Gear Selection Process
Backpacker magazine releases an annual list of their favorite products after putting them through some tough real-life testing. They first take various items on an assortment of adventures such as hiking, paddling, and climbing. The gear is tested through a wide array of climates and terrains. After eliminating most items, they round up their favorites and this year took them backpacking in Colombia for further testing.
Top Gear Winners
- Sleeping Bag: REI Co-op Magma 850. Made of water-resistant down, this sleeping bag is a great bargain in terms of getting a lot of warmth (10 degrees) versus the cost. It’s also less than 2 lbs. This is a men’s bag and the women’s version is a 17 degree bag with a weight slightly over 2 lbs.
*Petites: At 66 inches for the regular size and designed as a “fitted” fit, the slimmest of REI’s backpacking bags, this is a good option. It’s a pound lighter than my 30 degree sleeping bag as well. However, it’s more of an investment so if you don’t need the warmth and can spare 1 lb, My Gear List has a great option.
- Softshell Jacket: Rab Kinetic Plus. This jacket is comfortable and breathable. It’s made of a new proflex material which is more flexible than most jacket materials. Rab has a guide to waterproof jackets which covers waterproofing fabrics, breathability, and durability.
*Petites: This jacket sizes down to XS in women’s sizes. I personally have not tried Rab yet but their size chart (UK8 = US XS) shows it might run about true to size. It is also a “slim” style which reduces side bulk, common in more boxy fitting jackets.
- Camping chair: Helinox chair zero. At just barely over 1 pound, this chair is a great option to add a bit of comfort to your trek. If you are backpacking anywhere with a rocky or wet terrain, or perhaps one that may be crawling with various insects, a chair may almost be a necessity. That being said, it’s difficult to find something that is so lightweight and easy to pack: it packs down to the size of a water bottle. It also claims to be quite durable, allowing user weight to be up to about 265.
- Camping chair: Mountainsmith slingback chair. This “chair” is another great option if you are looking to pack even lighter. How does it possibly get lighter? It utilizes your trekking poles for support! Unlike the Helinox, it won’t get you off the ground but for a low budget, low weight option for some back support, this would be a great buy.
- Water Filter: Katadyn BeFree. After reading about this filter, I have added it to my Gear Wish List! Previously, I have carried pump filters with me, which are sufficient but sometimes inconvenient. This water filter uses squeeze filtration, at a similar speed to using pump filters. The complete system is the filter with a soft bottle that can fold up when not in use. Simply scoop your water into the bottle and the filter will eliminate over 99.9% of harmful organisms.
- Food: Good-To-Go oatmeal. This backpacker’s breakfast sets itself apart from most oatmeal. Sure you can grab some sugary, processed Quaker oats as an easy option but it’s nice to have a delicious, healthy option. Hiking is doing something great for your body by getting outdoors and exercising, so don’t you want to fuel your body with better ingredients?
- Backpack: Arcteryx Bora AR. This backpack is quite an investment; the 50 liter size will run you around $500. The special feature of this backpack is the hipbelt which is designed to be ultra comfortable. It automatically adjusts more to your body than an ordinary backpack hipbelt does. The material is also reportedly quite durable and weatherproof.
- Outdoor wear: Voormi River Run Hoodie. Voormi is a Colorado-based company that makes their products out of the United States. The material is merino wool but using a technology that makes it super lightweight and breathable. They claim that it is perfect in all sorts of temperatures and also has UV protection. Bonus: the women’s medium is only 5 ounces!
*Petites: Not having tried Voormi before, I inspected the size chart as show below. While I’m used to seeing a chest and waist measurement for reference, the chest circumference provided alone indicates that the women’s version might be a great fit and run appropriate to size.
- Rain Jacket: Columbia Outdry Extreme Eco Jacket. This jacket was one of the editors absolute favorite gear items and it is extremely eco-friendly:
- It comes only in the white color because it’s made without dye in order to save water.
- This jacket is made out of recycled bottles.
- It is also made without PFCs (Perfluorinated Chemicals) which are harmful to the environment; instead it uses a new technology that is water-resistant without using these chemicals.
*Petites: Columbia is a pretty petite-friendly brand, they are one of the few brands that seems to run true to size in outdoor wear. The size chart is provided below for XS/S for reference.
- Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 4. This was voted as a great tent option for a group of 4 (or fewer). Care about the environment? The poles are made with a technology that recycle water during manufacturing. The design of the poles creates more inside space (higher walls) but with no extra weight compared to previous versions.
- Daypack: Sea to Summit Ultra-sil Daypack. This bag is known for being super durable and lightweight (<3 ounces) at the same time. It packs down to the size of your fist so it’s easy to take anywhere. It’s a great daypack option for backpacking because it will add very little space and bulk.
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