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About Murphy Mountaineering

My name is Brett Murphy. I live in the beautiful mountain town of Wrightwood, California, just off of the Pacific Crest Trail. I'm an avid hiker, backpacker, skier and mountaineer. My job as a Law Enforcement Officer doesn't leave a whole lot of time for adventure, but every chance I get, I escape into the mountains to explore somewhere I've never been or bag another peak. Like everyone else, I started off as that guy carrying everything I possibly could on my back. Over the years, I've really gotten into the idea of Ultralight Hiking, which has ultimately led me to design some of the coolest Ultralight Tents for everyone to enjoy. This is my story...

My Path to Ultralight Hiking

As a child, I grew up hiking around my hometown of Wrightwood and up in the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. When I turned 18, I joined the local Search and Rescue Team and quickly became a gear junkie, buying every piece of SAR gear and hiking gear I could get my hands on. With all of my new gear, I decided to venture off on my first backpacking trip, covering a section of the John Muir Trail from Happy Isles (Yosemite) to Red's Meadow near Mammoth Lakes, California. A little fearful of what I might face in the backcountry, I elected to bring as much gear as I could fit in my 80 liter pack. I stuffed that thing with tons of food, several water bottles, cameras, a gigantic first aid kit, carabiners, webbing, my GPS unit, big plastic waterproof cases for my electronics, a towel, several changes of clothes, plus a ton of luxury items just in case... Altogether, my pack weighed over 60 pounds. Once I started hiking, it took me all day to climb the first couple thousand feet (only a few miles) to reach the backpacker's campground at Little Yosemite Valley, where I just about collapsed. My body was sore, I was dehydrated and barely had enough energy to set up camp, filter my water, cook dinner and crash out for the night.

The next morning, it took me a couple hours to take down camp and jam all of my gear back inside my pack. Then I was off, heading up the hill on my way toward Half Dome, full of excitement. A couple miles into my hike, my energy started crashing terribly. I would take my pack off and rest every chance I got. I decided to stash my heavy pack in some bushes as I veered off of the JMT and headed up toward the Half Dome cables. Climbing the cables wasn't bad, but it drained whatever energy I had left. When I reunited with my heavy pack, I felt discouraged and quickly realized I wasn't going to make my goal destination of Sunrise Camp. I remember hiking a flat section of trail and my body just started shutting down on me. I would struggle to walk about 50 feet before dropping my pack on the ground and resting for another 10 minutes. I ran out of water and barely made it to a small stream, where I stayed for the night, broken and disappointed with myself. I knew what my problem was... I was carrying way too much weight in my pack; most of which was gear that I wasn't even using.

On the third day of my journey, I hydrated as much as I could, ate a full breakfast and hit the trail. The morning was rough, as I hit a lot of elevation gain right away. As I slumbered down the trail, I was thinking to myself all of the items in my backpack that I would mail off when I hit the post office in Tuolumne Meadows. I arrived in Tuolumne Meadows right before the post office closed. I asked for a giant cardboard box and started throwing most of the contents from my pack into the box. Unfortunately, I was so desperate to shed weight at this point, I even threw my nice warm sleeping bag in the box and mailed it off to myself to pick up later in Mammoth. Overall, the cardboard box with all of my discarded gear weighed in at about 25 pounds. My pack was still heavy, but not nearly as heavy as it was before. Sleeping the next two nights was pretty rough, especially when I got up to the higher altitudes and spent the night at Thousand Island Lake. Without a sleeping bag (which turned out to be a terrible mistake) I wrapped myself in an emergency blanket and heated up water bottles to try to keep warm all night. In the morning, after seeing frost on the ground and on my gear, I decided that ditching the sleeping bag wasn't exactly the best way to cut weight. There had to be a better way...

This trip kicked off my journey to cut weight from my pack and slowly mold my gear into the perfect ultralight setup. Living in Wrightwood, I would often give rides to PCT hikers and started asking them about all of their gear. It was here when I first learned about this new material people were hiking with, called Cuben Fiber. It amazed me how light some of their backpacks and tents were. Not long after, I bought my first Cuben Fiber backpack and a Cuben Fiber tent to go with it. What a difference those two items made to the base weight of my gear! This new material was like a gift from God; extremely lightweight, waterproof, stretch resistant and durable.

As my love of the mountains continued to grow, I started bagging local 14,000' peaks in the Sierras. I took a trip to Africa and climbed Kilimanjaro, where everyone was amazed by the awesome gear I had with me. Wanting to bag something bigger, I decided to plan a trip to Denali to climb North America's highest peak. On my first Denali expedition (which was unguided), my team and I hit a series of bad storms and we were stuck in our tents for several days on end, only leaving our tents to dig out our camp or grab more clean snow for melting. When you spend that much time staring at the inner walls of a tent, a lot of things start going through your head. I picked up my pencil and notepad and started sketching designs for what I thought would make an awesome tent. Unfortunately, due to relentless bad weather, illness and the scare of frostbite on our 3-man team, we made the tough decision to head back down to basecamp.

When I got home, all I could think about was going back up to Denali... but this time, with better and lighter gear. I looked at every piece of gear I owned and tried to find a way to make it lighter. I started ordering some of the thicker Cuben Fiber material, bought myself an industrial grade sewing machine and taught myself how to sew. It wasn't long before I was designing and sewing together my own gear, from Cuben Fiber snow anchors, to a pyramid shaped cook tent and even a vestibule for my other 4-season single wall tent. When I finally returned to Denali, I was excited to test out the new gear; and it didn't disappoint. Our team experienced high winds and blizzards just like the first trip... but this time we had the luxury of a seemingly bomb-proof cook tent to hang out in. Having a Cuben Fiber vestibule on my personal tent also made life on the big mountain much more tolerable. Everyone on the mountain was complimenting my new gear and people were even asking me if I could build ultralight gear for them. Although this expedition ended in another failure to reach the summit, much of my time on the mountain was consumed with more sketches and designs to create the perfect ultralight tent. I was excited to get home and start spending all my spare time designing a freestanding dome tent, which would eventually become the first prototype of the 'Carbon Dome'.