Gear the Experts Use Gear We’ve Tried

Gear We’ve Tried
Gear the Experts Use
Two gearheads trade notes on the stuff they can’t live without
of my career. I put my foot through the
UV-weakened canopy about five years
ago and graduated to an REI Quarter
Dome UL (one of my newer efforts). I
find it perfect, though tight, for two good
friends (editor’s note: under 6 feet) at 3
lbs 11oz. Two doors and two vestibules
make it convenient for two people. The
two-pole structure is really strong in the
wind and quick to pitch.
When Dave Mydans wants to hike light, he packs a Minimalist Bivy from REI.
It’s waterproof, breathable and has a mesh screen to keep the bugs out.
By Allison Woods and David Mydans
As Gear Editor
for WT, I have the
opportunity to try
out more hiking
and backpacking
equipment than
the average consumer. It’s fun
when the gear is
good, less so when I’m three states
away from home using a backpack with
ill-fitting straps. Testing gear has made
me extremely picky about my personal
gear. This got me thinking about my
gear closet, and what’s in it. Me, I’m
Allison Woods, Washington native, and
hiker/backpacker since childhood. I also
asked David Mydans, REI gear designer,
to share the contents of his closet with
us. Here’s what David has to say about
his background:
“I’ve designed gear for REI for the
past 20 years, so while I’m your honest
broker, I’m by no means impartial. Most
of the gear I use is from REI, is a special
sample that never got into production,
or is something I sewed up myself. I
do more than half of my adventuring
with my wife and partner, Tracy. We’re
both pretty fanatical about weight, but
we’re not part of the lunatic fringe. To
provide an idea of what kind of gear we
carry means in terms of pack weight, you
might note that we carry a dry weight of
15 lbs. (excluding food, water, or fuel) for
a typical 3- to 8-day adventure.”
AW: I own several tents, but the ones
I use the most are an MSR Hubba
Hubba, when there are bugs, and a
Black Diamond Beta Light, when
there are no bugs. The Hubba Hubba
is a standard three-season backpacking
tent, freestanding, two doors. It’s not
the greatest tent in the wind, but ask
anyone and they will tell you that I’m
a complete weather wimp and prefer
DVDs and a warm cup of tea on a blustery January day to cowering in my tent.
For late-season or snow travel, or when
I’m doing something really serious, out
comes the Beta Light. It’s a shaped tarp,
sets up with trekking poles, and weighs
in at just 20 ounces. Not bad for a two
person tent, eh?
DM: For years I carried a Chouinard
Comet, a tiny, 40 ounce, 2-person (tight)
single wall tent that I designed at the start
January/February 2007
Allison really likes Mountain Hardwear’s Ventilator t-shirts, made of
breathable and comfortable fabric.
Gear We’ve Tried
AW: I’m not a big fan of bivy sacks. I’ll
just pitch a little tarp over my sleeping
bag in that situation. I will say I’m mighty
impressed that Dave can sew on silnylon.
That stuff is so slippery I’d rather buy a
tarp than fight with the fabric.
few times late in the
summer this year, and
I was really impressed
with the convenience
and lack of aftertaste.
When I think I’m going to need a water
filter, out comes the
Katadyn Guide. It’s
on the heavy side, but
it has a monster flow
rate. If the water’s
swampy, it’s nice to
use a filter to get the
greeblies out.
Sleeping Bags
Bivy Sacks
DM: Often I just leave the tent at
home. Then it’s time for the REI Minimalist Bivy and a small fly. The Minimalist is really a waterproof/breathable
sleeping bag cover. It has zippered mesh
and room for a pad inside. The little triangular silnylon fly I made myself.
DM: I’m a no-cooking, water-boiler
type of hiker. We do some freeze dried
(ugh!) and a lot of freezer bag stuff (much
better, do a search on the Internet!).
We bring one titanium pot, sized to the
trip, a speck of aluminum windscreen,
and either a mini iso-butane or alcohol
AW: I avoid freeze-dried food like
the plague, instead preferring to fancify
grocery store food. Most of this involves
some cooking, yet I also use a butane
stove. Most of them perform about
the same, though I personally prefer
the MSR Pocket Rocket. My pot’s an
Evernew titanium jobbie, as is my cup.
The cup is anodized pink and has folding
handles, and everyone covets it.
Water purification
DM: For those of us who go high and
light, I use the mantra: “Friends don’t
let friends pump.” Unless you plan to be
drinking out of a sewer, leave the dumb
pump behind and get AquaMira (from
McNett). It takes care of all of the bad
bugs. I got an MSR Miox a couple of
years ago. Impressive technology, but
Tracy doesn’t trust it!
AW: Frankly, I don’t like any of the
options. I own and use every type of
water cleaning that’s available, but I got
Giardia last summer drinking purified
water, so nothing is fail-safe. I finally
got around to using AquaMira drops a
DM: I’m still sticking w ith my ow n
brand. I’m a down
guy—it’s been years
since I carried a synthetic bag. I lust after
Western Mountaineering products, but
I really think the
textile performance
on REI’s Kilo series
of bags is superior.
In damp conditions,
nothing is more reliable than synthetic
Both our experts agreed that Osprey makes some of the
best lightweight overnight packs available. The Osprey
Aether 60 weighs just under 4 pounds.
AW: I think Dave’s been drinking a
bit too much of the green Kool-Aid in
this case. The REI bags are a great value,
but if money’s no object, nothing beats a
Feathered Friends bag. I’m not going
to lie to you, the bag I own, the Egret
(20-degree, women’s down-fill bag, with
full zip and optional EPIC shell fabric)
runs $404, but I will have it for many
years, and nothing else I researched or
tested came close in quality. The bag
was custom made just for me in a factory
right here in Seattle.
Sleeping Pads
DM: Tracy won’t be parted from her
Crazy Creek chair. It weights 13 oz.
and goes with her Therm-a-Rest ProLite
3 Sleeping Pad. I’m not proud, so I joined
her. Now I’m phat too! (Editor’s Note:
This is how DM talks in real life)
January/February 2007
AW: Usually I pack a Therm-a-Rest
Womens’ Prolite 4, but if weight is a
concern, I’ll go with a Prolite 3. I like the
Prolite pads, but I still think the perfect
sleeping pad is yet to be invented.
DM: I sewed my pack myself: It’s an
early sample that evolved into our UL (ultralight) pack line. What I like about this
pack is the suspension. Most lightweight
packs either have no structure or they’re
little more than a washboard strapped
to your back. We designed a lightweight
suspension that actually moves with you
and supports the load at the same time
(no easy thing to do!). My sample has a
roll-top and a waterproof side zip that
never made it into production, but all
our production pieces have the same,
patented ‘ActiveMotion’ hip belt that
Gear We’ve Tried
told me it makes me look
like a Russian gymnast.
He didn’t mean it as a
compliment, maybe that’s
why hoodies for men are
hard to find? It has foldover hand covers and a
wonderful wind resistant
stretch fabric.
How about I suggest
leaving the fleece at home
with the water pump?
Sacreligious? No way,
just go with a Patagonia
puff ball pullover (the
original) or any one of
its many copies. I use
REI’s version, the Gossamer jacket. Lofty (but
compactable) Primaloft
insulation sandwiched
between two layers of
windproof nylon. This is
Forget the fleece. A lightweight, down-filled
Mr. Cozy talkin’!
jacket, such as the REI Gossamer, will keep you
Now here are the sewarmer and compress into your pack nicely.
crets. I’ll share two. One,
there’s a company in Canmoves with you.
Pure, that makes the best
If you’re a bit flush with cash burning
around. Lightweight and
a hole in your pocket, though, take a look
very (very) water and
at Osprey. They’ve been around a long
as all get-out
time, they’re about the only independent
outdoor company left, and they do, withThe
waterout a doubt, make the best lightweight
packs in existence. The Osprey Atmos
light50 or 65 is your ticket.
weight, breathable trail shoes that get
AW: This is another area where I soaked in an instant. Put your Sealskinz
think the best is yet to be invented. I on over your socks and inside your shoes
own several packs, and like Dave, my for dry, toasty feet from morning dew to
favorite is one you can’t buy. It’s a little afternoon slush. You might think they’d
silnylon confection of a daypack made be uncomfortable and bunch up in your
by Vaude. My regular overnight pack shoe, but they don’t.
is an Osprey Aether 60. We will be
testing and reviewing the Atmos as part
of our annual pack test, so stay tuned.
Pack technology is probably the hottest
sector in the industry right now, so packs
change and improve every year.
DM: My absolute favorite piece is my
Sugoi hoody. It’s really hard to find a
technical hoody for men. Sugoi now
calls it the ‘Speedster’ and my buddy
AW: I really like the Mountain
Hardwear Ventilator t-shirts. They
were discontinued in 2006, but will be
back in stores this spring. Wears like iron,
doesn’t feel “plasticky,” looks stylish.
Jackets? I’m with Dave on this one.
Fleece is great for around town and for
day trips, but I stick to puffy coats for
backcountry travel. When the weather’s
moderate, it’s a Montbell Thermawrap
jacket, when it’s cold, the REI Davos.
It’s 750-fill down and a toasty hood keeps
January/February 2007
me happy.
I had to go through the often-difficult
process of buying new hiking boots this
year. I was looking for something that
would provide a lot of ankle support and
were sturdy enough for off-trail use and
crampons, and am the proud and happy
owner of a broken-in pair of La Sportiva
Glacier Evo boots.
I have tried about a zillion socks, and
find I generally reach for the Teko or
Dahlgren woolies. No itch, no droop,
quick dry time. 
Where to buy
items and find
more info:
Black Diamond:
Western Mountaineering: www.
Feathered Friends:
Crazy Creek: www.crazycreek.
Therm-a-Rest: www.thermarest.
Valhalla Pure:
Mountain Hardwear:
La Sportiva: