camping gear reviews

Gear Review: Black Diamond ReVolt Headlamp

Black Diamond ReVolt
Black Diamond ReVolt

Rechargeable Headlamp
Black Diamond ReVolt
$60, 3.5 oz. (including its three rechargeable NiMH AAA batteries)
Max burn time: 12 hours with rechargeable batteries, 70 hours with alkaline (triple-power LED); 190 hours with rechargeable batteries, 300 hours with alkaline (single-power LED)
blackdiamondequipment.com

[Note: See my review of the updated, 2017 version of the Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp, which replaced the version reviewed below.]

One of the few downsides of backcountry travel is the volume of alkaline batteries we burn through and throw away. So the first thing that attracted me to the ReVolt is that it’s rechargeable. Then I discovered that this headlamp not only treats the environment well, but it’s powerful, versatile, and pretty darn light and compact—an all-around winner.

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Gear Review: REI Igneo Sleeping Bag

REI Igneo
REI Igneo

Three-Season Sleeping Bag
REI Igneo (19° F)
$329, $339 long, 1 lbs. 15 oz. (reg)
Sizes: regular and long
rei.com

Sleeping bags have seen a lot of impressive advances recently, including water-resistant down feathers. But many of those advances jack up the price of high-end bags, while inexpensive models tend too often to be heavy, bulky, and not as well constructed. The Igneo and women’s Joule ($360 regular, $380 long, 22° F) stake out the middle ground with a good price for this quality and low weight, and offer protection from moisture with a waterproof-breathable coating on the ripstop nylon shell fabric.

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Gear Review: Sierra Designs Flash 2 Tent

Sierra Designs Flash 2
Sierra Designs Flash 2

Three-Season Tent
Sierra Designs Flash 2
$340, 3 lbs. 15 oz.
sierradesigns.com

As a violent thunderstorm ripped the skies open in Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness, on the second day of a five-day August family backpacking trip, I had to pitch this tent in a hurry. It was one of those moments when I really appreciate good gear design. With the Flash 2’s “external pitch” integral rainfly attached to the interior canopy, I was able to keep the interior dry while pitching the tent in a downpour. And thanks to having clips instead of pole sleeves, it goes up very quickly.

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Gear Review: Big Agnes Hinman Air Mattress

Big Agnes Hinman
Big Agnes Hinman

Insulated Air Mattress
Big Agnes Hinman
$70, 2 lbs. 4 oz. (20x72x1.5)
Sizes: five sizes from 20x48x1.5 ins. ($60) to 25x78x2.5 ins. ($90) and a double air mat, 50x78x.25 ($200).
bigagnes.com

Camp in winter or on snow almost anytime of year, and what’s between you and the frozen ground will loom just as important in keeping you warm as your bag. Three cold, clear January nights sleeping under the stars (sans tent) outside a yurt (my family was inside) in Idaho’s Boise Mountains left me impressed with this insulated air mat designed for winter camping, with a rating of -5° F.

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Gear Review: Big Agnes McAlpin SL Winter Bag

Big Agnes McAlpin SL winter sleeping bag
Big Agnes McAlpin SL winter bag

Sleeping Bag
Big Agnes McAlpin SL (5° F)
$360, $380 long, 2 lbs. 14 oz. (reg)
Sizes: regular and long
bigagnes.com

What should you look for in a winter sleeping bag? I want it to be warm enough, sure, but I also look for several other attributes, like a little extra space, resilience to moisture, and that it’s not too heavy or bulky and doesn’t cost more than my winter tent. Big Agnes has answered my demands with the McAlpin.

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