Gear to get out.
Finally, the snowline has receded far enough and you feel like sleeping out overnight. We don't judge you for waiting for warmer weather, and in fact, very few of us in the O/B office have spent a night under the stars in 2016. But some of us braved the elements (or went to the desert) to test some new camping gear. This stuff will get you through summer and into hunting season, so take a gander at the goods.
Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Dream Mattress
It bugs me when gear companies describe sleeping pads as mattresses, because my flimsy pad feels nothing like a mattress. But Therm-A-Rest has earned the apellation – their NeoAir Dream is indeed a mattress, and, I daresay, a good deal more comfortable than my bed at home. Now, it's big and bulky, so definitely not suitable for an overnight backpack; but if you're car camping, this is the one to have. At four inches thick, you could sleep in a scree field and be comfortable. The mattress comes with a hand pump, so you don't have to hyperventilate filling the thing, and for all its heft, actually packs down pretty small; no need to buy a truck just to haul the thing around. $230; thermarest.com. —David Tucker
Petzl Tactikka+RGB Headlamp
Compact, lightweight, and bright – the Petzl Tactikka+RGB has all you need and nothing more. Well, a little more: three colored lenses (red, green, blue) for... I don't know what for, but I do like having at least one colored lens, for hunting and fishing stealth, and so I don't ruin my night vision with an inadvertent blast of white light. The smart switch, once you get used to, allows a full range of functionality with a single button: three brightness levels on white, plus a super-bright boost mode; and a strobe with each color. Maybe that's it: various flashing colors give you a makeshift mirror ball for an impromptu wilderness disco. $60; petzl.com. —Mike England
Gerber Freescape Paring Knife
Around camp, few items are as important as a good knife. From food prep to fish cleaning to whittling marshmallow roasters, a quality blade can make the difference between a fun, easy night outdoors and an utterly unpleasant outing. I've always found Gerber to be a reliable brand, and their new Freescape Paring Knife makes a great camp companion. It's sharp and well-balanced, with a grippy handle and thick sheath for safety. Strap it on your belt, stash it in the glove box, or throw it in the cooking box – whatever, just make sure you pick up one of these before setting out. $36; available at Sportsman's Warehouse and online at gerber.com. —Mike England
Nothing beats a fold-out topo out in the woods – no matter how big your smartphone screen is, it can't match the bird's-eye view of printed map, nor does it provide the intimate, tactile ritual of unfurling a map across your and your partner's laps and beholding the myriad possibilities for adventure. I've been a fan of MyTopo since they started in Billings years ago, and I still order a map every so often when I'm eager to explore a new area. Their online customization tool is a breeze: just pick your location, adjust the boundaries, add options – grid lines, shaded relief, etc. – and in a couple days, your customized map is sitting in your mailbox, ready to trigger the imagination. $10-$15, depending on size; mytopo.com. —Mike England
Alpen Optics Sport 10x25 Monocular
Binos are bulky, but zooming in on a cool critter or distant peak is an indispensable delight when out in the wild. Luckily, modern monocular technology allows you to save space and still enjoy an enhanced perspective on the natural world. Many options exist, but I like the Sport 10x25 Compact Monocular by Alpen Optics, because it provides good clarity and magnification at an affordable price. The dark-green color offers stealth when sneaking up close, and the grippy rubberized exterior keeps it tight in your hand, even when wet. A focus knob, lanyard, and sheath round out the features of this simple, effective device. $25; available at Sportsman's Warehouse and online at alpenoptics.com. —Mike England
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