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2014 Camp Guide

Learn everything from how to properly fit a pack to the ethics of Leave No Trace in the Backcountry.com 2014 Camp Guide.

How to Choose the Right Camping Sleep System

A basic sleep system consists of two parts: a sleep platform and a sleeping bag. The sleep platform is the outdoor version of your mattress, and it will sit between your sleeping bag and the ground to cushion your body and to insulate against the cold. Sleep platforms come in several styles: cots, air mattresses, sleeping pads, and hammocks.

Navigation 101 - Using a Compass and a Map

Today’s digital reliance on GPS navigation has all but relegated compass and map use to hardcore outdoor enthusiasts, orienteering clubs, and geography buffs. Using your cell phone’s GPS is fast and effective if you’re within cell range or you cache (download) maps for offline use. Better yet, bringing a GPS receiver that’s compatible with the Russian GLONASS system offers even faster location pinpointing and better overall accuracy, thanks to its additional 24 satellites.

That being said, both cell phones and GPS receivers rely on technology that’s subject to failure, whether you forget to charge a battery or inevitably drop your precious gadget in a river or on a rock. Knowing the basics of compass and map use not only provide backup navigation if you’re deep in the wilderness, but they also offer a fun and refreshingly simple way to navigate. Polish your map reading skills and practice the following navigational tips next time you’re hiking or orienteering through your favorite natural area.

Camp Gourmet: Dutch Oven & Stovetop Favorites

Almost anything tastes good after a long day in the mountains. Hot dogs, hobo dinners, and instant oatmeal rarely disappoint, but if you have the luxury of bringing along a camp kitchen chuck box and really want to knock the socks off your fellow campers, these Dutch Oven and stovetop recipes are sure to do the trick.

Warmth to the Wise: Temperature rating s for Sleeping Bags Decoded

Prior to the widespread adoption of the EN testing standard for sleeping bags, manufacturers assigned temperature ratings to sleeping bags based on their own testing methods and standards—which included everything from sleeping in a meat locker to real-world testing experience. Because of the variation in different brands’ testing methods, which produced ratings ranging from conservative to inflated, these in-house ratings were at best a rough guide for picking the right sleeping bag, and they made it nearly impossible to reliably compare sleeping bags across brands.

How to Choose a Backpacking Tent

From bivies to full blown four-season shelters, Jason walks you through the basics behind choosing the perfect backpacking tent. We cover the nitty gritty details of bivy sacks, shelters and tarps, ultralight backpacking tents, traditional backpacking tents, and four-season tents—if Jason doesn’t answer your questions, our Gearheads at Backcountry.com definitely can.

Hike With a Local Guide

Detour by Backcountry.com will change the way you explore. Connect with professional outdoor guides across the US.

Unanswered Questions

Our community members have questions on gear. Do you have the answers? Help other members out and serve up your gear expertise.

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Jeff Catalano

Ski touring, or ‘earning your turns,’ as it’s affectionately called, has never been more popular. Removing the restriction of only being able to ski lift-served runs opens up new terrain, provides access to untracked powder, enables you to skip lift lines and resort crowds, and of course, has you feeling the burn of tired legs like never before. While in theory any ski can be used for alpine touring, the recent increase in the sport’s popularity has led to the development of touring-specific ski models that typically feature lighter-weight constructions than their pure downhill counterparts. You’ll also find touring-specific shapes [...]

Paul Diegel

Skiing and riding in the backcountry is a bit like driving on the freeway: when you know the rules and have some skills and experience, it has some risk, but it tends to work out OK. When you lack those ingredients, it’s confusing, embarrassing, and dangerous at best, and nobody wants to ride with you. When you understand how to match your decisions to the current conditions, you can get out and safely have a great time on any day, regardless of the conditions. So how do you learn to make good decisions in the backcountry? In Utah, along with [...]

Lexi Dowdall

At Backcountry we’re serious about down jackets. Most of us live in them for six months of the year, and at peak season we have over 400 styles to choose from on our site. To make sure we’re pointing you towards the down jacket that’s best suited to your needs, we talk to designers and manufacturers, pore over catalogs and technical specifications, and we put them to the test every time we head to the mountains or commute to the office on a chilly day. Point being, we work hard to make sure we’re getting it right. But despite our [...]

Backcountry

Backcountry.com athletes are getting a lot of love on the awards circuit, most recently at the Powder  Magazine’s 15th annual awards on December 5 in Salt Lake City. As you can see in the clips below, the Backcountry Goat is traveling in some pretty high-flying circles. Teton Gravity Research’s Almost Ablaze pulled down top honors as “Movie of the Year.” This film, “a global odyssey combining state-of-the-art cinematography and the most progressive riding on the planet,” features a number of Backcountry athletes who also received individual recognition nod from the jury. The most attention, though, (and a grip of awards) [...]

TJ Parsons

The right pair of boots often make the difference between an awesome day on the mountain and an afternoon spent whimpering in the lodge. With the huge amount of available options, knowing what features you want and how your boots should fit can be a big help in narrowing down your choices. Lacing Options The various lacing systems are the most visually obvious way in which snowboard boots differ, and each has their pros and cons. Gear nerds on snowboard forums will argue at length about which one is best, but the truth is there are excellent options available no [...]

John Tribbia

Uncertain footing in snow and ice can discourage the dedicated endurance athlete, even a member of the Salomon-Backcountry running team like myself, from running during the winter. When it gets ugly underfoot, it’s all too easy to just give and go to the gym and get on the treadmill. But if you’re looking to get your fix of fresh air and sunshine, along with a great workout, snowshoe running might be the ticket. Snowshoe running is a fast-growing sport in the US, offering a safe, low-impact alternative to running on trails, giving you a new way to build strength and [...]

Andy Anderson

Ski touring, AT skiing, ski mountaineering, randonee … whatever you call it, getting into the backcountry on skis is becoming more and more popular. The idea of escaping into nature and away from the crowds—and enjoying untouched snow—may sound really good, but where do you start? There are two essential components, education and gear. We’ll tackle the equipment question in this article; you can learn how to get an education in backcountry safety here. But before you consider what equipment you’ll want to acquire, think about where you’ll be skiing, how you plan on skiing, and the type of terrain [...]

Catherine Greenwald

You were never going to be that parent—the one with the kid pitching a fit on the bunny hill, sniveling about the cold and whining to be taken home. Yours may be one of those who take to the snow like a baby polar bear, but even the hardiest kid can have a rough day. Whether you’re headed to after-school lessons, a weekend getaway, or a family vacation, here are some tips for maximizing the fun and minimizing the pain of a day on the slopes with very young skiers. Tip #1: Keep ‘em warm … but don’t immobilize them. [...]

Rob de Luca

In the early ’90s, when dinosaurs had only recently been supplanted by mammals and plaid shirts were worn layered on top of each other, terrain parks were in their infancy. They were an attempt to welcome snowboarding to the resorts and to corral (unsuccessfully) the skate-inspired tricks that boarders favored and that upset the status quo. Initially, skiers were not allowed in the parks, but with youth being youth, that restriction became more of a temptation than any marketing ploy could ever hope to achieve. Skiers began “poaching” the parks, and not long after, the first production twintip ski (the [...]

Sean Zimmerman-Wall

The sound is unmistakable. A loud rumble accompanied by the sensation of having the rug pulled out from under you. In seconds you’re rushing downslope, tumbling, caught in a washing machine of snow, rock, and wood. The sky fades in and out and you gasp for air as you’re force-fed thick, suffocating snow. Moving at 60 miles an hour, you’re helpless to stop the cascade. You reach for the small handle located on your shoulder, and a sudden “whoosh” fills your ears. Large sacs of air deploy around you and you start to rise to the surface. After a minute, [...]

jason sager

So you say you’re going on a road trip to a chilly destination. Maybe it’s to your parents’ or the in-laws’ for the holidays, and maybe you’re going to squeeze in an event like the Iceman Cometh. Late fall and early winter can be a volatile time weatherwise. Unless you’re headed to somewhere like southern Florida or Los Angeles, you can’t be too certain of what weather to expect. Heck, when traveling with the family or to see family, you can’t even be too certain of what time of day you’ll be able to go for a ride. Sneaking out [...]

Wally Phillips

Spring, summer, and fall tend to blend into each other here in the mountainous desert that is Utah.  But that’s starting to change. Winter is just around the corner and people are pulling out the gear and trying to shore up injured joints. The first drips of wax are falling off the hot iron, so it’s time to go over what kind of weather we’ll be seeing for the majority of the winter. Long-term forecasts like this are based on historical data and certain wind anomalies. We look at current conditions and then at what happened in other years when [...]

Austin H.

Avalanche airbag packs are unlike any other safety tool in a backcountry skier’s arsenal. Pull a handle and, in the blink of an eye, you increase your chances of ending up on top of a slide instead of underneath it. The very same technology that enables this survival advantage makes this safety tool unique in the eyes of airlines and regulatory institutions. We distilled the information from airbag manufacturers and airline regulations into a short guide for traveling with an avalanche airbag pack on planes. If you read nothing else in this article, keep one thing in mind: The safest [...]

Rob de Luca

You’ve read product catalogs, seen magazine gear guides, and heard lift-line conversations referring to “big mountain” or “freeride” skis, but all you can tell is that they look a little longer and sometimes a bit fatter than your own. So what makes a big mountain freeride ski different from a powder ski or an all mountain ski, and why would you want a pair? Here’s the breakdown. While the term “big mountain” may sound a little ridiculous taken out of context (aren’t we all skiing on the same mountain?), it comes from the competitive freeride (or “extreme,” if you’re over [...]

Adam Riser

Staying warm is the key to having fun in freezing temps. Here’s a breakdown of the two basic types of insulation and the kinds of jackets they insulate. Down vs. Synthetic The overriding principle at work in insulated jackets (and sleeping bags, mittens, or any other insulated apparel) is the same: air is trapped in the small spaces between the filaments of down or strands of polyester, providing warmth in cold conditions. Loftier (or puffier, if you will) materials consist of more air, and offer a greater warmth-to-weight ratio. Overall, down is lighter, more compressible, and longer-lasting than synthetic insulation. [...]

Rob de Luca

While there’s no equation that looks like (height x weight)/(skill level)√magical number = perfect length in the skiing world, there are a few tips that can point you in the right direction when you’re trying to figure out which length of ski is right for you. Likewise, there’s no formula regarding width; the prevailing sentiment post-fat-ski-revolution seems to be, “Ski the widest ski you can without sacrificing performance,” and as a generalization, we tend to agree. But should you ski on wider skis? And if so, how wide do you go? Photo: Backcountry Athlete Greg Hill in Rogers Pass, BC. [...]

Stephanie Nitsch

Combine all your gear for backcountry skiing or splitboarding with the basic essentials of rock climbing, and you’ll have a fairly comprehensive equipment list for tackling ski mountaineering expeditions. Aside from the mandatory outdoor essentials like avalanche safety gear, extra layers, water, food, and sun protection, here are the bare bones of what to bring on an alpine ski climb. And though it goes without saying, don’t just acquire all the gear—know how to use it. Equipment alone won’t do you or your partners any good, but sound experience and skill will. Photos by Abby Stanford Harness Lightweight, mountaineering-specific harnesses [...]

Rob de Luca

What is an “all-mountain” ski, and is it the ski for you? It’s very name implies maximum versatility, but despite what manufacturers claim, no single ski can really perform well in all conditions on all terrain. The key is to find out what “all mountain” means to you, and go from there. Keep an Open Mind Aiming to make purchasing easier for the customer, ski manufacturers place their products into categories so that in theory, you as the consumer will have an easy time shopping for skis, or boots, or outerwear. But while categorizing gives you a good jumping-off point, [...]

Rob de Luca

If you’re just getting into skiing, or have been on the same skis for years, the terminology now used by retailers can be confusing. The good news is, the ski categories prescribed by retailers and manufacturers stay relatively consistent year to year, and for the most part, the skis themselves do fit into those roles. But what is the difference between all mountain, big mountain, backcountry (aka alpine touring or AT), carving, powder, and park and pipe skis? And which one is right for you? A breakdown of these ski categories can help narrow your choice. All-Mountain Skis The term [...]

Catherine Greenwald

If there’s something that can be said for certain about ski mountaineers, it’s that they’re a pretty fit bunch. Competing in skimo races and even doing regular winter dawn patrols takes months of workout preparation. You’ve probably been running, doing interval training to build up your endurance for the uphill slog, and maybe even doing some strength training for ripping the downhill portion. But are you addressing the specific demands of ski mountaineering? Strength training is an integral part of ski training, but it’s also important to address ski-specific movements and situations. According to Taylor Eley, General Manager of the [...]

Lexi Dowdall

The Norrøna Lofoten Gore-Tex Insulated Jacket and the Gore-Tex Pro Lofoten Bibs cater to ladies who aren’t afraid to battle the fiercest weather to find turns. The Gore-Tex fabric on both pieces offers superior protection from the gnarliest conditions on the hill.  I tested both the jacket and pants for over 30 days skiing here in Utah. The lightweight PrimaLoft Silver insulation (100g) incorporated into the jacket blocks penetrating cold and is the perfect companion to help you ride bell to bell at the resort. I’ve tested this jacket, which Norrøna calls its “warmest, waterproof freeride jacket,” while skiing at [...]

Lexi Dowdall

Chris Rennau is a Montana-based freeskier and a team athlete for Liberty Skis. He has attempted to huck the infamous Class 6 cliff at Big Sky Resort on three separate occasions piloting his trusty Liberty Helix Skis. We were keen to learn a bit more about how he manages fear in the face of such an extreme feat. Chris, before we launch (pun intended) into your infamous attempts, tell us a little bit about Liberty Skis. What makes them different from other ski companies? Liberty Skis, based out of Avon, Colorado, has been in business since 2004. Liberty incorporates a [...]

Pace

This is a story about a man and his cat, but mostly the cat. Since Millie’s story debuted on Backcountry last May under the title, “My Climbing Partner Eats Chicken Liver,” she’s attained celebrity status. Thousands shared her story on social media and continue to follow her adventures, cat food companies are shipping grub to her doorstep, and she’s even had photo ops with internationally renowned publications (which legally, I can’t name prior to their being published). So it was a real pleasure to get out with Millie and her partner Craig to experience the action firsthand. Climbing partnerships require [...]

Lexi Dowdall

Backcountry.com’s online community encompasses a passionate group of wanderers, adventurers, Gearheads, and athletes. Get the rundown on the raddest happenings within the Backcountry community in You Are Backcountry, your connection to the best product reviews, photos, and videos submitted and uploaded by our athletes, our employees, and you! In this installment of You Are Backcountry we’ve compiled the best community-submitted gear reviews with beards on Backcountry.com … and we’re running a contest!  Vote for your favorite Backcountry beard in the comments below – the most votes wins this manly Patagonia Fjord Flannel to complement his facial achievements. Backcountry.com Customer Service [...]