Gear Reviews

A campsite on the Dome Glacier., on the Ptarmigan Traverse in Washington's Glacier Peak Wilderness.

5 Expert Tips For Buying a Backpacking Tent

By Michael Lanza

The choices in tents for backpacking seem to get better every year, with lightweight models continually getting lighter and other advances that make tents sturdier and more livable without adding weight. But with all the options out there, how do you choose? The answer is simpler than you might think: It comes down to understanding the key differences that distinguish tents from one another—which will help you understand what you need.

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Ibex Wool Aire Vest

Review: Ibex Wool Aire Vest

Insulated Vest
Ibex Wool Aire Vest
$235, 7.5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
ibex.com

How useful—and valuable—is your insulation layer? Consider this: I wore the Ibex Wool Aire Vest as my only outer layer over the same two base layers (a lightweight, wicking long-sleeve and a warm fleece hoody) on days of vigorous Nordic skiing in radically different conditions in Idaho’s Boise Mountains: from sunny, calm, and mid-30s Fahrenheit to cloudy and below freezing with strong winds that made it feel much colder. And I did not overheat in the first circumstance or get cold in the second. I also stayed comfortable wearing it as my sole middle layer under a winter shell in temps from around freezing to the mid-teens, with a low overcast and frigid wind, on days of snowshoeing and backcountry skiing downhill, and as my outer layer when skinning uphill (without wind).

That degree of versatility speaks volumes about the value of any layer, especially insulation.

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Hoka One One Anacapa Low GTX hiking shoes.

Review: Hoka One One Anacapa Low GTX Hiking Shoes

Hiking Shoes
Hoka One One Anacapa Low GTX
$170, 1 lb. 10.5 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: US men’s 7-15, women’s 5-11, all gender M3.5/W5-M14/W15.5
backcountry.com

Sometimes it’s the subtle details that make a hiking shoe stand out. From a nearly 10-mile, 4,700-foot dayhike up 5,774-foot Mount Adams in New Hampshire’s northern Presidential Range on a sunny October day with temps ranging from the mid-30s to around 60 F, with some wet and muddy trail, to hikes in my local foothills on trails consisting mostly of dry, packed dirt with occasional rocky sections, the Hoka One One Anacapa LowGTX proved to be one of the most comfortable and supportive hiking shoes I’ve come across in a while.

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A backpacker hiking over Park Creek Pass in North Cascades National Park.

5 Expert Tips For Buying the Right Backpacking Pack

By Michael Lanza

If you’re super fit and strong, hike with a pack of any weight 50 or more days a year, and have never known any sort of injury or ache in your body, then don’t bother reading this article. But for everyone else, knowing how to find the right pack for backpacking and other outdoor activities—and for your body—will make a world of difference in your enjoyment when carrying that pack for hours a day on a trail or up and down a mountain. This article will lead you through five steps to accomplish exactly that—helping to ensure that you spend your gear money smartly.

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Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible Pants.

Review: Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible Pants

Soft-Shell Hiking Pants
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible Pants
$99, 11.5 oz. (men’s 30×30)
Sizes: men’s 28-42, women’s 0-18
backcountry.com

I lived in the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible Pants on three multi-day hikes that put them through quite possibly the widest range of three-season weather most backcountry wanderers might ever see: trekking hut-to-hut for a week on Iceland’s Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails and several dayhikes around the country, where cold wind and periods of light rain accompanied us almost every day; on a nine-day, nearly 130-mile hike through the High Sierra in August, mostly on the John Muir Trail, in temps ranging from the 40s to high 60s Fahrenheit, strong wind at times, and one hour-long rainstorm; and on a five-day, 43-mile backpacking trip in the Wind River Range in the week before Labor Day, where we had dry, sunny days ranging from the 40s to the 60s F with moderate wind some days.

And over those two dozen or so days, these pants were the only bottom layer I needed about 98 percent of the time.

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