New gear we liked for 2021

Joan and I tend to have our gear and clothing options dialed in at this point in our backpacking and outdoor pursuits.

Not that we won’t try new items or activities (we continue to enjoy forays into packrafting, for example).  But our belongings work well for us overall; Joan’s handy with a sewing machine so we can keep the gear we like going for a while, and we have no desire to shave a handful of grams if it means making our credit card bill heavier at the end of the month.

We continue to find a balance in pursuing outdoor activities as a couple. Still, overall we are pleased with what we own and continue to use it on overnight activities weekly, all but a few times (perhaps fewer than five?) a year.

As such, most of our focus on new items tends towards replacements.  The high desert chew up shoes and socks in particular, and what I kiddingly call West Desert Gear Repair always seems to have projects to modify or fix (the latter mainly because of me and my tendency to beat the crap out of what we own. 😉 )

From when JoanUtah-ized” our daypacks back in December 2019. She has made a few more repairs since. We joke how much of the original pack’s left?

Plus, using the gear we have and repairing it as long as we can is not only friendly to our budget but fits our lifestyle better and lets us have a smaller footprint on the ground both in a literal and a figurative sense.

Having said all that. we had three significant exceptions this past year: 

The first one is that Joan replaced her Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite for a straightforward reason: Even for women’s pads, the tapered shape did not allow Joan a good night’s sleep. The hips and shoulders did not fit well, and there’s not as much coverage over the cold ground vs. a rectangular pad.  I, too, have trouble sleeping on mummy-shaped pads for different reasons.  Unlike me, though, Joan does not find comfort in using a foam pad.

Joan’s solution and her favorite purchase for 2021? The Nemo Tensor Regular Mummy.  Though a three-ounce weight penalty vs. the NeoAir XL, the rectangular shape made Joan enjoy ground-dwelling and get a good night’s sleep.  On countless trips together, she gushed over how much she loved the pad (literal words!) and how she never got used to the NeoAir XLite over four years of use.  Joan may even find ground-dwelling almost as comfortable as her beloved hammock setup?  Well..maybe not.  But at least she enjoys the tent backpacking more!

Joan is in the San Juan Mountains on her favorite three-season pad.

I’ve long advocated buying a bread and butter”  backpacking tent for car camping.

You do not need to purchase a light shelter as that’s not money well spent in my opinion and the inexpensive car camping tents leak like a sieve and don’t work well for prolonged use. Even the expensive car camping tents tend to have a high profile and do not do well in the wind or adverse weather conditions.

Now you could use your backpacking tent for car camping, but as mentioned many times, Joan and I like a quick camp the night before a backpacking trip. And having all the gear packed and ready to go without repacking saves much time and lets us get backpacking that much quicker. And, frankly, the extra space for car camping sometimes works well, especially for colder weather base-camp style trips.

And the tent that fits this niche? The previously mentioned “bread and butter” backpacking tents.   Well made if not light with a full rain fly, aluminum poles, free-standing, and quality material. And while not cheap, they end up as affordable, especially for a frequent camper.   Kelty, Eureka, and Alps Mountaineering make tents of this type at a reasonable price point. The REI Garage typically provides factory closeouts or earlier models at an affordable price, too.

After more than a decade of active use, our REI HooDoo 3 started to show wear and tear after many seasons in Colorado, Utah, and elsewhere. The zipper started to catch even with zipper wax, and the fabric showed some worn areas.  Though still very useful, we knew that we had a finite amount of seasons ahead for its use.  Finally, after enjoying the separate side entrances of our backpacking tent, we wanted one for car camping, too. As with all our older but still serviceable gear, we consigned it locally (and took advantage of the additional gear credit instead of cash for fuel, maps, and other items) and purchased a new tent. And the tent?   The Alps Mountaineering Chaos 3.

Very spacious for two people, very weather worthy, quick to set up, and the aforementioned side entrances that help ensure relationship bliss! We hope to make a deacade+ use of this tent as well, too.

The organization of equipment, supplies, and time is what allows Joan and me to get out frequently. And we both appreciate having gear staged, set in such a way, and easily accessible both at home, in the field, and while in between.

Joan especially became a fan of the Six Moon Design Pack Pods this past year for her traveling that comprised hiking, backpacking, camping, and seeing family most of the summer. As Joan said, it helped with the transition between activities, kept the clothing clean, and made it, so she never lost track of the clothing between the different activities. Joan does not use any item in her kit unless it works well. And it’s telling Joan uses the various sizes of pack pods a lot!

Another piece of equipment that wore out after 10+ yrs of use  – our Coleman F1 Stove.   The threads no longer screw into a canister efficiently, or even more dangerously, or even seal correctly,  after many pots of hot water for our after-dinner drinks somewhere in the backcountry.

I researched stoves, found what looked good, and then Joan mentioned she has a canister stove she hardly used due to enjoying cold food when backpacking.  And the stove? The Optimus Crux Lite.

There’s nothing special about this stove. The stove costs $40, weighs 2.5 oz, fits a pot well, and puts out 10k BTUs. Like many other sub-3oz canister stoves. Oh, and it did not cost us any extra money.  I mean, we are just boiling water in the backcountry for a few days at a time. On longer solo hikes, we both tend to eat cold. And I’ll take my BRS for solo weekend trips.

Do we need a different stove that will cost us money? Probably not.

From REI


I suspect the gear trend for 2022 will continue for Joan and me.  Meaning; we’ll replace gear we wear out, repair what we can, and maybe try out a new item or two, but overall we are pleased with what we own and don’t see the need to purchase gear for the sake of purchasing gear.

Disclosure:  SMD provided the pack pods. We purchased the other gear with our funds.

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2 years ago

Just a note about the Crux Lite. At least on mine, the flame is not consistent. I have to turn up the flame periodically while heating my water as it seems to lessen as the minutes go by. Having said that, it has worked for me for many meals.