Dehydrated meals are the camping food industry’s apex predator. They’re lightweight, simple to make and sold at every outdoor retailer; all that’s required is hot water. But history’s taught us that convenience and quality usually have inverse relationships. We tasted five of the industry’s top brands to see whether an easy, delicious fireside meal was a marketing ploy or a reality.
12 States, 15 Hikes
With the Appalachians to the east and Rockies to the west, the relatively flat American Midwest doesn’t call to mind a hiking destination. But that’s dead wrong. Instead of coastlines there are lakeshores. Instead of continuous mountain ranges, there’s rolling loess higher than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. In the north, terrain varies from the Badlands of the Dakotas and the Pictured Rocks of Lake Superior; in the south are lush forests nestled between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Rethink the flyover states and hit the trailheads of the American Midwest — these fifteen are your starting points.
The two-pound wilderness bed
Hammocks are supposed to call to mind carefree days of swinging lazily in the shade of coconut trees, while gentle tropical breezes toss sea-green waves onto sugar-white sand beaches. We tested the Kammok Roo to see if the lightweight hammock delivers on this age-old promise.
Live From Salt Lake City
You know it’s time for another Outdoor Retailer show when South Main Street in Salt Lake City is populated by fat bikes, single-wheeled skateboards and tan people with good beards. We had boots on the ground at the Salt Palace Convention Center for the summer 2014 edition of the biannual product show; of everything we touched, tasted and saw, this gear stood out most.
15 Hikes, 13 States
The beauty of the West isn’t up for debate: it’s ubiquitous, grandiose and unchallenged. But hidden within these 13 states are secrets that can’t be seen driving an SUV through the “scenic” route. Only a true day hike can do the region justice. Consider this list your trailhead.
Maximizing the bare minimum
A guide to ultralight hiking: rethinking pack weight, preparedness, safety and more.
The Beauty of Bare Minimum
Obsessive weight-trimmers with less than 10 pounds strapped to their backs are considered “ultralight” hikers, a term as ubiquitous and unregulated in the hiking retail market as “organic” and “grass fed” are in the food industry. But trust us: the following gear truly is ultralight, perfect for those faithful to the church of long trails and little gear.
Where family hordes are far away
10 destinations for untouched landscapes without the crowds or bustle of Yellowstone — you know, the stuff you were looking for in the first place.
The Bear Essentials
You never know when things might take a turn for the worse. Match up to your skill level and ensure you’ve got the right basic survival gear with our survey.
Deadly Salmon, Banana Rafts, and other
We love outdoor adventures, but sometimes they don’t love us back. Five GP staffers discuss their scariest run-ins with the elements.
Catch Some Backcountry Zzzs
For the outdoorsman, home is wherever the ground is flat and somewhat free of rocks. These tents make those spots more comfortable than ever.
Bring An Enemy
Stick anyone next to a cliff and they’ll inch forward and peek over; put anyone in a supercar and they’ll double the speed limit. We all want to stay safe and comfortable, sure, but in those moments when we lose our footing and time slows to a crawl, we are undeniably living in the moment. Call it suicidal or call it truly living. Here are ten trails that return hikers to their baser need: staying alive.
Comfort in the High Country
These 10 sleeping bags make your duvet look like a washrag.
15 Hikes, 15 Days
These day hikes are not pretenders. We surveyed the northeastern U.S. to find the best 15 hikes, spread out across 9 states. If you have a car (in some cases you don’t even need one), you can find an accessible 10 miler with manageable distances, notable views and unique trails for a long, fulfilling Saturday.
Embrace your baggage
While the lifetime warrantee on your North Face pack from grammar school is meant to be honored, there’s something to be said for retiring before things unravel. Today’s daypacks will haul your climbing gear or your laptop over mountains and through airports. These are our favorites.
Lighting the way, from Yellowstone to Haiti
Goal Zero’s latest rechargeable lantern, the LightHouse 250 ($80), is a versatile light source suited for all regions of the globe. But does its on-paper usefulness translate to the real world? We tested it, from hand-cranking to device charging.
Live From Salt Lake City
We like to get our hands on new gear early, and short of theft and corporate espionage one of the best ways to do that is by checking out Outdoor Retailer, a biannual product show for retailers, manufacturers and other industry pros. We were on hand at the Winter Market 2014 show at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT, where every brand with a stake in the great outdoors showed off their future cold-weather wares. Of everything we touched, tasted and saw, this gear stood out most.
Comfort and sturdiness, put to the test
Over the years we’ve owned a number of different hiking boots in a continuous search for just the right balance of sufficient support, stability, and grip without being so rigid and heavy that they feel like Tony Soprano concrete specials. Recently we had the opportunity to try the BIOM Terrain Plus ($230) from ECCO, a brand we knew only as the maker of grandpa’s “most comfortable shoes you’ll ever wear!” Of course we were skeptical about where they would rate on that scale of comfort and stability — and, equally as important, whether we’d want to be seen wearing them on the trail.
Gear for the Granite State
Even when you’re sleeping in huts every night, hiking in the White Mountains requires considerable planning. With New Hampshire’s notoriously unpredictable weather, it’s wise to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That means shells for rain, layers for warmth and good footwear for all that granite. Here’s what we took on the final part of our Mountain Series, a three-day hut-to-hut excursion.
Own Your Wilderness Overnight
It doesn’t take much to pack for a day hike: throw on a coat, pull on your boots and tuck a beanie in your back pocket in case the weather turns chilly. But if you’re heading into the woods for more than a stroll, a little preparation goes a long way, whether it be technical fabrics to combat inclement weather, a portable stove to heat your three square, or dominos to entertain companions after the sun sets. We’ve got a selection of gear to get you started on your next multi-day hiking adventure.
We won’t all climb Everest. In fact, most of us won’t. That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy a good weekend under the stars — we certainly do. But, while there are sleeping bags made for extreme conditions (and even ones that hang from trees or that you can wear), you’re probably after something more straightforward. You want something that’s built well, that’ll keep you warm on a cool night and that you can take anywhere: Kelty Ignite DriDown ($200). Hands down, the Ignite DriDown is the best of the best, a versatile, quality, bang-for-your-buck sleeping bag.
Home away from home
A tent can be your portable backcountry palace or can just as easily feel like a nylon coffin with a view. Unless you’re looking to shell out a few thousand dollars to set up a basecamp in the Himalayas, the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 3 ($550) is your best bet for logging serious miles and catching serious Zs during your down time.
The log, upgraded
When you’re heading off the grid, a proper chair usually ranks pretty low on the list of gotta haves. Still, even the most hardened of campers can appreciate supportive seating when the fire is roaring and the back is aching from a seven-mile portage. Weighing in at less than your Nalgene (32oz), and fitting into a Dopp Kit-sized pouch, the Helinox Chair One ($90) is the latest innovation for cranky campers looking for a place to rest.
(Power) tenting tonight
When you’re hauling loads of climbing gear above twenty thousand feet, shaving weight is of the utmost importance. Multipurpose gear gets loaded up before any creature comforts even cross a serious climber’s mind. The designers at Eddie Bauer and Goal Zero had this in mind when they teamed up on the new Power Katabatic Tent. We break it down.
Tomorrow's Gear, Today
Every summer the outdoor industry gets together to show off their latest products and innovations for the next season — and every summer we drool over the best climbing, hiking, and outdoor gear money can buy. If you spend hours researching your next ultralight backpacking kit purchase, geek out over climbing shoe rubber, or spend late nights planning your next backcountry camping trip, the Outdoor Retailer show is a mecca. We were on hand to scope out the best gear for this fall and next spring so you can be first in line when the time rolls around.
Pack it in
From easy day hikes to multi-day treks, a good pack on your back can make carrying a load a joy (relatively speaking), especially if you draw the short straw and have to carry the extra beer on a five day expedition through Zion National Park. The perfect pack is a simple one: it carries everything you need and nothing you don’t. In practice, this is much harder than it seems and involves careful planning and design. Beware of the old trap. If you have the space, you’ll try to fill it with something. Whether you’re throwing gear together for a short hike to your favorite fly fishing spot or taking a month-long stroll down the Continental Divide, less is more. With that in mind, we’ve picked the best backpacks to put a few miles on this season. Features like load distributing-straps, rainflys and easy access to hydration all made the cut. Heavy materials, unneeded space, and dead weight? Not so much.
Not exactly roughing it
The vintage polished aluminum of Airstream Trailers is as recognizable as the curvaceous body of a ‘Vette. Nowadays, they transport everyone from happy families to celebrities; Felix Baumgartner even holed up in one before his stratospheric leap. Previously unchanged in its 82-year history, the newly released Airstream Land Yacht ($140,000) brings a new level of sophistication in materials and design to this classic roving hotel room.
Because they’re there
Mountaineering can be an intimidating sport to get into: all that gear, the dizzying heights and tales of frostbite-blackened digits aren’t necessarily warm and fuzzy things. But if you have the urge to sample the rarified air up high, there are still some peaks that are accessible to the novice alpinist right here in the U.S. Once you’re actually prepared, check (at least) one of these beauties off your list.
The Gear for Rainier
To take on our recent ascent of Mount Rainier, we rounded up some of the latest and greatest mountaineering gear. And after two days, 9,000 vertical feet of climbing and weather that ranged from downright scorching to subzero wind chills, we’ve got a thing or two to say about each piece. So whether or not you plan to use any of this gear in your urban, or more rustic, adventures, you can be assured we’ve put it all through rigorous testing in a worse place. Just don’t take an ice axe on the subway.