sleeping bag reviews

A backpacker on the John Muir Trail overlooking the Cathedral Range in Yosemite National Park.

The Best Backpacking Gear for the John Muir Trail

By Michael Lanza

So you’re planning to thru-hike the John Muir Trail and making all of the necessary preparations, and now you’re wondering: What’s the best gear for a JMT hike? Having thru-hiked the JMT as well as taken numerous other backpacking trips all over the High Sierra—mostly between late August and late September, which I consider that the best time to walk the Sierra, to avoid snow and the voracious mosquitoes and blazing hot afternoons of mid-summer—I offer the following picks for the best lightweight backpacking gear and apparel for a JMT thru-hike.

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A backpacker on the Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park.

5 Things to Know Before Buying Backpacking Gear

By Michael Lanza

Are you in the market for a new backpack, boots, tent, sleeping bag or other backpacking gear or apparel? How do you find something that’s just right for you? What should you be looking for? How much should you spend? These are questions I’ve heard from many friends and readers over the years as they’ve waded through the myriad choices out there. This article lays out five simple but helpful tips to keep in mind when buying gear.

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The Therm-a-Rest Parsec 32 sleeping bag.

Review: Therm-a-Rest Parsec 32 Sleeping Bag

Ultralight Sleeping Bag
Therm-a-Rest Parsec 32
$400, 1 lb. 9 oz. (regular)
Sizes: unisex small, regular, and long

It was an amazing spot to sleep under the stars for our last night on an early-April backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon: perched on a plateau high above the Inner Gorge of the Colorado River, gazing across the canyon at the Tonto Plateau and South Rim. We waited until dusk had nearly faded to darkness to lay out our sleeping bags atop our completely exposed, flat cowboy-camping ledges, hoping the relentless, strong wind would abate with evening’s arrival and not threaten to launch our bags to New Mexico—but it didn’t. So I burrowed inside my Therm-a-Rest Parsec 32 for warmth—and only opened my eyes once or twice briefly during the night, enough to glimpse the brilliant glow of the Milky Way.

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The Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 30 sleeping bag.

Review: Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 30F Sleeping Bag

Sleeping Bag
Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 30F/-1C
$235, 1 lb. 12 oz. (regular, 72-inch)
Sizes: men’s and women’s regular and long

On the second night of a four-day, roughly 50-mile backpacking trip in Yosemite in the last week of September, when nights dipped into the 40s Fahrenheit, I laid my bag and pad out under the stars, without a tent, in one of the neatest spots I’ve ever slept outside: on a dry granite slab between two braids of a creek, lulled by a tiny cascade just a few steps from my head. And all night, a strong, cool wind blew down that creek valley, prompting me to zip deeply inside the Bishop Pass 30F/-1C. Despite that wind chill, I stayed warm and slept like a baby.

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Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0 sleeping bag.

Review: Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0 Sleeping Bag

Winter Sleeping Bag
Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0
$650, 2 lbs. 9 oz. (regular, 72-inch)
Sizes: short, regular, long

The forecast made me sit up and wonder: Will my bag be warm enough? For the three nights in late December that I planned to spend in a tent in Idaho’s Boise Mountains, lows would drop into the teens and single digits Fahrenheit—slipping below the “comfort” rating and approaching the “limit” rating of my Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0. And this on my maiden voyage with the bag; I had not used it yet. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about with this extraordinarily warm and packable, ultralight winter sleeping bag.

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