Therm-a-Rest gear reviews

A backpacker hiking the Highline Trail past Elbow Lake in Wyoming's Wind River Range.

25 Essential Backpacking Gear Accessories of 2024

By Michael Lanza

Sure, your backpack, boots, tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, and other backpacking gear matter a lot, and you should put serious thought into your choices when buying any of them. But little things matter, too. Various necessary accessories, convenience items, and small comforts accompany me on backcountry trips. Nearly three decades of field-testing gear—including the 10 years I spent as the lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog—has refined my sense of what I like on certain types of trips and what I will not do without anytime.

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Backpackers hiking past a tarn off the Highline Trail (CDT) in Wyoming's Wind River Range.

The Best Backpacking Gear of 2024

By Michael Lanza

Glacier National Park. The Wind River Range. The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. Iceland. The John Muir Trail, Wonderland Trail, and Teton Crest Trail. Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. Yellowstone. Southern Utah’s Escalante canyons. The North Cascades and Pasayten Wilderness. The High Uintas Wilderness. The Tour du Mont Blanc. These are just some of the numerous places where I’ve tested the backpacking gear and apparel reviewed at The Big Outside—so that I can give you honest and thorough, field-tested opinions that help you find the best gear for your adventures.

And that’s exactly how I came up with these picks for today’s best backpacking gear.

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The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT air mattress.

Review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT Air Mattress

Insulated Air Mattress
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT
$200, 11.5 oz./330g (size regular short, not including stuff sack or pump sack)
Sizes: four sizes from 20×66 inches/51x168cm to 25×77 inches/64x176cm

Choosing the absolute lightest air mattress you find doesn’t always go well: The hours of sleep lost to discomfort may exceed the weight savings in ounces. Put another way, the personal energy lost through a poor night of sleep may eclipse what you gain from shaving a few ounces of pack weight. The latest iteration of Therm-a-Rest’s ultralight NeoAir XLite air mats, the NXT, will flip that equation to the positive side of the energy ledger for many backpackers, as it did for me on several spring and summer backpacking trips.

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The Therm-a-Rest Vesper 32 Quilt ultralight backpacking quilt.

Review: Therm-a-Rest Vesper 32 Ultralight Backpacking Quilt

Ultralight Backpacking Quilt
Therm-a-Rest Vesper 32 Quilt
$380, 16 oz. (regular)
Sizes: regular and long

For seven nights in huts on Iceland’s Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails in July—and to fit all of my clothing layers, food for a week, and other stuff inside my 40-liter pack while keeping it as light as possible—I decided to take the Therm-a-Rest Vesper 32 Quilt for its minimalist weight and excellent packability. And it turned out, that hut trek mimicked sleeping outside on mild nights, presenting ideal circumstances for weighing an ultralight backpacking quilt’s strengths and shortcomings.

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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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