If you’re out on the Appalachian Trail (or any other long trail) over the summer, odds are you’ll find plenty of seniors who have the time to do a long trek and the desire get back to nature. Among the things that are utmost for their backpacking trip are keeping everything light and staying connected. We have compiled some products that combine the best of new and established technologies to keep the backpacker fed, comfortable, and connected.
Sleep and Shelter
Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO Tent – Your tent is probably going to be the heaviest piece of gear you carry, but tents always involve tradeoffs – keep it light, while strong enough to protect you in a variety of weather conditions. This new tent from gear maker Big Agnes combines strength, light weight, and new technology. It’s a roomie, superlight, three season backpacking tent with a double door/double vestibule floorplan. It weighs just over 3 ½ pounds. It features patent-pending mtnGLO® tent light technology using durable LED lights to illuminate the interior of your tent with enough light to sort gear, play cards, and hang out with friends without blinding them with a bright beam of light. Requires three AAA batteries (not included) to operate the mtnGLO® light controller. Light strand can also be powered by any USB source.
A simple push button controller with three settings – on, off, and 50% brightness – controls the mtnGLO® lights. The LED light strand is integrated into tent seams and is durable and flexible enough to withstand repeated tent pitching and stuffing. Other features include:
- Quick Stash on tent body door makes stowing unzipped door simple and easy. Steep wall construction and cross over pole improve tent interior’s living space. Media pockets located above sleeping area enable clean ear bud cord routing from phones or other devices.
- Storm flaps on vestibule zipper. Reflective guylines and webbing on tent corners. DAC pole system with press fit connectors and lightweight hubs. Plastic clips attach tent body to pole frame. Hub pole design.
Slumberjack Sojourn 20 Sleeping Bag – The Sojourn series features advanced sleeping bag technology. This is a lightweight, compact, warm and water resistant mummy bag rated to keep you comfy down to 20 degrees. The bag features dual zips, “arms-out” and DriDown™ technology. DriDown™ uses a proprietary treatment to create a hydrophobic finish on each down plume, allowing the insulation to stay dry longer, loft better, and dry faster than untreated down. Slumberjack’s unique “arms-out” feature allows you to keep insulation on your chest and head while freeing up both arms to manage tasks without leaving your bag. Dual zippers provide ventilation options and a relaxed mummy silhouette provides a combination of comfort and thermal efficiency. The bag we tried out, the long version weighs in at exactly three pounds, and is highly compressible, allowing you to pack your bag into the backcountry without taking up a lot of space in your pack. It’s available from Amazon.com for $179.95.
Thule Versant 70L Backpack – To carry all of your gear, you’re going to need a good and large backpack. Thule has been creating ways of carrying everything from bikes to kayaks to skis for years. Now the company brings Swedish design to backpacks. This versatile, lightweight expedition pack comes equipped with customizable hipbelts, easy access pockets, and a lid that converts into a sling. Perfect for those going on longer journeys and needing a little extra room. It has a StormGuard system that combines a partial rain cover with a waterproof bottom liner to create a fully weather proof bag that provides better access, keeps gear drier, and is more durable than a traditional rain cover. Available accessories include a water bottle sleeve and a hip belt pocket. It’s available at Amazon.com for $278.95.
Therm-A-Rest ProLite Self-Inflating Mattress – Getting a good night’s sleep on the trail isn’t always easy. This is the lightest self-inflating mattress we could find. Even the large, 72” size will only add 1½ pounds to your load. It comes in four different sizes. All are available from Amazon.com – the largest is priced at $109.95.
BioLite CookStove and BioLite CampStove – These two portable stoves from Bioliteenergy have several features in common and only one that sets them apart. Both use sticks and twigs as fuel, so you don’t have to worry about carrying fuel bottles or gas canisters with you. That will be a relief to anyone heading to their backpacking trip by airplane, since the TSA bans the canisters. Both stoves are a little heavier than some other gas powered stoves, but again, you don’t have to worry about bringing fuel, or running out of fuel. Both use a battery powered fan to force air into the burn chamber, which allows the twigs to burn with the same heat as a gas stove. The difference is that the CookStove battery needs to be recharged, while the CampStove has a thermoelectric system that uses the heat of the fire to charge up the battery and even power a USB port so you can charge your smartphone or other device. Weight of the CookStove is 25 ounces, while the weight of the CampStove is 33 ounces. The CookStove sells for $99.95 on Amazon.com, while the CampStove sells for $135.99. There are a variety of accessories for them, including a grill and a closed kettle.
MSR WhisperLite Universal Stove – If you’re looking for a stove that’s lighter weight and more traditional, MSR’s popular WhisperLite series has a lot going for it. The Universal model is a hybrid, able to use both gas canisters and liquid fuel, which may be a better choice for longer treks. The system makes it easy to switch between the two fuel types. You can use pots or pans of your choosing, so you are not bound to a fixed system. And the stove weighs in at less than 15 ounces. It’s available from Amazon.com for $137.00.
Bannock Packaged Foods – Bannock Outdoors is a division of the same company that creates Preparewise disaster preparedness food packs. Only Bannock Outdoors makes smaller packages specifically for backpacking, generally with 2½ servings per pouch. Bannock Outdoor Meals provide convenient, well-balanced meals that you can quickly cook in the pouch. For a variety, you might consider their Mega Sample Pack, which contains a 2½ serving pouch of all 10 Bannock Meals, from Peach & Berry Cobbler to filling Cast Iron Chili Macaroni. There are meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Price for the ten pouch sample pack is $90 on Amazon.com. Individual 2½-serving pouches run between about $8 and $12.
Platypus GravityWorks 4L Filter System – Fresh drinking water is always a concern on the trail. GravityWorks delivers four liters of filtered water in just 2.5 minutes with no pumping. Ideal for bigger groups, the system’s eight-liter capacity eliminates both the worry and hassle of keeping plenty of water around for anything you need. You can get attachments to make it easy to fill up water bottles.
Among its features:
- Lightweight, gravity-based microfilter system for backcountry and emergency use
- 2-micron filter is effective against protozoa, bacteria, and particulate
- CleanStream microfilter offers a fast 1.75-liter per minute flow rate
- Field cleanable design; 1501 liter cartridge life
- Weighs 10.75 ounces; exceeds the EPA guidelines for removal of bacteria and protozoa
Knives and Tools
Gerber Gator Premium Folder Clip Point Knife – A good solid camping knife is an essential tool for any backpacker. You’ll need it for countless purposes, including preparation of fresh game or fish. As its name implies, this knife has Gerber’s iconic Gator Grip.
The Gator Premium Sheath Folder boasts glass-filled nylon wrapped in a highly rubberized grip that keeps the control in your hands. Advanced technique coupled with a grippy reptilian texture delivers a reliable grip in any situation. The 3.6-inch clip point blade is a steady sidekick when things get messy. The blade itself is secured with a sturdy lock back that stays safely open when you need it, and safely closed when tucked away in your pocket or sheath. Machine polished and semi-mirrored, the blade and bolster offer stylish protection against corrosion. It’s available from Amazon.com for $85.52.
Iron & Glory Deluxe Carabiner – The Brooklyn-based crew at Iron & Glory have taken the classic carabiner and added a slew of must have tools to create the perfect clip-on multi-tool. Dubbed the Deluxe Carabiner, the tool is constructed from durable stainless steel and aluminum alloy that is designed to take a beating. In addition to the locking carabiner, this thing is outfitted with a small knife for daily cutting needs, serrated saw, and an LED flashlight. Measuring in at 3.35 inches and weighing just 3.5 ounces, the tool can literally be taken anywhere with ease. What we like most about it is that you can easily clip it to your pack or pants and have access to some of your most often used tools on a moment’s notice. Price is $25.
To light your way on the trail, or illuminate your tent, you’re going to need some lights. We found three for different uses with different power sources.
Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry Lantern – This is a compact LED lantern that comes in a small lightweight package that folds down to get even smaller. It weighs in at 5½ ounces. The legs fold up and the glob compresses so it takes up very little room in your pack. It runs on three AAA batteries. The LEDs have a 150 lumen output, but they are dimmable down to 30 lumens. They have both a white and red light mode to save your night vision. You can hang it from the built-in handle or from hooks on each of the legs. It’s available from Amazon.com for $30.
Petzl Pixa 3R Headlamp – This is a compact, rechargeable, hands-free lighting solution designed for frequent and demanding use. The built-in rechargeable battery can be fully charged in as little as 3 hours and can provide up to 12 hours of constant light in the Max Autonomy power configuration. Two additional power configurations give you the option of prioritizing power (55 lumens light) or balancing power and battery life. This headlamp provides reserve lighting for when the battery is almost dead, providing illumination of 5 meters for up to 2 hours. The Petzl Piza 3R Headlamp offers three lighting modes – one for close range work, one for long-range vision, and another mode adapted for movement. The headlamp may be worn on the head with the headband, attached to a helmet with the included mount, or placed on the ground. Available at Amazon.com for $128.98.
BioLite PowerLight Mini – This is an ultraslim clippable lantern that moves with you for on-the-go light and power. Slip it onto a pocket or strap and avoid harsh glares with BioLite edge-lighting, helping you see and be seen on the trail. A 1350mAh USB rechargeable battery provides up to 52 hours of light or a backup boost to your phone. It’s a headlamp, lantern, and bikelight all in one highly compact form. It has three lighting modes: white light, red light, and flasher. When you’re on the trail, you can use it as a backup battery by itself, or you can use a solar panel to charge the PowerLight. It weighs in at less than three ounces. A versatile stand can also be used to hang it inside a tent. It’s available at Amazon.com for $55.
To power all your lights and other gadgets, you’re going to need some portable power.
myCharge All Terrain Portable Charger – This rechargeable 3000mAh portable charger is rated IP68 military grade. The All Terrain portable charger is water-proof, temperature-proof, dirt-proof, and shock-proof. It’s designed to withstand just about anything in the great outdoors and features a built-in USB port. With a 2.1A output,, it is the perfect portable charger for smartphones or other USB devices. It’s small enough to fit into a pocket and of course you can charge it up with a solar panel as well. It’s available at Amazon.com for $31.95.
EnerPlex Jumpr Slate 5K – This is an incredibly slim 5,100 mAh battery that is perfect for placing inside a pack or clipping to the outside. The thin, lightweight (7 ounces) design is made possible by a Lithium-Polymer battery. Also, the Slate 5K’s tethered Micro-USB cable makes it easy to charge a variety of USB-enabled devices whenever needed. The Slate 5K:
- Comes with tethered Micro-USB cable for easy charging
- Charges smartphones, tablets, cameras, GPS, MP3’s and more.
- Binder holes to easily place in folders and planners
Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Solar Panel and Flip 20 Recharger – The lightweight, durable, foldable solar panel makes it easy to directly charge up any of your USB powered devices, including a phone, GPS, or rechargeable lights. Among its features:
- Charge phones and USB devices directly from the sun. Features a dynamic auto-restart and intelligent electronics that optimize output to match the device.
- Easy-to-read LED indicator displays strength of solar conditions. Receive immediate feedback on panel-to-sun placement to improve solar charging experience.
- Detachable kickstand provides optimum angle placement, natural shade for charging devices and a vented pocket for temperature regulation. Weatherproof layering easily sloughs rain and snow.
Features of the The Flip 20
- A Precharged backup battery for your phone – Small and portable, 5200mAh with a 2A output designed to give up to two full phone charges.
- Charge up on the go from Goal Zero’s line of portable solar panels. Charge in and out with pass through power.
- Flip USB for tangle-free charging from any USB port in 4 hours. Micro-USB cable included.
- Pass-Through Charging allows you to Charge the Flip and a phone all at once.
When you’re on the trail, knowing where you are, where you’re going, and how you are doing are all important concerns. We have devices that will help you on all fronts.
Garmin epix Outdoor Mapping Watch – epix is the first-of-its-kind, high-resolution, color, touchscreen GPS/GLONASS mapping watch with worldwide, shaded relief basemap and 1-year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription. You can get it with preloaded TOPO 100K maps. 8 GB of built-in memory supports additional mapping, including BirdsEye Satellite Imagery and regional TOPO U.S. 24K maps. The revolutionary stainless steel EXO antenna combined with GPS and GLONASS reception mean better signal strength and quicker position fixes.
The epix touchscreen display gives you fingertip pan/swipe access to vivid, detailed maps, including the built-in worldwide shaded relief basemaps. You’ll have plenty of room to add (and interact with) compatible maps, including TOPO 24K, BirdsEye Satellite Imagery, City Navigator® and BlueChart® g2 maps.
It has enhanced navigation capabilities using a new, high-sensitivity, EXO antenna technology that means better GPS signal strength and faster time to your first fix. epix uses HotFix® to access both GPS and GLONASS satellites for noticeably quicker positioning than GPS alone. Once the fix is made, you have access to a full menu of navigation features, including advanced track recording, track navigation, TracBack®, waypoint and coordinate navigation, Sight’n Go and point-by-point routing.
epix is equipped with auto-calibrating ABC sensors to provide relevant real-time information. The built-in altimeter provides elevation data to accurately monitor ascent and descent, while the barometer can be used to predict weather changes by showing short-term trends in air pressure. The 3-axis electronic compass keeps your bearing whether you’re moving or not.
epix is also a full-featured fitness training watch with all the functionality to keep track of how you are doing in terms of steps, calories, etc.
The epix color mapping watch features a rugged design with mineral glass lens and rugged PVD-coated surfaces. With a water rating of 50 meters, epix is designed to withstand some of the roughest conditions you’ll encounter. It’s also an auto-calibrated timepiece that both helps convey you to point B, and convey to others how serious you are about the outdoors.
Garmin Oregon 650t GPS – This is the latest upgrade to Garmin’s popular Oregon handheld GPS, long considered one of the best in its class. Among its features:
- 3-inch sunlight-readable touchscreen display with dual orientation
- Preloaded TOPO U.S. 100K maps with shaded relief basemap
- 8 megapixel autofocus, digital zoom camera with flash/torch
- 3-axis compass with accelerometer and barometric altimeter sensors
- Dual battery — 2 AA batteries or included rechargeable internal NiMH pack
With high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS satellite tracking, preloaded TOPO U.S. 100K maps, worldwide basemap with shaded relief, and customizable buttons for 1-touch image capture and waypoint marking, Oregon 650t opens a new world of GPS mapping and positioning.
You can take quality photos with Oregon 650t’s built-in 8 megapixel autofocus digital camera. Each photo is geotagged, allowing you to navigate back to that exact spot. Share the photos with all your friends through Garmin Adventures. For more storage, insert a microSD™ card. You can even view pictures from other devices on microSD card with Oregon’s picture viewer.
Oregon 650t has reflective display technology for the most brilliant, sunlight readable touchscreen Garmin has ever made. The screen is strengthened for impact resistance, with multi-touch and dual orientation views that accommodate gloved operation.
Oregon 650t features our state-of-the-art dual battery system. You’ll have the option of using the internally rechargeable NiMH pack (included) or traditional AA batteries — NiMH pack charges when the device is connected to external power, such as a compatible solar panel.
Oregon 650t comes with built-in US topographic data for the entire US, including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, and a worldwide basemap with shaded relief — all the tools for serious climbing or hiking. Map detail includes national, state and local parks and forests, along with terrain contours, elevation information, trails, rivers, lakes and points of interest.
With its high-sensitivity, WAAS- and GLONASS-enabled GPS receiver and HotFix® satellite prediction, Oregon 650t locates your position quickly and precisely, and maintains its GPS location even in heavy cover and deep canyons. Available at Amazon.com for $427.70.
Maven B.3 Binoculars – If you want to see what’s going on around you, these are premium, lightweight binoculars that reviewers say stack up against glasses twice the price, though they are certainly not cheap. They feature superior low-light performance, tack-sharp edge-to-edge clarity, generous depth of field, and a silky focus mechanism. They are compact, measuring under 5 inches long, and weighing just over a pound. The focus wheel is very smooth, and with the built-in diopter we were able to achieve perfect focus without using eyeglasses. The Maven B3’s are available in several magnification choices. We tried the 10x glasses and found the experience was just wonderful and ideal for the birds. Includes neoprene neckstrap and double-layered microfiber storage bag. Price is $500.
Editor’s Note: We had a lot of help in putting our “Into the Woods” segments together. We thank all of those companies that provided us with products. But we want to send special shout outs to the teams at Backbone Media, Hayter Public Relations, Verde Public Relations, and Erica Rosen at Bioliteenergy.