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Gear Reviews

Meet the Basecamp Gear Testers

Our newest crop of Backpacker gear-lovers is ready to hit the trail.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

A few months ago, we asked Basecamp members to send in applications to join our team of testers. We received a ton of awesome apps—from videos to laugh-out-loud essays to poems—and in the end, we picked six testers instead of the five we originally set out to find. Keep reading to meet the inaugural class of Basecamp gear testers.

Niki Jacques — Vancouver, British Columbia

I hike and camp in the 500-mile radius around Vancouver. Besides my normal single- and multiday trips, I do 3-4 day trips with my kids (this is required of each one of my kids once a year).


We live in the Pacific Northwest so we constantly deal with wet, damp, and soggy nights, resulting in wet and damp gear the next morning.  I also have a 125-pound Ridgeback that camps with us, so it always smells like wet dog in my tent.

I love to explore new areas. With the kids I tend to hike anywhere from 3-6 hours and then set up camp and do dayhikes. I like to be away from people and seek out more remote locations that only a few campers know about. I try to get as far away from busy tourist backcountry campsites, and I prefer more remote, rustic, and quiet locations.

I have sought out the mountains since I was a teenager. From multiday adventure races to what is now peaceful digital detox multiday hikes, as soon as I leave my car and start heading out into the mountains I remember what life is all about. It brings me alive, puts into perspective what is important, and makes me realize just how small we are and just how much exploring there is to do over a lifetime. My bucket list of backpacking trips is a mile long. There are simply too many places to explore before my time is up.

If I could make a living out of teaching people about hiking and camping in the outdoors, I would.

Debbie Turner – Winter Park, Florida (but looking to get back out west!)

I enjoy hiking in various terrain but most of my miles are on high plateaus or in the mountains. I will be backpacking in Patagonia in November 2020. I am a tent or tarp camper from the Everglades to the Tetons.


My love for the outdoors began with and has continued through:

– Family camping trips

– Summer trips to Canada

– Outdoor day camps

– SCA programs in Great Smokey Mountain NP

– NPS Park Ranger for 11 seasons in 3 western parks

– Education/outreach Specialist in Bryce Canyon National Park for nine years

– Hiking, backpacking, camping, biking, kayaking, kayak sailing, and paddleboarding

Brian McElwee —Newfields, New Hampshire

I try to minimize the amount of gear and clothing that I pack; I’m not a super-minimalist but careful to bring only the necessities. I prefer hiking and camping with my bride of 33 years, or just a couple friends—not into big group hikes. I prefer taking in the surroundings, not racing to the next shelter (with the exception of when there’s lightning in the area, which always gets the pace going).


I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, and wandered the woods for as far back as I can remember. Growing up we had some timber land in the northern part of New Hampshire, and we spent tons of time camping up there, swimming in a nearby river, and climbing the tallest trees we could find. The outdoors has always been my comfort zone, and it’s where I do my best thinking.

Liz Clafin — Oakley, California

I love all types of hiking and camping, from super “luxurious” car glamping to dayhikes to lengthy backpacking trips. I also love snowshoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, and trail running. Last year, I did my first snow camping trip.

I was raised all over the country and world and so I gained a love of travel from a young age. But I didn’t “discover” outdoor activities until I moved from Boston to Northern California in 2001. I started out dayhiking and then added in mountain biking and trail running. Car camping was common. It wasn’t until 2015 that I did my first backpacking trip (a JMT thru-hike!) and was completely hooked from there. Now I run a female backpacking Meetup group and am an ambassador for Hike Like a Woman and lead day hikes for their NorCal group. I hike and backpack as much as possible and do one week-long backpacking trip per year.

Jackie Wesch – Fairbury, Nebraska

I’m mostly a dayhiker that likes to go solo or with just one other person. I also like to keep a steady pace and get in as many miles as I can. I usually have a lightweight pack and gear (that fits my budget) but I will carry some extra weight if it helps me on the trail or means a little more comfort when I stop to rest (a two-person tent just for me).


I love the sights and sound of nature over anything else. Setting up my tent next to a stream and listening to it all night while looking up at the stars is what life is all about. My tent is my only shelter from the elements and sitting by a campfire talking late into the night is the best therapy there is. Getting up early and hitting the trail is a must.

My love for the outdoors started when I was a kid growing up on a small Nebraska farm. We had a pasture with a creek running through it that I absolutely loved. I spent my childhood days fishing and exploring in the summer while building snow forts and sledding down the creek banks in winter.

My love for hiking and camping didn’t begin until I was in my 30s, after I married my current husband. All it took was a good pair of boots and an awesome Colorado trail to get me hooked. I truly feel alive when I hike and I have grown to love it even more the older I get. My absolute favorite place (so far) is the Grand Canyon.

Mike Derdzinksi – Elm Grove, Wisconsin

My love of the outdoors started with the Boy Scouts. That’s how I experienced the outdoors— camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, canoeing—fully for the first time. As with most first-time experiences, it was glorious and memorable. Our parents shocked my brother Pat and I when they allowed us to take the car out west for our first backpacking trip (Maroon Bells Wilderness Area). We were a junior and senior in high school, respectively. 


The trip cemented our love for the outdoors, which continued when I met my soulmate, Karen. Her family had been camping in Wisconsin since the late 1930s. I joined her family for their annual trip to the Northern Highlands State Forest in 1976, and we have been camping there every year ever since then. Now we have our own family: two sons in-law, four grandchildren, and three daughters are carrying on the love of the outdoors.

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