backpacking gear reviews

Backpackers hiking the Titcomb Basin Trail, Wind River Range, Wyoming.

The Best Trekking Poles of 2024

By Michael Lanza

One of the most immutable truisms about hiking is this: Backpackers, dayhikers, climbers, mountain runners, and others who start using trekking poles almost never hit the trail without them again. No matter how much weight you’re carrying—from an ultralight daypack to a godawful heavy monster backpack—using poles will lessen your chances of an accidental fall and your leg muscles and joints, feet, back, and body will all feel better, thanks to the reduced strain, fatigue, and impact on them.

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A backpacker hiking to Spider Gap in Washington's Glacier Peak Wilderness.

An Essentials-Only Backpacking Gear Checklist

By Michael Lanza

What do you need to pack for a three-season backpacking trip? While the specific items depend in part on factors like the time of year, your companions and backpacking style, the trip’s length and the weather forecast, this story provides a core checklist of essential gear to help you organize and efficiently pack—and avoid overpacking—for virtually any backpacking trip.

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The Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Hoodie in the Grand Canyon.

The Best Sun Shirts of 2024

By Michael Lanza

Whether backpacking, dayhiking, climbing, trail running, fishing, paddling, or active outdoors in myriad other ways, sun protection becomes critical not only for preventing skin cancer, but also because the hot sun can wear you down and exacerbate the effects of heat, elevation, and dehydration—especially in the mountains and desert.

While there are a variety of styles of sun shirts, for active pursuits in warm to hot temperatures, nothing really beats a lightweight, breathable hoody for maximum protection and keeping you cool—while adding minimal weight and bulk to your kit. This review spotlights the best sun shirt hoodies.

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Montem Ultra Light 100% Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles.

Review: Montem Ultra Light 100% Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

Trekking Poles
Montem Ultra Light 100% Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
$90, 14 oz./396.9g
$One size, adjustable 105-135cm
montemlife.com

The biggest question with inexpensive gear is always: Will it work? And best way to answer that question is to field test it in places that are hard on gear. Backpacking six days in the Grand Canyon and three days on southern Utah’s rugged Owl and Fish canyons loop, and dayhiking in a couple of southern Utah national parks and on two of the steepest, meanest trails in my local Foothills, I found that Montem’s remarkably affordable Ultra Light 100% Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles met virtually all the demands I placed on them through some very hard use and left me with only a couple of relatively minor critiques.

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The Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio.

Review: Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio

Two-Way Radio
Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio
$110 each/$220 per pair
6.1 oz./172.9g (one radio only), 7.9 oz./224g (including carabiners and leash)
rockytalkie.com

Over more than 30 years of climbing and skiing in the backcountry, I’ve had a few close calls, some directly due to the inability of my partner and I to hear or see one another. One of my most trusted partners—a longtime friend who once saved me from a potentially long lead-climbing fall by leaping down a steep hill at the route’s base to reel in many feet of rope—also once took me off belay before I reached the top of a pitch and anchored myself; fortunately, I didn’t fall. After relying on the sketchy low tech of shouting and rope signals for much too long, I’ve found a vastly more reliable, light, and inexpensive solution: the Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio.

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