I grew up in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah and, more or less, the desert of southern Arizona. I'm not sure how important a bio is (especially this one), but I'm a hiker and backpacker and have done both since before my introduction to formalized education. That means I love gear, especially gear that works the same today as it did a few years ago, or over a decade ago when I got my first stove before I had the driver's license to get to a trailhead unassisted. Gear is, of course, the stuff that keeps you alive and safe out there, it's also the stuff that makes being out there more comfortable (or not). That's why I believe gear should do what it was intended in unintended circumstances. Gear should also be well manufactured, easy to maintain in the field, and last for years despite abuse and greater than average use.
Described as a mountain biker's hydration system on the CamelBak site, Backcountry properly describes it as both for biking and hiking. Being a huge MULE fan for years, this model is no exception. First, it has more space (not a lot, but some), and it comes in a range of colors, even cheesy colors and colors you would not wear during hunting season. The strapping system is also more advanced, so you don't end up with all this nylon fluttering about. It is, in my opinion, the best overall hydration pack made today. The MULE is comfortable, light (when you need the perfect day pack on your Pioneer Mountain Trinity pilgrimage, just strap it to your backpack for later use), easily accessible (the open pocket, for instance), and exceedingly durable. This model is just as adaptable as previous models, allowing for quick-n-easy packing flexibility depending on the activity. And yes, it's great for mountain biking as well.
When I was younger, my father used to load up our canvas rucksacks with 4,783lbs of who-knows-what before we would begin our torturous, bruising, always tear-inducing death march into the mountains. Having survived this primitive Canvas Age rite of passage; a cheap external frame; and a few clunky weeble-wobble, spine twisting internal frame packs, I now find myself in the empyrean nestle of the Arc'teryx Bora 65. Purchased 2006, I've used it backpacking more than 27,000 vertical feet over 84 miles in Idaho, Utah, Oregon, and Arizona. It's definitely not an ultralight pack, but is highly water resistant, super durable, and spacious (+compressible). While it's missing some of the cooler features, such as hip belt pockets and rocket launcher, it is the most comfortable, well-designed long-distance pack I have ever owned.
Size 14 (US), width E. Mile 1: I could wear them forever! Mile 2: No hot spots. No problem! Mile 6: Feels like I've walked the last mile on marbles, barefoot. Mile 8: Maybe if I cut off a finger or two, I'll forget about the pain in my feet. Mile 9: I'm convinced the shoes have shrunk three sizes and are insulated with glass shards. Mile 10: Finally, camp! Take off shoes and feet look, well, just fine. There's no indication whatsoever I've hiked ten miles in a pair of steel vices with what feels like a cheese grater/drill bit insole. Lesson: Not for wide feet.
It's a pricey hat, and I'm not going to say it's worth every penny (it totally is, though) because everyone says that about everything in reviews almost. Searching for a durable, lightweight, easily packable hat that protects against the sun from sunrise to sunset isn't easy. Finding one that keeps you dry when sun gives way to rain is even harder. The OR Seattle Sombrero is nearly the most perfect hat. The brim is wider in the back, helpful in avoiding rain and snow running between skin and collar (and accompanying shrieks of pain and terror), but long enough all around to provide ample shade. The interior is soft, stays dry despite my hyperactive forehead sweating, acts as a sweatband without looking like I belong in a late-70s sitcom, and is adjustable for an ample-air-movement, brain-cooling fit.
It's noisy, cantankerous, borderline obnoxious, and miraculous, all at the same time. With this stove you'll almost never be able to simmer stew or have fondue in the shade of Mount Hood, but you will get a blow torch on a tripod that will boil concrete in about 15 minutes. I've had this stove for for years, and it has never disappointed, failed to cook a meal, quickly melt snow, or make cool baby jet engine noises. Its easy to clean, packs small and light, and sets up on uneven surfaces. The MSR stove works, always, and without fail, no matter how poorly I treat it. Truly, the best stove running.
Im a size 14 (US) and top off at 6.5, which means I need an almost magical pair of boots to comfortably carry loaded backpack over yonder bonnie ridge and back. Through research and luck, the Salmon Mega Trek GTX was just that boot. Plagued by blistering and almost crippling foot fatigue, I managed one minor blister on my first outing (6 miles) and nothing but incredible comfort and support since (over 80 miles of hiking mountains, deserts, and rock). You will get a little dirt and debris around your ankles, and the tongue padding has a tendency to bunch up after awhile, but this has little impact on the sheer, unadulterated joy of using these brilliant hiking boots.
The TNF Moraine 23 is a good base camp tent (a little heavy for backpacking). Ive had this tent for over a year; used it from the soggy Northwest, the deserts of Arizona, and the mountains of ID and UT. Its sturdy, it holds up in wind, it stays dry, its well ventilated (w/out fly) and its an easy pitch. Get the footprint. Three drawbacks: the tent loves, absolutely adores, condensation (w/fly); a little too much dependence on stakes; and black guy lines for easy tripping, day or night. There are better tents, but the cost/benefit makes the Moraine 23 a solid choice.
Heres what I want from a duffel: withstand my abusive nature; be moderately water repellent; hold all my backpacking gear, boots, extra clothes, trekking poles, tent, and hydration pack; laugh in the face of me throwing it around, walking on it, driving over it, and kicking it through the airport terminal; scoff at baggage handlers, whether theyre sadistic or not, having a really bad day or not; last practically forever; have zippers that do last forever; look good (no pink or purple polka dots); and store easily. The Arc'teryx is just such a duffel.
This review is likely redundant at this point, but a few observations: I have always suffered from hip pain when camping and the 1.5" thickness of the pad eliminated this entirely. Im 6.5' and the regular is more than long enough to sleep comfortably. Non-slip really means non-slip. The trekker chair works great, but doesn't get to stay on when its time to sleep (the regular is too long). It does roll up to its original packaged size, but you need to roll it up twice to remove all that air and in the exact same fashion as when you pulled it out of the package the first time. It's only a true 4-season south of the 36th parallel.