Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Exped SynMat UL 7 Air Mattress

Exped SynMat UL 7

Air Mattress
Exped SynMat UL 7
$155, 1 lb. (medium), plus 2-oz. mini pump (both weights exclude stuff sacks)
Sizes: S 64x20x2.8 inches, M 20x72x2.8 inches
exped.com

Campsites on hard-packed dirt and stones in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains felt like a feather bed with this inflatable mattress, which has nearly three inches (seven centimeters) of cushion, but still weighs less than many competitors and packs down to the size of a liter bottle.

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Gear Review: Five Ten Hueco Rock Climbing Shoes

Five Ten Hueco

Rock-climbing Shoes
Five Ten Hueco
$140, 1 lb. 2 oz. (men’s 10)
Sizes: unisex 6-13
fiveten.com

Count me as one of those climbers who was heartsick when Five Ten stopped making the Hueco some years back. And apparently, we were a pretty big club, because the Hueco was an awfully popular shoe in the 1990s. Now it’s back and improved, and after test-driving a pair on moderate routes at Idaho’s Castle Rocks State Park, I’m a kid in love again.

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Gear Review: Davek Traveler Umbrella

Davek Traveler Umbrella

Davek Traveler Umbrella
$79, 13 oz.
davekny.com

When the skies opened up at Mt. Rainier National Park and we faced two hours of slogging through steady rain before reaching our next campsite, I was very glad to have Davek’s Traveler umbrella—not for me, actually, but for my nine-year-old son. It made a big difference in his outlook toward hiking in the cool rain.

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Gear Review: Aquapac waterproof SLR case no. 455

Aquapac waterproof SLR case no. 455

Camera Case
Aquapac waterproof SLR case no. 455
$130, 9.5 oz.
aquapac.net

The dilemma: I was going sea kayaking for five days in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and needed a way to shoot with my digital SLR without subjecting it to constant sea spray and the risk of an accidental dunking. If I had to constantly pull it out of a dry bag (or two) or a watertight hard case to shoot, I’d inevitably miss many shots. The solution: this flexible SLR case from Aquapac. Several hundred photos later, I’m convinced that—from a photographer’s perspective—my trip would not have been the same without it.

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Gear Review: Kahtoola Microspikes Traction Device

Kahtoola Microspikes

Mini-Crampons
Kahtoola Microspikes
$59, 13 oz. (medium)
XS-XL (fit boots from youth size 1 to men’s 16, or insulated boots up to men’s 13.5)
kahtoola.com

Conditions on the Grand Canyon’s Grandview Trail were—as a ranger warned us when we picked up our permit—“treacherous” for our late-March backpacking trip. Hard ice and frozen snow covered the trail’s uppermost couple of miles, where you frequently traverse sloping ledges a foot or two wide, with huge drop-offs. “Microspikes are mandatory,” the ranger told us, and he was right. Without them, we’d have risked becoming tomorrow’s news—or, more likely, have aborted our four-day trip.

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