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Preview: Sierra Designs Flex Capacitors 25-40L, 40-60L and 60-75L

By Andrew Skurka / October 29, 2019 /

The original Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor backpack has performed and sold well since it was released three years ago. So Sierra Designs recently expanded the Flex Capacitor series with two new editions, while also updating the original. I was involved with the design and launch of the original Flex Capacitor. But I haven’t been affiliated…

Review: Gore Wear H5 Gore-Tex Shakedry Jacket || The holy grail?

By Andrew Skurka / October 21, 2019 /

Nearly four years ago we first heard about Shakedry, a new “permanently beading” waterproof/breathable membrane technology from Gore-Tex that eliminated the need for a DWR-treated face fabric and that purportedly wouldn’t wet-out. If true, that’d be a big deal, because it would solve one source of failure of modern rain shells. The North Face was…

Review: Salomon X Alpine Pro || For high mountain runs + high routes

By Andrew Skurka / October 19, 2019 /

For years I’ve been an enthusiastic user of Salomon trail running shoes, with my all-time favorites coming from the Sense family — the Sense Pro, Sense Pro 2, and SLAB Sense Ultra. But Salomon has never broadly or successfully extended the winning features of its trail running shoes — notably, the glove-like fit, reliable outsole…

Clean water on-the-run || Review: Katadyn BeFree Collapsible Filter Bottle

By Andrew Skurka / October 16, 2019 /

Motivated by the impending arrival of winter, last month and earlier this month I undertook five of the most fun and most adventurous trail runs of my life. Natural water sources were abundant during these 5- to 11-hour efforts, but I was skeptical of their quality. By late-summer in Rocky Mountain National Park and the…

How to navigate || Part 3: Watch, compass, altimeter & GPS device

By Andrew Skurka / August 28, 2019 /

Using just a topographic map, I can competently navigate in areas like the High Sierra and Colorado Rockies, which generally have distinct landforms and open views. Even so, for added accuracy and unusual circumstances, I also carry select navigational tools, personally a GPS watch, magnetic compass, and smartphone with GPS app. These instruments become more…

How to navigate || Part 2: Maps & resources

By Andrew Skurka / August 23, 2019 /

For my earliest hikes, I utilized whatever resources were conveniently available and that seemed sufficient. Before thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2002, for example, I purchased the ATC Data Book and downloaded the ALDHA Thru-Hikers Companion. And to explore Colorado’s Front Range the following summer, I bought a few National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps that…

How to navigate || Part 1: Navigator’s Toolkit + Navigation Mastery

By Andrew Skurka / August 22, 2019 /

Navigation is one of the most important backpacking skills, and certainly the most liberating. It allows you to drive your own adventure, rather than being a passenger. As a new backpacker with only rudimentary know-how, I was confined to backcountry thruways like the Appalachian Trail and high-use areas like Rocky Mountain National Park, where I…

Long-term review: La Sportiva Bushido II || Ideal for high routes, Alaska, early-season

By Andrew Skurka / August 21, 2019 /

The La Sportiva Bushido II ($130, 10.5 oz) is designed as an all-mountain trail running shoe. It may perform well in that application, but I bought a pair earlier this summer to instead hike in Alaska’s Brooks Range and on the Yosemite High Route in early-season conditions. Over a 5-week period I put 315 demanding…

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

By Andrew Skurka / August 19, 2019 /

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 /

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…