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March 22, 2017

Gear upgrades for the 2017 backpacking season

I’ve made quite a few gear upgrades since the end of last year’s backpacking season, including a tent, sleeping quilt, rain jacket, insulated puffy, GPS device, and a camera. Besides replacing broken or lost gear, most of these items were upgraded so I could carry less weight while backpacking.

TENT

I needed to replace my tent after the zipper in my REI Quarter Dome 1 completely quit working. In the two years that I used this tent, I had to patch four tiny holes in the tent fabric and one hole in the tent mesh. Regardless, I had an emotional attachment to this tent since it was my first for backpacking and I considered purchasing the newest version of the Quarter Dome (introduced in Spring 2017), but I decided to do some research and replace it with a lighter but stronger tent.

Tarptent Moment DW

I ended up choosing the Tarptent Moment DW. It’s a one person double-walled tent with two doors and two vestibules. With the optional partial solid interior and an additional crossing pole, this tent is good for four seasons, with the ability to withstand a snow load. The total weight is 2.5 pounds (add another 6 ounces for the crossing pole when needed).

Set up is easy, with the tent body and fly already attached, all you do is insert the pole in a sleeve, then place one stake at each end of the tent. Having the tent and fly attached also means that the interior stays dry, even if you have to set up in the rain.

I really like having two doors and vestibules, perfect for storing gear outside of the tent while keeping one side open for getting in and out easily. Since the doors are on opposite ends, this means that you can change which end your head lies at based on the level of ground slope without having to move your tent.

SLEEPING QUILT

Enlightened Equipment RevelationAfter purchasing three different sleeping bags, I’m now trying a sleeping quilt. I was looking for something lighter in weight but still warm. I also wanted more flexibility: something more snug when it’s cold, and looser when it’s not. A quilt has the advantage of being more flexible in terms of how it it used.

I considered quite a few brands before deciding on the Enlightened Equipment Revelation. Available only by ordering directly from the manufacturer, you can choose from three fill weights (850, 900, or 950), six temperature ratings, five lengths, four widths, and more than 15 fabric colors for a totally customized quilt.

I ordered a 950-fill, 10 degree, short length, regular width quilt with 20D fabric on the outside and optional water resistant stripes. This quilt weighs only 22 ounces, which is less than half as heavy as the Big Agnes Roxy Ann sleeping bag I usually take backpacking.

The Revelation quilt has a short zipper at the foot, with snaps in a few spots and buckles that can be used with included straps to attach the quilt to your sleeping pad. On colder nights, wrap the quilt all the way around your body and connect the buckles and snaps. The top has a pull cord that tightens for keeping warm air inside, but there’s no hood. I wear a hat when I sleep, or if it’s really cold, I wear my puffy with the hood. In hot weather, leave it flat and use like a blanket. I’m looking forward to not being all zipped up in a sleeping bag when I don’t have to be.

GPS DEVICE

Garmin GPSMap 64sWhile snowshoeing last year on Christmas Eve, I lost my GPS device somewhere between Lower and Upper Twin Lake near Mount Hood. I considered not replacing it and using a smartphone app instead, but I tried out a few apps and determined that they don’t offer what I need. Since I use the GPS tracks from my hikes in creating maps for my hiking books, I need the best possible accuracy and reliability. I had already spent a lot of time learning how to use the Garmin GPSMap 62stc that I lost, and I relied on the included Basecamp software for trip planning, so I decided to purchase the newest version of the same GPS, the Garmin GPSMap 64s. To make sure that it can’t fall off my pack, I also purchased a tether for it that attaches to a backpack strap. I’m not going to lose this one!

RAIN JACKET

I’ve used the same REI Rainwall jacket for several years and always liked it, but on a backpacking trip to Dollar Lake on Mount Hood last year, we had heavy rain all night and during the entire hike back to the car, and my jacket wetted out. I was soaked through the three layers I was wearing under it, but fortunately, we only had to hike out four miles in the cold rain. After this, I tried washing it and reapplying the DWR finish, but it still wets out during a heavy rain. It also frequently feels clammy, with a slight buildup of condensation on the inside of the shell.

Instead of replacing it with a similar jacket, I decided to purchase two rain jackets: an ultralight version for most backpacking; and a bomb-proof version for colder and inclement weather. So far, I haven’t found the bomb-proof version, but I did purchase the ultralight jacket: an Outdoor Research Helium II. At only 5.5 ounces, this ultralight rain jacket has only one chest pocket and no pit zips. The breathability is supposed to be very good, due to the Pertex fabric used. I just got this a few days ago, so I haven’t had a chance to test it yet.

INSULATED “PUFFY” JACKET

Mountain Hardwear Ghost WhispererI upgraded my North Face Thermoball puffy with a Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer for three reasons: I wanted a down jacket for extra warmth, a hood that could be used instead of a heavier hat, and a lighter overall weight. The Ghost Whisperer uses 850-fill down, ultralight fabrics, and a trim fit for a jacket that is incredibly comfortable and weighs only 6.7 ounces (women’s small).

CAMERA

To get all of the photos that I need for my hiking books and this blog, I take hundreds of photos on every hike, so I always carry a DSLR. My camera was one of the heaviest items that I carried, and I wanted something that was smaller and weighed a lot less. I bought the Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera, which is about half the size and weight of my previous camera, a Pentax K-S2.

Think Tank Slim ChangerI also bought a new pouch for carrying the camera. The Think Tank Slim Changer attaches to a backpack hip belt for ease of access while hiking. The pouch has room for a few extras, which I use for  trail snacks and my reading glasses. Pockets on the outside hold the lens cap and a spare battery, and a zippered compartment on the bottom holds a rainfly for the pouch.

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I make a small commission if a purchase is made. This does not change the price of the item. Regardless, the items listed here are owned by me and purchased with my own funds. All reviews are unbiased and not paid for by any company. Thank you for supporting this blog!

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  • Sasquatch

    Great choices. If you are still looking for the bombproof jacket, have a look at the Cactus Mountain Jacket – absolutely brilliant.
    https://www.cactusoutdoor.co.nz/clothing/jackets-and-vests/waterproof-jackets/mountain-jacket-2473.html

    • I’m not familiar with the Cactus Mountain brand, so I’ll have to check it out. Do you know if there are any retailers in Oregon or Washington that carry it?

    • Sasquatch

      I have no idea, sorry. Cactus Outdoor are a New Zealand based company, and make all of their stuff here. I am not sure whether they have any distributors in the US, however they did ship to me when I was living there.