Buying A Better Bag

Theres nothing like a good nights rest. Follow these 10 essentials to make sure your sleeping bag is up to the challenge.

  • 1.There’s nothing like a good nights rest. Follow these ten essentials to make sure your sleeping bag is up to the challenge.
  • 2.Shop around. If this is your first bag, bone up on them here, then visit as many stores as you can to compare models in your price range.
  • 3.Demand expertise. Ask the salesperson questions about insulation, shell materials, women’s models, and anything else you’re interested in. If the answers are vague or seem biased without experience to back them up, find another salesperson or go to another store. Let them know why you’re leaving.
  • 4.Choose synthetic or down. Decide which fill is right for you.
  • 5.Hop in the sack. Get in, roll around, use the zipper, cinch down the hood, try to get out in a hurry. Check fit, comfort, and ease of use. Stuff every bag you’re considering into its stuff sack to compare packed size and weight.
  • 6.Put your feet first. Consider only models that provide an extra room at the foot of at least 3 inches (so the insulation isn’t compressed) but no more than 6 inches (so there isn’t extra space to heat).
  • 7.Bring your pack. If you have an internal frame pack, take it to the store to make sure the bag fits. If it’s too big, try a compression stuff sack.
  • 8.Know your sleeping style. Are you always freezing when everyone else is warm? Get a bag rated 10F lower than the lowest temperature you might encounter. Claustrophobic? Consider a roomier cut.
  • 9.Be realistic. Choose a bag based on the temperatures you’re most likely to encounter on the majority of your trips. Rent a deep-freeze bag to see if you like winter camping before shelling out the big bucks.
  • 10.Be realistic, part 2. Most backpackers don’t need a water-resistant/breathable shell, which is most useful for sleeping under the stars, in snow caves, and in severe condensation conditions (some bivy sacks can create this environment). If you have extra dough to spend, you�ll get more satisfaction out of upgrading to a high-fill-power down or buying a bag liner to extend the life of your sack.

Build a system. If you already own a perfectly good three-season bag but want a lighter, cooler bag for hot summer nights and a warmer sack for late fall and mild winter outings, consider an over bag or liner. Both double as summer sleepers while stretching the comfort zone of your main bag for colder weather.


Buying A Better Tent

Not all shelters are created same, as anyone with a reasonable tent will tell you after a severe storm. Follow these ten essentials when buying your next tent.

  • Pick Your Poison. Define your tent needs and know the features you want before shopping. If you expect to be making high-mileage trips, weight saving is a top factor. If you often find wet weather, look for a rainfly that reaches all the way to the ground.
  • Bring Big Jim. Bring your gear & your hiking partner to the store to see if you all fit into your chosen tent. Borrowed equipment & partners often have several dimensions.
  • Practice pitching. Set up the shelter. If the tent is pitched when you walk into the shop, take it down & pitch it again to see how the setup is. Now imagine doing it in driving rain and the wind.
  • Build your house. Lie down inside on sleeping pads. Figure out where your boots, pack, & wet gear would go. Are the entry, weatherproofing, ventilation, & living & gear-storage space acceptable? Rehearse a midnight departure to answer nature’s call. Subtract points if your knee clobbers your partner’s jaw.
  • Say no to sagging. With the tent pitched, check the rainfly fit. A quality rain fly fits snugly on the tents pole structure, producing taut panels of material that won’t flap noisily or act like sails in windy weather.
  • Quality control. From inside the tent, look at the fabric and seams; the stores ceiling lights provide excellent backlighting to get flaws. Check for loose stitching glitches, threads, fabric irregularities, & discoloration.
  • Look for leaks. Inspect all the tents stitching. Search for bits of thread, fabric, or wrinkles under the taped seams that will cause any leaks. Scratch any stitching or tape that appears loose to if it separates.
  • Mimic the wind. Stress test critical junctions that can cripple your hike if they fail in gusty conditions. Tug on guy points, stake webbing, and pole-attachment points to see if seams begin to separate. Check that pole and grommets are fully secure. Inspect zippers for excess tension.
  • Check the coating. You must be check see the waterproof coating and shiny on the inside of the rain fly & floor. If you can’t see & feel it on the fabric, it may not be thick enough to stand up to heavy use.
  • Pick the right color. Check how well the tents color transmits light to the interior. Some colors create a bright interior, while others make for a dark, cave-like ambiance. Bright colors are cooler in the summer, while dark colors absorb solar energy, making them better for cold weather.




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