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The 2015 Backpacking Guide

Check out the new and exciting backpacking gear for 2015 in the backcountry 2015 backpacking 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 definitely can.
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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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Kyle Livingston

We all have our favorite outdoor pursuit, and arguably the most important piece of our gear kit for that pursuit is the jacket. Hikers, climbers, skiers, snowboarders, bikers, or mountaineers have to protect themselves from the elements, but gone are the days of one jacket that works for everything. For example, I use a Gore-Tex 3-layer shell layered with a down jacket for skiing but a lightweight softshell for backpacking and hiking and another jacket for around town. To get you started on the path to understanding your jacket options, we’ve outlined the five most basic styles. The Shell Jacket [...]

Pace Measom

After 20 years of working with the best outdoor brands on the planet, we’ve forged relationships that allow us to collaborate with their design teams, bringing you unique and exclusive products you simply can’t find anywhere else. ExclusiveFilson Down Cruiser Parka The signature Filson heritage he’ll love in a versatile, go-anywhere flat black color—and you can only get it at Backcountry. Filson was founded in 1897 to outfit northbound fortune-seekers with reliable clothing for the Great Klondike Gold Rush. Fast-forward 118 years and a lot of Filson’s apparel still bears a striking resemblance to the clothing of the past. Filson [...]

Pace Measom

Clothing Supplied by Roark Revival Why Trout? Backpacking fare is often limited to energy bars and freeze-dried meals, but it doesn’t have to be. In cold-water lakes and streams, stretching from the Adirondacks in New York to the High Sierra in California, you’ll find trout. And for more than a few reasons, these fish are an ideal food source when you’re out in the wild. Nutrition Whether you’re backpacking or camping, you burn a lot of calories, requiring a meal that’s high in fat and protein. A 3-ounce serving of wild trout supplies 130 calories, nearly 20 grams of protein, [...]

Jared Downs

We’re often not very good at planning for the worst, and fail to plan ahead for emergencies when we’re heading outdoors. After all, what could go wrong? The answer is, “Plenty.” Having a first-aid kit handy is an essential component of your equipment because it can make all the difference if and when a serious situation arises, or even when you just need to tend to a minor problem. In 2007 I began backpacking and as time went on I realized there were many things that I either did not know or situations I was not properly equipped to handle. [...]

Lexi D.

The high desert of western Utah looks the way you’d expect it to: dry, rugged, and desolate. But it hasn’t always been that way; 500 million years ago this place looked like the Bahamas, covered in a warm, shallow sea. Trilobites, distant ancestors of crabs and lobsters, crawled around on the reefs in this sea, and their hard shells made them prime candidates for fossilization. One of the best spots in the world for hunting trilobite fossils can be found in the foothills of Utah’s House Mountain Range, embedded in a layer of limestone called the Wheeler Shale formation. To [...]

Emily Jenson
Jared Downs

Having access to clean water and a hydration plan are imperative to a successful camping or backpacking trip. Experienced outdoorsman and Expert Gearhead Jared Downs shares some strategies here for staying hydrated in the backcountry.  Access to clean water is essential to extended outdoor pursuits; we require substantial amounts of water (minimum two liters a day) to stay healthy. Unfortunately, water sources are often impacted in ways that can make drinking from them a bad idea. Whether it is an outhouse located too close to a water source, contamination by livestock or wild animals, or poor sanitation in a developing [...]

Emily Jenson

You love and appreciate the outdoors, and you want to share it with your littles—not only bringing them along when you head outside, but also fostering in them the same enjoyment of outdoor activities. Outfitting them in the proper gear will increase their enjoyment, maximize the chances that they start developing a love of the outdoors, and at the same time keep them safe. Backcountry Expert Gearhead Emily Jensen surveys some must-have gear for active parents and kids. My parents set a good example for us by always getting outdoors. They introduced me and my five other siblings to everything [...]

Pace Measom

Camping is a good excuse to shed the trappings of modern life like your smartphone and laptop. But you shouldn’t have to leave behind a quality cup of coffee. Cowboy coffee has a certain nostalgic charm if you’re OK with chewing grounds throughout the day, and instant coffee packets are attractive for their convenience. But if you’re accustomed to high-quality brew every morning, these options will most certainly leave a disappointing taste in your mouth. Fortunately, there are some amazing camp coffee systems that make it easy to brew a first-rate cup anywhere. We assembled a collection of the best [...]

Ben Rabinowitz

Spending a night outdoors is something everyone should experience. Sitting by the fire and laughing with friends is where friendships really grow. While the night can be magical and mysterious, the dark can be difficult to navigate. Tripping over chairs and fumbling through packs can be a real pain. Lanterns are a crucial piece of camping gear to light your way. In this article I’ll walk you through the different types of lanterns and how to choose the right product for your needs. Lanterns are also great at home for emergency preparedness or a survival kit. What Kind of Light [...]

Lisa E

Selecting a backpacking pack that fits your frame and your needs isn’t always easy. Backcountry Expert Gearhead Lisa Edlund breaks this down into the basics you need to know to make the right choice. Nothing quite compares to the experience of heading off into nature with a pack on your back that contains just the essentials. This truly makes you aware of how simple life can be. But picking that backpack for your adventure can be anything but simple. There is a wide range of pack options out there, making it daunting for beginners and experienced backpackers alike. The first [...]

Lexi D.

Whether it’s in the form of a lightweight baselayer or stylish pea coat, you really can’t go wrong with wool. It has been around for centuries—millennia, even—yet it continues to outperform many of today’s high-tech synthetics. But before we get into why wool is so amazing, banish from your mind the image of scratchy sweaters that exude the essence wet sheep upon first contact with snow or drizzle. That’s not the kind of wool we’re talking about here. We’re concerned with merino wool—also known as nature’s miracle fiber—but lambswool and high-quality wool blends are worth a mention, too. What makes [...]

Pace Measom

Romance in the wild is a bit of two-edged sword. It’s true that wilderness has a certain romantic charm—think of a crackling campfire, a stunning sunset, and the cool evening breeze that encourages two love-struck souls to draw closer together. But it’s equally true that camping presents would-be romantics with certain challenges—think of constricting mummy bags, rash-inducing plants, biting insects, and camp meals that send your innards in a death spiral. As it turns out, there’s a lot of good gear that can help improve the not-so-romantic aspects of the campground. To put some of the best to the test, [...]

Kyle Livingston

We are all drawn the open trail, our gear on our back and map in hand searching for some solitude next to a campfire far beyond the lights of the city. When you decide to leave the campground behind and make the leap to the backcountry, there is a lot to consider. My first backpack was a hand-me-down Gregory and it took me years to accumulate the necessary gear to support me in the wilderness as a bona-fide backpacker. Loading up your pack, leaving the car far behind, and carrying everything you need on your back combine to raise the [...]

Pace Measom

The remote northern end of the Great Salt Lake in Utah is a stark, otherworldly place. Microbes imbue the water with a rusty red color that’s reminiscent of Mars. Delicate salt crystals grow on black basalt rocks spewed from ancient volcanoes. Signs of life are scarce. Extending from the shore near Rozel Point is a jetty made of black basalt boulders. It’s 15 feet wide and 1500 feet long, snaking outward and bending counterclockwise in great cosmic spiral. This is Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. Smithson helped pioneer the concept of creating earthwork sculptures on a monumental scale, outside the confines [...]

Ben Rabinowitz

Whether you’re a camping novice, a seasoned ultra-light backpacker, or living out of your tent on a road trip, having the right tent is important. Backcountry Expert Gearhead Ben Rabinowitz walks us though the process of selecting the right tent: There are many different types of tents out there, and choosing the right one will ensure a better camping experience. A tent, after all, is quite literally your “home away from home.” In this article I’ll walk you through the different constructions, sizes, weights, and features. I’ll also go into some alternatives. While each adventurer has his or her own [...]

Jared Downs

No matter what your sport or activity, a headlamp is a critical piece of gear for your kit. Not just any headlamp will do; headlamp capabilities vary greatly, and you want to be sure to select the proper headlamp for your use. Backcountry Expert Gearhead Jared Downs breaks down your headlamp options below. Headlamp selection does matter. For example, I do my best to get out trad climbing on a regular basis, and occasionally I run into dusk. Last summer I found myself on the fourth pitch of a multi-pitch climb, here in the Wasatch called “Eleventh Hour.” Getting a [...]

Lexi D.

In the gentle rolling hills of Eastern Oregon, along the Umatilla River, you’ll find the old frontier town of Pendleton, Oregon. For over 100 years and through six generations of family ownership, the Pendleton Woolen Mill has cranked out beautiful woolen goods that reflect the culture and heritage of the American West. I received my first Pendleton blanket two birthdays ago, carefully tucked among clumps of newspaper in a modest cardboard box with scant trimmings. The box was big, with ‘Happy Birthday, Cowgirl’ scrawled in black ink across the lid; I had no inkling of what lay inside. Pulling out [...]

Curtis Jensen

Above photo by Ian Matteson Can a softshell replace your trusty hardshell in sustained rain or snowfall? Probably not. What softshells do best is keep you warm and dry while your heart rate is up in windy and/or damp weather.  What Is “Softshell”? “Softshell” is a class of knit or woven materials, made from polyester and nylon, used to make technical outdoor clothing that essentially bridges the gap between waterproof hardshell jackets and highly breathable fleece jackets. They’re more breathable (but less water and wind resistant), more flexible, and generally more durable than hardshell materials, and more protective than fleece. [...]

Lexi D.

When you escape the office and break your furry friend out of the doghouse, adventure will nearly always ensue. But long days outside navigating rugged terrain can take a toll not only on you, but on your pup as well. You’ve probably kitted yourself out with fancy trail runners or hiking shoes, a hydration vest, and a rain shell to fend off the elements—but what about your dog? Outfitting your dog properly can make the difference between a pleasant backcountry weekend and having to carry your dog back to civilization over miles of rugged terrain. We love the brand Ruffwear, [...]

Jared Downs

There comes a time in many people’s lives when things need a little shaking up; that feeling overcame Henry Wasserman in 2013. He was a 34-year veteran of the financial services industry, but it was losing its appeal, despite several career moves within the sector; where he found himself did not line up with who he wanted to be. The desk was taking a toll on Henry’s physical health, too. It was time to break away from his desk and hit the trail, time for a mental cleanse and a renewed focus on his health. He began thinking of taking [...]

Kim Havell

Last November, Jackson Hole Ski Patroller Pete Linn and I traveled to Peru to explore the Salkantay Trail (ST), an alternate route to the popular and crowded Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. As guides ourselves, we opted to do the trip without an outfitter to have the freedom to move on our terms. It was a last-minute decision, so we only had a couple of weeks of planning and preparation before we found ourselves in Peru, ready to embark on adventure. Part 1: Packing for Purpose Part 2: The Trek We had flown from Lima to Cusco, spent two nights [...]

Kim Havell

Three weeks before I was due to go to Antarctica for my third trip to ski-guide for Ice Axe Expeditions last fall, my plans fell through thanks to last-minute guest changes. I was still itching to go somewhere, so I turned my focus to a new project. The goals were to find an adventure, check out new mountains, do some ski reconnaissance, and embrace and enjoy a new culture. My partner, Jackson Hole Ski Patroller Pete Linn, and I honed in on Peru, and then quickly found the perfect challenge. National Geographic lists the Salkantay Trail (ST) as one of [...]

Lexi D.

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 [...]