Every winter, we spend hours planning summer trips. Whether it's a backpack, float, overnighter, or fishing trip, we need to know that once we're out there, our gear isn't going to let us down. Too many adventures have been compromised by shotty products. That's why we spend time and energy testing the best the market has to offer. Here are a few items that made the cut this summer.
Brooks Range Drift Sleeping Bags
When you're on a backpack, a good night's sleep is essential. Your body is working hard and needs to recuperate, and a fitfull sleep just won't do. Therefore, you need a bag that's going to be comfortable and warm without being bulky or heavy. The Drift series from Brooks Range Mountaineering fits this bill perfectly. Mine is rated to zero degrees, which might seem excessive, but Montana's mountains get cold at night, even in the middle of summer. On a recent three-day traverse of the Bridger Range, the bag's extra loft enabled me to leave my sleeping pad at home, saving space and weight. Come fall and winter, when the mercury drops, the Drift's insulated collar traps heat inside, keeping you toasty warm. Long hikes mean tired legs, and mine need room to roam while I sleep. The Drift never felt restrictive even when zipped to the top. The price tag is a little high, but this bag is a quiver of one, and it's available in multiple warmth ratings. $400-$750; brookrange.com.
MSR Windburner Stove
While shelter is key on any overnight, food and water really make a backpack. You can always get calories from jerky or trail mix, but a piping hot soup or sweet and filling oatmeal can be the difference between misery and joy (not to mention hot coffee or tea). Again, space in your pack is precious, so you want something that packs away in a tight, compact unit. Enter the Windburner Stove from MSR. The one-liter unit is completely self-contained, with the gas canister (4oz.) packing into the pot, along with the burner, and canister stand. The 16oz. pot fits over the bottom of the stove unit, and the optional coffee press packs inside as well. When all is said and done, the entire stove packs to the size of a turkey sub. Once the stove is unpacked and in use, the highly sensitive pressure regulator allows you to adjust boiling intensity. Word to the wise: air on the side of lower pressure; once this baby gets going, your water will be boiling in no time and has a tendency to overflow if you ignore the max-fill limit. I had no trouble bringing water to boil in windy conditions, and the as-advertised boil-time was on the money. $130; msrgear.com.
Gerber Freescape Folding Sheath Knife
Nothing is more essential than a good knife. It's the ultimate tool and when you buy one, you can never imagine when and where you'll need it. The applications are endless, from cutting salami to fashioning a makeshift shelter or starting a fire, not that I've ever had to do either. But I could, with a knife. This summer, I've been using a Freescape Folding Knife from Gerber, mostly for cutting and prepping food around camp; the partially serrated blade makes cutting anything easy and it has a safety locking mechanism, so you can lock it closed or lock it open, minimizing accidents. It's compact enough to fit in your pocket, but sturdy enough to stand up to the rigors of living in the backcountry. Two thumb studs make for easy one-handed opening, and the textured rubber handle means it won't slip out of your palm. The Freescape also comes with a carrying case for your belt. $53; gerbergear.com.
- O/B Store