Black Diamond Orbit Lantern Review – Backpacking Lighting

Check out the full video review here

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Having the right gear makes all the difference in your backcountry experience. Black Diamond has been a leader in the climbing and ski industry for many years now, but even the products directly unrelated to skiing and climbing they excel at. The Orbit Lantern is the perfect example of functionality and reliability when it comes to needing light around camp.
Weighing in at 2.9 ounces without the batteries, it is an impressive little light that gives off 105 lumens of light. With the ability to dim the light by the press of a button, you are able to secure over 70 hours of usable light. New for 2016, the Orbit has dual function as a lantern and a flash light. They have embedded a 50 lumen flash light into the base of the lantern giving you even more versatility for your evening adventures.
We love to hang the Orbit from the gear loops in the tent and use it for easy reading, getting changed, or simply to play a round of cards on a dark stormy night. Needless to say, the Orbit is a great option for any backpacker looking for a little more functionality over the standard headlamp. No blinding your friends with this when in the tent, like you would with a headlamp.
Happy Trails my friends!

Sierra Designs Nightwatch 2 – Room With A View

Video information here: Sierra Designs Nightwatch 2
When Sierra Designs rebranded and made some major adjustments to their products a couple years ago, they reintroduced themselves back into the spotlight of innovation and smarts for the everyday outdoorsman. For the backpacker who isn’t concerned about going ultralight, the Nightwatch 2 person tent is a great addition to the Sierra Design line up of tents.
A room with a view! The Nightwatch tent is new for Spring 2016, allowing the user to roll back the rain fly exposing the stars and creating awesome ventilation, yet keeping you away from the bugs.
Sierra Designs has made some major adjustments that give them an edge and separate them from the highly competitive field of outdoor recreation. Introducing the awning style rainfly and removing the traditional vestibule is the noticeably major difference in the new Sierra Designs tents, but there’s so much more. Ultimately focusing on the end user helps them stand out above the rest of the competition.
Nightwatch 2 Features:
When Sierra Designs rebranded they made changes to the design that every other company has been doing for years. Removing the traditional vestibule to make the entry to the tent more inviting and less awkward. We’ve all been in a tent where it’s raining, you’ve zipped shut the vestibule keeping you out of the rain, but you find yourself adjusting your backpack stashed under the vestibule making sure it’s not getting wet.
Sierra Designs has solved the issue with this, creating gear closets accessed from the inside of the tent removing your gear from the door of the tent. The other benefit of removing the vestibule is the ability to slightly zip down the window giving ventilation and being able to look outside and see what’s happening.
The other main feature of the Nightwatch tent is how it gets its name. Being able to roll back the rain fly exposing the night sky and creating excellent ventilation. This feature is important because one might argue how it differs from other tents. Being able to keep the rain fly attached and quickly rolling the fly down in inclement weather, rather than looking for a place to stash the unattached fly and scrambling when weather arrives.
The Nightwatch 2 also features 2 additional small doors the act as doors when the rain fly is rolled back, or as access to the gear closets when the fly is fully attached and covering the tent body.
Technical Specs:
Minimum Weight: 4 lbs, 7 oz
Packed Weight:  5 lbs, 0 oz
Internal Peak Height: 43.5 in
Interior Area: 30.50 ft
Overall this tent is a well designed piece of equipment that any backpacker would be happy with. There are some drawbacks to the design that may not suit a few people too well. A valid concern is dragging muddy, wet boots through the tent to place in the gear closet. The drawbacks around the design are minimal to the overall benefits of how it creates a better outdoor experience for the everyday backpacker.

Wildhorn Outfitters Outpost 2 Hammock Review

What do you think about when you hear the word Hammock? It’s probably coupled with words like solitude, relaxing, and comfort. Hammocks seem to be on the rise as a great backpacking addition or replacement to a traditional tent. All over YouTube you’ll find outdoor gear channels talking about camping with a hammock and how to sleep comfortably in a hammock. Are all hammock’s the same? Will you get the same level of comfort from any hammock you choose?

These and other questions are something to think hard about when it comes to whether or not your body is going to be able to recover after many miles of hiking. Here at Backcountry Exposure, we’ve been doing a lot of research on the various popular hammock systems available. We’ve been able to spend time with a few options, and have set our hearts on the Wildhorn Outfitters Outpost Hammocks and the included Litespeed Suspension System. For the price and what is included, you just cannot beat the setup that Wildhorn has put together.

Lets face the facts here people. A camping/backpacking hammock made from nylon is the standard across all companies whether it’s Hennessy, ENO, Grand Trunk or any other. They all feature high quality triple stitching at the seams, and have a gathered end with a loop of some kind of cordage or dynema material with a biner or loop system. Then there’s various tree strap suspension systems that are available, whether it’s simple 1 inch webbing you purchase on your own, or sophisticated straps like the Atlas straps from ENO. All of the options on the market though don’t hold a candle to the ease of use and simplicity that is the Litespeed System.

The Litespeed tree straps and suspension system is so easy to use it takes what feels like seconds to setup. The gathered end of the hammock is put together with Amsteel and wrapped around a metal cinch buckle. 200 pound rated nylon straps, 11 feet in length are fed through the buckle making it a simple grab and pull to tighten. So easy that you may question if you did it right, but don’t worry, it’s right and it’s awesome!

The Outpost hammocks come in two sizes, the Outpost 1 a single and the Outpost 2 a double. Both of them are 11 feet in length but are different in width, with the Outpost 2 being 6’4″ wide, it’s plenty big for two people to hang, or for sleeping.

If it we’re me buying a new hammock or my first time buying a hammock, my recommendation would be the Outpost before looking at any other options. It’s a great product at a great price!

Arcteryx Gamma LT Hoody – Gear Review

I feel like I say this all the time, but having good, high quality gear, makes all the difference when going, hiking, camping, or backpacking. There are endless options for outerwear for the outdoor enthusiast, but few companies are capable of creating outerwear the way that Arcteryx does. In this review, we introduce the Arcteryx Gamma LT Hoody, a light weight, breathable technical softshell, perfect for your everyday outdoor activities. 
I recently bought this jacket to add to my ever growing list of technical jackets. Arcteryx is a brand i’ve known for a long time, but have not owned until this year. But I am overly impressed by the jacket and know that it will be one of m favorite for a long time. 
Some specifics about the Gamma LT Hoody that make it a quality jacket. The Gamma LT has a really nice brushed soft shell fabric that creates a high level of durability, that also gives confidence that the jacket will last a long time. Arcteryx has made some improvements to the sleeves and created a nice stretch gusset that stays tight around a pair of gloves, but allows for proper stretch. No need to worry about a velcro sleeve to keep tight around the wrist. 
The hood of the Gamma LT is also very well designed. Large enough to wear with a helmet on for ice climbing, but incorporates the proper elements to make the hood fit snug on the head when not wearing a helmet. The Gamma is also the perfect soft shell for layering a light weight synthetic or down jacket underneath for added warmth. 
Really, the Gamma LT Hoody is the perfect soft shell, that will not only keep you dry, but will protect you from the wind, and it looks good. I mean, you gotta look good when out in the backcountry, right?!

11k With May – A Family Expedition – Jan 2016

Looking south at Provo Peak from the Cascade Sadle

The Wasatch Mountain Range that towers over the Salt Lake Valley and Utah Valley may seem like something that just sits to the east and holds the best skiing on earth, but there’s more to them than meets the eye.

Although not as tall as the famous fourteeners of the Colorado Rockies, the Wasatch Range holds many technical and prominent peaks that are incredibly rewarding. One of these peaks/mountains contains some of the busiest trailheads in the area. Mount Timpanogos has a prominence of over 5000 feet and towers over Utah Valley, and may be one of the busiest mountains in the states. With a total elevation of 11,753 feet, it’s a test piece for the average hiker to see what they are made of. On any given weekend in the summer, dozens to even hundreds of people are seen on the summit and trails of this peak. But Timpanogos is just one of over 30 peaks along the Wasatch Front that exceed 11,000 feet. Some may only see a couple people on the summit each year, but the level of solitude found just a few minutes from the front door makes the Wasatch Range a coveted peak baggers dream.

On October 8th, 2015 my wife and I welcomed our beautiful daughter, Maylin, into the world. Katie and I in our life together have always made getting into the backcountry a priority. Now that we have a family, we have made sure that the added effort and time to get into the mountains doesn’t stop us from that passion we share. Quickly we talked about a goal that we could do as a family to prove that we can conquer the complacency of not getting out, and in the same breath, create a memory for our little family.

Although still in the planning phase, as soon as the snow begins to die off, we will begin our ascent of the many peaks in the Wasatch. The best way to follow the adventure will be here on this blog and also through video on the Backcountry Exposure Youtube Channel.

Rab Equipment – AL Pull-On – The Best Base Layer

A good base layer? Seems like everywhere you go to find a good base layer you have what seems like hundreds of choices and dozens of brands. To be quite honest, I am kind of a gear snob and end up paying more for a piece of outerwear than I probably should be. However, i’ve learned that paying good money for a piece of outerwear really is, you get what you pay for. I’ve found that to be the case with the Rab AL Pull-on base layer. I bought two of these a few years ago, and it’s been worn more times than I could count. I feel like so many of the photos from my backpacking, climbing and hiking adventures I am wearing this base layer. It really is my go to base layer. 
With all that aside, lets get into what I love about this piece of clothing. The AL Pull-on is made from the Power Dry fabric by Polartec. A great wicking fabric that breathes incredibly well when worn right next to skin, and yet keeps the body warm. This particular base layer is a half zip that makes regulating temperature a breeze. 
I’ve worn this layer so much that it’s become a staple to my backcountry outerwear. Not only is it extremely comfortable and fits well, it’s been a reliable layer that i’ve always counted on. In March 2015 I wore this layer on a six day backpacking trip through the Paria River Canyon. Basically it was the perfect light weight, base layer that made sure I didn’t get too much sun on my neck and arms, and yet kept me cool when in the sun, but also warm in the cold shadows of the canyon. 
If you are in the market for a great base layer, this is one to make part of your gear list.  

Last Child In The Woods – 11k With May

What’s trending… How do we remove ourselves from the hustle and bustle, screen time, and our constant need to be connected. Steve Jobs may have been the mastermind behind the iPhone, but indirectly, was also the mastermind behind the mobile screen addict, or as Louis C.K. put it, the “forever empty”. We have a constant need to be connected and when alone, we find ourselves instantly looking for gratification from our cell phone. Im guilty of it, we’re all guilty of it. Like Wall-E, technology will inevitably make us more and more lazy. It’s already happening, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to disconnect and be present with our families and ourselves.

Recently i’ve been inspired to make a change in myself. This year, James Lawrence aka, The Iron Cowboy, completed 50 Iron Man’s in 50 days in 50 states. Obviously a true feat of human endurance, and he’s inspired a lot of people to set goals that seem crazy, but push the mind to its limits. But what does that mean for me? Let me give you some background.

I grew up in a family that loved being in the outdoors. We camped many times a year as a family, and I attribute my love and passion for the outdoors to my parents for those experiences. I also had an amazing friend and mentor at a young age that also took me camping that helped me discover why I loved being outside. I was just like any other 90’s kid. I played Nintendo to my hearts desire, I had a TV in my bedroom, I sat on my floor and played with Lego’s. But I didn’t have 2015 technology at my fingertips either. I am sure my childhood would have been a little different had there been iPhones and 2015 technology. With all of those distractions though, I loved being outside. I spent many summer days with my brothers fishing along the Provo River, riding my bike all over, and building forts in an empty lot down the street from my house. I loved being outside!

A few years ago I read a book called, Last Child In The Woods. In quick words, the author talks about how we’re slowly losing our ability to appreciate the outdoors and how we as a society have made excuses for not allowing ourselves and children to play outdoors. Slowly we have become the inside people. We fear being outside, and we fear each other. Sending my child outside to play is viewed as dangerous now. Really, it’s pathetic and ridiculous how sensitive we as people have become to each other and what we do with our lives. The lack of authentic social interaction is quickly deteriorating into self absorbed personalities that don’t know how to communicate and disconnect from devices that keep us from being natural humans, a natural need to play. But this begs the question, will it ever change? Will society ever go back to what we knew in the 90’s and before? I have to argue, that no it will never be the same again. So instead of sitting around complaining about it, make a decision to change and be different from society. Let your kids go outside and play,

Which that then leads me to my commitment. I spoke about The Iron Cowboy briefly. I’ve had the opportunity to spend a little bit of time with him and his family at Momentum Climbing in Lehi, where I work. James and his family have been spending some time at Momentum each week as a new activity for their family to do. In many people’s minds, he’s like this super human that no other person can touch. He’s become a celebrity. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a person. He had to make a choice to be who he is, and work hard to accomplish the goals that he set.

For the last year, my wife and I have been looking forward to bringing a child into our home. We’re excited to be a family and excited for the new adventure. With an adventure like this, comes a dedication to new goals and lifestyle. I’ve been pretty unhappy with my level of activity over the last year, and from the outside it appears as though i’ve been fairly active. Katie and I had one of the best summers of our time together, and I was able to get some backpacking in that I have been wanting to do for a long time. We loved all of the time spent adventuring this summer. But part of that was because we knew this baby is coming and we wanted to get some trips in, just the two of us.

This has caused me to reevaluate my level of activity, and make some goals that involve keeping my family active. I know that a baby is going to be a difficult change for our family. This little girl is going to be our world though. We’ve been looking forward to this moment for a long time, and now that she is here, we’re just smitten.

So here’s my commitment, to myself and to my family. Just because it’s hard, or inconvenient, doesn’t mean it won’t be worth it. I want to be the person and father that my children look up to as a mentor and as someone that inspired them to try hard things, and take chances on life.
I want Maylin to see being in the mountains her way of decompressing, enjoying life, and escaping the hustle and bustle. I want to see her love being in the sun, seeing wildlife in their natural habitat, cherishing simple moments of solitude only found when deep in the backcountry.

Before Maylin turns 1, Katie and I have a goal to summit all of the 11,000 foot peaks in the Wasatch Range. That’s 36 peaks in total. We are calling this adventure, 11k With May and will be captured through video and blog posts as we accomplish the goal.

The moral here is, get out and enjoy the outdoors! Make goals and achieve them! Teach yourself and your kids the good that comes from being active and spending time in the backcountry.

Backpacking Essentials – Cooking Systems and Cooking Gear

Throughout my childhood and early years as an adult I have spent a lot of time in the backcountry, and i’ve cooked a lot of “backpacking meals”. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a Blacklite Cooking set from MSR when I was 14 years old, and still have that set today. My wife and I use that Blacklite set in our car camping kit now, and it’s one of the best backpacking items i’ve purchased. 
There are so many different types of cooking systems out there, that choosing one over another can be difficult. GSI Outdoors, MSR, Snow Peak, Frybake, and so many others have been making high quality cooking gear for many years. They are all good, and all have pros and cons. 
When I started studying Outdoor Recreation Management at Utah Valley University, I was introduced to the Frybake. My backcountry cooking experience had been changed forever! 
Having a good cooking system in the backcountry is all about simplicity, ease of use, light weight, and budget friendly. My current system is a GSI Pinnacle Soloist for boiling water and will soon get my hands on an Alpine sized Frybake. It makes putting together a meal so simple and enjoying my food faster. 
When you are looking for a cooking system, find something in your price range. You absolutely do not need to spend hundreds of dollars on titanium pots and pans to enjoy a good mean in the backcountry. Go to REI or a backpacking equipment store, and find something that works well for you. A great option for the price as it’s all inclusive is the Jet Boil Products. Jet Boil is a great company making high quality gear that works well for the beginner backpacker. Really, just find what works well for you and go with it. As long as it gives you a good meal in the end, the investment was worth it!

Sea To Summit – Traveller Light Day Pack Review

If you are going to be doing what I call, destination backpacking, then having a good day pack to bring along is a necessary item. Lets say you are going to backpack several miles into an area of lakes that are within pretty close proximity to each other. You camp at one of the lakes, but you want to see the others. You are unlikely to pack up your 60 liter pack for a simple day hike. Why not take something so light and small that you almost forget you have it. 
The Sea To Summit Traveling Light Day Pack is the perfect option for a light weight, simple day pack. Weighing in at only 2.4 ounces, it takes up virtually zero space in your pack, and makes the day hikes more enjoyable. 
The good about this pack i’ve already mentioned. It’s small, light weight, and is easy to carry. It’s roughly 12 liters in capacity, so you can load a bunch of stuff in it, but be careful. The shoulder straps are nice and wide, but if you load it with more than 8 pounds of stuff, then it’s going to get a little uncomfortable. The straps have zero padding in them and they can collapse into a smaller strap when too much weight is put into the pack. Be smart and don’t carry more than you need. 
Made from high quality, ripstop, sip nylon, it’s tough, light weight, simple and the perfect addition to your backpacking system.

Backpacking Essentials – Backcountry Exposure Youtube Series

One of my favorite things about backpacking is the preparation that comes with the anticipation for a trip. I remember getting prepared for my trip down The Paria River with a school class. That trip involved a lot of planning, preparation and mental preparation. Knowing how to get ready for backpacking experiences is vital to whether or not you enjoy yourself out on the trail. 
This has lead me to create a series of videos to share with you all about the Essentials of Backpacking. Everything from gear to use, what to buy, and even the ethics behind being a good person in the backcountry. I love to share my knowledge with people and look forward to seeing the evolution of this series. It will primarily be contained on my Youtube Channel, but I will update with each video here as well.