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MSR Needle Stake Review – Section Hikers Backpacking Blog

MSR Needle Stakes are lightweight aluminum tent stakes with square-shaped shafts, a wedge tip, and a hook at the top. Weighing 9.6 grams each and 6 and 3/8″ long, they’re ideal for staking out tents and tarps that use cords as guy-lines. You can also use them to stake out webbing, of course, but there’s nothing better for staking out cord. The square stake shafts hold best in packed earth or mineral soil, but won’t break if you hit a rock when you pound them in. They’re not good for use in sand or snow, which require a wider stake or deadman for more purchase.

I’ve been using these Needle Stakes since 2016. For a while, they were hard to come by and you could only get them if you bought an MSR tent, which is where I got my first set. But they’re more widely available again and are usually sold in packages of 4 or 6 stakes. I never use the tent stakes that come with the tents I buy or manufacturers send me to review because they deform to easily, they’re too heavy, or the heads have sharp edges that tear my hands when I try to pull them out of the ground.

The red color of the MSR Needles stakes makes them hard to loose.
The red color of the MSR Needles stakes makes them hard to lose.

I’ve never broken one of these MSR Needle Stakes, although I have bent a few, by stepping on them accidentally. The soil where I backpack is usually soft enough that I can insert them into the ground by hand since the points are thin enough that they slide in with a little pressure. I have hit them with a rock in denser mineral soil, but they’ve stood up to the abuse without any issues.

However, you don’t want to push them (or any other tent stakes) into the ground with your foot. That’s a good way to bend a metal tent stake. If you need extra force, find a flat rock and pound them in at a 45 degree angle instead. To pull them out, simple grab the guy-line and pull it out by the cord. That usually does the trick.

MSR Needle Stakes are great for staking out tents that use cords for guy lines
MSR Needle Stakes are great for staking out tents that use cords for guy lines

I’ve probably used every tent stake you can name at one time or another including MSR’s ground hogs and mini ground hogs. but these MSR Needle stakes have stood the test of time. Most of the ultralight tents and tarps I use have cord for their guy-lines and the hooks built into these stakes are great for anchoring them down.

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Last updated: 2018-09-20 19:51:58

Disclosure: MSR gave me these stakes long ago when I reviewed one of their tents. receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.

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Backpacking to Sawyer Pond Trip Plan

Sawyer Pond is a picturesque backcountry pond on the east side of the White Mountain National Forest, near Crawford Notch and Bartlett, NH. It’s easy to hike into, making it an ideal destination for families, small groups, or couples who want a quiet place to camp without undertaking a huge backpacking trip. The pond is 40 acres in size and quite scenic with a great view of nearby Mt Tremont and a smaller peak called Owls Cliff.

The pond has 6 large campsites (max 8 people per site), fire rings, two outhouses, and nearby lean-to shelter that can sleep another 6 people. Camping is free, but the campsites are first-come, first-serve. The pond is stocked with trout and fishing is permitted with a New Hampshire fishing license. You can also swim or mountain bike on nearby forest roads, XC, and snowmobile trails.

On the clear nights, the star-gazing from Sawyer Pond can’t be beat. There’s no light pollution and the large open space above the pond provides an unobstructed view of the heavens. Fall foliage is a particularly beautiful time to visit when the trees and surrounding hillsides have turned a golden yellow, orange, and red.

Backpacking to SawyerPond



Distance/Elevation Gain

1.5 miles with 150 ft of elevation gain.

Recommended Duration

2 days/1 night


June thru October

Permits Required



Backcountry Camping Regulations for the White Mountain National Forest.

No Fires or Camping except at Designated Campsites in the Sawyer Pond Scenic Area

Trailhead Directions

  • Sawyer Pond Trail Trailhead.  Sawyer River Road is a gravel forest road (FR 34) located 1.6 miles north of Sawyer Rock Picnic Area on Rt 302. Turn left from Rt 302 onto Sawyer River Road and drive 3.8 miles to its end, where there will be a parking area on your right. This is 1.8 miles past the Signal Ridge Trail parking area, which you’ll pass earlier on the road.
  • Note: The south (other) end of the Sawyer Pond Trail leaves from Rt 112, the Kancamagus Highway. The directions above are from the north end of the trail, which is where you want to start the trip.

Trail Sequence

The route follows the following trails in sequence. Refer to the AMC White Mountains Trail Map 3: Crawford Notch-Sandwich Range (2017 ed),  although I’d recommend buying the complete AMC White Mountain Waterproof Map Set (2017 ed) rather than one map at a time, because it’s less expensive that way. Detailed trail descriptions can also be found in the AMC White Mountain Guide (2017 ed), which is considered the hiking bible for the region. Take photos of the relevant pages using your phone for easy reference, instead of carrying the entire book with you on hikes.

  • Sawyer Pond Trail – 1.5 miles from parking lot to campsites

Camping and Shelter Options

Campsite #4 at Sawyer Pond
Campsite #4 at Sawyer Pond

Sawyer Pond has 6 campsite platforms capable of holding multiple tents. There is a maximum of 8 people per campsite. An adjacent lean-to can house an additional 6 people. Campsites are first come, first serve. Each campsite has a fire ring. There are two outhouses. If the campsites are full, you must hike a quarter-mile away before camping at a dispersed site. Fires are prohibited in the Sawyer Pond Scenic Area except at designated fire rings.

Please observe all White Mountains Backcountry Camping Regulations and leave no trace.


Water is plentiful on this route which parallels a small mountain stream before it arrives at Sawyer Pond. The use of a backcountry water filter or purification device is strongly recommended.

On the Trail

There’s a kiosk next to the trailhead parking lot, which has room for about 10 cars. Pass the kiosk and turn left onto the small pedestrian bridge across the Sawyer River to begin hiking up the Sawyer Pond Trail.

Cross over the Sawyer River and continue up the Sawyer Pond Trail
Cross over the Sawyer River and continue up the Sawyer Pond Trail

The trail enters forest and climbs gently over assorted rocks and tree roots, in other words, a typical White Mountain trail. The trail is well beaten down and very easy follow, with intermittent yellow blazes painted on trees. The 1.5 miles to the pond should take you anywhere from one to two hours to hike, depending on your pace and how much pack weight you’re carrying. There’s no need to load up with too much water for this short stretch and carrying one liter should be sufficient, provided you have a filter or purifier with you to process more water when you reach the pond and the campsite.

The trail is well maintained and easy to follow, alternating between roots and rocks
The trail is well maintained and easy to follow, alternating between roots and rocks.

You’ll soon hear a brook on your right as it flows through the forest. It runs along the trail for most of the way to the campsite and drains into the Sawyer River, near the bridge you crossed earlier. Just before you reach the campsite, you’ll take a right hand turn at a well-marked sign that has a diagram of the campsite locations.

Campsite map

When you reach a small stream fed by the adjacent pond, turn left 270 degrees, before crossing it. After you’ve turned, the pond will be on your right, and you’ll soon see Mt Tremont and Owls Cliff beyond its far shore. They’re two round knobs with distinctive profiles.

Mt Tremont (left) and Owls Cliff (right) overlook Sawyer Pond
Mt Tremont (left) and Owls Cliff (right) overlook Sawyer Pond

The lean-to shelter is another .15 miles down the spur trail. It’s in remarkably good condition and perfectly suitable for sleeping in.

The Sawyer Pond Lean-to is clean and in good condition. Sleeping 6, it's one of the few shelters left in the White Mountain National Forest
The Sawyer Pond Lean-to is clean and in good condition. Sleeping 6, it’s one of the few shelters left in the White Mountain National Forest.

The best time to visit the Sawyer Pond campsites is during the week when there are few people around and there’s little competition for campsites. The campsites become busier on weekends because they’re such a short hike in from the road. Access to the pond becomes much more difficult in late fall and winter because Sawyer River Road is closed to vehicles in winter and usually only opens in late spring.

About Philip Werner: Philip is the 36th person to finish hiking and backpacking all of the trails in the White Mountain Guide (1440 miles). He’s also finished hiking many of the region’s peakbagging lists including the White Mountain 4000 footers, the 4000 footers in Winter, the Terrifying 25, the RMC 100, and the Trailwrights 72. Philip is a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a member of the executive committee for the Random Hikers, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont’s Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He also teaches several compass, GPS, and off-trail navigation courses each year, listed on

Safety Disclaimer

This trip plan can not alert you to every hazard, anticipate your experience, or limitations. Therefore, the descriptions of roads, trails, routes, shelters, tent sites, and natural features in this trip plan are not representations that a particular place or excursion will be safe for you or members of your party. When you follow any of the routes described on, you assume responsibility for your own safety. Under normal conditions, such excursions require the usual attention to traffic, road and trail conditions, weather, terrain, the capabilities of your party, and other factors. Always check for current conditions, obey posted signs, and Backcountry Camping and Wilderness Area Regulations. Hike Safe and follow the Hiker responsibility code. 

Published 2018. receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.

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Montane Yupik 50 Backpack Review








Adjustable Length Backpack

The Yupik 50 is a lightweight backpack that’s loaded with pockets providing great organizational capabilities. An easy-to-use adjustable length torso helps ensure a great fit.

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The Montane Yupik 50 is an adjustable-length backpack with a top lid weighing just over 3 lbs. It’s the successor of the Montane Grand Tour 55 Backpack (see our review) which is no longer available. The Yupik 50 is well-sized for overnight and multi-day trips, with pre-curved hip belt wings that provide good purchase around the hip bones. Crescent-shaped mesh pockets on the front of the pack are provided to store wet gear while a sleeping bag zipper provides access to the base of the pack. A 65 liter version of the Yupik is also available, as well as women’s-specific version named the Montane Sirenik 65.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 3 lbs 5 oz, without optional rain cover
  • Rain cover included: 3.2 oz
  • Pockets: 11 including main compartment and sleeping bag compartment
  • Type: Internal Frame Backpack
  • Adjustable Torso Length: Yes
  • Torso Size Range: 16″-21″
  • Hip Belt Size Range: unspecified (fits my 38″ waist)
  • Gender: Men’s, Women’s version available (only in 65L size)
  • Material: 100d and 420d ripstop nylon

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Yupik 50 is a conventional alpine style backpack with a top lid and sleeping back compartment. The rear of the top lid is sewn to the pack on the 50L model, but is a floating lid on the higher volume 65L version. The top lid has three zippered pockets: a large front-facing facing buddy pocket, a small pocket to store the optional rain cover, and a pocket on the underside of the lid.

The buddy pocket opens on the front side of the pack, facing your hiking partner, and not your back like most conventional backpacks. The idea is that a hiking buddy can easily unzip your pack while you’re still wearing it to retrieve your map, bug dope, or other gear you need. Cute, but no thanks. I rarely hike with a buddy, and I wouldn’t want them rifling through my gear anyway. Not a deal killer, though.

The Yupik 50 has two torpedo shaped mesh pockets on the front
The Yupik 50 has two crescent-shaped mesh pockets on the front

The Yupik has two front, zippered mesh pockets on the front (instead of a shovel style pocket) which are good for storing wet objects or gear you want easy access to like a water filter, rain jacket, or snacks. There are two side mesh water bottle pockets, sized for 1L Nalgene bottles, which are both reachable while wearing the pack, and can be pulled out or replaced easily. Unfortunately, the mesh used isn’t tightly woven and I have concerns about its long term durability.  You definitely want to avoid any serious bushwhacking with this pack.

A sleeping bag pocket is located near the base of the pack, with a zipper that is protected from abrasion and moisture by a large overhanging fabric flap. The inner sleeping bag compartment is formed by an interior zippered shelf.  You can release and fold it down if you want to use the main compartment as one large storage space.

The main compartment has a top extension collar and closes with a drawstring. It has an internal hydration pocket with a single velcro tab to hang a reservoir, with a single hydration port located between the shoulder straps.

Both hip belt pockets are large enough to store a smart phone or point-and-shoot camera. While the front of the pockets is solid fabric, the bottom and rear border are made with same mesh as the side or front crescent pockets. A questionable design for a wet climate.

The Pack has two tiers of compression straps and mesh side water bottle pockets
The Pack has two tiers of compression straps and mesh side water bottle pockets.

External Attachments and Compression

The Yupik 50 has two tiers of side webbing straps which are threaded through side buckles, as opposed to buckles that can be opened or clicked closed. The top strap runs all the way around the side and front of the pack, even through the front crescent mesh pockets so you can get compression if you overstuff the top of the main compartment.

The top lid has four external gear loops with small daisy chains running down the sides of the lid. There are four additional gear loops on the bottom of the pack that you could also attach items to with webbing straps, ski straps, or elastic cord. The higher volume Yupik 65L comes with two additional sleeping bag straps for that purpose, but you can roll your own on the 50L pack.

While you can use the ice axe holder to capture your trekking pole points, there isn't a very good way to secure the shafts to the pack, unless you jury rig the rope strap to hold them.
While you can use the ice axe holder to capture your trekking pole points, there isn’t a very good way to secure the shafts to the pack, unless you jury rig the rope strap to hold them.

The Yupik 50 has a single yellow ice axe/trekking pole holder on the front of the pack (the Yupik 65L has two). There’s no good way to secure the tops of your poles or axe however with something like a conventional elastic or velcro shaft holder. If your poles or axe shaft are short enough, you could loosen the top compression strap to capture the shaft, but that’s really not too feasible. Instead, I’ve rerouted the rope strap that normally runs over the main compartment (common on this style of pack) to hold my poles in place above, although an elastic shaft holder would have been a more graceful solution (and easy to add by yourself).

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Yupik 50 has an adjustable frame that lets you adjust the pack’s torso length to match your body measurements, so you can dial in a great fit. To my knowledge, this is the first adjustable frame backpack shipped by Montane, which was my motivation for wanting to try it. The adjustment mechanism is quite straightforward and relatively lightweight.

The way it works is by moving the shoulder strap yoke up or down the back of the pack to make the torso length longer or shorter. The yoke is attached to the pack with a velcro patch and rides along on two side rails which are part of the pack’s frame. The rails help keep the yoke and shoulder straps level and secure. The side rails are joined by a cross-piece that runs along the top of the pack. There’s also an internal framesheet sewn into the back of the main compartment for added stiffness.

The Yupik 50 has an adjustable length frame
The Yupik 50 has an adjustable length frame, with a velcro attached yoke which can be raised or lowered to change the torso length.

While there are small, medium, and large size markings on the back of the yoke, it’s not obvious what torso lengths they relate to, so you’ll need to experiment with different positions to dial in one that fits your torso length. This is best done with a pack that’s about 75% full. Put on the pack and close the hip belt.

  • If all of the weight feels like it is on your shoulders, then you need to make the torso length longer.
  • If there a big gap between the shoulder straps and the top of your shoulders, you need to make the torso shorter.
  • If the weight is mostly on your hips but there’s still some contact between the shoulder straps and the tops of your shoulders, you’ve probably got it dialed in fairly well. Check to see if the load lifter straps are angled down at 30-45 degree angle while you’re wearing a fully loaded backpack. That’s optimal.

The padded hip belt is sewn to the base of the frame (and not attached by velcro, for instance) providing provides excellent load transfer to the hips. It has padded and pre-curved wings which grip the hip bones well and don’t slip. The hip belt closes with pull-forward webbing straps and a single buckle. The webbing passes under the hip belt pockets and connects to the bottom corners of the pack bag, just like a hip control strap, only it’s tied into the hip belt system instead of being independent of it.

It's easy to attach long skinny items like fly rods to the side of the Yupik for wilderness fishing trips.
It’s easy to attach long skinny items to the side of the Yupik 50.These are fly rods, but could be tent poles or snow pickets, just as easily.

The back of the pack is covered with mesh, over die-cut foam. It’d be a stretch to say that they pack is ventilated, but the mesh does help increase air flow to your back. The back-panel is slightly curved outwards above the hips, with a very modest lumbar bulge. The padded hip belt is pre-curved with plastic inserts located behind the pockets to prevent the belt from buckling under load.


The Montane Yupik 50 has all of the features you’d want in a reasonably lightweight weekend or multi-day backpack. The adjustable frame is easy to use and resize so you can dial in a perfect fit, making it a great pack for backpacking beginners or people who fall between conventional sizes. The pack has a lot of pockets making it easy to organize your gear and separate wet items from dry ones. The side bottle pockets are easy to use and reach and there are plenty of external attachment points to secure gear to the outside of the pack if needed. My only real concern is the durability of the side mesh bottle pockets, which are not as heavy-duty as I’d prefer.

See Also:

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Last updated: 2018-09-19 16:32:49

Disclosure: The author received a pack from the manufacturer for this review. receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.

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Paria ReCharge UL Sleeping Pad Review


Ease of Inflation




Packed Size

Budget Insulated Sleeping Pad

The Paria ReCharge UL is a low price insulated inflatable sleeping pad suitable for camping and backpacking that’s comparable to Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir pads, but far less expensive.

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The Paria Recharge UL Sleeping Pad is an inflatable insulated sleeping pad suitable for backpacking and camping. Weighing 20 ounces, it’s on the heavy side compared to popular three-season sleeping pads, but it is inexpensive, making it a good option for cost-minded backpackers.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 20 oz (actual 19 oz, weighed)
  • Insulated: Laminated 90g/m2 synthetic microfiber
  • R-Value: Untested (estimated at 3.5)
  • Dimensions: 72 x 20″ (wide at the head end) and 14″ (wide at the foot end)
  • Thickness: 2.5″ (3″ by my measurement)
  • Number of breaths to inflate: 24
  • Cover: 40 Denier TPU diamond rip-stop nylon


The ReCharge UL Sleeping Pad has a flat valve, like those found on Klymit, Exped, and Sea-to-Summit Sleeping Pads. These are more reliable than most stick valves because they’re flush with the surface of the pad and have no moving parts.

Inflation by mouth is more cumbersome though, because you have to press your mouth flat over the valve. It has an inner flap however, which prevents air from escaping when you remove your mouth to take another breath. Blowing up the pad by mouth takes 24 SectionHiker breaths. Paria sells a pump bag separately ($15) which can double as a dry sack and is worth consideration.

Deflation is a little trickier than you’d expect through. Most flat valve caps have an extra long tab that you can use to prop open the inner flap during deflation so air can escape when you roll the pad up. However, the tab on the cap isn’t quite long enough to stay securely in the opening and prop the inner flap open. I discovered a more reliable workaround however. If you reach under the pad behind the valve, you can push the inner flap up inside the valve so that remains open during the entire deflation process.

The ReCharge UL has a single flat value for inflation and deflation
The ReCharge UL has a single flat value for inflation and deflation


When fully inflated the ReCharge UL is quite a firm pad to sleep on, much like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite or XTherm which share the same horizontal baffles. It is a quiet pad however, that doesn’t make any crinkly sounds when you move around at night, because it is not insulated with reflective material. If you prefer a softer mattress, the air sprung cells in the Big Agnes AXL Insulated Air Sleeping Pad and Sea-to-Summit Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad are far more comfortable.

The ReCharge UL pad has a mummy shape and is 20″ wide at the head end, tapering gradually to 14″ wide at the foot end. It is spec-ed at 2.5″ (I measure 3″), but your knee will hit the hard ground when you kneel on the pad, even if the pad is fully inflated. The surface of the pad is a lightly textured and durable 40 Denier TPU diamond rip-stop nylon which is not slippery, so you won’t slide off the pad at night.

The pad is pre-scored lengthwise to make it easy to fold into thirds, lengthwise, and rolls up to the size of a 1L Nalgene bottle for each store. A stuff sack is included.

You can accelerate deflation by pushing the inner flap up from the back so air can escape faster.
You can accelerate deflation by pushing the inner flap up from the back so air can escape faster.


The Paria ReCharge UL Sleeping Pad is an inflatable insulated sleeping pad that’s comparable to much more expensive sleeping pads, but available at about half of the price ($70). It’s a perfectly good sleeping pad to use, but is probably better for camping rather than backpacking, since it weighs close to a half-pound more than comparable, but more expensive sleeping pads like the market leading Thermarest NeoAir XLite.

If gear weight and cost are important to you, I’d encourage you to take a close look at two other insulated sleeping pads, the MassDrop Klymit Ultralight V Sleeping Pad which retails for about $60, has an R-vale of 4.4, and weighs 17.7 oz or the REI Flash Air Insulated Sleeping Pad which retails for $100, has an R-value of 3.7, and weighs 15 oz. Both of these pads have dual flat valves, which makes the deflation process much smoother. They also have air sprung cells which I find more comfortable to sleep on than horizontal baffles.

While not reviewed here, the ReCharge UL is also available in a short (48″ x 22″) and double width size (76″ x 48″), with higher R-Values and the same reduced pricing model. The value of those models is actually more interesting and worthy of consideration if you’re shopping for a lower cost, non-standard size insulated sleeping pad.

See Also:

Disclosure: The author received a sleeping pad from Paria Outdoors for this review. receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.

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Montbell EX Light Down Anorak Review

Warmth to Weight Ratio



Moisture Resistance

Hood Adjustment



Ultralight Mid-Layer Insulation

The Montbell EX Light Down Anorak is a sweater-weight, mid-layer garment filled with 900 fill power down. While ideal for ultralight backpacking, it trades off features for light weight and compressibility

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The Montbell EX Light Anorak is an ultralight 900-fill power, down sweater that’s ideal for wearing around camp or paired with a top quilt in cooler weather. Weighing 7.35 oz (in a size XL), the styling is minimalist, with a half zipper, non-adjustable hood, and elastic wrist cuffs. There are also two side pockets (without zippers) which join in the middle kangaroo style, allowing you to warm your hands together. Elastic hem adjusters are located inside the hand pockets, so they don’t hang down from the hem where they can catch on obstructions.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 7.35 oz XL (6.2 in a size medium)
  • Gender: Mens
  • Insulation: 900 fill power down (2.3 oz of fill)
  • Fabric: 7 denier ballistic ripstop nylon with DWR coating

When would you pack and wear an anorak like this? That really depends on your climate. I like bringing in on spring and autumn trips, as an extra thermal layer, for when I’m cooking food or hanging out in camp. I run real cold when I’m not active. It also makes a nice piece to augment a quilt, especially one that doesn’t have a draft collar around the neck, helping to seal in heat at the shoulders and neck, and providing additional head insulation.

However, this anorak is too warm for me to wear when I’m active and hiking, making me sweat heavily, which is something I try to avoid in cooler weather by delayering. I think a lightweight 100 weight fleece is a far better garment to wear when you’re active and exerting yourself because it isn’t as warm, it will continue to insulate you if it gets damp from perspiration, and because your body heat is enough to dry it out.

Oversized Hood

While this anorak sounds ideal, there are a couple of potential gotchas to consider. First is the hood, which is huge. It’s really sized for someone wearing a climbing helmet. There are no neck toggles to shrink the hood opening and no rear volume adjuster. I cope with this by wearing a puffy fleece hat and pulling the hood back so it covers the center or my head, but not my forehead. This helps seal in the heat over my ears, the back of my neck, and most my head. It’s not ideal and my preference is for adjustable hoods with neck toggles, or at least a rear volume adjuster.

Unfortunately, many down jackets and parkas don’t have adjustable hoods anymore because they’re less expensive for manufacturers to sew and makes them appear lighter weight. But if you’re purchasing a technical down sweater (like this anorak), a lightweight down jacket, or heavier down parka, I’d strongly encourage you to get one with an adjustable hood because it lets you seal in the heat generated by your head or vent it if you’re overheating. Active temperature regulation is the name of the game when hiking or backpacking and an adjustable hood gives you the flexibility to fine tune it.

Sewn Through Construction

A second potential issue with this anorak is its sewn through construction. The perimeter of down square is sewn through the jacket, so you have the potential for cold spots along the seams. However, the advantage of this sort of construction is that it prevents down shift, which is important for a garment with so little insulation.

I don’t think this is a deal killer however, because it’s easily remedied by layering a windproof rain jacket or wind shirt over the anorak. You should carry at least one of those as part of a hiking layering system. anyway. Wearing a thicker undergarment, like a fleece pullover or mid-weight baselayer can also mitigate any cold spots.

7 Denier Fabric

I’ve owner a number of insulated Montbell Jackets over the years and while their lightweight 7 denier shells are down proof and super lightweight, they do have limited durability. If you use this anorak a lot, you should expect abrasion and holes to form in the fabric over time at the highest wear points, particularly at the wrist cuffs. It’s also remarkable easy to slice through the fabric with an ice axe or crampon points, so keep the garment far away from sharp points. It might even be worth carrying a small patch of tenacious tape so you can prevent the down insulation from leaking if you hole the anorak accidentally.

Comparable Lightweight Mid-layer Sweaters and Jackets

Here’s a list of comparable lightweight sweaters and jackets, with and without adjustable hoods. The weights listed are provided by manufacturers are directional, since most manufacturers don’t list the size jacket that they correspond to.


While the Montbell EX Light Anorak is super lightweight, warm, and highly compressible, the oversized hood is a fail, making it difficult to keep cold temperatures from robbing the heat generated by your head when you’re standing around in camp or sleeping under a top quilt. When looking at alternative products, I would encourage you to pick one that has an adjustable hood that can be cinched tightly around your face to seal in head heat. It really is a worth carrying a few ounces more for this feature, especially if you run cold when standing still or sleeping.

Disclosure: Montbell provided the author with an anorak for this review. receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.

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Orvis Ultralight Wading Boots Review

Orvis’ Ultralight Wading Boots are rubber-soled wading boots that I wear with stocking foot waders when I fly fish rivers with a rod and reel. On wider streams and rivers, a rod and reel, waders, and wading boots give you the extra mobility, reach, and precision to place a fly where trout are likely to be holding. I also fish with a Tenkara rod on small and medium-sized streams, but I can usually place my fly exactly where I want it from the stream bank without getting wet.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Mens & Womens models available
  • Weight: 40 oz/pair (size 10)
  • Closure: Water resistant laces
  • Sizing: 7-14, full sizes only
  • Traction: Vibram lugs, extra cleats recommneded

As a hiker and fisherman, I get my kicks by hiking into streams and rivers that are off the beaten track. I like pouring over maps and identifying blue lines that look promising, then hiking into them and seeing what the fly fishing is like. I frequently backpack in, so keeping my gear as light weight as possible is a priority, especially if I have to bushwhack because there isn’t an established trail where I want to go.

Waders and wading boots are an essential on wide rivers for better reach and mobility
Waders and wading boots are an essential on wide rivers for better reach and mobility. Dead Diamond River, NH.

The nice thing about the Orvis Ultralight Wading Boots is that they’re perfectly good for hiking moderate distances, even when I’m wearing a pair of waders with thick neoprene booties. They fit like hiking boots and don’t require any break-in time. They have foam footbeds which you can remove and replace with an insole like Superfeet if you need a higher arch, and they even have a gaiter hook at the base of the tongue if your waders have gravel guards.

While they have Vibram soles and good traction on dry ground and rocks, you really do want to add cleats to them to penetrate the biofilm on moss-covered rocks, above and below the water’s surface. Even then, carrying a wading staff or an old trekking pole is a good idea to keep your balance when traversing rocky river bottoms. The Ultralights, conveniently, have pre-drilled cleat holes that make it easier to screw in cleats. I’ve been using the Orvis Posigrip Studs with the Ultralight Wading Boots and they work nicely on mossy and vegetation covered surfaces.

You do need to be careful however when scrambling over exposed and dry rock, because the studs can unexpectedly slide off them. Think about it this way. When you put studs in your boots’ soles, you’re reducing the amount of contact you have with a rock surface to the tops of the studs’ heads. This makes it really easy to slip when you cross dry rock off-balance or with any momentum. It’s just something you need to be very conscious of if you clamber along rocky riverbanks.

Orvis Ultralight Wading Shoes are sized like hiking boots making them easy to hike in and wear all day on the river.
Orvis Ultralight Wading Shoes are sized like hiking boots making them easy to hike in and wear all day on the river.

Size-wise, I wear a size 10.5 shoe and need a size 12 Ultralight Wading boot to fit the stocking feet of my waders. The funny thing is, these wading boots don’t feel like size 12 boots. They don’t alter my gait in any way and I can drive my car (even a manual) with them just fine, even with the cleats. But the proof of the pudding is that I can wear these Orvis Ultralight Wading Boots all day and still remain comfortable. You don’t feel like you’re wearing cement overshoes, which is a good thing when you’re fly fishing a river!

Highly Recommended.

Disclosure: Orvis provided the author with wading boots for this review. receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.

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10 Best Backpacking Sporks – Section Hikers Backpacking Blog

Sporks are one of the backpacking industry’s greatest inventions. It’s a wonder that they’re not more widely used since having multifunction utensils would be such a great way to cut down on the plastic utensils polluting our oceans and urban landscape. Perhaps more amazing, is the amount of creativity and design ingenuity that manufacturers have applied to making different types and styles of sporks to fit different needs and preferences. But surely there can’t be that many types of sporks! You’d be surprised. They vary by functional capabilities, length, strength, material, price-point, and so on. That’s only touching the surface. The differences are far more nuanced and defy categorization. They’re a mouthful.

So without further delay, here are the 10 Best Backpacking Sporks of 2018!

1. Sea-to-Summit Delta Spork with Knife

Sea-to-Summit Delta Spork with Knife
Weighing just 19.5 grams, the Sea-to-Summit Delta Spork with Knife is the last eating utensil you’ll ever need. Made of food grade glass reinforced polyproplene, it is much stronger and durable than other camp cutlery. Even the knife is multifunctional, combining an integrated spreader knife with a strong cutting edge incorporated into the handle. BPA Free, dishwasher and microwave safe, the Spork profile also matches the inside curve of the Sea to Summit Delta Bowl and Plate, sold separately, so you can scrape your plate clean. 

Check for the latest price at:
Amazon | Campsaver

2. bambu Large Spork

Bambu Large Spork
If you’re trying to kick the plastic habit, the bambu Large Spork is for you. Made with bamboo, it’s hand finished with a light treatment of all-natural, organic, food-safe oil that won’t warp and swell in soapy water. Naturally stain-resistant, this 11.3 gram spork is made without glues or lacquers and USDA certified organic. Just imagine! A compostable spork.

Check for the latest price at:

3. Snow Peak Titanium Spork

Snow Peak Titanium Spork Purple
Snow Peak was one of the first backpacking gear manufacturers to make titanium pots and cutlery and their gear is the perfect match of form and function. You can tell right away that this spork was designed with the human mouth in mind. It’s just the right size to shovel down soup, stew, noodles, Mountain House, Ben & Jerry’s, oatmeal, etc. Super light and super tough, this titanium spork has a small eyelet at the end, large enough to loop paracord through so you can clip it to your pack. Available in purple, green, blue, and plain titanium.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

4. UST Spork Multi-Tool

UST Spork Multi-Tool
The Ultimate Survival Technologies Spork Multi-Tool is multi-function eating utensil combined with a can opener, bottle opener, flat screwdriver, pry tip, and hex wrench. Also available in a variety of colors including blue, green, and silver, this durable stainless steel includes a carabiner clip that you can attach to your pack, belt loop, or other gear. Need to repair your stove before you eat? Open a cold one? This spork has got you covered!

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

5. GSI Outdoors Campware Spork

GSI Outdoors Campware Spork
The GSI Outdoor Campware Spork is durable, lightweight, and amazingly affordable. It isn’t titanium, but it is a fifth the price, and only weighs 11.3 grams. It is comfortable to eat with and long enough to reach deep into a Mountain House meal. Best used for soupy and soft meals, it’s BPA-feee and dishwater safe. This is the spork I use because it’s the lease expensive thing you can buy at REI!

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6. Toaks Titanium Spork

Toaks Titanium Spork
The Toak Titanium Spork features a polished bowl and matte finish, for improved grip. Cutouts in the spork’s body help reduce the weight of the 17 gram spork and provide a way for you to attach it to your gear with a cord or ‘biner. The head’s tines are long enough to spear delicate morsels in addition to slurping down noodles or other soupy meals.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

7. Forestry Labs Bamboo Sporks

Forestry Labs Bamboo Sporks
Forestry Lab’s Sporks are an interesting variant on the traditional notion of a spork, which normally combines a spoon and fork tines at the same end of the utensil. The advantage of their approach is that the fork tines are longer so you can get a better grip on foods that are denser and tougher to penetrate with shorter tines. Made with bamboo, each spork only weighs 12.4 grams. They’re also available in two lengths, 6.5″ and 8.6.” Sold in sets of 4, but still quite inexpensive and ECO friendly!

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8. Toaks Titanium Folding Spork

The Toaks Titanium Folding Spork is easy to store inside many backpacking cook pots, which is its chief selling point. Weighing 18 grams, the bowl is polished smooth giving it a pleasant mouth feel. It’s a good sturdy spork when open, although it can take a bit of practice to get used to the folding and locking mechanism. You can’t beat the size though!

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9. humangear GoBites Uno Spork

humangear GoBites Uno Spork
Another spork variant with a separate fork and spoon end, the GoBites Uno Spork is an economic alternative to titanium sporks. Weighing 14 grams, it’s very comfortable to hold and spin in your hand when you want to use the other end. The sides are shaped to make it easy to scrape food out of bowls and bags so you don’t miss one calorie of your backpacking meals. Made of high-temp nylon that’s incredibly strong, BPA-, PC- and phthalate-free, it’s top rack dishwasher safe.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

10. Sea-to-Summit Alpha Light Long Spork

Sea-to-Summit Alpha Light Long Spork
Weighing just 12 grams, the Sea-to-Summit Alpine Light Spork is a long-handled spork, good for use with deep cook pots such as Jetboils (which you’re not supposed to cook noodles in, but everyone does). This spork is made from 7075-T6 aluminum alloy which is hard anodized for excellent durability. It includes a small accessory carabiner so you can clip the spoon (which has an end eyelet – hidden above) to a pack, mug or another utensil.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Backcountry

How to Choose a Backpacking Spork: Key Criteria

Here are the most important properties of a spork and some guidance about how to select one that will work best for you.

Length: If you need to reach deep into a freeze-dried or rehydrated meal bag, or a deep cook pot like a Jetboil, a long length spoon can be quite desirable. Look for spoons that are 7 to 8 inches in length, as opposed to shorter ones that are 6 to 7 inches long.

Color: Get a brightly colored spork if you’re prone to lose them on backpacking trips. The titanium colored ones are easy to misplace on the ground because they look like sticks. Garish colors like purple or neon green stand out best.

Folding: If you want to have a cook kit that folds completely into a mug or cook pot, getting a folding spork is the way to go. Metal folding sporks tend to be more durable than plastic ones. Don’t try to use them as tent stakes though. They’re not stiff or strong enough.

Multi-purpose: There’s something to be said for having a multi-purpose spork that can open beer bottles or cans, even if they do weigh more than other options. It all depends on your most frequent needs and priorities.

Material: Wood, titanium, aluminum, nylon, or plastic? Metal sporks will be the most durable, as plastic can break. Wooden and bamboo sporks tend to break down with use, but they are usually biodegradable.

Single Head or Dual Head: While traditional backpacking sporks just have the one combined spoon and fork-tined head, there is something to be said for dual head sporks, since you often get a more usable fork with longer tines for spearing food. Most backpackers eat mush though, so having a true fork is often not a requirement.

Check Out All of SectionHiker’s Gear Guides!

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Cohos Trail Section Hike: Percy Loop to Starr King

North Percy Mountain

“It is amazing how much trail building the Cohos Trail Association gets done with such limited resources,” said Guthook, as we climbed up the Percy Loop Trail to North Percy Mountain. Guthook has worked as trail crew for the Green Mountain Club in Vermont and I could tell he was in awe at what they’d accomplished. This section of the Cohos Trail, the 170 mile long distance route that runs through Northern New Hampshire, was looking mighty fine indeed with excellent signage and blazes, and new campsites and shelters. A relatively new long distance trail, it’s been bootstrapped into existence by a small but dedicated, almost fanatical, cadre of trail builders and community activists in an effort to bring more commercial activity (ie. Massachusetts visitors) to New Hampshire’s north country.

Guthook and I (yes, THE Guthook) were on a three-day backpacking trip from the Nash Stream Forest followed by a Kilkenny Traverse in the northern most section of the White Mountain National Forest. It was a reunion of sorts, since we haven’t done any hiking together for a few years, due to busy schedules and life demands. He was doing a little work on this trip actually, finishing up mapping the Kilkenny Ridge Trail and its side trails for Guthook’s Guide, which has emerged as the most complete and easy-to-use trail guide for the National Scenic Trails in the US (AT, PCT, CDT, and many others).

Excellent Cohos Trail Signage
Excellent Cohos Trail Signage

Guthook and I weren’t strangers to this section of trail and have both hiked it before multiple times. He’s actually thru-hiked the Cohos Trail twice, I believe. We chose it for its remoteness, because it’s a nice long stretch where you can backpack without the crowds that flock to the White Mountain National Forest (down south) in summer. We didn’t see anyone for the first two days of this trip (which is pretty incredible) and only ran into some friends (maniacs, themselves) near the end.

Some 40 miles in length, this was a sizable route for a three-day trip, with many 4000 and 3000 footers to climb along the way, starting with North and South Percy, the two bell-shaped peaks that dominate the Nash Stream Forest skyline. If you’ve never been to the state-run Nash Stream Forest, it’s worth a visit, if only to hike the Percy Peaks and climb nearby Sugarloaf Mountain. It’s a wild place, only accessible by a gravel road, and home to many of the trail-less 3000 footers on the New Hampshire 200 Highest Peakbagging List. I have yet to fully explore it myself, but the times I’ve hiked through have all been memorable and left me longing for more.

Hot and Hazy view of South Percy Mountain
Hot and Hazy view of South Percy Mountain

We parked my beat-up trail car at the bottom of the Percy Loop Trail and proceeded to climb up to the peak, ascending steeply, in miserable heat and humidity. The real feel was easily up to 100 degrees and I was soaked with sweat in 10 minutes. I was also feeling a recent knee issue, probably a meniscus tear, that got progressively worse as we journeyed south. Looking back now, it was painful, but only slowed my pace down to book time, not that bad when you think about it. It’s still plaguing me even though my doctor has concluded that I don’t need surgery or a cortisone shot, just RICE. Try getting me to sit still for a week or two, though.

We climbed up North Percy and admired the northern view, then descended over its steep ledges, and climbed its sister peak, South Percy. From there we ambled along the Cohos Trail, which is technically a route, over pre-existing trails. The trail snakes along trails which double as snowmobile routes in winter. We popped up to Victor Head, a pleasant side trail and view-point, before crossing the railroad tracks and Rt 3 to get to the South Pond Recreation Area. This recreation area has a huge sand beach, changing rooms, rest rooms, and a picnic area. It costs $7 per car to enter, but we got in free because we walked in.

Cooking dinner at South Pond
Cooking dinner at South Pond

We’d arrived just at closing and the weather was looking mighty nasty, with dark rain clouds above. We’d been monitoring these closely all day, but been spared their wrath farther north. After a quick dip in the lake to wash off the day’s sweat, we hunkered under the front awning of a building and cooked up dinner while the skies unleashed their fury. It rained heavily for about 45 minutes before tapering off to a drizzle. After checking out the resulting rainbow, we hoofed it past the recreation area and pitched a hurried camp before the rain came down again. There was no chatting after that and I crashed, sleeping through more torrential rain at night.

We were both up early the next morning but waited for another torrential rainfall to subside before packing up and heading out, at about 8:00 am. After a brief diversion into the Devil’s Hopyard, a rock-filled canyon filled with “boulders scattered in picturesque confusion”, we headed south along the Kilkenny Trail towards Willard Notch. Our first major stop was a cliff called Rodger’s Ledge where we spread out our wet gear to dry in the sun.

Guthook in the Devil's Hopyard
Guthook in the Devil’s Hopyard

With the exception of Mt Cabot (a 4000 footer), most of the Kilkenny Trail is seldom hiked, making it a much wilder looking trail than most White Mountain hikers are used to. Blowdowns across the trail are common and the trail often needs a good brushing, to beat back the baby spruce trees and ferns that threaten to overwhelm it. While benign, this vegetation holds a lot of rain water, so we were quickly soaked when we brushed up against it as we made our way south after the recent rains.

Once dry and warmed up, we continued south stopping at the Roger’s Ledge Campsite and the Unknown Pond Campsite for brief breaks and so Guthook could map the side trails. From there, we climbed The Horn and The Bulge (two 3000 footers), before summiting Mt Cabot and scrambling up the avalanche slide on its north side. After a brief visit to the Cabot Spring and the Cabot Cabin, we climbed the three peaks of Terrace Mountain before descending steeply to a campsite near the Willard Trail near dark.

Drying out Gear on Rogers Ledge
Drying out Gear on Rogers Ledge

Time for camp chores. We filtered water from the nearby water source, cooked dinner, hung our Ursacks, and crashed. We both slept deeply but my knee was definitely hurting and I was dreading the climb we had to make up North Weeks Mountain the next morning.

We woke early and broke camp by 7:15 am. We still had a 10 mile hike ahead of us, including climbs up North, Middle, and South Weeks mountains, Mt Waumbek (a 4000 footer) and Mt Starr King. The climb up North Weeks was the biggest (about 1500′) one followed by Middle Weeks, but after that it was mostly flat or descending down to Rt 2.

My knee was better this morning, but it still hurt. I’d brought along some extra Ibuprofen on this hike, just in case, but it really had little effect. Every once in a while, I’d twist it and cougar scream in pain. But I kept going, hopeful that it wasn’t anything too serious. Knock on wood, it’s not, although I have been out of action most of this week.

Philip at the end of his 48 x 4000 Direttissima White Mountain Round
Philip at the end of his 48 x 4000 Direttissima White Mountain Round

As we approached the summit of North Weeks, we encountered three hikers. Guthook knew one of them, I knew another, and the third, Philip, was just finishing an 8 day supported Direttissima, a complete traverse of all 48 of the White Mountain 4000 footers in one continuous hike. My hats off to him. It’s a non-trivial hike, hundreds of miles long. I’ve tried it twice unsupported and given up while I was ahead.

We parted ways and continued climbing, only to be greeted by massive blowdown mania on North and Middle Weeks. It’s the worse I’ve ever seen it. The Forest Service and Randolph Mountain Club trail crews had been through and cut out a trail again, but the destruction was far worse and larger than the blowdowns I’d encountered on the Kate Sleeper Trail earlier this year, or South Carter last winter. Thank god for our trail crews.

Blowdowns on the Weeks
Blowdowns on the Weeks
More blowdowns
More blowdowns
Trail through the blowdowns
Trail through the blowdowns

Once past the blowdowns and the Weeks, we arrived at Waumbek, where we dried out more gear in a viewpoint that’d been opened up since I was there last. Then onto Starr King Mountain and Jefferson, which has a nice little store and gas station on Rt 2. Their pizza is fantastic and went down real nice with a Classic Coke.

Guthook had been great company on this hike and I’m glad I finished the route despite my knee pain. The north country can be a real tonic if you ever need to get away from it all and I think we both benefitted from the respite.

In you’re interested in our route, take a look at the Kilkenny Ridge Traverse Route Plan in my free guidebook, Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 footers. For our route through the Nash Stream Forest refer to the Cohos Trail Guide from North Percy Mountain to the South Pond Recreation Area. receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.

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Backpacking Survival Gear Checklist – Section Hikers Backpacking Blog

Backpacking trips and day hikes don’t always go as planned. The weather can change unexpectedly. You can injure yourself and you might come across someone who needs help. Different times of year can also necessitate carrying different types of survival tools or supplies. While you can technically view all of the gear that you bring on a backpacking trips or day hikes (including food, layered clothing, etc) as survival gear, many people leave out items that you’d want in true emergency, when your trip plan goes off the rails. It happens, even to people with a lot of experience.

Here’s a checklist of survival gear to help you decide what to bring, annotated with suggestions about their purpose and utility. A non-annotated PDF version of this checklist is available for download.

Emergency Communication Devices

Cell Phone: Dialing or texting 911 on a cell phone is the most effective way to summon search and rescue assistance in locations that have cell tower access. It should be tried before contacting search and rescue services with a satellite messenger or personal locator beacon.

Satellite Messenger: These devices include the Garmin inReach and inReach Mini, the Spot Gen 3, and Spot X. They provide two-way text messaging or email communication via a satellite communications link in areas where cell phone or land lines are unavailable. They operate over private networks and require a subscription fee, like a cell phone. They can also summon public Search and Rescue services in an emergency. Garmin inReach Explorer+, Garmin inReach mini, SPOT Gen3.

Personal Locator Beacon: These devices will send an SOS message via satellite over a public network, They are less expensive than Satellite Messengers because they run on public satellite links, but also more limited in their functionality. People carry a satellite messenger or a personal locator beacon, but not both. Arc ResQLink+GPS PLB.

Walkie Talkies: Good for medium distance person-to-person communications (up to 30-35 miles), although they are sensitive to local landforms and geography which can interfere with signal strength. Motorola T460 Two Way Radios (Pair),  Midland GXT1000VP4 Two Way Radios.

Loud Whistle: If you need to get someone’s attention, you can blow a loud whistle far longer than you can yell. They’re very handy to use when you lose site of a hiking partner but know they’re nearby. Fox 40 Classic Whistle, SOL Rescue Howler Whistler.

Signal Mirror: Used for signaling search and rescue aircraft to help them locate your position when flying overhead. UST Starflash Mirror, Coghlan’s Featherweight Mirror.

Emergency Shelter and Insulation

Emergency Blanket/Bivy Bag: Reflects your body heat to help keep you warm. Also good for warming a hypothermic person. An emergency bivy sack is warmer because it provides better wind protection. Space Emergency Blanket, Space All-Weather Blanket, SOL Emergency Bivy Bag

Sleeping Pad: Provides insulation from ground in case you unexpectedly need to spend the night out. Also good to prevent hypothermia induced by cold ground contact by an injured person. Foams pads are the most durable and lightest weight. Therm-a-Rest Zlite Sol, Blue Foam Pad

Bivy Sack: Minimalist emergency shelter in case you unexpectedly need to spend the night out. A significant step up from an Emergency Bivy in term of durability. Outdoor Research Molecule Bivy Sack, Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy.

Tarp: A tarp can provide a minimalist shelter at night or give you a place to shelter under during the day in heavy name. REI Camp Target 12, All Purpose Blue Tarp.

Tent: On long day hikes, it can be prudent to bring a tent if there’s a significant chance you’ll have to spend the night out. Carrying the rain fly of a double-wall tent may be sufficient by itself because you can wrap yourself up in it together with your insulation like a bivy sack.

Tools and Protection

Folding Saw: Good for cutting firewood or fashioning a splint. Silky Folding Saw, Sven Folding Saw.

Magnetic Compass: Reliable form of direction finding. Baseplate compasses like the Suunto A10 or the Silva 1-2-3 are inexpensive, reliable, and break resistant.

Paper Map: For local area.

Emergency Matches, Lighter or Sparker: Provides method for generating sparks to start a fire. Learn how to start a fire with tinder if you don’t know how. UCO Stormproof Matches, Bic Mini Lighter, Light My Fire – Fire Steel.

Fire Starter/Tinder: Vaseline dipped cotton balls, drier lint, or commercial fire starters like Lightning Nuggets, Wetfire Tinder.

Headlamp or Flashlight: One of the 10 essentials. In addition to being a psychological comfort, a headlamp or flashlight allows you to safely move around outdoors at night without falling. Petzl e+Lite, Fenix LD02 Flashlight.

Backup Water Purification Method: A second water filter or purification method in case your primary method breaks or fails. Chlorine Dioxide Tablets, Steripen, Lifestraw.

Extra Batteries: Match batteries to all of the vital electronic devices you carry, or carry a multi-purpose power pack with different recharging adapters. Ravpower 10,000,mAh Power Pack, Anker 10,000 mAh Power Bank.

Multi-Tool: Includes folding knife and basic tools. Good for gear repair, particularly in winter for repairing damaged skis or traction. Scissors can also be helpful for applying first aid. Leatherman Micra, Leatherman Squirt, Swiss Army Classic, SOG Baton Q2

Survival Knife: Sturdy knife that can be used to cut material, feather-stick, and split firewood. Mora Companion Knife, Gerber StrongArm Tactical Knife.

Bear Spray: Spray a cloud at the head of a charging bear as a deterrent. Primarily for use in brown or grizzly bear territory, only. Counter Assault, Frontiersman.

Extra First Aid Kit Items

These items are often left out of consumer first-aid kits or are not provided in sufficient quantities to be applied more than once. In a true emergency, you’d want multiple doses.

Anti-Diarrhea Medication:  Helps prevent runny stools and dehydration and increase personal comfort if you contract a stomach disorder or have eaten something that disagrees with you. Loperamide Tablets, Imodium tablets

Anti-Allergy Medication: Reduce allergic reactions to insect stings and other substances. Can also be used as a sleep aid. Benedryl tablets, Diphenhydramine Tablets

Anti-Inflammatory Medication: Helps reduce pain and swelling.  Ibuprofen, Allieve.

Aspirin: Specifically as a blood thinner to prevent a heart-attack.

Quick Clotting Agent: Trauma aid used to stop massive bleeding. Quick Clot

Sam Splint: Lightweight split that can be bent to splint many common injuries. Sam Splint.

Blister bandages: Padded and slippery to increase comfort, accelerate healing, and prevent additional irritation after blisters have occurred. Band-Aid Hydro-Seal Bandages, Compeed.

Blister Prevention Tape: Protective tape applied to the skin and over hot spots to help reduce foot friction and prevent blisters before they occur. Leukotape Sports Tape, Moleskin

Irrigation Syringe: Plastic syringe useful for irrigating cuts and wounds to clean out debris and prevent infection. Best used with clean and purified water. Also useful to back flush water filters. Plastic syringe.

Medical Exam Gloves: Protects caregiver against potentially infectious body fluids of patient. Nitrile Gloves. receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.

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10 Best Freestanding Tents – Section Hikers Backpacking Blog

Freestanding tents are the holy grail of backpacking and mountaineering tents because they can be set up quickly just about anywhere, on wooden tent platforms, rock, sand, snow, and even climber’s portaledges, without having to be staked to the ground first.

Because they’re so desirable, many tent manufacturers claim that their tents are freestanding when in fact they’re not. This practice is common among double-wall tent manufacturers that make inner tents which are freestanding, but require that the outer rain fly be staked to the ground. These tents do not have the advantages of a truly freestanding tent and are not included below.

Most freestanding tents are wedge or dome-shaped, making them highly weather and wind resistant. However, truly freestanding tents tend to be slightly heavier than non-freestanding ones because they have to be self-supporting, with long tent poles that add additional weight. Some two-person models can be cramped, particularly ones designed for mountaineering where comfort is often sacrificed in the name of reduced gear weight. Still, the experience of setting up a freestanding tent is liberating because you can pitch one anywhere there’s flat ground. That kind of flexibility is highly valuable when you need to get out of the weather and into a secure and stable shelter.

1. The North Face Assault 2

The North Face Assault 2
The North Face Assault 2 is a rugged, single-wall expedition tent with a pole-supported ventilation system for increased stability. Sized for two, the 3 lb 4 oz Assault 2 is made with a breathable laminate to vent moisture, with a font door and rear escape hatch. Crossed poles make setup fast and easy. Dual top vents increase breathability, while ample ceiling tabs allow for hanging a stove, gear loft, or drying lines.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Backcountry

2. Hilleberg Unna

Hilleberg Unna
The Hilleberg Unna is a 1-person dome-style freestanding tent that weighs 4 lbs 7 oz. It is ideal for trips in any season where low weight is a high priority, but where the terrain makes for tricky pitching conditions. Rather than a vestibule, the Unna has a spacious interior that easily accommodates the occupant and gear. The corner of the inner tent can be detached to create a large protected area to cook, pack, or store gear.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Moosejaw

3. Black Diamond El Dorado

Black Diamond Eldorado
Black Diamond makes several other freestanding tents that look like the El Dorado, but it is the roomiest, longest and strongest, designed for taller individuals and more gear. Weighing 4 lbs 8 oz, the El Dorado has two crossed aluminum poles which are secured in the tent’s interior. The walls are made with a breathable waterproof fabric to help vent condensation while front and rear top vents promote greater airflow. A separate front vestibule is also available, but it is not freestanding.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Black Diamond

4. MSR Advance Pro 2

The MSR Advance Pro is lightweight, freestanding tent that weighs just 2 lbs 14 oz. Designed for high altitude mountaineering, its steep sides maximize interior room while shedding winds. Dual carbon fiber tent poles are anchored in sleeves and crossed overhead, providing the ability to handle heavy snow loads. In addition to the door, front and rear vents help remove moisture and reduce internal condensation, even in the harshest conditions.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Moosejaw

5. Hilleberg Soulo

The Hilleberg Soulo is a one person double-wall freestanding tent designed for 4 season use. It has a large front vestibule that provides access and ventilation and can be used for cooking or gear storage in poor weather. Weighing 4 lbs 7 oz, it is tremendously strong and can be pitched just about anywhere. The inner tent can hung inside the outer rain fly after it has been set up, a desirable feature to keep the inner tent dry if it is raining during setup. Most Hilleberg tents have this capability.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Moosejaw

6. Exped Orion II

Exped Orion II
The Orion II is a sturdy three-pole dome tent with two doors.  The full length ridge pole reaches the ground for enhanced wind stability and creates a high canopy with comfortable living space. Two large vestibules hold loads of gear and the wide doors make entry and exit quick and simple. Weighing 6 lbs 2 oz, the Orion is designed to withstand high wind speeds, with crossed poles, pole sleeves, and durable fabrics for maximum strength.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Moosejaw

7. Rab Latok Mountain 2

Rab Latok Mountain Summit 2
The Rab Latok Mountain 2 is a single wall tent made with breathable 3 layer eVent fabric. It has two internal crossed poles for strength and is easy to set up in poor weather. A rear vent provides additional airflow and internal humidity reduction. Weighing 4 lb. 1 oz, the tent can be guyed out for use with skis and mountaineering tools, while a 70 denier nylon floor is provided for enhanced durability and waterproofing. A separate front vestibule is sold separately.

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Campsaver | Moosejaw

8. Big Agnes Shield 2

Big Agnes Shield 2
Weighing in at 3 lbs 12 oz, the Big Agnes Shield 2 is a single wall, four season tent made with a breathable fabric to vent moisture. It has a front door with a transparent front window so you can observe weather conditions before exiting. Crossed DAC poles, held in place by fabric sleeves, provide a strong shelter while over-sized guy loops let you anchor the tent with backcountry skiing or mountaineering gear instead of stakes.

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REI | Campsaver

9. Hilleberg Allak

Hilleberg Allak
The Allak is a comfortable and rugged two-person freestanding dome tent with two large vestibule doors and large ceiling vents that provide excellent ventilation and livability. Deep pole sleeves ensure excellent wind resistance and are large enough to accept double poles for maximum strength. Weighing 6 lbs 2 oz, the Allak’s comfortable ceiling height and long length will also appeal to taller users. If you’ve never owned a Hilleberg Tent, you’ll be blown away by the quality of the materials and construction.

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Campsaver | Moosejaw

10. Fjallraven Abisko Dome 2

Fjallraven Abisko Dome 2
The Fjallraven Abisko Dome 2 is a double wall tent with 2 vestibules for maximum comfort and wide open views. The large vestibule provide ample gear storage and room for cooking and other activities in poor weather. The structure is set up with three poles which slide through sleeves for added strength and durability. The fly can be set up before the inner tent, allowing it to stay dry even if it’s raining. Ventilation openings at different heights provide superb airflow, enabling use in warmer climates as well as winter.

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Campsaver | Amazon

Freestanding Tent Evaluation Criteria

When evaluating freestanding tents, it helps to research the climate conditions you expect to use the tent in, as this will inform the degree of tent pole strength and breathability required.

Ventilation: Important to minimize and reduce internal condensation. This is achieved by keeping the door(s) open when feasible, through peak and side vents, and in some cases through the use of breathable wall fabrics. You can never have too much ventilation in a tent, although the addition of doors and zippers can result in increased weight.

Pole Architecture: Most freestanding tents have a two or three crossed poles, anchored inside or outside the tent walls. Exterior poles that are anchored in sleeves are much stronger that poles that connect to an inner tent using clips or velcro tabs. They’re much more wind resistant and capable of withstanding heavier snow loads.

Interior Space: Freestanding tents designed for high alpine mountaineering use are often smaller and more cramped than those designed for four season use because weight savings are so critical when you have to climb many thousands of feet to reach your destination. When selecting a tent be realistic about your length and width requirements, particularly when choosing a two-person wedge style tent.

Number of Doors: Tents designed to hold two occupants are more comfortable and convenient to use if they have two doors and vestibules because you can come and go without waking your tent partner. Dome style tents often provide greater covered vestibule storage, which can make a significant different in livability.

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