2019 Staff Picks

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable 2019 Staff Picks

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 26 total)
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  • #3624557
    Backpacking Light


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    Companion forum thread to: 2019 Staff Picks

    The Backpacking Light staff offer their ultralight and other gear recommendations for lightweight backpacking, hiking, and camping.

    Post a reply in the forums below with your favorite gear of 2019!

    GK Lott
    BPL Member


    Locale: Texas Hill Country

    Purple Rain Skirt remains the my 2019 backpacking 3-season clothing bottoms selection. PRS is a great man’s (or woman’s) traditional shorts lightweight replacement. Even with a male dominant staff, was surprised not to see a skirt in your list.

    Mike M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Montana

    I’ll have to concur with two of Dan’s picks- the Uberlite has been a nice addition; have found it good to 32 degrees (give to take a little) so it sees pretty decent use ~ April-September.

    The inReach Mini is really nice- started with a SPOT, moved to the inReach and then the Mini- all good, but the Mini fits the bill for me the best.

    Jenny A
    BPL Member


    Locale: Front Range

    I have to go with REI’s Magma 30 quilt.  The combination of warmth, comfort, small packable size, and affordable price are all winners.  It allowed me to shave a whole pound from my sleep system.  I probably won’t go back to using a sleeping bag for trips with anticipated temperatures above the mid-30’s.

    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    My single favorite item is the Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight Hoody for cool/cold weather activities. Without wind protection the grid weave lets air flow through letting heat vent out and with a shell it insulates. On cold days that warms up I start with a shell and the hoody fully zipped, hood on, sleeves pulled over hands as ad hoc mitts. If it warms up my progression is the shell gets unzipped then removed, I open the zipper to neck, drop the hood, pull sleeves back to wrists, fully open zipper, pull sleeves above elbows. My personal comfort ranges (your experience will vary… I run hotter than some people):

    • Running: 25-55F no shell / 5-30F shell
    • Hiking 35-65F no shell / 20-50F shell
    • High energy cycling 45-65F no shell / 25-45F shell
    • Sitting around after an active day  55-75F / 45-65F shell

    Besides an excellent comfortable range in regards to temperature, I continue to be impressed with how well it deals with moisture. Moisture gets wicked away from the body and into the outer fabric where it dries fairly quickly. After a hard effort that has me sweating I find the against the skin material feels dry against my skin in say 15 minutes after I return to “normal” activity levels, even though the outside feels damp to the touch. In moderate conditions when I know I will be able to dry out, I wear this base without a shell and just get wet rather than a lighter base + rain gear because it is more comfortable for me.

    I am generally very happy with my kit which has stayed largely the same since 2012.  I also keep a list of everyday life posessions which I generally love.



    BPL Member


    Locale: The Cascades

    2020 Hyundai Elantra – gets me to the trailhead, pretty much anywhere in the US.

    Costco gas station – unless I have 10 cents or more off via Safeway, Costco has the least expensive gas in my area.

    Jerry, Nick, Ian, Craig, Tom, Ken, Kat, Greg, DC UL, Michael and other backpacking partners.

    Jabra Elite 75t. I like to listen to music to help me go to sleep.

    Todd Williams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Depends on the weekend


    Adam Kilpatrick
    BPL Member


    Locale: South Australia

    I just went over all the Patagonia options on their website. It seems to me that it would be neat if they had a sun hoody with long sleeves, and short zip front. Not sure why they don’t. It would work well for me…I like to bare a bit of chest to vent when the UV is lower, and being able to cinch it up around the neck a bit would be handy to push the temperature when its cooler. I’d happily take the slight weight increase on a worn shirt.

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    The new Gossamer Gear Vagabond Packable version is my current daypack du jour. It works for EDC, day hikes and travel. 23 liters, 11.2oz and a great feature set that can self stow in the front pocket for $59.

    Adam Holbrook
    BPL Member


    Locale: SW Ohio

    Glad to see Topo Athletic shoes making the list.  I have 3 pair thus far, 2 road runners and 1 trail runner.  I’m sure they’ll be catching on as a replacement for those who like Altra but want something more durable.

    Russ Bogardus
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado Springs

    <p style=”text-align: center;”>Never mentioned on BPL but one of my favorite pieces of clothing is the Minus33 Kodiak Expedition Wool Full Zip Hoody. 400g/m*2 Australian merino wool. Comes with  full front zipper, one zippered inside pocket, two outside hand warmer pockets, and thumb loops. All for $199.00. My favorite for 3 season use.</p>

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    All very good choices. I have most of these items but in different brands.

    My picks are two Dyneema Tarptents.

    1. Aeon Li-> solves many of the ‘mid tent design problems

    2. Notch Li-> A double wall solo Dyneema tent only 3 oz. heavier than the Aeon Li (and my choice of the two).

    David U
    BPL Member


    I recently used a friends Seek Outside Gila pack.  Wow.  It is by far the most comfortable small pack that I have ever carried.  Intended for heavier loads and certainly heavier than many ultralight packs (I was hauling 8 litres of water and gear), I was blown away by the outstanding comfort.

    Still think the MLD Rain Kilt / Skirt is Da Bomb!

    Brad Rogers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast Tennessee

    David – The Seek Outside platform is the bomb for heavier loads.  I think it’s the most comfortable pack period for loads 30# and over.  I tried a prototype Seek Outside “Flight” series pack for a week on the JMT and SHR this summer and was impressed.  It’s a lighter 2LB pack aimed at backpackers with lighter loads (<35lbs).  I think it was supposed to be released by the end of the year, but I don’t see it on their website.

    Gary Dunckel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Boulder

    My favorite 2019 items include Dan Durston’s X-Mid 1-p tent (I like it so much that I then placed an order for the 2-P version, which should show up in April and likely be my favorite item for 2020). Then there are the Byrnje fish net layers for winter insulation.

    My third gear item is the new, redesigned version of Fizan’s trekking poles now back in stock at Massdrop. I ordered them around Christmas, and they showed up 3 days ago (does that count as a 2019 item?). I first tried the Fizan poles when our dear Jen Mitol sold me her earlier version Fizan poles a few years ago. I’ve hiked over 600 miles with them, mainly in my nearby open spaces. The Fizans employ likely the most dependable twist-lock mechanism. I prefer a definitive finger rest for my index finger, and I like rubber tips. Also, I don’t like to use wrist straps except for snowshoeing or XC skiing. So I had to do some hacking to customize things to my liking. I wore out the stock rubber tips the first year, and the U.S. Fizan rep located in (I think) New Hampshire (Vermont?) mentioned that the rubber tips were not designed for actual use, but were intended for protection during transport. He sent me 2 pair of tips to keep me happy. Then I found that the much more durable re-branded Komperdell tips that REI sells fit the Fizan poles nicely.

    The new version of the Fizan poles are a great improvement. They have a nice foam grip which has a great finger rest, and they come with very robust stock rubber tips. In addition, they have very innovative wrist straps which are quite light weight and adjust very easily (I simply leave them in place and keep them out of the way with a silicone hair tie, so they are there if for some reason I might want to use them).

    While I generally prefer poles with flick-locks for quick and easy adjustment (for example while snowshoeing when you have to adjust the pole length for varying snow depth), for routine hiking I just set the pole length and leave it. These Fizan poles are the bee’s knees, and they are so light. While my Jen Mitol hacked poles come in at 12.7 oz. for the pair, my new ones are a scant 12.0 oz. (which could be a bit lighter if I removed the straps). Anyway for a cost of $63, these new poles have me feeling like a happy puppy.

    Brad Rogers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast Tennessee

    I used two new pieces of gear in 2019 and I can recommend both.

    First was my Durston X-Mid 1 which I used on a week long trip in the Sierra.  I can’t say that it got tested in inclement conditions, but my impressions of the shelter after living in it a week are very positive.  It’s well designed and thought out and it seems like it would be reasonably storm worthy.  It even has me thinking of selling my much beloved DCF Duomid.

    Next was a prototype Seek Outside “Flight” pack, which was a 2lb pack intended for lightweight backpackers and thru hikers.  It carried great on the trip with about 25.5lbs and a Bearikade Weekender inside.  It’s about 40-45 liters per SO and is a little smaller than my normal week long pack – a SWD Long Haul 50.  I don’t think SO has released the pack yet, and sadly I had to send my prototype back so they could send it to another tester, but I really liked the one I carried, and with SO doing their due diligence with testing and incorporating feedback – I have no doubt that this back will be loved by many.

    My other gear has been pretty stable for some years and I’m starting to do some repair work on it.  I had to sew a patch on the butt of my RailRiders Echo Mesh pants purchased in 2011, and I just put new tips on my Locus Gear CP3 trekking poles I bought in 2013.



    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    I just filled a Mountain Laurel Designs packing cube, which made me realize how much I like one feature of Hyperlite Mountain Gear pods.

    The top of an HMG pod opens much like a flap, so you can lay it down flat, zip it open, easily see everything inside, and fill it to the brim without stuff falling out.


    Six Moon Designs pods also have that feature:

    With the more common packing cube design, the zipper runs through the center of the short sides and doesn’t wrap around, which is harder to use.

    The slightly longer wrap-around zipper might add a couple of grams. Also, HMG pods are shaped to fill my HMG pack and others.

    Sometimes it’s the little design details count. Are they worth the HMG premium? Your choice.

    — Rex

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    The newer Eagle Creek Specter Tech cubes have top oriented flaps. A 12 liter medium version weighs 1.8 oz and is just $17.95 retail. Their plainer (and smaller) 10.5 liter Specter cube is just 1.0 ounce.

    I think the HMG cubes are too expensive for the function. I have whole backpacks that cost less! The real benefit is that they are proportioned to fit their backs.

    Russ W
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeastern US

    Dale, I’ll piggyback a bit…I have some HMG pods, and they  are an absolutely fantastic product. But I can also order 3 for $30 silny pods from Six Moon Designs and they are a beautiful thing. I use them for business travel as well as backpacking.  Highly recommended.

    Dondo .
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado Rockies

    Another vote for the Durston X-Mid 1p.  The X-Mid is great balance between livability, versatility, weight and price.

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    @gatome83 “But I can also order 3 for $30 silny pods from Six Moon Designs and they are a beautiful thing.

    That is a bargain price. I see they offer them for $12 each too. Those are nice fat cubes; I wouldn’t need more than two for a long urban travel journey, but who wouldn’t want 3 :)

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I forgot to add Danner Trail 2650 hiking shoes. Built like train runners, but designed for walking and they have stout shank to protect from stone bruising. I have really cranky feet and these shoes make my feet 20 years younger! They should be good for flat pedal cycling too.

    BPL Member


    Danner was my boot of choice…when I still wore (waterproof) boots.  Gave up on that idea and have worn light, breathable, quick drying trail runners since, but for some reason never considered the 2650.

    Dale – how do the 2650s drain after a stream crossing, and how quickly do they dry?

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I haven’t given them that sort of test yet. They are like built like trail runners inside with a perforated suede outer layer on the forward 2/3 and some synthetic on the rear. My expectations are high on drying quickly which they do from rain and perspiration is not an issue at all. The soles are fantastic and grippy on wet stuff.

    I wanted a.multi surface shoe for trail, travel and biking and they tick all those boxes.

    They make a GTX version too if you like that and want a lighter wallet. They make a mid version as well.

    Someone at Danner got the message from the spaceship and they are making a number of lighter models. I was pleasantly surprised. I always associated them with excellent but heavy boots.

    I had a Danner as a classmate while studying photography in 1979. He had incredible custom hand made boots!


    Jason Brooks
    BPL Member


    Has anyone used the Buffalo system clothing? It’s been around for a looong time. I never had any of the  buffalo clothing but I did have a Patagonia Infurno jacket which works on the same principle and it was the best piece of clothing I ever had. I can’t believe they stopped making it. I wore it right next to my skin like is recommended for Buffalo clothes and it was the only thing that ever kept me dry in driving, above tree line, rain. the shell was permanently impregnated with silicone so water always beaded up on it and the thick pile lining was always dry next to my skin because my body heat would cause the moisture to wick outward. Goretex doesn’t even come close.

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