GEAR SHOP

Great Gear Picks We'll (hopefully) be Hiking with This Summer

As Oregon’s outdoor areas begin to reopen for hiking and recreation, we’re starting to look forward to the trails we want to roam, and the gear we’ll be packing along. This year, we’re sampling a selection of promising new items that we previewed at recent outdoor gear shows, and have toyed with sparingly during the last few months of lockdown time. Here are some of our top selections that we’ll be putting to the test.

The Big Stuff

Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 Paclite Jacket

Any time we’re hiking in Oregon, a rain jacket is a must—even if the forecast indicates clear and sunny. New in our gear supply this summer is the Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 Jacket. This lightweight rain shell is constructed of Gore-Tex Paclite Plus 2.5L material, which boasts superior breathability, while being completely wind- and waterproof. Despite there not being any zip vents, the Exposure/2’s seam-sealed interior has a comfortable finish that doesn’t get clammy, and the oversized mesh hand pockets assist with ventilation. We especially like this jacket’s relaxed sizing, which is fairly generous, so there’s plenty of room for layering up underneath. The longer tail keeps it from bunching or riding up under our pack’s hipbelt, and it provides good coverage when bike riding. It stows easily in its own pocket. We’ve already done some local urban hikes and rides around Portland in our Exposure/2 and are so far pretty impressed—but we’ve come to expect that from Mountain Hardwear apparel. M/W $300

Montbell Down Sleeping Wrap #5

Over the last couple hiking seasons, we’ve taken a liking to backcountry blankets in lieu of traditional sleeping bags. They can be just as warm as a high-quality bag, while allowing much more comfort and versatility. This summer, we’ll be snuggling up in Montbell’s Down Sleeping Wrap #5. This lightweight (25 oz.) blanket is stuffed with 800-fill Power EX Down, and is treated with Polkatex DWR to help keep it dry in moist conditions. Fully open, it measures 53 inches by 84 inches (Long model), and is suitable for anyone up to 6’ 6” in height. It features two sleeping pad attachments for holding it in place, and head and foot snaps and cinch cords for turning it into a bag for those extra-chilly nights. We like the Long model, as it lets us create an insulated hood for keeping our noggin extra toasty. It comes with a small stuff sack and large storage bag. If this wrap is anything as good as Montbell’s Down Hugger bag (one of our faves) we’re sure to enjoy some happy snoozing on the trail this summer. $339

Six Moon Designs Swift X Backpack

We got our hands on Portland-based Six Moon Designs’ Swift X Zero-G Backpack, and we can’t wait to get this out on the trail. This updated version of their classic Swift pack is constructed of lightweight, abrasion-resistant, waterproof LiteSkin LS07 material, and is crammed with all the features we’ll need for staying light and agile through the miles. Available with a standard shoulder harness, or an innovative, weight-dispersing vest harness (we opted for the vest), the Swift X weighs in at just 36 ounces, has a 45-liter capacity, and can accommodate a load weight of up to 35 pounds. Despite being a minimalist pack, it features a ton of pockets for keeping gear organized and accessible, including a large external pocket, two stretchy side pockets, two generous hipbelt pockets, and six pockets on the vest harness (we love this!); the standard harness features two large pockets. We’re pretty excited about this one, so once we get some miles on our Swift X, we’ll post a full review. $270

Big Agnes Salt Creek SL2 Tent

If you’ve been following us for a while, you know we’re superfans of Big Agnes tents. They’re lightweight, durable, dependable and easy to use. This summer, we plan to take it easy on some shorter, local trips with a few more creature comforts—perfect for the Salt Creek SL2 Tent. Weighing in at 4 pounds, the Salt Creek provides 44 inches of headroom and 28 square feet of living space. Its near-vertical side walls help maximize the interior area. It also features two big side vestibules for gear storage. Our favorite feature however, is the multiple configuration options made possible by its three large doors and versatile fly. Open up the front door to create an awning—perfect for kicking back under a little, shaded patio—or peel back the fly to enjoy maximum views while still staying under cover. Another sweet feature is the big 3D storage bin over the foot area for stashing extra clothing and essentials to help keep the floor area clutter-free. Look for our full field review soon. $300

The Essentials

Spot X Messenger w/ Bluetooth

We’ve been hiking with a SPOT device for years. It’s let us keep in touch with friends and fam back home, let them track our progress on distant hikes, and given us the security of knowing we could call for help if the need arose—thankfully not an action we’ve ever needed. This year, as a new SPOT Brand Ambassador, we’ve gotten the opportunity to give the new SPOT X Satellite Messenger a run. Weighing just 7 ounces, it provides 2-way satellite text messaging, hike tracking, quick check-in options, and emergency contact service. It also works through our iPhone using Bluetooth and the easy-to-use SPOT App. It’s just a small addition for a lot of peace of mind. The SPOT X requires a monthly service plan, with different options depending on usage needs. We’ll be reporting our progress with our device, so look for our summary soon. If you’re considering adding a SPOT device to your gear essentials, now is a great time. Between now and May 31, you can save $50 on any new SPOT device.

Primus Essential Trail Stove & Trek Pot Set

When it comes to choosing backpacking gear, most PCT hikers focus on two factors: size and weight. Oftentimes, this comes at a premium price. For those new to backpacking, or who may have a limited gear budget, value may be the leading factor. Considering the latter, we’re pretty impressed with this affordable trail cooking combo from Primus. The Essential Trail Stove ($25) weighs just 4 ounces and is compatible with most standard fuel canisters. Its simple, sturdy design makes it pretty effortless to use: turn on gas, light burner, cook. It features a decent-sized pot support that can accommodate small- and medium-sized cooking pots. The fixed support also helps block wind for consistent use. Combine the stove with Primus’s 9.5-ounce, 1L Essential Trek Pot ($40) and you have a complete cook system. Boil water or make soups, rice or pasta in the pot portion, and use the nonstick lid/skillet for cooking eggs or skillet biscuits! Both the stove and fuel can be nested inside the pot for easy packing—nice!

Hydro Flask Trail Series Bottle

We get a lot of grief from many ultralighters for our affinity for packing along a heavy, insulated bottle. But that doesn’t bother us while we’re on the trail or in camp enjoying hot coffee and tea that stays hot, or icy cold stream water that stays cold. Our insulated bottle is also perfect for enjoying frosty Moonshine Margaritas in the backcountry! This year, Hydro Flask is helping to lighten our load just a bit with their new Trail Series Lightweight Bottles. Available in 24 oz. and 32 oz. sizes, these new bottles weigh 25% less than regular, comparable bottles, at 10 ounces and 12 ounces, respectively. Each are constructed of BPA- and Phthalate-free Pro-Grade stainless steel with TempShield for maximizing insulation and minimizing condensation. Their widemouth design provides easy drinking and refilling, and makes them compatible with most filtration device attachments. The standard screw-on Flex Cap can also be swapped out for either a Flip Lid or Straw Lid for more convenience. Drink up! $45–$50

Ben’s Wipes Mosquito Repellent

These are not new, but they’re a staple in our gear kit. If you’ve ever hiked in Oregon’s mountains in early summer, then you know mosquitoes can be a problem (read: f-ing nightmare!). If you’re new to hiking in Oregon’s mountains in early summer, consider yourself warned. That’s why we go out prepared—long sleeves, long pants, head net and plenty of repellent. In addition to a good lotion or spray, our supply of Ben’s Wipes is an essential. These individually-wrapped wipes are small and light enough to go in any pocket or first aid kit. They employ a water-based, 30% DEET solution to repel mosquitoes, ticks and other biting, disease-carrying buggers. When we need a quick and easy repellent application, we just wipe down with one of these and we’re usually safe for a few hours. We’ve also used them on shirts, pack straps and tent flaps—anywhere we want a bug-free area. If you want to hit the trail at peak flower-peeping time, do yourself a favor and stash a few Ben’s Wipes in your pocket. $6/12 wipes

Great Gear Deals

Eli "Lounger" Boschetto

Eli "Lounger" Boschetto

Eli is director of PCT: Oregon, and the author of three Mountaineers Books guides: Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon, Day Hiking: Mount Hood, and Urban Trails: Portland. He is also a brand ambassador for SPOT and National Geographic Maps, and is on the advisory board for the Oregon Trails Coalition. Eli lives in Portland, Oregon.

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These reviews are based on the field results of PCT: Oregon’s gear testing team. Reviews are subjective, and are based on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, temperature, weather, elevation, and trail/camp conditions, as well as personal comfort and body function. Individual results may vary.
This post contains affiliate links. All purchases made through these links help support the operational expenses of PCT: Oregon. Unless indicated, PCT: Oregon and its gear review staff are not associated with the featured gear brand(s). For more information on PCT: Oregon’s gear selections, reviews and affiliates, click here.
Main photo: The awesomely waterproof Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 Jacket; courtesy of Mountain Hardwear. 

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