Gear Reviews & Previews

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Review: Big Agnes Insulated AXL Pad || Very light & comfy, not very warm

By Andrew Skurka / October 20, 2018 / 35 Comments

Until last spring, Big Agnes had no sleeping pads in its line that interested me. The pads looked comfortable, but they were considerably heavier than my time-tested Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite ($170, 12 oz). But with the AXL sleeping pad, Big Agnes caught my attention — its weight and thickness looked promising. The AXL comes in two…

Review: The Packa, hybrid jacket/poncho || A for innovation

By Andrew Skurka / October 18, 2018 / 12 Comments

When I wrote the Core 13 Clothing series, I was frustrated with the existing rain gear options. Manufacturers were (and still are, three years later) unquestioning of waterproof/breathable fabrics, which fall short of their hyperbolic claims; and there was little innovation in format, with everyone stuck on traditional jackets and pants. Subsequently I was contacted by Edward Hinnant (“Cedar…

Review: Osprey Exos/Eja backpack || Super comfy, needs hipbelt pockets

By Andrew Skurka / September 1, 2018 / 25 Comments

For two weeks in June and July I wore the new Osprey Exos backpack while guiding overnight trips in Rocky Mountain National Park. To accommodate a guide-sized kit and a full-size bear canister (which I prefer to pack horizontally), I used the largest of the three-pack series: Exos 38 ($180, 2 lbs 8 oz), for streamlined…

Review: Hanchor Marl backpack || Novel brand, clean look, core features

By Andrew Skurka / August 31, 2018 / 16 Comments

For nearly two full seasons a new Hanchor Marl backpack sat in my garage, waiting for the right opportunity to be taken out. It should not have taken so long, but it did — I was preoccupied with designing the Flex Capacitor, and I need more than 50 liters of capacity when guiding trips. Last month…

Review: Hoka One One Clifton 5 || Iterative changes from 4th gen

By Andrew Skurka / August 12, 2018 / 16 Comments

The fifth-generation Hoka One One Clifton 5 arrived in retail stores a few months ago, and the fourth-generation Clifton 4 (my review) is being phased out (REI clearance here). It is available in two versions: Clifton 5 ($130, 9.4 oz) Clifton 5 Knit ($135, 9.2 oz) I was sent the standard Clifton 5 for review. Both styles…

Preview: Salomon Odyssey Triple Crown || Altra Lone Peak alternative

By Andrew Skurka / August 8, 2018 / 17 Comments

The Salomon Odyssey Pro (my review) is somewhat unique: instead of being a trail running shoe that has been adopted by hikers, it’s a hiking shoe that has the comfort, breathability, and weight of a trail runner. In spring 2019 Salomon will release the second generation Odyssey, the Odyssey Triple Crown. The target market is not…

Preview: La Sportiva Bushido II || Go-to “high route shoe” gets better

By Andrew Skurka / August 8, 2018 / 13 Comments

The La Sportiva Bushido is designed for running on rugged mountain trails, but I’ve found it to be best suited for backpacking high routes. Most notably, it: Sits low to the ground, for stability on uneven surfaces; Features a stiff midsole, for kicking steps in snow and hard dirt, and for holding an edge on…

Preview: Sierra Designs High Route 2.0 || Smaller, but now just 27 oz for fly + inner

By Andrew Skurka / August 1, 2018 / 120 Comments

The Sierra Designs High Route 1FL was launched in fall 2016, and a second-generation will arrive in spring 2019. Its name will not change (i.e. not High Route 2.0 or High Route II), and the existing design will be phased out. MSRP remains $300. Most notably, the updated High Route is smaller than the original. Instead of being…

Preview: Black Diamond Distant Tent || Got ventilation?

By Andrew Skurka / July 31, 2018 / 8 Comments

Nearly all backpacking shelters from cottage manufacturers use trekking poles for support, e.g. MLD SoloMid, TarpTent Notch, and ZPacks Duplex. The explanation is simple: This saves weight over geometries that require dedicated pole sets, e.g. Big Agnes Copper Spur, REI Quarter Dome. Some of the weight must be given back to achieve a minimum of…

Preview: Big Agnes Carbon Tents || Dyneema for the (rich) masses

By Andrew Skurka / July 30, 2018 / 52 Comments

Originally published July 30. Revised November 10. My coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2018 begins with Big Agnes, which revealed new editions of three existing tent geometries: Fly Creek 1 Carbon ($800, 1 lb) and Fly Creek 2 Carbon ($850, 1 lb 2 oz) Tiger Wall 2 Carbon ($1000, 1 lb 9 oz)and Tiger…