Mosquitoes love me, so I wasn’t sure how successful the ExOfficio BugsAway products would be. I took along their Baja shirt on a couple trips to Mexico and was pleasantly surprised. I came away with no bites on my upper body when I wore the shirt. I wish I’d had some BugsAway pants, as my legs and ankles weren’t so lucky. The Baja shirt also is an excellent sun shirt with quick-dry poly/cotton blend fabric and a UPF 30+ rating. The “adventure” design has been toned down to look more streamlined, but just as functional. The snaps are hidden down the front, and the back ventilation is along the sides, not across the back. This shirt served me well both on trails and in towns. The BugsAway quality lasts for 70 washings, leaving me over 65 more adventures with this shirt.
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stoicgear.com; five pounds, four ounces
I used this three-person tent for five-nights on the Main Salmon River, a trip that played out across 70 miles over six days with hot, dry weather. Since we didn’t encounter any serious rain, the tent was mostly used to keep the bugs out while camping on sandy beaches each night. Nighttime temperatures reached the mid 60s and daytime highs peaked in the mid 80s.
The tent was erected quickly with one or two people helping. The asymmetrical design offers two doors, one on either side of the tapered floor. We slept side-to-side with our feet at the narrower end of the 41.2-square-foot floor. It slept two kids, one adult, and a dog very comfortably. A fourth adult could squeeze in if rain was a problem, and the 49-inch interior height offers a good amount of space inside. The vestibules accommodated our packs and boots, but they weren’t overly spacious. We did manage to unknowingly put a small hole in the floor and the mesh walls leading me to think that the fabric is not very strong.
On a second trip to the Mount Jefferson Wilderness in Oregon, three boys slept in it on a two-night backpacking trip. It was very light and easy to carry. The boys set up the tent the wrong way the first time, but then they switched the poles around and put it together quickly. However, we found asymmetrical rain fly to be counter-intuitive; getting it on right was a challenge. We didn’t notice any condensation after a night when temps dipped into the mid 40s, in part thanks to the Velcro lift in the rainfly that opened up a vent in the top of boost ventilation.
If you enjoy the outdoors you have probably heard of Chaco sandals and even if you don’t necessarily call yourself a “Chaconian” MyChacos is still for you. Chaco has launched a one-of-a-kind “Made In America” custom sandal program and it is amazing. Visit into www.mychacos.com and you will find four styles to choose from, and then it is a blank canvas where you can select everything from the sole pattern to the webbing designs, and even stitching color. Your selections immediately change on the sandal on your screen. Warning, you will lose hours playing with this. I created probably at least ten different designs and finally narrowed it down to three that I liked best, and still could not decide (the winner is pictured above, the runners-up down below). So I solicited the opinions of family and finally ended up selecting the more conservative design because I thought I would probably wear it with more things (yes I like to match)… I started out with the double strap with toe loop sandal then I went through every webbing option (the two straps can be different!). After that I selected the color of the heel leash, riser, buckle, buckle strap, footbed…they warn you there is more than tens of millions possibilities. There are two Vibram designs for the sole, one for wet terrain, and the other for loose terrain. Since I usually wear my Chacos at the beach and in water, I went with the wet option. MyChacos are made in Rockford, Michigan, by the ReChaco team and waiting on my creation to arrive in the mail was exciting too. When they arrived they looked just like I had seen online, and it is thrilling to know that no one else will have these! Chacos are great for anything from walking to the store to climbing on rocks through the rushing water of Dunn River Falls in Jamaica and their design and durable materials mean they’ll last a long time, too–but then if you can’t decide, you can always get more than one pair.
www.lifeproof.com, 1.1 ounces
You’ve spent a veritable fortune on your new iPhone—only to have it ruined while you answer a call (or text or while taking photos) a snow or rainstorm. We’ve tried a dozen cases for iPhones and most seemed too bulky or provided insufficient protection, until we found the Lifeproof case, which delighted our testers with its sleek design. At only 13.3 mm wide, it’s barely larger than the phone itself. The snap-on, O-ring case has a slick plastic exterior that doesn’t catch on everything when you’re trying to slip it in and out of your pocket. But best of all, the case is 100-percent dirt-, water-, and snow-proof. The case is guaranteed to not leak in up to 6.5 feet of water, a fact that was corroborated by one tester who went for an impromptu swim in the Rio Grande after a hot hike in Big Bend National Park. The phone was completely submerged, with no leaks whatsoever. The case is also guaranteed to protect the phone for short drops on hard surfaces—nice if you have kids with no sense of value; Lifeproof guarantees the case will protect the phone for drops up to six feet—we can attest that the phone and case can fall out of a car onto hard pavement and survive. The touchscreen sensitivity is excellent, with no loss of function or distortion. Included in the package is a headphone adaptor that allows you to use waterproof buds for swimming, snow sports, or running in the rain. Our testers’ only complaint? Plugging the charger in is difficult, and it’s easy to lose the water-sealing screw that covers the cord jack. Boaters should invest in the Lifeproof Life Jacket ($40), a bright orange rubber case that holds the phone firmly and floats to the surface if dropped in the water.
www.jetboil.com, one pound
Jetboil aficionados read no further—just know that you’ll love the Sumo for its increased boiling capacity. “This is the coolest stove I’ve ever used,” raved one tester who camped during Central Oregon’s rainy season. Our team applauded the stove’s efficiency in harnessing the heat from the flame. On one wet Willamette Valley weekend, in 20-mile-per-hour winds and near-freezing temperatures, the stove consistently boiled 1.25 liters of cold lake water in less than four minutes. The new Sumo Group Cooking System comes with a 1.8-liter cooking cup, an insulating cozy that lets you to handle the hot pot without getting burned, a pot support to help stabilize the heavier load, and, of course, the fast, seeming weather-impervious Sol burner, with its dependable, one-touch igniter. Our backcountry chefs loved the stove’s ability to move fluidly from a boil to simmer, a welcome adjustment when you’re cooking up a worthy feast.