backpacking gear reviews

Gear Review: Brooks-Range Cirro Hoody Puffy Jacket

Brooks-Range Cirro Hoody

Puffy Jacket
Brooks-Range Cirro Hoody
$189, 13 oz.
Sizes: S-XL
brooks-range.com

I looked at this puffy jacket and thought, “Not gonna keep me warm. Too thin and light.” Wrong. From Washington’s North Cascades to Oregon’s Grand Ronde River and Idaho’s City of Rocks, I was toasty on windy, cool mornings down to the upper 30s. The lightweight, Primaloft One insulation doesn’t look Michelin Man fat, but is tops at trapping body heat.

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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: 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: 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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