THE PLACE TO GO WHEN YOU CAN'T GO BACKPACKING

Author

Elijah Davidson

Elijah Davidson has 8 articles published.

WoolX X303 Daily Boxer Briefs Review

in Community/Gear by
boxer1

The most experience-heightening change I ever made to my gear set was switching to a  good pair of athletic boxer briefs. Gone were the days of chaffed thighs and cotton-gathered. Here to stay were the days of smooth strides and dry nethers. I wore my first two pairs of spandex running shorts beneath my pants until the seams wore out and there were holes in inopportune places. My wife made me switch to a pair of Champion polyester-blend briefs, but I’ve been wearing those on every backcountry outing for four years. While they’ve held up well, I was excited to test the Merino wool WoolX X303 Daily Boxer Brief in hopes that I was about to make a new, intimate friend.

Out of the bag, the WoolX X303 Daily Boxer Briefs are beautiful. Boxers aren’t typically on public display, but the Cobalt blue Dailys I received to test are so shiny and luxurious, I wished I could show them off. The fabric is so soft and smooth, you feel like they ought to cost three times what they do.

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Wearing the Dailys was a somewhat less luxurious experience. The fabric does feel as nice against the skin as it does to my hand, and they are as moisture wicking and odor eliminating as we expect Merino wool to be, but the pleasantness of wearing the briefs stops there.

The waistband is fine. It is comfortable, but WoolX advertises the Dailys as having a “non-rub interior label.” This is not true. There is a tag in the waistband of the Dailys that is immediately irritating. Technically, it is on the outside of the waistband, but it loops around to connect to the inside. I tried wearing them without removing the tag my first couple of trips out in hopes that it would soften over time. It did not. After I cut it out, the problem was solved.

Also, legs of the briefs began to ride up on me after about two hours of activity. Once I removed, washed, and redonned the briefs, the legs regained their elasticity. For short, day trips, this wasn’t an issue, but when I wore the briefs on overnight trips, I was sorry I did.

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WoolX advertises the Dailys as being good for all seasons and for all outdoor activities. I wore the Dailys in temperatures ranging from the single to the triple digits in the summer, fall and winter while hiking, biking, running, climbing, snowshoeing and snowboarding. They performed similarly each time. I stayed either cool or warm and dry regardless of what the weather was like outside my shorts. I preferred the Dailys for activities when my range of leg movement was less intensive (climbing and snowboarding), as this alleviated the issue I had with the legs riding up.

In summary, the WoolX X303 Daily Boxer Briefs are an enormously comfortable pair of undergarments to wear for short periods of time in all seasons and for all activities. They are reliably moisture wicking and odor repellant, and they are one of the softest garments I have ever worn. Remove the waistband tag before you wear them on the trail, and be prepared to pull the legs back down after a few hours of use.

 

Tech Specs

 

  • Date available: now
  • MSRP: US $34
  • Listed Weight: 5.6 oz (large)
  • Materials: 100% 7.5 micron Australian Merino wool
  • Size/Model tested: Large, Cobalt Blue
  • Colors Available: Black, Charcoal, Cobalt Blue

The New Primal Beef and Turkey Jerky

in Community/Food by
new primal jerky

What do you look for in a jerky? Taste, naturally, and a fair price. We don’t typically eat jerky to be “healthy,” but we do eat it for sustenance and a quick energy boost with a long tail on the trail. I suppose we might also want to be sure the jerky we are eating isn’t laced with chemicals and artificial flavors that negate any caloric benefit. When I eat jerky, I want to eat the meat of the animal from which it was made, not other non-animal substances.

I’m looking at you, Slim Jim.

The New Primal beef and turkey jerky passes almost all of those tests. The one it does not pass—price—is forgivable given The New Primal’s commitment to offering a pure, ethically-produced, additive-free, delicious, dehydrated meat product.

new primal jerky
Photo courtesy of The New Primal

I tried all three varieties of The New Primal jerkies – original beef, spicy beef, and turkey. Each was quite tasty. The normal beef jerky has a nice, light peppery flavor that is beef-forward instead of spice-forward. The spicy beef isn’t too spicy. My heat-averse wife even enjoys it. The turkey jerky is the best turkey jerky I’ve ever tasted, not sweet or peppery but lemon and ginger-lit. Neither the beef nor the turkey jerky are dry in the least.

One thing I studied in college was food science, and if you want to continue to enjoy Thanksgiving, you should not learn how poultry are farmed in the United States. The fact that The New Primal raises their turkeys free-range in a stress-free environment is remarkable.

The New Primal beef and turkey jerkies are kind of expensive, dividing out to just over $3/oz. For the quality of the jerky and the peace of mind that comes from knowing I’m eating meat and not other chemicals, and from knowing the meat was produced ethically, I think it’s worth it. Jerky is always kind of expensive. At least The New Primal jerky isn’t costing me my clear conscience too.

new primal farm
Pictures of The New Primal’s farm are much more interesting than pictures of me masticating.

The jerkies are packaged nicely as well in a durable, thick plastic, resealable pouch. I never worried about the packages opening up in my pack while I was hiking.

In summary, The New Primal jerkies provided me the delicious boost of energy I was looking for on the trail and it did it without making me wonder whether or not what I was putting into my body was doing more harm than good. Bonus – I also knew The New Primal was taking care of their animals as well. It’s a little expensive, but not egregiously so. I recommend it highly.

Date available: now

Ingredients:

Original Beef

Grass-Fed and Grass-Finished Beef, Pineapple Juice, Coconut Aminos, Honey, Lemon Juice, Apple Cider Vinegar, Less than 2% of: Smoked Sea Salt, Garlic, Onion, White Pepper, Smoked Paprika, Ginger, Black Pepper

Spicy Beef

Grass-Fed and Grass-Finished Beef, Pineapple Juice, Coconut Aminos, Honey, Lemon Juice, Apple Cider Vinegar, Jalapeno Peppers, Cayenne, Smoked Sea Salt, Garlic, Onion, White Pepper, Smoked Paprika, Ginger, Black Pepper

Turkey

Turkey Breast, Honey, Pineapple Juice, Water, Apple Cider Vinegar (Apples & Water), Smoked Sea Salt, Lemon Juice, Garlic, Ginger,  Granulated Onion, Black Pepper, White Pepper, Paprika

Types tested: Original Beef, Spicy Beef, and Turkey

Types Available: Original Beef, Spicy Beef, and Turkey

Film Review – Everest

in Community by
everest movie banner

everest movie bannerEverest is a movie of expanses. The most obvious ones are the expanses of the Himalayas, their peaks competing arrogantly with the sky for superiority, their snowfields competing perilously with gravity to see who’s stronger, their rocky faces competing stubbornly with the winds to see who will break first. If you see Everest in IMAX 3D as I did and as I suggest you try to do if it is playing in a true IMAX theater near you, these expanses will overwhelm you and haunt you long after the movie ends.

The other expanses central to the story are the expanses you see when you look into another person’s eyes. As often as the camera zooms out to take in the magnitude of the Himalayas, it also zooms in to peer into the eyes of the mountaineers, their irises like universes unto themselves, universes tested by the mountain. William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy’s smart script sketches Everest’s characters quickly to catch your interest and shades them in slowly so that as they all make their way up the mountain and the dangers increase, every victory, every close escape, and every loss matters immensely. When the screen is filled with the characters’ eyes, we see every dream being tried on the climb and everything at stake for each of them.

The other expanses central to the story are the expanses you see when you look into another person’s eyes. As often as the camera zooms out to take in the magnitude of the Himalayas, it also zooms in to peer into the eyes of the mountaineers,  their irises like universes unto themselves, universes tested by the mountain. William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy’s smart script sketches Everest’s characters quickly to catch your interest and shades them slowly so that as they all make their way up the mountain and the dangers increase, every victory, every close escape, and every loss matters immensely. When the screen is filled with the characters’ eyes, we see every dream being tried on the climb and everything at stake for each of them. Everest is epic and intimate at once.

everest movie hangYou are likely familiar with the details of the 1996 disaster chronicled in the film. This story has been told many times before, most famously in Jon Krakauer’s 1997 book Into Thin Air. If you don’t know the details of the story, don’t look them up prior to seeing Everest. Not knowing who will live, who will die, and how they will either survive or perish adds an extra layer of tension to the story. If you do know the details, Everest is still rife with tension. There are many theories and explanations about exactly what went wrong on that climb. The power of Everest is in seeing the egos and emotions behind the fateful decisions. The partially fictionalized Everest fills out the story in a way mere facts cannot and gets closer to the truth about “why we climb,” whether we’re climbing actual mountains or metaphorical ones.

The actual mountain, Everest, has never looked better. Portions of the film were shot on location in Nepal—Kathmandu, the Khumbu Valley, Everest Base Camp—and those portions grant the film a necessary sense of place. Most of the mountaineering sections were shot in Italy’s Dolomites, though essential, recognizable sections of the route up Everest—South Summit, Hillary’s Step, Camps 1 and 4, the Ice Fall, the Summit—have been so faithfully recreated, you think you’re seeing the actual route. The IMAX 3D print is so good that, as my friend who attended the screening with me said, “This is the first time watching a climbing movie where I felt like I was outside.” Some of the gear is obviously not from 1996—I suppose you have to get those product placement dollars somehow—but otherwise, this is the most realistic “Hollywood” climbing movie I’ve ever seen (though it’s not really a Hollywood production; it was independently financed).

To Everest’s great credit, the movie doesn’t give a simple answer to “why we climb.” It’s wise enough to know that everyone strives to summit the mountain for different reasons. Beyond the physical strain of climbing, it’s each person’s personal reasons for climbing that ultimately test the expedition. Whether or not they can make it to the top of Everest depends on whether or not they can find common ground. The disaster tests each person’s individual resolve and reveals the faults in their individual motivations. Everest isn’t an inspirational film. How could it be, given the historical facts? Everest is complicated. It’s a thinking man’s “men and women on a mission” movie with enough high alpine action to keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. See it in IMAX 3D if you dare.

Peregrine Radama 2 Tent Review

in Gear by
Davidson_2
I heard someone approaching our campsite, so I stuck my head out of our Ramada Peregrin 2 tent to find the only ranger working Santa Cruz Island that night, as he strode toward us. “I have good news and bad news,” the ranger said. I arched my eyebrows. He continued, “The good news is that the boat is coming tomorrow. You won’t be stranded here another night.” “Ok,” I said, “The bad news?” The ranger grimaced, “The bad news is that we will be enduring gale force winds tonight. If you want to move your tent to a more sheltered area, you may.” I looked down at our Peregrine Radama 2, smiled, and said, “I think we’ll be ok.”

We were. The Peregrine Ramada 2 is a wonderful tent. It held up well in the wind and allowed both of us to get a good night sleep.

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Pros

Given the gusting winds, we set up the tent with the rain fly. This is a tightly constructed tent. While other campers in our area were moving their tents to more sheltered areas, we left ours out in the open, confident in the Radama 2’s ability to shelter us. Inside the tent, the air was calm and warm. We could only hear the wind. The rain fly kept the wind from getting to us.

The tent even had a good amount of flex. I woke up in the middle of the night and watched the wind bend the tent body above my head. Then the tent would pop back up into place as if nothing had happened. My tent mate never even noticed.

The Radama 2 is also spacious. The gales picked up as the sun went down, so we were forced to retire to our tent a little earlier than we anticipated. My old tent is a little too snug for anything other than snuggling. The Radama 2 allowed us to truly relax, and when it came time to sleep, no one’s elbows were in anyone else’s ribs.

The Radama 2’s fly has two large vestibules extending above both its side doors. Both vestibules and doors are nice additions. My old backpacking tent has one door and one vestibule, and after not having someone climb over me in the middle of the night to find shoes and exit the tent, I’m never going back to the one door/one vestibule model.

At 5 lbs 7 oz, the Radama is a bit on the heavier side of backpacking tents, but if the weather is going to be nice, leave the tent body at home and just take the Fast Flight Floor Protector, poles, and rain fly to bump your weight down to an easy 3 lbs 6 oz. The poles and fly clip to the floor with ease using a clip made by DAC called “Jake’s Foot.” More on those clips in a moment.

This tent sets up in seconds even in the gusting wind.

Davidson_1

Cons

As I mentioned before, the tent is more than a pound heavier than other backpacking tents when one is packing the full tent body. Adding the floor protector to your pack too adds an additional 8.5 oz.

The way the fly attaches to the base via these little plastic clips is suspect. The plastic is thick, but I worried about breaking one as I unclipped the fly from “Jake’s Foot” when I took the tent down. Also, clipping the floor, tent, and fly together isn’t the most intuitive process either. I took the tent for a trial run in our living room, so I knew how to make it work, but my wife was momentarily befuddled. She figured it out, but it took a moment.

The stakes that come with the tent are also extremely easy to bend. I had one bent in half before I realized I had hit a buried root. You might consider using different stakes, especially if you are going to be using the tent on even harder surfaces, like ice or frozen ground.

Davidson_2

Summary

If you are looking for a easy to set up, tightly made backpacking tent that comfortably sleeps two campers and gives you the option of leaving the tent body at home, the Peregrine Radama 2 is the tent for you. Don’t handle the fly clips too roughly and take it easy on the stakes, and you won’t have anything to complain about at all.

Tech Specs

Manufacturer: Peregrine Outfitters a Liberty Mountain company

Website: Peregrine Radama 2 Tent

Capacity: 2

Season: 3

Weight: Max, with floor protector: 6 lbs 5.5 oz

Min, without tent body: 3 lbs 6 oz

Dimensions: 90.5 in x 59 in x 45.3 In

Number of doors: 2

Number of vestibules: 2

Number of poles: 2, DAC Pressfit™ 7001 8.5mm Aluminum

Wall, Fly & Floor: 75D 190T polyester PU2000mm

Mesh: 40D Nylon

Windows: 4, mesh

Storage: 4 pockets, 4 gear loft loops

Fast Flight Floor Protector (sold separately)

Dimensions: 90″x59″x45″

Weight: 8.5oz

MSRP:

Tent: $149.95

Floor: $19.95

Alite Sexy Hotness Sleeping Bag Review

in Gear by
Sexy_Hotness_sleeping_bag_2

On a cold night under the stars, the only thing better than the warmth of a good sleeping bag is the warmth of another person. If somehow one can manage both of those things at once, then the night is welcome to last as long as it likes. In the embrace of both a good sleeping bag and a lover, the starlight may linger. The Alite Sexy Hotness sleeping bag promises the opportunity for such a slumber.

We tested the Alite Sexy Hotness sleeping bags in a variety of environments, in the dry desert mountains of Arizona and New Mexico, on the shores of sky-skimming Oregonian lakes, clutching the snow-packed cliffs of Utah’s canyons, and laid along the breezy sands of Southern California’s coasts. Each environment highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the Sexy Hotness bags.

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Overall, the Sexy Hotness sleeping bags really are wonderful for when one wants to get extra close to that extra special tent-mate. Unfortunately, they are unsuitable for all but the narrowest range of environments.

 Pros

  • Concerning the fit of the bags, we tested two Large bags which, Alite recommends for sleepers shorter than 6’2″. My wife and I both fit this range (me: 5’11”, she: 5’8″) and were comfortable in the bags. Neither of us would have wanted the bags to be any smaller.
  • Featuring zippers in places that make it an awkward camping accoutrement to show your in-laws (experience proves), the Sexy Hotness sleeping bag affords camper one and camper two the maneuverability to engage in all sorts of night-time activity… like taking a romantic stroll in the moonlight while still wearing one’s bag. Interlaced alternately, the zippers allow the two sleeping bags to, ahem, become one.

Sexy_Hotness_sleeping_bag_2

  • At Christmas-time along California’s coast, as the celestial air floated around 30 degrees, Alite’s Sexy Hotness bags were sublime. We intertwined the two bags into one and were so toasty we did not want to rise with the sun. The Sexy Hotness bags combine in such a way as to allow all of the warmth sharing body parts to commingle while maintaining separate, close containers for each sleeper’s head and feet. This feature locks in the body heat that would otherwise escape from those extremities.

Cons

  • Each Sexy Hotness bag is rated at 20 degrees. I do not normally use a 20 degree bag as I find them only suitable for a small range of climates. I would much rather alternate between a 40 degree bag with a liner and a 0 degree bag than be either too warm or too cold in a 20 degree bag. So, the Sexy Hotness bags were too warm to take advantage of their more alluring features in the hot campgrounds of Arizona and New Mexico and to cold even when combined into one big snuggly bag in the negative and positive single digit degree nights in Oregon and Utah.
  • The Alite Sexy Hotness sleeping bags are not built for backpacking. They are too bulky and too heavy and are only appropriate for car camping.
  • While the many zippers provide for the engaging configurations, they are also annoying when one is trying to sleep. Alite alleviates this problem to an extent by including cushioned flaps of fabric over the zippers, and a little squirming around gets most zippers out of the way. I suppose this is the price one pays for the possibility of amorous sleeping bagged proximity.

Conclusion

The Alite Sexy Hotness sleeping bag is little more than a novelty and less than a piece of technical gear. If you and your special someone want to get close beneath the stars in a campground, and the air temperature is just right, I cannot imagine a better sleeping bag set-up. If you desire the same closeness in the backcountry, you should consider alternative sleeping arrangements.

Sexy Hotness Sleeping Bag Tech Specs

Manufacturer: Alite Designs

Date Available: Currently on the market

Manufacturer’s Website: Alite Designs

MSRP: US $149.00 each

Listed Weight: Medium – 3.45 lbs, Large – 3.85 lbs

Actual Weight: too bulky and heavy to take backpacking

Materials: Shell – poly taffeta, Fill – synthetic

Size/Model Tested: Large/Fuchsia

Colors Available: Gold (M/L), Fuchsia (L)

Sexy_Hotness_sleeping_bag_1

White Sierra Kalgoorlie Long Sleeve Shirt Review

in Gear by

This past summer, my fiancee and I traveled 6540 miles; from the 110+ degree depths of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, through the cool nights of the Sierras in early summer, and to the just above freezing peaks of the Cascades. In every scenic environment we visited, I wore my White Sierra Kalgoorlie Long Sleeve Shirt, and in every environment, I was pleased with its performance.

Pros

The Kalgoorlie promises three things: lightness, sun protection, and ventilation. In all cases, the garment keeps its word.

Firstly, at only 6 oz the shirt weighs basically nothing, and wearing it feels like wearing almost nothing. The Kalgoorlie also doesn’t give up any any toughness in being so lightweight. The fabric, though thin, is vey strong. It’s 100% polyester, but it’s a good weave.

If you hold the shirt up to a light, you can actually see the little squares that give the shirt its strength. I snagged it on cacti and dead pine branches numerous times, and it is no worse for the wear. It also held up well beneath my backpack straps, something which I cannot say about any of my cotton shirts. This will easily become the first or second shirt I pack when I prepare for a trip.

 

Secondly, concerning sun protection: I am a blue-eyed, red-headed, son of Scottish immigrants, and barring the use of SPF 30+ sunscreen and thick cotton shirts, I can burn on cloudy days in late October.

In both the blazing sun of the Southwest’s deserts and the clear air of the Northwest’s mountains, I trusted my sensitive, unexposed skin to the Kalgoorlie’s fabric, and in both cases, the Kalgoorlie did not let me down. My upper arms and torso remain as pasty white as ever.

Thirdly, the Kalgoorlie provided superior ventilation. I stayed perfectly cool during all of our desert hiking. The shirt’s back panel is actually just an open panel connected to the shirt’s inner mesh lining, and the sleeves roll up and fasten via button and strap to the sleeve’s bicep, turning the shirt’s long sleeves short.

In the direct sun, however, I tended to leave the sleeves down for the added sun protection, and the fabric itself breathed well enough that I didn’t mind the long sleeves. Conversely, when we engaged in some light spelunking in New Mexico and some easy snow hiking in Oregon, I kept the sleeves long and enjoyed the added warmth.

Finally, and this isn’t necessarily an advertised feature, the Kalgoorlie also still smelled relatively fresh after four days of continual, sweaty use. This is probably a byproduct of the shirt’s excellent ventilation system, and I count it as one of the shirt’s best features. I’m sure your trail mates will thank you for being kind on their noses just as my fiancee thanked me.

 

Cons

The only thing “wrong” with the Kalgoorlie, is related to the sizing. My healthy 200 pounds is spread evenly over my slightly above average five foot eleven inch frame, and my dress shirts (the only other long sleeve button down shirts I regularly wear) feature a 16 1/2″ neck and a 34/35″ sleeve length.

In technical clothing, which isn’t typically sized like dress clothes, I tend to wear a “Large.” The Kalgoorlie I tested is a Medium, and while it fits a little snuggly, I wouldn’t want it any larger. I encourage you to try one on for yourself before you buy, but if you are ordering online and can’t try it on first, you might want to consider skewing a size smaller than you’d normally wear.

Conclusion

The White Sierra Kalgoorlie Long Sleeve Shirt is an excellent article of technical clothing. It is lightweight, tough, offers sun protection and superior ventilation, and will even helps whisk away odor. The sizing is different than most other shirts though, so consider buying a size smaller than usual. It’s a little pricy (MSRP $50), but assuming it’s as durable as it seems, it will likely be part of your backpacking wardrobe for years to come. It will be for me.
Click Here to Purchase the White Sierra Kalgoorlie Long Sleeve Shirt

 

 

Tech Specs

Manufacturer: White Sierra

Date Available: Currently on the market

Manufacturer’s Website: White Sierra Kalgoorlie

MSRP: US $50

Listed Weight: 6 oz

Actual Weight: 6 oz

Materials: 100% Polyester

Size/Model Tested: Medium/Bark

Colors Available: Stone, Bark, Riviera, Wheat

 

 

 

TerraLUX LightStar 80 Flashlight

in Gear by

TerraLUX LightStar 80

For many years, I’ve packed the miniature version of a rough and tumble flashlight made popular by law enforcement officials as my backup light, so when I got the TerraLUX LightStar 80 I thought, “How are you ever going to outperform the flashlight taken most often into burning buildings?” The flashlight’s answer was threefold: the TerraLUX LightStar 80 is brighter, lighter, and tighter than any traditional flashlight I’ve ever used.

Brighter

The TerraLUX LightStar 80 ought to come packaged with a complimentary pair of sunglasses. I’ve never used a light this bright. It was so bright in fact, that my fiancee and I had to reflect its light off our torsos onto the ground to use it as we walked around our campsite at night. Often, after we’d had the light off for a while and our eyes had adjusted to the night, we had to keep the flashlight off as we walked around, because the light was so bright our eyes couldn’t adjust. This flashlight is so bright, its beam can literally be seen at mid-day when I aim it at shadows.

Lighter

Composed of what TerraLUX calls “aircraft grade” aluminum, the TerraLUX LightStar 80 weighs only 2.24 oz (with batteries), making it 1.91 oz less than its police officer utility-belted competition. I often hesitate to include my other flashlight when I backpack, because I don’t want the extra weight when I know I might just use my headlamp anyway. The TerraLUX LightStar 80 lessens that concern.

Tighter

The construction of this little flashlight is extremely tight. Every other flashlight or headlamp I’ve ever used made noise when I shook it, which to me indicates a lack of durability in the flashlight. The TerraLUX LightStar 80 doesn’t rattle. It’s an amazingly durable flashlight. To test its resilience, I turned it on and threw it about thirty feet up in the air and let it land on concrete a few times. It shone brightly the entire time, and while the outer casing did get a little scratched, it did not dent. This is a tough little lamp.

Damage after throwing the light onto cement ©Elijah Davidson

Brass Tacks

The TerraLUX LightStar 80 is so remarkably bright, I actually think it may be too bright for backcountry use where one’s eyes are allowed to adjust to the slowly encroaching darkness. I found it very useful for non-backpacking activities though, like car repair (for which the flashlight’s packaging recommends it) and visits to the attic where ambient light offsets its sun-like beam, but this is a backpacking publication, and I’m not sure its brightness is appropriate for the trail.

The TerraLUX LightStar 80 is also astoundingly durable, which is something I do appreciate in my backpacking gear. I wouldn’t hesitate to drop this flashlight down a rock wall to my climbing buddy below. I imagine it will survive all but the most extreme tumbles.

The packaging reports the battery life at five hours, and my testing proved this true. I actually used the flashlight intermittently for a month or so and then ran it continuously for about five straight hours one day before the batteries finally gave out.

The flashlight also boasts a bulb that reveals the “true colors” of the objects it shines upon. I suppose this is true, though at night in the wilderness the light was so bright I couldn’t see what it was pointing at.

©Elijah Davidson

Pros

Bright
Light
Durable

Cons

Too bright
Not really hands free

In conclusion, I often question why I would carry a handheld flashlight when I could use a headlamp instead. The only benefits I can think of to using a handheld flashlight are the ability to point a light where I am not looking and the option of not blinding one’s companions (though it’s not difficult to aim one’s headlamp beam at the ground to avoid shining it in others’ eyes). The LightStar 80 sports a rubber “bite grip” for hands-free use, but it’s really only useful for short periods of time, not prolonged trail use.

That headlamps seem more conducive to backpacking and the fact that the LightStar 80’s packaging recommends it for “professional” use by electricians, mechanics, and whatnot, makes this a hard product for me to recommend for backpacking. It is a great flashlight for non-backpacking endeavors, though.

Tech Specs

80 lumen output
High CRI (Color Rendering Index) LED brings colors to life like no other LED you’ve ever seen
5 hour runtime
Rubber BiteGrip for hands-free use
Comes with 2AAA alkaline batteries and high tension, reversible pocket clip
Momentary on, click for constant on/off
Operates on 2 AAA alkaline batteries (included)
Water resistant
Aircraft grade aluminum
Length: 5.5in./13.97cm.
Diameter: .625in./1.59cm.
Weight: 2.24oz./63.50g. with batteries
Limited lifetime warranty
SKU: TLF-802AAA-BK
MSRP: $29.99

Manufacturer’s Website: TerraLUX LightStar80

Image courtesy of TerraLUX

 

Columbia Men’s Triple Trail Shell Gear Review

in Gear by

Columbia’s Triple Trail Shell wasn’t something I thought I needed. I own rain gear and I love it. I bought it during a four month stint in Glacier National Park the summer after I graduated from college, and it has served me well ever since through inclement weather in ten different national parks across the country. I bought it from a kind old lady in a locally owned outdoor gear shop in a small town in Montana. She told me she mostly sells gear to motorcyclists passing through who are ill-prepared for Montana’s lengthy rain and snow seasons. The gear she sold me then has certainly kept me dry. It has also been heavy, hot, and anything but stylish.

The more I’ve backpacked, the more I’ve come to favor traveling light (though not ultralight). Every time I’ve loaded my pack for a trip, I come to the point where my heavy  rain gear is laying on my bed and I’m staring at my computer screen weighing the weather forecast against my desire to travel as light as possible. I’ve chosen poorly more times than I’ve chosen wisely, both bringing my gear when it didn’t turn out to be necessary and leaving it behind when I could have used it. Furthermore, the times when I’ve both bought it along and needed it proved to be frustrating, as I often wonder whether I’ve sweat inside the jacket more than I would have been moistened by the weather.

I’m also a big trip backpacker, opting for two or three multi-night trips a year rather than lots of mini excursions. My school and work load often demands my weekends, so I fastidiously plan my wilderness retreats. As a result, I like my (expensive) backpacking gear to be functional in the urban wilderness of Los Angeles as well as in the mountains, deserts, and coasts nearby.  My old rain gear is not clothing I can wear to the office or out on a date with my girlfriend. I look too much like I’m about to power wash a parking lot.

Columbia’s Triple Trail Shell solves all three of these problems. The jacket is extraordinarily lightweight. I will never consider leaving my rain gear behind again. It packs down and folds up inside the hood and slips into my pack nicely.

It also breathes extremely well. I’ve worn it zipped up for hours in the San Gabriel Mountains near my home on misty 40-degree days, in the mountains of Utah in the snow when the temperature was in single digits, and on one intermittently drizzly day at the “happiest place on earth.”  I was continuously protected from both exterior and interior moisture.

Columbia’s Triple Trail Shell is also easily the most stylish jacket I own. I never hesitate to put it on as I leave the house. I’m a 42 regular, and the cut of this medium sized jacket is close and flattering. Stylishness isn’t really something I worry about in the backcountry, but when a jacket costs as much as Columbia’s Triple Trail Shell (MSRP of $300), it ought to do double duty on the trail and on the town. And it does. The svelte cut also works extremely well underneath a backpack. Nothing bunches, and my pack slips on and off with ease.

©Krista Woods

Brass Tacks

Does the jacket keep me dry? Absolutely. In heavy rain, thick snow, steady drizzle, and ever present mist, not a drop passed through this impressive impermeable. In an extra daring step of faith, I trusted my smart phone to the interior pocket, and it stayed dry and fully functional as well. Furthermore, the jacket sheds water excellently. Within ten minutes of the sun coming out or stepping into an enclosure, the jacket was dry enough to put back into my pack.

As an extra test, I donned the jacket and stood in my shower for about ten minutes one afternoon. I set the shower on its massage setting and pointed the stream directly at the jacket’s zippers. Eventually, water found its way through the pit-zips and the main front zipper, but if you’re the type who hikes in rain as heavy as what I simulated in my shower, you won’t mind the slight moisture that found its way inside.

Does the jacket keep me warm? Absolutely. Colombia’s Omni Heat technology is stellar. I even wore the jacket on top of only a t-shirt one day in temperatures in the teens in steady snow in Utah, and my torso stayed toasty all day long. My favorite of the jacket’s features are its velcro cuffs which fasten around my gloves and the thin thermal layer which locks in warmth but adds almost no extra girth to the jacket.

My only complaint with this jacket concerns the pit-zips. They are too high, and they dig into my armpits, making wearing the jacket slightly uncomfortable. The right arm is more invasive than the left, but both are troublesome. I’m broad shouldered, so I had my thinner framed roommate try the jacket on too, and he found the pit-zips annoying as well. With them unzipped, the problem goes away. I really didn’t mind the zippers when I only wore the jacket for a half hour to an hour at a time, but as the hours stretched into days, I found the annoyance to be unbearable.

Pros

Lightweight

Keeps you dry

Warm

Breathable

Stylish

Cons

Invasive pit-zips

Price

Conclusion

Columbia’s Triple Trail Shell has awakened me to my need for better backpacking rain gear. It is lighter, warmer, and more stylish than my old gear. It keeps me just as dry, and it is more functional. However, the painful pit-zips will keep me from using this jacket when I think I might be wearing it for more than an hour at a time. The armpits are the one spot where a jacket comes into continuous contact with a joint, and I did not appreciate pressure there for longer periods of time. At $300, I expect my technical clothing to be somewhat comfortable as well as functional.

Tech Specs

Manufacturer: Columbia

Date available: Currently on the market

Manufacturer’s Website: Columbia Triple Trail Shell

MSRP: US$ $300

Materials: Shell: 100% nylon 3L Heat; 89% nylon/11% elastane 3L Heat Cyberstretch

Size/Model tested: Medium

Colors Available: Black, Hot Rod, Red Element, Dynasty, Abyss

©Krista Woods
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