Gear Up: Eight Products for Added Comfort

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Whether you rough it in a bare-bones backcountry cabin or hole up in luxe furnished digs, these gear picks will offer you the comfort you want and the safety and warmth you need in the great outdoors. Camping items are available through the manufacturer or at such major outdoor-gear retailers as REI.

-- Nathan Borchelt

-- Gregory Wasatch Backpack (; $79)

This 12-liter backpack is your go-to satchel for day-long forays on hiking and biking trails. Weighing in at 1 pound 5 ounces, it boasts the company's new Bio-sync suspension system, which mimics the way the body moves during high-intensity activities. The hip and shoulder straps have two flexible attachment points, rather than the conventional one, so the pack moves in concert with your body, much the way tendons help your body adapt to varying terrain. Other techie details include an integrated hydration sleeve that cinches close to the back pad to reduce sloshing, a water-resistant nylon shell, pocket organization and top and side compression for a streamlined fit. An 11-liter version of the bag for women is called the Navarino.

-- Berkshire Serasoft Blankets (; from $20)

Toss the rough cotton coverlet and transform a cabin bed into a plush cocoon with these cloud-soft blankets, made by a family-owned company in Massachusetts. They're machine-washable, non-pilling, durable and extremely lightweight. You'll be most impressed by the velvet-smooth feel that is soothing to trek-weary bodies. Available in 14 colors in four sizes, from a throw to king-size.

-- Platypus PlatyPreserve (; $13 per bag)

Finally, a way to carry wine into the wild without those burdensome bottles. Just pour your preferred vino into the plastic pouch, remove excess air to prevent oxygen from tampering with the taste and secure the airtight lid. The bag promises full protection from ultraviolet light with zero taste transfer and keeps the liquid fresh for days. When empty, it rolls up to the size of a Magic Marker. It even comes with a place to write the name of the wine, making cocktail hour prep even easier.

-- Therm-a-Rest NeoAir (; $120)

It may look like an inflatable pool raft, but that simplicity hides the fact that this 14-ounce sleeping pad represents a much-needed leap forward in the world of sleeping on hard surfaces. A patent-pending reflective barrier bounces your body heat back up, keeping you three times as warm as conventional mattresses, according to the maker. In addition, the pad's triangular core matrix technology (read: the inflatable bits are triangular, not circular) creates an internal truss system that offers substantial support. It also compresses to the size of a one-liter water bottle.

-- MSR Basecamp Camp Towels (; from $10)

If your bath towel is swallowing up your luggage space or you find yourself using dirty clothes to dry off, MSR has the solution. Its poly-nylon microfiber towels absorb more water than their all-cotton cousins, dry quickly and, most important, are incredibly compact (about as thin as a nickel and half the size of a standard towel). And, unlike some of the lesser versions on the market, they are soft on the skin and treated to prevent unpleasant odors after repeated use.

-- Jetboil Personal Cooking System and Coffee Press (; $100 for cooking system, $20 for coffee press)

Get that mountain coffee high. The one-pound Jetboil cooking system is a breeze to operate, even in a sleep-deprived state: Screw on the fuel canister, pour water into the insulated one-liter pot, ignite the fuel with the push of a button and doze for two minutes while the water boils. Then add the ground coffee, attach the coffee press accessory, secure the lid and let it brew. A few minutes later, simply drop the plunger and you've got French-press coffee, ready to sip through the insulated lid.

-- Adventure Medica l Kit S.O.L. Survival Pak (; $25)

Although the tongue-in-cheek abbreviation (which actually stands for "survive outdoors longer") implies a touch of whimsy, if you get lost on a casual day hike, you'll be happy you tossed this pack in your bag. The kit has everything you'll need to last the night (or several), including waterproof and windproof matches, fishing kit, survival whistle, compass, signal mirror, silver survival blanket and duct tape, of course. The company makes a variety of other travel and outdoor first-aid kits, as well as all-natural insect repellent and poison ivy treatment, quick-clotting bandages and other emergency items you hope to never need but should always have on hand.

-- Petzl MYO RXP Headlamp (; $100)

Headlamps may make you look like an overgrown Dora the Explorer, but try carrying an armful of firewood through the woods in the dark and you'll quickly understand the value of hands-free lighting. The new RXP is Petzl's first fully programmable headlamp, with 10 levels of illumination, from high beams for a night hike to a discreet glow when nature calls. The light also has burst and strobe modes and a flip-top wide-angle lens, making it one of the most versatile geek lamps on the market.

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