Ultralight Backpacking For Hot and Humid Weather

From deserts to jungles and from alpine regions to arctic tundra, lightening and simplifying my load has made a significant difference to the overall quality of my wilderness experiences. As a result of these journeys, I’ve learned what backpacking gear I need to be safe and comfortable(ish) in any given environment.

What follows is the first in a series of ultralight gear posts based on those experiences. Considering my east coast of Australia origins, I thought I’d start things off with “hot and humid” environments. In regard to specifics, by “hot and humid” I’m referring to hiking destinations in which daytime air temperatures regularly exceed 29°C (84°F) with at least 65 percent humidity, and nighttime temps are commonly in the low teens to low twenties Celsius (i.e. 54 to 75°F). In the upper reaches of low-elevation mountain ranges such as the Appalachians and the Australian Alps, evening temperatures can occasionally drop to single digits Celsius (i.e. high thirties to low fifties Fahrenheit). 

Common Sense

It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that most hot and humid places are not necessarily backpacking-friendly 12 months a year (e.g. Florida in the middle of summer). The same goes for multi-day or week excursions during the height of the rainy season in tropical environments such as Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea. Is it possible to venture into such environments at the hottest times of the year? Yes. It’s possible if you’re fit, experienced, and prepared for the added discomfort and/or limited hiking windows. Is it always a smart thing to do? Not so much.

  ITEM   WT. (OZ)   SUB (oz)   SUB (kg)   COMMENTS
MLD Burn (DCF) (modified)         15     Frameless, slim profile / UL backpack of choice since the 2000s / Current model has more bells and whistles than the original version, but no biggie to modify (see Pack Hack video).
Pack Liner (Trash Compactor Bag)          2     Cheap and effective
              17          0.48  
Tarptent Aeon Li       16.8     Easy to pitch and roomy for something that weighs around a pound. The bathtub floor and netting are key for wet, muddy, and buggy (oh my) conditions. If rain isn’t on the cards, I leave door flaps completely rolled up for more ventilation and enhanced views (see photo below).
Stakes – Easton stakes (come with tent)         1.7    
           18.5         0.52  
Pad – Thermarest NeoAir XLite (Sm)          8     Very comfy / Doubles as makeshift framesheet for pack / Put feet on backpack when sleeping / See 20,000 + mile review.
Quilt – MLD Spirit Quilt  38°F (Lge) (with Poncho head slot)         19     I prefer synthetic over down insulation in hot/humid environs (see below for details).  When it’s consistently sweltering in the evenings (e.g. in the tropics), I’ll leave the quilt at home and go with a cotton/silk liner instead.
           27          0.77  
LokSak 20×12 (Food Bag)        1.2     Holds five days of food. I’ve found that seals start to go after about six weeks of regular use in the field.
Food Vessel: Reconstituted Gatorade Powder Container         1.8    
Titanium spork (Toaks)        0.2     I put some orange tape around the end to make it tougher to lose.
SmartWater Bottles 1 LT (2)        2.6      
            5.8         0.16  
Sunscreen (repackaged in a tiny bottle)        
Hand Sanitizer (repackaged in a dropper bottle)       It’s been 20 years since I’ve had a case of the trots in the backcountry. I think a big reason is my diligent use of hand sanitizer.
Aquamira (repackaged in dropper bottles)       Water purification method of choice since 2007.
Mini Toothbrush        
Toothpaste (mini tube)        
Dental Floss       Doubles as sewing thread
Antiseptic Wipes (2)       Clean cuts and wounds.
Triple Antibiotic Cream (tiny tube)        
3M Micropore Medical Tape       Breathable, paper tape / Adheres well.
Ibuprofen (6)      
Sewing Needle       One-armed blind people can sew better than I can.
Tenacious Tape and Mini Tube Super Glue (sleeping mat repair)      
               4           0.11  
Rain Jacket – Montbell Versalite          6.4     Pit-zips, two pockets, 3-way adjustable hood / Combine with travel umbrella when it’s really bucketing down. 
Insulation – Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight Zip-Neck         6.5     Versatile. Can be used as a mid-layer in hot conditions (size up), or a base layer in winter.
Extra Socks – REI Merino Wool Liners          1.4     Still my go-to liner socks, though the current models aren’t quite as durable as the pre-2013 versions.
Head Net – Sea to Summit with Insect Shield         1.3      
Buff (original polyester)         1.4   Beanie, neck/face protection, condensation wipe, convenience store holdups if low on cash.
Gloves – Montbell Chameece Liners         0.9   Easily the best liner gloves I’ve ever used / Compatible with touchscreen devices
            17.9         0.51  
Phone –iPhone 11         6.8     Major upgrade over my old Samsung Galaxy S7
Otter Symmetry case (orange)         1.3      
Umbrella – Montbell Travel Umbrella  3.0 More of a supplementary item rather than a stand-alone solution for all my rain protection needs. Combines well with rain jacket. Sanity saver when it’s belting down for an extended period. 
Small stuff sack – HMG Cuben Fiber (2)         0.6      Ditty bag / First Aid / Toiletries
 Nitecore NU25        1.8     Recent pickup. I’d been hearing great things about it for the last year or two, and decided to give it a try. Double thumbs up. 
Montbell Trail Wallet (orange model)        0.5     Love this little wallet. Light and respectable alternative to the hikertrash/homeless Ziploc model. Use it both on trail and off. 
Swiss Army Classic        1.3    
Compass – Suunto M-3G Global Pro        1.6     Adjustable declination and globally balanced needle.
Deuce of Spades potty trowel        0.6      
Map Bag – Quart Size Ziploc        0.3 Keeps maps clean, dry, and organized.
Montbell Alpine Carbon Pole Cam Lock (without strap and basket)        6.8 After many years of using the Fizan Compacts (twist lock), I switched to the Montbell flip-locks which are easier to handle, more secure, and worth the extra ounce and a half.
            24.6        0.7  
BASE WEIGHT TOTAL       7.2 lb      3.2 kg  
ITEMS WORN        
Pants – Outdoor Research Ferrosi       11.6     Exchanging the Patagonia Baggies for permethrin-treated pants due to summer being tick season. I only picked up the Ferrosi’s a few months ago, and I’ve got to admit I’m impressed. Most comfortable hiking pants I’ve worn.
Base layer – Patagonia Sun Stretch Shirt (Lge)           7     I’ve been regularly using this shirt during the Australian summer in recent years. Material feels soft against the skin, relaxed fit, dries quickly, useful zippered pockets, and UPF 30 protection.
Hat – Adapt-a-Cap (old model)        3.2     The latest incarnation is heavier and a little tight for folks with a big noggin.
Shoes – Brooks Cascadia 14      23.6     I’ve worn every model of the Cascadias since the 3’s, which came out more than a decade ago. With the exception of the Cascadia 10’s, all of the different incarnations have consistently given me between 450 and 600 miles before having to swap them out.
Socks – REI Merino Wool liners        1.4 Still my go-to liner socks, though the current models aren’t as durable as the pre-2013 versions.
Dirty Girl Gaiters        1.2 Handy for keeping out dirt and mud. Fun colours and designs. I’ve been rocking DG’s since 2007. 
Timex Ironman Watch        1.4     Cheap, durable, light, multiple alarms
Sunglasses        0.8     Polarized lenses, 100% UV protection, wrap-around.
         50.2         1.42  
TOTAL WEIGHT        10.6 lb        4.8 kg


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