Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Marmot Plasma 30 Sleeping Bag

Marmot Plasma 30

Sleeping Bag
Marmot Plasma 30
$419, 1 lb. 6 oz. (regular)
Sizes: regular (6’), long (6’6”)
marmot.com

I don’t have room in my life for a heavy, bulky sleeping bag. If I’m backpacking with my young kids, carrying most of our food and gear, or loaded down for a multi-day climbing trip, I need to cut ounces everywhere possible. If I’m backpacking without my family, I want to go as light as possible. The newest bag to raise the superlight bar—or lower it, if you will—is the Plasma 30. I used it recently for five nights on the Ptarmigan Traverse in Washington’s North Cascades, and earlier this summer camping at Idaho’s City of Rocks and rafting Oregon’s Grand Ronde River.

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Gear Review: Sierra Designs Fireside Down Bootie

Sierra Designs Fireside Down Bootie

Sierra Designs Fireside Down Bootie
$70, 15 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s S-XL
sierradesigns.com

When you’re carrying everything on your back to a backcountry yurt or camping in winter conditions, the matter of finding appropriate yurt/camp footwear can be thorny: You want something really warm, not heavy or bulky, and with an outsole that grips snow so that you don’t take an epic digger while walking to the privy. The Fireside Down Bootie fits the bill perfectly.

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Gear Review: Black Diamond Soloist Winter Glove

Black Diamond Soloist

Winter Glove
Black Diamond Soloist
$110, 9 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XL, women’s XS-L
blackdiamondequipment.com

Routinely getting cold fingers is a real drag when you like to ski fresh backcountry powder. I’ve tried a lot of gloves over the years, looking for ones that will keep my fingers from turning white, not cost a fortune, and allow me reasonable dexterity. For most of last winter and my first days on snow this winter, skiing the backcountry and resorts from Idaho’s Boise Mountains to Oregon’s Wallowas, I’ve pulled on the Soloist for cold days and never suffered painful digits.

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Gear Review: REI Tarn 18 Kids Daypack

REI Tarn 18

Kids Daypack
REI Tarn 18
$40, 1 lb. 3 oz. (one size fits kids age 8 to 12)
18L/1,100 c.i.
rei.com

Your kid needs a hydration-compatible daypack that’s functional and comfortable, and the Tarn 18 rings all the bells at a good price. It logged numerous days with my family this summer, from the Columbia Gorge to the Tetons, because it fits both my son (recently turned 11) and daughter (age 8). They both loved its look and functionality of a real pack.

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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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