Product Info and Reviews

Zach Miller has been apart of the Backpacker family for over 2 years. He is dedicated to educating and inspiring others into an active and adventurous lifestyle.

What’s in Zach’s Backpack for Climbing Linville Gorge?

One thing to remember is that when you work at The Backpacker you join a family, a community, and a culture that is often times long lasting. One of the first people I met at Backpacker, as most people in the past might have as well, was Matt “Matt’Teryx” Vecchio. He has outfitted many of people for gear and sent them safely onward towards adventure. He has been my belay partner and adventure buddy for many moons and I was saddened when he left Baton Rouge to live in Greenville, South Carolina. A few months after his departure, he invites us to come and stay with him and to go climbing in the Linville Gorge located in North Carolina.Jumping at the opportunity, I packed all my gear and hit the road with my fiancé and Matt’s girlfriend, Ariel. Greenville treated us well and the time weInt spent there was more than enjoyable. We spent Matt’s birthday downtown touring breweries and local cuisines while cruising the city on bicycles. Before the night ended, I made sure to fill up both my Hydroflask growlers with some local beer to take to the woods with us. The Hydroflask growler is vacuum-sealed, double-wall insulated to keep your drinks cooler for longer and they have a special lid that keeps the carbonation for a fresher beer when you’re ready for it.

Enjoying a flight while filling up our Hydroflask Growler for the trip at Quest Brewery in Greenville, SC
Enjoying a flight while filling up our Hydroflask Growler for the trip at Quest Brewery in Greenville, SC

march in

The next morning we left bright and early to head to the Linville Gorge. We parked at the campground for Table-Rock, a popular crag for climbers. Instead of heading to the Table Rock climbing area, we headed the other way to a lesser-known area called the Amphitheater that boasts three large, and fairly easy, multi-pitch trad climbs. We also found some off the path campsites that allowed us to base-camp for a few days while we hit the highlights. During the hike in, we were distracted from a moderately tough approach with fresh blueberries and blackberries growing along the trail. Once we arrived at the Amphitheater, we walked out to the rim and laid our gear down for a snack and to organize us. We used the Big Agnes Onyx tarp and the Grand Trunk Rain Fly to create a base camp. While the girls took a nap, Matt and I took the basic trad gear, two ropes, a bottle of water, and went off to get a refresher on the systems for when we all went out the next day. A basic trad rack, in this case, consists of a set of Black Diamond Nuts, #.75-#4 Black Diamond Camelots, 6 quickdraws, 6 slings (60cm and 120cm), cordelette for anchors, locking and non-locking carabiners, and two 60m ropes. We hiked down to the edge of the rim and set a 60m rappel to the halfway point of the route “The Prow” (5.4). By the end of our first pitch, we caught a rain storm that forced us under an overhang that protected us from the weather but left the rest of the climb, as well as the girls above, soaked and wet. After trying to rest while hoping it cleared up, we had to make the decision whether to try and rappel down and leave gear or to take a slow climb out. Realizing that it would be far to difficult to rappel with the top out being so close, we decided to take a slow, safe climb out. As we topped out, we realized that our 1-2 hour recon trip turned into a 5-6 hour adventure. However, we found a much more protected campsite at the top out that would be more protected from the weather.

All we could do was wait...so we waited
All we could do was wait…so we waited

As I left Matt to clean the route to go assure the girls that we were ok, we were met with angry/happy tears. When I sat down to drink water and to try and convince them to move to the other site while they were still upset, they happened to begin telling me that we were moving sites to exactly where we had planned already. Turns out they made the discovery and decision to move while searching for us. As we commuted to our new location, we used our climbing gear to hang a close line and extra gear for organization and drying. As we continued to set up camp, I cooked sausage jambalaya on the MSR Whisperlite. This versatile little stove is great for every type of backcountry cooking; that’s boiling water to gourmet meals for small groups such as us.

We had each found this site, and agreed individually to convince the group to move camp here. One of the best campsites one can have.
We had each found this site, and agreed individually to convince the group to move camp here. One of the best campsites one can have.

The following morning, July 4, we set out to do a ground up ascent of The Mummy (5.5), a 3-pitch 350’ route that stands proud amongst The Amphitheater. Though 5.5 is not an inherently difficult grade, the experience was demanding as a whole. The approach was a mixture of steep, mountainside trails and dense forest that required skillful navigation since the trail was not always evident. Once to the top of the climb, we rappelled down a wet chute that led us to the base of the climb. Once we arrived, we noticed that the first pitch, a beautiful crack leading to the first belay station was soaked and dripping from the day before. Having to dance on and off the route in order to find dry holds and gear placements, we finally made it up the first vertical pitch to the belay station. From here on out it was beautiful, easy climbing that was dried in the now present sun. When the sun came out we realized that the water we had brought ran out faster than anticipated and dehydration began to creep upon us. A successful top out was short lived by the need to return to camp for water. Even my helmet rolling off the side of a 20ft ledge could not deter me from the need at hand; I had to let the old friend go.

The Mummy. Look and you might can spot a climber somewhere in the picture
The Mummy. Look and you might can spot a climber somewhere in the picture

Upon return, we celebrated with plenty of water and dehydrated meals. The Good-to-Go Thai Curry, Mexican Quinoa Bowl, and Bibimbap were great toppers to the day. Oh, and just because we were in the mountains did not mean we were without fireworks for America’s Birthday. We perched on the edge of the cliff and caught the light show from the town down the valley. Not much of a better way to end the day.

Sending up the wet pitch!
Sending up the wet pitch!

The hike out was a continuous feast of fresh blueberries and blackberries along the trailside. The three-mile hike seemed to last long but was refreshing with all of the snacks. Back the Table Rock parking lot, we celebrated with Quest Brewery’s Golden Fleece IPA that had been waiting on us in the car. The Hydroflask Growler kept the beer fresh since it’s lid locks in the carbonation and keeps it from going flat like traditional glass growlers, and the YETI Hopper kept it cold during those long hot days in the car while we were away. After sharing a beer and a snack, we headed to the nearest town with the best BBQ. Banner Elk, NC boasts a local favorite, The Peddlin Pig. With meat so tender it would be worth any amount of time and suffering in the woods to come to such a rewarding feast. However, though suffering was minimal, the celebration with great BBQ and cold, local beer was the cap to a great celebration with friends.

Gear List:

Osprey Kestral 48 
Thermarest Neo-Air
Marmot Nanowave 55 (an amazing lightweight summer bag that won’t break the bank!)
Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2
MSR Whisperlite
MSR Quick 2 Pot Set
Helinox Chair One
H
elinox Table
North Face Enduras Trail Shoes
La Sportiva Mythos Climbing Shoes
Petzl and Blue Water Ropes (9.8mm)
Petzl Corax harness
Petzl Spirit Quickdraws
Black Diamond ATC-Guide (Here is a link to the ATC-XP: it has the same braking funtions as the guide but without top-belay capability)
Black Diamond Positron Quickdraws
Black Diamond Camelots (full run of cams)
Black Diamond sewn runners (4x60cm 3x120cm)
Friction Labs Chalk
Hydroflask 32oz growler (64oz growler carried at Backpacker locations)
Katadyn Hiker Pro Water Filter
Leki Legacy Trekking poles (I used men’s and my fiance used the women’s)

Zach Miller has been apart of the Backpacker family for over 2 years. He is dedicated to educating and inspiring others into an active and adventurous lifestyle.
Zach Miller has been apart of the Backpacker family for over 2 years. He is dedicated to educating and inspiring others into an active and adventurous lifestyle.

Walter’s Rock Climbing Trip to Joshua Tree

I ventured away from Louisiana a few weeks ago and went to Southern California to visit Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is located near Palm Springs about an hour and a half from Los Angeles County.

IMG_0376

I visited May 9th – May 12 and the weather was highs of 75 and lows of 45, overall great weather. We found a spot at Jumbo Rock campground that was a first come first serve campground with 124 spots. It was a nice campground because it was surrounded by boulders and there were some trails nearby. We packed pretty heavy because we decided to car camp so we didn’t hesitate on what not to bring. One essential was an awning. Joshua Tree is a desert so there is not much natural shade and the sun can beat you down. Other things to mention is you have to bring your own water and most campgrounds only had outhouses and no potable water.

IMG_0360

IMG_0420

To highlight some of the gear I used Camping:

Helinox Chair One – Super comfortable and only 2 pounds!

Helinox Table One – Compact, great to play card games on and lightweight.

Big Agnes 4 person Tent-Spacious and easy to pitch great for car camping.

Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight- Gives lots of light (has floodlight and flashlight settings), has the capacity to charge electronic devices, and recharges itself with built-in solar panel. 

Our main reason for traveling to Joshua Tree was to check out the climbing. Since I was traveling, to cut down on the weight we focused on bouldering.(Really wished I had some rope though!) 

IMG_0374

IMG_0429

IMG_0437This photo was provided by Scott Poupis.

IMG_0379

Climbing gear I used:

Black Diamond Mondo Pad-Great large pad, downside it is really expensive to check on a plane. My solution was I found I could mail it via USPS priority two days and that cost me around $55.00.

La Sportiva Skwama’s- I was super happy with these shoes because they were easy to get on my feet and were more comfortable than other aggressive shoes I have tried on in the past. They are sensitive enough for small chips and the heel fits great allowing good use of a heel hook.

Friction Labs Bam Bam Chalk – Honestly, I use whatever chalk is available to me. But, friction labs I do believe last longer and I find myself chalking my hands less.

Prana Brion’s – These pants are my favorite because they look good and they stretch. I can do anything in them from hiking, working, climbing or whatever else the day calls for.

The last day of our trip we used just to hang out around camp and enjoy all the beauty of Joshua tree. #geauxoutthere

IMG_0433

IMG_0435

IMG_0375

IMG_0401

Til my next adventure!

Lindsey’s Ski Trip to Steamboat

Instead of hittin’ the Mardi Gras parades, I decided to hit the slopes with Backpacker Tours! I had an awesome experience traveling with our team, from the charter flight (direct from BTR) to the Apres Ski Party!

 

Caroline and I @ Apres Ski Party
Caroline and I @ Apres Ski Party

 

This was my first time skiing in Steamboat, and I definitely recommend what it has to offer. It had been a few years since I last skied, but the wide variety of trails from beginners to experienced skiers made Steamboat an ideal spot for me to hit the slopes again.

While in Steamboat I stayed at Trailhead Lodge. Trailhead had great amenities including transportation to the Mountain via Gondola, not to mention complementary ski/ snow board and boot storage with boot warmers! Did I mentioned boot warmers?!

 

View from Trailhead Lodge
View from Trailhead Lodge

 

My top gear picks…

– The FERA Jen Insulated Parka had a incredible fit along with great insulation and lots of functional pockets! The pockets were perfect for storing my wallet, phone, keys and my Goal Zero Charger.

The FERA Lucy Pant had all the features I needed and wanted while skiing. The Lucy Pant had a variety of features from DWR waterproofing, stretch, articulated knees and powder cuffs.

 

Fera Jen Parka and Lucy Pant.

 

The North Face Glacier 1/4 zip I used as a layering piece on colder days on the mountain. The Glacier 1/4 zip is a light weight fleece that you will get multiple uses from the slopes to back home on a chilly day.

Sorel Joan of Arctic boot kept my feet warm and dry!

Smith Transit goggles are a must. My first few days of skiing it snowed and the Transit came in handy!

 

Smith Transit goggles
Smith Transit goggles

 

Lindsey has been with The Backpacker for over 3 years. She is the apparel, footwear and accessory buyer. Her favorite brands include Prana, Dylan by True Grit, FERA and Tasc.

How to Layer for a Spring Ski Trip

Planning a spring ski trip? Be sure to pack lots of layers. You’ll be glad you did. Weather can be hard to predict for February, March, and April skiing. Keep reading for a practical guide on what layers to pack the next time you hear the mountains calling.

20170319_105130

 

Beautiful from the inside out. Each layer has an important function, and it’s fun to color coordinate the entire ensemble. Here’s what I packed for my cross country ski trip to the Continental Divide’s Boreas Pass Section House in mid-March 2017. The temperature low’s were in the upper 20s, and the high’s were in the lower 60s.

17358936_10155213493949759_7127584351041246381_o

Three Layers on your Torso, Two on your Legs 

BASELAYERS: Next to your skin you want clothing that is either synthetic or wool, and absolutely not cotton. This distinction is important because cotton holds moisture whether it’s from perspiration or snow. Once the cotton is wet, it becomes cold and makes you shiver. On my mid-March trip to Breckenridge, I wore The North Face Reaxion Tank underneath a Smartwool Lightweight Crew. The extra core warmth provided by the tank in the morning also doubled as a 3:00 pm escape from the heat when I was ready to soak up the sun in 60 degree weather. I prefer wool over synthetic for my long sleeve because I can wear it several days in a row without fear of it smelling of sweat. My husband, Clayton, is warm natured and often wore just his baselayer and no jacket. We both wore Smartwool Lightweight Leggings.

MIDLAYER: The perfect midlayer for me is a light puffy jacket. I prefer a puffy over a fleece because of it’s weight to warmth ratio. In other words, it is much warmer while being lighter weight than a fleece. It slides into my coat with ease, and I don’t feel constricted in the sleeves. It also takes up less room in my luggage. If you decide to wear fleece, the thickness depends on how insulated your outer shell is and what the weather conditions are. I wore an Arc’Teryx Atom LT as a midlayer in the morning and evening. It also ended up being used as an outer shell most of the trip because the temperatures were so warm and sunny.

OUTER SHELL: Spring skiing weather can vary from warm and sunny to cold and snowy. That being said, I prefer a lightly insulated, waterproof jacket that I can layer under according to the weather that day. On my mid-March trip to Breckenridge, I found myself only wearing my outer jacket over my midlayer in the morning and after sunset. I didn’t need it mid-day because it wasn’t snowy, but I was glad to have it when the temps plummeted. Speaking of plummeting, my North Face Ski Pants came to the rescue keeping me warm and dry even though I fell numerous times!

Aside from all the layers, here’s a handy checklist for everything else to pack for your next snowy exploration: The Backpacker’s Winter Hike Checklist

17390659_10155213493599759_5606897415396183351_o

If you’ve got the guts, we’ve got the gear!

Canoeing and Paddling Gear Checklist

Canoeing and Paddling Gear Checklist

Getting ready for whitewater or maybe just a relaxing paddle down a remote river? We’ve got you covered.

by: The Backpacker Editors

Clothing
Outerwear

  • waterproof/breathable jacket
  • waterproof/breathable pants
  • fleece jacket or wool sweater
  • waterproof gaiters
  • synthetic hiking pants
  • synthetic shorts

Base Layer

  • midweight long john top
  • midweight long john bottoms
  • long sleeve T-shirt
  • synthetic briefs
  • synthetic sports bra
  • synthetic T-shirt

Accessories

  • wool or fleece hat
  • midweight wool or fleece gloves
  • Footwear
  • boots, sneakers, or sandals
  • camp footwear (optional)
  • wool or synthetic socks (3)
  • liner socks (2)

Extras

  • sun hat
  • personal locator beacon (optional)
  • bandanna

Gear
Canoeing Specific Gear

  • tripping-style canoe (16-17′)
  • personal flotation device (PFD)
  • throw rope
  • paddle (straight or bent shaft) and spare
  • drybags
  • plastic map case
  • waterproof binoculars
  • duck boots (optional)

Other Gear

  • Internal or external frame backpack
  • three-season tent
  • down or synthetic sleeping bag (15° to 30°F)
  • inflatable sleeping pad
  • canister stove and fuel canisters
  • lighter and waterproof matches
  • cookset
  • eating utensils, bowl, and insulated mug
  • headlamp w/extra batteries and bulb
  • 32 oz. water bottles (2)
  • water treatment (filter, tablets, or drops)
  • pocket knife or multitool
  • compass or GPS (and map)
  • sunglasses
  • first-aid kit with personal medications
  • stuff sacks
  • assorted zipper-lock bags
  • bear-bagging rope (or canister)
  • insect repellent (optional)
  • mesh head net or suit
  • sunscreen (SPF 15+)
  • lip balm (SPF 15+)
  • toilet paper and trowel

Swamp Hiking / Paddling Gear Packing Checklist

Swamp Gear Packing Checklist

Ready to get wet and wild? This packing list will prepare you for any swamp trek.

by: The Backpacker Editors

Clothing
Outerwear

  • waterproof/breathable jacket
  • waterproof/breathable pants
  • fleece jacket or wool sweater
  • waterproof gaiters
  • synthetic hiking pants
  • synthetic shorts

Base Layer

  • cotton T-shirt
  • synthetic T-shirt
  • synthetic briefs
  • synthetic sports bra

Accessories

  • synthetic liner gloves

Footwear

  • camp footwear (optional)
  • waterproof hiking boots
  • wool or synthetic socks (3)
  • liner socks (2)

Extras

  • sun hat
  • rain hat
  • bandanna

Gear

  • internal or external frame backpack
  • screen tent or tarp
  • synthetic sleeping bag (30° to 50°F)
  • inflatable sleeping pad
  • trekking poles
  • canister stove and fuel canisters
  • lighter and waterproof matches
  • cookset
  • eating utensils, bowl, and insulated mug
  • headlamp w/extra batteries and bulb
  • 32 oz. water bottles (filter, tablets, or drops) (2)
  • pocket knife or multitool
  • compass or GPS (and map)
  • sunglasses
  • first-aid kit with personal medications
  • personal locator beacon (optional)
  • stuff sacks
  • assorted zipper-lock bags
  • sunscreen (SPF 15+)
  • lip balm (SPF 15+)
  • toilet paper and trowel

Dayhiking Gear Checklist

Dayhiking Gear Checklist

Ready your gear quiver for a for a full day outing.

by: The Backpacker Editors

ON YOUR BODY

  • Synthetic short-sleeve t-shirt
  • Lightweight synthetic shorts or trekking pants
  • Synthetic briefs or boxers
  • Synthetic bra
  • Wool hiking socks (liner socks optional)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun hat
  • Gaiters (optional)
  • Hiking shoes or boots

 

IN YOUR PACK

  • Midweight synthetic or fleece long-sleeve top
  • Waterproof/breathable jacket or windproof shell
  • Waterproof/breathable pants (optional)
  • Extra pair of socks (optional)
  • Wool or fleece hat
  • Lightweight gloves
  • Sunscreen (SPF 15+)
  • Map
  • Compass or GPS
  • Headlamp
  • Extra food
  • Water bottles and water treatment (drops, tablets, or filter)
  • First-aid kit (with personal meds)
  • Firestarting kit
  • Toiletries and trowel
  • Personal locator beacon (optional)

COLD WEATHER ADDITIONS

  • Down or synthetic insulated jacket
  • Emergency shelter (bivy sack, tent, tarp)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Fleece pants
  • Insulated gloves or mittens

Snow / Winter Hiking Gear Packing Checklist

 

Snow/Winter Gear Packing Checklist

Get ready for winter with this comprehensive packing list.

by: The Backpacker Editors

Clothing
Outerwear

  • waterproof/breathable jacket
  • waterproof/breathable pants
  • insulated parka
  • fleece jacket or wool sweater
  • waterproof gaiters
  • synthetic or softshell hiking pants
  • fleece pants

Base Layer

  • expedition-weight long john bottoms
  • expedition-weight long john top
  • midweight long john top
  • midweight long john bottoms
  • long sleeve T-shirt
  • synthetic briefs
  • synthetic sports bra

Accessories

  • wool or fleece hat
  • balaclava
  • midweight wool or fleece gloves
  • heavyweight wool or fleece mittens
  • synthetic liner gloves
  • waterproof overmitts

Footwear

  • insulated camp booties
  • waterproof hiking boots (insulated is best)
  • wool or synthetic socks (3)
  • liner socks (2)

Extras

  • sun hat
  • bandanna

Gear

    • internal or external frame backpack
    • convertible or four-season tent
    • down sleeping bag (-30° to 0°F)
    • inflatable sleeping pad
    • closed-cell foam sleeping pad
    • trekking poles
    • white gas stove and fuel bottles
    • lighter and waterproof matches
    • cookset w/ heat exchanger
    • eating utensils, bowl, and insulated mug
    • headlamp w/extra batteries and bulb
    • 32 oz. water bottles (2)
    • water bottle parkas (2)
    • pocket knife or multitool
    • compass or GPS (and map)
    • sunglasses
    • first-aid kit with personal medications
    • personal locator beacon (optional)
    • chemical heat packs
    • stuff sacks
    • assorted zipper-lock bags
    • sunscreen (SPF 15+)
    • lip balm (SPF 15+)
    • toilet paper and trowel

 

  • pee bottle

 

 

Ultralight Hiking Gear Checklist

Ultralight Gear Checklist

Strip off the pounds with our ultralight checklist and hit the trail light as a feather.

by: The Backpacker Editors

CLOTHING

  • Synthetic short-sleeve t-shirt
  • Midweight synthetic or fleece long-sleeve top
  • Wind or rain shell (not both, under 12 ounces)
  • Rainpants (optional)
  • Lightweight synthetic trekking pants (zip-offs preferable)
  • Lightweight synthetic shorts (optional)
  • Down jacket (10 to 12 ounces)
  • Socks (two pair, one doubles as mittens)
  • Underwear (optional)
  • Wool or fleece hat
  • Sun hat

 

GEAR

  • Internal frame pack or frameless rucksack (3,000 cubic inches or less, 2 pounds or less)
  • Down sleeping bag (750 fill or better)
  • Short sleeping pad (60″, closed foam or uninsulated air mattress)
  • Tarp (siliconized nylon)
  • Trekking poles (if needed for pitching tarp)
  • Headlamp (small LED)
  • Water bladder
  • Alcohol or canister stove, fuel, and lighter (optional)
  • Cookpot with lid (titanium or ultralight aluminum)
  • Mug and spork
  • Water treatment drops or tablets (chlorine dioxide or iodine)
  • Bear canister (optional)
  • First aid kit with razor blade (instead of knife)
  • Map and compass
  • Toiletries and trowel
  • Stuff sacks (siliconized nylon)
  • Sunscreen

 

Hot Desert Hiking Checklist

Hot Desert Gear Checklist

From New Mexico to the Sahara, this gear checklist will have to prepped for any desert adventure.

by: The Backpacker Editors

Clothing
Outerwear

  • waterproof/breathable jacket
  • fleece jacket or wool sweater
  • synthetic or softshell hiking pants
  • synthetic shorts

Base Layer

  • midweight long john top
  • midweight long john bottoms
  • synthetic briefs
  • synthetic sports bra
  • synthetic T-shirt
  • cotton T-shirt

Accessories

  • wool or fleece hat
  • synthetic liner gloves

Footwear

  • camp footwear (optional)
  • wool or synthetic socks (3)
  • liner socks (2)

Extras

  • sun hat
  • personal locator beacon (optional)
  • bandanna

Gear

  • Internal or external frame backpack
  • screen tent or tarp
  • down sleeping bag (-30° to 20°F)
  • inflatable sleeping pad
  • closed-cell foam sleeping pad
  • trekking poles
  • canister stove and fuel canisters
  • lighter and waterproof matches
  • cookset
  • eating utensils, bowl, and insulated mug
  • headlamp w/extra batteries and bulb
  • 32 oz. water bottles (2)
  • water treatment (filter, tablets, or drops)
  • pocket knife or multitool
  • compass or GPS (and map)
  • sunglasses
  • first-aid kit with personal medications
  • stuff sacks
  • assorted zipper-lock bags
  • insect repellent (optional)
  • sunscreen (SPF 15+)
  • lip balm (SPF 15+)
  • toilet paper and trowel