Note: Some of the links within this post are affiliates. We appreciate you clicking through them. It doesn’t cost you a cent and helps out our family a little bit!
Memorial Day – the unofficial start of summer. You know our beloved outdoor places will be packed this weekend. That means it might be a good weekend to get your gear goods. REI has their anniversary sale every year during this weekend and Backcountry has their site wide sale as well. Both stores have some great markdowns and both have 20% off one regular price item coupons; a caveat for the REI coupon, you must be a REI Member. We never miss these two sales.
I’ve created a round-up of some of the gear we will purchase this year and tried and true gear that we have used for years. There are links for REI, Backcountry, and Amazon for those of you that have Prime.
Dustin and I have complained about our cookset, the MSR Quick 2, since its first trip. Don’t get me wrong – It is a great set! Durable, easy to clean, the pots are the perfect size, and the mugs keep food and drinks piping hot. The trouble is, it is bulky. Every year we go out looking to find something better, only to stick with our current set up. In seven years, nothing has been better than the Quick 2. That changed this year. We upgraded to the Sea to Summit X pot set. It is silicone and collapses flat! Yep, you heard me, collapses flat. The hard anodized bottom of the pot allows for quick boiling and the translucent lid lets you see what is going on in the pot without removing the lid and losing that precious heat! The mugs have measuring lines on them, which for those of us with years old nalgenes that no longer bear measurement marks, this is an awesome feature. It also weighs only 1lb 5oz compared to our current set that weighs 1lb 12oz (truth be told, we only take one pot, one plate, and two mugs).
We have used the Light My Fire brand of sporks for backcountry eating every trip. They are a little short if you are eating straight from the bag, which would be my only complaint. Drake has been able to use them with ease every year as well, a big bonus for us to not have to buy him something else! We’ve had the same three since he’s been born, and Dustin and I have had the same two for years. They have held up well and are super cheap.
We love our stove. The MSR Dragonfly is a workhorse and always lights when others have struggled. In fact, when I have done field work in RMNP, our stove has done all the cooking for everyone in the volunteer party. It boils water faster than the typical canister stoves, and gives you the option to simmer for more culinary versatility. Sure, we have to carry a fuel bottle and fuel, but it burns about any type of fuel and we never wonder how much fuel is left in the canister. We have never second guessed this purchase. Again, we love our stove.
Water filters. We have four. For whatever reason, it seems like we always end up buying a new one of these. There aren’t any specific complaints about the ones we have used and then discarded, but there is always something faster or better on the market every year. Our Katadyn Vario has been out with us the most. It is the fastest and the filter on it lasts the longest. It pumps nearly 2L a minute on the fast flow setting, which is what we typically use. Wanting to lighten the load and save some room, we want to transition to a gravity system this year. I think we will stick with Katadyn brand and purchase the Katadyn Gravity Camp 6L. Weighing in at 11 ounces it will shave a bit of weight and take away the pumping process. It seems simple to use and reviews say it delivers quality H20!
With the 20% off sale at Backcountry, you can get in a top quality ultralight down bag for a great price. The Western Mountaineering Alpinlite is a sleeping bag you will have for years and years. I have slept in temperatures of 15 degrees and still been warm with a bag liner. We cherish our bags. When I see them in the closet I smile – that is how in love with my bag I am. Getting into our bags at night might be one of the very best things about backpacking. They offer a warm nights sleep every time and have kept all three of us warm and comfortable when zipped together. The WM Alpinlite (20 degree) comes in three sizes, 5’6″, 6′, and 6’6″. Backcountry also has both left and right zip options available. Drake will sleep in his own bag this summer, and it will be a WM bag.
Under our bags, we use two Therm-a-rest NeoAirs with a Therm-a-rest coupler. The Trekker comes in three different sizes, Regular, Large and Large Torso. I have the regular, and Dustin the large. These do puncture easily; however, Tenacious Tape creates a tight seal. Ours have stayed air tight even with various patches. Tenacious Tape is something every backpacker needs in her/his arsenal.
Up until last year we spent our back country nights in an Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2. I posted a review of our tent several years ago, and nothing has changed since then. Our Copper Spur has held up to all our adventures, a baby, and then a toddler. Not to mention the hail, wind, rain, and snow it has had to endure. The tapered design worked like a charm for us. We were happy to give up room at our feet for more elbow room. It is also one of the few 2 man ultralight tents in which Dustin can sit upright. The zippers did start to catch and split the last year we used it and the vestibules are quite small. Those would be our only two complaints about the UL2. You can’t go wrong with this tent.
Last year we needed more room. With Neva now accompanying us on most trips, the two man no longer provided us enough space. Neva is a bit of nutcase anxiety dog; sleeping in the vestibule was not an option for her. After searching for months, we went with the familiar and purchased a Copper Spur UL3 with MtnGlo. I’m not in love with this model like I am with the UL2. As far as room in the tent, it is ample. The vestibules are still small, but we knew that going it. It features a square design instead of a tapered design. The tent space works great for our family. My complaint with it is, it is so much louder and bendier in the wind than the UL2. Granted, we have not have it out as much as the UL2. We are considering a couple other options, a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Pyramid Set up or the Nemo Dagger.
The Nemo Dagger compares quite well to the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 in size and price (the Hyperlite is super spendy). The vestibule size is a bit more desirable, but other dimensions are nearly identical. Nemo is an unknown for us, and I am hesitant to pull the trigger. However, we really would like some more vestibule space and something that will be a little stronger in the wind.
Hopefully some of these things give you some good ideas for some gear to pick up at the summer kickoff sales. Of course, we have a whole host of other gear and clothing we take. These are simply the biggies and ones of interest to us this year. If you have any gear questions, feel free to shoot me an email, Facebook message, or comment here. I would be happy to answer any questions about any gear we use or give suggestions!