Into the Woods 2017 – Outdoor Gear Roundup Part II


Comfy and Cozy

Even on a gorgeous summer’s day, a sudden change in the weather can bring about an equally sudden change in your plans.  In Part II of this year’s Outdoor Gear Roundup, we look at the things that will keep you cozy, safe, comfortable, and dry when you head out for an adventure from shelter to clothing.

When it comes to tents there’s always been a tradeoff between size and portability.  Sure, there are lots of big tents.  There are lots of small tents.  But there are very few big tents that are reasonably portable.  That’s why we picked the Therm-a-Rest Tranquility™ 4 Tent. It comes in its own backpack, and while you might not want to lug it miles into the woods, it’s great for festivals or car camping when space is at a premium.  A backpacking tent built for the frontcountry, the Tranquility 4 is perfect for campers who desire a spacious and easy to use luxury shelter. Designed to provide convenience and livability in a compact package, it is 100% freestanding with integrated vestibules, an easy-to-manage rainfly, and set-up that’s so simple, just one person can handle it.  Price is $479.95.

Now that you’ve got a roof over your head, you’re going to want something to sleep in. The Therm-a-Rest Questar Sleeping Bag is a feature-packed down bag with comfort-enhancing hallmarks including SynergyLink™ Connectors, which integrate the bag with a mattress, and ThermaCapture™ Seams that trap your radiant body heat. Stuffed with water-resistant 650 Fill Nikwax Hydrophobic Down, and sporting integrated Quilt and Blanket Loops for sleep system customization, the three-season Questar is offered in three sizes, and designed to fit both men and women. Stuff sack and storage sack included. Price is $249.95.

Getting back to nature doesn’t have to mean abandoning all creature comforts.  Sleeping on hard ground is still one situation I like to avoid.  Air mattresses are a great solution.  They fold down small.  They are lightweight, but sometimes even the self-inflating models seem to take a long time to inflate. The Therm-a-Rest Trail King SV  claims its the fastest self-inflating mattress on the market. By combining SpeedValve technology with AirFrameConstruction, this mattress inflates in a matter of seconds. Plus, thanks to the auto-reversing SpeedValve, the mattress deflates at remarkable speeds. This unprecedented ease-of-use is fused with 2.5 inches of ultra-supportive loft and an R-Value of 1.8, making the Trail King SV a reliable and three-season mattress designed to save you precious time in the backcountry. Stuff sack included. Price is $129.95.

The Right Clothes For A Better Adventure

Most of us have been there.  A sudden downpour that seemingly came out of a clear blue sky leaving you wet and uncomfortable for the rest of the day.  The simple solution is a packable, lightweight, breathable waterproof jacket.  And nothing does that much better than the Helium HD jacket from Outdoor Research.  This 9 ounce Pertex® Shield+ Helium HD is built for flash storm protection. It’s completely waterproof, windproof and breathable, offers all smart features such as Adjustable Hood,  YKK® AquaGuard® Zippers,  Zip Chest Pocket, Internal Pocket Doubles as Stuff Sack,  Reflective Logos and Carabiner Loop so you can clip it to your harness. Price is $199.

If instead of a shower, you want to be ready for a monsoon, or a day of heavy sailing, the legendary Helly Hansen line offers its long cut Captain’s Rain Parka.  Among its many features: it’s waterproof, windproof and breathable, 2 Ply fabric construction, fully seam sealed, Durable Water Repellency treatment (DWR),  lined for comfort, quick dry lining. It has an attached hood with one hand hood adjustments, cargo style hand pockets, and chest pockets.  Price is $220.

For the woman looking to enjoy the great outdoors, Helly Hansen makes the W-Hild QD Pant.  These hiking pants are good for all kinds of active pursuits with nylon quick-dry stretch woven fabric with UV 50+ sun protection.  They feature a stretch knit waistband, button tabs that allow the hem to be rolled up, and gusset for extra movement, along with front patch pockets.  Price is $85.

An up and coming new clothing brand on the outdoor scene is RYU (Respect Your Universe), which specializes in technical fitness and training clothing.  Their RYU “CorLayr™ Ethos Pullover” is a mock turtleneck redesign of the classic sweatshirt.  It’s made with fewer seams for less bulk and less stitching.   Diamond underarm gussets, raglan sleeves and stretch enhance mobility. Plated fabric creates maximum stretch.  It’s made from plated 4-way stretch cotton knit for ultimate comfort. It has a front Kangaroo Pocket and a locker loop that makes it easy to hang anywhere.  Price is $137.

We’ve had the opportunity to try out a number of the merino wool based products from Ibex over the years.  The Ibex Men’s Essential V-Neck tee shirt uses a comfortable and durable combination of fine merino wool and silk to create a garment so light and sheer you may hardly feel you’re wearing it. It’s great for hiking, camping, running, or any kind of travel during these warm summer months.  Price is $95.

If you are a boater or a paddler, you probably know all about the reasons for having some dry bags on hand. You can strap them to a kayak or stuff them in a sailboat’s cabin. They also serve as a great way to keep your clothes and other gear dry inside your pack, especially if you don’t have a rain cover (and plastic garbage bags just don’t look cool).  You might consider a variety of sizes depending on your needs.  Some of the latest dry bags from Seal Line offer the ability to squeeze out air and also provide clear views so you can see what’s inside. They come in a variety of sizes, styles, and colors.  The Dry View bags range from 5 Liters to 30 Liters at prices from $29.95 to $49.95.

We’re going to mention some unmentionables here.  You’re just not going to be comfortable out on the trail if your underwear is uncomfortable.  Columbia Sportswear is now sporting Diamond Mesh Trunks.  These shorts have a number of features to keep you comfortable on the trail.  For starters, they have Omni-wick advanced evaporation – that pulls moisture away from the body and enables perspiration to evaporate quickly, keeping you dry and comfortable.  They are made with flat, anti-chafing stitches.  They are tag free, made from 94% nylon and 6% spandex.  And they have an antimicrobial treatment embedded in the fabric.  Price is $30.99 for a two-pack at

While we’re on the subject of unmentionables.  What do your socks smell like at the end of a day or two on the trail?  Now, there are socks that will take care of that. ScentLok claims their socks will absorb 100% of human odors by using Carbon Alloy® that combines activated carbon with zeolite and treated carbon to help adsorb a larger spectrum of odors as well as targeting specific odors better than ever before.  Not only can these socks make life a bit more pleasant for you and your camping buddies, but ScentLok claims the socks make it harder for animals to smell humans, thus making it easier for hunters to approach. The socks are available in a wide variety of styles, colors, and patterns. Prices range from $12.99 to $29.99.

A good pair of shoes makes all the difference on the trail.  An ill-fitting pair can mean pain, discomfort, even disabling blisters.  The Ridgemont Outfitter Monty has been created with rugged durability and urban aesthetic in mind.  It is a balance of classic design wrapped in a modern silhouette.  This style satisfies the needs of those who want a footwear option that combines the essential technical qualities found in a hiking shoe, yet is still visually appealing to wear for off trail adventures.  Incorporating a bespoke Ridgemont half cup outsole on an exposed EVA midsole with a heel stabilizer to ensure balance and comfort and a stylish upper made from oiled suede and high-grade nylon.  The Monty comes in both Hi and Low styles for men and women.  Price for the Monty Hi is $99.  Price for the Monty Low is $85.

A good pair of sunglasses is another trail essential.  Under Armour makes a variety of advanced sunglasses including the Octane Shiny Black Game Day Multi Sunglasses. Among its features: ArmourSight polarized lens technology provides enhanced, distortion-free vision edge-to-edge, Multiflection™ coatings guard lenses against scratches, smudges & intense sunlight. All UA Eyewear defends against 100% of harmful UVA/B/C rays. UA AutoGrip self-articulating temples conform to your unique head shape without the squeeze. Price is $99.99.

We also think a good hiking sun hat is essential as well.  We like the Columbia Sportswear Bora Bora II Booney.  This high-performance hat battles the heat, combining UPF 50 fabrication, which blocks out 98% of harmful UVA and UVB rays, and an Omni-Wick® sweatband and mesh vent panel, which is non-UPF, to keep you cool and the sweat from dripping in your eyes.  It has an adjustable drawcord and toggle at the back.  Price is $30.

Before I figured out that there’s a better solution, I would take my dirty clothes, put them into my sleeping bag stuff sack and use that for a pillow.  Thermarest’s AirHead Pillow is a lot smarter, and far more comfortable. Designed with lift and loft and just the right combination of firm and soft, the new Air Head Pillow will help you drift off—just about anywhere. Combining air and open cell foam technology, this innovative pillow is made with an inflatable, baffled core, providing a stable, highly compressible foundation. Then, to top it off, we add a luxuriously soft layer of open cell foam and cover the entire pillow in brushed polyester.  Price is $29.95.




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