More Backpacking Delights

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Wow, what fun, backpacking is kind of like bicycling. Hard to get into, but addictive as a sport (and also a a geek gear acquisition excuse :-). Here are some more notes on things. If you want to drool, check out the Dream Backpacking list at Outdoorgearlab.com

  • Hiking Boots. Well, like most things, this is literally the Achilles heel of hiking. Your dogs go and you go no further 🙂 The main thing is to match the boot to what you are doing. If you are carrying a big pack, you need a boot that provides support and most important keeps your toes from moving forward (ouch!). For big loads, nothing beats a leather boot (although it is heavy, it is highly supportive).
    • The Asolo Power Matic 200 is the classic example. It will last a life time and even has little pulleys and requires very little break in.
    • Asolo Bullet GTX (either men’s or women’s) might be a good compromise. At $200, it is lighter and offers good protection and also support for heavy loads. It is a mid-weight boot which is good for the loads but is only 2.6 pounds.
    • Keen Targhee II ($90-130) which is comfortable and not for heavy duty loads. It’s only $100 and has a good heel cup eliminator blisters and a great lacing system. It is great for women or men.
  • Altimeter Watches. Well, it is just hard to beat Suunto at its game, took all the spots for watches. This plus a map is about all you will really need (although we carry our iPhone around with Gaia maps loaded in a waterproof case when we are really lost 🙂 I had a Suunto for years before it broke (thanks Brad!) and it really dos work.
    • The Suunto Ambit is wonderful but at $500 and lasting 50 hours in GPS tracking mode, you really have to plan some when using it. But it let’s you set way points, so it is like having a GPS on your wrist 🙂
    • The budget choice is the Suunto Vector and it all makes me want to see if I can get my old Suunto repaired as things haven’t moved all that much int he past 10 years 🙂
    • Personally while less accurate, I’d take the Casio Pathfinder PAG 240 (it is 5 meter accurate vs 1 meter in the Suunto, $142 for the PAG 240-1 from Amazon) just because you don’t have to change the battery every 18 months for the Suunto Vector or 12 months for the Core. Confusingly there are three variants, the PAG 240-1 is a rubber band, PAG-240B-2 is a leather strap and PAG-240-T-7 is a titanium band (heavy nearly 110grams!). See A Blog to Watch and their hilarious top 10 watches to help you survive the zombie apocalypse
    • Another option is the Casio GW9200 Riseman which is basically a PAG 240 with G-shock chassis to make it even tougher and it does atomic clock sync but you give up the compass. There is even a forum debating the two where GW-9200 has a slight lead.
  • Backpacking Tents. We have the Big Agnes Fly Creek 3 and it is pretty amazing (compared with my old REI Half Dome anyway :-). The main issue with it is that it is so light that it has to give up on durability. But still if you don’t get out there too much and are extra careful, it is great 🙂 It weights just 31 ounc or 879 kg if you can believe it for a Fly Creek 2! The Terra Nova Solar Photon 2 is another simliar model but it perhaps a little more durable at 936 grams (2 lb 1oz). Another good choice is the Hyperlite MOuntain Gear Echo II which comes in pieces. You can have it as just a tarp (8.8 ounces) or have it with an insert (so it is 28.3 ounces). Best of both worlds!
  • Water Bottles. Many people have tried, but it is just hard to beat the trusty dusty Nalgene (6.2 ounces to carry a liter), but it is unlikely to ever break and you can put Gatorade in and it won’t take like it forever 🙂
  • Socks. Hard to beat the SmartWool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew. We love SmartWool for skiing too although the REI Merino Wool Light Hiker II is a great sock too 🙂
  • Hats. You may look like a geek, but the Outdoor Research Sun Runner cap is really the best. All around protection. We swear by it.
  • Trekking Poles. For the weak amongst us (me!), this is indispensable. And you can get a cool CArbon figer one that weights just 9.5 ounces! The Black Diamond Trail Compact fits in a TSA bag so you can carry it on airplanes and it is very light. $90 at Amazon. Or the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork which although expensive are very light.
  • Stuff Sack. I want my sleep bag dry, so a ZPacks Medium Dry Bag sounds great!
  • Backpack. I have a 40 liter one but the Arcteryx Altra 65 sounds awesome (if expensive at $450). Weights 2.2kg though, but is comfortable! The Osprey Exos 58 though at 2 pound 8 ounces and 58 liters is great although I’m sure not as durable but good if you don’t go out much 🙂
  • Headlamp. We already have a big heavy set, but the Petzel E+Lite is just 27grams and perfect for emergencies.

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