ultralight backpacking

Gear Review: Arc’teryx Tecto FL Jacket

Arc'teryx Tecto FL
Arc’teryx Tecto FL

Lightweight Jacket
Arc’teryx Tecto FL Jacket
$369, 10 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL

Rain shells in the “ultralight” category—which might be loosely defined as 10 ounces and under—tend to sacrifice some performance and durability. Not so the Tecto FL. I practically lived in this Spartan jacket on most of a four-day September trip in the Olympic Mountains, where we got slammed with strong wind, rain, hail, and wet snow, with temperatures in the 30s, for a solid two days, followed by a couple days of sunshine but chilly wind and temps in the 30s and 40s, during which I wore this jacket much of the time. We also bushwhacked for miles through pine boughs that would pour buckets of water over us in the Bailey Range. While my soft-shell pants and my waterproof leather boots eventually soaked through from that deluge, this jacket kept my upper body dry. I give it a 10 for waterproofness and durability, because it looks as new now as the day I got it.

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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

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: Westcomb Cayoosh LT Sweater


Westcomb Cayoosh LT Sweater

Westcomb Cayoosh LT Sweater
$260, 10 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL, women’s XS-XL

From Idaho’s Sawtooths to Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness and Washington’s Olympic Mountains, this full-zip down jacket proved surprisingly warm for its weight in temperatures from the 40s down to a hair below freezing (with only one or two base layers underneath).

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Gear Review: Salomon Synapse Mid Shoes

Salomon Synapse Mid

Lightweight Trail Shoes
Salomon Synapse Mid
$140, 1 lb. 11 oz. (men’s 9)
Sizes: Men’s 7.5-12, women’s 6.5-10

I wanted a pair of lightweight mid-cut boots for a grueling, very rugged, 19-mile dayhike the length of the Carter Range in New Hampshire’s White Mountains—tagging a half dozen summits and climbing and descending some 7,000 feet, a traverse with some absurdly steep sections that is arguably harder than a one-day, 20-mile “death march” of the full Presidential Range. So I looked for mid-cut instead of low-cut shoes to protect my ankles on those notoriously rocky trails. I needed a shoe with enough cushion and support underfoot for a hike that guaranteed a lot of pounding. I prefer non-waterproof footwear for hot dayhikes where breathability is paramount. And I wanted all of that in a boot that’s light and allows me to move fast. The Synapse Mid delivered on all counts.

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Interview: ‘Ultimate Hiker’ Andrew Skurka

Since his “first backpacking trip” thru-hiking the 2,168-mile Appalachian Trail in 95 days (thru-hikers normally take five to six months) in 2002, Andrew Skurka, 31, has put his own indelible stamp on ultra hiking and long-distance backpacking. His many adventures include:

•    Thru-hiking the California section of the Pacific Crest Trail at an average pace of about 40 miles per day;
•    An 800-mile trek across the Colorado Plateau from Arches National Park to the Grand Canyon;

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