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Archive | Small Essentials

My system for a mid-July thru-hike after a wet winter. On the steepest pitches, I self-belayed up or down with the axe, with the Pocket Cleats giving me a little bit of extra assurance on my foot placements. I think most backpackers would have wanted full crampons.

Reader Q: Do I need an ice axe or crampons on the Pfiffner Traverse?

A question from reader Stan P. of Alexandria, Virginia: This is a great question, because the answer is both nuanced and consequential. A multitude of factors are at play, and you want to be right — or else you’ll be carrying several pounds of unnecessary equipment, bailing off your intended route, or exposing yourself to excessive […]

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Eventually I settled on the Canon G9X II. I could justify its price, and it had all the features that I know I need, with some opportunities to grow.

Backpacking camera shopping: Two helpful questions

In my buyers guide for backpacking cameras, I identified the pros and cons of various options and discussed the optimal user profile for each. The guide is designed to help you settle on a specific form factor: smartphone, point-and-shoot, enthusiast compact, or interchangeable lens. Camera shopping does not necessarily get any easier from there, however. Within each category, […]

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Old and new: my heavily used Canon S100, right; and its replacement, the Canon G9X II. Size and weight are similar, but the image quality on the G9X is several levels better.

Buyers Guide || Cameras for backpacking: Phones, point-and-shoots, compacts & interchangeable-lens

Last week I spent many more hours researching and deliberating about the purchase of a new camera than any non-obsessive person ever would. While they’re still fresh and relevant, I’ll share some backpacking-specific buying and product insights that I wish I had found elsewhere. Personal context I primarily use my camera for backpacking, followed by […]

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At the lip of Knapsack Col in the Wind River Range, the south side of which holds a lot of snow. Personal comfort on snow is a big factor in the value-added of crampons and an axe. I was fine without them, but I know that others have struggled here.

Early-season backpacking || Merits of skis, snowshoes, crampons & axes

The early-season is a messy inbetween — it’s no longer winter, but not yet summer, either. Snowpack and cornices still linger in the higher elevations and on shady and leeward aspects, while snow-free trails are found lower down and on sun-blasted slopes higher up. This inconsistency presents backcountry travelers with a dilemma: What will be […]

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The new BD Spot headlamp (bottom model). Notice how its flood bulb (the upper-left one) is bigger than in the current Spot (top model).

Preview: new Black Diamond 300-lumen Spot headlamp

The new Black Diamond Spot headlamp will produce 300 lumens, which is a 50 percent increase over the current version (read my review). Its weight and size appeared unchanged, as does its single control button, unfortunately. The current Spot will become the new Cosmos, which represents a 25 percent increase in light output (to 200 […]

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The Black Diamond Spot is a solid all-around headlamp. It's bright, lightweight, versatile, and reasonably priced.

Review: Black Diamond Spot Headlamp || Bright, lightweight, reasonably priced

While in the headlamp aisle at the local REI last summer, I wondered if other customers felt fortunate for the recent advances in LED technology. The three models I was deliberating between were all less expensive, lighter weight, longer lasting, and brighter (by several factors) than the lights I had used for my thru-hikes in the 2000’s and […]

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Backpacking Gear Lists || First Aid, Foot Care & Repair Kits (Downloadable)

If I were to drop my first aid, foot care, and field repair kits directly into my master backpacking gear list, I would fear clogging it up. Already, the master list can be intimidating, and these kits contain dozens of items on their own. Moreover, their exact contents depend greatly on whether I am traveling solo or with a […]

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Rain pants torn by brush. Quick fix with tape. Long-term repair with needle, thread, and Aquaseal.

Gear list || Backpacking Field Repair Kit for broken, lost & worn out gear

Due to extended use, hard use, and sometimes human error, backpacking clothing and equipment will break, tear, and wear out. Personally, in the field I’ve experienced: Torn trekking pants, rain gear, puffy jackets, sleeping bags, and backpacks; Leaking seams on shelters; Bent, splintered, and fractured trekking pole shafts; Cracked sunglasses; Punctured and cracked water bottles; Dead headlamp batteries; Slow leaks in air sleeping […]

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