Review: Backpacking Gear

The Sierra Designs Veranda 3 Tent is the perfect crash pad for three weary travelers—or in our case, two people and two dogs. This snazzy three-season shelter is designed for comfort, with two doors, two vestibules, a high ceiling, and a panorama window to enjoy the view. Be advised: At ten pounds, it’s not the best option for lightweight, long-distance backpacking. Available at Barrel, Northern Lights, and Round House. $430;

For hauling ten-pound tents and other multi-day loads, the Arc’teryx Bora 80 Backpack is a solid choice. A handy side-zip allows you to access deeply buried contents, and the pack lid doubles as a waist pack for short jaunts from camp. The best part is the comfy molded waist belt, which makes a 65-pound load feel like 20. Available at Barrel and Northern Lights. $375;

If you value your ankles, a good, strong boot is essential. The Merrell Outbound Mid Gore-Tex Boot is big and solid, made from durable Cordura and Gore-Tex and featuring metal lacing eyelets, an air-cushion heel, and a Vibram Outbound sole. These boots are burly enough for any terrain you find yourself in, from an alpine lake in Montana to an “Into the Wild” scenario in Alaska. Available at Schnee's and Northern Lights. $185;

For balance, Leki’s Khumbu Aergon Trekking Poles offer stability and sure footing on steep, rocky trails; they also help save your back for the long hike out. The SpeedLock external pole-locking mechanism increases strength and convenience without adding extra weight; you can plant these puppies hard with confidence. $100;

To keep Mother Nature from raining on your alpine parade, pack Helly Hansen’s Seattle Packable Jacket. This comfy, breathable coat is economically priced and its Helly Tech fully taped seams make it shed water like otter fur. As the name suggests, it stuffs tightly into itself, saving critical space in your pack for other necessities. Available at Helly Hansen in Bozeman. $120;

Cooking at camp is a breeze with the MSR Reactor Stove, a sweet system that provides a hot meal in all conditions. Not the smallest of stoves, it’s great for cooking big, hearty meals for two and will boil a liter of water in three minutes. The radiant burner conserves fuel, is fully adjustable, and withstands wind. Available at Northern Lights, Round House, Barrel, Girls Outdoors, Timber Trails, Grizzly Outfitters, and Gallatin Alpine Sports. $160;

A compact and trustworthy light for the backcountry is the Petzl Tikka XP2 Headlamp. It lasts over 160 hours and has five modes for various conditions. Shining light up to 60 meters away, it’s still light enough that you won’t know it’s there. Available at Northern Lights. $55;

When it’s time to crash, you’ll be glad you packed the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Sleeping Pad. At a paltry 14 ounces, this baby is the next generation of sleeping pads—lightweight, fully compressible, and way tougher than it looks. It requires manual inflation, but who cares? This thing takes up half the space of your self-inflating model. Available at Northern Lights, Round House, Barrel, Girls Outdoors, Timber Trails, Grizzly Outfitters, and Gallatin Alpine Sports. $130-$170, depending on size;

Well-suited for Montana’s warm summer nights, the Eureka Riner Sleeping Bag will cook you to the perfect temperature from June to September. The combination of 40-degree Rteq micro insulation, roomy hybrid design (I can basically do jumping jacks inside of it), and handy internal stash pocket make this bag an easy and affordable choice for outdoor summer livin’. $100;