Ultralight Backpackers Guide to REI Gear Up Get Out Sale 2020

Here’s how to get the best deals at the REI Sale. I’ve been an REI member for over 40 years and I still get excited about an REI Sale. To prep for this sale, in addition to our knowledge of REI’s lightweight and ultralight gear inventory, we did a bunch of research online to find even more hiking and backpacking gear on sale. And now that it is limited, in-store shopping we actually paid a visit to our local REI store for hands-on research and bought a few items we’d been meaning to check out.

Take a Break from Cabin Fever

Especially this year, it’s important to have the right gear and clothing to get the most out of your outside time and get a break from cabin fever — our outdoor trips this year have been some of our most cherished times.

Sale Particulars

  • EVENT 2020 REI Gear Up Get Out Sale: Dates 11/13-11/23 | Save up to 30% off on select items
  • PLUS Members Get 20% off one Full Price Item Use CODE: GEARUP2020
  • PLUS Members Get 20% off one REI OUTLET Item Use CODE: GEARUP2020

Our Sale Strategy

Below, we share with you our strategy to get the best out of the REI sale. Here is the sequence we follow:

  1. Hit the REI OUTLET to use your 20% off any one OUTLET items like Osprey Packs, Tent Deals, or Outlet Clothing Deals. Stuff goes fast and sizes/colors are limited to begin with.
  2. Hit the Regular REI Sale Items See our Regular Sale picks below. There’s a section below that has Regular Sale Items I thought were good. The best items on sale will go quickly.
  3. Shop Full-price ItemsThis is the last area I would look over for a sweet 20% off deal on something like a:
    1.  Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 & 3400 Southwest Pack, an
    2. Osprey Exos Pack or a
    3. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad
    4. Or other cool gear that might give you the most dollar savings for your 20% off coupon! Again th the full price section below, I have noted some high priced items where 20% off would be welcome, as well as some lower cost options.

Killer Deals!

You won’t want to miss these great deals. When they’re gone, they are gone. Buy early to make sure you get the size and color you want.

Peak Deal! REI Co-op Magma 850 Hoodie Down Jacket – M’s & W’s

50% OFF!

$219 $109.49

REI Co-op Magma 850 Down Hoodie 2.0 is great value in a very warm ultralight jacket. This jacket is a favorite of ours and a great deal at $219.  When it’s on sale like this, it’s a steal especially compared to competitors’ jackets that can run $300 or higher. It offers easy movement and just-right warmth for backpacking, hiking and travel. The Magma 850 Hoodie has all the features you want in a down jacket — the lightest high fill water-resistant goose down, a hood critical to increasing warmth, a durable Pertex® ripstop shell, well-articulated shoulders for free range of motion, and variable baffles that provide warmth where it’s needed and reduced bulk where it’s not. Finally, it has pockets that aren’t blocked by a pack hip-belt – a gripe we have with a lot of jackets. [And yes, there are a few lighter jackets out there, but you’ll pay a lot more $ to lose a few ounces]

REI Co-op Sahara Roll-Up Cargo Pants | M’s

REI Co-op Kornati Roll-Up Pants | W’s

50% OFF

$59.95 $29.89

We’ve used some version of REI Co-op Sahara clothing for nearly 20 years (most of it now 30% off or more). They’ve been to Patagonia, Alaska, Asia, the Deserts of Utah, and pretty much every mountain range in the lower 48. They get the job done. We like the thin, light but durable fabric key reinforcements in high wear areas. And that they come in a number of inseams. And of course, all those pockets are essential to keep your gear organized and readily available. Finally, they dry quickly and are great for international travel as well.

REI Sahara Shirts

REI Sahara Shirts are the same quality as the pants.

21 Quick Picks for the Sale

Short on time? Here are some key picks for great gear deals that should appeal to most lightweight hikers and backpackers. The best items on sale will go quickly. So if you wait too long, you may not get your choice of size, model, or color, or it might just sell out. And we’ll be adding more items to this guide during the sale, so be sure to check back from time to time for new deals as we add them.

Garmin inReach Mini 2-Way Satellite Communicator

Save $100

Reg. #350 $250

Look no further than the Garmin inReach Mini If reliability, top performance and a full set of features are your criteria. The inReach Mini was the best performer by almost every measure in our 2020 Best Satellite Messengers Guide. It has the most reliable message send (only unit to get every message out), it has by far the largest and most robust feature set, including exceptional tracking. It’s the smallest and lightest unit to boot. All your information is available from its screen display, and all features can be activated from the unit without a phone, including reading messages. It also allows group texting, and email messaging (Somewear and Zoleo do not). And it has detailed and accurate weather reports. The inReach has a public/private web interface for people to follow your track or see waypoints/message locations on a map. In summary, it is the unit we rely on when guiding, doing a challenging/sketchy trip in difficult and remote terrain, or documenting a new route we’re scouting.

Highlights: Top performance in almost every category in our Best Satellite Messengers | Garmin inReach, Zoleo Somewear, best message reliability, smallest & lightest, visual display, almost all operations can be done without a phone

All Outdoor Research Accessories

25% Off

Outdoor Research Essential Face Mask Kit

25% Off

$20 $15

This is our go to mask — we use it most of the time we are out and about. It’s a good fit, making a seal around your nose with flexible wire and has comfortable adjustable ear elastics. it comes with 3 replaceable high efficiency inner-filters. And of course you can order more filters.

  • Treated with HeiQ NPJ03+ to provide resistance to microbes and germs; can be washed up to 30 times with 100% effectiveness
  • Durable polyester fabric undergoes 10,000+ cycle abrasion test for tough abrasion resistance
  • Moisture-wicking, water- and stain-repellent and microbe-resistant construction
  • Adjustable ear loops and nose wire provides a customized, comfortable fit and tight seal
  • Highly efficient disposable filters filter more than 95% of virus, bacteria and particles in accordance with ASTM test standards and reduce contaminant transmission risk
  • Filters should be replaced at your own judgment; if worn in hot climates or long hours, you should replace your filter more frequently
  • The face mask is not for medical use; Outdoor Research recommends following guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Does not guarantee protection from pathogen organisms
    Kit includes 1 face mask, 3 disposable mask filters and a protective pouch for packable, convenient storage
  • Mask measures 9.7 in. wide by 6.7 in. tall

Patagonia Nano Puff Jackets – Men’s and Women’s

30% Off

$199 $139

For 12 years the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket has been the classic, light do-it-all jacket. Biking, climbing, hiking, backpacking, bikepacking, you name it, this ultralight jacket is a great tool for the job. Synthetic PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco is very light and warm insulation. It is more water-resistant than down is made from 55% post-consumer recycled fibers. If you add in the wind and water-resistant bluesign® approved fabric shell, the jacket is 75% recycled materials so you can feel good about the environment.

TIP: we prefer the warmer and even more versatile Patagonia Nano Puff Insulated Hoodie

Patagonia Down Sweater Jackets – Men’s and Women’s

30% Off

$119-$229 $84-160

At $100 less than many top of the line jackets, this is a great warm layer for backpacking or any outdoor activity, really. It’s reasonably light (13.1 oz, non-hooded), and uses 800-fill-power traceable down. It comes in Men’s and Women’s, as well as hooded versions, for a little more money. Of course, there are adorable kids versions as well! Patagonia’s quality, warranty, and customer service are legendary, ensuring you’ll keep this jacket for a long, long time.

All REI Co-op Brand 650 Down Jackets & Vests

30% Off

$60 – $100 $42-$70

For those who want to save a bunch on a down jacket, the REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket is a great value. While it weighs a bit more vs. an 850 fill power down jacket, it also half the price. Otherwise, it has the same features and functionality of the more expensive down jackets. Although a bit pricier we prefer the hooded version. The hood ads a ton of warmth and gives you more options to regulate temperature.

All Smartwool Products!

30% Off

Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Zip-T

$105 $72

The Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Zip-T is a personal favorite of ours for colder weather trips, backpacking, hiking or biking. And for hiking and backpacking it serves as both a base layer and our regular shirt. The neck zipper is great for regulating warmth and not sweating out. Ad of course it has that great non-clammy wool feel.

  • The original antimicrobial, non-stench fabric.
  • It keeps you warm when it’s wet.
  • Super fine Merino wool is soft and comfortable against the skin and doesn’t itch.
  • Doesn’t feel as clammy as synthetics

Smartwool Merino 250 Beanie

30% Off

$30 $21

This beanie is just the thing if you aren’t into balaclavas. It keeps your noggin warm without overheating and has a nice cuff to keep your ears warm. Not too bulky, it fits as nicely under hoods and is comfortable to wear. And, of course, it’s made of incredibly warm, soft and natural merino wool, that will last for years!

Smartwool Socks

30% Off

$11-$40 $8-$28

We particularly like the PHD Outdoor line of socks like the PhD Outdoor Light Mini Socks. We find they have the best combination of comfort, sufficient but not too much padding, don’t absorb a lot of sweat and dry quickly. And of course, they stench less than synthetic socks.


  • Merino wool blend is naturally moisture-wicking to keep your feet light, dry and cool
  • Flat-knit toe seams reduce friction for enhanced comfort
  • Elasticized arch braces provide a secure, comfortable fit

ALL Oboz footwear products are on sale

25% Off

$29-$240 $22-$180

Oboz Sawtooth II Low Hiking Shoes – Men’s

25% Off

One of the most popular hiking shoes. So if you prefer a sturdier shoe with some leather on it, great durability and a very protective sole, then these are worth a hard look. And they have a relatively low cost too. The lugged soles have tenacious grip and you won’t be replacing them every few hundred miles like some lightweight trail runners or light hikers. That being, said all this rugged construction does have slight downside of adding a few ounces vs. trail runners.


  • Nubuck leather uppers and breathable, moisture-wicking nylon mesh liners combine protection and breathability to keep your feet dry and comfortable
  • O FIT Insoles™ offer exceptional fit, feel and performance
  • Dual-density EVA midsoles provide cushioning while keeping feet light and agile
  • Nylon shanks offer protection underfoot, increasing surefootedness on varied terrain
  • Heel counters crafted of abrasion-resistant textile and rubber increase comfort
  • Protective toe overlays protect against abrasion
  • Asymmetric collars articulate with ankle motion, accommodating for unique ankle bone locations
  • High-friction, nonmarking rubber outsoles grip in all directions thanks to the toothy side lugs and directional lugs underfoot
  • Oboz plants a tree for every pair of shoes sold, in partnership with Trees for the Future

All Outdoor Research Accessories

25% Off

Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap

25% Off

$38 $29

A hat that does everything well! The Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap is convertible between a lightweight running hat and a more serious expedition hat by allowing a neck shade to be attached to the hat. The neck shade can block the sun and protect you from bugs. It comes in light colors to better help deal with solar radiation. Other colors are available if you don’t like the bright white. This is one of the most functional hats I’ve ever put on our heads. It works great to control the brim on your rain jacket.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad “Women’s”

25% Off

$175 $132

We feel this is by a large margin the best all-around sleeping pad! This is the “Women’s” version of the XLite, but it’s the right size for most backpackers. All the men we know use it — for tall men, as long as the end of the pad hits mid-calf you should be fine (Alan’s 6’5″ hiking partner uses one!). Best of all, at 12 oz and with an R-value of 3.9, it’s warmer and lighter than the “Men’s” version. Super warm and super comfortable we find its closer to a 3+ season pad and have happily used it to well below freezing!  As such, we find that it works well even into the colder shoulder seasons of late fall and early spring, so you can skip the weight and cost of the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad

25% Off

$215-$255 $162-$192

HIGHLIGHTS:  Incredibly warm & light | Good winter pad, or for cold sleepers

Our pick for the Best Pad Cold Sleepers: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad is our pick for hikers that sleep cold or for average hikers in very cold conditions — see more. It has the highest R/weight performance of any pad while also being a great value for R/cost. As such, we also see it as a great upgrade from the XLite for cold sleepers — it’s only 3 oz and a few bucks more than the standard XLite but a whopping amount warmer (R6.9 vs R4.2). So it might be one of the lighter ways to increase the warmth of your sleep system.

GREAT FOR: The lightest pad for 4 season use (also great 3 season for cold sleepers)

Sale is on ALL REI Co-op brand trekking poles

25% Off

REI Co-op Flash Carbon Trekking Poles

25% Off

$55-$140 $42-$105

REI’s strongest and lightest trekking poles, we’ve take these mountaineering in Patagonia.  The REI Co-op Flash Carbon Trekking Poles have easy-to-adjust, secure flip-lock adjustments and an ergonomic foam handle. These REI trekking poles are also one of a few poles in this section that we feel are up to off-trail use. The foam extends farther over the top of the pole than in other models, which can make it prone to breakage after extended use and pressure from the top down. And there is no extended section below the main grip to quickly shorten up on the poles. This set collapses down to 27” and has a usable range from 35-47”, weighing in around 15 ounces for the pair which is a good weight for a pole this strong. And of course, they are backed by REI. Check out the women’s REI Co-op Flash Carbon Trekking Poles.

PROS: Ultra-secure flip lock, less expensive than others on this list, suitable for off-trail use
BEST FOR: Standard trail users, from day hikes to extended backpacking trips. And these poles are definitley strong enough & durable enough to also qualify for off-trail use

REI Sahara Pants & Shirts

30% to 70% Off

We’ve used some version of REI Co-op Sahara clothing for nearly 20 years (most of it now 30% off or more). They’ve been to Patagonia, Alaska, Asia, the Deserts of Utah, and pretty much every mountain range in the lower 48. They get the job done. We like the thin, light but durable fabric key reinforcements in high wear areas. And that they come in a number of inseams. And of course, all those pockets are essential to keep your gear organized and readily available. Finally, they dry quickly and are great for international travel as well.

REI Sahara Shirts

REI Sahara Shirts are the same quality as the pants.

Osprey Daylite Packs

25% Off

$30-$75 $22-$57

Take the Osprey Daylite Plus pack on a one-day hike or a plane trip as your carry-on. A padded harness and simple webbing hipbelt make it easy and comfortable to carry. It’s small and well organized to make the perfect light backpack.


  • Tuck-away, spacer-mesh shoulder straps and integrated handle make carrying a breeze
  • Back pocket for hydration reservoir (sold separately)
  • Large main compartment has padded interior sleeve to hold a tablet or other device (not included)
  • Zippered mesh organizer pocket with key fob; 2 side mesh pockets; open-topped stash pocket for jacket or other quick-use items; small front zip pocket
  • Mesh-covered back panel has slotted foam for ventilation and breathability
  • Attaches to a variety of compatible Osprey packs (sold separately)

Garmin Fenix 6

Save $100

Reg. $400-$450

The Garmin Fenix 6 has been a top-tier (some would say the go-to watch for professional athletes and serious adventurers) fitness watch and GPS tracker for many years. We’ve used a Fenix for years both for backpacking and mountaineering as well as when we raced podiumed in triathlons. Now you can get one at a serious discount.


  • Includes wrist heart rate tracking and Pulse Ox sensing blood oxygen saturation for sleep monitoring and altitude acclimation
  • Satellite navigation and tracking functions combine with a 3-axis compass, gyroscope and barometric altimeter to give you confidence on and off the beaten path
  • Supports multiple global navigation satellite system (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo) to track in more challenging environments than GPS alone
  • Rugged, sophisticated design features an always-on 1.3 in. (18% larger than previous fenix models) sunlight-readable display with stainless steel bezel and buttons
  • This watch eases from workout to work day with smart notifications (when paired with a compatible smartphone) to keep you connected
  • Customizable power manager lets you see and control how various settings and sensors impact battery life, so you can make battery-extending changes on the fly
  • Battery performance: up to 14 days in smartwatch mode, up to 36 hrs. in GPS mode, up to 28 days in expedition GPS activity mode and up to 48 days in battery saver watch mode

Select Patagonia Fitness Clothing

30% off

$45-$129 $32-$91

Patagonia R1 Pullover

30% off

Think of it as “fur for humans.” The Patagonia R1 Pullover is our go-to winter garment. This is the warmest, comfiest base layer; and it works in an amazing range of conditions. It breathes well, stretches comfortably, and has a long cut to keep your heat trapped in. The arms are long with thumb holes to keep heat from leaving through the common wrist gap.  It zips up trapping all your heat inside, and piping warm air from your waist to your neck. Of course, it comes in Men’s and Women’s versions. While warm enough for winter, it works in one of the broadest ranges of temperatures of any base layer!

Suggestions for your 20% OFF Coupon

Treat yourself. But be smart about it. Here are some great picks to use your 20% of wisely. Yeah, some of this gear is expensive but it’s some of the best gear out there. And it’s also where that 20% off will save you the most money.

new Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket 2020

$159 (older models on sale for less)

The Outdoor Research Helium is a great value, costing less than other jackets in the rarefied 6 ounce range!  And for 2020 it’s way more durable at the same weight! The first upgrade to the highly regarded Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket in 8 years! It boasts a new super-strong Pertex Diamond Fuse fabric. Outdoor Research say it 5x more tear-resistant and 2x more abrasion resistant than the old Helium. That’s a huge deal for a 6 oz Rain Jacket where any increase in durability is most welcome. In addition for 2020 it got a slightly roomier fit. While it weighs far less than most rain jackets, it still has a good feature set — drawcord-adjustable hood, elastic adjustable cuffs, and a chest pocket that can stow the entire jacket. While a bit larger for 2020 this jacket is still trim. It will layer over an 8-12+ oz fleece mid layer, but anyone layering it over something larger (e.g. a down jacket) should likely size up. And like always, the 2020 Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket costs less than the competitor’s 6 ounce rain jackets!

The matching Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants share the same strong Pertex Diamond Fuse material, where its durability maybe even more welcome as pants often take more abuse than jackets. They also have lace loops to attach to your shoes which turn the pants into a semi-gaiter.

BEST FOR: Combination of low weight, durability, and value | One of the best all-around rain jackets for serious travelers, hikers, and outdoor athletes looking for extremely light rain protection without the high prices of other jackets at this weight and who value high packability.

NOTE: for now, the new 2020 Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket and Pants are exclusive to REI.

REI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket

Our pick for a best value rain Jacket. The REI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket’s utilitarian design keeps weight and cost low. Styling is a bit utilitarian but the jacket has room to layer. The Co-op Jacket has a modestly sized, 3-piece hood with dual hood adjusts (but still best with a ball-cap under it), two zippered hand pockets, a drawcord hem, and internal elastic cuffs allow a seal at waist and wrists. And the new model has pit zips and uses Recycled nylon ripstop (bluesign® approved).

BEST FOR: Budget hikers and backpackers looking for good rain and wind protection that will last at an incredibly low price.

REI Co-op Drypoint GTX Jacket

REI Co-op Drypoint Gore Tex Jacket

Our pick for best all-around performance rain Jacket. Another great REI Rain Jacket. The REI Co-op Drypoint GTX Jacket is a solid three layer jacket at a great price! It has two well placed mesh backed chest pockets and adjustable hem, cuffs and hood (3 adjustments). REI made some good design choices with this jacket: the pockets are high enough to use when wearing hip straps and it has mesh pocket linings creating two large and effective chest vents (which we prefer over pit-zips). Additionally, the Drypoint’s seam-free shoulder design is good when wearing a pack and should increase durability in this critical area.

BEST FOR: Hikers and backpackers looking for a great value in rain protection with good breathability and great ventilation that can endure significant wear and tear. And it has the REI warranty!

See our BEST LIGHTWEIGHT RAIN JACKETS FOR 2020  for more great rain gear choices and a lot of great info, tips & tricks.

REI Co-op Magma 15 Sleeping Bag Ms & Ws


A sweet deal at far less than competitors’ bags! A perfect blend of warmth and reasonable cost from a trusted seller. This 2017 Backpacker Editors’ Choice will keep even cold sleepers warm but still not weigh a ton! Both Men’s and Women’s bags are stuffed with 850 fill power water-resistant goose down. The weight is not bad at a little over two pounds.

REI Co-op Magma Trail Quilt 30 ($299 – $339)

Off the shelf and ready to go! | REI Co-op Magma Trail Quilt 30. We are super stoked to see REI offer a quilt version of the award-winning Magma series bags! Pair this with the “Women’s” version of the XLite, (yes it fits men fine — all the men we know use it) and you will be toasty warm at night. And no wonder since it’s stuffed with an incredible 11 ounces of Water-resistant 850-fill-power goose down. This quilt is cut a bit wider than most to give you lots of room and a good seal around the edges. What’s not to like!

Hyperlite 2400 Southwest & 3400 Southwest Packs

$290 – $330

This is one of the best and most versatile lightweight packs out there—and it’s virtually waterproof! It has a lightweight internal frame to comfortably distribute and carry loads from a few pounds to over 30 lbs.  That’s something that most ultralight packs struggle with. Hyperlite Mountain Gear builds all its packs from lightweight, waterproof, tough Dyneema composite fabric (formerly Cuben Fiber). The expandable rear pocket on the Southwest pack and zippered hip pockets give you room for snacks and gear on the go while the main contents of your pack stay safely below a roll-top closure to keep rain, sleet, and snow away from your gear. Choose a volume – the 2400 cubic inch pack will be plenty for most summer ventures. Longer treks, carrying a bear canister and/or more puffy gear for shoulder seasons make the 3400 a great choice as well.

new 2020 Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 Tent


If you want to cut a little weight but keep lots of space, Big Agnes has you covered with the high volume version of their Copper Spur UL 2 tent. This fully free-standing tent comes in at 2 lb. 11 oz on the trail and can be pitched even lighter using just the fly. This is one of the most spacious 2-person tents out there which is great if you are going to be stuck in your tent playing cards for a while in bad weather or just prefer highly livable tents.

2020 Upgrades

Our favorite improvement on the new 2020 Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent is that the fly doors now can unzip into awning style vestibules that give you a large and airy protected area to hang out in light rain, or great protection from sun. Pre bent poles increase interior space and strength. New 3 function TipLok Tent Buckles simplify and speed pitching and a new fabric is more tear & puncture resistant. We’re also big fans of pockets to keep space organized and livable. For 2020 there’s a big 3D Bin Mezzanine pocket a the foot, an oversized ceiling pocket, & media pockets.

REI Flash Air 2 Tent


New for 2020 is the 1.9 lb REI Co-op Flash Air 2 Tent | Yup, it’s a user friendly, full-sized, highly livable, 2-Person Tent under 2 Pounds! As such, the REI Co-op Flash Air 2 Tent is an exciting new entry into trekking pole supported tents that will save you weight and money! We especially like the hub poles that increase livable space and peak height. And its multi-position doors easily go from stargazing to full storm mode. And it’s a great value, costing hundreds less than most tents in the sub-two-pound range.

See our REI Co-op Flash Air 2 Tent Review for more details on this new tent.

See our Full Video Review of the REI Flash Air 2 Tent

REI Quarter Dome SL Tents & Footprints

$299 – $349

REI fans rejoice, the REI CO-OP Quarter Dome SL 2 is a legitimately great option for any backpacker seeking a premium, free-standing, lightweight tent that won’t break the bank. Among our favorite freestanding options, it’s $50 cheaper than the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 and $100 cheaper than the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 while still offering the same large vestibules and near-vertical sidewalls. Sure, at 3.3 lbs, Quarter Dome 2 isn’t the most featherweight option available, but it’s still over a pound lighter than most budget tents and can be carried into the backcountry with ease. The bottom line is that this tent is an REI best-seller because it meets all the requirements of a lightweight backpacker for a very reasonable price.

BEST FOR: Backpackers seeking a premium tent that won’t break the bank.

See our BEST BACKPACKING TENTS FOR 2020 | LIGHTWEIGHT & ULTRALIGHT for more great tent choices and a lot of great info, tips & tricks.

Altra Lone Peak Trail-Running Shoes

$120 – $150

Altra Lone Peak Trail-Running Shoes are Alison’s and my favorite backpacking and hiking shoes. These are the most comfortable shoe after a 30+ mile day on the trail. One key is the massive toe room that is so kind to trail-swollen feet at the end of the day. They are light and have a zero drop heel for a more natural stride. These come in both Men’s and Women’s models. But there are a few other models to choose from: Altra Superior another favorite of ours (lighter and less cushioned than the Lone Peak). And for those liking more cushioned shoes: The Altra Timp 1.5 Trail-Running Shoes (more cushioned than the Lone Peak) and the Olympus (max cushioned shoe).

Benchmade 535 Bugout Drop-Point Fine-Edge Knife


In a word:  Superb. This is a beautiful and highly functional knife with a large 3.25″ blade up to any backcountry use. It’s also great for everyday carry. At 1.8 ounces, it is far lighter than most folding knives. Its CPM-S30V premium stainless-steel blade (58-60HRC) will hold an edge far longer than run-of-the-mill knives (some of which cost nearly as much). Yeah, we’re big fans of CPM-S30V and CPM-S35V steels. The blue handle is bright making the knife hard to lose and has a pleasingly ergonomic grip.

Jetboil MiniMo Cooking System


To our mind, this is the best Jetboil Stove! The Jetboil MiniMo Cooking System gives you all of Jetboil’s new technologies:  A proprietary regulator and an enhanced regulator diaphragm for consistent performance down to 20°F.  Their redesigned valve gives you better simmer control. Finally, we’re huge fans of the wider pot. It’s easier to eat out of and clean and has a more fuel effect shape to boot. Bon Appétit!

Osprey Exos and Eja Backpacks

$200 – $220

Osprey Exos 48 or 58 Backpack (Unisex/Men’s)

A Thru-hiker’s choice and the most popular pack in the Appalachian Trail. The Osprey Exos 48 is light but will still hold enough gear and food for 7 days (use the larger Exos 58 if you carry more gear). Of course, the Exos has the famous Osprey fit and comfort. It’s fairly durable for a lightweight pack but best of all, at $200 it’s a good deal for a pack of this weight and quality. And of course, it comes with REI’s return policy.

Osprey Eja 48 and 58 Pack (Women’s version of the Exos)

New for 2018 is a women’s version of the incredibly successful Osprey Exos, the most popular pack in the Appalachian Trail. The Osprey Eja Backpack’s have women’s specific fit, like optimal sternum strap location for women, less bulky shoulder straps and of course an improved hip-belt design. Otherwise all the features that made the Exos packs great are there including the AirSpeed Suspension system that keeps the weight (and sweat) off your back with a tensioned breathable-mesh back panel.

Ursack Major XL Bear Bag

$99 – $120

The Ursack Major Bear Bag will keep bears out of your food. It weighs a fraction of a typical bear canister and costs about the same. This is the largest, 15 L model which can easily fit 6+ days of food! There’s a smaller version too for shorter trips. It holds about 10.7 L, and costs $70. These are easily the best bear protection available, but make sure it’s a sanctioned solution where you go as sadly, not all parks have caught on yet.

REI Half Dome Tents

Value in a Crossover Tent for Camping or Backpacking

$229 – $249

The REI Half Dome 2 Plus was a pick in our Tent Guide, and a best-selling tent at REI for a reason; it just works. No matter where and how you choose to camp in the backcountry or front-country, this tent will keep you warm, dry and comfortable. Its vertical walls, spacious interior, and expansive vestibules make for great livability, which is why this backpacking tent also has great crossover into car camping. If you need a quiver of one budget tent for all purposes, the Half Dome is your go-to. In addition to more volume and features than the Passage 2, it’s also made with higher quality, longer-lasting materials. A 60d floor prevents rips and pokes while durable DAC poles form a strong and light cross-pole frame with sidewall lifters. But all of these benefits comes at the weight-cost of 4.9 lbs, making it the single heaviest tent we recommend. Quality and value run throughout the entire Half Dome Plus family, so don’t hesitate to buy according to your typical group configuration.

BEST FOR: Budget or beginner backpackers seeking a safe, comfy, reliable tent that works great for backpacking and car camping.

REI Flash 18 & Flash 22 Packs

$30 – $40

Staff Pick: The REI Flash 18 & Flash 22 Packs are Staff Favorites. They are very light, inexpensive & functional ultralight day packs. Blessedly minimal with just the right features, the  Flash 18 is only 9 ounces and the Flash 22 just 13 ounces. As such, they will lighten your load and step.


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