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In Search of our Staff Favorites

Staff members hit the backcountry to find the gear we use the most and like the best
By Staff - September 11th, 2009

Staff members here at (and our parent company, spend as much time as possible pursuing outdoor adventure: climbing, hiking, skiing and enjoying adventure travel through some of the most fascinating landscapes on earth. So, naturally, they take their outdoor equipment seriously. And there’s no proof of performance better than a genuine field test in real conditions on an extended backpacking or climbing trip.

Each year, we get together to compare notes on the gear we used the most and liked the best for the season. The result is our annual Staff Favorites, and once again we’ll publish that more detailed review in October, just in time for the holidays and a great time to pick up proven gear

This season we’ve traveled from the Canadian Rockies to New Mexico's Chaco Canyon, from the North Cascades to the Sawtooths of Idaho,  from the Swiss Alps to the Beartooths of Montana, all to test  various boots, packs, tents and other backcountry gear. All those who have been enjoying outdoor adventure for a while know that the gear keeps getting better and better. We can travel through the backcountry more safely and more comfortably than ever before. And 2009 was a banner year for outdoor gear. The trend is toward lightweight products that still hold up to hard use, and products made with a sensitivity to the planet.
Out of dozens of products tested, we’ll narrow the field down to our Staff Favorites. As a preview, here is some of the gear we tried out:


We focused this year on lightweight solo shelters, as more and more backcountry travelers are going “solo together.” There’s a lot to recommend that approach, it simplifies trip planning, you need a smaller patch of level ground to be comfortable, and you don’t have to hear your partner snore. We tried out solo tents from MSR, Big Agnes, Sierra Designs and newcomer Terra Nova.


As with tents, smaller and lighter are the trends in packs, and with that, we found, came increased comfort. With tents, stoves, and sleeping bags all getting lighter, you don’t need as big a pack for a week long trip as you did a few years ago. Products from Kelty, Osprey, Jansport and other makers impressed us with innovations.


If you’re feet hurt on a backpacking trip, you won’t have any fun at all, so footwear is perhaps the fundamental piece of gear. And 2009 was a landmark season, we tried dozens of pairs of boot and came away with happy feet more often than any other year. Innovative designs from Oboz, Vasque and La Sportiva and other makers were among the finalists.


When the weather turns bad, you’ve either go to be able to hunker down and be safe, or hike out in bad conditions. Perhaps no other product category has seen such dramatic gains in performance than outerwear, including fleece, shells, soft shells and insulated jackets. Once again, it’s lightweight and high performance that matters most. Product from Cloudveil, Outdoor Research, Mountain Hardwear and other manufacturers kept us comfortable—and dry—in trying conditions.
 Be sure to check back in October for all the gear chosen as 2009 Staff Favorites.



Camping gear _New England areas

Dear Outdoor crew,
I and my outdoor friends find the products you offer very interesting and appealing for the most part.
we represent the basic working class, struggling honestly with this challenging economy and finincial as well as job related pressures.. More demands more pressure less liesure time and chances to go on far away vacations....
Camping, hiking, kayaking bicyling have become our relaxation mainstays.... we aren't able to afford very expensive equipment but sincerely need good, reliable honestly described type stuff..New England has its own challenging weather aptterns as we keep seeing and feeling RAIN, RAIN and More rain have been predominant this year and now cooler tvemperatures with heavy condensation at night and early mornings. The types of tents, pads, sleeping bags cooking equipment have to be able to withstand and adequately protect us and our family members to be able to enhance the family and friend camping experiences not detract from them! While we are trying to get our younger family members and friends turned on by the camping experiences we can't afford to have them turned off by waking up in the middle of the night when it has been raining for a littlte while to floating, soaked sleeping bags and matteresses ...that is definitely a BIG turn off! Bad experiences last a lifetime! Also important stuff includes Portability in design, ease of set up, take downs packing and use... Accurate advertisement as far as if One person of avergae height or what height can REALLY put up that tent!!!! Sometimes one person may go solo camping and sometimes the person is a short female or short youth camper!
Many of us do not always have the luxury of going to the Mountains in Nevada or Colorado right now so we are looking for simple easy to set up and take down worthy, weather protective but reasonably priced equipment!!!
QUALITY of DESIGN and QUALITY in manufacture is CRITICAL!
Please consider these factors in selecting your offerings and hope yoou read your user reviews!
Sleeping bags with zippers that don't stay zipped are a big recent complaint from many of my associates....Sliding sleeping bags on mattress pads and air matteresses, air matteresses that lose their air charges quickly, readily leaking tents and those whose poles break easily or really should not be recommended for use in High wind potentail areas...honesty is priceless! Families and people are depending on it!
Problems ensue with slipping grouind pads, mattresses and opening sleeping bags!!! we love and want to continue to enjoy outdoor camping experiences please help allof do so!

Posted on September 19, 2009 - 7:12am
by Visitor

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