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Long-term review: Therm-a-Rest UberLite || 3-season pad for 8.8 oz

By Andrew Skurka / August 19, 2019 / 7 Comments

Therm-a-Rest revolutionized the sleeping pad category in the late-2000’s with the NeoAir XLite, which was lighter, warmer, and more comfortable than the prevailing self-inflating pads of the day. Use of the NeoAir technology was expanded, and other brands developed competing products, but the XLite has remained dominant among backpackers concerned with the weight of their…

Long-term review: Big Agnes Tiger Wall Carbon Tent || $1000+ fragile guilty pleasure

By Andrew Skurka / August 17, 2019 / 13 Comments

Over dinner at The Pump House in Fairbanks, I read to my co-guides — Alan Dixon, Flyin’ Brian Robinson, and Justin Simoni — the disclaimer-filled email about the Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 Carbon Tent, sent to me by BA’s PR firm: “The [Tiger Wall Carbon] is intended for only the most advanced users. Although…

Review: Black Diamond Iota Headlamp || Goodbye AAA’s

By Andrew Skurka / August 15, 2019 / 12 Comments

On most summertime backpacking trips, I barely need a headlamp: I can break camp, hike as far as I want, and find a new camp using just natural daylight. Most often, I need a headlamp for camp chores after long days; rarely, I use it to hike a few miles after dark. For nearly a…

Long-term review: Western Mountaineering AstraLite || Very warm & light

By Andrew Skurka / June 13, 2019 / 20 Comments

In a one-week period in April I fielded three inquiries about the Western Mountaineering AstraLite, which was released in spring 2018 and which I’ve used for about 30 nights while scouting the Yosemite High Route in August, guiding trips in Sequoia-Kings in September, and enduring cold-and-wet conditions in West Virginia in May. I will use…

Long-term review: Osprey Aether/Ariel Pro 70 || Tough mid-weight load-hauler

By Andrew Skurka / May 21, 2019 / 10 Comments

Recently I had to look through photos of the Great Western Loop from 2007. My, my, I had such a small and light pack. But the trend has been moving in the wrong direction ever since, and for about a year I’ve been using a pack that has more volume and weighs more than anything…

Long-term review: Black Diamond Rhythm Tee with NuYarn, innovative nylon/merino blend

By Andrew Skurka / April 24, 2019 / 17 Comments

At the end of a Black Diamond media lunch at Outdoor Retailer last November, I was given a t-shirt that we’d been quickly briefed about but that seemed like vastly inferior product seeding relative to the new powder skis and airbag packs that’d really wow’d us. I’m notoriously particular about my athletic clothing, and I expected this…

Long-term review: Saxx Kinetic Boxer Briefs || Pricey perfection

By Andrew Skurka / April 17, 2019 / 17 Comments

After my first trip last spring, I cut out the boxer brief liner of my favorite hiking shorts, which were designed for running and which I’d scored at Marshalls for $15(!) a few years earlier. The elasticized liner had lost its rebound, resulting in an imperfect fit and insufficient support. The shell was still in…

Book review: Thirst, by Anish || Honest & accurate depiction of PCT FKT

By Andrew Skurka / April 14, 2019 / 2 Comments

“Better her than me,” I said multiple times during Thirst: 2600 miles to home, by Heather Anderson (“Anish”) about her record-setting thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013, which she completed in 60+ days at an astounding pace of over 43 miles per day. This glorified diary is an honest and accurate depiction of…

Book review: The Sun is a Compass || Bellingham to Kotzebue, Alaska

By Andrew Skurka / April 8, 2019 / 5 Comments

Nine years ago I randomly met Caroline Van Hemert on a gravely beach along Alaska’s Lynn Canal, between Juneau and Haines. She approached as I was cooking dinner and soaking in a splendid sunny evening. It was kind of dreamy, I won’t lie — I was halfway into my Alaska-Yukon Expedition, and she was the…

Preview: Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2 || Lighter & stickier than predecessor

By Andrew Skurka / February 6, 2019 / 3 Comments

The Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2 will be available soon, in April 2019. This third-generation model remains purpose-built for long trail races and training runs, and the iterative changes seem entirely likable. Like most Salomon models, the Ultra is a neutral shoe that is designed for narrow and low-volume feet. But it has more forefoot volume…