hiking gear reviews

Gear Review: Princeton Tec Byte Headlamp

Princeton Tec Byte

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

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: Mountain Hardwear Drystein Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Drystein Jacket

Rain Shell
Mountain Hardwear Drystein Jacket
$425, 16 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL

I’ve worn dozens of waterproof-breathable jackets over the past two decades of gear and apparel testing, and the characteristic that has always distinguished the best of them is breathability: It’s easy to make a jacket waterproof, not so easy to make it really breathe well when you’re sweating hard. The technology has come a long way over the years, and Hardwear’s new DryQ Elite takes breathability to a new level.

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Gear Review: Helinox Featherlite Trekking Poles

Helinox Featherlite Trekking Poles

Trekking Poles
Helinox Featherlite
$120, 10 oz. (120 cm)
Sizes: 120 and 135 cm (adjustable)

There’s a new ultralight standard in adjustable trekking poles. At 10 oz. for a pair, these sticks weigh in at less than half of many competing models. On a 17-mile dayhike of New Hampshire’s Franconia Ridge in July, I had Appalachian Trail thru-hikers comparing these against their own poles and growing wide-eyed with envy.

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Gear Review: Salewa Firetail GTX Hiking/Scrambling Shoe

Salewa Firetail GTX

Hiking/Scrambling Shoe
Salewa Firetail GTX
$149, 1 lb. 15 oz. (men’s US size 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-12, 13, women’s 6-10, 11

I’ve long observed that expecting “approach” shoes, made for technical scrambling, to be comfortable for hiking more than a few miles is a bit like expecting your road bike to handle riding on rugged trails. But the Firetail nails the hard-to-find balance between performing as an excellent scrambling shoe while remaining surprisingly comfortable on long hikes.

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Gear Review: REI Flash 30 Daypack

REI Flash 30

REI Flash 30
$80, 1 lb. 6 oz. (medium)
Sizes: Medium 30L/1,830 c.i., Large 31L/1,892 c.i.

Unless you can afford a quiver of packs, you expect a daypack to be many things: lightweight and compact for when you don’t need to carry much, spacious and comfortable when you do need to haul a fair bit of stuff. Not many daypacks are that flexible—but the Flash 30 is. On a recent trip to Oregon, I used it on Columbia Gorge dayhikes by myself and with my family, and even a quick morning ski up to 10,000 feet on Mt. Hood.

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