Field Notes: The Latest Word from Our Testers

True-blue reviews on the latest items we've taken out on trail.

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel

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WOOLIES

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layers

After successfully tackling the retail biz, this online shop is now taking on manufacturing: Backcountry.com is making its own brand of competitively priced, lightweight wool baselayer tops. Both the long sleeve crewneck and zip-T (our favorite) are made of fine merino from New Zealand, which is soft, itch-free, and naturally more odor-resistant than synthetics, which typically employ chemical treatments to fight stink. The 18-micron merino (the fabric's quality is measured in micron size, with lower numbers indicating a finer, or softer, feel) is among the softest we've tested, making it an easy pick almost any day of the year. "This shirt will see me through every season: as a single layer in warm weather; solo under a shell when it's cool and blustery; and as a wicking base under multiple layers for cold-weather workouts," said one tester. "I'll wear it until it disintegrates." It's preshrunk, so the fit–which is snug without being too clingy–won't change, and after intensive use, the pilling is close to nil. Props go to the flat shoulder seams and the thumb loops, which keep sleeves from riding up when you reach overhead. On the zip-T, the 10-inch zipper offers good ventilation, and the 2.5-inch standup collar seals out neck drafts. Demerit: One of our three samples suffered a small tear near the thumb loop. $60-70; men's S-XL; women's XS-XL. (800) 409-4502; backcountry.com.

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel

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GERM GEL

All Terrain HandSanz
There are dozens of hand-sanitizer gels on the market, and we've tried them all. Like most of its competitors, HandSanz employs ethyl alcohol as its active ingredient. But unlike the rest–which typically use a synthetic polymer thickener called Carbomer–HandSanz relies on wood cellulose and vegetable glycerin, which act as a natural thickener that also moisturizes. The silky fluid kills germs, bacteria, and other nasties. The airport-security friendly two-ounce bottle is recyclable and can be refilled, cutting back on packaging waste. While we like the extra-moisturizing effect of the Aloe & Vitamin E formula, the fragrance-free version is our choice for bear country. $3 (2 oz.); $6 (8 oz.). (800) 246-7328; allterrainco.com. Check out our review of other hygiene products at backpacker.com/hygiene.

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel

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CAMERA CASE

Lowepro Tasca 20
This neoprene camera case stands out from the competition because of its wide mouth and magnetic closure; the combination lets you slip your compact digicam in and out easily and quickly, so you won't miss a shot fumbling with buckles or Velcro. It's also less bulky and lighter than many other cases, but still plenty protective. "I like its low profile," said one tester. "It fits inside a pants pocket, or I could clip the mini-carabiner to my belt loop without feeling like I was wearing a big holster." $17; 1 oz.; interior dimensions: 3.1 by 0.5 by 4.9 inches. (707) 827-4000; lowepro.com.

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel

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DAYPACK

Lafuma Nazca 40


Since our Rocky Mountain editor began testing the Nazca last December, it's edged its way into his go-to slot for dayhikes and minimalist overnights because it's light, rock-solid stable, and has easy-packing features. "The whole harness and back panel hugged tight even while I was stumbling, via headlamp, down the hairy staircase of Lathrop Canyon Trail in Canyonlands," he reported. A lightweight trampoline-style frame easily carries 30 pounds of gear. The packbag is simple but smart: a top loader with two zippered top compartments, and a large zippered front pocket for clothing and low-bulk items. Twin mesh wand pockets swallow food, gloves, and hats securely. And a single hipbelt pocket holds two small energy bars. The hydration sleeve is big enough for overfilled three-liter bladders. There's even a fold-out rain cover hidden underneath. All that, and the price and weight are both impressively low. $90; 3 lbs.; 2,440 cu.in.; one size (15.5-22-inch torso range). (303) 527-1460; lafumausa.com.

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel

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CAMP SHOES

Sanuk You Got My Back?


You don't have to be a surfer to kick back like one. Sanuk, founded by a beach bum, makes some of the most comfortable camp shoes we've tried. The hybrids have roomy canvas uppers (think shoes) atop a thick foam flip-flop bed (think sandals). They're as light as a pair of flip-flops and provide enough toe protection to bash around camp. "They're not as sturdy as a pair of Crocs," reports one staff fan, "but they're ultra comfortable after a long day." $48; 14 oz. (949) 794-8850; sanuk.com.

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel

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RAIN SHELL

Sherpa Adventure Gear Lekh Packable 3-Layer Jacket


Get no-compromise protection with this durable three-layer rainshell. At less than a pound, it's light and compressible enough (squashes down to the size of a Big Mac) to make our summer packing list, but its all-conditions waterproofness won't leave you wishing for a "real" shell if serious weather rolls in. The Lekh (rhymes with "speck") fended off New England squalls and its proprietary waterproof/breathable membrane breathed fairly well, even when a tester used the shell as a windbreaker on long, sweaty bike rides. Minimalist features include a small sleeve pocket, cinchable cuffs and hem, an adjustable hood, and two roomy front pockets (they'd be better if they were higher, above a pack's hipbelt). The front zipper is waterproof (albeit a bit sticky) and articulated elbows enhance a comfortable, high-mobility fit. Downside: The price is a tad high for this class of shell. Upside: The company donates at least 50 cents for every product sold to The Sherpa Education Fund, which provides scholarships for Sherpa children. $225; 14 oz. (men's small); men's S-XL; women's S-XL. (425) 251-0760; sherpaadventuregear.com.

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel

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TIE-DOWN STRAPS

Shockles ShockStrap


Forever fumbling with strapping gear onto your roof rack? You could buy a pickup (about $15,000)–or grab a pair of ShockStraps tie-downs ($33). The ShockStraps make short work of just about any rigging job. Just fling the nylon webbing over your load–kayak, duffel bag, cooler, whatever–clip it down on both sides with the carabiner (included), and pull to tighten the plastic buckle. The stretchy section of cord lets you crank down on your load–no futzing with complicated slipknots or roof-rack attachments. Smart feature: A built-in retainer cord harnesses excess strappage, so there's no flapping in the wind. $33/pair; adjusts from 24 to 60 inches. (888) 557-6464; shockles.com.

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel

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DUFFEL

Eagle Creek Take 2 ORV Trunk 28


A week's worth of gear, food, travel clothes, camera equipment, and other supplies stuffed into a heavy duffel can easily exceed 50 pounds, the weight limit for a single piece of baggage at most airlines. But that doesn't mean you need to schlep two bags around to avoid getting dinged with overweight baggage charges. The Take 2's twin main compartments instantly zip apart to create two separate bags. Bingo! You're under the weight limit. At your destination, zip them together for one-wheelie convenience. In other respects the Take 2 is a standard duffel, with a divider for dirt-laden boots and tough, foam-backed Cordura fabric. "I've never been a wheelie bag guy," said one editor, "but now I'm a convert. On a recent gear-intensive sea-kayaking and backpacking trip to Channel Island National Park, I got from the airport to the trails and back with smooth-rolling ease." Its rugged wheels survived a fully-loaded pounding down two flights of stone steps. Bummer: At 12 pounds, the rig is already a little heavy, which will haunt you if your airline is one of the few that now allows only one bag. $320; 6,050 cubic inches. (800) 874-1048; eaglecreek.com.

Backcountry.com Merino Base Layer | Handsanz Germ Gel | Lowepro Camera Case | Lafuma Daypack | Sanuk Camp Shoes | Sherpa Adventure Rain Shell | Shockles Tie-Down Straps | Eagle Creek Duffel