Field Notes: June 2015 - Backpacker

Field Notes: June 2015

Our testers review a bargain bag, a bombproof tent, and more.

Mountain smith Ptarmigan 35

Mountainsmith Ptarmigan 35
If the thought of spend- ing hundreds of dollars on a sleeping bag keeps you up at night, get this bargain-hunter’s dream. It doesn’t skimp on warmth or features, but keeps cost low thanks to proprietary, water-resistant synthetic fill. The full-length, two-way zipper turns 90 degrees at the footbox, which allowed us to wear the bag around camp in chilly temps or stick our feet out in hot weather. Vertical front baffles keep synthetic fill from drifting to the sides. Twin drawcords around the face ensure a snug hood fit, while a full-length draft tube seals out the chill. We were comfortable in temps down to 34°F; you could push it even lower by sleeping in your puffy. Tradeoff: weight and bulk (packed size is 8 by 17 inches). $120; 3 lbs. 1 oz.;

Hilleberg Enan

Hilleberg Enan
Can I buy this sample?” That’s the opening line on one tester’s evaluation form for this one-person tent. The Enan won him over because it’s a rock-solid shelter with an ideal space-to- weight ratio. Though it’s not freestanding, the canopy, fly, and strut supports are all pre-attached, so it pitches in minutes. And it can handle more than three seasons, thanks to its super-taut pitch and wind-shedding shape. We endured high winds (up to 40-mph gusts on the front), snow, sleet, and temps down to 0°F in North Carolina’s Linville Gorge. Our 6’2” tester found floor space (18.3 square feet) perfectly adequate; he could sit up in the center (37.4-inch peak height), stretch out, store some gear on either side of his pad, and cook in the 8.6-square-foot vestibule. Quibbles: We wish the black webbing across the door at ground level was reflective; it creates a tripping hazard even as it creates tension in the vestibule. And we battled condensation in both cold and moderate conditions. And yes, you need to camp alone a lot to justify the price. $625; 2 lbs. 5 oz.;


Stanley Vacuum Coffee System 1L
This complete coffee system contains all of the parts and pieces—includ- ing the kettle—you need to create the perfect cup of joe on your next basecamping or paddling trip (it’s too heavy for backpacking). Simply boil water in the cookpot/ kettle, drop in some grounds (cleverly stowed in the inner lid of the kit’s insulated bottle), and insert the French press- style filter. Smart: The bottle’s outer lid splits into two cups. “This is as good as the coffee I make at home,” says one java snob, “and it’s super-easy to clean.” $60; 2 lbs. 6 oz.;


[tech pick]
GOgroove BlueSYNC SPB
For 40 bucks you get a flask-size speaker that lets you listen to music (paired with your phone) or catch All Things Considered (the speaker has a built-in FM radio). It also acts as a speakerphone and the lithium polymer battery (2,200mAh) can re- charge depleted devices via a USB output. We got roughly 1 1⁄4 iPhone 6 charges off a fully juiced unit. Sound quality is average, and the battery lasts roughly 12 hours on one charge. Ding: We found the single control knob cumbersome. $50; 5.6 oz.;

Sunday Afternoons UV Trucker Cap

Sunday Afternoons UV Trucker Cap
If you prefer the Gilligan look, this review isn’t for you. If, however, you reach for your favorite ball cap when hiking, you’ll like this trucker hat with maximum 50+ UPF. De- spite the sun protection, this hat is ultra-meshy for max breathability. “No burning or swamp- ing, even on summertime Fourteeners,” a bald tester says. $26; 3 oz.;