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Backpacker Magazine

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.
Gear Guide Essentials 200x170Gear Guide Essentials 200x170
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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