Posts Tagged backpacking
Here’s something I can say I’ve been using for years, items that perfectly fit the credo of “practical travel gear.” These dry tabs in a waterproof packet from Sea to Summit are lightweight, inexpensive, and useful. You can use them on a weekend getaway or a round-the-world trip and they’re great for getting around the liquids issue with your carry-on.
Of course they’re great for camping too, especially if you need to schlep all your stuff in a backpack over miles of trails before you set up camp.
Sea to Summit is known for putting out a great variety of gear that’s well-made, but well-priced. These pocket soaps retail for just $4.99 and are often on sale for a dollar less. Each has 50 of the tabs inside: little pieces of what feel like thin paper. When they come in contact with water, however, they turn into what they’re labeled: soap, shampoo, shaving cream, laundry detergent, or body wash. Like magic! See a demo of the soap in action below.
As shown in that video, the plastic packs themselves are watertight, so if your pack gets wet or you drop one (closed) in the sink, none of the tabs inside get wet. With 50 of them to work with, they’ll last quite a while, especially the shaving soap.
They’re biodegradable, so no worries in the backcountry, plus they’re phosphate and paraben free. How much would you pay for even trial sized liquids making that same claim?
All have a pleasant “light green tea” fragrance.
Rarely have we seen shoes so squarely aimed at light-packing travelers as these Radler Trail Camping shoes from Timberland. They actually zip up smaller to go into a corner of your bag when it’s time to hit the road or trail.
We’ve been happy to see this whole minimalist shoe trend take off, not because we think running barefoot is a great idea, but because it means lots more choices for easy-to-pack sneakers for traveling.
These camp shoes are different though because they fold into themselves and zip shut. So they can fit into smaller spaces in your bag or can even be hung off the side of a pack with a hook or carabiner. I once stuffed them into the same daypack holding my laptop, book, and camera and they were easy to take along.
When you’re ready to wear them, you unzip them, slip them on, and tighten up the integrated laces—no tying. When it’s time to go loosen the clip and then, zip them back up again. On or off, they look pretty cool and are real attention-getters.
Naturally, there’s a trade-off. Any shoe that can be folded in half is not going to have much going for it in terms of support. The thin replaceable insole is like a drugstore cheapie one, with no arch. This is a shoe for lounging around and padding from the room to the pool, not five-hour stints in a museum. The way Timberland pictures it, you’re taking these along on a hike and putting them on at the end of the day as you shed your boots. As long as you don’t try to get them to over-perform, they’re quite comfortable. Like a good pair of slippers but with a better sole for finding a bathroom in the dark by flashlight.
The Timberland Radler Trail shoe comes in a variety of colors and I can’t get a handle on how many there actually are—every website I visit seems to have a different array and there’s only one left on the Timberland site. There are at least 11 colors floating around, going by what’s on Amazon. They max out at $65, which seems a bit high, but no worries as they’re discounted all over the place to as little as half that amount if you’re not set on a certain color. Besides Amazon, check prices at Altrec, Sunny Sports, Planet Shoes, and Backcountry. See the outlet section of those sites for discontinued colors.
See more travel shoes reviews here.
I’ve reviewed a lot of travel towels over the years and the only ones I’ve kept using were from Discovery Trekking. You can see my review of them here: Travel Towels That Actually Work.
A good towel just got better though: this Ultra Fast-Dry Towel now incorporates Polartec Power Dry fabric to improve the drying time without it losing any absorbency.
The elements I liked about this travel towel the first time around are still there. It soaks up far more water than it looks like it will, performing like some “As seen on TV” miracle cloth. It takes a bit longer than with fluffy cotton terrycloth—the price you pay for something so packable—but with an extra minute of effort you can fully towel off a body that’s coming straight from the shower or a swimming pool. Although it doesn’t feel as good as terrycloth either, compared to some of them I’ve used, this one is very soft. It doesn’t feel scratchy against the skin.
The real benefit of this travel towel though is that it enables you to pack one while still packing light. The medium size, which will be fine for most travelers, folds up to about the size of a noise-reduction headphones case, or smaller than a typical guidebook. You can cram it into any corner of your bag and it’ll pop out working fine. If you need to sink wash it, just wring it out after and it’ll dry quickly.
It’s treated with a silver derivative to keep it from getting smelly, but the fact that this one dries so quickly helps. Even in a humid bathroom my test version dried in a couple hours. In the breeze or the hot sun, it was ready in under an hour. This is a big help when you’re a backpacker on the move or you’re camping and need to pack up everything and go.
If you go on the company website you’ll see an array of 18 colors—including two prints. The eight sizes seem like overkill, but if you want you can go from one barely larger than a washcloth to one that’s 34″ X 58″
Invented by necessity (as all the best outdoor gear is), the Hoboroll is an entirely new way to store, organize, and transport gear while on the go. Made by adventure gear newcomer Gobi Gear and designed by an in-the-field botanist, the Hoboroll uses a combination of compression and design to make carrying items (and finding them again) easier.
I took my Hoboroll on a field run on our four-day backpack trip from Tuolemne Meadows to Yosemite Valley last July. We were short on pack space (three adults and three kids in your backpacking party will do that to you), so it was the perfect opportunity to put Hoboroll’s claim of reducing pack volume by 50% to the test. I packed my Hoboroll with all my clothing for my four day trek, including my camp shoes and base layer. In total, I packed three pairs of lightweight shorts, three t-shirts, a swim suit, three pairs of heavy-duty hiking socks, base layer bottoms and top, an extra long-sleeve outer-wear shirt, and the underwear and sports bras I’d need.
The Hoboroll is designed in the shape of a tube, with five compartments. Both ends are cinched with a drawstring. I cinched one end, then loaded my clothing, designating a different compartment for the various clothing categories. I put my next day’s clothing in last, and cinched the other end. Finally, I tightened the Hoboroll’s compression straps. My clothing load was significantly smaller in space than my hiking companions’. I placed my Hoboroll inside my backpack (though it can travel alone as well…more on that later), where it fit just as easily as any other filled compression sack. Here’s my Hoboroll in use:
My verdict: I loved that when I needed clothes, I didn’t have to dump everything out into the dirt of our night’s camp. The Hoboroll keeps everything clean, and to keep things that way, I simply loaded my dirty clothes into the opposite end. Clean clothing from one side, dirty into the other…simple as that.
The downside: My only complaint about the Hoboroll has been addressed by Gobi Gear: when I pulled the compression straps very hard, one of the plastic buckles broke. Gobi Gear immediately sent me a replacement Hoboroll, and I’ve been told that the company’s second run of product includes stronger buckles.
Not just for backpackers: In the time since my backpacking trip, I’ve used the Hoboroll when flying carry-on only (which is almost every flight). I’ve used it to pack shoes, and it’s especially useful if you need to pack a variety of outerwear that needs to compress small. Because the Hoboroll includes an outer carrying strap, it can travel with you solo, though I’ve never packed that light. My kids have used it for overnight trips to friends’ houses, however, and it’s traveled with us to the beach and the lake to store smaller towels, sunscreen, sunglasses, and the like. In this capacity, the Hoboroll is like bringing an extremely well-organized tote bag.
The details: The Hoboroll is made of an 840D nylon exterior and is 15″ long by 10″ diameter. It weighs 3.5 ounces and can hold 1160 cubic inches. It comes in blue, green, and yellow (I have blue, and it’s a nice powder blue shade.) It can certainly stand some abrasion and hard travel, but is soft enough that it gives easily to pack into something larger.
Pick up a Hoboroll at Gobi Gear for $28.00 or for the same price at Amazon.
I’ve been overnight backpacking for about 25 years, and last July was the first time I’d been four days on the trail without experiencing shoulder and neck pain caused by my pack. I was also carrying more weight than ever before. I’m convinced it was no coincidence I was wearing my new Osprey Aura 50. What makes the Osprey Aura better than my previous packs? For starters, the ability to custom fit the pack through its adjustable harness and ‘fit-on-the-fly’ hip belt.
The Aura comes in 50 or 65 sizing, but the harness comes in three additional sizes per category (I recommend stopping in at your local outdoors store to size it in person instead of online), and can be further customized after your select the one that works for you. The hipbelt is also further customized by use of duel-density foam and spacer mesh, which can be adjusted even while hiking. The result: a pack that’s snug to your body, but not clinging, thanks to the incredibly advanced ventilation (the pack proper never sits directly on your back).
Out of the box, I wasn’t so sure I’d love the Aura as I do. The Aura 50 looked too small for a multiday backpack trek. I worried I wouldn’t fit everything I needed, but once I’d loaded it, I was surprised to see how much I could get in there and still have an organized and balanced pack. The Aura utilizes a traditional top-load design, and there are plenty of pockets and compartments to stash stuff, as well as a deceptively large main compartment. I love the two vertical zippered pockets that run the length of the lower pack; they fit either a full day’s clothing, a pair of water shoes, or, as I used them, a filtration system on one side, and a camp stove and fuel on the other.
The top pocket is removable, but you’ll want it on: it fits all the little items you don’t want to lose (but want access to): cameras, paperbacks, phones, or keys. The hip belt includes two small zippered pockets on each side. They’re sized perfectly for a small container of sunscreen or chap stick, but I do wish they were slightly larger to fit a point-and-shoot camera.
There is a compartment ready for a filtration system such as a platypus, with hooks and holes ready for the hose as well. Two water bottle pockets are also located on each side. I like that almost all the pockets are stretchy, allowing for various sizes and shapes of bottles and supplies.
The Aura 50 has a load range of approximately 10 lbs to 55 lbs. I loaded it with 45 lbs for my multiday trek, and, as mentioned, it was easily manageable. I couldn’t have fit much more, though. Here’s my pack mid-trip:
There are plenty of ways to attached items to the exterior of the pack: I attached a sleeping bag, pad, tent, and small camp chair with no problem. The interior is roomy enough to fit a bear canister. There’s a place to stow your trekking pole, should you be lucky enough to have one.
Dimensions are 29x17x14, and volume is 3051 cubic inches in the medium (small and large are also available). The pack itself weighs only 3 lbs. The pack sits up on the hips nicely, and I never felt the weight on my shoulders. My back got far less sweaty than my companions’, too, thanks to the mesh ventilation frame that keeps the pack off your back.
The Aura comes in eggplant purple or pinion green. It’s available at REI, Backcountry, or Moosejaw for $199 (a more than reasonable price for a high-quality piece of essential camping gear), or can be found on Amazon for a few bucks less.