travel hats

Posts Tagged camping

Granite Gear Leopard AC 58 Backpack

 Testing out the Leopard AC 58 has served as my introduction to Granite Gear, and I have to say, I’m impressed. Of course, their Leopard series has been tested by far worthier outdoors-people than me: gear testers Justin ‘Trauma’ Lichter and Shawn ‘Pepper’ Forry took the packs on a trek through the Himalayas. For those of us with slightly more humble itineraries, here’s my take.

Leopard AC 58 backpackThe Leopard AC 58 includes a lot of bells and whistles. I mean, a lot. There are multiple loops and hooks for just about anything you think you’ll need, from gear loops to crampon holders. And with extra ties and buckles, you can customize to your heart’s content. The pack is highly adjustable: not only do you select torso size (regular or short) and belt size (small through XL), but the shoulder straps offer more height options than any other pack I’ve tried.

And the customization doesn’t end there. I’ve never seen a pack with more flexibility in terms of storage space. Hidden pockets and panels abound, and all can be expanded or shortened by the use of clips and ties. The biggest challenge it remembering where you stashed everything. The expandability carries over to the main compartments, too: when you’re hiking light, it’s easy to tighten down the straps and roll down the top compartment opening to utilize a very small space, but all these sections also expand to impressionable depth. This is a pack for the fast and light hiker, that can adjust to carry bigger loads when necessary.

The pack features two sections that allow the greatest capacity-flexibility: the sides and the top. On the sides, clips keep side panels folded almost nearly in half for when you need a streamlined look, and the back panel lies close to the main compartment. Fill the compartment, and the back panel expands and the side panels can be let out. At the top, the pack’s roll-top design works like the closure on a watertight dry bag: fill as much as you want, then roll to close. The extra space is sizable.

The Vapor Airbeam frame offers weight savings (this is where that fast and light hiker is pleased) and the total weight is only 3 pounds, 5 ounces. I was skeptical about the Airbeam frame at first: with a full panel of fabric, would it feel too hot? Nope, it remained comfortable on a long, dry hike for my husband, who kindly tried it out for me. We didn’t need the extra space on our hike, so I battened down the hatches, so to speak, taking the time to find all the nifty pockets and tie-downs. (My favorite is the small zippered pocket at the bottom of the back panel, perfect for a phone or keys.) I was also very pleased with the water bottle holders on each side: I can be picky about this, as I hate having to struggle for my bottle when I need it. Standard water bottles slid into and out of the stretchy pockets easily.

Can there be such a thing as too many bells and whistles? Sure. If you’re not a hiker or backpacker who has differing packing needs for various excursions, you might not need all this flexibility. Ditto if you don’t carry a lot of technical tools and gear. If, however, you have a variety of needs, the Leopard will be all things to you.

The Leopard AC retails for $249 at Granite Gear and is also available at Moosejaw, Backcountry, and Amazon. Interested in the women’s specific model? Check out the Leopard AC 58 Ki.

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Sunday Afternoons Sun Protection Clothing for Kids

Sunday Afternoons makes affordable, high-quality sun protection clothing for kids and adults. They’re based near my hometown in Oregon, but trust me, Sunday Afternoons knows how to block bright sunshine. We took both a child’s hat and tee along for a Southern California desert camping trip through Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks, and my fair-skinned Oregon-native boy lived to tell the tale!

sunday-afternoons

Sunday Afternoons’ Radiant Tee is the perfect all-purpose, no-frills sun protection t-shirt. It’s a simple crew-neck with long sleeves and a roomy cut, is quick-dry, and rated to UPF 50. It does feature anti-micrbial properties (I look for this when purchasing outdoor clothing for my boys) and can get tossed in the wash with all the other clothing (no special treatments required). It’s long-sleeved but lightweight and comfortable in heat, and comes in multiple colors for boys and girls (tide pool, white, and blue fin for boys, the same for girls plus dahlia). Best of all, the Radiant Tee is only $20 on Sunday Afternoons. Sizes start at 2T and go to Large, which is approximately a child’s 10-12.

sunday-afternoons

The brand is known for their sun hats, and my kids have been wearing them since infancy. My nine-year-old’s current favorite is the Scout hat (pictured above), probably because it looks a lot like Mom and Dad’s. He’s outgrown the billed hats and the bonnet-styles, but the Scout looks downright cool. He’s worn it everywhere from Disneyland to Death Valley. It does equally well when soaked in water (while river rafting) and in wind or rain (it does still have a draw cord for the chin). The Scout hat comes in Iris, Morning Glory, Tan, and Sand, in baby or youth sizing. Pick one up for only $26 on Sunday Afternoons, or on Amazon for the same price.

You can find a wide range of Sunday Afternoons hats at REI and some of their hats and sun protection clothing at Backcountry.

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LifeStraw Go Water Bottle

lifestraw-go-bottleLifeStraw Go is one of the best new products I’ve reviewed this year. To understand the Go, however, it’s important to be familiar with the original LifeStraw product. Named the Best Invention of 20o5, LifeStraw is a personal water filtration system that’s as simple as it is effective: it’s essentially a straw that one can dip into any water source and drink from safely. The original LifeStraw can be used with various water bottles (or used solo), and of course, the implications of this invention for the promotion of worldwide health is staggering. (Important side note: your LifeStraw purchase supports LifeStraw product use in the developing world.)

The LifeStraw Go takes the LifeStraw product one step further, but I’m happy to say they still manage to keep it simple. What you get is a BPA-free water bottle with a standard flip-top bite valve, which is connected to the original LifeStraw (included). The straw removes bacteria, protozoan parasites and turbidity from contaminated water (the exact amount is 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria removed) and there’s no aftertaste, since the bottle does not use iodine or chemicals. The size of the bottle is 23 ounces, and it weighs just under 8 ounces.

Here’s all you do: scoop water up with the bottle (or fill the bottle at any source), screw the lid back on with the LifeStraw filter attached, and drink. When the water bottle is empty (or if the filter gets clogged), blow out of the straw. Reuse again and again. That’s it!

For our family backpacking trips, the LifeStraw Go won’t replace our larger water filtration system, but for solo ventures into the wilderness, it will be my companion. When my teen son treks a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail next summer, he’ll have it with him as a backup filter, and it will accompany him on his upcoming service trip to Costa Rica. While most of the water he will encounter will be bottled, he has a knack for finding unsafe water and drinking it while abroad. Now I won’t have to worry.

In short, I’ve reviewed a personal water filtration bottle in the past, and I have to say, LifeStraw Go is vastly easier to use. You get a carabineer included as well. Plus, you can always take the LifeStraw off the lid and use it solo if you’d like. The LifeStraw weighs only 2 ounces, making it a good backup filter to pack in any bag. Consider it insurance while in the backcountry or abroad. 

Buy LifeStaw Go for $34.95 on the LifeStraw site (and they will ensure a child in Africa one school year’s worth of clean drinking water), or check prices at Moosejaw and Paragon Sports. For a bargain, you can pick up a five pack of bottles at Amazon for $59.

no iodine, no chemicals

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GoLite Exit Recovery Shoes

GoLite Footwear Exit shoes

We often talk on here about finding good double-duty travel shoes that will work in multiple situations. So do you really want to take along another pair of shoes you only wear when you’re not out doing something? If you ask your feet, they might say “Yes please!”

These Exit shoes from GoLite Footwear are in a class called “recovery shoes,” meant to be slipped on after a hard-core day of hiking, skiing, rock climbing, or sidewalk surfing. The idea is that you might love those hiking boots when you’re out on the trail, but not when you need to pad around the campfire or walk from your bed to the bathroom.

These are meant to cradle and cushion your feet, to treat them like a client at the spa who needs a good dose of relaxation. They’re lightweight so they won’t tax your legs anymore and the breathable mesh lets your feet cool down. Since they’re loafers, there’s no friction or pressure on top.

Memory foam means these fit better and better the longer you wear them instead of providing less support over time. I liked these better in month two of my tests than I did in month one. They also come with GoLite’s PreciseFit insole that is adjustable to work for narrow, standard, or wide feet—a thoughtful touch in a sea of shoes that act like we all have the same foot shape. I’ve ended up wearing these around the tile and hardwood floor house as much as I took them on trips (same with my Oofos), but I was happy I had them on one that involved two days of hiking with lots of rocky terrain.

GoLite recovery shoes

The Exit shoes won’t crap out on you though if it’s still rough ground where you spend the night: a rock absorber system protects your feet and the Gecko sticky rubber outsole GoLite is known for provides plenty of traction. As with your favorite pair of slippers or flats though, there’s no built-up heel on them—your feet stay flat to the ground.

The space you have in your bag or pack may determine whether you can afford to pack recovery shoes, but if you can, they sure beat a pair of flip-flops/slides in the cold. They’re comfy and built like peanut butter on a cracker: soft on the top, tough on the bottom.

The GoLite Exit shoes come in several different color options, in stretchy synthetics (what I tried out) or leather, for less than $100. Check prices online at Zappos, Planet Shoes, or Amazon. Amy tried out the women’s version this past summer: follow this link to check out her Elixir review.

See more travel shoes reviews.

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8 Great Camping and Outdoor Stocking Stuffers

Whether you’re playing Santa for an outdoor enthusiast in your life, or just want to fill a stocking full of camping gear for yourself, the following nifty products make for great additions to your holiday shopping list.

Coghlan’s LED tent pegs: We love Coghlans! And I’ve tripped over my tent’s guy lines more times than I care to admit. Coghlan’s 10” heavy duty tent pegs now feature a single LED light for visibility at night. Just twist on, and you’ve got a nice glow around your tent. Just $3.99 for a pack of two at Amazon.

Light My Fire knifeLight My Fire Swedish Fire Knife: I don’t know about you, but I definitely want something called a fire knife in my stocking. Light My Fire’s unique fire-starting knife really is all that: this camp knife comes with a plastic sheath and a high-friction rubber handle, and it creates its own spark via a FireSteel Scout, which twists into the knife’s handle when not in use. Get it on Amazon in one of five fun colors for $28. I also love Light My Fire’s meal kits, perfect for young backpackers.

Arka LED rechargeable lantern: This camp lantern by Industrial Revolution is compact, lightweight, and collapsible, perfect for camping and overnights in outdoor shelters like yurts and fire towers, where electricity may be scarce or nonexistent. Recharge the lantern via USB cable to your smart phone. Can be used as a flashlight or strobe light, too! Pick it up for $69 on Amazon. (See Tim’s review from earlier in the year here: Uco Arka lantern.)

Dublin Dog KOA collarsFor the outdoor-loving dogs in your life, how about outfitting them with waterproof collars that don’t stink? Not even after months and months? Our two dogs have been sporting designs from Dublin Dog’s Trout line since summer, and I am sold! They won’t ever wear another type of collar. The KOA material repels dirt and grime, and the collars really do stay fresh-smelling. Pick one up at Amazon for under $30, depending on size.

grayl water filtration cupIcebug ArchFlex Insoles: Talk about the gift that keeps on giving! I’ve been running and hiking with Arch Flex insoles since July, and while I’ve tried many insoles over the years, these are the ones I reach for. They’re slim, easy to get in and out of my shoe, and provide the right shock relief for my repetitive running and hiking movements. Pick high arch or low, plus shoe size. Find them on Amazon.

GRAYL Water Filtration CupIf you have someone headed to a part of the world lacking potable drinking water, the new Grayl makes for a nice gift. Like other water purification bottles, the Grayl has its drawbacks, but is overall a solid choice for travelers who need access to filtered water all day, every day. The cup, which looks and feels more like a bottle, features a duel cylinder construction wherein the user filters water through the bottom of the inner cylinder via a carbon filter. Once you’ve given it a few practice runs, it’s easy to use, though be advised: until it’s well ‘worn in’, the cylinders can be hard to pull apart, due the the vacuum seal. (As I said, not without its drawbacks.) However, the Grayl is sleek and shiny, heavy but definitely portable, and features a nice open-close design. If using abroad, you’ll need to upgrade the filter to the ‘purifier’, but once you’ve done so, you’re good to go for 300 uses. Buy the Grayl on REI for $69.

Liberty bottleCocoon Ultralight Microfiber terry towel: I love Cocoon travel products! I have used their travel pillow and packing cube, but by far my favorite product is their microfiber towel. Perfect for backpackers, campers, and round-the-world travelers, the Cocoon is small, thin, and light, but still actually does the job intended…you know, actually dry your body. Set it outside to dry afterward, and it will be good to go again in no time. Pick it up for your travel or backpacking friend for under $35 on Amazon.

Liberty Bottle Works Topo bottle: I would say I use this 100% recycled aluminum USA-made bottle every day, but I can’t: the minute I got it, my teen son took it. I think he loves the topographical map design best (ours features Mt. Rainier) but it may be the straw or the easy to open and close flip top lid with carrying handle. Pick out the map your hiking loved one can relate to most for as low as $12 on Amazon. It’s also available at Backcountry.com.

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