Tag Archives: backpacking gear reviews

Gear Review: Black Diamond Element 60/Elixir 60 Backpacks

August 7, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Black Diamond Element 60

Black Diamond Element 60

Black Diamond Element 60/Elixir 60
$220, 60L/3,661 c.i., 3 lbs. 6 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s medium and large (62L/3,783 c.i.), women’s small (58L/3,539 c.i.) and medium (60L/3,661 c.i.)

On a June backpacking trip with my 13-year-old son to Alice Lake in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, I found myself clambering over four-foot-tall, slick, densely consolidated drifts of snow not yet melted out on the trail, fording a fast, frigid, and knee-deep creek, and tiptoeing over logs across the creek. In circumstances that challenge your balance, it’s nice to have a pack that feels like an extension of your body, rather than tugging you in a direction you don’t want to go. The impressively lightweight Element 60 did that, plus it has the capacity for longer trips and smart design details. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Scarpa Zanskar GTX Boots

August 4, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Scarpa Zanskar GTX

Scarpa Zanskar GTX

Backpacking Boots
Scarpa Zanskar GTX
$259, 3 lbs. 3 oz. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 40-47, 48

I’m a big fan of lightweight gear, including footwear. But sometimes you need boots that can handle anything: steady rain, mud, snow, scree, rocky trail, and the abuse of off-trail scrambling, plus deliver the support and protection for any circumstance, carrying any amount of weight. The best heavy-duty boots do all these things without actually feeling heavy or clunky. On an early-summer backpacking trip in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains and nine days of trekking hut-to-hut on the rugged Alta Via 2 through Italy’s Dolomites in July, the Zanskar GTX did all of that for me. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Osprey Exos 58 Backpack

July 21, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Osprey Exos 58

Osprey Exos 58

Osprey Exos 58
$220, 55L/3,356 c.i., 2 lbs. 8 oz. (small, fits torsos 16-19 ins.)
Sizes: unisex S-L (M 58L/3,539 c.i., fits torsos 18-21 ins., L 61L/3,722 c.i., fits torsos 21-23 ins.)

When Osprey introduced the Exos pack series in 2008, it immediately became a leader—and helped redefine how we think about backpacking. It showed us that a backpack weighing under three pounds can serve the needs of everyone from weekenders to longer-distance backpackers and thru-hikers, and it gave ultralighters an option to the minimalist rucksacks that fill that category (which are “minimalist” both in weight and comfort). Success is a tough act to follow, and revising a popular product is risky. As a longtime fan of the original Exos packs, I took the new Exos 58 out on a seven-day, hut-to-hut trek on the Alta Via 2 through Italy’s Dolomites and concluded that Osprey has taken something that was very good and made it lighter and better. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 800 Sleeping Bag

June 17, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 800

Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 800

Two-Season Sleeping Bag
Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 800 (30° F)
$330, 1 lbs. 12 oz. (reg); $350 (long)
Sizes: men’s regular and long, women’s regular ($370)

It’s a chilly morning in the backcountry and the last thing you want to do is exit your warm sleeping bag to step outside. With the Mobile Mummy 800, you don’t have to—you can wear your sleeping bag outside to fire up breakfast or take care of other business. Although the concept of a wearable sleeping bag that converts to a long down jacket isn’t new, Sierra Designs has achieved a nice kind of perfection with the Mobile Mummy. Continue reading →

May 22, 2014 New Hance Trail, Grand Canyon.

Ask Me: Which Boots Do You Recommend for Backpacking, Heavier or Lighter?

In Ask Me, Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , ,   |   1 Comment


This is a great, straightforward review [of the La Sportiva Thunder III GTX boots]. I was just looking at these boots and I am strongly considering them based on your review. I am torn between these Thunder III GTX and the La Sportiva Hyper Mid GTX. Perhaps you can provide some insight or guidance based on your experience with both boots. My primary activity will be backpacking, carrying 30 to 40 lbs., 10 to 15 miles per day in south-central Alaska. The terrain is just about as mixed as you can get: sharp rocks, sand, mud, roots, tundra, steep alpine, scree, creeks, etc. Continue reading →

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