The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 22: The Year in Gear

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

Let's say you read thousands of reviews of gear, each year. Do you think you could pick a favorite? Listen next, to The Year in Gear, on The WildeBeat.

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number twenty two.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE: The moderators and editors at Backpack Gear Test see thousands of reviews every year. And I asked them, "of all the gear you saw this year, could you pick a few pieces that you thought were the very best?" Three of them responded. Rick AllNutt, Edward Ripley-Duggan, and Jim Sabiston. Here's what they picked.

This is Rick Allnutt.

RICK ALLNUTT: The Orikaso Fold Flat Picnic Set. The material that they're made out of is a foldable plastic material which is quite durable. The open dish can be used as a cutting board. I've used that to cut fish and to cut meat. It can be used as a dish for cereal and for soup. It's twenty three ninety five for a set that comes basically with two bowls, two dishes, and two cups. It's total weight's up at eight ounces. But if you're talking about the weight for just taking a bowl, like I do for backpacking, that's something less than two ounces.

STEVE: This is Jim Sabiston.

JIM SABISTON: The Outdoor Research Airfoil Gloves. These are gloves I discovered fairly recently, when we did the review, and I liked the way the reviews were coming in. And so I went out and picked up a pair myself, and I really like them. They're very, very light. What I really like about them is the flexibility of use. The surprising advantage is that they don't have any insulation to them. And the result of that, being made out of the windstopper fabric, is that they keep your hands warm without the bulk, and your hands don't tend to overheat. The thin fabric blocks the wind, but allows the heat to dissipate enough that my hands stay very, very comfortable. At thirty nine dollars, they're certainly affordable, especially when you consider the amount of use that I get out of them, that's typically nine to ten months out of the year.

This is Edward Ripley-Duggan:

EDWARD RIPLEY-DUGGAN: The Princeton Tec EOS headlamp. The EOS is a very lightweight lamp. It weighs approximately three ounces with the batteries; three point seven with the standard triple-A batteries. It's a single-L.E.D. headlamp. The output is one watt. It has three brightness modes and a flash mode, which one can rotate between by pressing the "on" button. It's currently available for approximately forty dollars.

RICK ALLNUTT: I found the Jet-Ti stove by Vargo, and it's just a beautifully engineered and built piece of equipment. Weighs about two and a half ounces, if you already have the canister along. A small canister is plenty for me to cook two meals a day for a week using the kinds of simmering techniques that I usually use with alcohol stoves. It folds really small. It's made out of titanium. It has plenty of room for me to go ahead and put it in the three-cup pot that I use for ultralight backpacking, and have plenty of room left inside that pot for everything else that I use in my cooking kit. And it's cost is sixty-four ninety-five.

JIM SABISTON: There's a fairly new product on the market that we just tested, made by Bozeman Mountain Works. And it's actually a very small sleeping pad called the TorsoLite sleeping pad. It costs seventy dollars. What these guys did is they kept a very tough, well-made pad, and what they really did was just refine the size. They kept a full, one-inch thickness, but they sized it such that it just covers your torso — basically the lower end of your rear end up to the top of your shoulders. That sounds like it might be kind of an extreme case, but the real surprise is how easy it is to adapt to it. The pad rolls up into an incredible small package, about the size of a sixteen ounce Nalgene bottle; weighs about nine ounces.

EDWARD RIPLEY-DUGGAN: The MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoe. I found it a very good, grippy snowshoe for conditions where snow was packed on trail, and for conditions where the snow was very heavily crusted. Other snowshoes that I've used have tended to sometimes started to glissade when I didn't want them to glissade. You know they started to slip. Bit if you're faced with a rock wall and a drop, this is not a moment when glissading is appropriate. And the price on the MSR Lightning Ascent is approximately two hundred and fifty dollars.

RICK ALLNUTT: Tilley is a hat manufacturer. One that I've had the opportunity of using over the last eight months is the TH4 Hemp Hat, which is a wide-brimmed, off-white colored hat, which works really well in the sun, and in the rain. It's not a water-proof hat, but the fabric swells when it gets wet in the rain, and that basically stops any water from getting down intro the hat, or down around my neck. What I really enjoy about a wide-brimmed hat in the rain is that I can hear well. I can still hear the woods and enjoy hiking. And it also helps really keep the rain off my glasses. It's produced by Tilley, T-I-L-L-E-Y, and it's retail price is sixty-nine dollars.

JIM SABISTON: We tested a new tent from Black Diamond this year called the Lighthouse Tent. It's extremely well made, and it has just a laundry-list of advantages. Not least of which is that it only weighs a little over three pounds. It's a single-wall tent, made with a new fabric technology called "Epic", and it's extraordinarily breathable, and highly, highly water-resistant. Black Diamond tends to be a little conservative in their predictions with how water-proof the fabric is, but I've had it out in at least one tropical storm and stayed perfectly dry in it. There is virtually no condensation in warmer weather with it. It packs very small, and predictably the price is a little on the high side at three hundred and sixty nine dollars.

EDWARD RIPLEY-DUGGAN: The Western Mountaineering Antelope bag. Western Mountaineering are renowned for making bags of extremely high quality, and this reputation is, in my opinion, very well deserved. It's rated to five degrees. I would say this is a honest five degrees and in fact under most conditions it's probably good down to zero or even a few degrees below, and extremely light weight; approximately three pounds for the six-foot-six version. The Western Mountaineering Antelope is approximately four hundred and twenty five dollars.

RICK ALLNUTT: One of the very best pieces of equipment that came through Backpack Gear Test over the last year was Gossamer Gear's Lightrek PLUS Poles. These are poles which only weigh three and a half ounces a piece. They're just stripped-down to the absolute essentials for backpacking. They have a set length, no straps, but they're just great for going up and down hills, for balancing for going across streams, and for protecting my knees when I am going up and down hills on the Appalachian Trail. I think that they are and imaginitave and just-right piece of backpacking gear. And their U.S. price is ninety-five ninety-five.

STEVE: My thanks to Rick Allnutt, Edward Ripley-Duggan, Jim Sabiston, and the editor-in-chief, Jerry Goller, for making this edition possible. Please remember that these are opinions of the individual contributors, and don't necessarily reflect those of Backpack Gear Test, or of The WildeBeat.

If you want to read the original text reviews of these products, please follow the links on our web site.

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Next time - drawing lines in the snow.

The Wildebeat is produced by Steve Sergeant for Effable Communications. Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. Please see our website for ways to ensure future editions of The WildeBeat. Send your comments to webmaster at wildebeat dot net, or call our comment line at 866-590-7373.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number twenty one. Thank you for listening.

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