Tag Archives: camping gear reviews

Gear Review: Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra Air Mattress

August 3, 2016  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments
Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra air mattress.

Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra air mattress.

Insulated Air Mattress
Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra
$100, 1 lb. 6 oz. (regular, with stuff sack)
Sizes: petite ($90, 66x20x3.5 ins.), regular (72x20x3.5 ins.), long ($110, 78x20x3.5 ins.), wide regular ($130, 72x25x3.5 ins.)
rei.com

The ultimate measure of an air mattress comes at the moment when my family discovers it—and when my wife and kids saw the new Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra, they all wanted to sleep on it. I used this air mat for two nights backpacking in the Panamint Range of Death Valley National Park in May, and I (reluctantly) shared it with my family while camping at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve and on a mid-July rafting and kayaking trip on the Green River through Lodore Canyon in Dinosaur National Monument, and I haven’t found an air mat for backpacking that’s more comfortable and this compact. Continue reading →

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 family backpacking trips in Utah’s Dirty Devil River canyon and while car-camping in southern Utah in late March, backpacking in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains in August, 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 and dayhiking the 32-mile, 10,000-vertical-foot Pemi Loop in New Hampshire’s White Mountains in August, 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 →

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