Carey’s Summer Backpacking 2020
How does today’s quality backpacking gear compare to what was available just a decade ago? Having taken a bit of a hiatus from the outdoors, I have a garage full of what should be solid equipment to put to the test against all the goodies you can buy today. We spent a long weekend backpacking in the Sawtooth mountains of Idaho trying out what you would buy today if you are outfitting yourself for the first time. I’m a cheapskate at heart and usually never buy a new pair of shoes until my old ones have holes in them. However, there are a couple of upgrades that you have to “invest” in before you hit the trails (again…).
Trek 700 Inflatable Hiking Mattress $59.99
The Trek 700 from Decathlon was slightly lighter (1.1lbs) than my old partial inflation, partial foam sleeping pad which meant a lot to me that last mile on the trail. The first night I slept on the Trek 700 from and my daughter slept on the old pad. The second night we switched. The third night she said she was going off to college soon and if really loved her I would let her use the Trek. It was far more comfortable and had these little strips on the bottom of it that made it stop from sliding to the bottom of the tent (the ground was not level). The mattress is also inflated by the 2-way inflation valve with anti-return for your desired comfort. When we got home I donated our old pad to Good Will and bought a second Trek 700.
My daughter as since left for her first year at college and made sure to bring her Trek 700 with and I believe it will outlast me.
Retails for $59.99 and in available on the Decathlon website.
MSR Pocket Rocket Delux $44.95
I compared the Pocket Rocket Delux head to head with my older but high-quality camp stove by cooking and boiling water at the same time. Once in action, they were both comparable, cooking in the same time and handling high winds with no issues. There were, however, a couple of things that the Pocket Rocket did that make it an excellent purchase. First, it was tiny and really easy to set up. Next, the piezo-electric lighter made it quicker to start than the older stove that required matches, especially in high winds. There was also one other odd advantage that I realized at the end of our backpacking. The Pocket Rocket was so easy to start (press the button, bam) that I was turning it off between every pot of water. I ended up using about a third less propane when I was using the Pocket Rocket because of this. This could really be important on longer trips.
Combine this with GSI Outdoors cooking set and you have it made!
Platypus Duolock Soft Bottle $11.95-$15.95
This bottle was light, easy do drink out of, and clipped on to your backpack nicely. However, I don’t think I would use it for anything but day hiking. The soft, flexible body has some disadvantages. First, it is not stable enough to pump water from your filter into. We ended up filling a rigid water bottle first and pouring it into the Platypus. Next, I like to fill my water bottle with near-boiling water just before going to bed and putting it in my sleeping bag to stay extra warm. Its always cold at night at the elevation we were at and you can’t really do this trick with this type of soft bottle. I think this is one of those cases where I was using the wrong tool for the job.
For day hikes, the Platypus Duolock Soft Bottle was great because at the end of the hike, we weren’t carrying the dead weight of an empty water bottle.
Women’s Trek 100 Easyfit 60 L Hiking Backpack $99
My daughter used the Trek 100 Easyfit 60 L Hiking for our little expedition and I was impressed. The backpack excelled in the most important category for a multiday backpacking trip, fit, and comfort. We were able to adjust the women’s version to fit her body very well and it distributed the weight evenly over her hips and shoulders. She did not like carrying the weight by the end of the day (none of us did, imagine that) but this backpack helped out immensely.
There was a water bottle holder on the hip strap that was well placed and even an easy access pocket for her cell phone! That sounded absolutely stupid to me. Who was she going to snap chat with while are a thousand miles from the nearest cell tower? Well, I’m the stupid one. She has a great camera on her cell phone and she took great pictures constantly as we hiked. She could quickly put her phone away and keep her hands free in between pictures when we had to scramble over rocks or downed trees.
Once we were in camp the Women’s Trek 100 Easyfit 60 L Hiking Backpack has one large main compartment but there is a large zipper down the front so you have easy access to all your gear. Again, this was a nice upgrade from the older backpack designs that I was used to. The backpack even comes with a waterproof rain fly but the weather was nice enough that we did not have to test it out.
This particular version was a little bit on the smaller side, 60l of volume, but exactly as advertised. It’s good for a 3-4 day backpacking trip if you go light or if your dad carries all the shared equipment like the tent and pots.
Available on the Decathlon Website and is ONLY $99 for a quality bag!
From the Mouth of Babes (or my daughter)
The Forclaz Women’s Trek 100 Easyfit 60 L Hiking Backpack was incredible. Earlier in the summer I went backpacking with an older pack (my dad’s from 100 years ago) that was overweight and dug into my back. It made the trip awful. I was in pain the entire time and had bruises on my spine and hips. Note that this was a hard core trip with serious elevation gain. When I went backpacking with the Women’s Trek 100 Easyfit 60 L Hiking Backpack, I was able to actually enjoy backpacking.
The pressure straps were all adjustable and made it so that none of the weight was pressing down onto a place that would be otherwise sore and bruised. The comfort of a pack is incredibly important because it makes the difference between an actual backpacking trip and a death march. The Forclaz pack turned a death march into a comfortable hike.
Another important thing with this pack is the pockets. You don’t want to have to dig through a thousand pockets to find something, but you also don’t want a pack with no pockets. This pack had the perfect amount of hidden pockets and zippers that made looking into the bag easy. The best part of this pack for me was that it was front loading. You didn’t have to take everything out and then repack it, in order to reach something at the bottom. Overall this pack was great. It was comfortable and adjustable and made the journey incredibly easy.
Mountain Hardware Lamina 30 Sleeping Bag $170
When exactly did sleeping bags get this small and light (2.3 lbs)? I have this giant compartment in my old backpack (which my daughter politely returned to me) for my sleeping bag that was mostly empty. I filled it with a half rack of Keystone Light.
It was just above freezing at night and I was comfortable in the Mountain Hardware Lamina which is exactly as advertised. The tailored hood keep the heat in while the two way zipper allowed for ventilation in case I was too warm. The Lamina Sleeping Bag from Mountain Hardware was easy to shove into its mesh storage sack at the end of the trip and the compression sack was easily attached to my pack for the trip.
The Lamina Sleeping Bag is available in three lengths and you can choose which side the zipper should be on. Right now it is only available in the Electric Sky blue.
Buy a new sleeping bag. This is such an easy call with all the improvements made over the last 15 years and the ease and comfort it brings to these old bones. My kids will never know what “real” camping is with all this high tech and lightweight gear available.