Posts Tagged Sea-to-Summit
David Lee is a the founder of two popular travel blogs, Go Backpacking and Medellin Living. He considers himself a minimalist, and when not on the move is based in Medellin, Colombia. So Dave, what do you always pack?
In 2013, I challenged myself to begin traveling ultralight, with nothing but a 1,950 cubic inch North Face Big Shot backpack. Traveling with a small backpack requires boiling down what I take with me to the bare essentials. Here are 5 things I still find room to carry with me when traveling.
Nylon dry bags are much lighter than the rubber rafting type, and are perfect for protecting clothes and gear against rain, snow, dirt and sand. The type of travel I do often requires taking small river boats, throwing my backpack on the roof of a minibus, or going on multi-day treks. Using dry sacks allows me to relax, knowing my stuff is protected.
They’re also useful for keeping things organized, and can be used as compression sacks to help you fit more clothes into less space. I use a small one to carry my money, passport and documents, and a larger one rolled up at the bottom of my backpack in the event I want to protect everything I’ve got with me.
2. Petzl Zipka 2 LED Headlamp
Hands-free LED headlamps are incredibly useful for camping, trekking and caving, as well as navigating hostel dorm rooms while everyone else is asleep. I’m a fan of the Zipka model because it’s designed with a retractable cord mechanism, versus the typical headband, thus making it smaller and lighter. This also allows you to easily wear it on your wrist, or fasten it to an object.
I carry a hat for sun protection, which became especially important after I began shaving my head in my twenties. Earlier, I’d used bandannas or baseball caps, but since 2010, I’ve been sporting woven hats, which are more traditional amongst the older generations in Latin America.
I’d been hearing the praise about ExOfficio boxers for years before I finally bought a few pairs myself. Now I can’t imagine wearing anything else. They’re extremely comfortable, lightweight, durable and easy to clean.
5. Mophie Juice Pack Air
When I’m traveling to new places, I rely heavily on my iPhone 4S to share thoughts and images via social media apps. Whether using WiFi or a local 3G cellular data connection, the battery drains quickly. The Mophie Juice Pack Air doubles the battery life of my iPhone 4S, allowing me greater use between recharges. There’s also an iPhone 5/5s version.
We review a whole lot of travel gear on this blog every week, some of it good, some of it so great we can’t stop talking about it. Out of the 250+ travel and outdoor adventure items we used and abused this year, here’s what the four of us liked the best. And for those keeping score from what’s below, yes Eagle Creek and ExOfficio are always safe bets when you walk out the door to some place on the other side of the globe…
Jill Robinson’s Favorite Gear of the Year
This year had me all over the map, from adventures in Africa to diving in Fiji. Often, I only had a couple of days between trips to unpack and repack again, so my favorite travel gear items are ones that helped me most along the way. The one item that was nearly always in my bag (except for those hot, tropical locations) was the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket. It’s so compressible that I’ve crammed it into small pockets in my carry-on luggage on a handful of trips. Once unpacked, it keeps me warm in the coldest climates.
The bag I used most this year, aside from my tried-and-true Gregory Cache 22 (a favorite from 2012), was the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior. The duffel on wheels has handy grab loops, stashes tons of gear, and is far sturdier than any duffel I’ve tried to date.
The two brands I turned to again and again, were Icebreaker and ExOfficio. Icebreaker’s quality merino wool clothing, from skirts to neck gaiters, keeps me warm (or cool, as the case may be) and allows for numerous wear days before washing. If that’s not your dream as a traveler, you haven’t been traveling long enough. ExOfficio clothing kept bugs away from me and also allowed me to look like the most dressed-up person in the room while out on safari in Namibia.
My best bargain items are the GoTubb Containers, which snap open and shut with ease, but not by themselves, so you can rely on them staying shut when you travel. Plus, when it’s time to open them, you can even do so with one hand. Sometimes, those simple things are like magic when you’re traveling.
Ramsey Qubein’s Travel Gear Favorites
My travel schedule in 2013 was as hectic as ever, but I loved every minute of it. For me, comfort and flexibility are paramount, which is why my 20Jeans went with me on half my trips. They are comfortable, soft, and (since my pair is a khaki color) ideal for business casual meetings as well as travel days.
Rolling through the airport with my Briggs & Riley Torq Spinner was a cinch thanks to the four wheels (my new must-have for travel luggage). I loved the fact that the bag looks so different from other peoples’ carry-on meaning no one will mistakenly pick it up as their own.
But, what good is having an easy-to-roll bag if your feet hurt from walking so much? My favorite travel shoe of the year is my pair of Clark’s Clutch Engine shoes for their comfort and versatility. I could be on a weeklong trip, and only carry one pair of shoes.
For the rare day when I was at home, the DefenderPad laptop shield was a great way for me to catch up on work with my laptop while lounging on the sofa or in bed. It kept my legs from getting too warm and also doubles as a great tray for eating on the sofa!
Amy Whitley’s Family Travel Outdoor Gear Picks
For me, 2013 was the year of wilderness travel for me and my gang, and my top travel gear reflects this. It’s hard to pick just one favorite, but topping my list has to be my Osprey Verve 5 L, reviewed in this hydration pack round-up post. Not only did the Verve get me through ski season well hydrated, but it continued to work hard throughout summer mountain hikes and desert road trips. I even got gross chair lift oil on my Verve, and it came out good as new.
What else did I reach for again and again? My pair of Tilley Endurables Venture Trek Pants. I wore these pants almost continually during a five-day river rafting trip, and then brought them along to backpack in the Trinity Alps. What makes them great: they’re lightweight, stain-resistant, quick-drying, and convertible.
Lastly, I wouldn’t be where I am today (literally) without my Eagle Creek Flipswitch carry-on. The Flipswitch has logged almost as many air miles as I have (or rather, as my son has, because he’s successfully stolen it from me). It’s endured the inconvenience of TSA checks, the stress ofoverhead storage bin wars, and the abuse of a teen boy.
Tim Leffel’s Digital Nomad Gear Picks
This past year I traveled to Europe and up and down the Americas, moving my family to the highlands of central Mexico in the latter half.
There was a lot of hiking, biking, and sidewalk surfing in there, so as usual I was wearing a lot of different travel pants. At least two of these four have gone in my bag on every trip this year: Craghoppers Kiwi Stretch Pants, ExOfficio Kukura Trek’r stretchy pants, the lighter revamped nylon P^Cubed Adventure Pants, and the super light Mountain Khakis Equatorial Pants.
In a sea of similar luggage, the Eagle Creek Morphus bag pictured above stood out for its transformer properties. It’s a backpack, a carry-on, a rolling checked suitcase, or two separate bags. Very cool. Maybe not as cool, but just super-useful for traveling with a laptop and gadgets is this Deuter Giga Laptop backpack.
Light packers who avoid baggage fees often carry a secret: little packets and pouches that expand on the other end to be bags and daypacks. I’ve used the Sea to Summit waterproof one a lot and it holds an amazing amount of stuff.
A few years back my year-end picks included the original ExOfficio Storm Logic jacket that turned into a travel pillow. The new Storm Logic has added a slew of pockets for all the things a traveler is carrying and it’s even better. (The Deluvian Rain Jacket that Jill reviewed and I will later also has the pocket system.)
I hardly went or lived anywhere cloudy, so I tried out a lot of sunglasses this year. These Costa del Mar Tuna Alley ones I’m wearing above are the shades I keep reaching for without thinking. They’re pretty darn close to perfect.
My favorite inexpensive gadget item was the GSI Coffee Press mug. I’ve probably used this 50 times already.
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When it comes to protecting your important gear from the water, dry sacks have long been go-to tools. But traditional dry sacks can be bulky and not very fun to tote around. The slimmed-down Sea to Summit eVAC Dry Sack is my recent favorite way to safeguard my gear.
The sack’s breathable base is constructed of waterproof laminate fabric, allowing air to get pushed out when you compress the sack, but still not allow water in. Just roll the sack down and air is pushed out of the base. The Hypalon roll-top closure locks in place with a buckle. No compression straps are needed.
The polyurethane-coasted nylon body has double-stitched, sealed seams, as well as reinforced stitching at stress points. That said, you still want to keep it away from sharp objects and avid subjecting the sack to excessive abrasion, because that could compromise the waterproof fabric.
I’ve used the eVAC Dry Sack on kayak and SUP trips, boating excursions when things might get splashy, and even just trips to the beach. Dry sacks are never intended to be completely submerged under water, and if you have your expensive electronics inside a sack, you still should consider double-bagging them—just in case.
One of the things I like best about this dry sack is that it has an oval base, so when I plunk it down on the dock, I don’t have to worry about it falling over and rolling into the water.
The Sea to Summit eVAC Dry Sack comes in a variety of sizes, from 3 liter to 65 liter. They are available on Amazon and vary in price from $12.23 to $84.68, depending on size. They’re also at REI at similar price ranges, again depending on size.
I’m always happy to take something that can pack away into its own little pouch, but this Ultra-Sil Dry Daypack from Sea to Summit really takes things up a notch. It’s ultralight, strong, and packable, yes, but the thing also keeps everything inside dry when you get caught in the rain!
This daypack is configured like a dry bag you would take out on a boat or kayak, with a top closure that folds or rolls over a few times and then snaps shut. It’s made of siliconized Cordura fabric and is seam sealed, so once you lock down that flap, no water is getting in to mess up your things.
This is no wimpy little toy bag, however. It’s got compression straps on the outside to hold more of your gear and the capacity is 22 liters. I’ve jammed 25 pounds of weight in it from a grocery store trip on foot and could have put in more if my shoulders could handle it. You’ve got a lot of room and it’s very strong.
When you’re ready to pack up and head home, this Sea to Summit Dry Daypack goes into a little pouch that’s unbelievably small, to the point where you could lose it in your larger pack or suitcase pretty easily. Thankfully it’s got a little snap tab so you can hook it onto something to keep track of it.
I’ve taken this out into a few drizzles and have not even gotten a drop in my belongings. Water just beads right off it, even if I stick it under a faucet to simulate a white water rafting ride. My real last whitewater rafting ride, in Veracruz, would not have been a good test though. We hit a wall of water and I went flying overboard. The label on this clearly says, “Do not submerge.”
This is a great little daypack to take along if you need something for around town and you’ve brought another bag with your laptop or tablet in it that’s too hefty. Plus if the weather is iffy, no worries about your contents getting wet.
Let’s say you’re interested in ultra lightweight backpacking, but aren’t quite ready to sleep in a cocoon of a bivy shelter. Or let’s say you’re not an extremist, but want to allocate your pack pounds to other comforts besides your shelter. For the sake of argument, let’s also say you’re willing to budget big for this experience.
Enter the Sea to Summit Duo Specialist. This little wonder looks and feels like a tent–you can actually sit up in it, imagine!–but carries like a bivy. In fact, it’s lighter than most extreme lightweight tents out there, weighing in at only 22 ounces. Yes, really. And did I mention you can sit up in it?
Here’s the nitty gritty: The Duo weighs in at 846 grams (there’s also a Solo weighing 625 grams…more on that later), making it the lightest fully-enclosable shelter in its class. (Now I sound like a car commercial, but no matter.) The Specialist comes with a set of two poles and six pegs made out of 7075 alloy, but can also be erected with a pair of trekking poles and natural anchors if you want to achieve low-weight nirvana (633 grams for the Duo).
The shell is made of Pertex Endurance, which is basically an ultra lightweight waterproof breathable nylon fabric. It’s seam sealed throughout, which means it’s waterproof enough to act as its own rain fly. The mesh doors (there are two) offer much-needed ventilation (I’ve found moisture to be an issue with most lightweight shelters) and keep the mosquitos and other little critters outside where they belong. I slept in the Duo during an all-night rain storm in May, and stayed very snug and dry. With the outer zipper on one door unzipped partway (leaving the inner mesh door zipped entirely), I had no condensation problems. Gear has a space tucked beside either door, protected by the outer flaps.
Setting up the Specialist is as easy as you’d guess, considering it’s a very simple design. It does not stand on its own: the guy lines need to be staked. Spread out the shelter and stake it first, using the pre-measured loops to ensure they’re taut. Then enter the tent and attach the two poles. The pads where the poles rest are reinforced so you don’t have to fear a tear; if you’d rather use trekking poles to set up the tent, this comes in handy, as the tip of your pole rests on the reinforced material. This instructional video shows the trekking pole process very well.
There is are no less than six internal pocket compartments to store valuables inside the shelter. The guy lines which attach the stakes are advertised as reflective, so you won’t trip over them headed to nature’s bathroom at night, but I didn’t find this to be true. I tripped over them repeatedly!
Now for the size: in my experience, the Duo does not comfortably fit two people. You knew there had to be a sacrifice for that low weight somewhere, didn’t you? This fact comes as no surprise to me, as I’ve always reduced the capacity number by one for every tent ever made. Here’s how the math breaks down for the Duo: one regular-sized adult will take up 2/3 of the footprint space inside. Add a pad and sleeping bag, and maybe a pair of hiking boots protected from the elements, and you have a roomy shelter for one. If you leave gear outside and want to be very cozy, it will sleep two (somewhat overlapped). We tried it out with two adults (myself at 5’4″ and my husband at 6′ 2″, and while the Duo was long enough for him, it was too cramped in width. My eight-year-old and I fit fine, however, so one adult and one child will fit more comfortably. If you’re looking for a Solo shelter, I’d upgrade to the Duo and have lots of space for your stuff.
Overall, I was very pleased with this shelter. I didn’t experience any condensation problems, I had enough space for myself, I was never cold or wet on a cold and wet spring night, and it was easy to set up. The only downside: the Duo relies on staking and guy lines to erect. If you’re backpacking in very hard or rocky soil, you won’t be able erect the shelter unless you’re skilled in using natural anchors like rocks and roots, and even then, the lines have to be quite taut. If I knew I’d be camping out in rocky soil, I wouldn’t bring it.
The weight of the Specialist does not include the groundsheet, which is sold separately (or use one from your gear supply). The Duo comes in one color, a nice gray and yellow, and sells for just under $500 in most gear stores. Find it at Backcountry for $498 or Amazon for the same price.