Gear review: Into the woods

Kimberly Nicoletti
Special to The Aspen Times
Big Agnus Fly Creek HV UL2 Solution Dye.
Courtesy photo

With the wildflowers popping, it’s the perfect time to get into the woods with these products:

Big Agnus Fly Creek HV UL2 Solution Dye

I love tents that make me feel like I can truly enjoy the outdoors, with fine, transparent mesh that extends nearly to the floor and an easy-to-attach fly that makes it cozy at night. If you’re looking for an ultra-lightweight backpacking tent, this three-season shelter has been redesigned from the stakes up to become an award-winning, humble outdoor abode. The big draw of this tent is it’s extremely lightweight. At 2 pounds, 4 ounces, I really couldn’t feel it in my backpack. Big Agnes has outfitted the Fly Creek HV UL2 with a larger vertical entry arch on the door and steep wall architecture to provide more headroom, which, at its height is 42 inches and, in the two-person version, is sufficient. It also includes lighter and stronger tent stakes that hold up to pounding with a rock. This tent combines ultralight materials with technical features like solution-dyed fabric that’s highly resistant to fading in sunlight — plus, the company has found a way to significantly reduce energy consumption and water use while constructing the product. It’s simple to set up once you get the main gist, with proprietary tent corner construction, reflective guy lines, color-coded webbing, and fast clip buckles, as well as directions conveniently attached inside the stuff sack. Two interior mesh pockets and a roomy media packet stash small items, while the fly’s extension keeps your backpack protected from the elements. Like all true ultralight backpacking tents, you sacrifice some roominess, so get ready to snuggle up in this 28-square-foot (86 inches long by 42-52 inches wide) interior. But, when packed, you can’t beat the 7.5″ x 5″ x 1.5″ complete tent, which easily fits in a backpack. $399.95,

Big Agnes Tent Footprint

Big Agnes Tent Footprint.
Courtesy photo

Big Agnes recommends using its tent footprints to extend the life of your tent floor, and this 4-ounce footprint comes with its own sack, making it a lightweight and compact accessory. Of course, its 15 denier nylon isn’t going to be as strong as a 40D, but, again, here we’re going for lightweight over a durability that Big Foot could stomp through. Its ripstop material provides extra reinforcement to decrease chances of tearing and ripping, and when I put it to the test by letting my dog run through it and then literally poking sharp rocks into it, it held up without showing a speck of wear or stretch. Its polyurethane and silicone coating create a waterproof barrier, keeping the tent floor dry even in slightly damp ground. $80 for Fly Creek HV UL2 Solution Dye (two-person).

Sun Bum Signature SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion

Sun Bum Signature SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion.
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This mineral-based sunscreen is great for faces. I put it on my eyelids, then went into the ocean, and it didn’t faze my eyes a bit. It’s also great for backpacking, as the 3-ounce bottle is small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, and the pocket-size 1.5-ouncer is even tinier. The signature line is designed to provide the best broad-spectrum protection for working and playing hard in the sun and is waterproof and sweatproof. The bottle itself grips great with wet hands, and the sliding top cap is easy to open and close — and you can’t drop or lose it, since it’s attached. Like other Sun Bum products, it’s UVA and UVB protection is made cruelty-free, paraben- and PABA-free, petroleum-free, and fragrance-free, which is nice when it comes to using it on your face. If it’s good enough for the Hawaiian Water Patrol and Hawaii Act 104 Reef Compliant, it’s good enough for me. $20.49-18.44,

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System.
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We all know that the last thing you want while backpacking or traveling is a case of giardia or other intestinal upset (And it’s nasty when the dog gets it, too). This portable water filtration system removes 99.99999% of bacteria like salmonella, cholera, leptospirosis, and e. coli and removes 99.9999% of protozoa like giardia and cryptosporidium, according to independent testing laboratory Hydration, LLC. It also filters out 100% of microplastics, though it warns it doesn’t remove chemicals, pesticides, or heavy metals. This filter is extremely efficient; a large volume of tubes in the compact filter increase the surface area by 20 to 1, compared to a ceramic filter and provide a high flow rate. Each filter is tested three times before packaging to ensure performance standards, which is amazing quality control and gives me peace of mind. It also comes with a limited lifetime warranty. At 5 ½ inches high and 2 ½ ounces, it easily fits into any backpack. And, it’s super simple to use: Just screw the filter onto one of two 32-ounce, BPA-free, collapsible hydration pouches the kit comes with or onto any standard water bottle with 28 mm threads. When flowrate slows, you simply backwash the filter. The kit comes with the filter, cleaning plunger, inline pack adapters, gravity tube, two pouches, and a mesh bag with a hanging loop. The best thing about this company is it employs water filters to help people worldwide who otherwise wouldn’t have clean drinking water, which impacts just about every aspect of life, from physical and mental health to the ability to work and care for a family. From disaster relief and refugee camp programs to training locals to use water filters that last 10-plus years, this company is changing lives. This year, the company completed a five-year project installing filters in every household in the Marshall Islands, impacting 42,000 lives. You can donate to the Sawyer Foundation or otherwise help them distribute water filters at $29.08

Outdoor Vitals Shadowlight 45 Backpack

Outdoor Vitals Shadowlight 45 Backpack.
Courtesy photo

Finally, a lightweight backpack that’s durable and comfortable. This 45L pack weighs 1 pound, 14 ½ ounces (The 60L weighs just 1 ounce more). Its lightweight, removable aluminum frame and removable back pad, which doubles as a sit pad, makes it ultra-comfortable to wear, along with amply padded shoulder straps and hip belt, the latter of which is also removable. An inside pouch keeps small items, like a water filter, from falling to the bottom or accommodates a water bladder, and two zippered pouches on each frontside of the hip belt made me really happy, as they both fit a larger-sized iPhone, making access to taking photos extremely convenient while protecting my phone from dust or raindrops. Six additional outside pouches — two long mesh pockets in the back and four on the sides, carry jackets, water bottles, and other gear, though it does take a tiny bit of a reach to grab a water bottle carried on the side pocket. This pack easily fit the Big Agnus tent and an inflatable sleeping pad, clothing, food, and other necessary gear. The nylon, which comes in dark blue or artic, is extremely durable and water-resistant, and it’s easy to find the perfect fit for short, regular, and tall torsos and small, medium, and large hip sizes. $234.97 ($206.77 for members),

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