Packrafting Camp, Beartrap Wilderness (Fuji Velvia)

A Packrafter’s Camp

Beartrap Canyon Wilderness, Montana

Nikon FM3a, Nikkor AI-S 28/2.8, Fuji Velvia 50 (Shot at ISO 100 and Push-Processed)

I spent a few nights in the Beartrap Canyon Wilderness in April and I honestly can’t remember carrying my pack there. It’s like that, when it’s really light. Even with a large packraft, PFD, and paddle, and food, I wasn’t carrying more than about 23 pounds.

This is when Really Light Gear shines. Like the 5 ounce tarp shown in this photo, the Stealth Nano, which in spite of its lofty expense, has proven so popular that Backpacking Light is doing another production run of them after selling out in just a few weeks. I love this tarp, and it’s my favorite shelter. It was meant to be a “casual ultralight” shelter for short trips where I couldn’t trust the integrity of Cuben Fiber at this fabric weight. However, after enduring horrific winds while camped in the open sage of the Tobacco Root foothills in March, I’ve changed my tune back to what I’ve always believed:

Small tarps pitched to the ground, with good stakes, and extra guylines, can weather the worst storms as well as just about anything.

This of course is open to debate, as it always has been. Some issues are brought up here and I offer that link to you because small tarp campers like to use breathable bivy sacks as well, which I find invaluable in foul weather regardless of the size, or type, of tarp or floorless shelter you have. In fair weather, with no wind, or no bugs, or no snow, then you can leave the bivy at home and spend the weight of the bivy on sleeping bag insulation or a roomier shelter.

The campsite above is in an open meadow, because I like views more than I like weather protection, and I wanted to be able to wake up in the morning, peek out of my tarp, and see the sunlight creeping up on the hills behind me, because alpenglow has a therapeutic property that is hard to describe.

That therapy is the primary reason why my selection of a three-season shelter is governed by the views it provides, more than just about any other feature. I like taking naps in the afternoon under open skies but don’t like getting bit in the process by mosquitoes. On clear nights, I like to look out my shelter and see what’s around me. And, when in grizzly country, it just sort of feels better to know that I’m visible, and so is the bear.

I’ll talk more about views when my review of the Lightheart Solo tent is published this summer, and my Lightheart Duo review is published this fall, over at Backpacking Light. It offers the ability to have Three Hundred and Sixty Degree Views, like any double wall tent with a mesh body and removable fly, but with the Lightheart, it’s a lot easier to restore Stormworthiness (unfurl, then set two stakes: a 15 second operation) than most other tents.