Gear Guy

The Exposure II Parka     Photo: courtesy, Mountain Hardwear

Q:

Can you outline the perfect batch of gear needed for an active summer in Alaska, Sedona, and Asia?

I'm graduating from a Masters program in May, and planning, possibly, my last great summer get-away before becoming a hard-working stiff in September. My itinerary from mid-May through August includes a hiking/camping cross-country road trip to Sedona, two weeks of camping and hiking in Alaska, volunteering as a fly-fishing instructor in Alaska, and traveling in Asia for three weeks. If you were putting together a recommended gear list (particularly lightweight waterproof jacket, backpack, tent, and sleeping bag) from scratch where would you start?
—Joseph
Pittsburgh, PA

A:Yeah, that’s an interesting set of activities. The one thing that makes it a bit easier is that you won’t be seeing any real cold weather. Cool, yes, particularly in Sedona. But not cold.

So...something like this:

Rain Jacket: On the more affordable end, Mountain Hardwear’s Exposure II Parka ($200), made with its proprietary Conduit fabric, is quite good. Durable, waterproof, decent breathability. If you can spend a bit more, I highly recommend the REI Shuksan ($299). It’s made with eVent, a fabric that is similar to the PTFE used by "the" rainwear-fabric maker, but that undergoes a little different manufacturing process. Really breathable. And overall the Shuksan is a really nicely designed jacket.

Backpack: I’d like to see if you can squeeze into something around 4,000 cubic inches of storage. Gregory’s Baltoro 70 ($289) has a bit more than that—about 4,300 cubic inches—in an easy-carrying, easy-to-pack design. It’s a rugged pack that can manage a heavy load. I also like Osprey’s Aether 70 ($260), which is about the same size as the Baltoro, and is just a touch lighter. I’ve carried both in the past year and love them both. If you want something bigger,REI’s XT 85 ($299) puts 5,200 cubic inches of capacity and cutting-edge materials into an affordable package. A lot of pack for the money. And it weighs no more than the Osprey.

Sleeping: That's a tough one. I should think for your U.S. stages, a bag rated to about 32 degrees would be fine. In Asia, you might not even need it, depending on where you are going. Marmot’s Arroyo ($249) is a classic, very light (1 pound, 11 ounces) down-filled bag rated to 30 degrees. Packs to the size of a cantaloupe. For something warmer, and synthetic, The North Face’s Cat’s Meow ($159) is a classic; rated to 20 degrees, weighs a little under 3 pounds, very durable.

Tent: Probably MSR’s Hubba ($280), a solo tent that weighs under three pounds and has plenty of room for…you. Great breathability and good weather protection. And bug-proof. If you think you may have company, Big Agnes’s Seedhouse 2 SL2 ($320) weighs only a little more yet has room for two. And Sierra Designs' Meteor Light 2 ($280) is a classic two-person design, but it has a little less mesh than the lighter tents, so it’s warmer in cool weather. Weighs about six pounds.

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