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Backpacker Magazine – April 2008

Backpacker Editors' Choice 2008

The year's best packs, boots, tents, jackets, and sleeping bags. Period. Plus, a never-die headlamp, a life-saving beacon, a back-saving ultralight chair, and more innovative, trail-tested gear.

by: The Backpacker Editors, Photos by Steve Howe

PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

If you see it here, it has passed a grueling test. All year long, we've been testing gear on trips from the canyons of Capitol Reef to the heights of the Himalayas. After narrowing the field to 25 potential winners, nine editors descended on Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park and Sangre de Cristo Range in November. Frigid temperatures, long miles, and tent-crushing winds narrowed the field even further, and a week later we emerged with a consensus: 14 Editors' Choice winners, plus one Gold Award for a timeless performer and two Green Awards for products on the leading edge of sustainability. And the winners are...

REI Quarter Dome T3 Tent
Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3
GoLite Adrenaline Bags
Spot Satellite Messenger
Gregory Baltoro Backpack
Everlite EL-8 Solar Headlamp
GSI Outdoors Dualist
Rab Latok Alpine Jacket
Westcomb Specter LT Hoody
Scarpa Kailash GTX Boot
Mammut Lucido TX1
Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit
MSR HyperFlow Water Purifier
Nite Ize S-Biner

Marmot DriClime Catalyst Jacket
Mountainsmith Phoenix

Marmot Ultralight Down Bags

PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

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Jennifer P
Oct 19, 2009

We bought and used the new SPOT messenger last week while crossing the Sierra Nevadas on an eight day backpacking trip and it is terrible! We sent ~20 messages to family and friends across 8 days to let them know we were okay in a dangeruous storm, and TWO went through. Family and friends were worried. The worst part is that we came close to using the SOS/911 button and I now don't think it would go through. My brother spoke with the search ane rescue folks at the park when he did not hear from us and they confirmed that the SPOT devices are unreliable and not safe. I'm sending mine back today and cancelling the subscription. REI shouldn't even carry a safety device that is this poor.

Aug 31, 2009

Not sure why people have issues with the SPOT, I'm on my 2nd year using mine and love it. I use mine in the Montana Rockies in varying weather, rough terrain, valleys, peaks, etc. The device just has the same limitations as a GPS. The OK and Help features work well, I've been able to send both reliably. The Tracking feature is the only one with variable success. Unlike Help/Ok/911 a tracking message only gets sent once, regardless of success, they may not get through. You will also have to keep the SPOT on the outside of the pack to get tracking to work well. This is all so tracking doesn't run the batter down. I recently used tracking on a week long trip and the batteries (lithium) are barely used.

Pack your brain and your SPOT and help out your local SAR when they need to find you.

Jul 30, 2009

Doug Ward: Do you have the "SPOT" I will be traveling to COSTA RICA and was looking at getting this, if you have it does it work?


Feb 27, 2009

I always go to the Editor's Choice section FIRST!!! It has saved me countless hours at the local REI trying to figure out what's what. So Thank You Backpacker for being there and helping those of us who are not "self - proclaimed" gear experts. I have always found your advice to be right on track. Thanks Again

Feb 24, 2009

The MSR debate is really frustrating. I tend to post about products that have failed in the field as compared to raving about expensive gear that worked as advertised. I hate to think MSR money created this award. I have to believe that the MSR award was based on that product working. However it is wrong of BP to use a single filter for the test given the history. At least ten filters need to be field tested - preferably 30. The thing has been strongly panned by folks that had issues. The issue significantly is that it stopped filtering almost immediately and could not be cleaned.

Steve Howe
Feb 10, 2009

Yo Ron, Just an fyi. The EC testing trip is only for the final elimination and discussion of EC candidate stuff. The whole process runs about 5 months, beginning when new products are rolled out at the Summer Outdoor Retailer show in August, and continuing until the very last deadlines (In the case of 09 EC, that was about two weeks ago).

So, that being said, yeah, I've been through Sonoran thornscrub (not a fan of the thorns, though the Sonoran is definitely cool), and your offer sounds intriguing...I'll follow up.
Feb 05, 2009

Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park and Sangre de Cristo Range in November, what kind of testing grounds are these for equipment? You might as well test equipment in the parking lot of Wal Mart. Steve Howe has obviously not been to the thornscrub in the Sierra Madre of Sonora. We are leaving March 16th to look for jaguars, if you are interested Steve. Leave behind your equipment endorsements, all of them, as we will pay your way.

Bill from Florida
Feb 03, 2009

I have a SPOT and it seems to work great. Even on the dash of the car it will track and works without a problem. I do agree the blinking light user interface is a bit lacking, but it does work as I expected-- especially when there was no cell service.

Jan 12, 2009

I purchased the Baltoro 70 because of the recommendation from BP and it is by far the best pack I have ever owned. I actually returned an Atmos 65 because it was uncomfortable and bought the Baltoro 70. I just got back from a trip that I carried around 35 lbs over about 8 miles and it seriously felt like I wasn't carrying anything at all. Great recommendation Backpacker!!

Robert Perkins
Jan 07, 2009

I'm not sure what standards you use for editors choice awards, but I can't believe the MSR Hyperflow would make it. I used this on part of the Sierra High Route in clean, silt free water and it was totally USELESS after a few liters of water. I followed their instructions on back-flushing to no avail, I was fortunate that I was in the high Sierras and I didn't really need to filter my water anyways. Fortunately I bought this at REI and they took this piece of c*** back. Don't waste your money!!!

John Barton
Jan 05, 2009

Methinks Mr. Reason needs to have his lithium dose adjusted.

The Voice of Reason
Jan 01, 2009

If there is one thing I can count on Backpacker for it is their complete disregard for product testing. SPOT is a a piece of JUNK (!!!)...except....if you're standing in an open meadow with nothing overhead. Oh yeah, make sure you hold it horizontally and not on your belt vertically as the antenna is meant to work horizontally. Since Backpacker can't seem to do a valid test, read any number of online tests which claim this technology is simply not worth the $150 for the unit, $150 for the service, the weight, and the what, 50% chance (at best) that it will work for you. I don't even want to mention the poor functionality, the lack of clear functions (blink little light, blink!), etc.

One other thing about Backpacker, GOOD GOD GUYS, figure out what light and ultralight actually means and break your habit of reporting about nothing other than the mainstream vendors (The North Face, Mountain Headwear, Kelty, etc.) as there are plenty of great cottage industry manufacturers out there who make better and lighter stuff (i.e.,,,,,, etc.). SHEESH!

Steve H.
Dec 22, 2008

Hey Hector, I've been thinking about visiting El Junque for years (Trailside did a show there way back when). I'll propose it for upcoming editorial. Thanks for the reminder. And Feliz Navidad hombre!

Hector J. Gonzalez
Dec 21, 2008

When are you guys going to include el Yunque National Park. The rainforest @ Puerto Rico in your articles. Some countries go through endless summers and this place is one of them. Right now is 79 degrees F. Thanks a lot for your support.

Dec 18, 2008

For the -50 sleeping bag I agree, go for a Wiggys bag, made in the USA and guaranteed for LIFE. Plus their -50 bag is really two bags; a summer 40+ overbag that fits over the winter bag of your choice. I like mine a lot, but it's only a 0 degree.

Dec 11, 2008

People, people, people. Some of us have taken a negative turn or are at least a bit spoiled. I, for one, have grown to appreciate the Editor's Picks. There is a ton of gear out there, some good, some poor and some great and BP helps weed through it. Back in the dinosaur ages when I started backpacking in scouts (I'm 44), a waterbottle was a metal canteen or bota bag. High tech was when my younger brother spent an entire weeks worth of lawn mowing to buy a plastic waterbottle. It left a bad aftertaste, but was the cutting edge. Things have come a long way in a short while. In the space of a few years, the quality ON ALL FRONTS is much better. The rising tide floats all boats. Backpacker has helped encourage the improvements in quality. Of course, if a product does well their marketing department will sell the manufacturer add space. How else could a magazine stay in business. Now, I appreciate that they have people of different shapes, sizes and geography test the products. But the real test -- as far as I am concerned -- is when I use ANY product in the field or even at home. If I go back to it time and time again, it is a winner. I bet the editors of BP expect you to understand that these are their recommendations, not commandments. Oh by the way, you can now find a better waterbottle in EVERY convenience store and pop machine for the price of the soft drink, vitamin water or gatorade and they don't leak. Also, I'm not a novice. I have proven Editor's picks for myself on my successful Rainier climb, Mt. Hood, Northern Michigan, Honduras and the ultimate test of fixing the plumbing with the aid of a great headlamp.

Dec 06, 2008

To person who wants -50 degree sleeping bag. Look into Wiggy's. It doesn't pack down. But it will keep your ass warm. literally.

Dec 01, 2008

Wanted...A 50-degrees below zero sleeping bag?! Any help...

Nov 29, 2008

Anyone know where I can get a new set of knees-free?

Nov 18, 2008

I have the SPOT and the EL-8 everlite and they both rock. Next on my list is the Baltoro 70.

Dan Johnson
Nov 07, 2008

Used it on several hikes and outdoor adventures. Very easy to use, and gives everyone back home a peace of mind. Bought it on a recommendation from - now running a holiday promotion for $80.

Nov 01, 2008

Wow, I came here to read real reviews about this light to help make up my mind and you band of roving jackals just use this to talk about unrelated pansy @$$ BS.

What a freaking waste.

Doug Ward
Oct 31, 2008

I hate to tell some of these guys but Backpacker is not ALL advertized product bias.
This isn't the Faux news of outdoorsmanship.
Something that might not be worth a crap in my jungle guide work might work great on the AT in NC or Virginia.
I live in the jungles of Costa Rica and have purchaed many items the editors have recommended for YEARS... Many years. Like when Herman survivors were the best boots !
Ford sux !
No Chevy sux!
No Mopar rulez.
Give it a break. Opinions are
Many people posting " comments"

don norton
Sep 19, 2008

How can you recommend HyperFlow water filter? It is hard to believe that you used this filter for six months with no problems. You must have gotten one (that MSR supplied that was a special model just for you) that is one of a kind there are plenty of blogs on the internet telling of all the problems they had with the filter. And I can say form experience with the filter it is not worth two cents it clogged on me after filtering about 4 liters of water. Ihave to rate it a no buy

Judy Visty
Aug 12, 2008

For those wanting to visit a national park and not rent a car, it is possible to shuttle from Denver to Estes Park and then to take a local (free) shuttle into the park from most of the downtown area up to great trailheads. For more information, contact Rocky Mountain NP information office at 970/586-1206. The shuttle is a relatively new service and the town of Estes is trying to get the word out that it is a town with options for those traveling without a personal vehicle. Services are primarily offered in the summer.

Aug 02, 2008

BP should do an article on how to access hikes from airports (shuttles, buses, etc) so you can fly into an area and go backpacking without the cost of the car. There are usually shuttles to ski areas, aren't there? I flew to Seattle to hike Glacier, and am going to fly to Portland and hike Mt. Hood.

Wake up guys
Jul 30, 2008

To the 3 guys above, WAKE UP! Welcome to America where everything is about cars, money and nothing else. So if you want to go somewhere without having to rent a car AVOID that country and if you don't like poeple that those everything for there own benefit, just Google outta here.

Logan McCay
Jul 24, 2008

Just wondering. I would love to see an article about best places to visit without having to rent a car. I am planing a trip and hate the idea of renting a car just to have it sit. The Tetons are great but what is out there? I need idea to get from the airport to the trail head. I wanted to go to Kings Canyon but am having no luck finding a way outside of renting a car, to get from the airport to the park.

Jul 23, 2008

Do NOT follow the spam link! It sells something unrelated to this sleeping bag review. (I'm intentionally not describing what in order to avoid helping their Google rank)

get real
Jul 21, 2008

I'm not the original poster Mr Obvious - But wake up this whole site is about promoting the products that fill their ad spaces, You should see all the ads of the products that "won". There is no objective reviews on this site. AS for the gear of the year award winners - Lets just say backpacker magazine has a case of you scratch my back I'll scratch yours, mr. manufacturer. That my friend is what you should be crying about. Wake Up!

Mr Obvious
Jul 07, 2008

thats a lame way to hide self promotion, NETWORK ADMIN please delete the above posts about

Jul 01, 2008

I am outdoors often and I read the review and discussion here before purchasing. There is a long list of FAQs that addresses many details at the web site below.

This has been a great addition just in case something goes wrong. Originally I bought it for personal safety and to trace my own tracks, but it has also provided an unintended benefit for family and friends who can track my progress.

I ordered one from - got a prompt response to my inquiries, a 50% off coupon for the tracking service. The price of $135 included shipping as well. Highly recommend the unit as well as the vendor!

Dan R. Long Beach, CA
Jun 30, 2008

Amen to James K!

Sam Farrington, Chocorua NH
Jun 26, 2008

Bigfoot is certainly right about the 99.9% marketing, which seems to have pushed out all genuine concerns about design and quality (Example, the demise of our auto industry). For most items, consumers can go to Consumer Reports, but for BP gear, not so. What are we to think when the reviews of the SPOT are totally contradictory in this site and the one that serves ultra light BPers? They both can't be right. This is why I've come to design and make most of my own equipment, which frankly, is a drag. You cannot imagine how long it takes to do a full tent on the sewing machine. There are so many better ways to spend time, and I would, if the BP gear were well designed and constructed for lightweight packers. But no, they seem to feel they can skimp on that end, just push the marketing, and all will be well. At least there are some small industries which make good stuff, but you have to hunt for them. The internet has helped with this a lot, however.

David Perkins
Jun 26, 2008

I have the Baltoro 70, and recently took a week trip through the Superstition Mountains in Arizona. After bushwhacking through Cat-claw Acacia (which shreds most gear) and hauling about 45-50 pound loads through trail-less brush-choked canyons, I'm a believer. This is the best pack I have ever had. Aside from some minor tugs at the concealable mesh water-bottle carrier, this pack doesn't show a scratch. I had the previous baltoro, and this one fits better.

James K. - Troy, VA
Jun 26, 2008

I'd LOVE to see BACKPACKER start covering lightweight stuff. Marketing, and marketing alone, is responsible for 99.9% of the gear recommended by BACKPACKER. Personally, when I go backpacking, I'm not going into a war zone. I'm not going to throw my pack off a cliff. My tent isn't going to be in 80mph winds in the artic. Sure, some people do, but they are the exception to the norm. Basically, I don't need bullet-proof stuff...and therefore, I don't need to carry a 6 pound tent with a 8 pound backpack, and a 5 pound sleeping bag, etc. Backpacking is about getting out an exploring - which becomes a LOT less fun when you're carrying an unnecessary and excessive amount of weight. Let's get back to the grassroots efforts which started backpacking, take off the over commercialized and over marketed blinders, and test/recommend gear which ultimately makes the "entire" trip more pleasurable for the "average" person. Several years ago I commonly carried 40-60 pounds of stuff I thought I had to have. Now I can get it under 10 with the same stuff, just lighter. My stuff can't withstand a day on the surface of the sun, but it doesn't need to either. Think about it, if you're carrying stuff that serves the same purpose, isn't the only thing that remains a true pain about backpacking the WEIGHT of whatever you're carrying?

Jun 25, 2008

I second Big Foot's comment. How about boots for women with long, skinny feet? If I get them long enough, I slosh sideways (wearing 2 pairs of socks).

Big Foot
Jun 23, 2008

Good to see the many editors choices but it's time to start considering those of us who don't quite fit the mold of the normal size American male or female body. I happen to wear size 14 (U.S.) or 49 (European) boots. Perhaps I am just sensitive but it seems your editors' choices in substantial backpacking boots don't seem to cover a broad size range. Same might be said for the "Perfect System: Southwest" fiveten camp fours in your March 2008 Gear Guide issue.

Otherwise, I enjoy your magazine and website.

Jun 22, 2008

good work

Walt B.
Jun 19, 2008

Hey, what about the best backpacking wheelchair? Backpacking alone in a chair can have some funny moments...

Cheers, N. America's Disabled Adventurer.

Jun 19, 2008

Hi , Can you give what the total weight of a Backpack would be or somewhere close, My e-mail Thank you kindly Angel

Dan Bryce
Jun 18, 2008

One major problem I have with most tents are the poles, specifically the bungie cords and inserts. There are folding tents available, but they all have their own problems, usually that their hinges are bulky, heavy, cheap plastic or metal that pinch your hands or the tent fabric. That is why I invented a small, lightweight-but-strong hinge specifically for tent poles. This is a new concept and a new company, and I am trying to drive links and traffic to my website, Check it out, and email me with any comments you might have! I hope to start marketing these by Aug/Sept 2008. Hopefully, you will see them at your local outdoor equipment stores by next spring!



Andy M
Jun 18, 2008

[i]It's either wander around in the wilderness until you either figure out where you are, or call for help which may cost big money.[/i]

Or you get a GPS. The SPOT is there to do a specific job and it does it well. Yes it would be great to have one single device that does everything but the SPOT does what it says on the can.

Jun 17, 2008

Jun 15, 2008

All the people that tested these boots either have flat feet or did not backpack very far with these boots on. They have the smallest amount of arch my feet never hurt so bad

May 29, 2008

Apparently it never occurred to the manufacturer's of the Spot Satellite messenger that a common trail emergency is G E T T I N G L O S T!

They put GPS in the Spot but NO COORDINATE READOUT! What would that have cost? An extra 10 bucks maybe? An email from the manufacturer said they have no plans to include this feature.

It's either wander around in the wilderness until you either figure out where you are, or call for help which may cost big money.

Which Editor's choice award did this device win? Lamest Gadget?

May 29, 2008

Apparently it never occurred to the manufacturer's of the Spot Satellite messenger that a common trail emergency is G E T T I N G L O S T!

They put GPS in the Spot but coordinate readout! What would that have cost? An extra 10 bucks maybe? An email from the manufacturer said they have no plans to include this feature. It's either wander around in the wilderness until you either figure out where you are, or call for help which may cost you big money.

Which Editor's choice award did this device win? Lamest Gadget?

May 24, 2008

What stove would you suggest to use with the GSI dualist cookware?

May 21, 2008

Love my Marmot Helium EQ. Super light, super lofty, super toasty. Great for all weather. Zipper is magnificently crafted to stay zipped without creating a pressure spot. Hood and muff nice and snug without causing claustrophobia.

May 20, 2008

Hey Amanda,
I have the Deva 60 - a bear cannister will fit into it decently, especially if you have compression sacks for larger things like your sleeping bag. Also, bear cannisters can be bought with corresponding bags that have all sorts of loops, etc on them - so you can affix the cannister to the outside of the deva (top or bottom, I like bottom) if you can't fit it inside.

also, most back sizes refer to back length. take a soft measuring tape to get your exact measurements. go to and check out the expert advise, it'll tell you exactly what to do.

i bought the deva in a small, fits great.

good luck!

May 20, 2008

can I bear canister fit easily into the Deva? I'm hiking the JMT over a three week period and have NO idea what pack to take.
any suggestions?

S. Taylor
May 19, 2008

I am 5'5" tall and I bought the woman's adrenaline size regular from GoLite's website. There wasn't any size indicator in the product description. Since the average woman is 5'6", I ordered the regular, thinking the short was for petite women (5'2" and smaller) I had to send it back because it was way too long. The short size is for women 5'6" and smaller. Regular size is for women 5'7" to 6'. Apparently, GoLite seems to think the regular sized woman is over 5'7".

May 19, 2008

I just have to say that I totally agree with the award that the MSR Hyperflow filter recieved. I recently got my own, and while I have not yet used it more than once or twice, I have not and will not be dissapointed with it. The pressure and speed are amazing, and you can't forget (or can you...) how light and small it is, easily hiding in your pack! A great filter by MSR.

May 18, 2008


Jeremy Bernfeld
May 18, 2008

Ya me to -

mike wise
May 16, 2008

i would like a copy of the 2008 gear guide also. thanks

Kevin J. Severa
May 14, 2008

Do you have a copy I could buy of your 2008 Gear Guide?

Please let me know and I will send payment info and mailing address.

My address is:


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