It’s that time of year again! It’s getting chilly, the Holidays are sneaking up, and it’s time to get cozy by the campfire and prep for those hikers, campers and backpackers on your list. Here are some high quality, unique recommendations at every price point, tested and approved, by myself.
Check back later as I plan to add a few more products to this list that haven’t showed up yet.
Indestructible, light weight, affordable, and at home in every hiker or backpackers kit, the Z-seat by Thermarest is an excellent gift that most people don’t seem to have yet. It’s just a tiny molded foam pad that weighs barely 2 ounces. Still, this little treat becomes invaluable when it’s cold, wet, or just generally uncomfortable out. After trying one over a decade ago, I’ve carried that same one ever since.
Phone cases have now become adventure equipment, and thus, they should be able to hold up to the challenges that provides. UAG has created the Monarch Kevlar series just for that. Rugged, visually striking, and constructed of 5 layers including the Kevlar sheet, the Monarch provides long term protection and drop resistance for a variety of phones. As a bonus, the buttons are nice clicky. This case isn’t messing around.
The Freefly Packable Duffle from Matador is an extremely lightweight duffle bag that packs down to about the size of a soda can with it’s included stuff sack. Great for travel, organization or even storage, the waterproof, high quality duffle can be carried by handle, tossed over a shoulder, or stuffed into just about any compartment. It’s extremely modern in design, and weighs less than 9 ounces with a 30 liter capacity.
The Deuter AC Light 24 provides an exceptional combination of large capacity, and extreme comfort. The innovative wireframe suspension and meshy construction pair perfectly with the wide, lightly padded straps and hip-belt that comes together to form a 33 ounce pack that holds 24 liters, while managing to be one of the most comfortable I’ve ever tested. Plus, it comes in green.
What’s the point of backpacking if you’re not sleeping well? A good sleeping pad makes all the difference out there. Sea to Summit has long made some of my favorite warm weather pads, and now they have some cool weather pads that are equally as excellent. The Etherlight series come in a variety of r-values, sizes and shapes, and they’re all excellent with their supple and cozy air sprung cells.
It’s not a backpacking guide without a backpack on the list, and here we go! The Gigawatt from Sierra Designs has quickly become one of my favorite packs entry level packs for many reasons. It is constructed very well, is very comfortable for long hauls, has a ton of features and organization, it weights just about 4 pounds for the 60 liter version, and it only costs $120. It makes for a great way to get into the sport when you don’t want to overspend. However, they also offer the excellent Flex Capacitor for about 200 bucks if you want a fancier, lighter, even more comfortable option.
A relative newcomer to the scene, Outdoor Vitals has really captivated me with their most recent offerings, including the exceptional and well priced Fortus 2P backpacking tent. It puts an emphasis on durability, while still managing a 2 lb. 3 oz. pack weight, which is impressive. It requires trekking poles for setup, but once in place it provides a spacious, comfortable shelter that holds up surprisingly well in rough conditions. It retails for $340, and given the build and weight, that’s not bad.
I’m no stranger to layering my sleep system, but seeing that rolled into a product, that is new to me. The Big Agnes Lost Ranger 3N1 combines a light weight quilt and a light weight mummy bag into a pair that can be paired together to boost the temperatures, essentially giving you a warm weather, cool weather, and cold weather option all, well, in one. Once the mummy bag is tucked into the quilt it provides a 15F temperature rating that can be pushed even further with a good insulated pad and thermal layers.
Still one of my favorite 4-season tents, the Convert 2 from Sierra Designs is a longstanding design that is equally viable as a solo or two person shelter, optimized for snowy, high wind conditions. The modular design allows the vestibule to be left behind to shave weight, or strapped on for extra storage and weather protection. It’s sturdy, deceptively light weight at 5 lbs. 12 oz, and comes with a unique burrito style stuff sack.
So there it is, some of my favorite picks for 2022. They represent products that I feel teeter the line on excellent value, and excellent performance, while also doing something unique that adds to the backpacking experience. Feel free to reach out with any questions or comments, I love to hear them.
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I want to extend a huge thanks to those who provided products upon my request for this list: Matador, Sierra Designs, Big Agnes, Sea To Summit and Deuter, and for providing these products for review. We couldn’t do it without their help.
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