Tag Archives: camping gear reviews

Gear Review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV Air Mattress

July 20, 2016  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV air mattress.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV air mattress.

Insulated Air Mattress
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV
$180, 1 lb. (regular, with stuff sack)
Sizes: regular (72x20x2.5 ins.) and large ($210, 77x25x2.5 ins.)
rei.com

Who enjoys blowing up an air mattress? At the end of a full day of backpacking, it always seems to take more breaths than you have left in reserve. Therm-a-Rest solves this problem with its SpeedValve, a large, fabric tunnel that draws in surrounding air when you blow into it, making the inflation process significantly faster and easier. After using the lightweight and compact Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV on a family backpacking trip in Utah’s Dirty Devil River canyon and while car-camping in southern Utah in late March, and my 15-year-old son sleeping on it for three nights on a mid-July rafting and kayaking trip through Lodore Canyon in Dinosaur National Monument, I give it high scores for comfort and convenience. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Exped DreamWalker 450 Sleeping Bag

June 29, 2016  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Exped DreamWalker 450

Exped DreamWalker 450

Sleeping Bag
Exped DreamWalker 450
$349, 2 lbs. 1 oz. (medium)
Sizes: medium (fits up to 5 feet, 11 ins.), large (fits up to 6 feet, 5 ins.)
backcountry.com

On a cool, early morning at Numa Creek camp on the Rockwall Trail in Canada’s Kootenay National Park, I told my wife I was heading for the camp’s cooking area to fire up our stove for breakfast. She responded in her way of letting me know she wasn’t getting up yet: “It’s cold out there.” I said, “That’s why I’m staying in my bag.” And I was: Within seconds, I converted my DreamWalker 450 bag into a long down parka and proceeded to wear it walking and sitting around in camp. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Black Diamond Spot and Cosmo Headlamps

May 25, 2016  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   3 Comments
Black Diamond Spot and Cosmo headlamps.

Black Diamond Spot and Cosmo headlamps.

Ultralight Headlamps
Black Diamond Spot
$40, 3 oz. (with 3 AAA batteries, included)
Black Diamond Cosmo
$30, 3 oz. (with 3 AAA batteries, included)
backcountry.com

A headlamp doesn’t have to take a big bite out of your gear budget—in fact, as these two models demonstrate, you can score a multi-featured backcountry lamp for as little as 30 bucks, and a high-performance model for less than you’ll probably spend on food and gas for a weekend trip. From backpacking trips in Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains last October, Utah’s Dirty Devil River canyon in late March, and the Panamint Range of Death Valley National Park in May, to a four-day climb of the Mountaineers Route on California’s 14,505-foot Mount Whitney in mid-April, I put the Cosmo and Spot through many hours of use. Both shined at the usual tasks, like lighting the way when pitching a tent or hiking off-trail in the dark, but my testing also spotlighted their differences. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Western Mountaineering Summerlite Sleeping Bag

May 19, 2016  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Western Mountaineering Summerlite sleeping bag.

Western Mountaineering Summerlite sleeping bag

Ultralight Sleeping Bag
Western Mountaineering Summerlite
$390, 1 lb. 3 oz. (regular)
Sizes: short, regular, and long ($420)

The lightest sleeping bags for summer camping—meaning for temperatures from the 50s Fahrenheit to around freezing—rarely include features like a hood, a draft tube, and a two-way, full-length zipper. The Summerlite has all of those while weighing in at barely north of a pound and remaining true to its 32-degree rating. On a weeklong, late-March trip in southern Utah, I slept in it for nights of car camping and backpacking in the Dirty Devil River canyon, when the low dipped into the high 20s, and found it warm, spacious enough, and supremely packable. Continue reading →

April 3, 2016 Cas9-127 Camp, Dome Glacier, day 4, Ptarmigan Traverse, North Cascades

5 Tips For Buying a Backpacking Tent

In Backpacking, Gear Reviews, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , ,   |   5 Comments

By Michael Lanza

There are a lot of tents out there. How do you choose between them? Backpackers come in different sizes and have different needs and preferences in a tent. In testing scores of backcountry tents over the past two decades, for reviews in Backpacker Magazine and this blog, I’ve seen the best and the worst—and gotten a sense of what to look for in a tent and how to help people pick out one they like. Here are my five simple tips for finding a tent you’ll love. Continue reading →

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