Some hikers ask me, “Do I hike in the summer?” Yes. Despite my focus on winter backpacking and my dislike of the bugs and hot weather, I try to get out year-round, even in the summer and early fall when there is minimal or no snow. The goal is to camp on snow whenever possible even in July and sometimes in August. This usually means going farther and higher up, but it allows our group to experience some excellent views. It also provides a comfortable clean surface and allows us to leave no trace where we stay.
One of the best ways to lower the amount of weight you are carrying in winter is to get an ultralight backpack. Years ago when I set out to find a light winter backpack, I settled on the Granite Gear Leopard A.C. 58. Up until now, it was my gold standard. It was built with Granite Gear’s award-winning “AC” (AirCurrent) suspension, made with durable 100- and 210-denier high-tenacity Cordura nylon, and has a 58 liter/40-lb. capacity. At around 3 pounds (lid removed) it allowed me to keep my total winter pack weight at around 28 pounds, or 32 pounds with snowshoes attached (both base weight + consumables). It worked so well that when my pack began to show signs of wear, I resisted the newer Granite Gear packs and instead picked up a second-hand Leopard that I kept around as a backup.