Field Notes: North Face Propel Sleeping Bag, Asolo Power Matic Boot, Lanterns, and Vargo Titanium Sierra Pot

The latest word from our testers

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The North Face Propel (Courtesy Photo)

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Asolo Power Matic 500 gv (Courtesy Photo)

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Black Diamond Apollo Lantern (Courtesy Photo)

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Vargo Titanium Sierra 750 (Courtesy Photo)

Sleeping Bag | Boots | Lanterns | Multitasking Pot

Sleeping Bag

The North Face Propel

This lightweight synthetic 40°F bag is the choice for no-nonsense hikers who want a summer sack that’s compact and versatile. The Propel’s Climashield Neo fill compresses almost as well as down–stuffed, it’s the size of a volleyball–but dries quickly. For that reason, our tester chose the Propel for a sea-kayaking trip in Baja, when an unplanned dunking was a daily possibility. Features are spare but smart: A shortie zipper saves weight and bulk; the minimalist hood closes with scratch-free hook-and-loop patches; and a zipper at the foot allows you to vent the lower bag on warm nights. The wispy 15-denier nylon shell is light, showed no wear, and sheds condensation. The cut is roomy across the shoulders, which is great for roll-around comfort and big guys, but our 150-pound, 5′ 10″ tester found it made the Propel a few degrees shy of its temp rating. Consider it a 50°F bag if you’re a cold sleeper. $209; 1 lb. 10 oz. (regular); 2 sizes. (866) 715-3223; Reader service #107

Sleeping Bag | Boots | Lanterns | Multitasking Pot


Asolo Power Matic 500 gv

Go ahead and shoulder the heaviest pack on the roughest terrain: These boots can handle it. The Power Matic is one of the burliest hikers we’ve tested, with soles that are so protective and stiff you could walk on a bed of roofing nails and not feel a thing. Underfoot, Asolo uses three layers of polyurethane: a full-length bed for protection, an underheel cup to absorb shock, and a two-thirds-length shank to support the arch. After a big-load trek on Vermont’s Long Trail, our tester said, “These full-grain leather hikers provided more ankle support and sole stiffness than I’ve ever experienced in a hiking-specific boot.” Soft leather between the upper and lower tongue panels and at the ankle laces enhances forward flex, and the high ankle cuff is made from a supple leather that never chafes. Pulley-style laces cinch tightly, a Gore-Tex liner kept out all moisture, and the Vibram sole gripped well in wet and dry terrain. High rubber toe and heel rands protect the leather from off-trail bashing. These bomber boots take time to break in–give them at least a week of dayhikes–but after that you’ll be set for years. Best for hikers who weigh more than 200 pounds and who have medium-volume to medium-width feet. $280; 4 lbs. (pair of men’s 8.5); men’s sizes 7-12, 13, 14. (877) 888-8533; Reader service #108

Sleeping Bag | Boots | Lanterns | Multitasking Pot


Deluxe: Black Diamond Apollo Lantern

Meet the smartest LED lantern on the planet: Its dimmable light conserves batteries, and its folding legs make it compact. In our tents, the frosted globe emitted a warm glow that was perfect for playing cards. Our tester’s only quibble: “When you turn the light on, it blinds you in the high position; I wish the adjustment started low and let you ratchet it up from there.” In our tests, batteries (four AAs) lasted close to a week at the lowest setting. At the highest setting, however, batteries averaged 7.5 hours–half of the listed lifespan. $50; 11.2 oz. with batteries. (801) 278-5552; Reader service #109


Bargain: Coghlan’s Micro Lantern
This tiny lantern is the size of a D battery and costs little more than a deli sandwich. It’s not as bright as the BD Apollo for camp duty, but it’s a good tent light at a fraction of the price. $8; .8 oz. (877) 264-4526; Reader service #110

Sleeping Bag | Boots | Lanterns | Multitasking Pot

Multitasking Pot

Vargo Titanium Sierra 750

If you’ve ever had the privilege of camping with your grandparents, chances are they packed Sierra cups–those bowl-shaped aluminum vessels that hold cowboy coffee or chili equally well. This updated version–made of superlight titanium–is appealing to ultralighters looking for a stovetop pot that doubles as a cup/bowl. It holds 25 ounces and comes with a knobbed lid that has tiny straining holes on one side; our tester cooked his single serving of Ramen and strained out the water without spilling anything or burning his fingers. The handle folds away for streamlined packing. Caution: The rim gets hot in cup mode. $40; 4.5 oz. (877) 932-8546;

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