J. Troxell

J. Troxell

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J.'s Passions

Backpacking
Hiking
Mountain Biking
Road Cycling
Alpine Skiing
Mountaineering

J.'s Bio

J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote a review of on April 22, 2012

5 5

This is the third Big Agnes sleeping bag that I have purchased - I have a Horse Thief for myself and the Amber bag for my wife. That I own three of these should indicate that I am sold on the Big Agnes sleeping system. I have never been the stillest of sleepers - I tend to fall asleep on my side or stomach and then wake up on my back. In traditional sleeping bags the bag ends up all twisted around me, and getting the bag unzipped is an exercise in frustration. With the integrated pad sleeve, those days are gone. I am 5'9" and weight about 160 pounds and I am using the regular length bag. I will say that the bag is not quite as roomy as its dimensions imply - the bottom being fixed to the sleeping pad definitely restricts some of the 67.5" that is promised. However, that said and done, I can roll from side to side pretty easily. I also have to say that I think this iteration of the Big Agnes bags is superior to that of the past generations - both because they can use rectangular sleeping pads and also because only the upper part of the bag is fixed to the sleeping pad; this means that when you bend your knees or move your feet the bag can move with you. Definitely a good thing!

I have been using this bag with an Exped Synmat UL7 sleeping pad, and it seems to be a perfect pairing. I've used this bag down to the mid 40's comfortably. I do wear lightweight long underwear and socks - something which I try to do as much to protect the sleeping bag as for extra warmth. At the lower temperature range of this bag these are definitely necessary for me. The one thing I would definitely recommend is to either wear a shirt with a hood or a cap. While I personally think that ditching the hood for a 45 degree bag makes a lot of sense, I did have one night where I needed a little extra insulation on my head. A lightweight cap is good insurance to keep around.

If I could change two things about this bag: 1) I wish the regular bag length was 6' - on my stomach my feet are touching the bottom of the bag and 2) I could do without the pillow sleeve - somehow it doesn't really seem to help very much.

I had debated going with a Western Mountaineering sleeping bag instead. Really, I don't think you can go wrong either way. However, I won't be getting rid of this bag to switch over. I am really looking forward to summer camping with this bag - there are lots of nights on the east coast where the temperature doesn't drop out of the 60s, and the bags I've had in the past (rated to 25-30F) were just too warm. The Pitchpine is going to get a lot of use so I should be able to give a better review later on.

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J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote a review of on April 22, 2012

5 5

I tend to run hot easily when I wear jackets during aerobic activities - primarily mountain biking, but also a little trail running. I picked this jacket up for cool weather rides/runs where a vest doesn't quite cut - I've been using it mostly between 30 and 40 degrees F and it has been perfect. It does a good job of cutting the wind (although it isn't windproof), and it does an even better job of releasing heat. Sure, I still sweat in it, but not as much as I would in something that is windproof. I probably wouldn't go below 45F on road rides where windchill becomes more of an issue.

As far as aesthetics, I have it in the blue color, and it is a nice trim fit that looks fantastic. Clearly a piece of athletic clothing, but not something that I mind wearing around casually in public either.

Now that I own this jacket, I am coveting the zip-off version. That would give it the perfect versatility for those days where you need a jacket in the beginning, but a vest by the end of a multi-hour ride. That will be an investment for next year.

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J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote an answer about on November 18, 2011

This will be my third season using the Theta SVs and I love them. The two things that I think would be the biggest factor in choosing between the two are 1) the Stinger has two thigh pockets that the Theta SV does not have and 2) the Stinger has a more relaxed cut, while the Theta is a trimmer cut. I personally like the clean look of the Theta, although I have never seen the Stinger to really do a comparison. I'm personally not interested in having stuff stashed in thigh pockets on my skiing pants, so that feature of the Stinger doesn't really interest me much. As far as sizing, your waist definitely puts you at a medium. I wear jeans with a 30" length, and I find the regular length Theta pants to be maybe a tad short. I would guess that you'd be happier with the Tall length.

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J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote an answer about on November 16, 2011

It certainly isn't a ski-specific pack, and it isn't advertised as being waterproof. Any of the camelbak's support adding their insulated tube cover to prevent water from freeziing in the tube itself. I don't know if you've researched this, but this pack falls under CamelBak's Hike/Alpine collection, and not their Ski/Board collection. You might want to consider something like the Pit Boss or the Tycoon (their names, not mine...) instead.

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J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote a review of on November 11, 2011

4 5

I picked up a couple of these shirts a few weeks ago off of SAC and have gotten good use out of them. The shirt feels a little lighter-weight than a 200 weight Icebreaker shirt, and is a little less warm from what I can tell. However, the Breathe T-shirt really does a good job of breathing. It adds a light layer of insulation, wicks sweat away and dries quickly. I agree with another review that this shirt does not have a skin-tight fit, but a looser, athletic fit. Its a great shirt for layering under a light jacket or vest. I definitely like the thumbholes, which contrary to the specs on the backcountry website this shirt does have. I've used this shirt comfortable under a light windproof vest into the mid-40s mountain biking and trail running, and I've used it under a mountain hardwear transition jacket in the mid- to upper-30s comfortably as well (although a tad warm in that condition).

Two knocks keeping this shirt from a perfect 5 star: the deep shale/shale is definitely more of a teal color than a blue, and the power dry material gets really stinky after wearing it for a while. I don't have the greatest sense of smell, but even I was rather put-off by the odor after a 2 hour mountain bike ride, and I was definitely not overdressed. As far as color go, I really like the Excalibur/Vintage color.

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J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote an answer about on November 3, 2011

Actually, I think this bag is identical to the Horse Thief - actually, I should say the Zirkel since it is a 20F bag. From what I can tell, it has the half sleeve design, with insulation on the bottom around the legs. Highlights from the BA website:

- Integrated pad sleeve with unique design keeps you securely attached to the pad from the hips up while allowing freedom of movement for your legs- more like a traditional mummy bag. Never roll off your pad again

- Half pad sleeve with adjustable strap holds ANY 20" wide rectangular or mummy shaped pad

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J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote a review of on October 27, 2011

5 5

My wife complained after sleeping on my NeoAir pad one night, so for her birthday I ordered this pad and a NeoAir All Season pad for her to try as well. We both independently arrived at the conclusion that we like the Exped Synmat UL 7 the best of the pads - we both liked the baffles running lengthwise as well as the extra thickness (0.3") and the extra width (approx 1") when compaired to the NeoAir bags. Since we likely won't be sleeping below freezing anytime soon (young children with us), the R-value of the UL7 is more than sufficient for our needs. I like the flap valves that Exped uses on their bags, although I will definitely be investing in a shrink bag and shnozzle for inflating the pad in the future.

If you go on Exped's website, they explain that they use an actual synthetic insulator inside the pad (as opposed to the reflective barrier to capture radiant heat like the NeoAir bags), and Exped went the extra yard and laminates the insulation to both the top and the bottom of the bag so that it won't degrade over time from being compressed repeatedly. Whether this actually turns out to work is obviously yet to be seen, but as far as first impressions, the UL7 is a winner.

I've used this sleeping pad down to 35F paired with a Big Agnes Horse Thief bag, and the sleeping pad performed extremely well.

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J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote a review of on October 27, 2011

5 5

I was originally turned on to Big Agnes when I was shopping for 4 person tents and found the Copper Spur UL4 (which is fantastic too!). While surfing the BA website, I saw their sleeping bags and the no-down-on-the-bottom concept and thought it was... novel... But I did like the idea of the integrated sleeping pad and the integrated pillow sack. The next two times I was sleeping with the kids in the tent I woke up multiple times off of the sleeping pad with my pillow no where to be found - clearly I am not the soundest of sleepers. While laying awake in the middle of the night, I started obsessing about how good of an idea the integrated sleeping pad would be. Combined with the facts that I have a 50 degree bag that I don't trust below 60-65 and an older 15 degree bag, and I decided to give a Big Agnes bag a try for the fall season.

I actually looked at both the Heart Mountain SL and the Horse Thief SL - I really don't think you could go wrong with either. However, I can't keep both (although I almost talked myself into it), and since I'm paying more attention to keeping my pack weight down (I'm carrying gear for four right now) and that I really don't expect to be out when the temperature is anywhere close to freezing, and the Horse Thief SL won out.

Things I really like about the Horse Thief SL:
1) No hood; honestly, I barely ever use the things anyway, especially when I'm sleeping on my stomach. For the temperature range that this bag will be used for, at the most I just need a lightweight cap.
2) Half-length sleeping pad sleeve with insulation on the bottom of the legs; this is a great design. The half length sleeve keeps you on the pad with complete freedom to move your legs about. I originally thought the semi-rectangular design of the Heart Mountain was better, but now that I've used the Horse Thief a few times, this design has really grown on me
3) Excellent weight / size - the specs for the bag are right on - my regular weighed in at 1 pound 11 ounces. I know there are lighter bags out there, but I'm willing to trade a few ounces for the frame of mind that I will...
4) Never roll off of the sleeping pad again. The integrated sleeve for a sleeping pad is really what attracted me to BA bags in the first place and it really is the best feature of all.
5) The passive draft collar around the neck works very well
6) The Pertex Quantum shell fabric feels great - I'd say the fabric feels nicer than the microfiber shell on my 0 degree Western Mountaineering bag.

Of course, nothing is perfect, so here are my complaints:
1) I wish the regular length was 6 feet and not 5'10". I'm 5'9", and everything is great until I sleep on my stomach and my toes dig into the bottom of the bag. It gets annoying if there is a slight downhill slope towards the foot of the sleeping bag.
2) No draft tube. Obviously #1 and #2 are aimed at keeping the weight down (which I do appreciate). I ended up sleeping out one night when the temperature got to 35F inside the tent, and I was very comfortable until I rolled over on my side at which point a cold spot developed along the zipper of the bag. It really is only a problem when you're on your side - it seems that when you lay on your stomach or back the bag lofts over the zipper. But when you are on your side the bag is stretched more and the zipper isn't covered any longer. I had no problems at 50 degrees, but it was definitely noticeable at 35.
3) The girth through the hips is just a little tight. I've been using the Horse Thief with an Exped Synmat UL7 which inflates to a thickness of 2.8" (as opposed to the 2.5" that is standard). I also have wide hips for my size. With the Exped pad fully inflated, it gets tight when I roll to my side in the bag. I've started inflating the pad only about 75% full and it is much better this way - fortunately the pad is still plenty warm at 35F.

I know the negatives sound somewhat serious - I could see for some people that a couple of these could be deal-breakers - but I've had several great nights of sleep using this bag and I don't regret my choice in any way. If I were trying to stretch the lower temperature limit, I would definitely recommend going with the Heart Mountain SL or the Zirkel instead - I think the absence of the draft tube and the absence of a hood really start limiting the abilities of this bag at the lower temperatures. However, for my money the features provided by this bag combined with the fantastic weight makes it a definite winner in my book. Maybe the best testimony is that I'm asking for a BA Pitchpine SL bag for Christmas to use for my summer sleeping bag.

When using the BA bags, the sleeping pad has to be factored in when evaluating how warm the bag is. I've been using this with the Exped Synmat 7 UL which has an R value of 3.1. If you look at sleeping pads on the BA website, they recommend pads with an R value of 1.0 for temps down to 35F, and pads with an R-value of 4.1 down to 15F. The night at 35F I spent in the Horse Thief, I was wearing lightweight wool leggings and long-sleeve shirt (I think both were approx. 200 weight icebreaker), along with a lightweight wool cap and a pair of liner socks. When I've slept in the 50s or warmer in the Horse Thief, I've always used shorts with either a short or long-sleeve t-shirt. I explained the limitations of the bag not having a draft collar above, and that is inherent in the design of this bag - it could easily affect other people more or less than it does me.

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J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote a question about on September 14, 2011

Does anybody have any experience with this version of the Pitchpine? I'm looking for a bag that can go from mid 30's up to around 60 degrees, and weight is definitely an important factor for me. I love the integrated sleeping pad sleeve on the BA bigs as well as the integrated pillow sack. The hoodless feature also works since I like to sleep on my stomach and I never seem to really use the hood. The 9 oz difference between the Horse Thief and the Pitchpine makes me want to think about this bag seriously. As well as these two bags, I'm also considering the WM Caribou and the WM Megalite. The specs for the Pitchpine and the Caribou seem almost identical (the Pitchpine actually has a little more fill and is shorter than the Caribou), but the Caribou is rated to 35 degrees while this is rated to 45 (per BA website). I've done all of the internet spec comparisons, but real-life comparisons would be very helpful.

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J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote a review of on August 30, 2011

5 5

My wife and I have decided that it is time to start taking our two kids (3 and 5) out backpacking. My old 2 person tents definitely aren't going to do the job for the four of us, so I started looking at 4 person tents. I narrowed my search down to the Copper Spur UL4 and the NEMO Losi 3P. I am well aware that the Losi 3P is a 3 person tent, but the advertised 50 sq ft floor space made me optimistic that it could be big enough for our purposes. I ordered both tents and set them up side by side to compare them. See my review of the Losi 3P for my thoughts on that tent.

Copper Spur UL4 impressions: This tent is light! While I've been backpacking for many years, this is the first piece of ultralight gear that I've purchased, and right now it seems almost scary-light. I would describe the material as almost wispy, and the fly is actually partially transparent. I'd love to know if this is by design, or if it is a factor of how light-weight the fly material is. The tent setup is very straightforward. i didn't look at the instructions, and I initially attached the poles to the tent body in the wrong orientation. It became obvious pretty quickly that I didn't have it right, and once I rotated the poles, everything went together easily. The clips on the fly are color-coded, so there was no question of what the correct orientation of the fly to the tent was - very nice! The inside of the tent is enormous - especially for a backpacking tent that weighs as little as the Copper Spur UL4. While the colors are not my favorite, the cream/rust (oops - I mean cool grey/terra cotta) combination makes the inside of the tent very bright. I liked it, but my wife didn't - to each their own. There is one pocket in each corner of the tent, as well as mesh pockets up in the ceiling - lots of room to stash things so that they are out of the way. 4 regular size sleeping pads (20x72 inches each) fit in easily with room to spare. Each vestibule easily fit 2 backpacks without obstructing the door. The fly comes down almost to the ground, and there is good separation between the fly and the tent body. There are also two nifty vents built into the fly that should help cut down on condensation. Oh - did I mention that the Copper Spur UL4 is light, almost to the point of feeling fragile?

Room for improvement: 1) It took more work to get a taut setup on the Copper Spur UL4 relative to the Losi 3P, and it was most evident because the zippers didn't work as well as on the Losi 3P until the stakes were pulled really tight. This was more true of the tent body than the vestibule/fly. Before I went around a second time and pulled all the stakes even tighter, I had several incidents where the zippers for the doors into the tent body snagged on the surrounding fabric. 2) The doors on the Copper Spur open down. When compared to the Losi 3P which opens to the side, both my wife and I preferred the side-opening doors. Definitely not a deal breaker. 3) The walls which do not have doors are not as vertical as the walls of the Losi 3P. They are still much improved to older tents that I have, but my wife commented that she felt like the sloped walls cut down on the usable space in the tent. 4) Finally, because of the pole configuration, there are only 4 attachments for guy lines. I understand why there are only 4, but I do wish there were more.

Comparison to Losi 3P:
1) Bigger footprint, higher ceiling, bigger vestibules than Losi 3P
2) The Copper Spur UL4 is lighter, but right now seems to pack larger. This might just be a matter of practice.
3) The interior of the Copper Spur UL4 is brighter - your choice if this is a pro or a con
4) Not as solid-feeling as the Losi 3P
5) Both tents only have attachments for 4 additional guy lines - I wish more could be provided for tents as large as these are.
6) Footprint is absolutely necessary; really this is true of most tents though.

Final Decision: the Copper Spur UL4 is the winner - it is an amazingly large tent for a very low weight (1.5 pounds per person!!). If you cannot tell from my review, I do have reservations about the durability of this tent - I need a lifetime guarantee like backcountry.com offers to really feel comfortable making this purchase. However, assuming that it does prove to be durable, I am hard-pressed to imagine a much better freestanding 4 person tent than the Copper Spur UL4.

Update: after 4-5 uses, I still love this tent. The color has grown on me, although I was surprised with a full moon, how bright the inside of the tent is. The one concern I do have, is that when the fly gets wet, even from heavy condensation, it definitely starts sagging. Plus, the condensation definitely comes through to the inside of the fly. Because of this, it is a little harder to get the fly dried than I would have expected. Plus, in a heavy rain, I could see where it might be necessary to go outside and retension the fly from time-to-time. I still think this is a fantastic tent, but if either of these issues actually becomes a problem I'll be sure to update my review.

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J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote a review of on August 30, 2011

5 5

I am in the market for a 4 person tent, and while this is listed as a 3 person tent the advertised 50 sq ft footprint puts it pretty close to the realm of other 4 person tents. I narrowed down my search to the Losi 3P and the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL4, and I ordered both for a side-by-side comparison.

Impression: the Losi 3P is a really impressive tent. The pole configuration provides excellent height throughout the tent, and the sidewalls on the lower part of the tent are pretty much vertical - all of the footprint is very usable space. Assembly of the tent is simple - I was able to put it together without looking at the instructions. If you are familiar with how the Jakes feet work, everything about the setup is self-evident. When setting up the fly, NEMO was very clever in using a setup that allows the vestibule-part of the fly to be tensioned against the stake without any additional parts - very nice! In fact, I was really impressed that a very taut setup can be achieved with just 8 stakes. My wife and I both really like the color of the fly (be honest - this really does matter!), and I also really like the gear caddy that is included with the tent. The gear caddy includes two pockets with light dissipators which enable the tent to be lit up with headlamps. Really, the entire time I was setting up this tent, I was impressed with the design and engineering that went into the Losi 3P.

There were a couple things that I personally think could be improved upon. First, the body of the tent is definitely on the dark side. My wife liked this, while I didn't - obviously its a matter of preference. Second, the vestibules seem to be on the small side. This coupled with the fact that the fly sits several inches off the ground (third issue) make it hard to put our two backpacks in a single vestibule without blocking a lot of the door. Finally, I'm not entirely sure why the fly leaves so much of the sides of the tent exposed. I understand that all of the mesh is covered so the tent is technically waterproof, but all it will take is something inside touching a part of the tent that is not covered by the fly and water is going to wick through. I'm assuming that this aspect of the fly design has to do with either keeping weight down or improving breathability (there are no vents on the Losi 3P), but it does concern me a little bit. The final problem, and probably the biggest for me, is that there is no way that the floor dimensions are 79x91 inches as advertised. When I put four sleeping pads in the tent, there is almost no room left. Since the sleeping pads are only 72 inches long, I would have expected approximately 6 inches at the end of the sleeping pads for things like shoes - however, there is absolutely no room to spare. Also, the sleeping pads pretty much have to touch to get all 4 in. And with these being 20" wide each. there should have been nearly a foot of extra room - it just isn't there.

Comparison to Copper Spur UL4:
1) More durable materials; more solid feel
2) IMHO more interesting engineering and design
3) Walls are more vertical
4) Darker inside
5) Definitely a little heavier (I didn't actually weigh this), but the Losi 3P also packs down to a smaller size
6) Noticeably smaller footprint. Based on advertised specs, the difference is 7 sq ft, but it seemed like more than that in reality.

Final decision: I'll be keeping the Copper Spur UL4 and returning the Losi 3P. The decision is pretty much exclusively because I need to be able to sleep 4 people in the tent whenever we use it. The vestibules don't seem quite big enough for 4 packs, and I fear that we would always have issues with water seeping through the sides of the tent because of how tight the fit is. It's really not fair to criticize a 3 person tent for not being able to be used as a dedicated 4 person tent - I get it. The Losi 3P gets a 5 star review because it is a fantastic 3 person tent. My wife isn't really happy with this decision, and despite the limitations I've listed for my needs, I'm still pretty disappointed that I'm sending this tent back - that's how much I like it.

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J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote an answer about on December 23, 2010

This wouldn't be my first recommendation for a ski jacket only because of how short it is. If you are using bibs underneath, then its probably fine, but I personally would want something longer. This really becomes a factor since at your measurements I'd be inclined to say that you would need a medium since I think you would be swimming through the chest in a large. If you are looking for a versatile gore-tex shell that can go between skiing and other non-snowsport activities, I'd look at one of the Theta jackets which have a longer cut to them. If you are looking for something more snowsports-oriented, the Sidewinder jackets are fantastic.

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J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote an answer about on June 19, 2010

Jesse - no doubt the Venta AR is a great jacket. However, and opinions do vary on this, generally it is not recommended to wear two windproof layers like gore-tex pro shell and gore-tex windstopper together as part of your layering system. If your intended use is to use this primarily as an outer layer, then the Venta AR is probably the right jacket for you. However, if you anticipate using this frequently as a mid-layer, you might want to consider something more along the lines of the Hyllus jacket, which isn't as windproof but also has a hi-loft fleece lining on the inside. It will be warmer as a mid-layer than then Venta AR and it will breathe better at the cost of not being as windproof. The Hyllus is definitely designed more with layering in mind.

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J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote an answer about on May 25, 2010

I haven't seen this jacket specifically, but I own the Arcteryx Fission LT pants which are a very similar construction to this jacket. The pants weigh a little bit less than this jacket, but they are surprisingly bulky - definitely not something that I would throw in my pack and forget about. I would expect that this jacket is much the same way. The MH Compressor on the other hand packs down dramatically smaller. The tradeoff (there is always one...) is that the Kappa AR is going to be more durable and more weatherproof than the Compressor. It really comes down to what your priority is: packabilty or durability.

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J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote an answer about on April 22, 2010

I would check your chest and sleeve measurements against the sizing chart. Since this doesn't strike me as a jacket that you would want to layer much clothing underneath, I think you might be better off with a small rather than a medium - you are right on the line between the two sizes. If you like a looser fit, go with the medium, but definitely make sure you check the chest and sleeve sizes.

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J. Troxell

J. Troxell wrote an answer about on April 20, 2010

I have the previous version of this pant (the Fission LT: http://www.backcountry.com/outdoorgear/Arcteryx-Fission-LT-Pant-Mens/ARC0833M.html) which has very similar specs. Assuming that these are similar, then my answer is no - they do not pack up very small at all. They are very warm, but pretty bulky too. If you want insulated pants that could serve as an emergency backup, I would consider something more along the lines of the Mountain Hardwear compressor pants or the Montbell Thermawrap pants instead. You won't have the same durable shell fabric, but you'll get a warm pant that you won't begrudge throwing in your pack just in case...

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