Camping Gear We Use and Then Write About
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid women’s boots
By Mark Evitt
To me, summer vacation means hiking in Yosemite, gazing across clear-blue lakes at the base of ragged talus slopes, and strolling through backcountry meadows as the grass springs beneath my feet. Last summer my girlfriend Emily joined my family and me for a reunion; it was her first hiking vacation to Yosemite and her first time meeting some of my relatives. Needless to say, the pressure was on me to make sure Emily had a good time, and she didn’t have a decent pair of boots!
I turned to Lowa, and its Renegade GTX Mid boot, designed especially for women. The best-selling Lowa boot in the world (and frequently updated since its inception), the Renegade has satisfied thousands of hikers with its narrower heel and contoured padded tongue, while padding in the Achilles and ankle area provides additional support. The boot is lined with GORE-TEX for waterproof protection, and a Vibram Vialta outsole grips the terrain hard while absorbing shocks.
A comfortable boot is all well and good, but Emily also needed one that didn’t take weeks to break in and also fit her wide, high-arch feet. She only had the chance to walk around in the boots for an hour before lacing them up for our first hike. Over three days of heavy hiking, the boots proved just how out-of-the box they are. Emily didn’t get any hot spots or blisters, and besides a couple re-lacings throughout each day, the boots required no extra attention.
On the second day of our trip, we pushed the Renegade boots to the max, climbing Mt. Conness after a 4-mile and 3000-foot ascent over rough backcountry terrain. The light boots (2.2 pounds) allowed Emily to scramble over boulders with ease. The Renegade really is a perfect boot for dayhiking – the body and sole weren’t too rigid, yet they provided plenty of ankle support, especially when we were traversing uneven and unsteady rocks and gravel.
The final approach to the Conness summit is particularly nasty, with 1000-foot drop-offs on either side of a thin shelf of granite. Emily needed boots that would stick like glue to the rock, and give her the security and peace of mind to keep climbing. The Renegade GTX Mid delivered, all the way up the mountain.
Always fashion conscious, Emily’s only critique of the Renegade was its color – a uniform brown (formally called taupe/sepia). The boot is also available in asphalt/navy, but neither color option is particularly feminine. I suggest accessorizing with some colorful laces (I have to get Emily a pair), because there’s no reason to pass on this boot. $180. Lowa: 888/335-5692; /lowaboots.com/
Kelty Lounge 4 Tent
By Sylvia Alarid
I have to admit, setting up a tent is not my forte. I’ve had to scratch my head a couple of times during other setups before seeing how everything goes together. However, once pulling Kelty’s new-for-spring Lounge 4 tent and its contents out of the bag, I realized setup was going to be an easy task. Aside from its quick setup, this three-season tent, part of Kelty’s Basecamp series, is also tall and roomy, which would work great for a small family (mom, dad and two small children) or three adults with gear.
Setup on the Lounge 4 consists of three aluminum poles of different lengths that are color-coded to match the appropriate straps on the bottom sides of the tent. Run those poles through the three color-coded sleeves and you’re done. The tent’s dimensions make for a sizeable 64-square-foot floor area. The front wall measures 110 inches long while the back is 103 inches. Width is at 92 inches and height is 6 feet.
At such a size, the Lounge 4 rose high above a sea of shorter tents at our campsite during a recent group outing. My husband, who’s 5 feet, 9 inches, had no trouble standing erect inside the tent to find whatever we needed. When it was time for bed, we enjoyed looking up through the mesh panel ceiling for a little stargazing before falling asleep. The opening also made those hot nights more bearable. And things like flashlights and my prescription glasses were never lost within sleeping bags thanks to the tent’s large storage pockets located inside the watertight polyester taffeta sidewalls.
Weighing 15 pounds (poles included) in its short-strap storage bag, the Lounge 4 was easy to transport to and from the car, and I also was able to disassemble the tent by myself while my husband gathered our belongings. We liked its other details, such as the organizer wall and gear shelf, and we also didn’t mind having one door because of its size.
If you need more room, the Lounge is also available in a six-person tent. The Lounge 4′s price might be a bit hefty, but it’s great for those who enjoy more room in a tent and want a fast and easy setup-oh yeah, and an all-around quality tent that’ll last for years. $340, Lounge 4; $440, Lounge 6. Kelty: 800/535-3589; /kelty.com/.
Ex Officio BUZZ OFF convertible pants and BUZZ OFF Halo long-sleeve shirt
By Mark Evitt
I’m no Luddite, but I know I’ve been pretty slow in adapting to using modern synthetic outdoor wear. I’m well aware of the advantages synthetic has over cotton: it wicks away moisture, dries faster and weighs less. But because synthetic garments cost quite a bit more than a ratty t-shirt from college, and I haven’t been too eager to go shopping, I have avoided taking the synthetic plunge – until now.
Simply put, the Ex Officio BUZZ OFF long-sleeve Halo shirt I tested (and to a lesser extent, the convertible pants) blew me away. I can practically guarantee they will make any outdoor activity (whether it’s hiking, fishing or just working in the garden) immeasurably more pleasurable. Both pants and shirt, part of Ex Officio’s BUZZ OFF line, help repel biting insects because they are coated with permethrin, an insecticide. Unfortunately, my visit to the mountains was late enough in the season there really were no bugs to speak of, so I couldn’t test the garments’ repellency. According to the company, clothes in the BUZZ OFF line keep bugs away for up to 25 washings. Both pants and shirt also carry a UPF rating of 30+, so they protect against the sun as well as insects.
The Halo shirt, made from 100 percent nylon, is thin and light, yet still feels strong and substantive. All buttons on this collared shirt are actually metal snaps, which offer much better long-term durability. If it gets warm during the day, simply roll up the shirt’s sleeves and secure them using the roll-up sleeve tabs. The shirt’s back panel is lined with mesh and has ventilation holes to further promote air circulation and cooling. The two front pockets, one on each breast and secured with Velcro, are large enough to hold a two-way radio or GPS. There are also two smaller pockets within the breast pockets that are closed with zippers for extra security. This eminently stylish and versatile shirt kept me dry and cool. I highly recommend it.
The convertible pants, also made from 100 percent nylon, are just as comfortable as the shirt, though the fabric is a bit thicker. For people familiar with convertible pants, this Ex Officio model doesn’t look or feel much different than pants from any other manufacturer. A zippered lower section turns a pair of shorts into pants, and a zipper on each interior pant leg allows you to slip the detached portion over your boot. I found the zip-off lower pant leg a little too long for my taste – I would have preferred the shorts falling lower on my thigh. The sun and bug protection are what set these pants apart from the competition, as well as the little details – like a peach finish, which is more resistant to wrinkling. $85, Halo shirt; $80, convertible pants. Ex Officio: 800/644-7303; exofficio.com