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Backcountry Journal: Alpine Backpacking Weekend

For a few short months each summer, alpine landscapes are changed from frozen wastes of rock and ice to idyllic grassy meadows—it’s pure mountain magic.

When hot temps chase you from the city, these alpine paradises are the undisputed bee’s knees for summer backpacking. But as we were reminded when visiting Priord Lake in the High Uinta Wilderness, the alpine is still a harsh place that requires good gear (daily thunderstorms and hordes of mosquitoes are often par for the course); lucky for us, we had some of the best.

Hiking in the High Uintas

Osprey Packs Atmos 50 Backpack

Osprey Atmos 50 Backpack

The Osprey packs we took to Priord Lake definitely have a high-tech look, but after hiking 25 miles over three days with the Atmos 50 pack, I’m convinced that all the tech is for function, not just for show. Osprey has a reputation for having the best suspension systems out there, and the AirSpeed system didn’t disappoint. I could actually feel the airflow on my back when we were on the trail. With water and booze my kit tipped the scale at 29 pounds, and the Atmos carried that weight like a champ. I was also a big fan of the molded rubber pulls on the zippers that you can loop your finger through, and that’s just one example of the well-designed details these packs are loaded with. The women’s Aura 50 is the same pack as the Atmos, just fitted with a gender-specific hipbelt and harness.

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Marmot Helium Sleeping Bag: 15-Degree Down

Marmot Helium Sleeping Bag

The Marmot Helium weighs just over two pounds, packs down small, has a silky smooth shell fabric. All of that is great for backpacking, but my favorite thing about this bag is the Down Defender treatment. The treatment makes the down water-resistant, and that means if it gets wet, it will maintain its loft  ten times longer than untreated down. Remember that loft is practically synonymous with warmth, so this is a big deal, especially on multi-day trips.

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Marmot Stormlight Tent

Marmot Stormlight Tent

The thing that really impressed me with the Stormlight is how Marmot combined an all-mesh tent body that’s super light and breathable with a fly that’s sonically welded and PU-coated for maximum burliness. The mesh body was perfect for taking a bug-free afternoon nap, and the fly shrugged off the screaming winds and heavy rains that came calling during the night. Plus, the three-pole design is simple to pitch and really does maximize livable space inside the tent.

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 Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

I’m a side sleeper, always have been, always will be—and this is why I’m in love with the NeoAir XLite. Not only does the pad pack up smaller than a Nalgene and weigh less than a pound, it also inflates to a plush 2.5 inches thick. When combined with the triangular core matrix that prevents air from shifting around, you can comfortably side sleep without bottoming out. I slept great, felt rested the next day, and I’m completely sold on this thing.

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La Sportiva Boulder X Approach Shoe

La Sportiva Boulder X Approach Shoe

The hike to Priord Lake involved spongy bogs, sketchy log crossings over swollen streams, rocky talus fields, and double-digit mileage. The Boulder X Approach shoe took it all in stride. I like the Boulder X for backpacking because it blends the light and agile feel you get in a trail runner with some of the support and protection you’d get in a traditional hiking boot. Plus, you get climbing-shoe-inspired elements like the sticky rubber sole and a super precise lacing system. In short, it’s a true one-shoe quiver.

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Kuhl Rydr Pant

Kuhl Rydr Pant

The two most important things I look for in pants are fit and fabric, and the Kuhl Rydr pant delivers big on both. The Euro twill fabric reminds me of really nice waxed canvas; it feels slightly stiff, durable, and it gets better with age. A touch of spandex combines with the gusseted crotch and articulated knees for complete freedom of movement. I was also pleased to discover that mosquitoes can’t punch through the fabric, which was a huge plus on this trip.

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Sea to Summit Bug Jacket with Insect Shield

Sea to Summit Bug Jacket with Insect Shield

When you encounter prehistoric-sized mosquito swarms like we did, you only have a few options. You can cover your face and skin in high-strength (read ‘high-poison’) DEET, you can wear the Sea to Summit Bug Jacket, or you can retreat to civilization. Not willing to leave our alpine paradise, we gladly went with the second choice. Yes you will look foolish and your friends will mock you in the beginning, but by the end of the trip it’s guaranteed to be the envy of the crew. Plus, it packs up tiny and weighs nothing, so you can always bring it along just in case.

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Hiking in the High Uintas


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Backpacking 101: Planning and Outfitting Your Trip

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