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Outdoor Research HighCamp Gloves Review

Outdoor Research HighCamp Gloves are insulated waterproof winter gloves with soft goat leather palms and touchscreen compatible liner gloves rated down to -15 F / -26 C. They’re best used in cold and exposed mountain terrain when you need to balance the competing demands of insulation and dexterity. For example, if you need to grip an ice axe in the ready position or tighten your backpack’s hip belt, you need the dexterity of a glove. Mittens won’t cut it.

The HighCamps’s outer glove is waterproof, insulated with Primaloft synthetic insulation, and has an additional sewn-in 100 weight fleece liner. In addition, the HighCamps come with a separate pair of fleece liner gloves, which you can use by themselves, as liners inside the HighCamp gloves, or any other shell glove or mitten you own. The outer HighCamp gloves also have gauntlets that can be tightened or loosened with one hand, ladder locks on the back, idiot cords to prevent them from blowing away, and pull loops to help you pull them on. The fingers are pre-curved and also have finger loops so you can clip them to a climbing harness.

Most of the time I just use the HighCamp gloves without the separate liners, since they’re already quite warm, and I use the liners by themselves when I just need a lightweight glove to keep my hands warm on brisk mornings. The liners have a silicone imprinted grip and touchscreen compatible forefinger and thumb. These liners are nice to have if you use a phone for navigation or reference, as many of us increasingly do.

The Radiant Fleece Liners are touchscreen compatible and have a silicone imprint that provides excellent grip.
The Radiant Fleece Liners are touchscreen compatible and have a silicone imprint that provides excellent grip.

The nice thing about this multi-part glove system is that you can mix and match the layers depending on your needs. For example, you could wear the liners by themselves when you’re skinning up a hill and then switch to the dry and insulated outer glove when you ski back down it and want a waterproof glove for the descent. The HighCamp is really like owning two gloves in one.

While the leather palms on the outer glove are water resistant, they do absorb water if soaked and it can take a while for then to dry.  These gloves are also not warm enough for very cold temperatures below 0 degrees despite their -15 F rating by OR. Still, they’re excellent gloves for cold weather use, both with and without the touch compatible liners.

I’ve found that the OR HighCamp Gloves run about a half-size small, so size up.

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Last updated: 2018-10-18 16:28:27

Disclosure: The author purchased these gloves with his own funds.

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NEMO Switchback Foam Sleeping Pad Review

The NEMO Switchback is a accordion-style closed-cell foam sleeping pad that can be used as an ultralight pad by itself or to augment the warmth of a second sleeping pad, when sleeping outdoors in colder weather. It’s quite similar to the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol sleeping pad, but made with modern materials and precisely molded. Like the Z Lite Sol, one side of the pad is coated with aluminum to reflect your body heat back at you and keep you warmer.

Specs at a Glance

  • Type: Closed-Cell Foam
  • R-Value: Not Available from manufacturer (estimated at 2)
  • Manufacturer Temperature Rating: 20 F / -7 C
  • Thickness: 0.9 in / 2.3 cm
  • Weight: 14.5 oz / 415 g
  • Length x width: 72 x 20 in / 183 cm x 51 cm
  • Packed Size: 5 x 5.5 x 20 in / 13 x 14 x 51 cm
  • Color: Pumpkin

If you’ve never owned an accordion-style foam pad, they’re a useful piece of backpack gear to have around because they can serve so many purposes. I’ve used them as virtual frames in frameless backpacks, extra insulation under an inflatable sleeping pad, sit pads to keep my bum warm and dry, hammock insulation, winter stove insulation, hot water bottle insulation, insulated seats for pack rafts, even as shims to keep air conditioners from falling out of windows. You just need a sharp pair of scissors and your imagination to figure out ways to use them.

The Switchback (right) folds up more compactly than a Therm-a-Rest Z Lite even though they both have 14 panels and are 72" long.
The Switchback (right) folds up more compactly than a Therm-a-Rest Z Lite (left) even though they both have 14 panels and are 72″ long.

What makes the Switchback Different?

The Switchback’s main competitor is the legendary Therm-a-Rest Z Lite sleeping pad. That accordion-style foam sleeping pad has been around for as long as I can remember. The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol is coated on one side with an aluminum film like the Switchback.

The Switchback takes everything that’s good about that pad and makes it better. Well, almost everything. The Switchback is a bit thicker, for instance, measuring 0.9 inches thick compared to the Z Lite Sol’s 0.75 inch thickness. It also weighs about a half ounce more at 14.5 oz, compared to the Z Lite Sol, which weighs 14 oz. Despite that, the Switchback folds up more compactly because the raised portions of the pad slot in better with the recessed areas. This makes it easier to strap to the side of your backpack or under a floating lid.

The Switchback is also a good deal more comfortable than a Z Lite Sol, perhaps enough to convince you to switch from an inflatable pad to a foam pad again. NEMO uses two types of foam in the Switchback, a softer foam that comes in contact with your body and a more durable foam that reduces pad compression over time, while Therm-a-Rest uses just one type of foam in the Z Lite Sol. Both pads are also comparable in price: a 72″ NEMO Switchback retails for $50, while the regular length Z Lite Sol costs $45, and is available in a variety of lengths.

The Switchback (bottom) has a very different pattern of peaks and valleys than the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol
The Switchback (bottom) has a very different pattern of peaks and valleys than the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol (top).

Temperature Ratings vs R-values

The biggest difference between the NEMO Switchback and the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol pads is in how they’re rated in term of insulation value. Therm-a-Rest rates their sleeping pads using R-values which are well understood by backpackers. For example, an R-value of 2-3 is good for 3 season use, while an R-value of 5-6 is good for sleeping on snow. Sleeping pad R-values are also additive, so you can stack two sleeping pads to create enough insulation to sleep on snow in winter.

While the method used to measure R-values varies somewhat between manufacturers and testing labs, a new outdoor industry standard is likely due out in 2020 (according to my well-informed sources) that will standardize the testing process and it make it possible for consumers to compare sleeping pad R-values across manufacturers. It will also force manufacturers to re-rate or redesign their products so they match their marketing claims, much like the process that occurred when standard sleeping bag temperature ratings were introduced.

Both the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol (top) and the Switchback (bottom) have an aluminum coating that reflect your body heat back at you.
Both the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol (top) and the Switchback (bottom) have an aluminum coating that reflect your body heat back at you.

NEMO doesn’t use R-values to rate their sleeping pads, including the Switchback. Instead, they assign the Switchback a 20 degree temperature rating, which makes it quite difficult to compare it with other sleeping pads that are rated using R-values. It also raises a number of questions about how the temperature rating should be interpreted.

For example:

  • Is the 20 degree temperature rating a measure of air temperature or ground temperature? There’s a big difference.
  • Is the 20 degree rating the same for men and women, who are known to sleep colder than men?
  • Are sleeping pad temperature ratings additive, like R-values? For example, will two sleeping pads rated for 20 degree temperatures provide sufficient insulation to sleep in minus 20 below zero (F) weather?
  • What kind of guidance does a temperature rating provide you if you want to combine the Switchback with an inflatable sleeping pad for cold weather use that has an R-value, but not a temperature rating?
  • How is the 20 degree rating calculated? Is it based on a automated testing procedure or by human observation in a cold room, where individual differences in sex or physique could skew the results.

In the absence of an R-value for the Switchback, it’s difficult to assess NEMO’s claim that it is the warmest closed-cell foam sleeping pad made. If you do buy the Switchback, my conservative guess is that it has an R-value in the range of 2-2.5, which is pretty standard for closed-cell foam pads.

The Switchback is only available in a pumpkin-like color. Too bad. It would have been even more useful in blaze orange.
The Switchback is only available in a pumpkin-like color. Too bad. It would have been even more useful in blaze orange.

Recommendation

The NEMO Switchback is actually a well-engineered and very comfortable closed-cell foam sleeping pad, despite its lack of an R-value rating. While it’s not as comfortable as an inflatable sleeping pad, it is definitely a step up from a Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol in terms of design, manufacturing, and materials. It’s really about time that someone went head-to-head with Therm-a-Rest when it comes to closed-cell foam sleeping pads. While the NEMO Switchback is in many respects a knock-off of the Z Lite Sol, it is a better knock-off, which is a pretty impressive feat, if you think about the engineering and design that goes into making high quality foam products on an industrial scale.

Disclosure: NEMO provided the author with a sleeping pad for this review.

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Last updated: 2018-10-11 11:45:35

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Montbell Versalite Pants Review – Section Hikers Backpacking Blog

Montbell’s Versalite Pants are 2-layer ultralight waterproof/breathable pants that weigh just 3.7 oz (in a men’s XL.) They can be used as rain pants or wind pants or when you want light layer to keep your legs warmer in camp. Montbell’s Versalite Pants have been available for many years, but the company recently switched from an in-house waterproof/breathable membrane to Gore Windstopper, resulting in a big improvement in their water resistance and breathability (more below). That, coupled with their extremely light weight and minimal features, make the Versalite Pants an attractive option for anyone wanting to reduce their gear weight.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Men’s and Women’s models available
  • Weight: 3.7 oz (men’s XL)
  • Sizing: 4 sizes available
  • Water Pressure Resistance: 30,000 mm
  • Breathability: 43,000 g/m²/ 24 hrs
  • 2 layer Gore Windstopper with DWR
  • 10 denier ballistic rip-stop nylon
  • Price: $139

Fabric upgrade

The previous generation of Versalite pants was a 15d rip-stop nylon, 2.5 layer pant that used Montbell’s proprietary waterproof layer called Super Hydro Breeze (Water resistance : 20,000 mm / Breathability : 15,000 g/m²/ 24 hrs). The new Versalite Pants, reviewed here, is a 10d ripstop nylon, 2-layer pant made with a Gore Windstopper waterproof layer (Water resistance : 30,000 mm / Breathability : 43,000 g/m²/ 24 hrs). The waterproofing and breathability performance of the new pants is considerably better.

Design and construction

The Versailte Pants are black and with a grey coating on the inside to protect the waterproof/breathable membrane from oils, suntan lotion, and dirt. The interior of the pants does not feel clammy, even when worn over shorts and directly against the skin. However, the grey coating is easily scratched off, particularly near the ankles if you put the pants on while wearing shoes or boots. Gravel stuck in the shoe sole scrapes against the grey coating and scratches it off.

The pants are cut from a single piece of fabric, which reduces the number of seams that have to be taped in their manufacture. This reduces the chance of water leakage and helps reduce gear weight. The pants do have one taped seam down the centerline, running down the crotch and up the backside.

I added a cord lock to make it easier to close the pants
I added a cord lock to make it easier to close the pants

The fit is relaxed but not baggy in the legs. The rain pants do run a bit long though, maybe an inch. They come in one length: 31.9″. The pants don’t have any pockets and there are no zippers, including ankle zippers.

There is an elastic waistband, augmented by a drawstring. The drawstring does not run all the way through the waistband and is sewn in near the front, which limits your ability to tighten the waist. The drawstring itself doesn’t come with a cordlock to hold any tension, so I added one to keep them snugged tight.

Sewn-in drawstrings are also a common point of failure in pants because they tear out easily and it is quite difficult to sew them back in unless you’re skilled in sewing repairs.  While the sewn-in drawstring on the Versalite Pants has resisted my tugs, and endured field use, I’ve had such bad experiences with pants (from other brands, too numerous to list) that use this type of drawstring anchor that I avoid it whenever possible.

I mainly wear rain pants to keep my legs warm in cool weather.
I mainly wear rain pants to keep my legs warm in cool weather.

Field performance

Montbell’s Versalite Pants are a dream to use in wind, rain, and cool weather to retain warmth in camp. The factory DWR sheds rain very well and they breath well when worn over shorts and lightweight long pants. The legs are also wide enough that I can put them on and take them off easily without removing my shoes (size 10.5 men’s trail runners), with some room to spare.

Elastic cords at the base of the legs help seal the bottom of the leg and prvent it from dragging on the ground
Elastic cords at the base of the legs help seal the bottom of the leg and prevent it from dragging on the ground. I never wear gaiters, so I appreciate this feature.

While the legs are a little bit longer than I prefer, the elastic cords at the bottom of each leg can be used to hold them at ankle height, preventing the hems from dragging on the ground, while sealing out drafts and splash-back. You simply pull on the exposed portion of the cord, twist it once, and pull it over your shoe so it rests around your ankle. The elastic cord doesn’t restrict blood flow and is hardly noticeable. Montbell calls it the Samue Leg Closure System and it harkens back to the technique used by the Zen monks of Japan to adjust traditional work clothing using ties sewn inside clothing instead of elastic cord.

However, the Versalite Pants are easy to tear and my pair already sport tenacious tape patches on the lower legs. I wouldn’t recommend them off-trail or wearing them on trail if you had to walk through waist high vegetation. The 10 denier fabric is simply too thin to rebuff contact with the point objects you find in forests.

Fit is relaxed but not baggy in the legs
Fit is relaxed but not baggy in the legs

Comparable Rain Pants

Recommendation

Montbell’s Versalite Pants are ultralight waterproof/breathable rain pants that weight less than 4 0z and are made with a thin 10 denier ripstop nylon. They’re very basic with a drawstring waist, but no pockets or ankle zippers in keeping with their minimalist vibe. While pants like this are great to wear in rain or as a lightweight warmth layer, they are fragile and easily torn. If the cost of occasional replacement isn’t a barrier, the weight alone is the main reason I’d buy them. The fact that they have superb water resistance and breathability rating is just icing on the cake.

Disclosure: Montbell provided the author with pair of pants for this review.

Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker’s unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

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Dachstein Extreme Warm Wool Mittens Review

Warmth

Weatherproof

True to Size

Ease of Care

Customer Service

Thick Boiled Wool Mittens

Dachstein’s Extreme Warm Wool Mittens are made with thick boiled wool. Favored by mountaineers, they will keep your hands warm on very cold days and are ideal for outdoor recreation or work.

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Dachstein Extreme Warm Wool Mittens are very warm boiled wool mittens popular with mountaineers. Made with very dense boiled wool (more on this below), they’re windproof and virtually waterproof. When the mercury drops near zero or below, these are the mittens you want to be wearing. They’re also ideal for people who get very cold hands in winter or who suffer from Raynaud’s Disease.  They’re not itchy at all. They can be worn alone or with an outer shell mitt in extreme winter weather.

Boiled Wool Clothing

Boiled wool mitts are made by repeatedly boiling heavy wool mittens in hot water until they shrink to the desired size. The boiling process preserves the natural oils occurring in the wool and results in a very tightly woven mitt that is windproof and virtually waterproof. Boiled wool clothing has been around since the Middle Ages and is prized for its warmth and value. It’s surprising that there’s not more of it available, if only from cottage manufacturers who could tailor it for niche winter hiking and mountaineering use.

I’ve used the Dachstein Wool Mittens on long winter day hikes in cold, zero-degree weather in the White Mountains. They’re very thick and warm, with long wrist gauntlets that extend over the wrist and half-way up your arm. In terms of dexterity, the mitts are perfect for use with trekking poles but are otherwise too large and bulky for much else. It can be convenient to wear them with a thin glove liner, so you can remove your hands to adjust zippers, drink from a water bottle or eat snacks, without exposing your hands, however briefly, to the cold.

Long Wrist Gauntlets
Long Wrist Gauntlets

One of the things that’s always impressed me about the Dachstein Mittens is their water resistance. When I go winter hiking and snowshoeing the mitts invariably get covered with snow, but the interior never feels wet, even when I’ve worn them all day. I guess that’s just the density of the boiled wool weave at work. It’s rare for me to get a full day’s use out of a fleece or wool glove before they get soaked by external moisture, so being able to wear a single pair of these the Dachstein Mittens all day is a novelty.

Dachstein Mittens Hand Length

Sizing and Care

Dachstein bases their sizing on the length your hand from the wrist the top of your middle finger. If you intend to wear the mittens with an inner liner, you’ll probably want to size up. I wear a size 8 and my mittens weigh 7.8 oz for the pair.

The mittens retain their shape well through multiple washings as long as you wash them in cold water and blot dry in a towel rather than ringing them out or putting them in a drier. When washing use a very gentle detergent like Woolite and rinse well.

As you can imagine, Dachstein’s Extreme Wool Mittens are simply too well insulated to wear in warmer temperatures , but they are an ideal cold weather glove worn alone or under a large waterproof shell glove, and at $79/pair, a fairly affordable one as cold weather mitts go.

Disclaimer: The author purchased this product with his own funds. 

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Last updated: 2018-10-04 02:31:04

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Deuter Speed Lite 32 Backpack Review

Comfort

Weight

Suspension

Features

Adjustability

Sizing

Durability

Streamlined Technical Backpack

The Deuter Speed Lite 32 is a streamlined adventure sport pack designed for fast hikes or alpine tours. It’s outfitted for hauling extra technical gear without weighing you down.

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The Deuter Speed Lite 32 is a do-everything backpack that can be used for hiking, peakbagging, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, and even fast and light overnight trips. Weighing 32 ounces, it’s got a minimalist vibe with scaled back padding and a lightweight frame. But a host of technical features and the use of durable fabrics, give the Speed Lite some serious chops for rugged adventures.

Specs at a Glance

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Speed Lite is a conventional alpine style pack with a sewn-on top lid.  The lid has two pockets, one external with a key fob, and one internal, printed on the outside with the SOS signaling instructions found on all Deuter backpacks. The main compartment closes with a drawstring and has an internal hydration pocket capable of holding a 3 liter reservoir. The hydration port is located between the shoulder straps, but there’s only one hose keeper strap on the left shoulder pad.

The Speed Lite 32 has a sewn-on top lid and front stuff-it pocket
The Speed Lite 32 has a sewn-on top lid and front stuff-it pocket

The side mesh pockets on this pack are not reachable when the pack is worn, so you will need to use a hydration system if you want a drink on the move. The same side pockets are also a snug fit for a 1L Nalgene bottle; they fit but you’d have a hard time pulling them out even if you could reach back and grab them while wearing the pack. The mesh use for the pockets is tough and has a dense weave, so you can play rough with the Speed Lite and not worry about them getting ripped and chewed up.

You almost have to use a hydration system with this pack, unless you’re willing to stop and take off the pack when you want a drink , since the side mesh pockets are not reachable when the pack is worn and are barely wide enough to hold a 1L Nalgene bottle.

The Speed Lite 32 has a front stuff pocket that’s open at the top but secured but held close with a strap. There are strips of mesh down the sides to help dry out wet or damp gear and a drain hole at the bottom, so you can store a wet water filter or bathing in it. The mesh has the same durable weave as the side water bottle pockets.

The side pockets will fit a 1L Nalgene bottle but it is a tight fit.
The side pockets will fit a 1L Nalgene bottle but it is a tight fit.

The hip belt also has a pair of small zippered pockets, sized for bars, although you can barely fit an iPhone 6 smartphone into one. Given the “soft” nature of the hip belt, which we examine further below, I wouldn’t put anything rigid like a phone in them and use them more for snacks than anything. The front of a backpack hip belt is also one of the highest points of pack abrasion if you like to hike off-trail and bushwhack through vegetation. While both hip belt pockets are made with the same durable mesh used on the rest of the pack, I’d advise against putting anything electronic or too valuable in them, less they get soaked or torn.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Speed Lite 32 frame is a U-shaped Delrin fiberglass rod that loops around the perimeter of the pack and helps it keep its shape. It’s soft, flexible, and body hugging, which is what you want on an adventure pack like the Speed Lite, but it isn’t strong enough to support much load beyond 20 pounds.

The back of the pack is covered with mesh and contoured die-cut foam that provides some ventilation for your back. Not a lot, but some. It feels comfortable if you’re just wearing a thin shirt, but it is pretty much unnoticeable if you pile on a few clothing layers.

Die-cut foam with a mesh covering provides ventilation to keep you drier
Die-cut foam with a mesh covering provides ventilation to keep you drier.

The shoulder straps are well padded and covered with mesh to wick away perspiration. The shoulder straps are J-shaped but have extra padding along the inside edge in an effort to make them more comfortable for people with well-developed chests. The sternum strap can be moved up and down on a rail system, but there are no daisy chains on the front of the straps to attach extra pockets. The pack also has load lifters running between the frame and shoulder straps. While many smaller volume packs don’t have them, they can be useful if you carry heavy winter gear like snowshoes or even skis, using the pack’s external attachment features, which we review further below.

The Speed Lite hip belt is not padded and more of a fabric wrap designed to keep the base of the pack close to your torso and hips than a load bearing feature. That’s not a bad thing, but it underscores the limitation of the pack for carrying heavier loads. The hip belt closes with a pull forward webbing strap for ease of use. Given the hip belt’s reduced load-bearing qualities, it would have been nice if it was non-destructively removable with clips, like the hip belts on some ultralight backpacks of similar volume.

External Attachment and Compression System

The external attachment system on the Speed Lite 32 is where this pack really shines. It has two tiers of webbing compression straps which both close with buckles, making it easy to attach snowshoes or skis to the side of the pack. The webbing straps are extra long, but have elastic keepers to prevent them from flapping around. The compression straps can also be reversed so you can run them around the front of the pack, which is very handy for winter gear attachment, suck as sleeping pads, a crampon pocket, or snowshoes.

The Compression Straps are reversible, making it easy to carry snowshoes or a sleeping pad.
The Compression Straps are reversible, making it easy to carry snowshoes or a sleeping pad.

The Speed Lite also features full length daisy chains down the sides of the stuff pocket, which are also good for rigging up custom attachment points with accessory webbing or cord. There are also four additional gear loops on top of the lid for this purpose. There are also a pair of ice axe / trekking pole loops on the front of the pack and well as shaft keepers, which is a detail that many backpack makers leave off backpacks.

Recommendation

The Deuter Speed Lite 32 is a great multi-purpose adventure-sport backpack that can be used year round. While it is large enough for overnights or hut-to-hut trips, I think its sweet spot is for more technical day-hiking adventures like peakbagging, climbing, and winter hiking trips where you need to carry additional layers and technical gear. I use this pack all the time now for autumn day hikes as the weather is turning cooler, because it can hold all the gear and extra clothing I like to carry. It’s also quite similar to another Deuter backpack that I enjoyed using in the past called the Speed Lite 30, which is no longer made, but had the same comfortable V-shape, durability and technical features.

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Last updated: 2018-10-03 17:35:14

Disclosure: Deuter provided the author with a sample backpack for this review.

Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker’s unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

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Exped Mira 1 HL Tent Review

Comfort

Ease of Setup

Weather Resistance

Durabilty

Weight

Packed Size

Spacious and lightweight 1P tent

The Mira 1 HL is a lightweight one person backpacking tent with dual vestibules that provide excellent gear storage. The spacious interior and ceiling height provides excellent livability, with a gear weight that barely exceeds 2 lbs.

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The Exped Mira HL 1 is a surprisingly lightweight and comfortable one person tent weighing just 35 oz. It has two vestibules, one for gear storage, and a second for easy access and exit. A long arched ridge-pole provides lots of head room, making it easy to change clothes and move around inside the tent. Color-coded tent poles and a clip-on rain fly make set up easy, while the inner tent’s mesh netting provides excellent ventilation and insect protection.

Specs at a Glance

  • Min Weight
    • Fly: 11.55 oz
    • Inner: 12.9 oz
    • Poles: 10.4 oz
  • Size: 1 person
  • Type: Double-wall
  • Inner Tent Dimensions: 83″ (length) x 26″ (head and foot ends) x 39″ (height)
  • Poles: 3
  • Max pole segment length: 16″
  • Minimum stakes to pitch: 6
  • Materials:
    • Fly: 20 D ripstop nylon, silicone-/PU coated, factory seam taped, 1500 mm water column
    • Floor: 20 D ripstop nylon, laminated, factory seam taped 1500 mm water column
    • Canopy: 15 D ripstop nylon, 15 D No-See-Um mosquito mesh nylon
  • Footprint: Available

The Exped Mira 1 HL Tent is a one person, double-wall tent that than can fit into narrow spaces, making it ideal for forested pitches or anywhere where there’s not a lot of room to set up a tent. It’s designed to be highly livable, with lots of head room, interior room to change and move around in, and covered storage space that doesn’t interfere with the tent’s entrance.

Tent Pole architecture

The Mira 1 has three tent poles: a long ridge pole that spans the length of the inner tent, a horizontal pole positioned at the head end of the tent to create more head room, and a second horizontal pole that is use to maintain the width of the inner tent closer to the ceiling. The first two poles slide into sleeves sewn into the inner tent and slot into grommets in the tents guy-out points.

The long ridge pole and head-end pole slide into sleeves for increased strength.
The long ridge pole and head-end pole slide into sleeves for increased strength.

Poles sleeves are a common feature on many tents made by European tent manufacturers. While they make setting up and taking down a little more involved than the clips used by American tent manufacturers to attach inner tent bodies to poles, they produce a much stronger tent structure, one where the inner tent isn’t as buffeted by winds. Some manufacturers even let you slide a second pole into the sleeve, to increase the tent’s strength to counter extreme winds or heavy snow loads.

While having three separate poles makes setting up the Mira’s inner tent a little more complicated, you quickly get the hang of it after doing in a few times. The poles are color coded which helps, although you need to be careful when you break down the tent to make sure you pack all of them away. If there’s an advantage to the interconnected, hubbed poles you find on tents made by US tent manufacturers, it’s that they’re much harder to misplace or lose.

The Mira 1’s inner tent requires a minimum of four stakes (in the corners) to set up, while the fly requires a minimum of two. The fly connects to the four corners of the inner tent with colored coded clips, which makes it very fast to deploy, a good thing if its raining, since this is a double wall tent. There aren’t any extra guy-out points along the top of the ridge line or vestibules however, which could be used to make the tent more wind resistant in a gale.

The rear vestibule is accessed from the inner tent with a zipper
The rear vestibule is accessed from the inner tent with a zipper

Dual Vestibules

The resulting structure is a one person tent with two vestibules, a large front vestibule and a narrower rear one for gear storage. The rear vestibule is best though of as a gear closet rather than a full vestibule. It is about as deep as a full backpack and can be accessed from the inner tent with a zipper that runs horizontally atop the bathtub floor, so rain can’t leak into the inner tent. The opening isn’t big enough to pass a fully loaded backpack through, so it’s best to lift up the rear rain fly and pop the pack in from that direction. However, once under cover, there’s plenty of room to remove items from the pack or put them away for safekeeping. The rear vestibule area is also a great place to store your shoes/boots or other wet items, so that don’t leak over your dry gear.

The front vestibule is positioned on the long side of the tent, so you can use half of the tent width for more gear storage without blocking access. This vestibule has a two-way zipper, so you can vent the tent from the top or the bottom without fully opening it. There’s also a flap over the top of the zipper so you’re not drenched when you open it in the rain

Interior livability

The interior of the Mira 1 is spacious for a one person tent. It has a truly rectangular bathtub floor that does not taper from head to foot, so you can use a rectangular sleeping pad instead of a mummy shaped one (the tent is compatible with Exped M and LW sized pads). The inner tent has one side pocket inside for gear storage and numerous gear loops so you can hang items or lighting from the ceiling. There is also an abundant amount of mesh for ventilation as well as solid breathable panels for extra privacy.

The long arched ridge pole maximizes headroom overhead, so you can sit up and change comfortably in the tent. This is relatively rare in most one person tents, which have slightly more head room than a bivy sack. For example, I can kneel on an inflatable sleeping pad inside the Mira 1 HL, which isn’t something I can do in a lot of the other one person tents I use regularly. The added height also makes getting in and out if the front vestibule easier, without having to crawl on your belly to enter or exit the tent.

The rain fly clips to the corner guy-outs for easy set up, while sleeve-based pole holders help create a strong structure.
The rain fly clips to the corner guy-outs for easy set up, while sleeve-based pole holders help create a strong structure.

Recommendation

The Exped Mira 1 HL is a comfortable one person tent that’s well suited for three season weather. While it is narrow enough to fit into tight spaces, the interior of the tent has spacious dimensions with vertical side walls and a high ceiling so you can sit up and move around easily inside. Livability is further enhanced by the rear gear closet and front vestibule which provide additional gear storage space and ease of access. The near-freestanding inner tent (staking is still recommended) can also be used as a standalone screen shelter in mild and dry weather. Weighing 2 lbs and 3 oz, the Mira 1, provides a good balance between light weight and durability.

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Last updated: 2018-09-27 11:09:25

Disclosure: Exped provided the author with a sample tent for this review.

Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker’s unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

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Outdoor Research Panorama Point Rain Jacket Review

Water Resistance

Breathability

Comfort & Mobility

Hood Adjustability

Temperature Regulation

Weight

Durability

Packed Size

Lightweight Stretch-Fabric Rain Jacket

The Panorama Point Rain Jacket has built-in mechanical stretch for added comfort. It is loaded with great features that make it an excellent jacket for year-round use.

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The Outdoor Research Panorama Point is a lightweight rain jacket that can be used year-round for hiking, backpacking, and all of your recreational pursuits. That’s actually harder to come by than you think. While there are lots of lightweight rain jackets that you can use for three season wear, few have the additional venting and temperature regulation features required for serious winter hiking and backpacking. This jacket’s outer shell also has some stretch to it which makes it very comfortable to wear and surprisingly quiet.  If you can only afford to buy one jacket for year-round use, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that’s this fully featured and affordable.

Specs at a Glance

While the Panorama Point is made with OR’s proprietary waterproof/breathable laminate, I wouldn’t get too excited about that aspect of this jacket. Most Gore-tex knock-offs have pretty lackluster performance (and OR doesn’t publish specs for theirs.)  Companies use them to reduce the cost of jackets and because a breathable layer is considered a check-box feature with consumers, regardless of its effectiveness.

What I like about Outdoor Research rain jackets and winter hard shells, which I’m been using for over a decade, is that they usually put pit-zips or even longer torso-zips on their rain jackets, even when they have a breathable membrane. Venting is the most effective way to dump the excess body heat that leads to perspiration, as well as the built-up water vapor that’s generated when you sweat. I’ve never had much faith in the laboratory-tested breathability claims made by any manufacturer and their applicability for field use. All of the rain jackets and winter shells I use when I’m not testing gear have pit zips and torso-zips for that reason. Your mileage in 100% humidity may vary.

Jacket Features

The Panorama Point Jacket is loaded with all of the features that are you want on a jacket that can span four-season use.

  • a fully adjustable hood including neck toggles and a volume reducer
  • hood wire brim
  • pit zips
  • velcro wrist cuffs
  • chest pocket and two side pockets
  • hem cinch
  • two-way zipper

Fully Adjustable Hood

The Panorama Point’s hood has neck toggles and a rear volume reducer so you can cinch the front to prevent heat loss, block wind, and reduce the volume to fit your head. I consider these must-have features on any rain jacket that you intend to use for hiking and backpacking. Your head generates a lot of heat when you hike and it’s important to retain it when you’re cold or vent it when you’re two warm. You can’t do that if you can’t cinch it down tight and prevent the wind from whistling through, or if the hood is sized for a helmet, which is a common problem on winter shells, and too big for your head.

The Panorama Point has a fully adjustable hood including neck toggles, wire brim, and rear volume adjuster
The Panorama Point has a fully adjustable hood including neck toggles, wire brim, and rear volume adjuster.

Wire brim

Hoods with wire brims are great because you can reshape them easily. They also help prevent rain from dripping onto your face or glasses. If you have a jacket without a brim or one with just a fabric brim, you’ll probably need to carry a ball cap to keep rain off your face, which is just added weight to carry.

Pit Zips

The Panorama Point has 11″ long pit zips under the arms with two-way zippers. They’re easy to reach and adjust while wearing the jacket and do a good job at dumping excess heat without letting in additional moisture when it’s raining.

Velcro wrist cuffs

The arms have velcro wrist cuffs that you can cinch closed to prevent heat loss. You have a lot of blood flowing through the wrist that’s close to the surface of your skin, so preventing cold air from reaching it is an important way to keep your hands warm. They also prevent cold rain from dripping down your arm and wetting your mid-layer.

The Panorama Point has velcro wrist closures for warmth management
The Panorama Point has velcro wrist closures for warmth management.

Pockets

The jacket has three zippered pockets, all lined with mesh. The chest pocket is large enough to hold a smartphone (or GPS). In fact, it has an interior sleeve to hold a phone, so it won’t fall out when you open the pocket (awesome feature!). There are also two huge side pockets and the left pocket has a key fob w/ clip sewn into the seam. Unfortunately, the side pockets are not hip belt compatible and will be covered if you’re wearing a backpack.

Hem cinch

The jacket has an elastic hem cinch which is good for trapping heat in cold and windy weather, and to help prevent spindrift from blowing up under your jacket in powder.

The 11" pit zip help dump excess heat and reduce perspiration
The 11″ pit zip help dump excess heat and reduce perspiration.

Two-way Zipper

A two-way zipper is another highly desirable feature, particularly on a winter shell, because it give you the ability to rapidly vent excess heat and even wear your jacket like a cape, for maximum ventilation.

External Fabric, DWR, and Waterproofing

The OR Panorama Point is made with a 40 denier ripstop that has some stretch built into in, making the jacket very quiet and comfortable when you need to scramble. The external fabric has a very soft hand but still has a very good DWR coating on it to shed rain. However, if you wear it with a backpack, you should expect the DWR coating to rub off rather quickly around the shoulders and waist due to shoulder strap and hip belt abrasion.

You have two options, you can restore the DWR coating periodically (every 30-60 uses) with a product like Nikwax TX Direct Spray-on. It’s good to wash jackets like these periodically, like every 3-6 months, which is a convenient time to reapply the DWR. You can even wash it in, in the washing machine, with Nikwax TX-Direct Wash-in, which is even more effective and more convenient.

What’s DWR? It stands for durable water-repellent and is a chemical coating they cover the outside of waterproof/breathable rain jackets with to make rain bead up when it hits the jacket and roll off. This prevents the outer fabric from getting soaked through, which in turn, blocks the breathable membrane from releasing water vapor.

If the outer fabric of the jacket becomes soaked and you’ll probably experience more internal condensation build-up inside the jacket than you would normally. But the breathable membrane in the Panorama Point is waterproof, so rain water won’t seep into the jacket even if if the external fabric is saturated in normal circumstances. If you get a rain jacket that’s permanently waterproof and made with silnylon or polyurethane, you still have to deal with internal condensation buildup, so there’s ultimately no way around the issue.

Recommendation

The Outdoor Research Panorama Point Jacket is a comfortable and well featured rain jacket that can serve double duty as a winter shell. It is full featured with all of the capabilities that you’d expect in a technical shell but at a fraction of the price because it uses OR’s proprietary breathable layer and not more expensive Gore-tex. If you believe in manufacturer’s breathability claims, go buy a more expensive jacket. But if you’ve never been able to detect any noticeable difference, or you beat the crap out of your rain jackets by wearing shoulder straps and hip belts (ie backpacks), the Panorama Point will provide as much value as a more expensive jacket. Outdoor Research makes the best hiking rain gear in my experience and the Panorama Point is another good one.

See Also:

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Last updated: 2018-09-25 16:42:43

Disclosure: OR provided the author with a jacket for this review.

Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker’s unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

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Osprey Kestrel 48 Backpack Review

Comfort

Weight

Suspension

Features

Adjustability

Sizing

Durability

Lightweight Adjustable Frame Backpack

The Osprey Kestrel 48 is a lightweight and adjustable length frame is a multi-day backpack ideal for thru-hiking or multi-day trips with lower volume ultralight backpacking gear.

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The Osprey Kestrel 48 is a lightweight backpack that’s well-sized for thru-hiking and weekend backpacking trips with moderate loads. Weighing 3 lbs and 5.3 ounces (size M/L), the Kestrel has many of the features you find on higher volume backpacks without the overhead of more weight. The 48L Kestrel is also great pack to use if you’ve switched to lower volume ultralight backpacking gear but still want a pack that has a lot of pockets and organization options.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Men’s (Women’s version is the Kyte 46)
  • Type: Internal frame, wire perimeter loop
  • Weight (without rain cover): 3 lbs 3.7 oz (S/M), 3 lbs 5.3 oz (M/L)
  • Rain cover (optional, included): (4.7 oz)
  • Torso range: 16″-23″, two sizes available
  • Waist/hip range: 27″-55″, two sizes available
  • Closed pockets: 7+ main compartment
  • Open pockets: 3
  • Material: 210 denier ripstop nylon
  • Bear canister compatible: Yes, vertical
  • Max Recommended load: 35 pounds

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Osprey Kestrel 48 has a top lid, main compartment, sleeping bag pocket, front mesh pocket, and side water bottle pockets. The top lid is sewn to the front of the pack and has two pockets, one on top, and an internal mesh pocket facing the top of the main compartment. The main compartment closes with a drawstring, but does not have a hydration pocket. Instead, there’s a gap behind the shoulder straps for storing a reservoir, so you don’t have to unpack and repack your backpack every time you need to refill it. It’s super easy to use and a key differentiator, if you’re comparing merits of the Kestrel 48 to other backpacks.

The Kestrel 48 has the typical Osprey appearance with a top lid, front mesh pocket, and side bottle pockets
The Kestrel 48 has the typical Osprey appearance with a top lid, front mesh pocket, and side bottle pockets.

There are two full length zippers on the sides of the pack. The right side zipper opens into the main compartment so you can reach in and pull gear out without having to stop, open it from the top, and unpack. The left hand zipper opens to a full length pocket that’s ideal for stowing a rain coat, sweater, or hats and gloves that you want to keep in covered storage but easily accessible. There’s also a separate sleeping bag compartment at the base of the pack at the bottom of the main compartment. The top of the sleeping bag pocket is really a fold away shelf, that you can release if you’d rather pack the man compartment as one large space. An optional rain cover is also housed underneath the sleeping bag pocket in a small zippered pocket at the bottom of the backpack.

The Kestrel 48 has a separate zipper to let you access a sleeping bag or whatever is at the bottom of your pack.
The Kestrel 48 has a separate zipper to let you access a sleeping bag or whatever is at the bottom of your pack.

There’s a mesh shove-it pocket on the front of the pack, but it’s not that large. I put my Sawyer water filter, squeeze bag, snacks, and wet gear into it, but it’s not quite large enough for a wet 2 person tent.

The side water bottle pockets are also mesh and are sized to hold 1 liter Nalgene bottles. I can’t reach them when I’m wearing the pack. If you normally use a hydration system, this won’t be an issue. But if you prefer using water bottles, this could be a showstopper if you don’t like to stop every time you want a drink.

The hydration pocket is located right behind the adjustable length (torso) shoulder straps
The hydration pocket is located right behind the adjustable length (torso) shoulder straps.

Backpack Frame

The Kestrel is an adjustable frame backpack, which means you can change the torso length by raising or lowering the shoulder pads. For example, raising the shoulder pads will the length between them and your hips, while lowering them will decrease it. The shoulder pads are connected to the backpack by velcro so to raise and lower them, you simply release and reposition them where you want.

The pack has a lightweight wire frame that runs around the perimeter of the pack. The back area behind your shoulder blades isn’t ventilated like a trampoline pack, but it is covered with die-cut foam and mesh to help cool your back and keep it drier.

The Kestrel has an adjustable torso length so you can dial in a perfect fit
The Kestrel has an adjustable torso length so you can dial in a perfect fit

The Kestrel’s hip belt is sewn the back of the pack. The hip belt wings are padded with wicking mesh and the hip belt has two solid-faced, zippered pockets, one on each side. They’re well sized and I can store my iPhone and some bars or a point and shoot camera in them.

The Kestrel 48 has a side zipper that provides direct access to the main compartment
The Kestrel 48 has a side zipper that provides direct access to the main compartment.

Compression and External Attachment System

The Kestrel 48 has two tiers of compression straps on the sides of the pack. Both straps open and close with buckles, making it easy to lash snowshoes or even skis to the sides of the pack.

The front of the pack also comes with sleeping pad straps, so you can secure a pad or tent to the bottom of the pack if you need extra storage.  The straps hang down behind you, but are removable if you don’t want to use them.

There are also gear loops all over the pack that you can attach more gear to, including loops on the top pocket (4), and 8 loops on the sides of the front mesh pocket, that can act like daisy chains if you prefer to lash gear there. The Kestrel also has Osprey’s Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole retainer.

The Kestrel 48 has Osprey's stow-on-the-go trekking pole holders
The Kestrel 48 has Osprey’s stow-on-the-go trekking pole holders

Recommendation

The Osprey Kestrel 48 is loaded with features that make it really easy to use for thru-hiking, weekend backpacking and more technical hikes. Despite its small volume and light weight, it has a lot of organizational features normally found on larger and heavier backpacks. With an adjustable length frame and torso range of 16″ to 23″, it’s also available for smaller men and ones with much longer torsos, who can have problems finding a well-sized backpack.

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Last updated: 2018-09-24 02:33:07

Disclosure: The author purchased this backpack.

Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker’s unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

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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.

SectionHiker.com 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

Comfort

Weight

Suspension

Features

Adjustability

Sizing

Durability

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.

Recommendation

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.

SectionHiker.com 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.