A Base Backpacking Gear Kit For Summer

Base Backpacking Kit

Snow may still be dumping on much of the country, but backpacking season is already in full swing here in California. With a bunch of summer backpacking adventures lined up, I put together a gear kit that will form the base of every trip. I took the gear out for a test backpacking run in the Hetch Hetchy area of Yosemite earlier this week and had a blast. Below you will find my base gear list.

  1. Backpack: I will be switching between the Osprey Viva 65 and the Boreas Sapa Trek (55L). The Osprey pack worked great for Hetch Hetchy with a larger size that is conducive to bear can country.
  2. Wild Country Zephyros 2 Lite: Weighing under 3 lbs, this affordable and versatile peg out tent can be deconstructed into a tarp, summer tent, or dual tent for more inclement weather.
  3. Therm-a-Rest Antares 20: This lightweight sleeping bag has zoned insulation, putting down fill only where you need it. The SynergyLink Connectors hook on to your sleeping pad so you don’t slide off during the night.
  4. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite: This super comfortable yet ultralight sleeping pad is the perfect accompaniment to the Antares sleeping bag, adding warmth beneath you.
  5. Cocoon Ultralight Air-Core Pillow: Sleep comes easier with some sort of pillow and this super compact blow up version does just the trick. One side is even lined with microfiber for extra comfort.
  6. Jetboil: For short solo trips, I take the Sol Ti but for group trips, I take the Helios. So far, I like the cooking versatility of the Helios.
  7. Alite Designs Clover Cook Set: Again, more for cooking on group trips. If going solo, I normally just bring my titanium spork.
  8. Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter: The quickest and easiest way to filter 4L of water at once.
  9. Headlamp

Food, apparel, first aid kit contents, and other added accessories will vary from trip to trip, but the above list will always form the base. Full reviews of most of the listed gear will follow.

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  1. I would be especially interested in your experiences with the therm-a-rest mattress. I have had the ultra-lights for years now, but they are suffering delaminations (huge bubbles where the outer layer disconnects from the foam) like every year or so. Up until last year it wasn’t a problem getting them replaced on the lifetime warranty (although I got more than one insinuation that I had been voluntarily exposing them to intensive sunlight, which is ludicrous – I have been using them _at_home_ almost exclusively, it doesn’t get any more less demanding for a mattress), but last year, their Spanish distributor (who had sent it on to Ireland) eventually rejected it, saying that it was much abused. Since, as I pointed out, that mattress had been just used at home, I don’t want to know what kind of abuse they eventually imply if I use it out in the open before returning it. Eventually I got it replaced by the shop where I bought it, but I have two more with delaminations now, one where this happened after only 3 months or so of usage (I usually have 3 in rotation because Cascade Designs takes ages with the refurbished mattresses in Europe, and at almost any point I usually have at least one mattress with them after a return) and am wondering if I send it in or get some consumer protection agency working on it straight away.
    I love the mattresses for their comfort, they are the best option for my back, which is why I also use them at home (that, and to keep my luggage weight down) and they are really tough against punctures (only had two in all the years I used them). But the delaminations are completely without pattern so far (high pressure / low pressure / warm climate / cold climate / much sweat / constant use of a sleeping bag inliner against the sweat etc. etc.) and all Cascade Designs seems to be willing to do is to point the finger at me instead of trying to find a pattern why those things are happening, in which I could probably assist them. I am wondering if their hollow inflatable mattresses have the same quality / customer service problems. I mean, I find it really offensive if they, just to point the finger at me, insinuate that I have been abusing the mattress or using them in direct sunlight just as in “our products are perfect if something happens, the user is to blame”. And, judging by their facebook page, I am by far not the only one having those problems. It just seems to be a viable business model to keep producing unreliable mattresses, because most users don’t use them intensively enough so that, maybe after 5 years and 4 weeks of use per year, they write that one up to normal wear and tear and/or do not remember the warranty and/or acquiesce in the blame being heaped on them by Cascade Designs.

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