camping gear reviews

Gear Review: Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite and Z Lite Sol

Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite

Air Mattress and Foam Pad
Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite
$130, 9 oz., 47x20x2.5 ins. (small)
$160, 12 oz., 72x20x2.5 ins. (regular)
$180, 1 lb., 77x25x2.5 ins. (long)
moosejaw.com

Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol
$45, 13 oz., 72x20x0.75 ins. (regular)
$35, 10.5 oz., 51x20x0.75 ins. (small)
moosejaw.com

Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol

My preoccupation with keeping my backpack light usually steers me to the lightest gear—but I draw the line at sleeping uncomfortably, which made me slightly apprehensive about the featherweight NeoAir XLite—one of the shortest air mats I’ve ever used. I had no need to be. On a four-night backpacking trip in Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness, I slept great on the smallest size.

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Gear Review: Cocoon Ultralight AirCore Pillow

Camp Pillow Cocoon Ultralight AirCore Pillow $25, 4 oz. designsalt.com File this one under “There’s no reason to rough it too severely in the wilderness.” Many a night I’ve lain my head upon this very comfy inflatable pillow, which more than justifies its paltry weight and baseball size when stuffed. The microfiber shell on one side makes for a soft …

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Gear Review: Princeton Tec Byte Headlamp

Princeton Tec Byte

Headlamp
Princeton Tec Byte
$20, 2 oz. (with two AAA batteries)
Max burn time: 146 hours at maximum brightness
princetontec.com

If weight is your top priority when choosing gear and you need a headlamp that’s bright enough for most backpacking situations, the Byte is your pick. I used this tiny, water-resistant light on several backcountry adventures, including family trips in the Everglades and Tetons and a backpacking trip in Idaho’s Sawtooths.

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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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