Justin Buckles

Justin Buckles

Colorado Plateau, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, North Dakota

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Justin's Passions

Backpacking
Camping
Hiking
Trail Running

Justin's Bio

Avid backpacker, hiker, caver, and nature enthusiast. Interpretation ranger at Wind Cave National Park in the black hills of South Dakota

My favorite place to go backpacking is through the Coconino National Forest of San Francisco Peaks, in northern Arizona, red rock country outside of Sedona, the black hills of South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota, and virtually anywhere in Colorado!

My personal preferences for the majority of my gear is Mountain Hardwear, Big Agnes, and Mountainsmith.

Justin Buckles

Justin Buckles wrote a review of on September 29, 2011

5 5

You don't really have to be a hefty critter (pardon the expression) to enjoy the benefits of Big Agnes's park series sleeping bags. I would classify myself as a pretty average sized guy with a slightly stocky athletic build. I fit just fine inside my Mountain Hardwear ultralamina and North Face Hightail mummy bags but never managed to get a full nights sleep in these bags because I'm a restless sleeper. I like to sprawl out a little and sleep on my side, something you can't really do in most mummy bags, so when I found the Hog Park, I decided to give it a shot. My expectations were pretty low mainly for the fact that all that extra room in the bag would normally create cold air pockets, especially since there's no insulation on the bottom of the bag. I was actually pretty surprised however at just how warm I stayed even when the temps were in the lower 20's (I am a very warm sleeper though). Of equal importance was the satisfaction I obtained from a great nights sleep, the spacious bag gave me the freedom to sleep on my side and sprawl out a bit, especially in the foot box where I need it most. The hood, draft collar, and drawstring work great to trap all that body heat in and fill those voids in the bag as well. I love the liner on the inside of the bag as well, feels more like bedsheets than plastic. Keep in mind though that you will probably want a pad of some kind if the temps are low though since there's no insulation on the bottom. As far as the weight and stuff size go, it's a double-edged sword. Is the bag heavy? yes, is it bulky? sort of, but that's a trade off you'll have to decide on for yourself. Personally, I'm always willing to sacrifice a little bit for a great night's sleep in a comfortable bag. Loved it so much I bought the 40 degree buffalo park for warmer weather as well!

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Justin Buckles

Justin Buckles wrote a review of on September 29, 2011

5 5

If you're like me and hate to carry a crap load of unnecessary gear in a bulky over-sized pack, then take a look at the Mountainsmith Centennial 30 because contrary to popular belief, you can squeeze more out of it than just a day hike! Obviously you won't be scaling Everest with this guy but if you generally pack kinda light then you can easily squeeze a weekend trip out of this pack. With some careful and thoughtful packing, I was able to fit all of the following gear in here fairly easily: My Integral designs South Col bivy sack, Big Agnes synthetic lightweight sleeping bag (in a drycomp sack), Western Mountaineering compressed down pillow, full hydration bladder, Snow Peak gigapower stove, fuel canister, and mug, small emergency first aid/survival kit, 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of underwear, Arcteryx Easy Rider fleece, Katadyn water filter, raincover, and of course a few packs of trail mix/gorp and freeze-dried meals; That's quite a bit of gear and did I mention the pack was still very comfortable to wear! If you're using a tent instead of a bivy sack or ENO hammock you're more than likely going to be pressed for space but I almost always use a bivy sack or hammock. One of the great features that allows you to fit bulkier items like tents, pads, or sleeping bags in this guy is the the adjustable lashing strap that runs underneath the lid to the outter pocket, you can just strap it safely under the lid and you're good to go! I have only found two flaws on this pack. The port for the hydration reservoir hose is very small coming out of the pack, so small that my camelback bladder has become a permanent edition to this pack, as I can't get it out now. On the bright side, the construction and stitching on this pack is awesome, as I fought like hell to get that hose through and was sure I was going to rip the stitching somewhere but never did! The second fault is that if you use the mesh side side pockets for a nalgene or sigg bottle, it takes up a lot of space pressing in on your pack, but I didn't deduct any points since I rarely use bottles. To wrap it up, the centennial 30 is a perfect for everything from a day hike to a weekend out in the mountains especially for the price, but don't expect to get much more than that out of it.

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Justin Buckles

Justin Buckles wrote a review of on September 29, 2011

5 5

If you're looking for a good quality, lightweight solution to your cookware needs on your next backpacking trip, then the Snow Peak Hotlips is a great choice! Already a tried and true design with the 600 titanium mug, the silicone "hotlips" simply slides over the rim of the mug, and as the name suggests helps prevent you from burning your lips on a hot cup of coffee or tea. I was a little skeptical as to how well the silicone piece would hold up as it seemed pretty flimsy when I opened the box but after having used it several times it shows no sign of wear or breakdown. As far as the cup itself goes, it's perfect for the lightweight backpacker intending to cook and eat out of it, super light, doesn't take up much space in the pack and has good heat transfer so I've come to rely on it over my bigger bulkier MSR cookset on most days.

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Justin Buckles

Justin Buckles wrote a review of on July 10, 2009

5 5

While the North Face Hightail bag normally has a pretty high price tag on it, it's definitely worth the money. Normally I'm a big fan of Mountain Hardwear gear. I have 2 MH synthetic bags, but I have really wanted a down bag. Synthetic bags don't last as long even when they're well-maintained so for this reason I decided to look outside of MH for a down bag. The hightail is by far the best bag I've owned so far, hands down. It is extremely warm, lightweight, durable, and compact, just about everything you could ask for in a sleeping bag. I really like the zippered footbox that allows you to vent excess heat when you need to, it makes the bag much more versatile for various climates. The bag itself is very plush and comfortable, it seems like the down is equally dispersed throughout the bag so as to eliminate cold spots in one particular area, and for once, the hood fits my head perfectly. With a good quality stuff sack like an OR Drycomp or a Sea to Summitt event, the hightail compresses very nicely, I would adivse getting a different comp sack though as the one the bag comes with is a pretty cheap stuff sack. The only thing I wish NF had done differently with this bag is installing a 2 way zipper because the zipper on the outside makes it difficult sometimes to zip the bag, I would have preferred one on the inside. but with that being the only complaint, this bag is money well spent.

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Justin Buckles

Justin Buckles wrote a review of on July 8, 2009

5 5

After reading alot of the reviews for the trooper vest, I was pretty skeptical myself and hesitated to buy it. Nevertheless, I kept comparing it to many other vests like the Mountain Hardwear Sub-Zero, Marmot Guide's Vest, and other North Face down vests, and just didn't like the looks and specs on them as well so I ordered the trooper. I'm glad I went with my gut feeling because so far I've been very impressed with this vest. It functions quite a bit differently than a lot of other down vests. I really like the fact that it is a pullover because it eliminates those cold spots that run along the zipper of front-zip vests for starters. It has 2 zippers on each side which is also nice if you start to get warm, you can release some of that heat by unzipping part of the vest rather than the whole thing. Even though this vest is 550 fill down, the pullover design heats me up very quickly and retains body heat. The neck zip is a nice feature as well to release or retain more heat depending on the circumstances as well, zippered pockets function well as hand-warmers. So far, some people have complained about the fit of this vest saying it runs large. I typically wear a large in North Face gear, and the large on the trooper vest fits me perfectly; Quite honestly, I couldn't ask for a better fit. I can see however how the fit could be a little off depending on your build, especially since the bottom of the vest is tapered to your waist size. For this reason, I might advise purchasing according to waist size because if the vest is too loose around the waist, you won't retain much body heat, but if it is too tight, you won't be able to zip the side panels, the chest is a snug fit, but that's exactly what I want in a down vest. Last but not least, the trooper is very compact and looks nice, so if you don't like looking like the stay-puffed marshmallow man from Ghostbusters, this is a slim, trim, and functionally warm way to go. The trooper gets 5 stars from me!

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Justin Buckles

Justin Buckles wrote a review of on June 25, 2009

3 5

This is a pretty nice bag for the money. The synthetic fibers do a pretty good job all in all when it comes to retaining body heat in your average winter temps.(keep in mind that often times that the ratings on synthetic bags are often lower than what they're listed as) It works particularly well in wetter rainy weather, and the bag is really one of the most comfortable I've ever used. but as the previous reviewer mentioned, I don't think I'd want to take this one on very many winter trips to higher altitudes. While I've been an advocate for Mountain Hardwear gear over the years, there are better winter sleeping bags out there. This bag is extremely bulky and doesn't compress very well at all, not to mention it is heavier than the average backpacker would like to carry. For these reasons, the lamina gets 3 stars from me. I like this bag very much for local camping trips during the winter where I'm not backpacking in, but that's about all the use this bag gets from me. My personal favorite is the North Face Hightail 15 degree down bag, down is usually the warmest option anyways.

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Justin Buckles

Justin Buckles wrote an answer about on June 25, 2009

I can't speak for the "flight" bivy but I have an Integral Designs Event South Col bivy that I won't leave home without on my trips. It is extremely waterproof, lightweight, compact, and very breathable because of the Event material. I have gone through some torrential rains backpacking through Arizona during monsoon season and with the bivy completely zipped, have stayed completely dry from the rain, and comfortable. At most I might wake up with a little condensation on my sleeping bag but not enough to where it seeped into the bag. That's the nature of bivys anyways. The only downside to it is the Event bivys are a little pricier, expect to pay about $100 more.

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Justin Buckles

Justin Buckles wrote a review of on June 25, 2009

5 5

If you're looking for a heavier weight fleece jacket or liner for a waterproof shell, this is the one! This jacket is very warm to wear on it's own and zips in perfectly with a #5 zipper to any shell. I use it when backpacking through the Black Hills where temperatures can get pretty frigid at nights during the spring and autumn and have stayed very warm in it. The Denali also dries very quickly when it gets wet, but since it is a fleece, it really doesn't repel much water. The tactical zipper pockets and pit zips are nice features as well, and make it all the more versatile. I'm a ranger for the National Park Service and this is my jacket of choice on colder nights, and when the weather really bottoms out, I zip it into my Marmot shell to stay both dry and warm. The only negative connotation I can really see some people having with this jacket is that it is not windproof. The wind-resistant panels do a fair job of blocking out the wind but I knew it wasn't designed for this purpose when I bought it, so that's why I didn't deduct any stars from it.Great product by The North Face

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Justin Buckles

Justin Buckles wrote a review of on January 16, 2009

4 5

Let me first say that Mountain Hardwear's conduit laminate system is very effective. These gloves are both windproof and waterproof as advertised, and they do a good job of both. They also allow a full range of movement and a lot of dexterity. I purchased these gloves for a field orthinology class during the winter, where binoculars were needed. I was able to adjust the focus wheel and diopter settings with ease (something that's very difficult to do with gloves on) That said, I'll move on to the flaw. These gloves are basically a stripped down version of a ski-glove, meaning if you took your average nylon-shelled ski glove and took out all of the insulation, the Mountain Hardwear Epic glove is the result. This is not to say these gloves are not a good product, as they do their job of blocking wind and rain quite well, but with the tradeoff of insulation. The "brushed" interior lining is paper thin, which means the gloves retain less body heat, and can be kind of clammy when your hands perspire or when the temperature is around zero, and the outter conduit shell is chilling your hand. The solution is to spend a little extra money and pick up a pair of thin lining gloves to wear under the epic gloves, Mountain Hardwear's "butter" glove seems to work well for this, as it adds that extra layer against your skin to help retain heat and wick away moisture. The sizing felt a little small to me, as I usually wear a medium in gloves and had to purchase a large in this case. All in all, these are probably the best pair of lightweight weatherproof gloves I've used that allow full finger dexterity, that extra baselayer is the only thing I would heed caution to.

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Justin Buckles

Justin Buckles wrote a review of on January 12, 2009

5 5

Quite honestly, I'm not sure the folks at Mountain Hardwear could have devised a better design for a pair of hiking pants than what the canyon pants deliver. First and most importantly, these pants are very comfortable to wear. They are constructed of nylon (basically the same type as a pair of swim trunks)which makes them very lightweight and packable. Yet Mountain Hardwear did not compromise any durability in the stitching or materials whatsoever, as these have proven to be a tough pair of pants. This also makes them great when it comes to moisture, as they will wick away much of it away from your skin and also repel decent amounts of precipitation falling from the skies. Even when saturated, mine dried out in about 10 to 15 minutes. The elastic ankle cuffs make them nice to adjust the length to some degree as well. As far as the fit goes, I normally wear between a 34 and 36 and am about 5'8" tall and the large regulars worked perfectly for me. I have used these pants on several lenghty hiking trips and look foward to wearing them on upcoming backpacking adventures. The canyon pants blow all other hiking pants out of the water, no questions asked!

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Justin Buckles

Justin Buckles wrote a review of on December 9, 2008

5 5

The Dome Perignon beanie by Mountain Hardwear is easily one of the best on the market. I use it for everything from walking across campus in the middle of winter to backpacking in the mountains, and it has never failed me! Wicks away moisture with ease, retains body heat well, and protects your head and ears from the wind, and it's very comfortable to wear; everything that's in its job description. It does muffle sound a bit, but not to any real extremity. Do make sure that you either try one on first or know the measurements of your head before buying, as this is a windstopper product, and won't do you much good if you've got either too many air pockets, or a loose fit; take your hair into account as well. The first Dome Perignon I purchased was a large, as I had about 4 inches of hair at the time and the fit was good. However, after cutting off those four inches, it became too baggy and stopped doing it's job so I purchased another in a medium. Other than that, a truly excellent product!

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Justin Buckles

Justin Buckles wrote a review of on December 9, 2008

5 5

For those that haven't discovered it yet, Mountain Hardwear makes some awesome and very functional windstopper products. The windstopper tech vest is of no exception, as it is lightweight, of great quality, attractive, and above all, warm. A great piece of apparel to have with you when backpacking. My only word of caution is be careful when sizing, as you obviously want the vest to be snug but comfortable enough for the windstopper membrane to do its job. The vest does have elastic cinches around the waist, which helps to keep it snug in addition to an athletic fit. I'm about 5'8" 220 lbs with a stockier build and the XL was a good fit that still allowed a baselayer underneath. In terms of length, this vest doesn't seem to be catered to taller individuals, as some reviewers have pointed out the cut is a bit shorter for them, but if you're in the neighborhood of 5'8" it's perfect.

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Justin Buckles

Justin Buckles wrote a review of on November 18, 2008

3 5

For those that haven't discovered it yet, The North Face basically produces two levels of products, a higher end base and a lower end base. The Denali gloves easily fall into the lower end, given the price this isn't all that surprising. Depending on how you'll be using them, these gloves may or may not suit your particular needs, I bought them as a midweight glove for lower to midrange (3,000 ft max) hiking, as my Marmot ski gloves are a bit of an overkill at these lower elevations.

The pros: Overall a pretty comfortably fitting glove, being made of fleece. I noticed many other people who've reviewed these gloves downgraded them due to the inner stitching being uncomfortable. personally this wasn't an issue for me at all. The best thing I can say about these gloves is the lighter weight grants you much more flexibility and dexterity than the average mid-weight ski glove, and they are fairly warm to around 40 degrees F or so.

The cons: These gloves are not weather resistant whatsoever. The fleece will wick some moisture away but don't expect to be dry if the weather takes a turn for the worse. Also, the wind cuts right through these gloves like a hot knife through butter! While this can provide some decent ventalation when the temps are in the low 40's, low temps and high winds will rip right through these things like they're not even there. This is also due in part to the fact that the gloves are loosely fitting on your hands, and what little heat they do allow your body to retain is lost from the lack of synching straps.

Conclusion: The Denali gloves may serve as a pretty good window shopping glove on cooler days but I don't reccomend going up against mother nature's colder climates with them. Buy with caution

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Justin Buckles

Justin Buckles wrote a question about on November 8, 2008

I'm looking into getting either this stove, or the Jetboil personal stove. I'm wanting something that will work well in high altitudes, while I like the effeciency of the jetboil, I dislike the ignition system. What are the effeciency and altitude specs like on the nova?

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