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Lighten Up!
Stripped-Down Gear for Ounce-Counting Weight Fanatics

by Mark Eller

Let it be said first that lighter is not necessarily faster. There’s always another gram that can be cut — you could have the paint stripped off your bike, or tie your shoes with fishing line — but at some point, issues like durability and comfort become as important as weight. Rest assured that the gear in this review isn’t just ultra-light, it’s also full-function race equipment, capable of withstanding multiple seasons.

Striving to bring you the lightest entry in each category, we had to make some judgment calls. Take shelters as an example: We considered an array of products, ranging from one-person bivy sacks to two-man tents and tarps of all sizes. Any of these might make the right choice for a particular race, so we selected two of the most versatile, and featherweight, options.

How much weight might you cut with this gear? That depends on what’s already in your closet. If you’ve been ounce-conscious all along, you might stand to shed just a pound or two. Less scrupulous shoppers might literally cut their total race package by half — a difference they would feel on every step toward the finish line.


SOSpenders Sport Series Auto/Manual PFD SOSpenders Sport Series Auto/Manual PFD
$109
Weight: 27 ounces

This inflatable PFD is much easier to pack away (when uninflated) for carrying in races, and is much less bulky than traditional foam vests. The Type V Coast Guard rating may not be allowed for all races (many require a Type III rating), so check with officials before bringing this low-volume PFD; (800) 858-5876; www.sospenders.com


Werner Kalliste Ultralight Paddle Werner Kalliste Ultralight Paddle
$403
Weight: 20 ounces

This one-piece paddle with foam-core blade construction is stiff and extremely light (it's the lightest-weight paddle we found). The hollow carbon-fiber shaft sheds weight, and the foam-core blades add buoyancy, which saves energy on every stroke; (800) 275-3311; www.wernerpaddles.com


GoLite Reed Rain Pants GoLite Reed Rain Pants
$69
Weight: 5 ounces

These pants provide serious protection from cold and rain, yet pack down to a baseball-sized wad. The GoDri waterproof material and the fully taped seams get the job done. The elastic waist with drawcord is a nice touch; (888) 546-5483; www.golite.com


Apple iPod digital music player MontBell Ultra Light Wind Shell
$99
Weight: 2.4 ounces

Several companies offer minimalist shells at about 3 ounces, but if you absolutely have to have the lightest wind jacket available, look no farther. The Ultra Light series — there’s also a pant (2.3 ounces) — employs 15-denier nylon, treated with a surprisingly effective DWR coating. You even get a chest pocket and a full-length zipper; (303) 449-5331; www.montbell.com


Montane Featherweight Wind Pants Montane Featherweight Wind Pants
$69
Weight: 3.6 ounces

Made with extremely packable Pertex fabric, these pants are somewhat water resistant and very breathable. Features include an elastic waistband with a drawcord, knee-length zips and elastic cuffs; (800) 366-2666; www.libertymtn.com


MontBell Torrent Flier jacket MontBell Torrent Flier jacket
$289
Weight: 12 ounces

A few years ago, you'd have been hard-pressed to find a true waterproof/breathable jacket weighing under 20 ounces: The Torrent Flier cuts the old standard nearly by half, without sacrificing features or functionality. The three-layer Gore-Tex XCR membrane provides reliable weather protection, while a tricot liner and deep pit zips help to regulate internal moisture and heat in clammy environments; (303) 449-5331; www.montbell.com


GoLite Lite-Weight Top GoLite Lite-Weight Top
$45
Weight: 2 ounces

The thin polyester material of this long-sleeve base layer provides just enough warmth for early-morning runs or moderately chilly overnight treks. Surprisingly, some base layers (especially the ones with zippers) can weigh up to twice as much as this top from GoLite. If you buy the shirt in white, it’s also a good option for sunny days in warm temps — the wicking properties are first-rate; (888) 546-5483; www.golite.com


Salomon XA Series Shoes Salomon XA Series Shoes
$100
Weight: 23 ounces(men's size 9)

A racing flat for off-road running, the XA Series feels fast from the moment you put it on. The chassis is only moderately protective — it wouldn’t be our choice for multi-day treks — but the sole grips rocky trails securely, and the stretch tongue keeps dirt out of the shoe; (971) 234-7001; www.salomonsports.com


Life-link Guide Ultra-Light Poles Life-link Guide Ultra-Light Poles
$100
Weight: 14 ounces

These well-balanced poles utilize carbon-fiber construction, which makes them 20 to 40 percent lighter than standard aluminum models. They can be converted into an avalanche probe, and fitted with a self-arrest handle for use on glaciers. They can also extend to 49 inches and collapse to 30 inches for storage in your pack; (800) 443-8620; www.life-link.com


Wingnut Hyperlight Pack Wingnut Hyperlight Pack
$125
Weight: 16 ounces

A new entry in the increasingly crowded field of AR-specific packs, the 1600 cubic-inch Hyperlight employs a sailcloth main body, scaled-down buckles and a minimalist suspension to keep the weight off. During a 24-hour race, ASM’s testers found the pack allowed for a natural running gate, while holding light loads securely; (800) 763-9786
www.wingnutgear.com


CAMP STH Harness CAMP STH Harness
$50
Weight: 8.5 ounces

Adventure racers have no need for haul tags, multiple gear loops and other climbing-specific bells and whistles. For a stripped-down harness that’s CE approved (a climbing safety standard) and is easy to get in and out of, look no farther than the CAMP STH; (877) 421-2267; www.camp-usa.com


Petzl Tibloc Ascender Petzl Tibloc Ascender
$22
Weight: 1.4 ounces

There’s no lighter option for ascending a rope than this device — even a standard-size Prussik loop weighs more. (The Tibloc, however, must be mated with a carabiner.) The innovative design grips tenaciously on single ropes from 8mm to 11mm in diameter. Check with your race director to find out if a caged ascending device (like the CAMP SOLO) is required; (801) 926-1500; www.petzl.com


Climb Axe Big Air Rappel Device Climb Axe Big Air Rappel Device
$11
Weight: 2.5 ounces

There is a lighter device on the market, but at 0.9 ounces the DMM Bugette (www.dmmclimbing.com) is so tiny that it gets frighteningly hot on long rappels. Our pick is the Big Air — it’s a shade lighter than the popular Black Diamond ATC (3.0 ounces/www.bdel.com), and works just as well. $11; (800) 895-0048; www.climbaxe.com


CAMP Solo Ascender CAMP Solo Ascender
$34
Weight: 4.6 ounces

A handle-less aluminum cage keeps weight to a minimum, while the steel rope clamp provides a secure grip on lines from 8mm to 13mm in diameter. $34; (877) 421-2267; www.camp-usa.com


Light and Motion Solo Logic MV Bike Light Light and Motion Solo Logic MV Bike Light
$270
Weight: 13.1 ounces (including 7.2-volt battery)

This powerful light combines optical quality glass with high color temperatures (up to 3,400 K) to create a bright beam that belies the unit's diminutive size. It features three settings, so burn time can be adjusted from two to four-and-a-half hours. It mates with any of the company's battery packs: The 7.2-volt NiMH is the lightest and most powerful of the lot. The lamp can be mounted directly to a helmet or handlebars; (831) 645-1538; www.lightandmotion.com


Gerber Tracer Headlamp Gerber Tracer Headlamp
$25
Weight: 1.8 ounces (including AAA battery)

The Tracer's patented circuit booster creates a reasonably bright beam -- strong enough for reading maps or running on non-technical trails -- from two tiny LED units. A single AAA battery yields 10 hours of peak power, with 40 hours of useable light. The light pivots up and down and features an adjustable headband; (888) 777-6805; www.gerbergear.com


Big Agnes Superlight Seedhouse Tent Big Agnes Superlight Seedhouse Tent
$299
Weight: 51 ounces

An innovative design allows you to give this already light tent an even lighter configuration: By combining just the fly and the optional Footprint ($50) tent bottom, you get an ultra-light (2 pounds, 7 ounces) tarp-like structure, but with better protection from ground water than just a tarp; (877) 554-8975; www.bigagnes.com


Sierra Designs Wicked Fastbag Sierra Designs Wicked Fastbag
$180
Weight: 15 ounces

About one third the weight of a standard three-season sleeping bag, the 800-pill goose down insulated summer-weight bag is rated to 35 degrees. It's surprisingly roomy for a mummy cut bag, and packs into a 6- x 11-inch stuff sack; (800) 635-0461; www.sierradesigns.com


Granite Gear White Lightnin’ Tarp Granite Gear White Lightnin’ Tarp
$115
Weight: 19 ounces

For situations where a tarp will do instead of a tent
(mild weather, no bugs), this minimalist tarp can save pounds. The edges and center seam of the 8- x 10-foot White Lightnin’ are bound with elasticized tape, allowing the 30-denier fabric to be stretched tight from eight points along the edge and one in the center. Comes with light cordage and stuffs into an attached stuff sack the size of an airline pillow; (218) 834-6157; www.granitegear.com


Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Foam Pad Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Foam Pad
$17
Weight: 9 ounces (size "Short")

Cheaper and lighter than any air/foam pad, a simple closed-cell foam sheet provides enough insulation and padding for exhausted racers to sleep in comfort. If you’re really going light, try cutting the 48-inch length by half, and use it to pad just your hips; (800) 531-9531;www.thermarest.com


Wingnut Hyperlight Pack Giro Atmos Helmet
$199
Weight: 8.5 ounces

One of these will sit atop Lance's dome in each mass-start leg the 2004 Tour de France. While most top-of-the-line helmets weigh in at around 10 ounces, the Atmos scales down with 26 air vents, and features an easily adjustable suspension system. The highly sculpted profile is the result of extensive wind tunnel testing; (831) 420-4010; www.giro.com


Topeak Pocket Rocket Master Blaster Pump Topeak Pocket Rocket Master Blaster Pump
$14
Weight: 4 ounces

This high-efficiency aluminum pump delivers up to 110 psi, and features a padded head for easy griping and handling. At 4 ounces, it weighs about the same as most CO2 cartridges (but you can re-use the pump). The Rocket Master Blaster is micro sized (8.75"x1.65"x1") and accommodates both Schraeder and Presta valves; (781) 878-9533; www.topeak.com


SpeedCific Aramid Bottle Cage SpeedCific Aramid Bottle Cage
$39
Weight: 0.2 ounces

Made with the same material that Dupont brands "Kevlar," this ridiculously light cage is as minimalist as it gets. The Aramid comes with a specially designed bottle, and is designed for road bikes, but the company expects to release a MTB version this summer. (The mountain bike model could be twice as heavy and it would still be the lightest cage on the market.); (866) 292-0124; www.speedcific.com

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