Gear Reviews

Backpackers at night with headlamps in a campsite in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park.

The 5 Best Headlamps of 2021

By Michael Lanza

A headlamp is unquestionably essential gear for hiking, backpacking, climbing, trail running, ultra-running and ultra-hiking and other backcountry activities that sometimes push into darkness. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose which one to buy? Price? Brightness? Design and range of lighting modes? Go with a brand you know and trust? This review cuts through the information overload to help you pick the right headlamp for your adventures.

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Feathered Friends Eos Down Jacket.

The 10 Best Down Jackets of 2021

By Michael Lanza

Whatever you need an insulated jacket for, there’s a down or synthetic puffy for your needs, within your budget. And whether you want a puffy jacket for outdoor activities like backpacking, camping, and climbing, or just to keep you warm around town or at outdoor sporting events, this review will help you figure out how to choose the right jacket for your needs, and it spotlights the best down and synthetic puffy jackets available today.

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Sea to Summit Alto TR2 ultralight backpacking tent.

Review: Sea to Summit Alto TR2 Ultralight Backpacking Tent

Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Sea to Summit Alto TR2
$449, 2 lbs. 9 oz. (rainfly, tent, and poles)
backcountry.com

Backpacking five days in September through some of the northernmost mountains in the Lower 48 in Washington’s Pasayten Wilderness—sharing the trails with Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers finishing up their 2,650-mile walk as well as backpackers on shorter journeys—we wanted a shelter that could protect us from the wildest, late-season weather possible. It would also be nice if it wasn’t too heavy, given the rugged terrain there. Sea to Summit’s Alto TR2 fit the bill and demonstrated its cred as an outstanding ultralight tent.

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Mammut Meron IN Hooded Down Jacket.

Review: Mammut Meron IN Hooded Down Jacket

Down Jacket
Mammut Meron IN Hooded Down Jacket
$449, 14 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
backcountry.com

As gray clouds hovered low overhead, the air still carried the dampness of the day’s rain, and a chilly wind whipped through our campsite by a lake in the Wind River Range, I zipped inside the Mammut Meron IN Hooded Down Jacket, pulled the hood up—and felt warmth immediately surround me. Fat but exceptionally light and packable, this puffy vaulted to the top of my list of insulated jackets. Here’s why.

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Arc'teryx Aerios 30 hiking daypack.

Review: Arc’teryx Aerios 30 Daypack

Daypack
Arc’teryx Aerios 30
$190, 30L/1,831 c.i., 2 lbs. (men’s regular)
Sizes: men’s and women’s regular and tall
rei.com

Even in the context of how much continued, impressive innovation has occurred in the category of hiking daypacks in recent years, the Arc’teryx Aerios 30 raises the bar for versatility and sheer ingenuity. Marrying the best elements of traditional daypacks and running vests, this comfortable sack combines a reasonable weight with bountiful capacity, a smart feature set, and top-shelf durability. It also has one flaw, though not one that constitutes a dealbreaker.

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