Choosing equipment for your outdoor adventures is one of the most fundamental aspects of any backcountry outing and it's one of the most enjoyable parts of the whole outdoor experience. It's important to match the right gear with the right activity so you're properly equipped when you head out on the trail. Potential problems with equipment, clothing or shoes usually won't surface until you're miles from the trailhead so it's important to spend a little time researching what's available before you make a purchase. Keep in mind that everyone is unique, and certain items like hiking boots, backpacks and clothing will fit each person a little differently, and what works for one individual may not provide the same level of comfort or fit for someone else. We hope the information below will help you make the right choice during your search for the perfect outdoor gear.
Marmot Limelight 2P Tent I like to carry the Marmot Limelight 2 on short overnight trips when I'm backpacking alone or car camping and I want a bit more room for my gear. It's a little snug for two people but if you don't mind being cozy with your tentmate the small size isn't really a big issue. The Limelight 2 is quick and easy to set up, and a small plastic coupler keeps the two main poles connected and locked in position while you insert the four ends into their corresponding grommets. The clips that attach the tent body to the poles require very little effort to fasten, making it a real snap to get the tent up or down during bad weather. The Limelight 2 makes a great ultralight shelter as well, and it's easy turn this into a basic refuge for fair-weather outings by staking out the footprint, attaching the poles, and throwing on the rain fly.
The Limelight 2 has plenty of ventilation which is ideal for warmer climates and those hot summer nights when you really need air to circulate through the tent. In places where blowing dust or sand is an issue (like Moab) the mesh screening will allow those fine particles to enter the tent even with the rain fly in place, but this will happen with any tent that has this much screening. In wet or inclement weather though it will keep you warm and dry even during the unexpected snowstorm, and if the temperature does drop below freezing, condensation forms on the fly rather than the body or interior of the tent. This is a real advantage when it comes time to break camp and the rain fly is the only item that has been exposed to any significant moisture.
The Marmot Limelight 2 comes with a small gear loft and a footprint which are often sold separately when you purchase a new tent. There are small mesh pockets on the interior walls for keeping your gear organized. The rain fly has a single teardrop shaped window that allows you to check the weather without unzipping the fly, and a splash of reflective tape on the exterior makes it easy to find your way back to the tent after dark.
My one complaint is that the Limelight 2 has only a single door, and if you're sharing it with another person you'll be playing a game of Twister each time someone enters or exits the tent. Overall though the tent performs well and it will certainly spend a few nights pitched under the stars in the Yellowstone backcountry.
Marmot Limelight 2P Specifications Average Price: $220.00 Type: Freestanding Seasons: 3-season Capacity: 2-person Usage: Backpacking Weight: 5 lbs/ 2.3 kg Height: 41 in Floor Dimensions: 88 in x 54 in Floor Area: 32 sq. ft. Vestibule Space: 9 sq. ft. Color Options: 2 - Alpenglow (shown) or Hatch/Dark Cedar Poles: 3 Doors: 1 Included: Footprint and small gear loft
Nemo Meta 1P Ultralight Trekking Tent The Nemo Meta 1P is an ideal backpacking tent if you're interested in reducing the overall weight of your pack and you prefer to travel as light as possible. It sets up quickly and easily in just over 4 minutes and there is plenty of space under the vestibule for storing additional gear, boots, packs, etc. Headroom is ample with the center height reaching 51" and when you sit up in the Meta 1P your body naturally moves to the center of the tent where you have the most room. Both sides of the vestibule can be rolled back for greater air flow, or if you just want a better view of the surrounding landscape.
The Meta 1P will definitely keep you dry during inclement weather and on the very first night I used this 1-person shelter it rained steadily for several hours and the tent held up very well. All the seams are tapped and completely waterproof so you can sleep comfortably no matter how hard it's raining outside. If you stake out they guy-wires located at each end of the tent it will help to keep the fabric from sagging on your head and face while you're lying in the tent. Each of the tent stakes has a small piece of cord threaded through the top which makes removing them from the ground that much easier. Simple plastic tension-adjusters are affixed to all the cords/anchor points located around the tent and this makes fine-tuning the tension very easy. A single grommet near the outside of the door keeps your trekking pole in place which prevents it from being accidentally knocked over as you enter or exit the tent.
Because this is a single-wall tent I noticed there were condensation issues if the temperature dropped near freezing, which is common in Yellowstone even during the summer. With the vestibule fully closed air circulation inside the tent is minimal and by morning there was noticeable condensation and/or frost on the interior walls of the tent. This was the only reason I gave the Meta 1P a 3 star rating. In warmer weather with the rain fly partially or fully open, condensation should not be as much of an issue but in colder weather the ends of your sleeping bag may get wet as moisture builds on the interior. The Meta 1P is still a great tent despite this minor drawback and it's proven it can take anything Yellowstone can dish out.
Nemo Meta 1P Specifications Average Price: $329.95 Type: Non-freestanding, single-wall Seasons: 3-season Capacity: 1-person Usage: Backpacking Weight: 2 lbs 8 oz/ 1.1 kg/ Minimum weight 1 lb 15 oz/ 0.9 kg Height: 50 in Floor Dimensions: 100 x 36 in Floor Area: 26 sq. ft. Vestibule Space: 13 sq. ft. Color Options: 1 - Green/Black/Gray Poles: 1 - Requires the use of a trekking pole (not included) Doors: 1 Includes: Watertight stuff sack, tent stakes and repair kit Options: Tent footprint is sold separately
Black Diamond Mega Light Floorless Tent
The Black Diamond Mega Light is another basic shelter designed for anyone looking for an ultralight alternative for backcountry camping, and if you don't mind sleeping on the bare ground this floorless, tipi-style tent weighs in at less than 3 lbs. You can drop a few additional ounces from the overall weight by using a trekking pole instead of the adjustable carbon fiber support that comes with the tent.
I've used the Mega Light during all 4-seasons and it stands up well to windy conditions, rain and snow. Obviously you will be subjected to a bit more weather when using a floorless tent but if you pitch the Mega Light properly you can minimize the amount of wind or wind driven rain that creeps in along the edges of the tent. Before using the Mega Light it is recommended that you thoroughly seam seal this tent in order to properly weatherproof it for backcountry use. Seam sealer is not included.
There is plenty of space for two people and their gear but the tent will accommodate up to 4 people at which point it does becomes a bit cramped. Headroom is never an issue with the Black Diamond Mega Light which extends to nearly 5 ft. at its center. Both front doors can be opened independently or they can be unzipped in tandem allowing for maximum ventilation. The Mega Light can also double as a cook tent on trips when you want a comfortable place to prepare meals and have the capacity to carry an extra tent.
Site selection is very important if you want to prevent unwanted rain water from entering the floor of tent and in environments where insects are present in great numbers you may want to consider adding the Mega Bug Tent which fits inside the Mega Light and provides a floor as well as bug protection.
I've had the Black Diamond Megamid/Mega Light for over a decade and it still finds its way into many of our Yellowstone backpacking trips. It's a sturdy, no frills all-season tent that is light and simple to use.
Black Diamond Mega Light Specifications Average Price: $269.95 Type: Non-freestanding, single-wall Seasons: 4-season Capacity: 4-person Usage: Backpacking Fabric: 30d SilNylon - Requires seam sealing Weight: 2 lbs 13 oz/ 1.27 kg/ Minimum weight 2 lb 5 oz/ 1.5 kg Height: 57 in/ 145 cm Floor Dimensions: 86 x 86 x 56 in/ 218 x 218 x 145 cm Floor Area: 50.7 sq. ft. Color Options: 1 - Gray and Blue Poles: 1 - Carbon fiber center pole Doors: 1 Packed Size: 5 x 10 in/ 13 x 25 cm Includes: Stuff sack, center pole and tent stakes Options: Bathtub-style floor and Mega Bug Tent are sold separately
Jetboil Personal Cooking System (PCS) Plain and simple, the Jetboil stove is an indispensable part of any 3-season outing. The innovative design makes boiling water a snap. The PCS boils 16 oz of water in just under 2 minutes which means you'll probably wait longer for your freeze-dried meals to hydrate.
The Jetboil stove has plenty of cool features that make it well worth the money. A push-button igniter lets you light the stove without matches. An adjustable burner allows you dial in the heat settings. The drink-through lid (not shown) fits firmly over the top of the stove, allowing you to sip liquids through the small opening, or you can use the opening to pour the contents of the pot into another container. A small insulated cup fits over the bottom of the unit when the stove is not attached and doubles as a bowl or measuring cup. The exterior of the pot is completely insulated allowing you to handle the pot directly (not the stove) and the addition of a handle provides extra support when pouring hot liquids. The "locking pot support" (see image below) allows the stove to accommodate larger pots or frying pans if you plan to spend more time cooking. Both the fuel canister and the stove fit nicely inside the pot for easy storage and a small plastic stabilizer or tripod can be added to the bottom of the small fuel canisters to help provide extra stability for the stove when cooking.
The Jetboil system is designed for boiling water, and it does that very quickly. I don't recommended that you cook food directly in the pot. I tried cooking clam chowder when I first purchased the stove and it was the last time I ever put food directly into the pot. The tall and narrow shape does not allow denser foods—like clam chowder—to circulate, which means the food at the bottom of the pot is always at risk of overheating. If you do not continually stir the contents they will burn very quickly and this can be a ugly mess to clean. I recommend carrying a large saucepan combined with the "locking pot support" (see below) and you'll have the perfect backcountry cooking system. Jetboil also offers a variety of interchangeable accessories that work across their entire product-line, including; a hanging kit, utensils, a 1.5 liter cooking pot, a frying pan and a coffee press.
Cons: I do not recommend using this product during winter camping trips. Even with the use of their high-performance propane/isobutane four-season fuel, the heat generated by the stove is greatly diminished in cold weather and when the temperature drop below 0 ºF or -17.8 °C the stove is nearly useless. For winter backpacking trips I always recommend using a stove that burns white gas which is a much more effective cold weather fuel.
The Jetboil system is still my favorite 3-season stove and it has worked flawlessly for the last 4 years. Unfortunately this model (the PCS) is no longer in stock but the Jetboil Zip or the Jetboil Flash Cooking Systems are very similar models with the same great features.
Jetboil Personal Cooking System Specifications Average Price: $79.95 Capacity: 32 oz/ 1 liter Type of Fuel: Propane/ Isobutane Boil Time: 16 oz/ 1/2 liter in 2 minutes Dimensions: 4.1 x 7.1 in/ 104 x 180 mm Weight: 15 oz/ 425 g
Gu Brew Electrolyte Tablets On a backpacking trip last summer I used these GU Brew electrolyte tablets for the very first time. they really work and here's why...
...after a long day on the trail I had reached our first campsite completely exhausted even though I had been drinking plenty of water throughout the day. As I sat by the fire I couldn't help but wonder what had happened. I'm in good shape and yet I still felt like I'd just been run over by a truck. Apparently, I had consumed too much water during the day, flushing minerals and fluids from my body and this would eventually lead to an electrolyte imbalance. I put one tablet in a 32 oz. water bottle, let it dissolve, and drank about half the contents. In less than 30 minutes I went from being dead-tired to feeling 100% better and in the backcountry that can mean the difference between enjoying a camping trip and simply enduring one.
Directions: For long day hikes (15-20 miles) I'll add one tablet to a 32 oz water bottle and drink from this bottle regularly throughout the day. I will usually carry my 100 oz Camelbak® as well but I recommend using water bottles for sports drinks because they are much easier to clean. If you carry these tablets with you on an overnight trip you can hang the water bottle along with your pack so the bears aren't tempted by the fruit-flavored liquid that was inside. GU Brew is also a great recovery drink and can be added to any pre or post hike regimen.
GU Brew Specifications Average Price: $6.50 for 12 tablets Ingredients: A blend of sodium and potassium Flavors: Orange, Pink Grapefruit, Lemonade, Tri-Berry, Peach Tea
Katadyn Base Camp Microfilter System If you're tired of bending over streams or lakes to refill your water bottles, the Katadyn Base Camp is a godsend. Just fill it up, hang it from a tree and let gravity do the rest. No pumping necessary. It's that simple. And because it's so easy to use the Katadyn Base Camp will help you stay well hydrated as well. Just plop a 32 oz water bottle under the 2.6 gallon bag, connect the hose, open the valve and in about 3 minutes you'll have clean drinking water. Refill your water bottles while you relax, cook, read, or just enjoy the view.
With the Katadyn Base Camp partially filled, two people can refill 2 - 3 32 oz water bottles, cook dinner and breakfast, and still have enough water to start the next day's hike. If you carry a pump-style unit like the Katadyn Hiker or Katadyn Hiker PRO you can swap out the filters because all three take the same element. The filters are easy to care for and require very little maintenance. The Base Camp comes with a small sponge that allows you to scrub any dirt particles from the pre-filter which is the only real upkeep required.
This water filter system has become a standard item on all of my overnight trips and it makes the entire backcountry experience that much easier and enjoyable.
Some minor caveats to the Katadyn Base Camp
Because you need to submerse the bag to collect water, you'll need a deep enough waterway or channel in order to fill the bag completely. Shallow water may limit the amount you can collect but you can always improvise by using an additional container to help fill the bag to the desired level. However, on the flip side, a full bag can weight a great deal—1 gallon of water weighs just over 8 lbs—and if your water source happens to be a good distance from camp your biceps will get a good workout carrying the waterbag. But hey, your legs are doing much of the work anyway and a few extra bicep curls will help tone up your arms as well.
NOTE: Always carry an alternate or backup form of water purification when traveling in the backcountry. Water conditions can vary from day-to-day and a sudden rainstorm can muddy the source of your drinking water creating heavy sediments that may clog the paper filter elements. We had this very scenario take place on a trip along the Lamar River and we were forced to use another method to purify our drinking water.
Katadyn Base Camp Specifications Average Price: $79.95 - comes with the Katadyn Hiker PRO microfilter cartridge Replacement Filters: Katadyn Hiker, Hiker PRO, and Base Camp $49.95 Capacity: Holds 2.6 gal, 9.8 liters Type of System: Gravity Filter Type: 0.3 micron, pleated glassfiber, activated-carbon granulate core Removes/Kills: Bacteria, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium to EPA standards Filter Duration: Purifies approx. 200 gal/ 757 liters of water with a single filter Waterbag Material: Nylon Output: The Base Camp will fill a 32 oz Nalgene® bottle in about 3-4 minutes Dimensions: 9 x 20 in Weight: 11 oz, 310 grams
Katadyn MyBottle Water Purifier - Ultralight Series™
I love the concept behind this type of water filter but I wish this particular unit was safer to use on a regular basis (see note below). The MyBottle Purifier is about as easy as it gets when it comes to filtering drinking water. Just unscrew the top—this will remove the filter along with the cap—and dip the bottle in a stream or lake. Replace the cap/filter and start drinking. Very convenient!
On a 3-day trip this summer I used this filter instead of carrying a water bottle or water bladder in order to save a little weight. The filter performed well, however, I never really felt as though it was able quench my thirst. The unit delivers a steady stream of water once you get it moving but the output is slow, and regardless of how hard you squeeze the bottle the flow rate does not increase. The pressure required to move water through the filter will give your hands a good workout but there will always be little trade-offs. I could detect the iodine with each sip but I've used water purification tablets in the past and this wasn't a big deal considering how convenient it is to get clean water.
Katadyn MyBottle Specifications Average Price: $59.95 - comes with the MyBottle ViruPur cartridge Replacement Filters: MyBottle ViruPur Replacement cartridges - $39.95 Capacity: 22 oz/ 650 ml with the filter inserted into the bottle Type of System: Squeeze bottle Filter Type: 3 stage - glass fiber, iodine and carbon Removes/Kills: Waterborne bacteria, viruses and Giardia larger than 1 micron Filter Duration: Purifies approx. 26 gal/ 100 liters of water with a single filter Bottle Material: Polyethylene - BPA-Free Output: 0.5 liters per min Dimensions: 10.4 x 3 in Weight: 9.5 oz/ 270 grams
NOTE: This water filter system is not intended for long-term use because it uses an iodine resin cell as part of the purification process. The following warning appears on the packaging for this product: "Caution: This cartridge contains iodine resin. Persons with iodine allergies or thyroid problems and pregnant women should consult their doctor before using this device because small amounts of iodine may remain in the treated water."
Zamberlan 996 Vioz GT Hiking Boots
As of August 2012 these Italian-made hiking boots have covered over 280 miles in the backcountry of Yellowstone and my feet have never felt better. Hiking boots are the most critical piece of gear for any wilderness trekker and these boots have quickly proven they are worth the money. I've had my share of blisters and sore feet from ill fitting hiking boots and the Vioz GT's just fit my feet perfectly, eliminating the need for adjustments and blister control when hiking in the backcountry. I wear these boots with the Smartwool® Light Cushion PhD™ crew socks ($20.95) which are designed to keep the socks from bunching up or slipping around in the boot (they do just that), and this combination is ideal for hiking and backpacking during the summer months in Yellowstone.
Breaking in the Vioz GT's took very little time for me and with every mile the leather becomes more supple making the boots even more comfortable. Small streams or wet and muddy conditions are never an issue and I can usually walk through these obstacles without searching for an alternate route which saves time and effort. A minimal number of seams helps to keep these boots water-tight, and dry feet will make your backcountry adventures much more enjoyable, especially on longer trips when your feet are in the boots for extended periods of time.
The Vioz GT's are a little heavy at 3lbs. 8oz., but I've never worried about weight when it comes to footwear and these boots were designed specifically for extended backpacking trips where you'll be carrying heavy loads and need the additional support. When hauling a heavy pack they perform flawlessly and offer incredible support no matter what the terrain. The soles are made of Zamberlan's exclusive Vibram® 3D, which provides great traction all around, especially on steep descents with a mixture of dirt and loose gravel which is very common in Yellowstone.
My experience with the Vioz GT's has been extremely positive and I would highly recommend these boots to anyone who spends a great deal of time on the trail and wants a comfortable, high-quality, all-purpose boot. However, I'd like to emphasize that fit is a relative term, especially when it comes to footwear, and a little research goes along way when buying outdoor gear.
Zamberlan 996 Vioz GT Specifications Average Price: $280.00 Waterproof: Yes Uppers: Hydrobloc® Full-Grain Leather Lining: GORE-TEX® Footbed: Z-Comfort Fit Footbed Padding: Z.A.S. - "Zamberlan Air System" Insole/Shank: Zamberlan Z-Flex GT Toe & Heel: Thermoplastic Sole: Zamberlan® VIBRAM® 3D Weight: 3 lbs, 8 oz Sizes: 8-14
Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots
I wore these hiking boots for the first time on an off-trail hike up Mount Everts near Mammoth Hot Springs and Gardiner, Montana. This particular hike covered a variety of terrain—steep hillsides, loose rocks, and a mix of snow and ice near the summit. The elevation gain was around 2,400 ft. and the boots were extremely comfortable going up and coming down. There was no heal rubbing and no pinched toes or foot movement/sliding inside the boot. The outer soles offer a good grip on rocky terrain and the uppers provided the right amount of ankle support on this type of uneven and rocky terrain. My feet stayed warm and dry hiking through the ankle-deep snow that covered much of the ridge, although I wouldn't wear these boots in sub-zero conditions because the insulation is a bit too thin. At 1.4 lbs. the boots are extremely lightweight but they still remain comfortable even on 5-7 hour hikes. The Mountain Trainers come with an extra footbed that helps you dial in the fit but I found the shoes to be more comfortable without this insert.
These boots required no break-in time and I'm sure they will become even more comfortable with each and every use.
Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid Gore-Tex Specifications Average Price: $220.00 Waterproof: Yes Uppers: 1.6 – 1.8 Suede, Rand = Sticky Rubber Lining: GORE-TEX® Footbed: MULTI-FIT, Mid-stiff Nylon Outsole: VIBRAM® Mulaz Midesole: Triple density microporous rubber, PU shock absorber Weight: 1 lb 4 oz Sizes: 6-13 Warranty: 2 Years
Osprey Aether 85 - Reviewed by Neil Thomas Fourteen years ago, when I first discovered the joys of backpacking, I went to a local sporting goods store armed with zero information and experience, and grabbed the first decent size backpack that simply "looked good" and went to the checkout...no fitting, no trial or in-store packing, no sales help, no nothing. Over the past fourteen years, and thousands of trail miles, and what seemed like countless adjustments to the pack not to mention my spine, I knew that it was finally time to find a new pack. One that actually fit my body and my specific backpacking needs. As I poured over the hundreds of reviews from magazines and websites, I finally went to my local outdoor shops with my head crammed with all the different brands, sizes and options and I quickly realized that none of that information mattered. What I really needed to do was start trying on packs and eliminate the ones that did not feel right. Some of the most highly rated (and most expensive) packs felt terrible, which reminded me that no amount of research can take the place of the actual fit. For nearly two weeks I tried on different packs, walking laps around each store with each one fully loaded, I finally decided on the Osprey Aether 85, and after a handful of outings in Yellowstone this summer, I can honestly say that I've made the right decision.
The Osprey Aether 85 comes in two sizes, medium and large, based on your torso length. The suspension system is adjustable and can be fine tuned to fit your torso length. The Aether 85 has a gear capacity of 85 liters or 5200 cu in., making it great for multi-day and weekend backpacking trips, and what makes this large capacity backpack ideal, is the unique buckles that allows for greater compression when you only need to carry gear for just one or two days. When investing in a pack, it is great to have an all-in-one pack. One of my favorite features of the Aether 85, and this goes for all of the Osprey packs, is the Removable IsoForm CM™ (Custom Moldable) hipbelt which allows for a custom fit of the hipbelt using Osprey's own heating ovens. Most authorized dealers carry this system and the process will take about 30 minutes to complete and it's well worth the time and effort, giving you a truly custom fit. Why other companies have not followed this technology is a mystery to me because it really makes a difference.
The pack itself contains its large main compartment, with top, side and bottom access along with a sleeping bag compartment at the bottom. The top has a large opening for easy packing and accessibility and there are three exterior compartments on the main body. The top pocket that can be removed and used as a lumbar pack for day hikes. The hipbelt removes easily and can be used with the top pack for additional support and comfort. The pack features internal and external compression straps to stabilize any size load. The Aether 85 comes equipped with a hydration sleeve for holding a hydration bladder and there are two drink tube holes on either side. Lastly, the pack has a trekking pole attachment that could also hold an ice axe, as well as several flexible cord loops for attaching additional gear like rain jackets or sleeping pads.
The pack wears comfortably, and when cinched tight, does not move and feels like a natural extension of my body. As I climb up and down hills, navigate over fallen logs or duck under branches this pack remains in place. My only complaint has to do with the length of the straps used for the hipbelt. After tightening this belt, the extra material dangles almost to my knees. I eventually tied it into a square knot to take up some of this additional length. The bottom line...after just a few days wearing this pack, I've come to realize that I still have many years of backpacking in front of me and at least now it will be in the comfort of a great fitting pack.
Osprey Aether 85 Product Specifications Average Price: $299.00 Frame Type: Internal Adjustable Torso: Yes - Allows for custom fitting Pack Loading: Top Exterior Pockets: 4 Interior Pockets: No 3 Point Access: Top, side and front Hydration Sleeve: Yes Sleeping Bag Compartment: Yes Ice Axe Loops: No Gear Loops: No Colors: Dusk Blue (shown), Magma, Tundra Sizes: Medium = 5,200 cu in/ 85 liters, Large = 5,400 cu in/ 88 liters Weight: Medium = 5 lbs 1 oz/ 2.3 kilograms, Large = 5 lbs 4 oz/ 2.38 kilograms Materials: 210-denier Double-ripstop Nylon/420-denier, Nylon Packcloth/500-denier Plain Weave Oxford Nylon
Arc'teryx Altra 75 Men's Backpack The Altra 75 was designed to carry heavy loads comfortably and it's a great multi-day backpack that does exactly that. I purchased the Altra 75 specifically for an 8-day backpacking trip to Yellowstone's Thorofare Region and it handled the 55 lbs of gear very easily and comfortably.
The Altra 75 has a clean and simple design that makes packing and unpacking super easy. The large main compartment is spacious and easy to organize, and once the pack is loaded with gear, the unique, full-length inverted u-shaped zipper allows quick access to the main compartment just like a large duffle bag. This is a very practical feature (see photo below).
The shoulder straps on the Altra 75 are made of EV® 50 foam and lined with breathable Spacermesh™. When I first looked at this backpack the padding seemed a bit old-school but both the triple-density, thermoformed hipbelt and the shoulder straps are very comfy. The Rotating Load Transfer Disc™ connects the hipbelt to the pack and allows for greater mobility and rotation as you maneuver over objects like fallen trees, etc. Because of these moving parts, the friction generated by these two moving pieces can cause the components to squeak if dirt finds it's way in-between these two points of contact. I didn't notice any noise during our multi-day trip but Arc'teryx does include a small container of grease to help alleviate this problem should the area generate any noise. You can remove the hipbelt very easily should you need to apply the grease for any reason.
Using the Injection-molded GridLock™system the shoulder straps can be adjusted up and down or side-to-side so you can dial in the fit very quickly. Velcro attachments keep the straps solidly in place and the padding along the spine of the pack is more than adequate. I did make a handful of minor adjustments to the position of the shoulder straps and it was super easy to get them unhooked and repositioned based on my preferences.
There is one feature that I found a bit odd regarding the design of this backpack. The hydration compartment is actually located on the side rather than in the center, which would help to distribute that weight more uniformly. This isn't a big issue for me because when I'm carrying a pack of this size I prefer to use Nalgene water bottles instead of using a water bladder which can easily add another 6 pounds. The two mesh side pockets are perfectly positioned so you can grab and replace a water bottle(s) without taking off the pack.
One other very minor item I noticed has to do with the zippered pocket located under the top lid. When you flip the lid over to access this compartment the pocket is now positioned at the bottom and this orientation allows the contents of the pocket to fall out if you don't hold it level. The top lid and the kangaroo pouch located on the front are very roomy and are perfect for carrying items like rain jackets, gloves, snacks, or anything else you might want quick access to during the day.
Overall this is a sturdy and comfortable multi-day pack that is definitely worth the money.
Arc'teryx Altra 75 Product Specifications Average Price: $425.00 Frame Type: Internal - Aluminum, plastic and EVA foam Adjustable Torso: Yes - Injection-molded GridLock™ shoulder strap adjustment Pack Loading: Top and front (Full-length inverted u-shaped zipper) External Pockets: 6 (3 in the lid, 2 water bottle pockets, 1 front or kangaroo pouch Interior Pockets: 1 Hydration compartment Access Points: Top and front Hydration Sleeve: Yes Sleeping Bag Compartment: No Ice Axe Loops: No Gear Loops: No Colors: Fireweed (shown), Raven Sizes: Regular = 4,577 cu in/ 75 liters, Tall = 4,821 cu in/ 79 liters Weight: Regular = 5 lbs 1 oz/ 2.3 kilograms, Tall = 5 lbs 3 oz/ 2.4 kilograms Materials: Silicone and Polyurethane coated 100-denier Ripstop Nylon, Invista HD Mini Ripstop™ Nylon and 210-denier Ripstorm™ Nylon, Pack Bottom = 420-denier Invista HD Raincover: No
Marmot Odin 35 Backpack The Odin 35 is larger day pack that fits like a glove and is ideal for overnight trips (1-3 days). It's a very stable pack that carries a full load of gear comfortably and the narrow profile is ideal for off-trail travel. The mesh back panel and shoulder straps are not overly bulky and help to keep sweat to a minimum.
The lid is detachable and is large enough to accommodate a good sized lunch or other essential items. The front vertical pocket is ideal for holding a map, compass or other flat items for quick access. The hip belt has two gear loops and a zippered pouch that's perfect for car keys, sunscreen or a tube of lip balm. The zippers on the Odin 35 are easy to adjust and have a loop at the end that allows you to use your index finger to operate the zippers.
The interior of the Odin is divided into three compartments. The first is a three-quarter length sleeve that is designed for carrying a hydration bladder, the top of which has a very useful clip that conveniently attaches to the 'Quick Link™' system on the Camelbak® Antidote™reservoir. This keeps the hydration system from sliding to the bottom of the pack as water is consumed throughout the day. A small hole at the top of the pack allows the hydration tube to slide through to the exterior where it's accessible. There is a very small zippered pocket on the inside that's perfect for a wallet or keys. If the pack is filled with gear this small pocket is a little hard to reach but for non essentials it works well. The main compartment will hold up to 2,300 cu in. of gear (larger model).
The front has two ice axe loops as well as an extra strap for carrying a pair of skis diagonally across the pack. There are two small mesh side pockets that can be used to hold a water bottle or the ends of your ski or trekking poles.
This is a solid backpack that's got enough room to be a weekend workhorse. If you carry lots of gear on day hikes like I do, this packs got plenty of room for all your equipment.
Marmot Odin 35 Product Specifications Average Price: $129.00 Frame Type: Internal with removable frame sheet Adjustable Torso: No Pack Loading: Top Exterior Pockets: 4 - Top lid, front and 2 side mesh Interior Pockets: 2 - Zippered hanging and one under the top lid 2 Point Access: Top and front Hydration Sleeve: Yes Sleeping Bag Compartment: No Ice Axe Loops: Yes Gear Loops: Yes Colors: Black/Blue Ocean, Olympian Blue/Nightfall, Red Ochre/Russet Orange (shown) Sizes: Medium = 2,150 cu in/ 35 liters, Large = 2,300 cu in/ 38 liters Weight: Medium = 3 lbs 8 oz/ 1588 g, Large = 3 lbs 10 oz/ 1644 g Materials: 210-denier Double Diamond Ripstop Nylon, 420-denier High Density Nylon, 600-denier Ballistics Polyester
Marmot Zelus 25 Backpack For its size the Zelus 25 is a little pig (in a good way). On long day hikes I will typically carry a variety of film and video equipment and this pack handles it all without flinching. From cameras, water bottles, food, first-aid, extra clothing, sandals, tripods, etc., I'm always amazed at how much I can fit inside this pack. One thing that I find really helpful is the low angle or pitch of the lid. This allows me to carry my camera tripod directly over my shoulder with very little interference from the pack, and this goes the same for a pair of backcountry skis.
Under the lid there is a mesh pocket with a handy key clip so you know right where your car keys are at the end of the day. A hydration sleeve keeps the water bladder in place and a clip near the top of the pack attaches to the plastic hook on most hydration systems, although I have noticed that the newer Camelbak's have a thicker clip which no longer accommodates the clip on this pack. A hanging zippered pocket on the interior is ideal for stowing your wallet or other small items and prevents them from inadvertently falling out of the pack if you're rummaging for gear during the hike.
The pack fits snuggly against my body and stays in place when traveling on or off the trail. The narrow profile makes bushwhacking so much easier, and the no-frills exterior means fewer snags if you're traveling through dense brush. Lash points located on the front and top of the Zelus 25 make it easy to add a bit of cordage (not included) for lashing a rain jacket or other articles of clothing or gear that require quick access.
Overall the Zelus 25 has been a great day pack. It hauls my 20 to 30 pound loads comfortably and never leaves my shoulders feeling sore regardless of how much weight I've carried. Just one complaint and I think this a common problem with most packs that are designed with an internal hydration system. The 'exit' holes that allow you to feed the drinking tubes through the interior of the pack always seem a bit too small, and you end up wrestling the tubes and bite valves through these narrow slots. Certainly not the end of the world by any means.
Marmot Zelus 25 Product Specifications Average Price: $109.00 Frame Type: Internal with removable frame sheet Adjustable Torso: No Pack Loading: Top Exterior Pockets: No Interior Pockets: 2 - Mesh lid and zippered hanging 1 Point Access: Top Hydration Sleeve: Yes Sleeping Bag Compartment: No Ice Axe Loops: Yes Gear Loops: No Colors: Dark Coal/ Black Sizes: One size: 1,550 cu in/ 25 liters Weight: 2 lbs 8 oz/ 1134 g Materials: 210-denier 100% Nylon Nail Head, 420-denier High Density Nylon, Double Layer 420-denier High Density Nylon Raincover: No
REI Men's Ultra Light Jacket
I want to preface this review with a note about waterproof/breathable garments in general. I have spent years hiking and backpacking in a variety of different climates and conditions and regardless of what most manufacturers claim, many waterproof jackets are far from breathable. This however does not in any way reduce their value or their functionality. The rate at which evaporation occurs between the inside and outside surface of a waterproof jacket is usually very slow and this allows sweat/condensation to accumulate and remain on the interior, especially when activity levels are high. You'll often notice this if you're wearing a rain jacket with a short-sleeved shirt during the summer. Your arms and back will always feel wet or clammy regardless of how hard you try to ventilate the jacket, and if the weather is humid, remaining completely dry seems like an almost impossible task. Rain jackets that have an inner lining can help to eliminate this damp feeling but those jackets are in a different category and are substantially more expensive.
With that being said, a waterproof jacket is a necessity on most if not all backcountry outings. The REI Ultra Light is designed to keep you dry and to protect you from the wind (up to 60 mph). Those two elements combined are a deadly combination and either one can lead to hypothermia if you are unprepared. The jacket is ideal for summer outings and sheds water beautifully but I would limit its usage to places where a persistent rain will be not be a factor. The REI Ultra Light is best suited for the sudden afternoon thunder shower or an unexpected day of foul weather. For environments where rainy weather is an everyday occurrence you'll want a technical waterproof jacket made of GORE-TEX®.
The REI Ultra Light jacket has a form fitting design and yet it still allows for a great deal of movement. The two pockets for your hands as well as the chest pocket all have zippers, and the chest pocket contains a small opening on the interior of the jacket that allows you to thread a pair of earphones directly to your iPod® or mobile device. The two interior pockets are made of mesh and can hold a small knit hat or a pair of light gloves. I did notice that at the bottom of each interior pocket there is a small opening that was left unstitched. If you store small items like batteries or coins in these pockets they could potentially work their way out. I'm not sure if this was an oversight on my coat, or if it is a minor design flaw. Not a big deal but it's something to be aware of.
The REI Ultra Light is a "light-weight" jacket to a certain degree but at 16.5 oz it's still a bit on the heavy side. It packs nicely into the left-hand pocket for easy storage when weather conditions are more favorable. Pit zips under each arm allow you to vent the jacket quickly and easily even when wearing a backpack. The brimmed hood can be rolled up into the collar and is easy to remove if you prefer to wear the jacket sans hood. The collar is lined with tricot, a fine knitted fabric made of a natural or man-made fibers and is very comfortable next to the bare skin. When the jacket is completely zipped it fits snugly around the neck which helps keep the wind and rain from reaching the interior of the coat. The front zipper is covered by an additional flap of fabric (placket) that prevents the rain from soaking through via the zipper.
I carry the Ultra Light on most day hikes during the summer and I will often bring it with me on winter trips because it's a great windbreaker that fits comfortably over a fleece jacket. The REI website has indicated on a number of occasions that the Ultra Light jacket is sold out or unavailable online so it looks like this is a popular item and I would have to agree. My experiences with REI products have always been positive.
REI Ultra Light Jacket Product Specifications Average Price: $119.00 Colors: Black (NA), Bearing Sea, Timberline Fabrics: 100% Nylon Shell, REI Elements 2.5-layer waterproof breathable coating Waterproof, Windproof & Breathable: Yes, Yes, not really Pit Zips/Venting: Yes Weight: 16.5 oz Sizes: S to XXXL Zippered Pockets: Yes - 3 - Total number of pockets 5 Hood: Yes - rolls up or zips off Insulated: No
Eddie Bauer First Ascent Downlight® Hooded Jacket
Yellowstone can be a cold place even during the summer, but this lightweight, water-repellent, 800-fill goose down jacket will keep you nice and toasty no matter what kind of surprises Yellowstone dishes out. If you wear this jacket under a windproof or waterproof shell you'll have bombproof protection against the elements. By itself the Downlight Jacket offers exceptional warmth even on windy days, and at just under a pound it's something you'll forget you're wearing, and it won't weigh you down or take up space when it's stored in your backpack. The integrated hood is a nice feature and it zips up comfortably around your head offering additional protection should the weather take a turn for the worse, and when the day is done and it's time for bed, the Downlight coat makes a very comfy pillow. How can you go wrong. This down jacket is light, warm and versatile.
My only complaint regarding the Downlight Jacket is that there is no zippered interior pocket. It's nice to be able to keep camera batteries or other small items warm and accessible when hiking on cold days. The two external pockets do have zippers and work well for keeping bare hands warm or for stashing a pair of gloves when you need to light a stove, etc, but I really like the security of an interior pocket. If only it were a perfect world!
Eddie Bauer First Ascent Downlight Hooded Jacket Product Specifications Average Price: $219 - $239.00 Colors: Black, Carrot (Shown), Indigo Fabrics: 100% Nylon Shell, EB800™ Down, StormRepel® (Durable Water-repellent (DWR) Finish) Weight: 14 oz Sizes: S to XXL Type: 800-fill Premium European Goose Down (but don't tell PETA) Warranty: Unconditional Lifetime Guarantee
Bear Grylls Survivor Trousers by Craghopper These pants are a great lightweight option for summer backpacking trips with plenty of pockets (9 total) for carrying all your camping necessities and anything else you might come across on your outdoor adventures. I like the straight cut of these pants which eliminates any extra fabric around the cuffs and the fabric dry quickly. The Bear Grylls Survivor Trousers will continue to be my go-to pants for backcountry adventures when I need a little extra protection form the wind or sun.
Bear Grylls Survivor Trousers Product Specifications Average Price: $85.00 Colors: Black & Pepper (shown), Dark Khaki/Black, Metal/Black Fabrics: SolarDry polyamide supplex with stretch panels Weight: 450 grams Sizes: 26" 28" 30" 32" 34" 36" 38" 40" 42" Type: Men's long pants
Seeker Full Zip Fleece Jacket by prAna This is a very comfortable and form-fitting fleece that I know will see plenty of miles on the trail. I wore this jacket during an 8-day backpacking trip and it held up really well, keeping me warm during the cool evenings in camp and at the night when I needed an extra layer while sleeping. I like the zippered breast pocket for carrying small items like a lens cap or camera batteries, etc., and the large front pockets made it easy to tuck my hands inside on those early mornings treks when a pair of fleece gloves were too heavy. The high collar protects the neck from the wind and sun and helps retain body heat. This is a great piece of clothing that performs on or off the trail.
Seeker Jacket Product Specifications Average Price: $79.00 Colors: Black (shown), Bombay (orange), Corsica (light blue) and Grass (green) Fabrics: Polyester fleece Sizes: S, M, L, XL Type: Men's front-zip, long-sleeved
Gerber - Bear Grylls Folding Sheath Knife
I carry this compact knife with me on every trip into the backcountry and it has performed flawlessly. It's perfect for every type of camp chore and it could be used as a survival knife as well. The handle fits comfortably in your hand and the rubber grip keeps your hand from slipping during use.
Gerber - Bear Grylls Folding Sheath Knife Product Specifications Average Price: $33.00 Overall Length: 8.5 in Folded Length: 4.9 in Blade Length: 3.6 in Blade: High Carbon Stainless Steel Drop Point Blade Type: Folding/locking blade with 1/2 serrated edge Weights: Without Military-grade Nylon Sheath = 4.3 oz/ With Sheath = 5.3 oz Warranty: Lifetime
Light My Fire FireSteel Scout 2.0
The spark of life. If you use this tool to start a fire in conjunction with Coghlan's Emergency Tinder or a similar tinder product you'll have a full-proof way of making fire no matter what the conditions. I carry the Light My Fire FireSteel in my survival kit as a backup and find it very easy to use. It produces a consistent stream of sparks that reach temperatures of around 5,400°F. The striker handle contains a handy emergency whistle. Can also be used to light your camp stove as well.
Light My Fire FireSteel Scout 2.0 Product Specifications Average Price: $14.95 Dimensions: 3" x 0.85" x 0.5" Weight: 1.0 oz Material: Magnesium Strikes: 3,000
Canon EOS 7D with Firmware 2.0.X Upgrade
Camera equipment is an essential piece of gear when we head into the backcountry of Yellowstone and the Canon EOS 7D produces both outstanding still photographs and incredible HD video. If you're looking for an affordable, mid-range, prosumer DSLR that will capture every moment of your adventures in Yellowstone we highly recommend the Canon 7D.
This review is a very basic summary of what makes the Canon 7D such a great DSLR. For more information and a complete product review of the 7D please visit the links below.
Overall the Canon 7D is a very intuitive and user-friendly camera. The buttons and interactive control panels on this model are easy to read and are thoughtfully laid out on the camera body for ease of operation when taking photos. The customization features for frequently used settings will allow you to quickly switch between different shooting modes, ISO's, white-balance settings, and much, much more. The in-camera menu display uses a series of easy-to-follow, color-coded tabs that make navigating between the extensive custom options super easy (see image below). You can even create your own perfect menu so all your favorite and dynamic settings are just a click away. The 7D also gives you the ability to create and save three different custom presets that can be activated via the mode-dial on the top of the camera. This option is ideal for quickly jumping between your preferred video and/or photo presets.
Canon has also added a variety of new options for managing the auto focus settings (AF) on the 7D and these configurations will help you achieve the best picture quality for a wide-range of subjects and shooting scenarios (see image below). I especially like the new AF tracking feature which allows you maintain your focus on moving subjects, keeping them separate from the background. Like most photography skills it takes a fair bit of practice to master these features but if you take the time to get to know the camera the end result will lead to much better pictures.
If you enjoy photographing wildlife the Canon 7D has a super fast 8fps continuous shooting mode so you'll be able to capture every movement of Yellowstone's incredible wildlife.
Watch the video clip below to see an example of what the Canon 7D can really do. The pictures and video really speak for themselves.
If you do plan to shoot a fair amount of video with the Canon 7D you'll want to purchase two or three compact flash cards (CF) that are at least 8GB in size. In full HD mode (1920 x 1080) the camera will quickly fill these flash cards so it's best to have a few extra on hand. Battery life on the Canon 7D is also greatly reduced when the camera is in video mode so plan on buying extra batteries and a car charger so you can recharge your batteries as needed. As with most cameras it's always best to invest in a tripod, especially if you plan to use this camera exclusively for video.
• 8fps Continuous Shooting Capability
• ISO Range of up to 6400
• 1x Magnification and 100% Viewfinder
• 19-point Cross-type Auto Focus (AF) Points
• iFCL Metering System
• Dual "DIGIC 4" Processors
• Full HD Movie Mode with Variable Frame Rates and Manual Control
• 3" Clear View II LCD Screen at 920,000 Dots
• Magnesium Alloy Body with Environmental Protection
Canon EOS 7D Product Specifications Average Price - Body Only: $900 and up Average Price with a Single Lens: $1,300 and up depending on the lens Image Resolution: Up to 5200 x 3462 Exposure Control: Manual, Shutter-priority, Aperture-priority, Full Auto, Creative Auto, Bulb and Program AE Modes Dimensions: 4.4 h x 5.8 w x 2.9 d in Weight Without Lens: 1.8 lbs LCD Screen Size: 3" Self-Timer: 2 sec. and 10 sec. Video Outputs: NTSC, PAL File Formats: JPEG, RAW, DPOF, MOV Audio: Yes Memory Card Formats: CompactFlash (CF) - 8GB cards = $35-$40 Battery: Canon LP-E6 - Lithium-ion - Capacity: 1800mAh, Voltage: 7.2v = $30-$50 Warranty: 1-year on both parts and labor (limited)
This is the very first video produced for Trail Guides Yellowstone. This short intro was shot in full HD and then edited using Adobe Premier.