Training and maximum heart rate

Well, training by heart rate has been something that has been around for decades now, but whats the magic maximum heart rate. Turns out the traditional formula 210 - Your Age is at best an approximation. So here’s what Lifehacker says:

  • In your twenties, 210-Age works and this is how the formula was first fit
  • If you are under twenty or over 30, then try 207-(70% * age)
  • If you are female and over 35, then a better fit is 206-(88% * age)
  • If you older and healthy or a woman, then 211- (64% * age)

Are you confused yet? And most of these are really +/-5 to 10 ppm based on individuals. To really try it, you should do a stress test, just be careful and have a doctor.

As for me, I admit that I tried all these formulas and then you should see what your real life maximum is. Which sounds a lot like seeing where you are going to have a heart attack 🙂

Heart Rate Zones

Well what’s the point. Let’s say for simplicity that your MHR is 175, then what do you do with it. So there are many theories here, but from Australia, here’s a nice way to look at it is to get training, you need to be above some rate:

  • VO2Max Boosting. 92% of MHR. 161
  • Anaerobic Threshold. 85%. 149
  • Aerobic Endurance. 75%. 131
  • Base Endurance. 65%. 114
  • Recovery. 50%. 88

Being a weight weenie again comparing 2016 to 2001

Well, I spent years a long time ago on Weight Weenies figuring out how to lighten a bike. I remember sitting in meetings calculating the cost per gram for lower weight. Sometimes I went too far when a handlebar broke, but by and large it worked and I got down to a 15 pound bike not bad for an old Trek 5900 to get to the UCI weight limit of 6.8Kg.

Now with the latest offering, I haven’t weighted it, but feels much heavier than that Trek, so on to figuring out how to make it more reasonable;

  • The new bike has disc brakes so that is a one pound penalty right there typically although I’m having trouble finding numbers, it’s a little hard to find how much a groupset weighs, but for Dura-Ace, they had a very similar weight for years. The 9000 was 2101 grams (with cable), 9070 with Di2 (2080g) while 90, the newest versions the 9100 is 2097g and the 9150 Di2 is 2051g. The disc brake versions 9120 adds 348 grams for mechanical while the 9170 adds 338 grams. So this is adding 12 ounces to the build. I can’t regret this as it is about safety.
  • The newer bike uses Ultegra 11 while the older one is Campagnolo Record 10 (yes I know I splurged!). At least for the older Dura Ace 9000 vs Ultegra 6800, there is a 296 gram difference or another 10 ounces which is way more than I would have thought. Also the Campagnolo Record at least a few years ago was super light, about  24 grams less that Dura-Ace, so call it an 11 ounce difference. Going back of the years, you can add up the groupset from Sheldon Brown as I can’t find it online. While expensive, losing 11 ounces is actually a pretty big deal.
  • The pedals are SpeedPlay X/1 Titaniums are an amazing 150 grams for a pair! Now the cleats themselves are lots heavier, but the PowerTap P1 weigh 429 grams, so that’s a huge different right there of 279 grams or half a pound. But on the other hand, knowing the power is so important to training and they are simple to remove if you want.
  • The wheelset before used Topolino wheelset with 23mm tires while the new one is ENVE with DT Swiss 240 and 25 mm tires. I used ultralight 180 gram Veloflux Pavelights and eyeballing it the 25mm tires are more like 225 grams , so call it an extra 90 grams just for the tires. And the Topolinos I got because they were just 1390 grams. Now the ENVE 3.4 with DT240 are amazing strong and weight just 1492 so about 102 grams more. For a total of 192 grams 6.8 ounces. Can’t really regret this as the Topolino wheels were great, but definitely not a rigid as the ENVEs.
  • The Dogma F8 Disc frameset weighs in at 798 grams while the Trek OCLV 110 was 1030 grams. That’s actually a gain of 232 grams.
  • The fork on the Trek is 345 grams while the F8 ONDA 2 fork is 400 grams so that’s 55 grams heavier

The net is the new bike is going to weight more although it is far stiffer and faster (I’m getting about 1-2mph more speed out of the thing) but to add it all up: 338+320+279+192-232+55=952 grams about 2.1 pounds. That means even if all the components are equal, this will be a 17 pound vs 15 pound bike.

But we are probably over that, so here are some places to make equipment changes:

  • The saddle on the Trek is a Fizik Aliante 2003 with Carbon rails so it is 175 grams while the newer Dogma has a Fizik Aliante 8 coming in a 275 grams. I also have an incredibly light but uncomfortable Selle Italia SLR which is 120 grams not counting the electrical tape you need on the side because the leather is so thin it will wear through. A simple fix to gain 100 grams is using the Outdoor Gear Labs recommendation and getting a Fabric Scoop Carbon Flat Pro Flat which is 176 grams. If you spend an additional $100, you get this down 10 grams (which isn’t really worth it).
  • Stem. I remember lusting after this stem, it was one of the first carbon fiber stems. Made by Time called the Monolink Pro, it is 130 grams while the Dogma has a MOST TigerALU ST which is the internal brand for Pinarello and is 160 grams. For $80, you can get the MOST Tiger Ultra 3K which is 130 grams or for $160 there is the MOST Tiger Ultra 1K which is 100 gram (wow!) stem.
  • Skewers, these were really nerdy, but I did get the Salsa Titanium skewers at 91 grams for the Trek and for the ENVE has titanium skewers so probably about the same weight, but I really should get bolt on skewers to prevent them from moving around which are $44 at Bikeparts and 47 grams since they don’t have the quick release mechanism. As an aside, another option is the DT Swiss RWS Thru Axle, this uses a 12mm hollow tube, so theoretically stronger than a simple titanium skewers, it weighs just 54 grams but is $43 at JensenUSA for each axle so roughly twice the price of the Control Tech but is supposed to have better clamping force than quick release and is easier to manage than the lock nut system because it has a simple lever and is the best of both worlds in that sense.

Doing all this removes 100+70+45=215 grams or nearly 7 ounces. Wow, I’m a weight weenie, but it does get closer to that 17 pound mark.





The cycling workflow

Of course a dedicated bike computer has a longer battery life than an iPhone particularly for long rides, but if you are just going out, it is possible to use the iPhone as a computer as long as all your devices support Bluetooth LE (as long as it’s a short ride). Here are the things to know

The Applications

These run on you mobile device:

  • Powertap Mobile, these speak Wifi and BLE and they have an IOS application for data logging. You can use this to record detailed power meter information and then upload it to Strava, MapMyRide or Training Peaks. This seems like the best merge of all information with the exception of gearing that Shimano provides.
  • Shimano E-tube. While this is mainly a configuration application with the new wireless transmitters they speak BLE, so you could theoretically have an application that can read the gearing and battery. One cool thing is to be able to add what gear you are as you ride, but I couldn’t figure out a way to do this.
  • Strava. This is the ticket, it syncs with power meters, speed and cadence as well as heart rate monitors that communicate on Bluetooth LE. It works pretty well. The main issue is that it costs extra to see real time updates and if you are using the screen, then your battery will only last three hours or so. But if you pay $60/year, you get more analytics. And also a simple set of training plans.
  • Garmin Connect and Garmin Express. This is for Garmin products with Bluetooth connections (not the Garmin 800 which is ANT+ only). It runs on your phone and bails ride information up to the Garmin at

The Sensors

Here are some products that have Bluetooth LE and I was surprised how easily they work. Pairing does seem to work and all of these support simultaneous connection to an ANT+ device like the Garmin 800 as well as to BLE devices like an iPhone:

  • Wahoo Blue SC, This works well with Strava and synced automatically.
  • PowerTap P1. These pedals work fine
  • Scosche Heart Rate monitor. This is another simple product.

Analytics, canned training and coaching

Finally what do you do all this data, well, you can use one of these tools. The main tricky part is getting the raw data up into these sites. here’s how and what you get after you do.

Garmin Connect. Garmin has both analytics and also training and coaching.

Strava is mainly about social networking but its  mobile application to do direct upload or you can use Garmin Connect with late model hardware. Or Garmin Express if you have to plug it with USB. For extra $60/year you then get real-time analysis of the data while you are riding and a canned training from Time Crunched Cyclist so that you can make progress with as little as six hours a week of training. These are not customized but they seem to work. These are interval workouts mainly.

Training Peaks. I actually used this years ago and it has three things: a) analytics, b) canned training plans and c) a coach. You can also upload so the workflow is:

  • For long rides, use your Garmin and then use Garmin Express (for older Garmin 800) but I’m not sure how you go from Garmin Express to Training Peaks or sync them from Garmin Connect to Training Peaks.
  • For short rides, auto connect Strava for social sharing via an auto connect and upload from there.
  • Finally, to get more detailed power information use PowerTap Mobile.  You can even take your training plan and for later Garmin computers download the plan into your bike computer. If you have Mac or PC near your computer, you can use PowerAgent to do this upload.


Building a Machine Learning machine

Well, if this summer you need some heavy iron to train models, here are some tips. The main issue is that both AMD and Intel are in a transition, so availability of the really cool hardware is delayed.


So you have two choices, one is to stick with the last generation CPU and use the latest generation GPUs where the main compute lives that means:

  • X99 Motherboard. You want one with extra PCI switches so each graphics card see a full 16 lanes to the RAM for loading images. The ASUS workstation board does this and we’ve used successfully.
  • Broadwell-E processor. If you get the Xeon 1650 V3, you can even overclock it to get about 30% more peak power. However it would if you need a lot more threads running then you need more cores. For instance the 18 core 2699 V4 runs at 2.2GHz CS the 4.3GHz you get from overflowing the above so in theory if you relatively few threads you should go to the $3k vs the $600 chip.
  • nVidia Tesla cards. This is the big change, depending on how much VRAM you need, that’s either the Titan or the 1080 Ti.

if you can hold a little bit then it makes sense to use the upcoming Skylake X chips which will have many more lanes and cores:

  • X299 Motherboard (yes they skipped the X199 for some reason). This has Optane support for hybrid hard drives.
  • Skylake X. These are coming in the second half of the year and will be monsters with lots of cores (way past the 4 cores in the current Kaby Lake X). You can even overclock some of them. You will need to spend at least $1k to 44 pcie lanes. And the 1 core monster is $1k

Finally there is AMD with Rizen which has more cores at lower clock speeds. And with lower prices

  • Rizen 1900X. It is 8 cores and about $500 vs the Kaby Lake version. Also all supports ECC with this Much memory you need ECC
  • Threadripper. Ships later this month 16 cores and 60 PCI Express lanes. Not sure the price but perhaps $1k
  • Epyx. This is 32 cores and 128 PCIe lanes so perfect for big multithreaded jobs.
  • X399 motherboard for the above

Net net some tough tradeoffs. Main advice is to hold off if you can until July to see these new parts. Limp by in x99 if you must. But it will be interesting to see what works better an Epyx vs Kant Lake X or HAswell-EP vs Rizen 7

Quick Slideshow for Noobs

If you have a bunch of photos and just want a random slide show to appear on a TV, what’s the easiest path?

  • If you are lucky your TV has a built in player, that is when you stick a USB key in, it knows how to read the slides and play it. Our Samsung from five years ago try to do this, but the user interface is horrible. Or some of them let you create a movie and then play directly from the USB key as with 2016 Samsung TVs.
  • Next up is to bite the bullet and get a laptop. Now Mac Photos lost the ability to show random slideshows, so instead you have to use the Screensaver mode want then put the machine into that mode to get it. Pretty inconvenient and there isn’t music.
  • Another alternative is to rip out your Apple TV and use the screensaver mode on that thing. This works with iCloud Photo sharing pretty well. Select the photos you want click on the little export icon at the upper right. Pick iCloud Photo Sharing and then this makes an album.
  • On the AppleTV, you then make that album the screensaver view and then it will just come up.

Optimizing Synology disk storage with 8TB drives

Synology has really made it easy to get yourself into trouble. We have a 12 drive Synology at home and a 8 bay plus older Drobo 8 bay and a Drobo 4 bay. Somehow we’ve ended up with terabytes and terabytes of storage, but I’m always running out on one volume or another, so here are some recommendations. While expensive, a 12 bay array is super flexible, it is about $1K to buy one of these, but the Synology operating system by itself is worth it. Frequent updates and lots of features.

The main problem is that even with enterprise class drives, you are likely to get errors if you have rebuild a RAID array. The math for 10TB drives is that you get an error every 10^15 bits you read, that’s about 120TB per error. That doesn’t sound so bad until you realize that if a RAID drive fails all the other drives have to be read. Let’s do an example:

  1. You have 6 x 10TB drives in a RAID 6 array.
  2. You lose one drive, now the other 5x10TB drives or 50TB have to be read. But you still have one drive of redundancy.
  3. The odds are 50/50 (120TB per error/50TB needed to be read) that the rebuild will fail, that is the second.
  4. Now you have no more redundancy and you still have to read 4x10TB to rebuild the first parity drive. The odds are 1 in 3 that this rebuild will fail and you will lose the whole array.
  5. If you do all the math, then there is a 50% * 33% = 16% chance that upon losing a drive, you will lose the entire array.

That’s not designed to make anyone feel so good particularly if you use cheaper consumer drives that fail 10^14 times (or about 12TB.failure). That means reading a full 8TB drive has a 1 in 3 chance of an error?!!! Even a 6TB drive has a 50% chance of a problem.

How did this happen, well basically, the capacity of drives has gone up by 100x but reliability has not. The old 100GB drives have the same error rates as the new 10TB ones.

Net, net, what’s the solution?

  1. SSD caches. well one big ones is to use SSDs because their error rates are much lower. Consumer SSDs are 10^16 and enterprise SSDs are 10^17 and they are much less dense at typically 1TB, but also more expensive. This means that you don’t read the hard disks much. In looking at our internal hard disk use, a RAID 1 1TB SSD (about $800 worth or thee same as a 10TB) has a low chance of failing. And you are not using the disks super much.
  2. More RAID arrays. The other solution is to double and triple up on backup arrays and offline storage. You are basically adding more backups, so more have to fail. At home, that’s why we have a backup for each RAID array and then an offsite backup. This theoretically reduces the likelihood of failure by 9x (since all three systems have to fail to lose data).
  3. Error correction above the file system with btrfs. For really vital files, you need to put error correction above the level of the file system. The biggest hole here is an easy system for recovering errors in JPEGS (which are dead with a one bit error). Most other files like movies do recover (since you get a new key frame) or Word documents where again there is redundancy. Btrfs while new does checksumming for data as well as metadata. This doesn’t protect you again disk rebuilds but does help when you get NBERs just reading disks (which can happen). It puts a CRC on files in essence.

Net, net in planning for using 10TB drives, here seems to be a good layout which balances the bit error problems with density for a  DS243+ 12 drive array that can handle 10TB

  1. Use two drives for 1TB SSDs. Use enterprise grade to 10^17 NBER, so for a 1TB drive, the odds that a rebuild will have a problem is very small (10^17 bits/10^12*8 = 10^5 or 1/10,000 chance of an error). For most of your data, you will only be using the SSDs which is good from a disk error rate point of view. For most systems, you can look at the SSD cache advisor, but it the use is reasonably local, this is going to have a 90% hit rate (in other words, it reduces the number of accesses to the hard drives by 10x). Using btrfs on top of this also adds a checksum on top so the chance of a normal running bit error is very low certainly.
  2. For the remaining 10 drives (100TB of storage), you should format them as two RAID 6 arrays (that is 5 drives or 50TB with two parity drives) and the main thing to worry about is failure during rebuilds. This means that on a failure, you will have to read 40TB of data so will have a one in three chance of a read failure as noted above and then with the remaining 30TB, you have a ¼ chance so total is about 8% chance of a total array failure).  This does mean you are committing in essence 40% of your drives to raid, but it reduces the chance of a problem on rebuild.
  3. To further handle the issue, have a backup RAID array, so now the chance of total failure drops to 8% of 8% or 0.64%. Finally go with offsite storage (AWS advertises 0.999999 chance of data lose with their system, so you now are at 0.00064%).

The math is a little different for our older DS1211+ which is 8 drives with a maximum of 8TB per drive. In this design:

  1. Use two drives with 1TB SSDs as a cache this reduces the number of bits read dramatically in the normal case as above and essentially prevents read issues.
  2. With the remaining six drives you have 6×8=48TB of raw storage. At this level, if you have a single SHR2 or RAID6 partition, you will have on a single failure, the need to read in the worst case 40TB of data so this is the same error probabilities as the above or about 8% that an array will fail. The ratio of data is actually better in this case as you are using only ? of the drives rather than 40%.

So here is how to implement all of the above. Synology has a pretty confusing array of applications for dealing with files, there are a basically three levels, first there is the Storage Manager which is a top level application available in the upper right hand button, then in the control panel there is the File  You use this to first create a Disk Group. Use this to allocate the disks properly and provide the basic RAID support. You will likely want to use SHR2 which is RAID6 but more flexible in that all the disks do not have to be identical. Then in the Control Panel there is the File Sharing applet that lets you create shares on top of the volumes and assign permissions.

When you get the thing, you don’t want to take the default, this will create a volume for you on the bare disks. This isn’t super flexible. Instead, you want to create a disk group first. Why? Because then you can move your volumes around or have them share space. As an example, suppose you have a volume for user data and another for say movies and music. Without a disk array, if you make a mistake you could end up with lots of space for user data but nothing for movies. By putting both volumes on a single disk array, they share the empty space.

The other reason is that the larger the array, the less you spend on redundant disks. So for instance with two 4 drive arrays, you would normally use SHR (this is a flexible version of RAID 5 or a single drive failure). So you would have two RAID 5 partitions, a double disk failure on any one array is catastrophic. If you use RAID 6 then you still use two drives for failure, but now you can tolerate two failures and you still have your data.

After you make our disk groups, you allocate volumes, unlike disk groups, don’t choose max, what you want to do is leave some unallocated free space. The best thing to do is to have different volumes (said for data or for music) and then they can share free space. If you have just one massive volume, then it is hard to allocate and move them around. I find you don’t want a hundred, but having 2-3 really big groups is good. For us, data, movies and tv shows are the big chunks at home.

The above means that in addition to a single array, you want a backup array as well and probably an offsite backup as well. That is what we use at home, we backup onto another array and then into the cloud. So even if one system has a 5% chance of failure, the odds are you will still have data.

SSD caching. If you have a workload which is pretty concentrate, then you should use the SSD Cache advisor to tell you what you should do. If you just want read caching, then you can use a single SSD, if you want read and write caching, then you want two SSDs in RAID 1. You need RAID 1 because if an SSD fails with a write, then you have corrupted the array. For our workloads, it shows that a 1TB read SSD is good for our media files whereas for our personal files a 256TB suffices. Synology has direct support for SSD caching and you set it up in the Volume manager.

Here is the full configuration step-by-step:

  1. Insert a pair of SSDs into the system and your 10TB drives. you can use lower capacity drives, but the math above assures you that the failure rates will only better with lower density because the drive error rates seem to be independent of drive size.  Use the Storage Manager SSD section to configure these for read/write caching.
  2. Install all the hard drives, then in Storage Manager/Disk Group create two disk group each using five drives for the 12-bay system or a single group of six drives for the 8-bay system. Create these as SHR2.
  3. Now create volumes in the Storage Manager/Volumes on top make sure to select btrfs as the file system type. Don’t completely allocate the volumes, leave some spare space so you can manage it. You probably want one or two  big volumes so it is easy to manage them.
  4. Now create public shares on top of volumes with Control Panel/Shared Folders. This  is where you add permissions.

If you have existing volumes, you have to create enough space as disk groups and volumes once created can’t change their configuration. Fortunately, the File Station and a Copy To commands that you can right click and move things to temporary locations.

Once that is done, you can destroy the volumes and disk groups you don’t need and then add the extra disks to a Disk Group.

How to get a 15% discount on Netflix via iTunes or get 5x via Chase Ink

There are two ways to make this happen:

  1. Sign up for Netflix with Chase Ink, this will give you the equivalent of 11% off if you have a Chase Sapphire card and can use the points.
  2. Buy a bunch of iTunes gift cards and use them to pay for your Netflix. This works, but is a bit of a pain.

Here’s how to do it:

It turns out that you can get a 15% discount on Netflix just by billing Netflix through iTunes. To do this, you login to your iOS or AppleTV and click on restart membership this then pushes Netflix bills through iTunes.

Now watch for relatively frequent 15% of iTunes gift cards through PayPal and voila you can now double dip. To get this triple dip:

  1. Use to get a rebate for going to eBay, this is normally 1-2% or so.
  2. Join the eBay rewards program to get another 1% off unless you are buying computers and gift cards. Boohoo!

However this doesn’t apply to give cards, so, as an aside you can actually VOIP through the Netflix application, so they make it super easy.

  1. Use your credit card to get 2-6% off depending on your card
  2. Then get the 15% off for buying the gift card.
  3. Logon to iTunes and redeem
  4. Cancel your Netflix account and wait for it to time out (normally until the end of month June 28th for instance)
  5. After your account expires, logon to Netflix on an Apple device and restart your membership from there.

It’s small, but this adds up to about a 20% discount off of iTunes

Hex release skewer on a Disc brake bike

One thing that has been bothering me is that two of my bikes have quick release skewers and disc brakes. Although unlikely, it is possible that the QR can come loose. Most folks are shifting to through axle which is more reliable.

However, it turns out that you can convert from QR to thru axle by going to the maker of your hub and getting a different kit, then you get a vise and knock out the center piece (or ask a bike shop to do it and voila, you have converted). Of course, this doesn’t help if you bike has QR style frame (that is it is open at the bottom where it goes.

With DT Swiss, they have a nice chart that shows you the kit you need, so there is another long term project.

As an aside, here are the standard axle radius and lengths:

Another alternative is to replace your QR skewers with a rear wheel skewer.

  • 5mm hex release skewer so in effect you lose the quick release but it is really in there to make sure you have tightened down hard. In terms of lengths, the typically standard for road bikes have been 100mm front and 130 mm rear, but with disc brakes they are have typically 135mm in the rear (the front is the same). You can get these from. The steel ones are pretty cheap and are mainly sold for theft prevention. Really cheap at $13 for a set
  • Control Tech Ti Race Light Tech ($64 for a pair at Jensen USA) these are just 26 grams in titanium and don’t have quick release or they are 47 grams in steel.
  • DT Swiss RWS E-Thru Road, this is kind of the best of both worlds, you get a thru axle that you tighten down. Comes in 100mm for the front and 142mm for the rear. This weighs 58 grams, but is compatible with quick release frames. They are heavier but easier to position and more expensive at $43 per axle.

Also remember that disc brakes are about one pound heavier as well, so if you’ve got disc and paid the penalty might as well be safe


Getting D-fly wireless to work

Well this had lots of parts but is pretty cool. Basically with the older Ultegra Di2 system, you need to add a wireless transmitter to update it and for it to give you gear and other information. It’s not really documented how to make this all work, so here’s a quick guide:

  1. DN101 Battery. First you need a new battery as it has the additional memory
  2. You need to update the battery firmware by downloading a Windows application and plugging it into the battery charger for the Di2 system with a USB A connector
  3. Then you need to go buy either the EW-WU101 which plugs in at the derailleur or the EW-WU111 which is inline and plugs in inside the frame or at the front junction box.
  4. You need to buy this little plastic tool to plug and unplug the DI2 wires. There is a no really clear instructions for how to do this, so you have to search YouTube, but basically to unplug it you take the rounded end and it grips the wires and you pull to pop them out. To plug them in, the wire goes in along the longer axis and then you use it to push it in.
  5. Now download the IOS or Android Phone or iPad application from Shimano called E-Tube (don’t get me started on the names!).
  6. Now to get it to connect with Bluetooth LE, there’s a tricky part. Click on the junction box button that is underneath. Do not hold it otherwise you will change the shifting. As soon as you see the red and green lights blink alternatively on the junction box (either underneath your stem or in the bar tube). Stop.
  7. Now to to the application and hit connect, it will force you to set a new passcode for bluetooth (the default is 000000). Don’t forget that code!
  8. You can now look through the various parameters and select what you want. The most important is to update the firmware (so you no longer have to drag your laptop out to update the shifting system.

This is all pretty cool, so now with this unit, you can use ANT+ or BLE compatible systems to read:

  1. The current gear you are in
  2. The battery state of your shifting system

Getting ready for hiking with tents and trekking poles

Seems like we are always needing more of these, so once again, let’s take a look at ultralight gear for tents, trekking poles and water purifiers, so the ultralight list at Outdoor Gearlabs is super helpful


Well, there is a tradeoff between lightweight and being sturdy, but we have the Big Agnes UV 2 which is just awesome and can fit three in a pinch, but Outdoor Gear Labs has great reviews. Two are basically tied for those who are frequent campers and backpackers:

  1. Zpacks Duplex Ultralight 2. ($600 direct). If you are really insane, then this is the tent for you, it is only 21 ounces mainly because you use your trekking poles to hold it up (clever!) but costs a fortune.
  2. Nemo Dagger 2P ($400 from REI) is a big heavier at 3 lb 12 ounces (Ok everything is relative), but more durable. If you are an REI member, then you get 10% off as a rebate and I hope you have a free REI card so you get an additional 3% off. Finally use and you can score about 2% more.
  3. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 2P ($450 from EMS, Backcountry, Moosejaw). We got this through a friend for about half off and the reuglar UL2 was a dream. This one is high volume and the only drawback is that to get to 3 lb 1 ounce, the material is very, very delicate. Also, EMS, Backcountry and Moosejaw regularly have big discounts, so sign up for their newsletters. Also cashbackmonitor regularly shows 12% rebates from these sellers plus whatever you get on your card. So it’s expensive, but that takes a little sting out of it.

As an aside note you will also need a footprint to go underneath, you can either get a dedicated one from the vendor or just get a 4×8 Tyvek for $16 from Amazon

If you want the 3 person versions, they are just a little bit heavier and more expensive but work better for bigger folks.

Trekking Poles

There are lots of fancy ones out there now and you can even get them at CostCo, but two years ago we got the Gossamer Gear LT3, these are fixed height, but weigh in at 3 ounces each. They are fixed in height though, so you need a traveling tube to carry them. Now looking at Outdoor Gear Labs and Switchback Travel again they like are heavier at 17 ounces or so, so:

  1. Gossamer Gear LT5. Just out, this is 9 ounces in total, so much lighter and has three connectors, delicate as it is carbon fiber, but lightweight. It’s expensive at $195 but comes from a small vendor, so feel good about helping the little guy.
  2. Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z. These are 10 ounces so close to the Gossamer, but cheaper at $160 from big retailers, so you can get another 10% offer pretty easily like Backcountry. For about $100, you can get the aluminum versions that are 2-3 ounces heavier. These are fixed, so use the sizing chart, but basically 120cm is for 5’7” to 5’11” and 130cm for taller folks.
  3. Gossamer Gear LT3. If you are a real weight fiend,this is just 6 ounces per pair and cost $120 for a pair or so, but is fixed length, personally, I haven’t found that to matter too much, just grip the pole at at a different place. Also, get the one with out a strap, you don’t really need it, just get a little string and tack it on. The main limitation is that they are hard to take with you on airplanes or stick into your pack.

For the more durable:

  1. Leki Micro Vario Carbon. This one is relatively light at 14.5 ounces and packs small. It is less durable, but should work for those who are more athletic. $200 so it is premium prices, but light.
  2. Leki Carbon Ti. 15 ounces and packs longer. It’s a little cheaper at $180

Sleeping Pads

We have been using the Thermarest Neo-Rest XLite based on Outdoor Gear labs and Switchback Travel and it is great, so looking again the choices are:

  1. Therma-rest Neo-Rest XLite still seems like they make the top pad, although at $160 at REI and others right now it should give you a little pause but at 12 ounces with an R value of 15 it is worth it.
  2. Neo-Rest XLite Short. This is much shorter for just the torso and is $130 and just 8 ounces
  3. Gossamer Nightlight. If you are really hard core, you can get some high density foam and it comes in at 5-6 ounces mainly because it is only for your torso. The sacrifices we make for weight.


Well, we’ve been using the Osprey Atmos 65 as our ultralight weight choice and it has been great, but what’s new from Outdoor Gear Labs review of ultralight backpacks with the note that around here we need to carry bear canisters so can’t just take the lightest pack:

  1. Z Packs Arcblast 55. This really is lightweight at 21 ounces (?!) but you should onliy carry 10-20 pounds. Also you can customize it and add weight to it, but it will be more versatile.
  2. Osprey Exos 48. This still remains on top weight just 37.4 ounces and can carry just about anything. Note there is a 38 and a 58, so you can actually get something larger if you need it. The main thing is that it is great for 30 pound loads, so get this if you need to carry a bigger load.
  3. Gossamer Gear Gorilla. Man these guys are cleaning up in this category. It’s a little heavier but can handle 30 pounds. It is pretty small though, so hard to fit a bear canister at 38 liters.


We have a Snow Peak Titanium pot and it is a miracle of lightness, so what does Outdoor Gear labs like now:

  1. G4Free. This is $20 at Amazon and perfect for hiking. It is 1.2 pounds of stuff
  2. Snow Peak Titanium. This is an incredible 7 ounces for three pieces and it really only good for heating water (about all we do on trips). It is $80 at Amazon.

Water Purifiers

We had great luck with the Sawyer water filter combined with a good water system is the best way to go. Just one ounce or so. It’s $20 from Amazon

Sun Hats

OK they look dorky, but the sun is not your friend while hiking, the Sunday Afternoon Adventure Hat has a great rating. $38 at Amazon.

Hydration Packs

We fell in love with the MSR Dromlite system a few years ago. The four liter bag is perfect and doesn’t leak, so Outdoor Gearlabs still likes them but also recommends:

  1. Geigerrig Hydration Pack. IT’s main claim to fame is that you can pressurize it, so no more sucking, just open and drink 🙂
  2. Hydrapak Shapeshift. This is only $20 and is super lightweight and like the Geigerrig, you can dish wash it since you can flip it inside out.
  3. Dromlite. Still the best if you don’t need it as a hydration pack but just for water storage. Light and strong.

Water bottles

Hard to mess with success in water bottles, the $9 at Amazon Nalgene wide mouth is still awesome and the $40 at Amazon Hydro Flask is the perfect insulated one to keep in the car.