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  1. We thought we had seen every possible way to package down. This coat proved us wrong. The Marmot West Rib ParkaThick baffles, thin baffles, welded, woven, sewn through: We’ve seen apparel makers use all sorts of tricks to stuff their down coats. But at Outdoor Retailer, Marmot showed us a new one with their new WarmCube technology. Rather than compartmentalizing the down into long, parallel baffles, the utilizes cube-shaped compartments that Marmot says will keep the fill in place better than ever. The idea is to minimize the shifting of fill and trap heat within the grid-like channels between cubes. After trying on the West Rib Parka, the first model to use the tech, we can confirm that the cubes huggged our bodies better than most down jackets we’ve used, trapping warm air close to us even as we moved. To ward off wet weather, an additional synthetic insulating and water resistant layer on the outside. The West Rib will be available this August. View the full article
  2. We put eight pint-size snowshoes on our testers. Here's how they measured up. Snowshoeing makes winter fun for kids and parents alike.Snowshoes open up a winter wonderland. Thanks to the flotation and traction they provide, you can walk on anything from packed tracks, to dedicated snowshoe trails at ski resorts, to untracked powder. Generally speaking, snowshoes are easy to put on and use. The longer and larger the snowshoe, the more flotation they provide. But, that’s not to say that a five-year-old should be put in a standard 8-inch wide by 19-inch-long snowshoe; they’d be too cumbersome for a five-year-old to walk comfortably. Finding the length that’s appropriate for the size of your child, plus the best binding, traction, and intended usage for your needs is the key to happy snowshoeing. I had eight kids, ages 7 to 10, test different snowshoes on a winter hut trip and various other outings to see just how easy each pair was to put on, keep on, and enable fun. (While snowshoes for toddlers and smaller kids do exist, we limited this test to snowshoes for elementary school-aged children.) One caveat: A couple of the kid testers wore snowboarding boots in the snowshoes, while others wore winter boots or weather-treated hiking shoes of some sort. We recommend high-top boots and thick, wool socks to keep feet warm, and waterproof pants, like ski pants, to help keep kids dry as their 'shoes will flick up snow agains their behinds. Get more tips, trips, and stories about family outdoor adventures on BACKPACKER’s Families Gone Wild. View the full article
  3. An ultra-low price for an ultralight tent. At just over 1.5 pounds, this shelter is light enough to use as a solo-hiking palace but roomy enough to fit two sleepers comfortably. The trekking-pole pitch is simple, and we like that it provides an awning for gear storage, too. Bonus: The Flylite's generous door increases the potential for a spectacular view in the morning. Get this tent for $104.73 (70 percent off) at REI. View the full article
  4. Keep warm and dry in harsh winter conditions with this stretchy windbreaker. Dynafit ChugachIcy daggers of wind won’t penetrate the Dynafit Chugach Windstopper Jacket, nor will snow seep through this comfy, stretchy garment. Stretch-woven nylon softshell fabric in the midsection and water-resistant Gore Windstopper fabric covering the chest and above helps the jacket breathe well and keeps sweat from building up, while protecting wearers from the elements and providing excellent freedom of movement on epic winter backcountry adventures. Once the weather has subsided, the Chugach packs up small for easy transport. Get it now at Moosejaw for $166, or 58% off its $400 list price. View the full article
  5. Get maximum value for minimum cash with these 13 standout products. Let's face it: Backpacking gear can be expensive. Just ask reader Keith Hepworth, who wrote in to tell us that the prices in our Fall Gear Guide left him feeling cold. "Based on your reviews, one could be led to think backpacking is only for the wealthy," he said. "The $101 average price for the gloves in your review is out of reach for the vast majority [of people]." We feel your pain, Keith, Most of our coverage focuses on new gear, and the latest and greatest isn't always cheap. But that doesn't mean you need a trust fund to upgrade your kit. Read on for 13 of our favorite bargain tents, packs, sleeping bags, and more, all for $160 or less. Want to save even more? Learn to keep your equipment in top condition with AIM Adventure U's Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair course. View the full article
  6. Get boots, jackets, and more on the cheap—but hurry. Maybe you Marie Kondo'ed a bunch of room into your gear closet. Maybe you're already thinking about gearing up for the spring hiking season. Whatever your reason, a good deal is hard to pass up—and REI's January Clearance Sale, which goes through tomorrow, has more than a few. We picked out eight of our favorite gear deals to make your search easier. Grab them while you still can. View the full article
  7. Glide through the backcountry with these time-tested picks for cross-country skiing. Jackson Lake, Grand Teton National ParkIf cross-country skiing makes you think of kicking lazy laps across your local golf course, it's time to change your image of the sport. With thicker skis and beefier bindings, today's backcountry nordic gear is capable of handling steeper trails and rougher snow than its inbounds counterparts. Start with this tester-approved kit. View the full article
  8. Save big and drink safely in the backcountry with this filter. Filtering water for a group can be more taxing than the hike itself, but not if you have a gravity filter. We like this system from Sawyer thanks to its light weight (the whole thing is only 8.3 ounces) and versatility: You can ditch the bag and hose and use the hollow-fiber MINI filter with a plastic water bottle or inline with a reservoir hose. Grab the 1 Gallon Gravity Water Filter System at REI for $19.93—50 percent off—and remember to stay hydrated on the trail. View the full article
  9. Gear up for the United States' toughest long path with these expert picks. On a path as long, high, and remote as the Continental Divide Trail, there is little room for gear errors. For four to six months of walking, CDT thru-hikers have a laundry list of concerns that outpace those of many other long trails: grizzly bears, lightning storms, avalanche danger, unmarked or non-existent trails, long food and water carries, weeks at altitude, and raging snowmelt-filled river fords. That is one reason that while first-time thru-hikers occasionally make it, most wait to tackle the CDT until they have more experience. Most hikers find the CDT exhausting on a day-to-day basis. When tired, hungry, and at altitude, hikers often don’t have the patience to put up with gear that may be rubbing oddly or isn’t functioning properly. The solution: get it right the first time. Compared to the Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trails, many CDT hikers choose slightly heavier-duty gear: their picks have to be strong enough to handle the New Mexico desert and trudge through snow at 14,000 feet in Colorado. Still, hikers try to choose lighter packs to minimize the impact of all that vertical on their back, knees, and joints. Food and water carries on the CDT can be heavy, too, so light gear choices help reduce overall pack weight Should you need to replace gear, know that brick-and-mortar gear stores are few and far between on the CDT, especially in the crucial first and last 500 miles. Before setting out, CDT hikers should develop a plan to replace gear like shoes along the way, preferably with the help of an at-home support person who can coordinate shipments. Your gear choices may change depending on whether you attempt to hike the whole CDT in one push, flip flop, or break it up in sections over multiple years. Why? Much of the trail is at 12,000 feet and depending on which week of the summer you travel through that area, you may hit deep snow, rain, bugs, warm temps, or lightning storms. More than on any other long trail, it’s imperative that you know how to use your gear before you set out. Your best bet is to test it out on a different, easier thru-hike; learn to set up your tent or work your stove without much brain power, and you’ll have a much easier time. There’s no one best CDT gear system, but these lightweight, simple picks are a good place to start. Big Three Backpack This is the piece of equipment that you’ll be using the most, so spend time picking the right one. A good pack should fit your body, ride well when it’s loaded, and rub or chafe while you walk. On the CDT, I like the Gossamer Gear Gorilla and its bigger cousin, the Mariposa. Weighing in at just two pounds, the Gorilla is made of made of abrasion-resistant 70-denier Robic nylon reinforced with 100-denier fabric (100- and 200-denier respectively for the Mariposa), and can handle a load. (You’ll need that ability, too, as you’ll be toting food across the Wind River Range in Wyoming and snowshoes through Colorado’s San Juans.) Tip: Use a pack liner like a trash compactor bag to waterproof your gear. Shelter Tarptent Double Rainbow (Seth Hughes).The CDT doesn’t always have tree cover, so your shelter should be strong enough to stay up during a windy, exposed night on a high ridge. For southbound hikers, mosquitoes swarm in the Anaconda Pintler range of Montana; northbounders will encounter them in the Wind River range. And no matter which way you choose to tackle the CDT, you’ll probably spend a night or more in the snow. The two-person Tarp Tent Double Rainbow is a time-tested shelter that provides the coverage and bug protection of a tent, but the low weight of a tarp. It uses trekking poles for a free-standing pitch and is a good balance of weight, price, and durability. (While there's a single-person version, most hikers appreciate having the extra space for their gear.) Sleeping Bag or Quilt Temperatures on the CDT can vary wildly as hikers move their way through seasons and ecosystems. Still, most thru-hikers tell me the same thing: the trail was colder than they expected. The CDT spends hundreds of miles above 10,000 feet, and even New Mexico, often thought of as the trail’s warmest section, can experience below-freezing temperatures in the spring and fall. Many CDT hikers find a 20-degree sleeping bag or quilt to meet their needs, but you’ll likely want to sub it out for something warmer or bring a liner for the colder stretches. I like the Katabatic Palisade, which is warm, compact, and lightweight, and worked even in early June in the snowy San Juans. For those looking for a traditional mummy style bag, I thru-hiked the CDT with the Western Mountaineering Ultralite, which has full coverage and a hood but weighs less than 2 pounds. Good sleeping bags can be expensive, but with care, they can last 10 years or more. Sleeping Pad A good sleeping pad isn’t just a comfy bed. It will keep you warm by insulating you from the ground, too. To save weight, I like to use a ¾ or kids’ length pad. At 10 oz and only $35, the short version of the Thermarest Z-lite Sol is an affordable foam pad that is a favorite of many thru-hikers, especially for traveling through cactus country in New Mexico. By the time CDT hikers reach chilly Colorado, some hikers switch out to the super-insulated NeoAir Xtherm. Clothing Light Puffy Jacket, Vest, or Fleece A puffy jacket is an essential piece of clothing for every CDT hiker: While the trail is exposed to the sun during the day, nights can be cold. I like the Montbell Superior Down Parka, which offers a good balance of warmth to weight in an 8.7-ounce package. Many hikers also pick up the fleece Melanzana Microgrid Hoodie in Colorado. This warm-when-wet, wind-resistant layer is well-suited to the almost daily afternoon thunderstorms that often hit the trail in the state. Raingear Afternoon thunderstorms can happen daily on the Continental Divide, at least during certain months and some states. Hikers often like to double up by bringing both a rain jacket and an umbrella. I like the Continental Divide Trail Coalition logoed umbrella; its mylar construction keeps out the sun in New Mexico and the rain in Colorado, and the proceeds go back to support the trail. At 6.3 oz, it’s a lightweight compact option that folds nicely into the side pockets of a backpack. For hikers on a budget, it is hard to beat the lightweight Frogg Toggs Dri Ducks Ultralite Rain Gear. A hooded rain jacket and pants cost only $25 and are surprisingly breathable and lightweight. Just be prepared to replace them when the trip is done, if not earlier. Undergarments Carry an extra pair, either wool or quick-drying fabric.. Most hikers enjoy having full-length long sleeve baselayers in colder conditions. Consider bringing an extra pair for sleeping. Shoes On a 2000-plus-mile hike, you’re sure to get a few blisters no matter how good your shoes are. Almost all CDT hikers out for the long haul choose mesh, low-top trail runners. Even in the desert, toes moist from foot sweat can lead to the kind of blisters or chafing that take people off trail for good. After fording raging creeks, mesh trail runners hold water less readily than boots. Each pound on the foot is equal to at least five on the back, so a lightweight shoe can lead to less pounding. Still, choose shoes with enough support and cushion to deal with the weight of your pack—especially for the longer food and water carries. Although the CDT is a lot to ask of a shoe, for sections with longer stretches of dirt or pavement road walking, I like the cushiony Altra Olympus 3. For softer-terrained parts of the trail, Altra Lone Peaks are a CDT hiker staple. If you expect to be wearing snowshoes or traveling for more than a hundred miles on snow, you may be happier switching to a midcut waterproof trail runner or boot. Expect to replace your thru-hiking shoes every 400 miles, especially since many hikers find their feet “grow” up to two-sizes over 2,000 miles. Socks Since gear stores can be few and far between on the CDT, it’s important to have socks that will last. Quality hiking socks will hold up for hundreds of miles, even when wet or encrusted in sand. I find the Darn Tough light hikers to fit so well I can barely feel them, which cuts down on the kind of rubbing that can lead to hot spots or chafing from moist footwear. Merino wool reduces stink, too. Carry enough so that you won’t have to wear yesterday’s wet socks. First Aid and Emergency Bag Because the CDT can be so remote, hikers and their loved ones may want to consider investing in a Garmin Inreach Mini, a two-way personal locator beacon. Should snow, fords, or injury leave you stranded, the Garmin can be used to trigger a distress signal and get emergency help. Some subscription plans allow hikers to essentially “text” their loved ones through the Garmin as well, a convenient way to stay in touch on remote sections of the CDT. Downside: the inReach can be expensive, at $450 plus a monthly subscription fee. Navigation App, Databook, Town Guide, Compass, Watch, Maps Unlike other trails, the CDT is not always marked, even at intersections. There are still some CDT stretches that have no trail at all and require cross-country navigation skills, and wildfires often push hikers off-course. Hikers should carry paper maps and a compass and come equipped with the knowledge to use them. Most CDT hikers also carry an electronic or app version of trail maps on their phone or GPS device. But don’t count on electronics as your primary form of navigation and consider carrying a back-up battery: rain, snow, and the vagaries of random chance can take electronics out of commission at the worst times. Light If you’ll be doing serious night hiking, carry a waterproof headlamp like the Black Diamond Ion. Otherwise, I recommend the 0.25 ounce Photon Freedom Micro LED keychain, which is bright enough for nighttime bathroom breaks. It comes with attachments to use as a hat clip and necklace, too. Potty Kit Thru-hiking potty trowels like the Deuce of Spaces weigh 0.5 oz and make digging a cathole the easiest part of the day. Be sure to pack out used toilet paper: The CDT is a newly popular trail. Don’t let your poop be the one that ruins it for future hikers. Water Filter If you have visions of untouched mountain streams dancing in your head, we have a rude awakening for you: Continental Divide Trail hikers often end up drinking out of cow troughs. Sometimes, there are cows in the trough. Sometimes, those cows have done the unthinkable in the trough. And sometimes, that’s the only water for miles in any direction. With that in mind, a good water filter is a must. I like the Sawyer Squeeze, which easily screws onto a Smartwater bottle or can be used as an inline filter with a hose and bladder hydration system. Its light weight and long life (a million gallons!) make it a near-ubiquitous choice among thru-hikers. It comes with a syringe to help clean out gunk from inside the filter. Most hikers run the worst water through a bandanna first before treating, while other hikers carry chemical treatment to use as a backup. Stove and Cook Kit Fire danger is high in the west during summer months, and some hikers choose to go stoveless. If you like a hot meal or warm coffee in the morning, go with a lightweight canister stove. Bear Protection The CDT travels through grizzly bear country for 1,000 miles. Some National Parks will explicitly require you to stay in established campgrounds with bear poles, while others may require you to use a canister. When neither is required, I like the Ursack Major XL bear bag, which holds 15 liters of food and weighs 8.7 oz. Paired with an OPSak odorproof food bag, it is lighter and less bulky than a bear can and saves CDT hikers the pain of having to hang food through grizzly country. Replacing Shoes Most hikers will need to replace trail running shoes every 400 miles. For first-time thru-hikers, I advise starting the CDT with a pair of shoes that you’ve worn in and trust, but haven’t used too much. If that pair worked out, when you’re 300 miles into your trip, use the internet to order yourself a new pair and have it mailed to a post office near the 400-mile mark of your trek. (Note that post offices can’t accept packages from UPS or other delivery services.) If your first pair didn’t work out, find a gear store near the trail and try on other pairs, or size up. Be prepared to have to switch shoes out frequently until you find your dream shoe. View the full article
  10. Headed out on the Pacific Crest Trail? Expert thru-hiker Liz “Snorkel” Thomas breaks down the gear you’ll need. A light shelter will go a long way on the PCT.Stop just dreaming about a thru-hike; make it real! Our online Thru-Hiking 101 class covers everything you need to plan and finish the long-distance hike of your dreams. Start it instantly, complete it at your own pace, access it forever. Sign up now! On a PCT thru-hike, you’ll be spending months with your gear. Pick it wisely, and you’ll have a friend who never lets you down. On the other hand, gear that is just “good enough” for a short hike could rub you the wrong way when carried day-after-day and may even lead to injury. Some thru-hiking gear is the same stuff you would use backpacking, but some is a little different. Since you’re carrying the gear for much longer with a goal of hiking most of the day with less time in camp, thru-hiking gear tends to be smaller and lighter than most traditional backpacking gear. There’s no such thing as the “perfect gear for the PCT”—only the perfect gear for you. What gear you use depends on your skills and experience. But your choices also depend on your age, fitness level, and any health issues you may have. While many PCT hikers who set out on a thru-hike have a similar dream and goal in mind, everyone has a different way of getting there. Your gear choices will change depending on whether your goal is to hike fast, stay comfortable, take great photography, or see the trail in as many seasons as you can stand it out there. I prefer lightweight and even ultralight gear when thru-hiking. Walking day-after-day, month-after-month takes a toll on the body, and I find that carrying lightweight gear can help reduce the aches and pains associated with backpacking. But lightweight gear (heck, any gear) is only useful so long as a thru-hiker knows how to use it in different conditions. Test your gear out on backpacking trips before starting a thru-hike. Here’s a solid list of easy-to-learn, thru-hiker-approved gear for your journey. Big Four Try to keep these major items below 2 pounds each. Backpack Buy this last: Once you know the volume and weight of your other gear, it’ll make your choices easier. A good pack should fit your body, ride well when loaded, and not rub or chafe when you’re on the move. I like the Gossamer Gear Gorilla or its bigger cousin, the Mariposa. They only weigh two pounds but are made of abrasion-resistant fabric—70-denier Robic ripstop nylon reinforced with 100-denier for the Gorilla, 100-denier Robic with 200-denier reinforcement for the Mariposa—that can handle a load, even a bear can and heavy food carries. Most packs of this weight aren’t waterproof, so I always use a pack liner (a trash compactor bag works well). Shelter A good PCT shelter is lightweight, durable, easy to set up, keeps out bugs, and holds up to storms. The sewn-in-Seattle Tarptent Rainbow or its larger two-person version, the Double Rainbow, are a good balance of weight, price, and durability, mixing the light weight of a tarp with the coverage of a tent. They’re 2 pounds or less per person including stakes, guylines, and stuff sacks, and you can use your trekking poles to set them up in freestanding mode (though they're not required). Sleeping Bag or Quilt Temperatures on the PCT can be anywhere between the teens to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so no one sleeping bag is going to be perfect for every night. Most hikers find a quality 20-30 degree down sleeping bag or quilt to meet their needs for almost every night of the trip. PCT hikers are also increasingly choosing sleeping quilts to get the warmth of a bag at 2/3 the weight and volume. I like the Katabatic Palisade, which uses 900 fill power down. For those looking for a traditional mummy, my go-to bag on the PCT, the Western Mountaineering Ultralite, has full coverage and a hood but weighs less than 2 pounds. Sleeping Pad A sleeping pad is not just a mattress to stay comfy: it keeps you warm by insulating you from the ground. That may mean the difference between no shut-eye and a good night’s rest in the Sierra or Washington. A lot of thru-hikers opt for a ¾ or kid-length pad to cut down on pack weight. At 12 oz for a six-footer, the Thermarest Neoair XLite is one of the lightest pads out there and is a common sight on the trail. If your priorities are price and durability, a foam pad like the Thermarest Z-lite Sol is more likely to survive the desert and its cacti than anything inflatable. Pacific Crest Trail Apparel and Accessories The easiest way to cut your clothing’s weight: bring less of it. You’ll be stinky, but by carrying only what is on this list, you’ll have all you need to survive most PCT conditions. Use laundromats often. Puffy Jacket No matter your hiking style or goals, you’ll want a lightweight puffy to help manage the extreme temperature swings on trail. I find the Montbell Superior Down Parka to be a good balance of warmth to its light 8.7-ounce weight. If you’re concerned about rain in the Pacific Northwest, its synthetic analogue, the Montbell U.L Thermawrap weighs only 2 ounces more and stays warm when wet. Raingear It may never rain in California, but PCT hikers can tell you when it does rain, it pours, hails, and snows. Oregon and Washington can get precip for days. The Montbell Versalite, which weighs only 6.4 ounces, adds enough warmth (but not too much) and vents better than most. That means you won’t constantly be taking off your pack to switch layers. A lightweight rain jacket that functions in this way should be enough to see most thru-hikers from Mexico to Canada. Many thru-hikers pack a lightweight umbrella, which can double as a parasol in the desert sun. Lightweight Gaiters The PCT can be a sandy and gritty trail. I started without gaiters, but after one too many rocks and pine needles in my trail runners, I picked some up along the way. I like Dirty Girl Gaiters, which weigh little more than an ounce, and are made of a breathable four-way stretch fabric that doesn’t cause feet to overheat. Best yet, they come in lots of designs to show your personality, which is important given that you’ll be wearing the same thing every day. Hats The desert is a sunny place. Bring a hat with good coverage to protect your face. I like the Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat, because it has a wide brim and neck coverage and weighs only 2.6 oz. Many hikers opt for a baseball or trucker hat and use a bandanna draped around the neck to get the same benefit. Don’t forget a beanie (any will work) to keep your head warm when the weather changes. Undergarments Carry an extra pair (no cotton). Consider using long underwear as sleep clothes and in colder conditions. Shoes On a 2,000-plus mile hike, you’re sure to get a few blisters no matter how good your shoes are. Almost all hikers choose mesh trail runners to prevent against excessive foot sweating (which can cause blisters) and cut down on weight. To prevent against slipping, PCT hikers ford rivers with their shoes on, so you’ll need a shoe with mesh that will dry fast. Still, hikers want enough support and cushion to carry them all day with a sole that will stick to granite. More and more thru-hikers are finding that Altra Lone Peak 4 rise to that challenge. Expect to replace your thru-hiking shoes every 400 miles, especially since many hikers find their feet “grow” up to two-sizes over 2,000 miles. Socks Good PCT socks can prevent blisters, won’t smell, and need to hold up for hundreds of miles. I find the Darn Tough light hikers to fit so well I can barely feel them, which cuts down on the kind of rubbing that can lead to hot spots. Merino wool reduces stink, too. First Aid and Emergency Bag I include a blade, dental care supplies, blister prevention and care, Krazy Glue, and over-the-counter meds for stomach issues, allergies, fever, and pain. Sunscreen and sunscreen are both musts in the desert's harsh sun. Bug spray or lotion is useful for many sections of the trail. A whistle and mirror can make it easier to be found if you get lost. A needle, thread, and duct tape will cover most gear repair. Compass, Watch, Maps, Permit Just like on any trail, you’ll need your navigation gear. Wildfires happen every year on the PCT, often closing down the official trail and forcing hikers to navigate through unsigned stretches. Light Many hikers find the 0.25 ounce Photon Freedom Micro LED keychain to be all they need to zip up their tent in the dark or get up and pee at night. It comes with attachments so you can wear it as a necklace or clip it onto a hat brim. If you prefer a real headlamp, the Black Diamond Ion has an impressive battery life and weighs less than 2 ounces. Potty Kit There’s lots of PCT hikers, and desert soil doesn’t decompose poop so fast. This makes it all that much more important that everyone practices Leave No Trace. Thru-hiking potty trowels like the Deuce of Spaces weigh 0.5 oz and make digging a cathole the easiest part of the day. Be sure to pack out used toilet paper. Water Filter With so many people using the PCT these days, a good water filter is essential to prevent against illness. I like the Sawyer Squeeze filter, which easily screws onto a Smartwater bottle (the PCT hikers’ bottle of choice) or can be used as an inline filter with a hose and bladder hydration system. Its light weight and long life (a million gallons!) make it a near ubiquitous choice among thru-hikers. Stove (or not) The PCT has seen huge wildfires in the past few years. In drought years, the Forest Service bans alcohol stoves, including my favorite super-efficient lightweight stove from Trail Designs. Instead of packing canisters or a fuel bottle, consider going stoveless. Instead, you can cold-soak many dehydrated meals or foods in a leakproof plastic container with a screw on lid. Bear Can Many of the eight National Parks that thru-hikers visit require backpackers to use a bear can. Hikers can mail themselves a bear can before entering the Sierra and can mail their bear can ahead for other sections where bear cans may be required. At 36 ounces, the Wild Ideas Bearikade Blazer is the lightest bear can that can fit nine days of food, so it will be enough to carry most PCT hikers across the Sierra. Another option is the newly-approved Lighter1, which weighs in at 43 ounces, but has a metal lid that doubles as a cookpot. How to buy shoes: Pacific Crest Trail hikers go through a lot of shoes—expect to wear about seven different pairs on your trip from Mexico to Canada. For first-time thru-hikers, I advise starting the PCT with a pair of shoes that you’ve worn in and trust, but haven’t used too much. If that pair worked out, when you’re 300 miles into your trip, use the internet to order yourself a new pair of shoes. Have it mailed to a hostel or Post Office near the 400 mile mark of your trip (note: Post Offices cannot accept mail from non-USPS delivery services). If your first pair didn’t work out, find a gear store near the trail and try on some shoes to find something that feels better. Otherwise, you can use the internet to size up or choose a different brand of shoes and have that pair mailed to yourself. What to ship: The best thing about thru-hiking is you won’t need to start the trail 2,000 miles’ worth of food and gear. Use your guidebooks and maps to find the best address to send yourself gear before you go into new ecosystems. For example, before entering the Sierra mountain range, hikers send themselves a bear can and cold weather gear. When you’re done with cold weather gear, you can ship it home or ahead to the next big mountain range. View the full article
  11. This weight-saving shell will keep you dry in any weather. Our take For thru-hikers who want more than just a packable poncho, this shell offers great weather protection at a light weight. The Jetstream breaks the 10 ounce barrier and packs down to the size of a guidebook, but has competently shepherded one tester through nasty weather for years. "In the forests around Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, it kept me dry during hours of unending rain," he says. "Plus, it's breathable enough that I never felt like I was wearing a plastic bag while pushing uphill." The details While the Jetstream is light, it's full-featured too. Two chest pockets can each hold snacks, a headlamp, or a smartphone, and hand pockets fit a hat or gloves. (Ding: They sit below a hipbelt.) The hood has three-way adjustability, and a drawcord on the bottom hem keeps fit dialed. Durability is high, too: After more than two years of hard use, our tester's jacket hasn't suffered any rips or delamination. Trail cred "The nylon face material's stretch is good, and I had no problem reaching for handholds during a climb of 14,294-foot Crestone Peak in Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Range," our tester reports. $189; 9.6 oz. (m's L); m's S-XXL, w's XS-XL Buy KÜHL Jetstream Now View the full article
  12. Get this ultralight accessory for free while you still can. Here's a steal: This pillow currently costs even less than it weighs, which is saying a lot. Klymit is offering the X Pillow for free (you still have to pay shipping, but that's far less than the $25 sticker price), a great deal for our favorite backpacking pillow. It's much more comfortable than sleeping on a pile of clothes after a long day’s trek, and packs down to smaller than an avocado. View the full article
  13. Stay dry inside and out with these shell bottoms. Our take In nasty alpine weather, the last thing you want to worry about is what’s happening under your layers. That’s why our testers appreciated the Nuker’s Polartec NeoShell material, an air-permeable fabric that seals out precip while still maintaining a high degree of breathability. “It kept me dry inside and out on 10,497-foot Mt. Jefferson in Oregon while I was fighting hail and rain in 40°F weather,” one tester says. The details Despite the Nuker’s slim alpine fit, zippers that run from the cuff to the hip allow for easy on and off, even over bulky boots. A low-profile, built-in belt is almost unnoticeable under a hipbelt or harness. Tradeoff: expensive. Trail cred “I’ve never swamped out in these pants, so I’ve even started wearing them for fair-weather hikes in milder conditions,” one tester reports. $299; 11.4 oz. (m’s L); m’s S-XL, w’s XS-L Buy Bight Gear NeoShell Nuker Pant Now View the full article
  14. Start the year off right with great savings on this two-season sleeping bag. You might be hunkered down for winter, but it’s never too early to gear up for hiking season. For warm-weather pursuits, we love the features on the two-season Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 800. This 30°F down bag has a unique center zipper and self-sealing arm holes, allowing you to wear it around camp for chores. Get it on sale at REI for $159.73, 50 percent off its list price, and start planning your next summer of fun. View the full article
  15. Stay warm and mobile with this comfy down hoody. "Puffy" and "stretchy" used to be mutually exclusive terms. Not anymore: The StretchDown DS Hooded Jacket pairs stretch polyester with a gridded baffle pattern for unmatched freedom of movement, and its 800-fill hydrophobic down kept our testers cozy on cold nights in camp. Testers also appreciated the just-right hood size and breathability. Get the StretchDown DS on sale from Moosejaw this week (starting at $221 for the women’s version and $272 for the men’s) and take it for a spin on one of our favorite backcountry ski tours. View the full article
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