Showing posts with label Sleeping Bags. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sleeping Bags. Show all posts

Backpacker Gives Us the Best Comfort Thru-Hiking Gear

A few days back I shared a post from Backpacker magazine that offered readers their picks for the best budget gear for making a long-distance thru-hike. Each of the items on that list were selected primarily because they are affordable, with performance being the second characteristic. Now, the editors are back with some more gear recommendations, but this time their offering options that fall into a different category – comfort.

Backpacker's picks for the best comfort thru-hiking gear includes a fantastic sleeping bag from Western Mountaineering, an incredibly comfy sleeping pad from Thermarest, and a large, quite possibly the most comfortable backpack on the market today courtesy of Osprey. You'll also find selections for the best tent, jacket, trekking poles, and even an umbrella, all of which are aimed at the hiker who doesn't mind carrying a bit of extra weight if it means he or she has some luxuries that help them to stay at home out on the trail.

Obviously this list is not for those of us who count every ounce when we're heading out on a hike. Instead, it is all about keeping your body as strong and comfortable as possible, even when hiking for miles on end day after day. If you're someone who is okay with knowing you don't have the lightest gear around, but that you'll probably enjoy your hike more as a result, this list is definitely for you.

Check out all of the items that made the cut by clicking here.

Gear Closet: SOL Escape Pro Bivvy

As someone who spends a lot of time in the outdoors, and often finds himself traveling to remote places, I'm always on the lookout for innovative new products that can make those experiences safer and more enjoyable. A piece of gear that can pull double duty by providing extra functionality is always a plus too. Recently, I've discovered just such a product in the form of the new Escape Pro Bivvy from SOL, which can serve as an emergency shelter or an extra layer that provides additional warmth for your sleeping bag.

In terms of performance, the Escape Pro Bivvy checks all the right boxes. It is built to be extremely durable, yet offers a high level of breathability as well. It is wind and waterproof, and uses a special material called Sympatex Reflextion to reflect up to 90% of your body heat back at you, helping you to stay much warmer in cold conditions. On top of that, the bivvy weights a mere 8 ounces (240 grams), which make it easy to stuff into your backpack to take with you anywhere.

Because it weighs next to nothing, the Escape Pro Bivvy is a great choice for ultralight hikers who don't want to carry a full sleeping bag on their outdoor adventures. As a stand-alone shelter, it can keep most hikers comfortable in conditions down to 50ºF (10ºC). And when paired with a sleeping bag, it adds as much as 15ºF to the overall temperature rating, while also providing the water and windproof capabilities. That makes it a more sensible choice than even carrying a more basic sleeping bag liner.

Measuring 31" x 84" (78 cm x 213 cm) in width and length, the Escape Pro Bivvy has a 24" (61 cm) zipper than runs along one side that allows for easy access. When unzipped, this also allows the user to more easily stuff their sleeping bag inside. A drawstring closure hood also allows you to cinch the bag up tightly around your head when things get especially chilly.

If you're backpacking with a tent, the wind and waterproof features of the bivvy are nullified somewhat by the shelter you're already sleeping inside. But, as more and more hikers take to the hammock camping trend, this product truly shows its colors, at least in terms of being an extra shell for you sleeping bag. If you prefer to sleep suspended off the ground in a hammock, the Escape Pro Bivvy will be a very useful piece of gear to have at your disposal, not only for its added warmth, but ability to keep wind and moisture at bay too.

Of course, it also comes in very handy as an emergency shelter should you find yourself unexpectedly caught out in bad weather on a mountaineering expedition or backpacking excursion into remote areas. It is easy to pull out and climb inside should the need arise, and it is one of those items that you'll always be glad you have with you, even if you don't need it. And scene it weights so little, there is almost no excuse for taking it along, even if you don't plan to use it an extra layer for your sleeping bag.

Priced at $125, the Escape Pro Bivvy is a bit pricer than a standard sleeping bag liner, so if you're just looking to add a few degrees of warmth to your bag, you might want to look elsewhere. That said, this product does A LOT more than a liner could ever hope to do, providing protection from the elements, and potentially even saving your life in an emergency situation. That makes this not only a far more versatile item – which alone makes it worth the money – but something that should be considered essential gear for those journeys into remote areas. If you're serious about your backcountry adventures, this is definitely an item you'll want to have at your disposal.

Find out more at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Very Best Gear of 2016 Summer Outdoor Retailer

As you can see, I'm back from Salt Lake City and updating The Adventure Blog once again. While there to attend the Outdoor Retailer gear convention I had the opportunity to see all kinds of interesting, ingenious, and downright crazy new gear that is coming our way in the months ahead. Some of that gear I'll actually get to test myself, and share my thoughts with you readers. But there is simply so much to see there that no one person could ever review it all in a single year.

Thankfully, there are a number of websites that have shared their picks for the best new gear that was on display at the show. For instance, Outside magazine has posted its selection of the 5 best pieces of gear that were unveiled at OR with a new backpack from Arc'teryx and a tent from Cotopaxi each earning a nod.

Elsewhere, Popular Mechanics has shared it's picks for best in show as well, with some very interesting products earning a spot on their list. They handed out their "editor's choice" awards to seven new products, including an innovative and eco-friendly jacket from Columbia that was a hit with everyone at the show, and the new BaseLantern camp lighting system from BioLite.

Finally, the Gear Institute – a site that I contribute to and helped picks the award winners for – had posted it's selection of Best New Gear Awards too. We ended up handing out eight awards in total, with winners ranging from an ultra-slim, two fuel stove from Kovea to an innovative new sleeping bag from The North Face.

This is just a small sample of what we can expect in the weeks to come, as the trends that we've expected from the outdoor industry – namely lighter, more efficient, and more versatile gear – continues to be the theme. Your pocket book might not be too happy about all of the great gear that is on the horizon, but as an outdoor lover, chances are you will be very satisfied.

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.

Nat Geo Gives Us the Best New Gear for Spring 2016

Need some new gear for your upcoming spring adventures? National Geographic has you covered, as  Nat Geo Adventure presents its selections for the best new gear arriving on store shelves in the days ahead.

And just which items earn a nod from the NG crew? They recommend REI's new Flash 65 backpack, a new stove from Snow Peak, and the Concerto sleeping bag from Nemo. Other items on the list include Mountain Hardwear's new Ghost UL2 tent, an incredibly lightweight shell from The North Face, and a comfortable new backpacking boot from Vasque.

This is just a taste of the items that make Nat Geo's list. There are all kinds of other items including a mountain bike and bike accessories, jackets, knives, watches an other products that will no doubt be objects of lust for gear junkies and outdoor enthusiasts everywhere.

Spring is a great time to get outside and get back to chasing your favorite activities and adventures. Some new gear always helps with the process, and is good encouragement too.

Gear Closet: Eddie Bauer Kara Koram 0º Sleeping Bag

We're living in a golden age of sleeping bag technology. Not only have our bags gotten lighter, warmer, and more packable, they now come with a wide variety of insulation types designed to perform better in difficult situations. Case in point, is the 0º Kara Koram sleeping bag from Eddie Bauer, a comfortable, well made product that is designed for cold weather expeditions where space is at a premium and getting a good night's sleep is crucial.

The Kara Koram line of sleeping bags continues Eddie Bauer's recent trend of creating high quality outdoor gear designed for use in the mountains. The company originally made a name for itself back in the 1940's and 50's by making great outdoor gear that was made for use on expeditions to remote places. But over the years the brand became more consumer focused, moving away from the rich heritage that it had in exploration and adventure. However, a few years back, the company launched its First Ascent line of gear, which was an attempt to get back to its roots. That gear was extremely well received, and got rave reviews from those who used it. In fact, some of my favorite pieces of gear that I own are from the First Ascent line, and I have loved everything that I've used. This sleeping bag is a continuation of Eddie Bauer refocusing on the outdoor market, and it delivers on the promise of high quality gear that is built to perform well in demanding conditions.

One of the first things that struck me about the Kara Koram bag was just how well it is built. Every aspect of the sleeping bag screams high quality, from the fabrics used on the outer shell, to the zippers, inner lining, and even the stitching that holds it all together. This feels like a product that can accompany you on many adventures, and come back in perfect shape. That kind of confidence is difficult to find in a lot of outdoor gear, but you'll feel it here.

Packed with 850 fill down, the Kara Koram is incredibly warm and comfortable, while still maintaining the ability to pack down to a surprisingly small size. That means it won't take up much room in your pack, but will still provide plenty of warmth on those cold nights in a tent. I haven't been able to test it at temperatures approaching its 0ºF (-17ºC) rating just yet, but I can attest to the fact that it has exceeded my expectations at every temperature range that I've used it in so far. I have every confidence that it would perform very well at the stated temperature rating, and possibly even lower should the need arise.

We all know that down is warm and provides great packability, but that it becomes all but useless when it it gets wet. That's why the Kara Koram features StormDown, which is Eddie Bauer's name for the water resistant insulation that comes from DownTek, the company that pioneered the hydrophobic down movement. Essentially, the down that is included in this sleeping bag has been treated with a water resistant coating that allows it to repel moisture, while maintaining its loft and ability to keep us warm. It is truly a revolutionary product, and I'm happy to say that it is put to good use here. For this bag to fail in the same manner as older down sleeping bags, conditions would have to be incredibly bad.

Getting a good night's sleep is imperative to enjoying your time in the backcountry, and this bag will help you to do jus that. Its interior is very comfortable, and while it does feature a mummy-cut design, I never felt cramped or claustrophobic inside. The designer at Eddie Bauer were even thoughtful enough to include an interior pocket for storing your electronic devices. This has the two-fold benefit of keeping those items close at hand for when you need them, as well as keeping them warm in cold conditions – something that can help with maintaining battery life and protecting LCD screens.

As with any mummy bag, the hood plays an important role in keeping you warm throughout the night, and the Kara Koram is no different. Fortunately, I found it easy to cinch up the hood, and still sleep very comfortably. But if you're the kind of person who finds this style of sleeping bag confining, you may have issues here.

For those who are concerned about how much their packs weigh when setting out on an adventure, the Kara Koram tips the scales at 2 lbs. 12 oz for the regular version, and 2 lbs. 15 oz for the long. While that doesn't make it the lightest sleeping bag on the market of course, those are still impressive numbers for bag that is rated for 0ºF. Winter gear is always heavier and bulkier than what we can get away with during the warmer months, but all things considered, this sleeping bag provides excellent performance for its weight and size.

Of course, any piece of gear that offers this level of performance tends to come with a steep price tag, and the Kara Koram 0º is no different. MSRP for this sleeping bag is $549, although it can be found online for less if you search hard enough. That price will probably be enough to put some people off, but good winter gear always costs more, and you'll be hard pressed to find a bag that performs this well for less.

As you can tell, I'm highly impressed with this bag. If you need something for cold weather adventures, I'd recommend it highly.

Best Gear from Summer Outdoor Retailer 2015

As many of you know, last week the 2015 Summer Outdoor Retailer convention was held in Salt Lake City, with many gear manufacturers unveiling their latest and greatest products there. Most of those items won't go on sale for weeks – or even months – yet, but as usual OR gave us a glimpse of what to expect in terms of gear trends and new products that will make our outdoor adventures and travel experiences much better.

This year, there was a focus on expanding what defines an outdoor adventure, with many companies debuting products that were designed for both fashion and function. There is definitely a trend in pursuing urban adventure as well, with a lot of products transitioning nicely from trail to town. The outdoor industry is finding that many younger people don't want to spend their days hiking and backpacking a rugged trail, but instead they like to spend time with their friends outdoors at an event such as a concert or festival. Products designed for this market are very different from what we traditionally think of in terms of tents, backpacks, and sleeping bags.

Of course, many of the online gear sites put together their picks for the best new items on display at Outdoor Retailer, not the lest of which was "Best New Gear Awards" that we handed out over at the Gear Institute. I serve as the news editor for the site, and helped in the selection process. Amongst the products that we honored were an amazing water purifier from MSR, a lightweight tent from Mountain Hardwear, and the lightest waterproof jacket available today (3.5 oz) from Berghaus.

We weren't the only site handing out awards however. The Gear Junkie selected his favorite products from Summer OR as well, with several items making a repeat appearance from the Gear Institute list. Outside magazine also weighed in with their thoughts, honoring other impressive gear items from the show as well.

All in all, it was another good Outdoor Retailer, with plenty of gear for us to covet. That said, there were very few items that were revolutionary, but plenty that made incremental improvements that will certainly be welcomed by the outdoor community.

Nat Geo Picks Gear of the Year for Spring/Summer 2015

The National Geographic Adventure Blog has posted its selection for the best outdoor gear for the spring and summer of 2015, turning a spotlight on the very best equipment that is currently available for our outdoor pursuits. As usual, there are a dizzying array of products as part of this round-up, many of which demonstrate just how much the outdoor industry continues to push the envelope in terms of innovation.

Amongst the products that earn a spot in Nat Geo's line-up are the Atmos and Aura backpacks from Osprey. These packs have been winning universal acclaim on many gear sites this year, which is a clear indication of just how good they truly are. Other items include a new camp cooking set from Sea to Summit, an awesome looking multitool from Leatherman, and a cool lighting system for your camp from BioLite. There is also a nice new synthetic sleeping bag from Mountain Hardwear, a bug-repelling lantern from Thermacell, and an ultra-light two-person tent from MSR.

These products are just the tip of the iceberg however, as there are all kinds of other items for gear hounds to drool over. Everything from the best new mountain bike and kayak, to innovative new trail shoes and a watch designed for surfers made the cut. There is even a backpack designed specifically for carrying a drone on the list. In short, there is just about something for everyone.

If you're looking to expand your gear closet this summer, and have been thinking about adding a few more items to your arsenal, this list will certainly have some suggestions on which products are the very best at the moment. As usual, there is far too much excellent gear available, and not enough money to acquire it all. We can always dream though, right?

Backpacker Picks the Best New Gear of Spring 2015

With spring officially here, it is time to start planning some outdoor adventures, with hiking, backpacking, and camping trips on the agenda. It is also a good time to pick up some new gear for those excursions, and Backpacker magazine is here to help in that department.

The outdoor adventure-focused mag has recently published its spring gear guide, providing readers with lots of insights and information on a wide variety of products. For instance, their backpack overview alone covers more than 18 new packs, each of which were put to the test by over 160 different people in the field. Which packs came out on top? The team at Backpacker were especially fond of the new Atmos/Aura packs from Osprey, as well as the Baltoro and Deva from Gregory.

But backpack aren't the only gear items on the slate of products that were tested. The best new hiking boots were also run through the ringer, as were the latest sleeping bags and pads as well. The magazine even took a look at the top shell jackets, as well as the very best tents for the camping season ahead.

If you're in the market for some new backpacking gear this spring, than you'll definitely want to drop by the site and check out what products won the coveted "Editor's Choice" awards. If you're going to be spending your hard-earned dollars on new boots, packs, or tents, you want to ensure that you're selecting the best that your budget allows. As usual, the Backpacker team is very thorough in their methodology, and there is lots of good insight to be gleaned from their testing. Before you head out to your local gear shop, see what they had to say about the products you're considering adding to your gear closet.