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Backpacker Magazine – April 2009

Get This Gear: Essentials From A to Z

We tested more than 500 products–stoves, clothes, cameras, filters, tech tools, knives, and meals–to find these proven performers.

by: The Backpacker Editors, Courtesy Photos

PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L
M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | XYZ

C
Cameras

ULTRA-RUGGED Get those dramatic bad-weather shots without worrying about ruining your digital. The 10.1MP Olympus Stylus 1030SW is waterproof (to 33 feet), shockproof (up to a six-foot drop) and freezeproof (down to 14°F). It snapped excellent snowstorm photos in Utah's Wasatch Range, bright-sun shots atop Mt. Whitney, and sweet underwater video in the saltwater of San Francisco Bay. The processor is fast, and the razor-sharp LCD is big–2.7 inches diagonal. It has a nonextending lens with a 28mm-102mm zoom equivalent that's great for scenics and close-in action, and it rapid-fires 5.2 frames per second. The lithium-ion battery recharges in about two hours and lasts for about 200 shots. Bonus: A tap control allows you to navigate basic functions when you're wearing thick gloves. $300; 6.3 oz.; olympusamerica.com

BARGAIN The tiny, 10MP Canon Powershot A1000 IS covers a wide range of scenics and close-ups. Thanks to a versatile 35mm to 140mm zoom, it took sharp, richly colored landscapes in Utah sandstone country and excellent macros of insects. It also has image stabilizer technology, a reasonably short shutter lag, and video. It accepts SD/SDHC memory cards for storage up to 32GB, and AA batteries for go-anywhere power. Quibble: Like most point-and-shoot models, it autofocuses too slowly for quick action. $175; 7.2 oz.; usa.canon.com

Camp shoes
Flip-flop Toe-thong sandals are usually better in theory than practice when it comes to camp use. Not KEEN's Waimea H2. Equipped with a protective toe bumper and a wider than normal strap, it's the most wilderness-worthy flip-flop we've tried. A cork and compression-molded EVA midsole makes it comfortable enough for a two-mile walk from camp. $50; 15 oz. (w's 9.5); keenfootwear.com

Ultralight The Sanuk SUV is a minimalist slip-on with lugged tread–ideal for backpackers who want the most comfort for the least weight. The rubber soles are stout and grippy enough for short scrambles to a sunset view, and the tough canvas uppers are crushable enough to fit into a pack lid or pocket. $75; 8 oz. (m's 9); sanuk.com

River crosser With its sturdy mesh upper, protective toe guard, and self-draining, lugged sole, END's WOW is as ideal for slippery stream crossings as it is for kicking around camp. And because it has a cushy, supportive midsole, it can even be pressed into service as an ultralight hiker. $80; 9 oz. (m's 9); endfootwear.com

Carabiner
The stainless steel Nite Ize S-Biner is so infinitely useful (for rigging everything from camera gear to bear bags) that we gave it an Editors' Choice Award last year (4/08). The newest size, #5, holds up to 100 pounds. $4; 1 oz.; niteize.com

Chair
Chilling in camp? Do it better with Crazy Creek's Hexalight Power Lounger. The chair's back extends 22 inches for full spinal support, and the half-inch-thick padding cushions against rocky terrain. Bonus: Unfold the seat to create a minimalist three-quarter-length sleeping pad (great for kids or for bolstering your own pad's comfort). $56; 1 lb. 6 oz.; crazycreek.com

Chopsticks
Okay, we can't prove noodles taste better with Snow Peak's Carry-On Chopsticks. But who needs proof for an ounce of fun? These collapsible tools have gotten greener since we last reviewed them; the white ash is recycled from broken baseball bats. $30; 1.4 oz. (including case); snowpeak.com


Cocktail
Nothing beats an amazing day spent in the wild–but a cold margarita sure ends it in style. Packit Gourmet's Moonshine Margarita is our pick: Add tequila (chilled in a snowbank or creek), salt the rim of your GSI Outdoors Lexan Margarita Glass (pictured below left; $6; gsioutdoors.com), and say salud! $4; serves 2; packitgourmet.com

Compass
If you just want to find north, get any $5 compass. If you want to navigate, get this upgrade. Brunton's 8040G has a tool-free declination adjustment, a mirror for precise bearings and emergency signaling, and clear white letters that are easy to read (even by headlamp). The compass is tough and lightweight, and its deeper-than-normal, liquid-filled capsule means you don't have to hold it level for accurate readings. $40; 1.6 oz.; brunton.com

Cook kits
SOLO Here's a sweet package deal for ultralighters: Optimus's Solo Cook System. The hard-anodized .6-liter pot has a frypan lid and comes with a 3.3-ounce Crux Lite stove. The pot has an easy-pour spout and helpful volume gradations on the inside, and the burner boils a full pot in less than four minutes. Add a folding spork and small fuel canister (both fit inside with the stove) to create a complete kitchen that only weighs 8.1 ounces. $60; optimus.se

DUO Bulky cookware eating up pack space? MSR's Quick 2 System is a lightweight, smartly integrated set with everything a gourmet needs: 2.5-liter hard-anodized pot (think pasta), 1.5-liter nonstick pot (sauce), strainer lid, two deep plates, and two insulated mugs. $100; 1 lb. 12 oz.; msrgear.com

QUAD Stop raiding the kitchen cabinet for group trips. The GSI Outdoors Gourmet Camping Cook System has two nonstick aluminum pots (2- and 3-liter), each with a clear plastic strainer lid that improves boil times (with clear tops, you'll stop lifting the lid to check for bubbles). You also get a frypan and nesting table service for four (plates, bowls, and insulated cups). Bonus: The storage bag doubles as a sink. $100; 3 lbs. 9 oz.; gsioutdoors.com

Cooler
For post-hike beverages and car camping, nothing beats Fishpond's Ice Storm Soft Cooler. It's soft-sided for weight savings and easy storage, yet durable and effective: Ice inside barely melted during a warm weekend in the Rockies. Credit a thick layer of pliable foam sandwiched between layers of burly nylon and PVC. Key features: a shoulder strap and a rigid bottom for structure and stability. $80; fishpondusa.com


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Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star

READERS COMMENTS

Jun
Dec 28, 2010

What an excellent list you've put together. Honestly, this is by far the best essential gear list I have seen online so far. I am going to be buying several things off this list as both presents for others and treats for myself. So thank you for sharing this!<a href="http://www.bladehq.com/cat--Kershaw-Scallion-Knives--402">.</a>

Shane
Nov 13, 2009

Are you kidding me with the $30 chopsticks?? I thought this magazine was about appreciating outdoors, not marketing a bunch of needless crap.

Lost Keys
May 27, 2009

I use the nite ize s biner as a key chaine. I hook it to my belt loop. Numeros times my keys have fallen off. I usually can hear the sound of keys hitting the ground. On a recent end of Fly fishing adventure. I turned the car around to do a final check for any forgoten equipment. The metalic reflection came from the ground. I got out and there was the nite Ize S-biner. BackPacker Editors award and all. Spring not strong enough!

dropkick
May 16, 2009

How many backpackers do you know that carry $600 binoculars? Get real.

AN
May 14, 2009

I'm really surprised to see MSR's quick 2 system at the same time that GSI's dualist system is not mentioned yet it has the 2008 editor's choice and lighter than MSR's. This really makes me question the credibility of the whole backpacker's site that I have always had it as a flagship.

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