Top 40: Camping
1. Columbia Reactor
Last year, Columbia released winter jackets with Omni-Heat reflective liners, tiny silver dots that radiate your body heat back at you. This year, Columbia is releasing the Reactor, a 30-degree sleeping bag with the same liner that, we’re happy to report, works just as well. The bag warms up quickly, turning your body heat into a comfy oven on a cold night. The only downside our tester found with the bag, is the plastic feeling of the liner thanks to those same tiny silver dots that keep you extra toasty. Keep the base layers on as you sleep, and you won’t notice.
2. Sierra Designs Pyro Maniac 15/30
One sleeping bag with two different temperature ratings? The Pyro Maniac uses an additional set of insulated baffles placed over the torso of the 600-fill bag. Camping on a warmer night? Lose the extra baffles and go with a trim 30-degree bag. Expecting chillier temperatures? Stuff the baffles into the bag and you’re set for 15 degrees. The mummy bag has a few other great touches, like a draft collar to keep your neck and head warm and a pillow pocket. According to our tester, the temperature ratings of the bag are legit, giving the Pyro Maniac more versatility than much of its competition. It’s like adding an extra blanket when the temperature drops.
3. ENO Reactor Hammock
On your next overnight, save some pack weight by ditching the tent and spending the night in a Reactor. Eagles Nest Outfitter’s hammock has a sleeve that holds a sleeping pad in place for extra warmth and comfort when spending the night swinging between two trees.
4. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
This four-season pad also uses a reflective heat barrier, similar to what you find in emergency blankets. Our tester was surprised at how quickly the NeoAir XTherm warms up. Place your hand on top of the sleeping pad and it immediately gets hot, adding a noticeable level of heat to your portable bed. The only bummer? The metallic treatment is a bit loud, so if you’re a restless sleeper, your neighbors may get annoyed. Still, the pad excels beyond the heat-reflective technology. It’s only 15 ounces and compacts to smaller than a Nalgene bottle, while still offering plenty of cushion. It’s a suite of winning characteristics that convinced our tester to make the XTherm his sleeping pad of choice.
5. MRS Carbon Reflex 3 Tent
This three-season shelter proved a comfy, roomy haven for a family of three during a cold, wet weekend. Yet it weighs a scant 4lbs. 7 oz. One reason is the ultralight poles, which retain their durability thanks to plastic bushings at connection points and horizontally wrapped carbon fibers. The poles’ geometry also trims ounces: they’re positioned in parallel arches with a support pole in between, creating more headroom and a peak height of 46 inches. But the space-to-weight ratio doesn’t come cheap.
6. Mountain Hardwear SuperMega UL2
To get your tent weight down to the Supermega’s 2lbs, 2oz, you typically have to go with a shelter that sacrifices poles, and therefore needs some combination of stakes and trekking poles. But this two-person tent is completely freestanding, with a fully waterproof double-wall construction and an ample 27-square-foot floor. Thank the DAC Featherlight poles and predominantly mesh canopy for the weight savings. This is the lightest tent Mountain Hardwear makes, and was still plenty big for two normal sized campers. The mesh storage pockets were unexpected, but welcome. A bigger vestibule would be nice, but then you’d add weight, so…
7. Easton Mountain Products Kilo
How does a two-person tent weigh less than a kilogram? Easton uses carbon fiber poles that are more than 50 percent lighter than standardly used aluminum. There’s also savings in the minimal tether of the AirLock connection system, as opposed to heavier shick cord. The advanced technology will cost you a pretty penny, but you’ll feel the difference in your pack. One-person and three-person Kilo models will be released next summer.
8. MSR MicroRocket
With the MicroRocket, MSR goes even smaller than the barely noticeable, standard-setting PocketRocket. The MicroRocket is a little lighter and even more compact, fitting inside a coffee mug, but it still puts out an impressive flame that gets a liter of water boiling in a little over three minutes.