This Year's Favorite Gear
Washington Trail's staff spend a lot of time outdoors — and we try out a lot of new gear. Here are our favorites from the year that we love enough to recommend to you.
Washington Trail's staff spend a lot of time outdoors — and we try out a lot of new gear. Here are some of our favorites from the year that we love enough to recommend to you.
Few things brought us more joy this summer than jogging over to a lake’s edge and dipping a GravityWorks water filter in, knowing that in just over two minutes we would have 4 glorious liters of clean water.
This filter was the star of an eightperson adventure into the Enchantments in August. It even went along on many smaller trips, the convenience and ease of use far exceeded its weight. No more waking up early to squat awkwardly lakeside, pumping fresh water. All those years of backpacking, gravity could have been doing all the work, filling up water bottles, water for cooking and dishes, even sparing some to clean ourselves! rei.com, $120.
Gregory’s Deva is a pack that will last. It’s beautifully designed and rugged. We used this pack for yearround hiking and, except for some dirt, it looks brand new. Its multitude of pockets make it easy to keep all of your gear organized. A particularly nice feature is the water-bladder holder on the inside that slips out and serves as a simple daypack.
It’s perfect for overnight-trips when you plan to use a basecamp and head out for day hikes or quick scrambles of nearby peaks.
While the Deva is not the lightest pack out there, about 4.5 pounds, it will carry everything you need. And the fit is comfortable and stable, even with heavy, bulky loads. With three different sizes, 60, 70 or 80 liters, this is a great pack for those who like to bring luxuries or are perhaps carrying gear for kids. The pack comes with an included rain cover — important for Washington’s rainy season. rei.com, $300-$350.
If you want to lighten your load, the Osprey Eja (women) or Exo (men’s) provide well-fitting yet lightweight packs, in 38, 48 and 58 liter sizes. The pack features a mesh panel across the back. It’s pulled tight and reminds us of a trampoline. We found that it makes for a pack that stays close to the body and moves with you, without causing an excessively sweaty back.
We particularly loved this packs for trips that required a bit of scrambling — the pack stays in place. With all of the models weighing in at about 2.5 pounds, this pack won’t weigh you down. You can even strip a few more ounces by removing some of the straps and the top lid. When the top lid is removed, the pack still closes up nicely, thanks to a well-designed flap. The generous mesh panel on the front is particularly nice — it’s an easy spot to store items that need to dry or to stash a bulky outer layer.
We did miss the hip-packs on the wait belt, but it was our only complaint. The fit and light weight more than made up for that. This is a great pack for those carrying smaller or lighter loads (we carried just under 30 pounds, and found it ideal) who really care about comfort. rei.com, $180-$220.
Do you sleep cold? We do. And we worried that meant a quilt wouldn’t be the right fit for us. But the Hammock Gear Burrow proved that’s not true at all.
With a 20-degree temperature rating, the quilt has kept us warm and cozy every night in the backcountry. On a warm summer night, the versatility of the quilt allows you to stick a leg out or let in a draft to help keep the perfect temperature. The freedom of a quilt lets even the most restless sleepers toss and turn in peace without getting tangled in the confines of a mummy bag.
The Hammock Gear quilts are custom made when ordered, so you have an abundance of options to choose from for size, temperature rating, color and overfill. Not only does this ultralight quilt weigh in at a mere 21 ounces (for a short), it won't break the bank, either. hammockgear.com, $149.
Women have been using pee rags for years — it’s an excellent Leave No Trace alternative to toilet paper. Usually, pee-rags are simply a handkerchief. A new product, created by a Washington woman, takes the pee cloth to a whole new level.
The Kula Cloth is intentionally designed for outdoor activities. It’s made with antimicrobial, absorbent material on one side, and a waterproof layer on the other. It has a ribbon with snaps to attach it easily to your pack. Leave it open to let it dry in the air and the sun while you hike. Or snap it closed to keep it clean — particularly useful for those who don’t always remember to set their bags down carefully.
For day trips, simply toss it in the washer when you get home. For longer trips, pour some water over it (at least 200 feet away from a water source), ring it out and hang it to dry on a tree branch. The reflective ribbon makes it easy to find if you need it at night. It’s a particularly great product for anyone who wanted to try a pee rag, but felt a bit squeamish about the idea. It’s also great for kids. kulacloth.com, $20.
This jacket goes everywhere with us now. The Ascendant Hoody promises to keep you warm when you need it and shed heat when you don’t. It lives up to that promise, making it perfect for hiking on chilly days when you know you’ll be going up and down or in and out of the shade.
It has a supremely comfortable fit, with just the right amount of give to ensure it moves with you easily. The excellent fit also means it works great as an extra layer to sleep in on cold nights. The hood fits close without being constraining or blocking your vision.
The only problem is now we want two, one for the trail to get dirty and one for town to keep nice. The same features that make the Ascendant work great at retaining or dumping heat mean it also works great in town when you’re going in and out of the cold. rei.com, $249
More staff picks and Gear Tips
- Staffer Holly shares her tips for finding dirt-cheap gear.
- Some more pieces of our favorite pieces of gear, both new and old.