The Gear Wars Trilogy, Episode 2: Return of the Jaded

My short list of current go-to schwag

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I admit it, I’m jaded about gear. That’s to be expected after you work in outdoor retail for 13 years, then test and review stuff for another two decades. But when I find great equipment it’s full-on love. Here’s the current “from my cold dead hands” list. And since you can easily find these tasty items on the internet, or at a good local specialty store – happy shopping.

–Leki Carbonlite Trek poles. Most graphite poles we test break winthin days. Not these. I’ve used them from desert to Denali. They weigh a trifling 13 oz. per pair. The grips and straps are super comfy, length adjustment is secure and easy, and the three-section pole collapses to a short 24 inches for a compact carry. Yeah, they’re $200, but high-end aluminum poles are going for $170 these days, and for serious mileage junkies, it’s cheaper than a hip replacement (which I might be facing soon). Bonus: You don’t have to worry about lightning as much when you’re cowering under the tarp tent.

–Osprey Variant 52 pack. An excellent mid-size alpinist’s pack, and perfect for mountain-focused weekends. Full-featured but not overbuilt, it’ll take all the crampons, axes and skis you can throw at it. The suspension is comfy and stable, and it strips down to about 2.5 lbs for summit climbs. Sweet for standard backpacking too. 3 lbs. 12 oz., $199.

–Black Diamond One Shot tent. This single-wall Epic by Nextec solo tent uses the standard two-pole rectangular design, with a side door that’s perfect for Roman recline cooking and gazing. It’s pricey, but last year I coughed up and actually bought one, because it’s easy to pitch, plenty waterproof (once you seal the seams), the weight makes bivvy sacks obsolete, and damnit, I didn’t want to return my test sample. 2 lbs. 5 oz. $300.

–Mountain Hardwear Spectre SL sleeping bag. This 20F bag has 800-fill down, a nearly seamless waterproof-breathable cover, and welded-rather-than-stitched internal baffles. There are other welded-seam WP/B bags out there, but these are the most weatherproof we’ve seen, thanks to the fabric, thorough taping, and generous overlapping zipper flaps. That’s why it won an Editor’s Choice in 2004-ish. You can literally sleep in the rain and stay dry, although testers still don’t recommend the experience. Other models come in 0, -20, and -40 ratings. 3 lbs. $415.

–Brunton Flex Folding Stove. This tiny stove has wide pot supports for group cooking or winter snow melting, a wide burner head for even heat and high btu output, and a neat neoprene case that nestles it into the concave bottom of a blended fuel canister. I use it for winter camping too, by keeping the cans warm in my sleeping bag. 3.4 oz.; $117.

–Evernew Ultra-Light Deep Pot .6-liter. This tiny, beer-can-sized billy weighs a mere 3.4 ounces. With a folding stove and small canister, total weight is 11 oz. It’s just large enough to boil a Lipton noodle dinner, and the top forms a small cup for morning bloatmeal. The fold-out handles are stable for pouring and never heat up. It’s perfect for solo ultralighters. $37

–Kayland Apex Rock boots. Super nice, eVent-lined alpine rock climbing boots that are also comfy on trail thanks to their supportive but supple flex and decent toe room. Light, dry, sticky, edgy and just plain versatile. My “Sunday go to meeting” boots for rugged off-trail packing, Teton-style climbing and three-season crampon use. $299.

Got your own fave item? Now’s your chance to boast. Just click your way into commenter fame below.

Next episode of Gear Wars: Common design flaws us testers hate.

— Steve Howe