Category Archives: Backpacking Gear

Long Term Review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mattress

Normally this isn’t the place to search for gear reviews. Reviews are infrequent and I don’t claim to be an expert. There are blogs that do several reviews each week and generate a lot of traffic, but as I stated in The Business of Backpacking, buyer beware.

The best and brutally honest reviews are done by Dave Chenault at Bedrock and Paradox, but he doesn’t have hundreds of reviews in his archives. Another blogger you can trust is Paul Magnanti. Paul doesn’t get into the deep details as does Dave, and Paul is more interested in just hiking a lot and using the gear he already has, which means he isn’t doing many gear reviews because his kit is well established and doesn’t need constant upgrading.

There are two reasons why I am reviewing the NeoAir; first is I have been using it for 7 years, which to me seems like a reasonable amount of time of use to be objective and accurate, and secondly, I think the NeoAir is a game changer. But with anything in life, it is best to start at the beginning…

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How to Attach an Air Pillow to a Backpacking Air Mattress

Five years ago, at the age of 60 something and admitting I was getting older, I started using an air mattress on almost all of my backpacking trips. Prior to this I usually used a simple foam pad. I had, over the years, tried a few thin air mattresses but they were too bulky and heavy and always got relegated to the car camping gear inventory. With a foam pad or these older air mattresses a pillow wasn’t necessary. Spare clothing always sufficed. But in 2010, I purchased a Therm-A-Rest NeoAir mattress, which is 2.5” thick when inflated. Being a side sleeper this mattress, unlike the thin mats of the past, required a pillow placed on top of the air mat. So I bought an inexpensive inflatable pillow. Keeping it on the mat during the night wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t irritating enough to investigate a solution, until this trip…

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Book Review: The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, 2nd Edition

This is a review of The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools and Techniques to Hit the Trail, by Andrew Skurka, published by National Geographic. I don’t do many book reviews. I have uploaded close to 700 posts and pages to this site and I think there are only 5 or 6 book reviews.

There was a time when book reviews were the domain of newspapers and magazines with full time writers who reviewed books for their readership. The purpose of the reviews was to recommend good books and to warn readers about the poor ones, while at the same time providing feedback to the author.

Today this has changed. Retail websites, especially Amazon, allow their customers to post reviews and then the website calculates an overall rating base on customer feedback (i.e. 4.2 out of 5). Unfortunately on these websites, it is the rare reviewer who has any stated qualifications to provide a book review of value or worthy of consideration.

The other thing that has changed is the blogs (like this one) that post book reviews. How this usually works, is the publisher or author offers a free book in exchange for a review.  There is no requirement for a positive review, but in my opinion a free item in exchange for a review makes an objective review very difficult for most people; although there are some folks who are completely truthful in their reviews.

Last month I received an email that National Geographic was looking to provide advance copies of The Ultimate Hiker’s Guide to some bloggers in exchange for a review and would I be interested. Well, I don’t do quid pro quo. So I wasn’t interested in a free advance copy. The book won’t be available until March 7th. However, I was planning on purchasing the book, having read the first edition several years ago. Based of this offer for a review, I was able to purchase a copy in advance, and I paid the full retail price.  So let’s get on with the review.

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2016 Recap: Favorite Gear, Blog Stats, Favorite Trips, Blah, Blah, Blah

Well, it’s that time of the year again when many backpacking bloggers create a list of their favorite new gear from the prior year. How on earth (or why) can these folks have a slew of new backpacking gear year after year? Methinks they are focused on gear, not getting out often and walking. But I digress…

Then some of these bloggers publish web stats for their blog during the prior year. Really? How boring.

A few backpacking bloggers may only post some of their favorite pictures taken during the prior year or do a simple recap of some trip reports – I like what some of the “few” do. The rest, meh.

What is interesting is that campers and full time RVers who blog generally don’t do this. They simply keep writing about their adventures.

My backpacking gear hasn’t changed much in the past 4 or 5 years, so nothing to write about here. Same goes for our camping gear. Somewhere on this website are lists of the gear and equipment we use. You should be able to easily find those if you are interested.

Given this pessimistic outlook on gear, there is one piece of equipment that has been critical for every single backpacking or camping trip I have done since 2003.

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