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?
Yeah, thats an interesting set of activities. The one thing that makes it a bit easier is that you wont be seeing any real cold weather. Cool, yes, particularly in Sedona. But not cold.
The Exposure II Parka
So...something like this:
Rain Jacket: On the more affordable end, Mountain Hardwears 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). Its 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: Id like to see if you can squeeze into something around 4,000 cubic inches of storage. Gregorys Baltoro 70 ($289) has a bit more than thatabout 4,300 cubic inchesin an easy-carrying, easy-to-pack design. Its a rugged pack that can manage a heavy load. I also like Ospreys Aether 70 ($260), which is about the same size as the Baltoro, and is just a touch lighter. Ive carried both in the past year and love them both. If you want something bigger,REIs 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. Marmots 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 Faces Cats Meow ($159) is a classic; rated to 20 degrees, weighs a little under 3 pounds, very durable.
Tent: Probably MSRs 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 Agness 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 its warmer in cool weather. Weighs about six pounds.