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Stay warm in the woods

20 and Counting Down: Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags

Nothing ruins a backpacking trip like a terrible night’s sleep (or a lack of clean underwear, but if you can’t figure that one out you’re beyond our help). A good sleeping bag is the key to staying warm and dry when you’re crashing under the stars — so you’re at your best crossing that next 8,000 foot mountain pass. Sleeping bag tech has made its way into the space age in the last few years: your 20-year-old bag from summer camp or the Boy Scouts is no longer up to snuff. Here’s our list of the best 20°F (or below) bags to ensure comfort and safety for three-season camping.

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Tough as an actual axe

Kickstarter: Alpaca Adventure Guitar

The Alpaca Guitar more like “I’ll pack a…” than the animal, but we’ll assume that’s what they were going for. The Kickstarter project is all about turning everyone’s favorite campfire fun into a nigh unbreakable, waterproof piece of hiking gear.

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Alpha Industries ✕ Ace Hotel Fishtail Parka

The M-65 waterproof fishtail parka was first used by the U.S. Army in the Korean War as a lightweight shell to keep soldiers dry. The design allowed soldiers to wrap the back of the coat around their upper legs for ease of movement and more waterproof surface. Recently the “hope I’m cool enough to stay here” Ace Hotel teamed up with Alpha Industries — known for military-inspired casual wear — to revive the storied coat. Retaining the classic M-65 style while updating it with a washed nylon shell, stay-dry seams and modern lines means you can throw this on and hike through unknown forest and muddy embankments before strolling directly into the board room, unscathed. Don’t whine to us if the muddy boots give you away, though.

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Serious Camp Solutions

Bush Smarts

Holding on to heritage for dear life while still being picky about efficiency, quality and practicality is taking the tough path — but produces the kind of results we dig. Bush Smarts, a New York-based builder, designer and sourcer of prime camp gear, has created a library of outdoor gear that eschews flash and gimmick…

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Sittin' pretty

Best Made Camp Chair

Best Made Co.’s latest camping accessory is made in the USA from solid white oak, duck canvas and solid brass hardware, producing a vintage aesthetic that would look right at home around both your grandfather’s campsite and yours. Since America’s not getting any lighter, the Camp Chair ($185) is built to support 350 pounds, both in chair or stool mode.

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Don't carbonize these ones

Wondermade Marshmallows

Wondermade Marshmallows ($8) shatter the conventional s’mores mold with their diverse line of flavored addiction cubes sugary treats. Boasting a perfect spongy consistency, these handcrafted marshmallows challenge the pallet with a bouquet of unique flavors like gingerbread, peppermint, s’mores (s’mores inception?), pumpkin pie, Guinness and bourbon. A smartly designed box accomplishes the sole mission of…

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A different kind of pole dance

MSR SureLock TR-3 Trekking Poles

If you’ve ever used trekking poles with friction locks, you know they can be fickle and finicky — slippage and tedious adjustment are par for the course. MSR’s SureLock TR-3 allows you to navigate frequently changing terrain with an on-the-fly two-finger length adjustment system. That means no removing the gloves or poles from your hands to unlock, adjust, and re-lock your sticks.

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12 gifts for the adventure seeker

12 Guys of Christmas: The Adventurer

He shows up at Christmas dinner with new scars and less digits from his latest cage dives and winter Alpine ascents. His tales, most of them true, scare Aunt Betty to tears and enchant the kids. And while the adventurer’s gifts for you usually amount to a carved tribal trinket or a rock from a…

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Big bucket bag

Marmot Urban Hauler

Backpacks are ubiquitous, and sometimes too many pockets just means… too many pockets. In the case of the Marmot Urban Hauler ($50), less is more. Based on a centuries-old Japanese fishing bag, the Urban Hauler is as simple as a pack can get, short of a brown grocery bag and duct tape. Made of UpCycled…

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Short Ground

Olukai Mauna Lalo

The classic hiking boot never grows old, but sometimes a bit of fashion-driven change is welcomed. After all, you sport most of your woodsy fashion flair at the coffee shop, dontcha? Less a couple inches of leather than your standard hiking boot, the Olukai Mauna Lalo ($225) hiking shoe is just the right combination of…

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12 gift ideas for the active adventurer

12 Guys of Christmas: The Outdoorsman

The outdoorsman on your list is easily identifiable: he’s rarely home and smells faintly of man sweat and wood smoke when you do catch him between excursions. His particular passion falls within an extensive of range possible pursuits (noodling for catfish, anyone?), but one thing is for certain — he does them outside. His look…

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Tablecloth and candles not included

Snow Peak Ozen Solo Table

After a rough day of solo backpacking and exploration, nothing rejuvenates like a good meal. Unfortunately, going it alone out in the field doesn’t always lend to the best of creature comforts. The Snow Peak Ozen Solo Table ($50) provides a level surface on the ground or in your tent and should at least make…

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Jump starting your adventure kit

Gerber GO Bag

Whether it’s for your bug-out bag or your hiking kit, the fundamental survival items — knife, flashlight, multitool, your bag itself — make up 98% of what you’ll use and anchor your camp/hike/escape. The Gerber GO Bag ($274) gives you the whole kit and caboodle. Not only does it provide a laundry list of quality,…

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Base camp beacon

L.L. Bean Lighthouse 30-Day Camp Lantern

Camping is one of America’s great pastimes, and some die-hards do it through all four seasons. But whether it’s 90 degrees and swampy or so cold the lining of your nose freezes, you’ll always need some good light shed on the situation. The L.L. Bean Lighthouse 30-Day Camp Lantern ($60) won’t just brighten things up…

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Bright where you want it

Kelty LumaTwist Lantern

Whether you’re in the great outdoors when the sun goes down or at home when the power goes out (thanks, Hurricane Sandy), proper portable lighting can make the difference between life and death — or at least help you figure out where your next meal (or bath) is coming from. Sometimes a flashlight (narrow beam)…

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Cyclops with brains

Petzl NAO

The latest in automotive headlight technology is downright impressive. Adaptive headlights turn with the steering wheel, high-beams deactivate when oncoming traffic approaches and self-leveling low beams move when the road angle changes. Why can’t headlamps follow suit? No more complaining: the Petzl NAO ($175), an adaptive and rechargable headlamp, seems to work in conjunction with…

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Short shorts not required, or desired

The North Face Back-to-Berkeley Low Down

The North Face Back-to-Berkeley Low Down ($110) hiking shoes are a perfectly executed throwback to a simpler time, when bell bottoms and hang-glider-sized collars were all the rage. But their retro good looks belie the cutting-edge technology infused throughout: a waterproof suede and polyurethane coated ballistic mesh upper, an inner HydroSeal waterproof membrane liner, 100g…

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At your beHEST

DPx Gear HEST II Survival Knife

Once you start toting a knife in your EDC, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Cutting, prying, and oh-so-important meat-slicing — you’ve never had it so good. There are plenty of fantastic utility knives for that kind of work — but they don’t quite cut it when you move out of the concrete…

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You Are My Sunshine

Design Spotlight: AE Light SolarMine Emergency Lantern

The Boy Scouts of America’s motto is simply “Be prepared”. They’re spot on: failing to do so can lead to some seriously bad outcomes when true disaster strikes. The AE Light SolarMine Emergency Lantern ($115) is made to give you light in exactly that unfortunate occasion, and having proved itself during Japan’s horrific 2011 earthquake…

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Leather legacy

Danner Mountain Trail Left Bank Boot

Boot technology has come a long way since the days of Sir Edmund Hillary, but some things, like a vintage-style hiking boot, should never change. Danner, in collaboration with Tanner Goods, has made an exemplary modern classic in the Danner Mountain Trail Left Bank boot ($350). Made in the Portland, Oregon Danner factory, this special…

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Pin a Tail on Your Donkey

Dinoot Modular Camping Trailers

Unless you’re fastpacking, any trip involving more than two people (kids, especially) maxes out vehicle cubic space before you run out of things you need to bring. Dinoot Modular Camping Trailers ($789+) let you take everything on your list, plus everything on your wife’s list, too. With modular, build-as-you-go setup, each trailer is customizable to…

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Porta-chopper

Best Made Co. Duck Canvas Axe Case

A list of locales that are not axe-friendly: your kid’s preschool; any school, for that matter; certain churches, chapels, mosques, temples and cathedrals; Apple stores. For everywhere (ok, not everywhere) else, there’s the Best Made Co. Duck Canvas Axe Case ($110+). This perfect answer for card-carrying axemen is designed with safety and protection in mind,…

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Don't bury this one

Hardcore Hatchet

Often, when you’re a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. So good on Hardcore Hammers for busting their own paradigm with the Hardcore Hatchet ($45). The move is a natural one for the hammer makers — from one artful, useful expression of wood and metal to another. Like their hammers, every hatchet is individually…

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Style Pick: Diemme Roccia Vet Vesuvio Suede boot

Italian shoemaker Diemme has been crafting fine footwear for mountaineering, trekking, military, safety applications and hunting since 1992. But a tradition of practicality doesn’t mean their products aren’t stylish. The Diemme Roccia Vet Vesuvio Suede boot ($400) is evidence to that effect. Originally created as part of their hunting line, the Roccia Vet Vesuvio is…

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Zen lighting

Snow Peak Mini Hozuki Lantern

The Japanese are known for minimalist design and intelligent engineering; Snow Peak embraces those values in its new Mini Hozuki Lantern ($40). Styled after a traditional Japanese paper lantern just like its larger sibling, the Hozuki Lantern, the mini Hozuki is an elegantly simple battery-powered camping light that weighs all of 2.4 ounces, lasts up…

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Pull the wool over your eyes, and everything else

OFS Limited Edition Military Blanket by Faribault Woolen Mills

A good blanket is an unsung hero both at home and in the field. The OFS Limited Edition Military Blanket by Faribault Woolen Mills ($170) is the latest addition to our Linus-like arsenal. Faribault Mills is the oldest manufacturing facility in Minnesota (we hear it gets pretty cold up there), having been around since 1865….

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These boots were made for walkin'

Danner Tektite Plain Toe Boots

Danner, the famed Portland, Oregon bootmaker, has been manufacturing some of the finest boots made for hunting, hiking, work and law enforcement since 1932, but their new Tektite Plain Toe 3″ Boots ($115+) throw pomp and tradition aside. In the pursuit of melding sneaker fit with work boot toughness, Tektites use both a lighter platform…

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It's hip to be square

Kickstarter: Square by CleanBottle

When was the last time you thought about your water bottle? When it leaked? When your water started tasting funky? Well, the Square by CleanBottle may be the first bottle you not only think about, but covet. Developed by a Red Dot award-winning designer and a team of former Apple engineers, the SQUARE is a…

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Roughing it just got easier

In-Depth: BioLite CampStove

Earlier this year, we told you about the innovative new BioLite CampStove, which promised to not only cook your wieners but also charge your smartphone using only firewood. This summer, I had a chance to take one camping to see how it worked in the wild. I took it on a road trip to northern…

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Knife Light

SOG Blade Light

Cut down on your EDC bulk by combining a couple of items into one. No, the smartphone/cigar lighter hasn’t been invented yet. Until it is, you can occupy your time with the SOG Blade Light, a combination 3.9 inch 9Cr18MoV Stainless Steel folding knife and LED flashlight that cuts through the darkness and other evil…