Staff Picks – Our Favorite Gear of 2020!

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Staff Picks – Our Favorite Gear of 2020!

Viewing 18 posts - 1 through 18 (of 18 total)
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    Backpacking Light


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    Backpacking Light staff and contributors offer up their favorite gear of 2020!

    What’s yours?

    Brad Rogers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast Tennessee

    Durstongear/Massdrop X-Mid 1p –  I’ve been using this shelter since it came out in early 2019 and have been very impressed.  It’s well thought out, easy to set up, roomy, and is a lot of tent for the price.  One of the features I really love about this shelter is the fact that you can open both doors for cross ventilation – a feature not found on many solo tents, but quite useful here in the humid southeast.  You can even have the doors open during non-windblown rain without getting water inside the inner net.


    Patagonia Airshead Pullover – I’ve still been using my trusty 2011 Houdini for backpacking, but I bought an Airshead on clearance to use road and trail running and it has been fantastic.  The fabric has a wonderfully soft, supple hand that is comfortable against the skin – more so than any other windshirt I’ve used, and it it’s just the right balance of windproofness and breathability.  After years of feeling like there was no real replacement to my ’11 Houdini if something happened to it, I would be totally fine backpacking with a Airshead or Houdini Air.


    Patagonia Sun Stretch Shirt – I’ve tried several button up hiking shirts for trips out west where I need bug and sun protection and after several years of using the REI Sahara, I finally broke down and bought a Patagonia Sun Stretch shirt from Worn-Wear – Patagonia’s online used clothing store.  The shirt didn’t look like it had ever been worn to me, and if it was, it was cleaned and prepped as brand new.  As with most Patagonia gear the quality and materials were excellent.  It’s more breathable than most button up hiking shirts and with an at home Permethrin treatment still kept the early August bugs at bay.  While I’ll continue to reach for my OR Echo shirts when bugs aren’t an issue, the Sun Stretch is the best shirt of it’s style that I’ve found.  It also earns bonus points for looking good off the trail as well.



    Locale: The Cascades

    Fires and Covid made backpacking a bit difficult in the PNW in 2020, so I turned to overlanding and camping to get away from most civilization and into the woods. So my favorite gear for 2020 is car camping gear. My Kuma 19″ propane fire pit is a definite winner for cold nights when the sun goes down around 4 pm. I’d have been in my shelter by 5 pm without the fire pit, instead of drinking scotch (or tea) and chatting til after 9 pm.

    Another favorite piece of gear is my 12’x20′ Oware tarp. It’s a great place to sit under with the fire pit to get out of any rain or snow falling. As with everything Dave makes, the craftsmanship was impeccable. Many ways to set it up, it serves its purpose extremely well. Here’s the tarp and stove in action.

    My Dometic PLB40 battery is a great piece of kit. I’ve used it three times so far while overlanding/car camping, and it has lasted through the entire weekend (often Friday night to Monday morning) keeping my Dometic fridge running, and still had 50 percent or more battery left. Part of that, of course, is because I was using it in winter, I can’t wait to see how it does in warmer weather. It recharges quickly and holds a charge quite well. You can also use it to charge various devices via USB.

    I’ll offer four instead of three, the fourth being my new Rav4 TRD Off-Road with a Front Runner Slimline II rack on top. The new Rav lets me go places I certainly couldn’t with my Elantra (or even my old Rav from 2015), and the Front Runner rack sits low enough that I can actually pack up the Rav in my garage instead of having to do it in the driveway. While it’s not a true 4WD, and nowhere near as off-road capable as a vehicle purpose-built for overlanding, it does get around 30 mpg. Hard to beat. (Thanks to Ian for the photo)

    Anthony H
    BPL Member


    I have two and they are my Topo Athletic UltraVentures and their gaiters and my ZPack Arc Haul Zip.  My new gear to try for 2021 is my new 2 person tent the X-Mid 2p.


    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Patagonia Thermal Weight Capilene Hoody. I will say the same thing this year I have for the last 10 years: best base for cool/cold weather outdoor activities with a HUGE range of comfort when paired with a wind shirt. Without wind protection the grid weave lets air flow through speeding the release of heat. With a shell it insulates well. Comfort down to 30F when running without a shell, below that with a shell. When walking around town keeps me comfortable down to 45F when combined with a wind shirt. I am reasonably comfortable engage in high energy activities when it’s 65F by fully opening the zipper and pushing the sleeves up to my elbows. Dries amazingly quickly and feels more comfortable than any other shirt I have used when it’s wet.

    De Soto Mobius Tri Shorts. Until it’s below freezing my legs don’t need covering when I am moving. They are comfortable for all the activities I engage in, in a wide range of conditions. They have reduced issues with chaffing, dry fairly quickly, and are reasonably comfortable when wet. They have side pockets large enough to hold some nutrition and my phone so I don’t need to use a special cycling jersey or worry about hip strap hindering access. I never need to think about what shorts to wear for vigorous physical activities…. I just grab my pair of Tri Shorts.

    My favorite gear for all of life

    BPL Member


    I second everything Mark said about the Patagonia Thermal Weight Capilene Hoody!  Best mid-layer I ever bought.

    Soto Windmaster stove paired with a Toaks 130 cm 900ml Ti pot.  Boils 16 oz of water in less than 90 sec.

    Zpacks Duplex.  Going on 5 years and still love it every trip I take.

    Nemo Tensor Insulated UL LW pad.  A luxury I grant myself…replaced a LW Neoair…not going back.  Pair with the Med UL Schnozzel doing double duty as pack liner.

    Nitecore NU25. Just so light, bright and convenient.

    DIY CF Trekking poles w/Gossamer Gear Kork-o-Lon handles. 4.3 oz each.  Perfection.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Boston

    Thanks for all of the recommendations! A few new products to me. My favorites:

    Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX Jacket which Melanie recommended above -my latest purchase, astoundingly light for its warmth and no sewn-through seams so it is the best at stopping wind. On the Oregon coast and in the Montana mountains, I like it! Synthetic fill means it is affordable also.

    Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20º quilt -I finally decided to try a quilt in place of a sleeping bag last year, and this was a revelation. About half the weight for the same warmth, and so easy to pack, much less bulk. The under-pad straps are super-functional and the zippered footbox opens to make a featherweight summer quilt.

    BSR LPG gas stove, the tiniest thing and under $20. Weighs 25 grams! Everyone in my family owns one.

    Thomas G
    BPL Member


    That photo doesn’t look like the southeast to me! :)

    Brad Rogers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast Tennessee

    Yeah, that’s not the Southeast US, it’s Crabtree Lake #3 or Upper Crabtree Lake on the Southern Sierra High Route.  Discovery Pinnacle -part of the Mt. Whitney ridge) is just out of frame on the left, and Crabtree Pass is the notch on the right.   This lake is at 12,200ft.

    Rob b
    BPL Member


    Question regarding the nunatakusa dog sleeping pad.  I am curious your thoughts on the sleeping pad you use and prefer when dealing with dogs and their claws.  Thanks again.

    Joanne C
    BPL Member


    1) Voormi Riverrun Hoody

    Go every where, do everything. Superfine Merino with inner layer of high-performance wicking yarns. Super light, warm layer when hiking in cool conditions. Super light cool layer when hiking in hot conditions. Base layer, sun shirt, thermal etc, etc. Just brilliant!

    2) Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles

    Strong, light, comfortable and turns you into a mountain goat!

    3) Xero Excursion Barefoot Hiking Boot

    Super comfortable minimalist, zero drop barefoot boot with AMAZING grip, water resistant and tough. Feels like wearing slippers all day, but gets you through the most rugged terrain. Going minimalist/barefoot takes time to recondition your feet after wearing cast-like shoes for a lifetime, but once you get back to properly functioning cave-man (person?) feet, you’ll never want to go back…

    Also: Injinji socks and Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack!

    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    Rob – there’s a pad sleeve in the dog bag. I use a foam pad for her, so puncture isn’t an issue.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    Brad, how does the Durston handle winds?

    Brad Rogers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast Tennessee

    I’ve used it on two week long trips in the Sierra and a couple of weekends in the Appalachians but nothing with much wind.  I’d really like to see mid panel tieouts, but I think it will do OK.  This year it’ll get a workout in Wind River Range so it may get tested more there.

    Michael B
    BPL Member


    1) CMTs 3K poles. I’ve not personally broken any poles yet, and with these, they are light enough and are comfortable.

    2) Merino Buff (a DHB product by Wiggle, not available anymore unfortunately) – this thing goes EVERYWHERE with me.

    3) With the exception of one cold night, I’ve loved my uninsulated BA AXL mummy. It is light, it is thick (enough) and packs down so tiny.

    I’ve seen the light with merino and am in process of switching out all my old SINthetic stinkfest baselayers. I want to try an alpaca hoody next for similar reasons.


    Josh B
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western New York

    Top pieces of gear from this past year:

    My new Hyperlite Mountain Gear Junction 3400 (my first lightweight pack) – Fits me perfectly a looks good while doing it. What else can I say. Its a beautiful pack and I’ve enjoyed every hike with it so far.

    Enlightened Equipment Revelation (30F version) – My first quilt. I will certainly never go back for three season use. I tested it out for the first time on a week long trip in Olympic National Park. I was plenty warm when I paired it with an insulated pad. Temps likely got into the low 40’s.

    Arc’teryx Thorium AR – My old reliable. I have had this jacket for over 6 years. It still looks and feels brand new. Its heavy for a down, but bomber durable and great for around town as well.  I happily pack the extra weight during the winter.

    Patagonia Capilene Cool shirts/baselayers: I couldn’t believe the wicking capability of these shirts in hot and humid weather of the northeast and northwest. They also come with lots of options of great environmental themed graphics. My new go to for anything 3 season. I bought a LS and short sleeve.



    Dean F.
    BPL Member


    Locale: Back in the Front Range

    The only new gear I’ve bought in the past two years was one of Dan Durston’s packs, for when I’m in a fanatical mood and don’t need the size of my (admittedly ridiculous) McHale.  Otherwize, I have sold or gifted all of my old (non-military) packs.

    So other than that I’ll just post this:

    Not terribly light, I know.  This is the car-camping rig that I cobbled together for my daughter’s Girl Scouts activities.

    I’m not an off-roader, but I do like to get to remote trailheads.  My career is demanding enough- and thus my time off is limited enough- that I try not to waste time with long approaches, and this vehicle gets me to places where I can already start my hike remote.  I’m slowly working on necessary accessories like a winch, etc.  Unfortunately, RhinoRack tells me that they have no plans to develop a Backbone system for the 2-door JL.

    It also turns out to be a surprisingly good “city car”.  It is short (2-door version) and has a ridiculously tight turning radius, so it’s easy to park.

    It gets best in class gas mileage with the 4-cylinder 2.0L turbo, believe it or not- I suspect because nobody else makes a “light SUV” with an engine that small.  Though unfortunately this engine is not offered with a manual transmission.

    But then, predictably, right after I bought it Jeep released their plug-in hybrid Wrangler (though only in 4-door).  Grrr.  If I’d just waited another year…  We got my wife the plug-in hybrid Pacifica a while ago and it has enough range that she can do her daily commute on battery alone, which is very nice.  Presumably the hybrid Wrangler (also by Fiat-Chrysler) would have similar performance.  Alternative vehicles have (finally!) gotten practical enough that I can look forward to getting one for my next vehicle, I supppose.  But, wow, I’m considering trading in far sooner than I usually do for that hybrid Wrangler.  Apparently you can even run the engine to use the vehicle as a generator to power equipment in remote locations if needed, not unlike that new F150.

    Brad Rogers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast Tennessee

    Nice Jeep Dean.  I have a 2016 JKUR with a 6 speed manual that I love.  It is a pretty decent daily driver.  I’d been a Jeep guy for years but moved to trucks for more kid room, but the 4 door Jeep works great with kids.  When they start driving I plan on getting a 2 door.

    That is of course assuming that I can still get a manual transmission.  If I can’t I’ll keep what I have until it can’t be fixed anymore.  I’ve been driving manuals since I was 16 and have no plans to change.


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