stuffed after I mailed some things home in Montana.)

The thread title got my attention, figuring this would be a negative thread complaining about ULers who tend to annoyingly tell everyone else what they're carrying is too heavy and all wrong. It's hard not to do that. When you've just discovered a method that has greatly improved your life, you want to tell everyone about it and you don't understand when people are resistant to change. You know what they say about unsolicited advice--it only benefits the person giving it.

I agree that UL can be cheaper if done in stages, with used gear, replacing old gear worn out, etc. Mostly, for me, it was finding out what to leave behind, and that costs nothing. I also agree that the simplicity is appealing, too, and being able to pitch and strike camp in minutes.
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Old 08-30-12, 11:04 AM   #9
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The thread title got my attention, figuring this would be a negative thread complaining about ULers who tend to annoyingly tell everyone else what they're carrying is too heavy and all wrong. It's hard not to do that. When you've just discovered a method that has greatly improved your life, you want to tell everyone about it and you don't understand when people are resistant to change. You know what they say about unsolicited advice--it only benefits the person giving it.
On our tour, my buddy Jimmy had two Ortlieb back rollers loaded to the max with stuff. By the standards of this forum, he was ultralight, but I made fun of him a lot for carrying a pair of sneakers AND a pair of crocs, and for the weight on his bike.

However, then we'd be at the grocery store and my UL bags were dumbfounded by the angles and size of a can of beans... and I had to put them in his ortliebs. We all teased each other a lot.
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Old 08-30-12, 11:13 AM   #10
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and 4 of that is from the old panniers. Next step will be to ditch the panniers and go with silnylon bags, after the panniers wear out or find a new home.
I like using lightweight drybags instead of panniers, but did find that the silnylon ones were a bit flimsy for my tastes. Mine were Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sacks and were pretty shot after an abbreviated Southern Tier (San Diego to Pensacola). I have since gone to Sea to Summit eVAC Dry Sacks and think they will hold up better at only a small weight penalty.

Bottom line either go a bit heavier than the ultrasil ones or be very careful to baby them. Based on my experience with them, you will either need to treat them very gently or be prepared to patch them frequently.
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Old 08-30-12, 11:13 AM   #11
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On our tour, my buddy Jimmy had two Ortlieb back rollers loaded to the max with stuff. By the standards of this forum, he was ultralight, but I made fun of him a lot for carrying a pair of sneakers AND a pair of crocs, and for the weight on his bike.

However, then we'd be at the grocery store and my UL bags were dumbfounded by the angles and size of a can of beans... and I had to put them in his ortliebs. We all teased each other a lot.
One of the things that I am working on is a silnylon bag that would hang from the top tube, and hold the nights grocerys, or even a couple days worth. Extra room is a problem, particularly for me, someone who has been known to balance a chocolate cake on the handlbars for fifteen miles...I like to eat, its one of the reasons I ride.

Oh, and on the hammock. I have one in my bedroom. seriously. cannot be beat for comfort, but my girlfreind does not sleep over much since I did it.
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Old 08-30-12, 11:18 AM   #12
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Hopefully this is not seen as going off topic, but I have been considering a hammock set-up and have so far not moved on that SIMPLY because I know some campsites don't allow you to tie stuff to trees. Has that been much of a problem for anyone who has used a hammock?

I think this is related because if I can get away with a hammock I can do away with the tent.
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Old 08-30-12, 11:20 AM   #13
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I like using lightweight drybags instead of panniers, but did find that the silnylon ones were a bit flimsy for my tastes. Mine were Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sacks and were pretty shot after an abbreviated Southern Tier (San Diego to Pensacola). I have since gone to Sea to Summit eVAC Dry Sacks and think they will hold up better at only a small weight penalty.

Bottom line either go a bit heavier than the ultrasil ones or be very careful to baby them. Based on my experience with them, you will either need to treat them very gently or be prepared to patch them frequently.
If it's any plus to your theory, I had the e-Vent size medium strapped to the back of my bike all 30 days. I wrenched the bungee straps down as tight as I could every morning, and my tent had plastic hooks, and my fleece had metal zippers. I was careful but not that careful. It got dropped in mud twice by accident, put through the washing machine and dryer three times, and I overloaded it as much as I could the entire trip.

Today, it looks close to new. There are a few permanent stains on the yellow side. Not a single- NOT A SINGLE -stitch looks looser than the day I bought it. There isn't a single scuff anywhere on the inside or outside. The plastic buckles are like new. It doesn't even smell.
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Old 08-30-12, 11:24 AM   #14
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Hopefully this is not seen as going off topic, but I have been considering a hammock set-up and have so far not moved on that SIMPLY because I know some campsites don't allow you to tie stuff to trees. Has that been much of a problem for anyone who has used a hammock?

I think this is related because if I can get away with a hammock I can do away with the tent.

We had a set of rules on our tour. Rule #7 was "No Campgrounds." It was a personal challenge. We would use our iPhone's satellite map to find green areas when we were ready. The most we rode for a suitable campsite was 10 miles or so. That's how easy it was to find trees and wild areas away from campgrounds to set up our low-profile shelters. We practiced leave-no-trace in state parks, public parks in the middle of cities, people's side property (what they don't know can't hurt them), abandoned lots, trails, and even a dirtbike track.
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Old 08-30-12, 11:26 AM   #15
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One of the things that I am working on is a silnylon bag that would hang from the top tube, and hold the nights grocerys, or even a couple days worth. Extra room is a problem, particularly for me, someone who has been known to balance a chocolate cake on the handlbars for fifteen miles...I like to eat, its one of the reasons I ride.

Oh, and on the hammock. I have one in my bedroom. seriously. cannot be beat for comfort, but my girlfreind does not sleep over much since I did it.
Another option is to carry a very light backpack. Rei makes the Flash 18 that weighs 10 ounces if you take out the pad. Sea to Summit makes the Ultra-Sil Day Pack that weighs 2.4 ounces. They are both great to carry a bit of extra stuff once in a while, but I found that I didn't mind wearing my Flash 18 all day on tour with a few items I want to keep handy or ones that I don't want to leave unattended. It is great for trips to the store and I also use it a bit more heavily loaded for sections where I need to carry extra food or water duie to long distance between restock points.
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Old 08-30-12, 11:29 AM   #16
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I have an old EMS backpack that folds inside it's own pocket to the size of a sandwich. it is extremely durable reinforced nylon, and I used it to carry groceries. I'd put a few odd-shaped items in it and then sling it right over my Camelbak, which wasn't that comfortable but did the job for shopping runs before bed.
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Old 08-30-12, 11:40 AM   #17
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Another option is to carry a very light backpack. Rei makes the Flash 18 that weighs 10 ounces if you take out the pad. Sea to Summit makes the Ultra-Sil Day Pack that weighs 2.4 ounces. They are both great to carry a bit of extra stuff once in a while, but I found that I didn't mind wearing my Flash 18 all day on tour with a few items I want to keep handy or ones that I don't want to leave unattended. It is great for trips to the store and I also use it a bit more heavily loaded for sections where I need to carry extra food or water duie to long distance between restock points.
Possibly, That is what I have done, but I find that food like bananas and tortillas do better not pressed into a hot sweaty back while riding. Also, pointy items are very uncomfortable in a bag without padding. One of the joys of being able to make your own gear is getting what you personly want. What I want is more like a frame bag that can be packed away or cinched up when not being used.
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Old 08-30-12, 11:49 AM   #18
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Hopefully this is not seen as going off topic, but I have been considering a hammock set-up and have so far not moved on that SIMPLY because I know some campsites don't allow you to tie stuff to trees. Has that been much of a problem for anyone who has used a hammock?

I think this is related because if I can get away with a hammock I can do away with the tent.
Once at a state park a ranger told me I could not set it up. All the trees had nails, carvings, and general campsite abuse already, so it seemed silly to me. I just slept on the table with my tarp over me. OTher times at campgrounds I hve simply slept on the ground. would not work in tick season.
Thing about the hammock, stealth camping gets a little easyer, cause you don't need a perfect piece of ground.
I love it when someone talks about the drawbacks of hammocks, when they have never used one. Sure, they might not be as perfect in the desert, but they can be used there or above the tree line as a bivy if there are no structures to use.
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Old 08-30-12, 11:52 AM   #19
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I like using lightweight drybags instead of panniers, but did find that the silnylon ones were a bit flimsy for my tastes. Mine were Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sacks and were pretty shot after an abbreviated Southern Tier (San Diego to Pensacola). I have since gone to Sea to Summit eVAC Dry Sacks and think they will hold up better at only a small weight penalty.

Bottom line either go a bit heavier than the ultrasil ones or be very careful to baby them. Based on my experience with them, you will either need to treat them very gently or be prepared to patch them frequently.
Yes when i use a drysac its the Sea-to-Sumnit eVent compression sack. I chose it because of the heavy grade nylon. the compression straps are also great for attaching the bag to the bag, no bungies or other straps required. Light weight silnylon bags don't do well with repeated strapping to a bike. The bag my Tarptent came in is now held together with Duct Tape.
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Old 08-30-12, 12:13 PM   #20
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Yes when i use a drysac its the Sea-to-Sumnit eVent compression sack. I chose it because of the heavy grade nylon. the compression straps are also great for attaching the bag to the bag, no bungies or other straps required. Light weight silnylon bags don't do well with repeated strapping to a bike. The bag my Tarptent came in is now held together with Duct Tape.
Not sure, but I think what I have might be lighter duty than your's. I have the Sea to Summit eVAC Dry Sacks with no compression straps. the 20 liter Sea to Summit eVAC Dry Sack weighs 2 oz while the 20 liter Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack weighs 5.9 oz. I am not sure if the difference is just the compression straps and cap or it it is heavier duty material.

It sound pretty cool that you manage to attach it using the compression straps.
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Old 08-30-12, 12:22 PM   #21
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Interesting Hammock sites that I used on the 2012 tour:

World's End in Hingham, MA:


Hammock Camping! by Max Roman, on Flickr

Fort Knox Picnic Area, with a view of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge in ME:


Hammock Camping! by Max Roman, on Flickr

Off the Kancamagus Highway in the White Mountains, NH:


Hammock Camping! by Max Roman, on Flickr

Public park in Bar Harbor, near some gypsies in ME:


Hammock Camping! by Max Roman, on Flickr

Private property adjacent to Acadia National Park, along the ocean in ME:


Hammock Camping! by Max Roman, on Flickr

Cottage complex in Eastham, Cape Cod, along the beach, MA:


Hammock Camping! by Max Roman, on Flickr

The Green Mountains, along a private lake, VT:


DSC_1128 by Max Roman, on Flickr

Adjacent to the Verizon Cell Phone Tower, 2 miles up a dirt road from the highway near Mexico, ME. Max actually tied his rain fly to Jimmy's rain fly:


DSC_0768 by Max Roman, on Flickr



Campgrounds are for pansies!!!

Last edited by mdilthey; 08-30-12 at 12:30 PM.
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Old 08-30-12, 12:32 PM   #22
staehpj1 
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Possibly, That is what I have done, but I find that food like bananas and tortillas do better not pressed into a hot sweaty back while riding.
My thinking has always been that stuff got a gentler ride on my back than on the bike because my legs and body acted as shock absorbers. I'm not sure if that is actually true or not. I do agree it is likely to be hotter though.

Anyway keep us posted on how your project works out for you.
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Old 08-30-12, 01:12 PM   #23
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Tortillas, also impossible to carry with my setup...
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Old 08-30-12, 01:20 PM   #24
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Not sure, but I think what I have might be lighter duty than your's. I have the Sea to Summit eVAC Dry Sacks with no compression straps. the 20 liter Sea to Summit eVAC Dry Sack weighs 2 oz while the 20 liter Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack weighs 5.9 oz. I am not sure if the difference is just the compression straps and cap or it it is heavier duty material.

It sound pretty cool that you manage to attach it using the compression straps.
Yes the eVent sack is pretty tough. I went with it because I liked the toughness and 5.9oz was a big weight saving over my almost 2lb carradice saddlebag. It's easy to attach to a saddle with bag bag loops and a bagman. One strap goes through the saddlebag loops and you pull it tight, then another goes around the Bagman's vertical section and the other straps can be used to tie the bag down around the back of the bagman. It's very sturdy and I'm using about 10L of the 20 L capacity so there's lots of room for carrying extra stuff in an emergency.
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Old 08-30-12, 01:24 PM   #25
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Interesting Hammock sites that I used on the 2012 tour:

World's End in Hingham, MA:


Hammock Camping! by Max Roman, on Flickr
Excellent pics. I've sometimes thought about hammock camping, but haven't taken the plunge yet. I always worried about finding a couple of suitable trees, particularly at the campsites we pansies sometimes use.
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