Gear: Summer dreams
As summer closes in, I’m looking back at a few of the go-to items I regularly used throughout the last couple of months — things that made my days, and nights, much more comfortable.
Sea-to-Summit Thermolite Reactor Liner
I initially saw the beauty of traveling with a sleeping bag liner when my friend and I went to Maui and Moloka’i. I’ve grown up with feather beds, even in the summer, and chill easily, so her liner came in handy at night with sliders open. It also felt comforting in Moloka’i, when we arrived to a not-so-clean bed placed in a super-cool sailboat wreck that had washed up near the owner’s shore (Because, when in Moloka’i, sleep in a friend of a friend’s found shipwreck, right?)
And that’s exactly what I love about this Thermolite Reactor Liner: It’s lightweight at 8.7 ounces and packs up tiny, for ease in the backcountry or on small airplanes to, say, Moloka’i, where we could only bring a small backpack. It keeps me warm, it provides a barrier between whatever sheets I might slide into (uh, not that I slide into dirty sheets regularly), and it keeps my own sleeping bag nice and clean.
The secret to its warmth lies in the hollow-core Thermolite fibers, which trap extra air for insulation, much like the hollow cores of polar bear and caribou fur. The soft, stretchy fabric feels good against the skin and provides a sense of roominess to roll from side to side without pulling me fully from my slumber. And, its odor-resistant wicking performance holds up to machine washes and dries.
Sea to Summit rates this liner as providing up to 14 Fahrenheit degrees of added warmth. It’s perfect for van or tent camping in warmer weather, and, on cooler nights, it kept me toasty with my sleeping bag; a drawcord lets you cinch the hood to keep the additional cold out. $69.95. seatosummit.com
Outdoor Vitals Summit Down Sleeping Bag
This 30-degree-rated sleeping bag underwent a redesign last year (its third evolution) to provide a lighter bag — at 1 pound, 7 ounces — with a better fit. It offers an improved differential cut, in which the inside of the bag is cut slightly smaller than the outside, so movement and body pressure don’t compress the down from the inside out (making it warmer); an anatomically-tapered foot box; a center zipper with anti-snag ribbon; boxed zipper baffles to prevent cold spots; two, pillow-style draft collar baffles for increased neck warmth; and dual cinch cords.
I love down but don’t love seeing little feathers pop out; these bags use durable, wax-based, water-resistant ripstop fabrics by Toray that not only feel wonderful, but also actually keep the feathers inside, where they should be. Its 800-plus fill power of HyperDry down, treated for increased water resistance, provides that same down-comforter experience of surrounding yourself in cloud-like softness as you snuggle in. Its upgraded baffle system keeps the feathers evenly in place, so they don’t bunch.
This mummy-shaped bag kept me warm during colder summer nights at high elevations, yet provided enough room to move about and bunch a little down between my knees for extra comfort (The width at the knees measures 19.7 inches); this becomes important when you’ve never really slept in regular, thin sheets — as my dad says, he doesn’t know how he slept with his knees banging together all his life before he met my mom, the down-comforter queen.
The Summit comes with two bags: a dry bag to compress the plush down comfort into a 10 x 8.5 x 6-inch roll for packing and a long-term storage bag, so the down doesn’t remain compressed, which ultimately weakens the insulation’s ability to loft. $309.97, or $278.97 for members, outdoorvitals.com
Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent
First of all, I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that this has no scent — absolutely none. That’s my biggest complaint about insect repellant. I’m pretty sensitive to aromas, including perfume, so I tend to avoid insect repellents. As a result, I get bit. So, to me, Sawyer’s Picaridin Insect Repellent is a dream.
I also admit that I’m pretty paranoid about tick bites when I visit the Midwest, East, South, and when I venture into the backcountry because tick-borne illnesses are no joke. I avoid DEET, so this is a safe and effective alternative, which provides protection from ticks and mosquitoes. It also repels those nasty biting flies near water in the backcountry for up to eight hours (if only I had it when flies attacked us in Alaska — if you’re going to Alaska, bring this!). Apparently, it’s good at repelling all kinds of insects (55 total), including sand flies, whose bites have kept me up many a night on tropical beach trips, but I haven’t had a chance to test that one out. The lotion repels ticks, mosquitos, and other annoying bloodsuckers for 14 hours, which is a huge bonus.
It soaks right into the skin, without leaving a greasy or sticky residue, and the 4-ounce bottle easily slides into pockets or fanny packs. Picaridin also comes in individual, 0.34-ounce lotion packets for even more portability. Derived from piperine in pepper plants, Sawyer Picaridin is a synthetic replica of a natural solution, making it reportedly safe for pregnant women and children as young as 6 months. Prices range through various retailers, around $13 or less. sawyer.com
Sawyer Permethrin Insect Repellent Treatment
It’s always a little hard to judge how bit up you’d get if you weren’t wearing insect repellent, but a University of Rhode Island study in 2011 states that subjects wearing Permethrin-treated shoes and socks were 73.6 times less likely to get a tick bite than people wearing untreated footwear. As I mentioned, tick bites can seriously derail your life, so why not take extra precautions and treat your clothing, shoes, and tent? Again, it’s hard to say how the mosquito population would’ve been if I didn’t use it on my tent, but Sawyer states that using it on outdoor gear helps reduce the mosquito population, and when I used it, mosquitos didn’t bother us (and I didn’t see a tick). It bonds to fabric fibers for up to 6 weeks of exposure to sun and air, or six washings, which, in my mind, makes for an excellent — and cheap — insurance policy.
I’ve also sprayed it on tablecloths and chairs at outdoor picnics and haven’t been bothered by pests. The non-staining spray, which becomes odorless when dry and has an extremely mild aroma when spraying, is easy to apply; just spray on each side of the garment, and you’re done. The EPA recommends using 4.5 ounces of Permethrin to cover each outfit (a shirt, pants, and socks). Pair it with the insect-repellent lotion for maximum protection. The price is well worth it: Beyond the personal protection it offers, every Sawyer product you buy helps deliver water filtration systems to people in need worldwide. About $14 and up, depending on the retailer. sawyer.com
These small items pack a lot of power, from lighting up your night to adding inspiring graphics to your fanny pack or making you feel like a true MacGyver.