Showing posts with label Camping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Camping. Show all posts

Backpacker Shares Their Favorite Tents of 2017

A few days ago I posted a story from Popular Mechanics that shared their picks for the 7 best camping and backpacking tents. Not to be outdone, Backpacker magazine has also shared their thoughts on the subject, publishing their selection for the 12 best tents of 2017 instead. And since it is time for spring hiking and camping outings, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at their suggestions.

In testing these new shelters, Backpacker called in a large group of testers. All told, 31 people participated in the tent test, spending 247 nights outdoors and hiking 1029 total miles. Along the way, one tester faced 55 mph (88 km/h) winds, while others spent 4 consecutive nights in the rain. One even camped above 11,500 ft (3505 meters) in an effort to put these tents through their paces. In other words, the selection of the top tents was no small affair, and the list is definitely comprised of the best camp shelters available today.

So, which tents made the cut? As usual, I won't spoil the entire list, but will share a few of interest. For instance, Cotopaxi's Techo 3 and Inti 2 both earned a spot on Backpacker's rundown, which is a strong showing for a company that just introduced its first models. REI's updated Quarter Dome 2 also got the nod, as did the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2.

This is just a small sampling of the tents that made the cut and there are 8 others for you to discover as you look through Backpacker's list. Which one works best for you probably depends on your individual needs and budget, but in reality you probably can't go wrong with any of the options here. Obviously the team of testers really put these tents through the ringer, and as a result you can bet that these are the best new options on the market at the moment.

If you're ready to go shopping for a new tent this spring, do yourself a favor and give this story a look. Chances are, you'll discover some new choices you didn't even consider and you might end up with a better hiking shelter than you first thought.

Popular Mechanics Shares the 7 Best Tents for Camping and Backpacking

Now that spring is finally here, I'm sure more than a few of you are planning that first big camping or backpacking trip of the year. If that's the case, and you're in the market for a new tent, Popular Mechanics is here to help. The magazine recently posted an article on its website listing the 7 best camping and backpacking tents that are currently available, with some good options for just about every budget.

The seven tents that made the cut vary in size, weight, and price greatly, but there really is something for just about every type of camper here. For instance, the list starts with the Kelty Grand Mesa 2, a two-person, three-season shelter that costs just $140. On the other end of the spectrum is MSR's awesome Hubba Hubba NX, which retails for $400, but is built to survive in just about any conditions and weighs in at just 3 lbs., 7 oz.

In between these two options you'll find plenty of others, including some that are both more and less expensive. Depending on your needs, you'll discover some solid suggestions here, with tents to accommodate two adventurous souls or as many as six. Most are meant for spring, summer, and fall outings, although one or two could be used for winter camping in mild conditions as well. In short, its a nice variety of shelters to accommodate all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts.

If you're about to do some shopping for a new tent, this article is definitely worth a look. The tent market is as competitive now as it has ever been, and the latest models are lightweight, efficient, and comfortable. Deciding which one is the best is a tricky endeavor, but PM can help you sort out some of the choices that are currently available. Read the entire article here.

Video: (To)Day Dream - REI Reminds Us to Spend Some Time Outdoors

This video seems highly appropriate as we head into the weekend. It is a a short, but sweet, reminder to get outside and enjoy nature. It comes our way courtesy of REI – who obviously has a vested interest in getting us outdoors – but it is a great message nonetheless. Yes, we're all busy and have very complicated lives. But some time outdoors can help us sort through all of that. So, as the video says find an empty spot on your calendar and find an empty spot on the map. It is as simple as that.

(To)day Dream from REI on Vimeo.

Backpacker Gives Us The Best Budget Thru-Hiking Gear

Thinking about making a long-distance hike, but don't have a big budget to buy all of the gear that you'll need? Never fear, Backpacker magazine is here to help. The mag has put together a list of their favorite inexpensive products to help you get over the budget crisis and head out on the trail.

The list contains some of the most important items that you'll need for any backcountry camping or backpacking excursion, including a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad. It also offers some suggestions on a couple of jackets to keep you warm and dry on your adventures as well. Just don't expect any major name brands to make the cut, as there is nothing from The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, or Columbia on the list. Instead, you'll find products from companies that you've vaguely heard of that Backpacker says deliver the best bang for your buck in terms of performance and price.

So what equipment makes the cut? For starters, the magazine says that you should forego the more expensive down jackets from the well-known brands in favor of the Uniqlo Ultralight Down Jacket instead. It costs just $70 but comes from a company more well known for its fashions than its outdoor performance. In terms of a backpack, we're told to go with the ULA Circuit, which is 68L model that costs $235.

The rest of the items on the list fall into a similar vein, offering solid performance at a more affordable price, although I would argue in some cases that there are better options out there for less money – particularly if you shop clearance items and closeouts. This list also doesn't offer the prices for each piece of gear within the story itself, which would have saved a few extra clicks when reading about the gear. And, I take a bit of umbrage with them listing "SmartWater" as one of their lightweight pieces of gear, when I think in reality they're telling readers to use the bottle that the brand of water comes in.

Still, for those of us who want to save a little cash and don't need to have the latest gear from the big boys in the industry, the list does have some all-around solid choices. As we approach spring hiking season, and you find yourself needing some new equipment, you might be able to save yourself some cash and go with these items instead.

Video: Ultralight Camping - How to Minimize Your Pack Weight

Want to know how to shed some weight from your pack before setting out on your next outdoor adventure? Why not let professional skier and mountaineer Hilaree O'Neill help? In this video, she shares some great tips for how to pack smartly for any trip into the backcountry, conserving weight by bringing items that can be used for multiple purposes and just examining more closely the things that you take with you. Even if you have a fairly light pack already, chances are you can still learn a thing or two from Hilaree's tips and tricks. And while not all of us want to go completely ultralight on our adventures, it never heard to trim some extra ounces from our gear.

Video: How to Survive an Unexpected Night in the Backcountry

Despite our best laid plans for outdoor adventure, sometimes things don't go as expected. On occasion, this can lead to being stranded in the backcountry overnight, when you had originally planned to just be out for the day. What should you do in these occasions? The video below – hosted by none other than Timmy O'Neill – can help. At a little more than two minutes in length, this clip if filled with good suggestions on how to comfortably survive the night outdoors, even when you haven't planned for it. Some of the information is just good logic, and probably something that many of you already know. But, there are also some solid pieces of advice that could make a difference should you find yourself in this situation in the future.

10 Last Minute Travel Gift Suggestions from The Adventure Blog

Christmas is now in sight and the clock is most definitely ticking. If you find yourself still scrambling to find the perfect gift for the adventure traveler or outdoor enthusiast on your holiday shopping list this year, we have some suggestions for what they might like. Here are 10 list minute gifts that are sure to make them happy, all of which are under $100.

Ledlenser SEO 7R Headlamp
Every outdoor adventurer can use a good headlamp, and Ledlenser's SEO 7R is one of the best I've seen in awhile. Powered by either a rechargeable battery pack or standards AAA batteries, this lamp is capable of putting out as much as 220 lumens and is built to be water resistant too. It is comfortable to wear, lightweight, great for travel, and comes with a 5 year warranty as well. Price: $90

Dog & Bone LockSmart Travel Bluetooth Padlock
Keeping your valuables safe and secure while on the road can be a challenge, but Dog & Bone's LockSmart Travel high-tech padlock can help. This Bluetooth enabled lock connects to your smartphone for keyless unlocking from anywhere in the world. It also has location tracking properties and is TSA compliant, meaning you can place it on your bad and not worry about nefarious individuals gaining access to your belongings. Price: $59.95

LifeStraw Go Water Bottle
Everyone can use a good water bottle of course, but the LifeStraw Go isn't just a handy way to stay hydrated, it also features a two-stage filtration system that removes 99.99% of all harmful bacteria, protozoa, and viruses that could be lurking in water. This makes it a great choice for both backcountry excursions and travelers who might be visiting countries where finding clean drinking water might be a challenge. Price: $49.95


Power Practical Luminoodle Plus Camp Lighting System
Keep the campsite well lit with a Luminoodle light rope from Power Practical. Flexible and waterproof, these lights are easy to hang in a tent, on branches, or just about anywhere else you need them, delivering 180 lumens of light without blinding anyone in the process. The Luminoodle Plus kit comes complete with a 5-foot set of lights and a 4400 mAh battery to keep them powered on. Price: $39.95

Global Entry
Frequent travelers know how long it takes to get through security lines at the airport, and customs when returning to the country when traveling abroad. But a Global Entry membership from the Transportation Security Administration lets them bypass those bottlenecks quickly and efficiently. The process does require an interview and a bit of a wait time, but it is worth it. Price: $100

Champion Duofold THERMatrix Baselayers
Baselayers are always handy no matter what outdoor activities your favorite adventurer is into. They provide the first line of defense in keeping us warm and dry in the backcountry, and are an indispensable part of any gear closet. Champion makes high quality baselayers that are also affordable and good looking too. Price: $23.99

Yaktrax Cabin Socks
Soft and warm, the Yaktrax Cabin Socks just might be the most comfortable sock your outdoor lover will ever put on his or her feet. If the cold chill of winter is leaving their toes a bit chilly, get them a pair of these to help them recover. They are so comfortable (and affordable!) that you'll even want a pair for yourself. Price: $12.99

Stacked iPhone Wireless Charging System
For the traveler looking for a convenient way to keep their iPhone charged while on the road, the Stacked wireless charging system is a godsend. Modular in design, this iPhone case uses powerful magnets to connect with chargers, portable battery packs, and a handy car mount that is fantastic for navigating on long road trips. Buy the Stacked bundle for $99.99 or individual pieces as needed.

Dry Guy Warm 'n Charge
The cold weather isn't just hard on our bodies, it's hard on the batteries in our electronic devices too. That's why Dry Guy invented the Warm 'n Charge, a battery operated hand warmer that is also capable of recharging a smartphone too. The device uses a 4400 mAh battery for up to five hours of warming or two phone charges. Price: $40

Stanley Pocket Steel Adventure Flask
Let's face it, we all like to rough it in the woods on occasion, but that doesn't mean we have to be completely uncivilized. The Pocket Flask from Stanley is a lightweight and compact way to carry a little extra something into the backcountry with us for those celebrations when you bag a peak or are just toasting to your good fortune. Price: $18

Gear Closet: Char-Broil Portable Grill2Go X200

One of the biggest challenges for any camping trip is creating tasty meals while on the go. This can be especially difficult if you're backpacking into remote backcountry, where you're looking to travel fast and light. But, if you're car camping instead, and weight is not an issue, your options open up tremendously, giving you the ability to cook tasty meals no matter where you go. That is exactly the case with the new Char-Boril Portable Grill2Go X200, which is a surprisingly great cooking option for camping, overlanding, tailgating, or even just the backyard.

Obviously there have been portable grills around for quite some time, and many of them bring a lot to the table (pun intended!) in terms of how they perform. But what helps set the X200 apart from the crowd is that it is a portable infrared grill, which is something I hadn't come across before. For those who don't know, infrared grills use metal and ceramic pieces to allow them to heat up much faster and cook at higher temperature levels. This means the grill is ready to go much more quickly, and food prep doesn't take nearly as long.

In this case, the Grill2Go is powered by small canisters of propane fuel, which are of course a breeze to fire up and get cooking, even in colder temperatures and windy environments. It is quick, fairly efficient, and makes grilling a simple affair, which is usually what you want when you sit down to make a meal outdoors.


Built like a tank, the X200 is made to go with you on your outdoor adventures. It has been well designed to survive life on the road, with rugged handles that make it easy to carry, and locking mechanisms that hold the lid in place. When you arrive at your campsite, you simply drop it into place, attach the propane tank, and fire it up using the built-in push-bottom igniter. Within just a couple of minutes it will heat up and be ready to go, with a thermometer on the lid keeping you informed of the current temperature at all times.

After using this grill a couple of times, there were several things that I came away very impressed with. First, and foremost was the build quality, which I've already mentioned is top notch. Secondly, I really like how quickly it heats up and how fast it is to cook on it. In fact, it is far faster at grilling meat than any other product of this kind that I have tried tried in the past, often cutting cooking times in half. That requires a bit of adjustment on how you go about preparing your meals, at least until you get use to the speed at which the X200 works. I'd recommend monitoring it closely while you make the adjustment, lest you end up with burgers, steaks, or other items that are completely well done.

Part of the grill's durability comes from the fact that it is made of very sturdy materials.While obviously there are some plastic elements to it, the bulk of the X200 is made up of cast aluminum and stainless steel. But besides making it very rugged, those materials also add weight. The grill tips the scales at 21 pounds (9.5 kg), which makes it way to heavy to take with you into the backcountry. But that said, it is a great addition to your gear list for car camping, and overlanders will definitely love it. Not only is is built to survive in the remote places that off-roaders frequent, it can cook up meals very quickly and efficiently.

Beyond taking this grill on road trips, it is also a really great way to cook in the backyard too. The infrared cooking system comes in handy when you just want to grill up some meat and roast some vegetable without taking a ton of time. If the grill you're already using around your home isn't already an infrared model, chances are you might end up enjoying this one even more, despite its smaller size.

The X200 comes with a nice price tag too. Normally it sells for $149.99, but it is currently on sale for just $119.99. That makes it a great bargain, and the perfect gift for the car camper, overlander, or tailgater in your life. Based on my experience, they won't be disappointed.

For more information checkout the Portable Grill2Go X200 webpage.

The 2016 Adventure Blog Holiday Shoppers Guide (Part 1)

The holidays are now upon us, and its time to start looking for the perfect gift for the outdoor adventurer and world traveler on your list. If you're looking for the perfect gift for that guy or gal, I have some suggestions that should make them happy this year. Here's what they really want to find under their tree this holiday season.

Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Jacket ($250)
If your loved ones like to spend time outdoors in the cold months of the year, they'll appreciate the new Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Jacket. Not only does is use stretchy material that moves well during active outings, but it employs heat-sealed baffles rather than standard stitches, making it much warmer as well. This is the most innovative puffy on the market today, and one that will be a great companion on many adventures to come. (Buy at REI.com)

Osprey Atmos AG 50 ($230)
There are so many great backpacks to choose from on the market today it is tough to select just once. But Osprey's Atmos AG 50 is still one of the very best, with perhaps the most comfortable fit and suspension available today. Perfect for backpacking, camping, and adventure travel, this pack has plenty of capacity and comes with such additional features as a removable top lid, tool attachments, removable sleeping pad straps, and much more. Best of all, its backed by Osprey's lifetime warranty, which means they'll fix or replace it should anything every happen to the pack. (Buy at REI.com)

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Boots ($230)
There are a lot of great hiking boots to choose from these days, but for my money it is tough to top the Lowa Renegade GTX in terms of performance, comfort, and durability. This boot is designed for hiking, trekking, and even light mountaineering, with excellent traction on a wide variety of surfaces, plenty of support for the foot, and a classic look that never seems to go out of style. (Buy at REI.com)


Goal Zero Venture 30 Battery Pack ($99.95)
Being able to keep your gadgets charged while on the go is an important consideration these days, and there are many portable battery packs to choose from. But Goal Zero's Venture 30 not only carries a lot of juice (7800 mAh) but its rugged enough to survive just about anywhere you want to take it. Waterproof and durable, the Venture 30 has a high speed USB port that can recharge your mobile devices as quickly as a wall outlet. (Buy at REI.com)

Eddie Bauer Kara Koram +20ºF Sleeping Bag ($449)
When it comes to getting a good night's sleep in the backcountry, your sleeping bag is the most important piece of kit that you can take with your. Warm, comfortable, lightweight, and compact, the Kara Koram +20º bag from Eddie Bauer is a great option to have at your disposal. Stuffed with 850-fill, water-resistant down, this bag is tough enough to go anywhere and continue to perform at an incredibly high level.

Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad ($64.95)
Nobody likes to sleep on the hard ground when they're spending a night in the tent, which is why a good sleeping  pad is a must. The Klymit Static V2 is lightweight (weighs 1 lbs), very comfortable, and packs down to the size of a soda can. Its body-mapped pattern is also extremely comfortable too, allowing you to sleep like a baby in the backcountry. (Buy at REI.com)

The North Face Talus 2 Tent ($199)
A good tent provides the shelter you need to survive in the backcountry, and the Talus 2 from The North Face is an excellent option for those who like to travel light but without sacrificing features. Tipping the scales at a mere 3.2 pounds, this tent has plenty of room to sleep two, features double-doors and two vestibules, and comes with both a gear loft and a footprint. It even has a lifetime warranty, which means you can depend on it surviving rough conditions, or TNF will replace it. (Buy at REI.com)

Mountain Khakis Original Mountain Pant ($84.95)
If you're looking for the perfect outdoor pants that can also transition to town without missing a beat, the Original Mountain Pant from Mountain Khakis has you covered. Reinforced in all the right places, and designed for comfort on and off the trail, these pants feature classic good looks, a relaxed fit, and quality fabrics, stitches, and zippers. (Buy at Campsaver.com)

REI Sahara Tech Long-Sleeve Shirt ($36.93)
The REI Shara tech shirt is comfortable to wear, provides moisture wicking and temperature control features, and offers UPF 50+ protection from the sun. It also has classic good looks, is designed for travel and outdoor activities, dries quickly, and packs down to a small footprint. Pretty much everything you want out of any piece of active apparel.

Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec DSS Trekking Poles ($159.95)
A good pair of trekking poles are essential for challenging hikes, and Leki makes some of the very best. Lightweight, compact, and easy to travel with, the Micro Vario TI Cor-Tec DSS poles are perfect for anyone hiking local trails close to home, or flying off to tackle Kilimanjaro. Quick and easy to assemble, with comfortable hand grips, these trekking poles are one of those items you don't know you need until you have a pair. They are perfect for the hiker on your list. (Buy at REI.com)

More gift ideas to come in the second part of my holiday gift guide tomorrow.






Gear Closet: Power Practical Luminoodle Plus Camp Lights

Beyond a shadow of a doubt technology has had a major impact on modern life. Now more than ever we use a host of gadgets and devices designed to make our daily lives simpler and more enjoyable. So, it seems only natural that technology would have an impact on our favorite outdoor activities too, and one of the more obvious places where that is happening is around the campsite. Now days, when we set up camp, either in the backcountry or just off the road, we bring a number of devices along with us. Everything from smartphones and wireless speakers to drones and 4k cameras are apart of our standard gear. But one area where technology has had an undeniable impact is in the options for camp lighting. The iconic Coleman lantern has been replaced with a number of other options, many of which provide some high-tech options that simply weren't available in the past.

One such product is the Luminoodle Plus from Power Practical. This all-in-one kit includes a string of the company's Luminoodle LED lights, as well at its Lithium 4400 USB power pack. This gives you everything you need to light up your tent, or an area around the campsite, all in one lightweight, easy to use package. 

For those who haven't seen a Luminoodle before, it is a five-foot (1.5 meter) length of plastic cord with a series of LED lights inside. Those lights are capable of putting off as much as 180 lumens of light, and can pretty much be hung from just about anything, including a tree-branch, the interior of a tent, or across a couple of trekking poles with the help of the included plastic ties. Those lights provide a soft glow that isn't blinding in any way, but provides plenty of illumination to help you see in the dark. An included carrying bag can also be used to diffuse the light to a degree, turning the Lumindoodle into a makeshift lantern of sorts. 

One of end of the string of lights includes a standard USB plug, which is used to power the LED lights. That plug slides into a USB port on the Lithium 4400 battery pack, which – unsurprisingly – comes with a 4400 mAh battery inside. This gives it the ability to illuminate the lights for hours at a time, providing a nice power source even for longer camping outings. The same battery pack comes with four built in LEDs as well, which allows it to serve as a mini-lantern in times of ned. It can also be used to recharge other small devices – such as a smartphone – although that will eat into the amount of juice you'll have left to fire up the Luminoodle in the evenings too. 

In terms of weight, size, and simplicity, it is really tough to beat this set up. This is about as easy as camp lighting gets, as you simply plug in the strip of lights and it they spring to life, bringing a nice source of light with them. While they do come in handy around the campsite itself – and hammock campers will definitely love them – I personally like using the lights on the inside of a tent, where they provide enough lumens to comfortable read by, without causing a blinding glare that makes it tough to see. 

The Luminoodle itself is surprisingly durable. The LED's themselves are wrapped in protective plastic, Power Practical says they are waterproof down to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. That ought to be enough to allow them to survive getting dropped in a stream or left out in the open when a rainstorm hits. 

The best part about the Luminoodle Plus is that it truly has everything you need to start using these lights right away. But, that said, you can purchase the Luminoodle separately ($19.99) and power them with your own USB battery pack if you prefer. After all, most of us are already carrying one to keep our device charged already, so this is a nice, convenient way to power the lights and extend the use of your battery pack too. 

In the weeks ahead we're going to see an increasing number of interesting camp lighting solutions coming our way. Some of these new high-tech lanterns have some fantastic features that will be a welcome addition to our backpacking excursions. But, if you're looking for something that is easy to use, and is small and lightweight enough to take anywhere, it really is tough to beat the Luminoodle. This is an elegant solution for illuminating dark environments, and you'll probably find a number of ways that you can use them beyond just camping. 

The Luminoodle Plus kit sells for $39.99, which makes it a great gift for the holiday season ahead. If you have a camper, backpacker, or adventure traveler in your life, they'll love finding this product in their stocking. 

Find out more at PowerPractical.com

Gear Closet: Voormi River Run Hoodie

There is a wonderful company based in Colorado that is quietly making some of the most exceptional gear that I have ever seen. Innovative, social conscious, and incredibly driven, Voormi isn't a name that a lot of people know in the outdoor industry just yet, but I promise you that will be hearing great things from them in the months and years ahead. That's because their products are well designed, feature amazing fabrics and technical breakthroughs, and are made by people who love the outdoors as much as we do. That passion for their work shows through in the clothes that they make, which perform amazing well.

I was fortunate enough to review Voormi's Drift Jacket for Gear Institute this past spring, and found it to be an amazing mid-layer. Warm, comfortable, very durable, and great looking, it set a new bar for the level of performance I expect out of my outdoor clothing. With that impression still fresh in my mind, I was also eager to try out their new River Run Hoodie as well, as it is a completely different piece of apparel from the Drift. I didn't come away disappointed, as this hoodie is now one of my most used articles of clothing, bringing a great deal of versatility to the table.

One of the things that separates Voormi from the competition is that the company uses a special blend of merino wool that is found on sheep living in the Rocky Mountains. That wool plays an instrumental role in some of Voormi's best products, and for good reason, namely it performs incredibly well in all kinds of weather conditions. When creating the River Run – and a line of other lightweight garments – the geniuses at Voormi developed a new type of fabric called Dual Surface UL. This incredibly thin material is incredibly lightweight, but still very durable, and retains the features that we've all come to know and love from merino. That is to say, it wicks away moisture, is highly breathable, wears well, and doesn't collect foul odors. In short, everything we want from our outdoor gear.

The River Run Hoodie puts this fabric to good use, making it a lightweight pullover when you want a layer of protection from the sun, or if you're simply looking to take the chill off when setting out on a crisp morning. Warm when you need it to be, but breathable enough to not be stifling, the hoodie is the perfect choice for use in a variety of activities. I've worn it hiking, biking, fly fishing, and paddling. It has also become my go-to layer for a morning at the dog park or running errands around town too.


With a relaxed-fit cut, the River Run makes a nice pull-over when you want a long sleeve outer layer that you can remove when things start to warm up. But, its incredibly soft fabrics are also comfortable enough to wear completely on their own on those days when you want to avoid to much UV radiation from the sun. It comes equipped with thumb holes to add a bit of warmth to your hands, and the oversized hood is useful when the wind picks up too.

Weighing in at just 6 ounces (180 grams), the hoodie is an excellent option for travelers too. I've taken this garment with me on several trips already, and it earns high marks for its lack of bulk and packability. In fact, I'd say that frequent travelers will have as much to gain by having the River Run in their closet as outdoor enthusiasts. It is just such a versatile piece of clothing that you'll likely discover new ways to use it on a regular basis.

If I had one criticism of the River Run Hoodie it is that I wish it had a pocket or two. It is completely lacking in this category, which is its only fault as far as I'm concerned. I would have liked to have had a pouch on the front for instance, which would be a good place to warm your hands on a cool morning, or stash a couple of small items that you want to keep close at hand. Other than this minor quibble however, I am completely in love with this pull-over. (Note: Voormi does make another hoodie – the Eleven.9 – which does have a front pocket, but isn't quite as lightweight.)

With fall upon us, warm days and cool nights are now the norm. If you're in need of a lightweight hoodie to add a bit of extra warmth without over-doing it, the River Run is a great option. Priced at $129 it is even a great bargain in my mind. Upon first inspection, you're likely to think that it too much to pay for a pull-over that is this light and thin. But after you've worn it a few times, Voormi will make a believer out of you too. This is a great garment to have in your closet, and I think you'll be very happy with how it performs.

Gear Closet: Hydrapak Stash Water Bottle

As a frequent traveler, I'm always looking for ways that I can shed weight from my pack without sacrificing functionality. Often that comes from packing more wisely, leaving behind nonessential items, and choosing the proper gear for any given trip. But sometimes those gains can come from discovering an item that is designed for those who like to travel fast and light, but don't want to have to make compromises along the way. The Stash water bottle from Hydrapak is just such a product.

Made from durable and flexible materials, the Stash is a collapsible water bottle designed to shrink down to a highly packable size when not in use. This makes it super easy to stow in your pack until you're ready to use it, at which time it expands back to its full size in a manner of seconds.

I carry the 1-liter version (it is also available in a 750 ml size) of the Stash with me when I hit the road, and I've found it to an excellent traveling companion. It is lightweight (3.1 oz/88 g when empty), and yet still plenty durable enough to survive plenty of use and abuse in the backcountry. My Stash bottle is capable of holding up to 32 oz of water when full, but can reduce down to just 1/5 its normal size when you're ready to tuck it away.

As if that wasn't enough, the bottle can be used to store both hot and cold beverages. It is rated for use at temperatures as high as 140ºF (60ºC) or it can withstand its contents being frozen too. That versatility makes it a great option for the trail or campsite, allowing you to take it anywhere you want to go, and still stay hydrated along the way.

The 1-liter version comes with a wide-mouth (63 mm) cap that makes it extremely easy to drink from. That cap has also been designed to fit most backcountry water filters too, allowing the Stash to be refilled directly from a stream or lake. That same opening comes in handy when you're pouring water out as well, for instance when you're filling a pot to boil water for dinner.


Made from 100% BPA and PVC free materials, the Stash is perfectly safe to drink from. It also doesn't absorb the flavor of liquids other than water either. On occasion, I like to fill the bottle up with water and add a couple of nuun tablets, but after rinsing the bottle out the taste from those tablets usually disappears. You will have to occasionally wash the bottle out however, which is another time when the wide-mouth opening comes in handy.

I have been carrying this bottle with me on numerous trips over the past year, and have come to truly rely on it. I love that it weighs less than half that of a hardshell bottle, and that it compresses down to such a small size. It also draws a lot of attention from fellow travelers and guides, all of whom comment on what a clever and useful product it is. Most want to add it to their own gear collection once they head home.

If I have a criticism of the Stash it is that it often takes two hands to drink from it properly. Because it is a flexible bottle, it will start to bend out from the weight of the liquid inside as you start to empty it.  Other bottles will allow you to drink with one hand, as their hard shells prevent this from happening. For me, it is a small price to pay for the other conveniences it brings however, but it is worth pointing out nonetheless.

Speaking of small prices to pay, the Stash bottle is incredibly affordable too. Priced at just $22.99 for the 1-liter version, and $17.99 for the 750 ml model, this is an inexpensive option for adventure travelers, backpackers, and campers alike. It also makes a great stocking stuffer gift for the holidays too, as just about any outdoor enthusiast would love to receive this bottle. It's even available in five different colors.

Versatile, durable, affordable, and just downright cool. The Hydrapak Stash is one of my favorite pieces of gear that I've used in a long, long time.

Buy it at REI.com, CampSaver, or Backwoods.

Gear Closet: Petzl Reactik+ Headlamp

It seems all of our electronic gadgets are getting smarter these days. First came the smartphone of course, then tablet computers, and smartwatches too. Now, thanks to the the Reactik+ from Petzl, we can add "smart" headlamps to the list too.

What makes the Reactik+ so smart you ask? Well for starters, it comes with Bluetooth wireless technology baked in that allows it to connect to your smartphone and control its functionality using a special MyPetzl mobile app. That app gives users the ability to control the brightness of their lamp yourself, or tell it what type of activity you'll be doing, and for how long, which gives the device the ability to set its own brightness levels based on how much power is lift it is rechargeable battery. The app has preset profiles for sports like trail running, mountaineering, hiking, or simply just hanging out around the campsite. You can also add your own custom profiles as well, allowing you to dial in exactly the performance you need.

At its brightest setting, the Reactik+ can crank out as much as 300 lumens of light, which is plenty for just about anything you want to do outside. On that level, it the headlamp can run for about 2.5 hours, but you can adjust the burn time for 5 or 10 hours as well, and the lamp will automatically regulate itself to achieve that length of time. This ability to extend the life of the Reactik+'s battery comes in handy if you find yourself out on the trail for longer than you expected, or you don't have a handy way to recharge the device while in the field.


The Reactik+ has several different lighting modes to help you navigate through the darkness. For instance, it features a proximity beam that diffuse the light across a wider area, as well as a focused beam that acts as a bright spotlight for when you just need to see as far ahead as possible. Of course, it also comes with a red light mode, which is handy around he campsite when you don't want to burn out the retinas of your friends who are accompany you on your outdoor adventure.

Designed to be tough and weather resistant, I recently put this headlamp to the test on a backpacking trip to Bryce Canyon where the rain was coming down sideways. Despite those poor conditions however, the Reactik+ performed admirably, surviving some of the worst weather that part of the country has seen in years, and continuing to work well. After that experience, I feel confident that this light will work great in just about any weather, with perhaps the exception of extreme cold. Frigid temps can put a strain on the life of the built in rechargeable battery, although this is something that plagues most other headlamps too.

Other features of this headlamp that I really like include a washable headband, which is a must for those of us who live in warm climates and will run with this light on our heads. I also appreciate the ability to lock-out the power source, preventing the lamps from accidentally turning on while in our packs and running down the battery. Petzl has even given the headlamp the ability to use a standard battery pack that employs AA batteries for power instead. This battery pack is sold separately, but it is nice to have the option none the less.

In terms of performance, I love all of the technology that this headlamp brings to the table. It's "smart" features work great, and I appreciate its ability to dial in just the right level of lighting to get me through a long run or a night hike back to camp. The MyPetzl app is simple to use, connects to the Reactik+ quickly and easily, and is versatile enough to allow you to fine tune things to your own liking. My only complaint is that I wish it had Apple Watch support that would allow me to adjust the light's settings on the fly without having to retrieve my iPhone from my pack or wrist strap.

At $109.95, the Petzl Reactik+ is on the expensive side in terms of headlamps. But, if you're an active outdoor athlete who runs, bikes, climbs, or hikes a lot, you may very well appreciate all of the tech features that it brings to the table. As a gadget-nerd myself, I know I certainly do. However, if you're just looking for a very good headlamp that you can take with you on your adventures, the standard Reactik may be a better choice. It performs much the same way as the "+" model, but without the "smart" features. It also sells for $84.95, making it a bit less expensive. Either way, you'll get an excellent headlamp that is comfortable to wear, versatile to use in the field, and very powerful at lighting your way.

Purchase your Reactik+ at REI.com or CampSaver.com.


REACTIK + Bluetooth headlamp with Reactive Lighting Technology from Petzl-sport on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Gear Aid Flux LED Light and Power Station

When I traveled to the 2016 Outdoor Retailer convention in Salt Lake City this past summer I had the opportunity to meet with a number of companies who are making great gear for use in our outdoor pursuits. As usual, there were a number of trends that shone through, including gear getting lighter, more eco-friendly, and improving performance in inclement weather. But, there was also another trend that was easy to notice with numerous gear manufacturers putting an emphasis on better lighting solutions for use around our campsites. In the weeks ahead, you're going to see some of these products begin to make their way onto the market, and several of them are truly going to revolutionize the way we illuminate the campgrounds. The first of these to cross my desk is an incredibly bright and powerful LED lantern from a company called Gear Aid, whose new Flux light will prove very handy in a wide variety of situations.

The first thing you'll notice about the Flux is that it is extremely rugged and durable. Gear Aid spared no expense in creating a light that can survive in just about any environment, including a campsite, warehouse, or garage. Housed in a tough plastic suit of armor, my test unit has survived several serious drops onto a variety of hard surfaces, and has come away without nary a scratch. On top of that, the Flux is also water resistant, which means you should have a bright source of light no matter the weather conditions.

Did I mention that this lantern was bright? With 82 individual LEDs onboard, it can crank out as much as 640 lumens of light on its highest setting. At that level of brightness, the Flux's built-in rechargeable battery – which is rated at a whopping 20,800 mAh – can power the light for up to 13 hours. Turn it down to a much more modest 20 lumens – the Flux's lowest setting – and the burn time increases to an impressive 192 hours. That should be enough to get you through just about any camp outing. And since it has 10 brightness settings, and three color temperatures, you'll always be able to find just the right lighting for to meet your needs.


That massive rechargeable lithium-ion battery can be put to other uses too however. The Flux comes equipped with 1.5-amp USB port that can be used to power-up your electronic devices, including smartphones, tablets, cameras, headlamps, and other gadgets. In fact, the Flux can recharge your iPhone 10 times over, and still have some juice left to power the light.

To add yet another level of versatility to this lantern, Gear Aid has created a series of mounts that allow you use the Flux in a number of different settings. For instance, I tested a magnetic mount that comes in hand when you need to attach the lantern to a car for instance, while a claw mount clips to a pole or similarly shaped attachment. The Flux also comes with a handy built-in kickstand, and a special adapter that is sold separately allows it to work with any GoPro mounts as well.

As if that wasn't enough, the Flux has a couple of other nice tricks up its sleeve. For instance, it can be set to SOS mode to signal for help should you find yourself in trouble in the backcountry, and it ships with a hanging hook and diffuser bag for use inside a tent too. In short, it seems Gear Aid has considered just about everything when designing this lantern.

The Flux doesn't come without a few compromises however, the biggest of which is its size. It is a burly beast when compared to some other camp lights on the market, and those amongst us who count every ounce will likely want to pass on this option. It does take up a considerable amount of room in your pack, and adds some weight too. That will make some hesitate when carrying it into the backcountry, although if you don't mind a slightly heavier load, it does deliver a lot of functionality.

Personally, I like the Flux a lot because it can be used in so many different ways. Yes, it is great to have at a campsite, as it can obviously light up a large space with ease. It is also nice to have a portable power generator to keep electronic devices working too. But, this light is also really handy for working in the garage or basement too, especially if light is at a premium.

The Flux is just one lighting option in a new series of lanterns from Gear Aid. It's siblings, the ARC and Spark offer similar performance in smaller and lighter packages, with the trade-off being lower brightness and less burn time due to smaller batteries. If you like what you see in the Flux, but would like something smaller and lighter, one of those options just might fit the bill instead.

Priced at $149.95, the Flux is very competitively priced, particularly when you consider everything that it brings to the table. It is bright, extremely durable, water resistant, and has great battery life. It can also recharge your other electronic devices and thanks to a clever mounting system, it can be used in a wide variety of ways. If you're in need of a good lamp around the campsite or elsewhere, this is a worthy option to consider. In terms of pure, raw performance, it is tough to beat the Flux right now.

Gear Closet: Victorinox Traveller Lite Swiss Army Knife

In terms of outdoor gear, there are few pieces of equipment that come close to being quite so iconic as the famed Swiss Army Knife. This handy tool can trace its roots all the way back to 1891, which is when the company that would eventually go on to be known as Victorinox would begin producing their first knives. Since then, those products have continued to evolve and are now shipped all of the world, with just about every outdoor enthusiast owning on at some point in their lives.

Recently, I carried the Victorinox Traveller Lite with me on my trip through Mongolia, and as usual, it proved itself to be a handy companion. The knife comes equipped with everything you need, and a few things you didn't even know you wanted, making it a useful item to have in your pack or pocket at just about any time.

Sorting through the incredibly long catalog of knives on the Victorinox website will probably leave your head spinning. There are so many choices to examine that it can be difficult to find the one that best suits your exact needs. But, the Traveller Lite was certainly a good choice for me, as it features just about every tool imaginable, including both large and small knife blades, a can opener, screw driver, a bottle opener, a corkscrew, scissors, and more. In short, it has about every tool you wold expect from a Swiss Army Knife, and they are all squeezed into a small enough space that it can easily be slipped into your pocket.


One thing that does set this knife apart from the scores of others that Victorinox makes is a small LCD screen that can be found on its translucent case. That screen displays the time, temperature, altitude and barometric pressure, all of which are handy features to have in the backcountry. The tiny screen is powered by a small watch battery that slides into a specially designated slot. That slot was kind of challenging to gain access to at first, but thankfully you shouldn't have to change the battery too often.

In terms of build quality, the Traveller doesn't disappoint. It feels solid in your hands, and as with most other Swiss Army Knives it has been designed to survive in demanding environments. Using the various tools doesn't give you the sense that anything is about to break, nor does it seem like any corners were cut in designing and assembling this product. I can't always say the same about similar knives I've used in the past, some of which have failed me at the most inopportune times. As with all knives from Victorinox, this one comes with a lifetime warranty as well, which means if something should break, you'll get it replaced for free.

I carried this knife with me everyday while in Mongolia, and even I was surprised at the number of times I pulled it out to use one of the various tools. The knife blades were probably the ones I needed most often in that setting, but others such as the integrated tweezers and toothpick came in handy from time to time too. At times, it felt like I was carrying a full tool box in compact form right in my pocket.

The Traveller Lite is one of the more expensive knives in the Swiss Army collection. At $111 it is probably a bit pricey for most outdoor enthusiasts who don't need all of its features. For those folks, I'd recommend something like the Huntsmen, which has many of the same tools – minus the electronic gadgetry – and sells for just $40. But, if you're someone who ventures into the backcountry often, or does a lot of mountaineering, the Traveller Lite is a good option. It's LCD screen displays some important information, and it provides plenty of good tools to see you through some demanding trips. For those folks, the $100+ price tag is worth the investment, and you'll likely have a tool that will accompany you on my future adventures.

Check out the entire line of Victorinox knives and other products at Victorinox.com.

Gear Junkie Gives Us 10 Gear Trends to Watch for in 2017

It's hard to believe but 2016 is already starting to wind down. Sure, we're still in the midst of the dog days of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, but the final days of August is in sight, and we're only a few short months from the end of the year. With that in mind, our friends over at Gear Junkie have peered into their crystal ball and looked into the future, giving us 10 gear trends to watch out for in 2017.

For anyone who attended the Summer Outdoor Retailer convention a few weeks back, most of these trends won't come as much of a surprise. Walking the halls of the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah, it was clear where the industry is headed. But, those same trends aren't quite as clear to the outside observer who wasn't lucky enough to see all of the major outdoor brands collected under one roof.

So what can we expect from our gear in 2017? I won't spoil the entire list, but there are certainly a few items that are worth mentioning. For instance, there is definitely a concerted effort in the outdoor industry to make our gear more "green." Companies are searching for ways to use recycled materials for instance, and they are changing the way they manufacture their products so that they use less water and have a decreased impact on the environment. We've seen a few efforts in this direction in the past, but it is really picking up steam now. Over the next few years, those efforts will not only increase dramatically, they'll also become much more common place.

Other trends that Gear Junkie says we should watch for include more sophisticated drones, boots that grip ice better, and performance apparel that will help keep us cooler. The other items on the list are equally intriguing, and definitely reflect the same things I saw at OR.

If you're a gear nerd like me, you'll probably find GJ's list very interesting. The industry is definitely moving forward with some new initiatives and we'll all get the opportunity to benefit from it.

13 Pieces of Gear Every All-Around Adventurer Should Own

This article is nearly a year old, but it recently came to my attention when Alastair Humphreys shared it on Facebook. It comes our way from the website Semi-Rad and it provides us with a list of 13 pieces of gear that every all-around adventurer should have in their arsenal. Consider this an inventory of items that all outdoor enthusiasts should have at their disposal.

The list is a comprehensive one, although most of the items are exactly what you would expect. In fact, I suspect that many of you reading this already have a good portion of these pieces of gear. Still, it is a good reminder of the things we should have at our disposal before setting out on an adventure, and as I read through the article, I was also doing a mental inventory of my own gear to make sure I had each of these things on hand.

Some of the items that make the list include a two-person backpacking tent, 30- and 60-liter backpacks, a rain shell, and a down jacket. Author Brendan Leonard also shares his picks for a proper sleeping bag, a headlamp, water bottles, and a variety of other gear as well. If you're looking to build a collection of solid gear to keep you safe and comfortable in the backcountry, this is a good place to start.

So, what do you think of the list? Did Brendan leave anything out? Do you have anything that you would add? Personally, I know I never leave home without a Buff or two, and I think a good watch – such as the Suunto Ambit – is an important piece of gear to have with you as well.

Find out what else made Semi-Rad's list by clicking here.

Outside Presents the 2016 Summer Gear Buyers Guide

Just in case you still need some help selecting the best gear for your summer outdoor adventures, Outside magazine has released its 2016 Summer Buyers Guide, outlining 369 items that will keep you safe, comfortable, and happy while pursuing your favorite activities.

The Buyer's Guide is broken down into multiple categories, including Float, Hike, Bike, Run, Fitness, and Travel. Each of those listings is further divided into subcategories that include lists of great gear that is applicable to the activity. For instance, under hiking you'll find the best tents for 2016, as well as the best hiking shoes. Meanwhile, under the bike category you'll discover the best mountain bikes and accessories for a summer ride.

Naturally, with this many items to explore, it can take you quite a long time to sift through all of the options. But, if you're in the market for a new sleeping bag, kayak, camera, or other equipment, the experts at Outside can help you find exactly what you're looking for. There are some really great products to check out here, each of which has been curated by testers who have put these items through their paces over the past few months.

Check out the full list of items on the Outside Online website by clicking here.

Video: Being There - The Importance of Wild Places

Have you ever had a place become so special and important to you that it actually crawls into your very mind and soul? If so, this is a video for you. It is a good reminder of why wild places are so incredibly important to us, and how they can change our perspective on the world around us. How these unique places play a role in shaping who we are, and how we feel when we are there. Beautifully shot and very thoughtful, this is the kind of clip that sticks with you long after you've seen it. I hope you enjoy it as much as did.

BEING HERE from Outdoor Research on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Lowa Innox EVO Lo and Renegade GTX Mid Boots

Finding the right footwear to see you through your outdoor adventures is essential to enjoying your time outside. After all, if you're feet aren't happy, the rest of you probably isn't going to have a good time either. Fortunately, we live in a time when there are many good choices when it comes to shoes for our outdoor pursuits, with Lowa making some of the best options for a wide variety of activities, including hiking, backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, travel, or just kicking it around town. Recently, I had the chance to test two very different shoes from the company, coming away very impressed with both. Here are my thoughts on these two boots.

Lowa Innox EVO Lo Light Hiking Shoes
Lightweight and comfortable is the best way to describe these fantastic shoes, which have the soul of a trail runner and the sole of a hiking boot.

At first glance, the Innox EVO Lo resembles an athletic shoe more than a hiking boot, and since they weigh just 22 ounces for a pair, it would be easy to think they wouldn't offer all of the support you would need. But this hiking shoe has a stiff midsole that helps to protect the foot from jarring impacts, while still managing to maintain a level of flexibility that makes it an ideal choice for a wide variety of outdoor activities.


Lowa has packed quite a few features into these fairly simple looking shoes. For instance, the Innox EVO comes equipped with a Gore-Tex waterproof liner that helps keep moisture at bay. This makes them a great choice for use in damp environments, as the quick-drying and highly breathable fabrics that make up the shoe keep your feet dry and comfortable throughout the day. That's a great combination of performance features to have in any athletic shoe, let a lone a light hiker.

For me, these shoes have a bit of a snug fit, which is something that I happen to like. When it comes to athletic shoes I like to have a good feel for the surface benefits my feet, and these shoes provide that experience nicely. This helps to provide good footing in changing conditions, and gives a nice sense of agility and balance. And since the Innox EVO has a nice, aggressive sole, it feels like you could wear them just about anywhere without fear.

Perhaps my favorite thing about these shoes is there level of versatility. They are great for day hikes of course, but they could also be used for trail running in a pinch. But, they also make a great shoe for travel since they can be used both on the trail or walking around town. If you're someone who likes to travel light, this is an excellent option, as they just might be the only pair of shoes you need to take with you on you travels.

The Lowa Innox EVO Lo hiking shoes are priced at $175, which probably seems a bit pricey when compared to similar shoes from the competition. But because they are so comfortable, durable, and versatile, it actually feels like a true bargain. A pair of these shoes will definitely last you a long time, and see you through a wide variety of adventures. The fact that they look good too is just icing on the cake.

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Switching gears from the low-profile, light hikers of the Innox EVO, the Renegate GTX which is a completely different boot with a completely different purpose in mind. This is Lowa's best selling shoe of all time, and after wearing them on the trail it is easy to understand why. The combination of support, protection, and comfort they provide to your feet is exceptional, making them one of my favorite pairs of boots I've ever worn.

Whereas the Innox EVOs are great for day hiking and travel, the Renegade GTX is specifically built with trekking and backpacking in mind. These boots are made from Nubuck leather and feature a Vibram Evo outsole that provide great traction on mud, snow, ice, and other wet surfaces. A Gore-Tex liner does an excellent job of keeping water out, while a climate control footbed helps to keep your feet warm and dry. All of this really helps to keep your feet comfortable on longer hikes, making it much easier to trek for miles over a number of days as well.

One of the key elements you look for out of a good pair of backpacking boots is durability, and Renegade excels in that category too. I've worn these boots on a number of hikes, putting some decent mileage on them in the process. Other than getting a bit dirty and muddy, they actually still look brand new and fresh from the box. I've taken them on trails in Alaska, the Adirondacks, and closer to home, and so far there isn't a scratch, cut, or scuff on them anywhere. In fact, when I wash the mud and grime off of them upon returning home, you'd never know that they've ever hit a trail at all. This speaks well for the long-term life of these boots, which will likely serve you well for years of outdoor adventures.

The other thing that I really like about the Renegade GTX boots is that they are very comfortable, even after a long day on the trail. There are a lot of boots on the market that are durable and offer good traction, or can keep your feet protected and safe from the elements. But few boots can do all of that, plus are comfortable enough to wear all day long too. Lowa has made that boot, which is why it has been such a hit with their customers.

The Renegade GTX is a bit of overkill for short, local day hikes. But if you're an adventure traveler who treks mountain trails or goes backpacking through national parks, these are a great options for those more demanding outings. They are perfect for multi-day camping trips or even light mountaineering expeditions. Warm, comfortable, and very durable, these are boots that will see you safely through a wide variety of environments and challenges, with your feet completely protected the entire way. I fully endorse the Renegade boots for those types of experiences, as I know that they'll offer all of the support you'll need, and then some.

Lowa sells the Renegade GTX Mid for $230, which in mind is a very competitive price for this type of boot. When you consider the fact that a good pair of hiking boots is an investment in future adventures, I think you'll find these are a real bargain. This is a pair of shoes you'll have in your closet for years to come. There isn't much more to say than that, other than you can't go wrong with these boots.