Posts Tagged outdoors
It’s hiking season, and whether you’re hitting the trail for a long trek or short jaunt, you’ll want one of the four day packs below accompanying you. Of course, day packs aren’t only for hiking: no matter what sort of traveling you have planned, chances are you need a backpack to store your stuff. Whether you need a backpack to put into service as a carry-on, touring pack, or cycling pack, one of the below will likely fit the bill.
MountainSmith Mayhem: Mountainsmith’s Mayhem has the look and feel of a larger backpacking pack with the size capacity of a large day pack. You get all the bells and whistles, including multiple loops for trekking poles or tools and compression straps for attaching extra gear. Like a backpacking pack, the Mayhem comes equipped with a hip belt and chest strap, and lumbar support to the back panel. You get a hydration bladder sleeve, side water bottle pockets, and a removable safety whistle. The fabric is ripstop nylon made with 420d Nigh Tenacity Nylon Duramax, and a zippered top pocket stores car keys and other valuables. Pick up the Mayhem in black and yellow at Mountainsmith for $129, or Amazon or Backcountry for as little as $90.Best for serious day hikes and short-term backpacking.
Patagonia Lightweight Travel Pack:
The Patagonia Travel Pack boosts a 35L capacity like the Mayhem, but has a nifty party trick: it packs down into its own internal pocket to become he size of a large fist. Store the Travel Pack in a larger bag or suitcase, and have it on-hand for situations in which you find you need an extra carry-on or additional day pack. In this day and age of luggage fees, it’s great to pack this Patagonia away for travel en route. And it’s no flimsy thing, either: the Travel Pack is made of nylon double ripstop, and while thin and lightweight, it includes a waist belt and padded shoulder straps, a chest strap, and wide top-loading opening drawstring closure and snap-down compression strap. Pick up the Patagonia in Tupelo yellow, Larimar blue, or black at the Patagonia for $79 or at Backcountry or Moosejaw for the same price. Best for travel days and multi-sport outdoor adventure.
The KEEN Aliso pack has a 22 L capacity, and while it performs adequately on the trail for short hikes, it’s a far better commuter pack and travel pack. You get a laptop sleeve compartment inside which can convert to a hydration sleeve, and thickly padded shoulder straps so that heavy laptop doesn’t give you a neck ache. There’s no waist belt, but the construction is rugged, with a wide exterior zippered pocket and several organization slots internally. The Aliso is a nicely sized pack for when you need or want a streamlined look. Pick one up in bright chartreuse or forest night at KEEN for $80 or Amazon on sale for under $50. Best for air travel and work commutes or shorter day hikes.
Kelty Shrike: The women’s Kelty Shrike carries 26-30L in a very roomy main compartment, with a nicely sized zippered top pocket for valuables. With external loops for attaching extra gear and a wide top-loading mouth, the Shrike acts more like a 35L pack. With a shoulder strap system designed especially for women’s frames, the Shrike is the most comfortable day pack I’ve tried. (There is a men’s version too for the guys.) The waist belt is lightly padded and you get a chest strap as well. Inside, a roomy laptop sleeve doubles as a hydration storage compartment. Pick up a Shrike for $99 in light green or black at Kelty or at Altrec for the same price. Best for longer day hikes and serious road trips with outdoor adventure stops.
Coming from a family of serious backpackers, I tend to get laughed at when I pack an entire cookware set into my backpack for a multi-night trek. But I ignore them, because here’s the thing: I like to eat well while backpacking. And I’ll devote a decent amount of time, effort, and yes, pack weight to our backcountry meals. No one seems to complain come dinner time. Just saying.
So what do I use for my backcountry kitchen? Most recently, Coghlan’s Hard Anodized Aluminum Cookset. Coghlan’s is known for their useful camping and backpacking products, and for their affordable prices. I suspected this set was going to useful before I even got it out of the box. Before receiving this set to review, I was using a non-matched set of hand-me-downs and cast offs. There wasn’t anything wrong with any one piece, but when pack space is precious (and it’s always precious) having a set that nests together is key. Coghlan’s does this nicely (including a nylon bag for storage, but every new cookset you come across these days is going to compact nicely. I’ll go over what does set Coghlan’s apart, but first, here’s what you get:
Three pots and one fry pan, each with their own lid. Sizes are: 7.8” fry pan, 2.7 L litre pot, 1.7 L pot, 975 mL pot. The largest pot is bigger than my old one, and works perfectly for boiling water for all those freeze-dried meals. The fry pan is roomy enough to flip a pancake in, and the two smaller pots work well for soup, individual meals, or oatmeal.
On two short camping and backpacking excursions, I found that the pot sizes worked very nicely for a larger group (family of five). If you’re a solo backpacker or a couple, you may not need such large pot sizes, but if you’re feeding kids, the whole set really is necessary. You can double up on individual meals in one pot, cutting your cooking time (and saving fuel) at every meal.
Here’s what sets Coghlan’s apart:
1. Butterfly-style handles. What are these? Basically, they’re pot handles, which you take for granted at home, but are rarely included on backcountry cooksets. In the past, I’ve used a separate pot grabber, which is all fine and dandy until you lose it. Then you have to use a sock to retrieve the boiling water, and that’s just an accident waiting to happen (or so I was told on multiple occasions). Most cooksets don’t include handles because of the packability-issue, but these fold against the side of the pans while not in use, and fan out when they are (hence the name).
2. Inclusion of measuring cup and bamboo dish cloth. This was a pleasant surprise. Again, could you pack these items separately? Of course. Will you? Maybe. But it’s nice to know that either way, these two items will easily nest right in the center of the Coghlan’s set, making them hard to forget and easy to repack.
3. Strainers on every lid. I love this! No one, not even me, is going to pack a strainer while backpacking. But you often need one. (Draining those mac and cheese noodles, perhaps?). And every pot has a small strainer on the lid, making it easy to close the pot, tip, and drain.
We may be nearly out of jacket review season, but where I live and travel, rain coat season is pretty much all year round. When I first saw the new Kirkwall Rain Coat on the Helly Hansen website, I thought, “Oh, isn’t that cute?” And it is cute, but as it turns out, it’s also highly functional. In fact, speaking strictly of rain, it out-performs my much more expensive waterproof ski shells.
When you get your hands on the Kirkwall, you realize that its much thicker than it looks. It’s made of full stretch PU rain fabric, but unlike many rain coats, it’s fully lined. The lining is a polyester and mesh hybrid (we won’t call that the official term) that does a good job of helping the jacket breathe and move naturally with your body. My #1 complaint about rain jackets is how cloying they can feel: the lining of the Kirkwall ensures this won’t happen.
Other great features:
You get nice big snaps all the way up the front of the Kirkwall, which make it very easy to get on and off again. How much of a problem can that be, right? But when it’s raining, and you’re wearing gloves, and maybe balancing a bag or two, if not an umbrella, yeah, it’s useful. It’s also easy to pull the Kirkwall over a bulky sweater or multiple layers, because of the stretch fabric combined with the forgiving snaps.
This Helly Hansen jacket comes with a fully lined hood that delivers on coverage. It includes a brim, pull-cords to tighten the sides, and neck/chin coverage that goes all the way up to your nose. You get two snaps on the wrist cuffs, so you can adjust to fit (no rain is getting in that way) and two big front pockets (also with snap closure). The coat extends farther than most, the hem hitting mid-thigh, which means my pants stay relatively dry as well. And even though you get all this coverage, the coat isn’t bulky: a stylish belt/sash ties around the waist to give it some form. Of course, the belt is removable if it’s not your thing.
The Kirkwall packs down relatively small for a coat of its size, and can certainly perform double duty as a stylish city touring coat as well as a serious squall coat. I plan to take mine on both an Alaskan cruise for on-the-deck rainstorms and to a conference in Toronto, where I need to dress up no matter the weather.
Pick one up for a quite reasonable $110 at Helly Hansen, or try Amazon where some sell for as low as $94. The coat comes in size XS through 3XL, in five bright colors: night blue, eggshell, black, dark moss, or essential yellow. You can also find a wide selection online at Altrec or Moosejaw.
I think it’s fitting that as I write this review, I’m sitting on the balcony of a ski condo in Squaw Valley, CA, with my feet up after a warm spring-skiing day. On my head is a knit Chaos beanie which is doing double-duty keeping the spring sun at bay and taming my helmet hair.
I’ve reviewed several Chaos hats for winter wear for women and children in the past, and am back with two more for warmer winter days, spring outdoor travel, and summer travel in cooler climates. Chaos is a solid pick for a quality hat at a budget price. I love that most of their selections are under $30, including the two below. Both the hats I tried out for spring come in men’s or women’s versions, and both look great as well as perform well.
The Evo Beanie is deceivingly simple. It’s a 100% acrylic knit beanie, adds some flair with fun stripes and bold colors. I can wear mine on a cold spring day and still feel like summer’s close at hand. The lining is polyester with 11% merino wool with a pinch of spandex thrown in, which keeps moisture wicked away in dry-release fashion, and the small logo is reflective for early morning runs or evening hikes. This is a basic beanie that is thick enough to perform on not-so-chilly winter days but take you all the way through spring.
The Genetic Beanie adds a trendy slouch style to your winter and spring wardrobe, and can be worn back on the head or snug on the forehead. It’s 100% acrylic and thinner than the Evo. I’ve sported it at spring soccer games and at ski resorts where I know I’ll be going inside lodges and out again with regularity. The knit of the Genetic is wider spaced so air does flow more easily, making it a great pick for warmer days when you need just a touch of protection (and pizazz).
You can find a selection of Chaos hats on Amazon, such as the men’s Evo in limited colors, but Chaos rolls out new styles quite often, so your best selection in the newest styles will be on Chaos.com. The Evo retails on Chaos for $26.99 and the Genetic retails for $20.99.
You can also find a great selection of new and discounted styles at Sierra Trading Post.
I’m excited to pair two Isis items that look great together, feel great together, and take you from outdoor play to indoor elegance without breaking a sweat.
Isis Lindsay Skirt:
I love skirts that don’t feel like skirts. I need to be able to walk in them, run in them, sit in them, and basically be a tomboy in them. The Isis Lindsay skirt fits the bill. This fleece-lined, soft-as-butter skirt is warm for winter while paired with tights, and so comfortable, you’ll forget it’s on. The exterior of the Lindsay skirt is a soft-shell spandex that repels moisture like a jacket, but looks like brushed cotton or even wool. Basically, you can dress up in this skirt, but still be ready for anything. I love that it includes two deep side zippered pockets, and the spandex in the fabric means the skirt will move with you instead of constrict you.
You get a size zip entry, and a comfortable, wide waistband. The medium fits pretty big in the waist (hard not to feel good about), so it sits a little low on my hips. If you want a tighter waist fit, I’d size down. The length is 15.5 inches, which for me means falls to just above the knee. The Lindsay is totally machine washable, and there’s no need to iron (not that I would). Pick one up in one of three colors: samba (an burnt orange), celestial (eggplant) and black. The black has a brushed look to it which helps it transition well from an outdoor walk in the woods to a dinner out. I pair mine with boots and tights, and am good to go all day long. Match the Lindsay with the Chantilly crew neck to be comfortable indoors and out during winter weather.
Isis Chantilly Crew:
Sporty enough for the ski slopes or nordic track, yet dressy enough for apres ski drinks afterward, Isis’s Chantilly Crew is one of those easy-to-pack, take-everywhere tops I’ve been reaching for over and over. I wear it to work with a skirt and tights, then to chilly evening sporting events as an under layer. I could even wear it running outdoors in spring. It comes skiing with me, and on the road. Basically, when I’m layering, I’m wearing this crew neck.
The Chantilly is made using what Isis calls ‘Evaporator’ technology (you gotta love all these fabric performance terms), which does its job of wicking away moisture while keeping you warm. The top is crew neck style and long sleeved with a flattering feminine cut and scrolled flower design. It’s so cute, actually, it’s a shame to cover it up with additional layers; I wear it solo when I can. It’s breathable and seamless, and not cloying like many underlayers made of a nylon/polyester blend. It doesn’t stick to my skin making me clausterphobic (what, that doesn’t happen to you?). Somehow, the spandex helps the shirt keep its shape without squeezing. (It’s quite flattering on, if I do say so myself.) It’s easy to throw in the wash, too, and it doesn’t pill.
The Chantilly comes in sizes XS-XL (a medium is a size 8). I find that the sleeves are a little longer than most, but because there’s a nice cuff at the wrists and hem, it fits nicely. You can grab a Chantilly in one of three colors: jet, vixon (bright pink) and celestial (purple). I found myself wishing for a Chantilly pant to go with it, then discovered my wish was granted in the Chantilly Long Jane. Pick up either for $59.95 at Isis, Moosejaw, or Amazon.