Trail Guides Outdoor Product Reviews
Outdoor Gear Reviews

Trail Guides Product Reviews

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.

Tents - Water Filters - Stoves - Footwear - Packs - Apparel - Camp Tools - Misc.

Backpacking Tents & Shelters

Sierra Designs - Lightning 2 & Flash 2 Backpacking Tents
We've been using these two new tent styles from Sierra Designs all summer and we couldn't be happier. Setup for both the Lightning 2 and the Flash 2 is super easy and the hybrid double and single-wall design works well when the weather turns sour and you need shelter in a hurry. The tent body and fly are combined and once you have the corners staked out and the tent poles in place you're good to go. This makes a big difference when you have to pitch the tent(s) during a rainstorm because it helps to keep the interior of the tent dry.

One unique feature that exists on both the Lightning 2 and the Flash 2 is the absence of a traditional vestibule. Gear storage has been moved to the sides and can be accessed via two zippered panels on the interior mesh walls of both tents. At first glance this non-traditional design seems rather strange but after just one outing you'll really appreciate this feature. It eliminates the need to crawl through the interior door and the vestibule every time you enter or exit the tent and the small awning over each door provides adequate coverage from rain or snow.

Both tents have plenty of room for two people but the Flash 2 is a bit more spacious compared to the Lightning 2. Headroom is similar in both tents but once again the Flash 2 is just a hair taller (0.5 in.) which it's not really that noticeable. The big difference between the two designs is the shape. The Lightning 2 is tapered at the rear while the Flash 2 has the traditional rectangular shape. I use the Lightning 2 when guiding and it gives me plenty of room to spread out and organize gear if I need to. Two people might feel cramped in the Lightning 2 but it's a solid tent and holds up well in a downpour. Our clients have been using the Flash 2 and really like the easy setup and the large double doors offer unobstructed views if you're just hanging around in the tent.

Overall these tents have been a nice addition to our trips and we hope Sierra Designs will continue making these two models for years to come.

Sierra Designs Lightning 2 Backpacking Tent
Average Price: $259.95
Type: Freestanding - Hybrid double and single wall
Seasons: 3-season
Capacity: 2-person
Usage: Backpacking
Weight: 3 lbs 14 oz/ 1.7 kg
Height: 42.5 in.
Floor Dimensions: 86 in x 56 in. wide (front), 44 in. wide (rear)
Floor Area: 32 sq. ft.
Gear Storage Space: 4.1 + 4.1 ft2
Color Options: 2 - Blue/Gray (shown) or Yellow/Gray
Poles: 3 - DAC Pressfit - Hubbed poles
Doors: 1
Optional: Footprint sold separately

Sierra Designs Flash 2 Backpacking Tent
Average Price: $299.95
Type: Freestanding - Hybrid double and single wall
Seasons: 3-season
Capacity: 2-person
Usage: Backpacking
Weight: 4 lbs 12 oz / 2.15 kg
Height: 43 in.
Floor Dimensions: 86 in. x 50 in.
Floor Area: 29.9 sq. ft.
Gear Storage Space: 3.5 + 3.5 ft2
Color Options: 2 - Blue/Gray (shown) or Yellow/Gray
Poles: 3 - DAC Pressfit - Hubbed poles
Doors: 2
Optional: Footprint sold separately

Sierra Designs Lightning 2 Backpacking Tent

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 - Brian.

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

Marmot Limelight 2P Product Review

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 - Brian.

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

Visit their website

Nemo Meta 1P Ultralight Backpacking Tent

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 - Brian.

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

Black Diamond Mega Light Tent

REI Half Dome 2 Plus
When I go backpacking I'm always willing to carry a little extra weight in order to have a comfortable night’s sleep. Whether I'm using the Half Dome 2 Plus by myself or with a fellow backpacker, the Half Dome 2 Plus hits the mark. At 6 lbs. 6 oz. this is a mid-weight 2-person, 3-season tent. The tent has two large side doors, each with its own vestibule, which gives each person their own storage area and entryway. This eliminates the need to crawl over your hiking partner to get in and out of the tent.

I chose the Half Dome 2 Plus over the standard Half Dome 2 because it offers 10 inches of extra length and 4 inches of extra width. The extra width is great when you are sharing the tent because it gives each person a bit more room when you're sleeping and you never feel like you're bumping elbows during the night. The extra length comes in handy in two ways. If you are taller you can actually stretch out fully within the tent and if you're on the shorter side you have extra room for storage at both your head and feet.

Inside the tent there are plenty of corner pockets, roof pockets and loops to stash all of your small gear. In addition, the tent has two side vestibules that provide an additional 10.2 square feet of storage space on each side for boots and other equipment that you want to protect from the elements. The 42 inch center height provides ample room to sit up which makes it easy to move around, and when the weather turns bad and you're stuck inside the tent for extended periods of time this larger space keeps you from feeling claustrophobic.

The tent come with only three color coded poles and is easy to set up for one person (I have it set up fully with the rainfly in 5 minutes). The unique design allows for almost vertical walls inside, giving it a much larger feel. In addition it has four ceiling vents that limit condensation by drawing cool air under the fly while venting any warm, moist air. I've used this tent during the summer, in torrential downpours, and in fall snowstorms and I have never had condensation on the inside of this tent. I didn't buy the tent for this reason, but it has now become my favorite feature.

I've used the REI Half Dome 2 Plus on overnight trips with friends and I've taken it solo on an 8-day backpacking trip through the Thorofare of Yellowstone and I would highly recommend this tent, and like all REI products, it comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee - Neil.

REI Half Dome 2 Plus
Average Price: $219.00
Type: Freestanding
Seasons: 3-season
Capacity: 2-person
Usage: Backpacking
Weight: 6 lbs 6 oz.
Height: 42 in
Floor Dimensions: 98 in x 56 in
Floor Area: 38.1 sq. ft.
Vestibule Space: 10.2 sq. ft. + 10.2 sq. ft.
Color Options: 2 – Applemint/Boxwood or Orange Sky/Redrock
Poles: 3
Doors: 2
Included: tent, rainfly, three poles, guylines with tighteners, stakes, pole repair tube, and tapered easy-to-stuff compression stuff sack. Pole and stake bags help keep everything organized.

REI Half Dome 2 Plus Backpacking Tent

REI Half Dome 2 Plus Backpacking Shelter

Backcountry Cook Stoves

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 - Brian.

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

Jetboil Backpacking Stove

Jetboil in the backcountry

Jetboil Accessories

MSR Whisperlite™ International Backpacking Stove
Pros: A great stove for winter camping, burns a variety of fuels
Cons: You need to prime the stove before use, very little heat control

The MSR Whisperlite is my go-to stove for winter backpacking trips. In cold weather it outperforms other backcountry stoves that use propane/isobutane. The white gas burns hotter and provides the heat you need to melt and boil snow for drinking water.

The MSR Whisperlite is very reliable, durable and comes with a repair kit that allows for easy maintenance in the backcountry. If you travel overseas, the Whisperlite is invaluable because it allows you to burn multiple types of fuel, including kerosene or unleaded gasoline.

If you're new to backpacking and hiking in cold weather camping I would recommend the MSR Pocket Rocket as an simple and lightweight alternative. The Whisperlite International does require some set-up to get the stove going.
1. Insert the pump into the fuel cansiter
2. Press the plunger 20-40 times to build up pressure in the fuel canister
3. Connect the fuel line to the fuel bottle
4. Release a small amount of fuel into the priming cup at the base of the stove
5. Light the fuel in the priming cup (keep your hands and face away from the stove)
6. The fuel in the priming cup must burn for 1-2 minutes before lighting the stove
7. After 1-2 minutes release fuel into the stove. A blue flame should appear
8. Begin cooking

If you release too much fuel into the priming cup the stove will flare up as shown in the photo below. As you use the stove more often you will become more comfortable with this process but it can be a bit underving the first few times you light the stove. It's not a deal breaker but it's something to be aware of. Never use this stove or any backpacking stove inside your tent for this very reason.

NOTE: Never use a backpacking stove inside your tent or vehicle. Carbon monoxide fumes can build up inside the tent and they can be deadly. Use your stove in a well-ventilated area. Flare-ups are also common so it's not a good idea to have an open flame inside your tent.

MSR Whisperlite International Product Specifications
Average Price: $99.95
Types of Fuel: White gas, kerosene, unleaded gasoline
Boil Time: 16 oz/ 1/2 liter in 3 minutes 30 seconds using white gas
Burn Time: 20 oz. of fuel - 1 hr. 50 minutes using white gas
Dimensions: 6.5" x 5" x 4"
Weight: 11 oz / 305 g
Includes: Storage sack, repair kit, wind screen and heat reflector
Fuel and fuel bottles are sold separately.
Fuel bottles = $17.00 to $22.00 depending on the size
MSR White Gas = $12.95 for 32 fl oz

MSR Whisperlite International Backpacking Stove

MSR Whisperlite International Backpacking Stove

MSR Pocket Rocket Backpacking Stove
Pros: Small, lightweight and easy to use
Cons: Performs poorly in very cold temperatures

The MSR Pocket Rocket is one of the smallest and lightest backcountry stoves on the market. This is probably the shortest review I'll ever write regarding an outdoor product because it's just so simple and easy to use it doesn't require much of an explanation. Remove the stove from the plastic carrying case (included), screw the body onto the MSR fuel canister, extend the pot supports, extend the flame adjuster and light the stove. Use the flame adjuster to regulate the flow of fuel and in about 3-4 minutes you'll have boiling hot water. It's that simple

NOTE: Never use a backpacking stove inside your tent or vehicle. Carbon monoxide fumes can build up inside the tent and they can be deadly. Use your stove in a well-ventilated area. Flare-ups are also common so it's not a good idea to have an open flame inside your tent.

MSR Pocket Rocket Product Specifications
Average Price: $39.95
Types of Fuel: Isobutane-propane
Boil Time: 16 oz/ 1/2 liter in 3-4 minutes
Burn Time: 8 oz. of fuel - 60 minutes
Dimensions: 4.1" x 2.1" x 2"
Weight: 3 oz
Includes: Plastic storage case
Individual fuel canisters are sold separately: 4, 8 and 16 oz
MSR IsoPro™brand fuel canisters = $4.95 to $9.95 depending on the size

MSR Pocket Rocket Backpacking Stove

Snow Peak GigaPower Stove - Auto
Pros: Small, lightweight, performs well in colder temperatures
Cons: Auto-igniter wears out quickly and doesn't work well in low temperatures

The Snow Peak GigaPower Stove "Auto" is very similar to the MSR Pocket Rocket

Snow Peak GigaPower Stove Product Specifications
Average Price: $49.95
Types of Fuel: Isobutane-propane mix
Boil Time: 16 oz/ 1/2 liter in just under 5 minutes
Burn Time: GP 110G = 50 min, GP 250G = 85 min, GP 500 = 190 min
Dimensions: 4 1/8" x 2 5/8"
Weight: 3.75 oz/106 g
Includes: Plastic storage case 1 3/4" x 2" x 3 1/2"
Individual fuel canisters are sold separately: 4 oz (110), 8 and 16 oz
Snow Peak GigaPower fuel canisters = $4.95 to $5.50 depending on the size

Snow Peak Gigapower Backpacking Stove - Auto

Tents - Water Filters - Stoves - Footwear - Packs - Apparel - Camp Tools - Misc.

Hydration & Water Filtration Systems

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 - Brian.

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

Gu Brew Electrolyte Tablets Product Review

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 - Brian.

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 Base Camp Water Filtering System

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 - Brian.

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."

Katadyn MyBottle Water Purifier

Katadyn Hiker Water Filter
Five years ago while backpacking Slough Creek over Bliss Pass into Pebble Creek, I made a poor decision and drank unfiltered water directly out of a stream. Eight weeks later my Giardia symptoms finally subsided and I vowed never to go through that experience ever again. Today, after thousands of trail miles, countless backcountry overnight trips, and gallons upon gallons of water imbibed later, I've never had a second run-in with Giardia, or any other water-borne ailment thanks to the Katadyn Hiker water filter.

The filter is small, light and pumps water quickly and with very little effort. You can fill a 32-ounce Nalgene bottle in about a minute. The filter system comes with a Nalgene® water bottle adapter that fits most wide-mouth water bottles. This makes filling the bottles significantly easier when you're by yourself or if you are on an awkward stream bank (which most are).

With the Katadyn Hiker you can enjoy crisp, cold water as soon as it's pumped into the water bottle. You no longer have to wait for an iodine tablet to purify your water, which can take 20 to 30 minutes. Also, you no longer have to worry about contaminating the lid if you're scooping water from a stream.

Lastly, the filter on the Katadyn Hiker has a pre-filter near the hose inlet that removes particles down to 150 microns. This eliminates contaminants before they reach the main filter. This gives you much clearer drinking water and it also significantly increases the lifespan of the filter. During a trip along the Lamar River Trail we received a significant amount of rain during our first evening in the backcountry. The river had turned from a beautiful crystal clear mountain stream to a very silty and chocolate-colored river. My hiking partner had a filter that could not handle this increased silt and the filter quickly clogged rendering the device ineffective. The Katadyn Hiker filter worked flawlessly which meant we could still enjoy safe drinking water for the next few days - Neil.

Katadyn Hiker Water Filter Specifications
Average Price: $69.95
Replacement Filters: Katadyn Hiker $49.95
Type of System: Pump
Filter Type: 0.3 micron, pleated glass-fiber, activated-carbon granulate core
Removes/Kills: Bacteria, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium to EPA standards
Output: 1 liter per minute
Dimensions: 6.5 x 3 x 2.4 inches
Weight: 11 oz.

Katadyn BeFree Collapsible Water Filtration System
This will be very short review for one simple reason... the product failed on its very first use. We took the BeFree on a seven day trip with the intent of using this compact filter during the day as a supplement to our Katadyn Base Camp water filter. The seam below the cap ruptured after just a single use rendering the filter completely unusable. I've owned many Katadyn products over the years and they have always performed flawlessly. I imagine they will work out these kinks but for now I would give them the time to do just that. The concept is brilliant but the execution was less than perfect.

Katadyn BeFree Specifications
Average Price: $39.95
Replacement Filters: None
Type of System: Squeeze Bottle
Filter Type: Hollow Fiber
Removes/Kills: Protozoa (99.99%) and Bacteria (99.9999%) according to EPA standards
Output: 2.0 liters per minute
Dimensions: 9.1 x 2.8 x 2.8 inches
Weight: 2 oz.

Katadyn BeFree Water Filter

Tents - Water Filters - Stoves - Footwear - Packs - Apparel - Camp Tools - Misc.

Hiking Boots, Socks & Misc. Footwear

Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boots
The Quest 4D 2's are some of the best hiking boots I've ever owned. They were extremely comfortable right out of the box with minimal break-in time required. They've never caused a single blister or any discomfort while hiking. Even though the 4D 2's are a lightweight boot they still provide great ankle support when carrying a heavy backpack, and the lacing system keeps the boots snug and secure. A rubber toe rand protects the front from scuffs and scrapes and the Gore-Tex® outer layer is watertight. The price tag is a bit high but the boots perform well and when it comes to your feet there is no substitute for comfort.

Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX Product Specifications
Average Price: $230.00
Waterproof: Yes
Uppers: Suede leather/nylon
Lining: Gore-Tex® waterproof breathable membrane/polyester
Footbed: OrthoLite® footbeds
Outsole: Non-marking Contagrip® rubber soles
Midesole: 4D Advanced Chassis™ thermoplastic urethane
Weight: 2 lb 7 oz
Sizes: 7-14 US
Colors: Detroit/Black/Navajo or Iguana Green/Asphalt/Titanium (Shown)

Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boots

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 - Brian.

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

Zamberlan 996 Vioz GT Hiking Boot Product Review

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 - Brian.

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

Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX Boot

Laura Atwood, Trail Guides Yellowstone

ICEtrekkers® Diamond Grip Traction Cleats
Living in Alaska means I walk on icy roads from October until April. I've tried several pairs of ice cleats and the ICEtrekkers Diamond Grips are my favorite. The patented diamond beads with hundreds of biting edges allow me to do an exercise-worthy walk on icy streets. No "Alaska duck-walking" (knees bent, legs wide, short steps)!  The chain-styles lacked enough traction for me to walk quickly and steadily, especially up and down hills. One pair of spikes I tried worked well on ice but if there was snow cover over the ice then the snow built up between the spikes causing me to lose traction. The ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip self-clean so snow and ice don't build up. They're also comfortable - I barely notice that I'm wearing them. ICEtrekkers also makes chains for snowy conditions and spikes for glare ice. Check out ICEtrekkers at

ICEtrekkers Product Specifications
Average Price: $41.95
Colors: Black
Materials: Steel alloy/steel aircraft cable/rubber
Weight: 12 oz
Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Icetrekker Diamond Grip Traction Cleats Gear Review

Kahtoola’s MICROspikes®
I've tested the Kahtoola MICROspikes on the steep and icy trails around town and they provide a great deal of traction even on sheer ice, something the ICEtrekkers (shown above) do not. The 3/8 inch spikes offer a very solid grip with almost no slippage. This means you'll have greater confidence on both uphill and downhill terrain. They are definitely worth the price if you enjoy being outside during the winter no matter what the conditions. Check out their complete line at

Kahtoola’s MICROspikes® Product Specifications
Average Price: $64.95
Colors: Red, Black
Materials: Heat treated 400 series stainless steel, 3/8 in spikes
Weight: SM 12.2 oz, MED 13.6 oz, LRG 14.4 oz, XL 15.6 oz
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Warranty: 2 Years

Kahtoola’s MICROspikes®

Tents - Water Filters - Stoves - Footwear - Packs - Apparel - Camp Tools - Misc.

Multi-day Backpacks

REI XT 85 Men's Backpack
Pros: Roomy! The XT 85 will carry everything you need for a week in the Yellowstone backcountry!

Cons: The top lid isn't removable.

The two extra pockets on the font of the pack are perfect for storing items like rain jackets, pack covers, towels, water filters and other items that you want to reach quickly. This gives you more room to carry additional gear in the large main compartment.

The two full-length waterproof zippers on either side of the pack make accessing the interior super easy even when the XT 85 is fully loaded. A zippered compartment at the bottom provides access to your sleeping bag.

Two small zippered pockets on both sides of the hip belt will hold smaller items like lip balm, energy bars and anything else that you want right at your fingertips while you're hiking.

The top lid has two zippers which provide access to the lid's interior. If the lid is flipped down you can still reach the items inside by using the zipper on the underside of the lid. Another separate smaller zippered compartment on the inside will hold your wallet, passport and keys via a small clip. As noted above, you can't remove the lid but that's not a big deal. A convertible fanny or day pack would be nice though.

Two plastic guides allow you to carry your trekking poles with ease. Just slide the tips of the poles into these guides, cinch up the small bungee cords around the poles and they are locked nicely in place.

A pocket on the inside of the main compartment holds a 100 oz. water bladder and the holes that accommodate the tubes are snug but you won't feel as though you're threading a needle to get them through.

The padding on both the shoulder straps and the hip belt is comfortable even under a heavy load. The aluminum x-frame or "brace" keeps the pack stable which provides great stability and maneuverability.

Two water bottle pockets on either side of the pack stretch to accommodate a 32 oz. Nalgene bottle which can be removed and replaced with very little effort.

The XT 85 from REI is durable, reliable, roomy and worth the investment.

REI XT 85 Backpack Product Specifications
Average Price: $279.00
Frame Type: Internal/Aluminum
Adjustable Torso: Yes - Allows for custom fitting
Pack Loading: Top
Exterior Pockets: 8
Interior Pockets: Yes
3 Point Access: Top, side and bottom
Hydration Sleeve: Yes
Sleeping Bag Compartment: Yes
Trekking Pole Loops: Yes
Colors: Slate (shown)
Sizes: Medium = 5,187 cu in/ 85 liters, Large = 5,492 cu in/ 90 liters
Weight: Medium = 5 lbs 5 oz/ 2.41 kilograms, Large = 5 lbs 7 oz/ 2.47 kilograms
Materials: Cordura nylon
Raincover Included: No

Opsrey Aether 85 Backpack Product Review
REI XT 85 Backpack Review

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 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 - Neil.

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

Opsrey Aether 85 Backpack Product Review
Opsrey Aether 85 Backpack Review

Arc'teryx Altra 75 Men's Backpack - Mens
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 - Brian.

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

Visit their website

Arc'teryx Altra 75 Backpack Product Review
Arc'teryx Altra 75 Backpack Review

Tents - Water Filters - Stoves - Footwear - Packs - Apparel - Camp Tools - Misc.

Outdoor Apparel

Outdoor Research Women's Flurry Mittens
Warm Hands = More Time Outside

Like many of my female friends, I have trouble with cold fingers during the winter. I've tried a lot of different gloves and mittens, only to find they weren't warm enough or they were too bulky for comfort. This winter I've been wearing the Flurry Mitten by Outdoor Research either on its own or as a liner and I've had warm hands plus decent dexterity for mittens (note: gloves don't keep my hands warm much below 40ºF degrees).

The main testing ground for these mittens has been my pre-dawn dog walks with temperatures ranging from 0ºF to 30ºF. When it's below 30ºF, I wear the Flurry mitten as a liner and find it is still comfortable under my fleece REI mittens. In warmer temps or on strenuous walks I can wear the Flurry on its own. The wicking layer has kept my hands from getting sweaty even if my hands have gotten a bit too warm. I've also found them great for driving – the grip sensitive silicone on the fingers and palms allows for a safe grip on the steering wheel.

I've been pleased with the Flurry mittens and expect they'll be my go-to pair from the warmer temps of fall and spring through the bitter cold of winter - Laura.

OR Flurry Mitten Product Specifications
Average Price: $40.00
Colors: Black
Fabrics: 63% polyester, 26% wool, 11% nylon
Waterproof: No
Weight: N/A
Sizes: S, M, L

Outdoor Research Women's Flurry Mittens

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 - Brian

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

REI Ultra Light Rain Jacket

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 - Brian

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

Eddie Bauer Downlight Hooded Jacket

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 - Brian

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

Seeker Fleece Jacket by prAna

Tents - Water Filters - Stoves - Footwear - Packs - Apparel - Camp Tools - Misc.

Essential Camp Tools

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 - Brian

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

Light My Fire, FireSteel Scout 2.0 Camp Tools

Misc. Equipment

Thermarest NeoAir XTherm Max Air Mattress
With an R-Value of 5.7 this is one of the warmest air mattresses on the market. If you combine this sleeping pad with the right sleeping bag it's sure to keep you nice and toasty on even the coldest of nights.

Inside the mattress there are two horizontal layers arranged in triangular patterns, one on top of the other. The topmost layer radiates heat back toward your body while the bottom layer circulates cold air toward the ground. These individual (triangular) cells also add a great deal of support and contributes to the higher warmth-to-weight ratio. This is must-have sleeping pad for anyone who spends a great deal of time camping during the winter. If you're a "cold sleeper" this would be the ideal mattress for use throughout the year.

Pros: Lightweight; warm; packs down to the size of a 32 oz. Nalgene® water bottle

Cons: A bit noisy; expensive

Product Specifications
Average Price: $199.00
Weight: 17 oz./ 490 g
Size: 20" x 72"/ 51 cm x 183 cm

Thermarest NeoAir Xtherm Max

DeLORME inReach SE 2-way Satellite Communicator
On all of our guided backpacking trips and day hikes we carry the inReach SE 2-way Satellite Communicator. This compact device allows us to keep in touch with our crew at home so they can monitor the progress and status of every trip. It allows us to share our location via data points that they can view using an online link. We can send and receive text messages (subscription required) with anyone we've added to our list which makes this the perfect tool for keeping in touch with our guides.

The device is simple to use and works very much like text messaging on a cell phone. Typing in text messages can be a bit tedious but you can set up a handful of preset messages before heading into the backcountry which makes sending updates super easy. The online interface allows you to manage the different aspects of the inReach Satellite Communicator, including; preset 160-character text messages, quick text messages, map sharing, personal contacts, emergency contacts, and your social media sharing capabilities with Facebook and Twitter. You can create your own custom messages so keeping in touch with friends and family is super easy, eg. "everything is okay, we're on our way, we're going to be late but everything is okay." This allows you to send messages quickly and eliminates the need to type messages one character at a time while you're hiking in the backcountry. The number of messages is limited based on the satellite subscription plan you choose but DeLorme offers a variety of contracts to fit a variety of needs. Plans start as low as $12 per month and go up to $99.95 per month depending on your preferred usage. Freedom Plans allow you to activate, deactivate or suspend the service as needed so you're not paying for those months when you may be less active outdoors.

Each time you make edits to your online profile you'll need to sync it with the inReach Satellite Communicator so the changes are saved to the portable device. To do this you'll need to connect the device to your computer, launch the online interface, navigate to the Sync page and then login to connect to the device. It's a lengthy process in the beginning but once you familiarize yourself with the process it's not very time consuming.

One caveat. If you carry just the inReach SE it does not have the ability to display your current location on a topo map. You'll need to carry a mobile device that has the free Earthmate app installed. Your cell phone must paired with the inReach SE Satellite Communicator in order to view your current location on a map. You'll need to download the appropriate topographic maps within the Earthmate app for the areas you'll be visiting before you head into the backcountry. The inReach Satellite Communicator does however provide you with a set of GPS coordinates, your course, speed and elevation.

The battery life on the inReach SE is exceptional. On our 3-day trips we can leave the device on and the lithium battery may lose between 30% and 40% of its charge.

SOS feature. In the event of an emergency the inReach SE has a button that allows you to send an SOS to a search and rescue monitoring center 24/7. Once activated you can communicate directly with search and rescue to provide additional information should you need assistance in the backcountry. For an nominal fee you can purchase additional coverage in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately the extended coverage is only good for the person who purchased the device. It does not cover other people that may accompany you on a backpacking trip.

DeLorme inReach SE 2-way Satellite Communicator
Average Price: $299.00
Type: 2-way GPS tracker
Coverage: Iridium Satellite Network - 100% global coverage
Usage: Day hiking or backpacking
Data subscription: Yes, but there are no long-term contracts
Batteries: Lithium
Waterproof: Yes - water-resistant to 1 meter
Dimensions: 5.8" x 2.4" x 1"
Weight: 6.7 oz
Included: Micro USB cable, AC wall adapter, Pack clip, Lanyard

DeLorme inReach SE Satellite Communicator

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 7D Menu Settings

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.

Canon 7D AF Settings

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.

Canon 7D Subject

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 - Brian

Key Features
• 18.0-Megapixel
• 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.

Canon EOS 7D

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