We’ve always been a fan of YETI products and the first thing you see when this pack arrives is its durability. This pack has been floating around the back of a small Cessna, bottom of a boat, back of a pick-up and quite honestly dragged through the dessert more than once. When all was said and done the “Stand-up Construction” still stood up.
In part because of the shell which includes a water-repellant coating, a PU-backed 1000D nylon face, and 210D ripstop backer. Which means its rugged and will stand up to some of the harshest critics when it comes to durability.
The second standing point for this pack is its functionality. We like simple and the multi-use functionality easily allowed us to go from board room to back woods without skipping a beat. Fly Fishing gear, sunglasses, and even a shelter for your laptop if for some reason work comes calling during the pursuit.
Our one gripe was size, at times it did seem overkill for the short-trip but the side handle is key when needing to carry it more like a brief case or duffle than a pack.
With it all said and done this pack withstood the test of time and its two main features speak loudly, durable and functional. What more could you want in a pack.
The outdoor industry and the backcountry bowhunting worlds have been commingling of late, driving innovation. Here’s a look at some products shaking up both categories—tested.
SITKA APEX PANT AND APEX HOODY
This kit was designed for mid-season elk hunting where temperatures spike from the low 30s on the predawn approach, to the 60s on the hike out in late afternoon. You might think that they’re not much different than your everyday hiking kit, but you’d be wrong. Backcountry hunters need rugged but light apparel that moves with them without making noise or stinking like so many synthetic fabrics do. Here, a polyester face backed by a grid of lightweight fleece is treated with Polygiene—an antimicrobial that eliminates odor. The Apex Pant is the least restrictive pair of hiking pants of any kind that I own. And the breathability is also unmatched. I wore them with a baselayer on colder days and as is on warmer afternoon hunts. Over 14 miles a day and many thousands of vertical feet, they let me move through the subalpine (which is also the name of the camo pattern shown here) more freely. The merino and nylon Apex Hoody features a built-in neck tube-like swath of material that you can pull over your head for better concealment and a touch more warmth. I wish my winter midweight hoodies had that feature. Pant: $209; Hoody: $220 —M.P.
FIRST LITE SEAK STORMTIGHT RAIN JACKET AND PANT
The company was founded by some former outdoor industry folks from Smith Sport Optics. Their first products in hunting were merino wool knicker-length baselayer bottoms that any skier would dig. Now, First Lite has expanded its line to include the type of 3.5-layer waterproof breathable rain (and snow) wear we’d never head into the mountains without after Labor Day. Fully featured with cinchable hoods, cuffs, and waterproof zippers, the Seak kit is rugged enough for moving through the snags of standing dead lodgepole forests. Pit zips let you ventilate on the climbs. So how does it differ from top-of-the-line waterproof breathable layering we’d wear backcountry skiing or backpacking? First Lite knows camo: their Cipher pattern is designed for western big game and is shown here. The sleeves, too, are cut in such a way as to not interfere with bow strings. Built-in stretch allows for a full draw. Jacket: $350; Pant: $335 —M.P.
MYSTERY RANCH SAWTOOTH 45 PACK
I’ve tested backpacks on and off for much of the past 20 years, and I can honestly say that the Sawtooth 45 is the best carrying pack of any size that I’ve ever owned, and that includes many lighter weight ski packs. The no-bullshit fit system—you adjust the yoke to your shoulders and back in seconds—delivers a custom fit that makes any heat-moldable or more complicated takes on customization irrelevant. In 10 days of backcountry hiking carrying about 30 pounds of gear, I all but stopped thinking about the pack after the first hour in the woods. That’s great, but Mystery Ranch—which was founded by outdoor industry legend Dana Gleason and is based in Bozeman—offers similar packs in its backpacking line. The truly remarkable feature of the Sawtooth is what the company calls its Guide Light MT Frame. Unclip the pack from the frame and you can haul quarters or just slip the pack farther back to haul game bags. Variations of that design are now available in Mystery Ranch’s other lines. The upside should be obvious: Think about slipping your sleeping bag and bivvy into the space between the frame and the pack. It obviates the need for a 65 liter pack. $450 —M.P.
FIRST LITE X NEMO COLLECTION: STALKER 0 SLEEPING BAG
Those of us who prefer to err on the side of camping with a warmer bag often find ourselves overheated on warmer nights. Enter the Stalker: This zero-rated, 800-fill down bag has zippered gills running vertically above your chest. Rather than unzipping the bag in the traditional manner and being hot on one side and cold on the other, you open and close the gills to regulate heat. The drawstring hood, with its additional down baffle around the neck, and the added waterproof synthetic insulation in the footbox, were great on cold nights. Side sleepers will love the way the bag stretches at the knees. $520 —D.C.
FIRST LITE X NEMO COLLECTION: NEMO RECURVE 2P TENT
Several years ago NEMO Equipment founder Cam Brensinger started hunting with his dad, which led to trading gear and ideas with the hunting apparel maker First Lite. A co-lab grew out of this friendship and the Field Collection was born. On my recent mule deer hunt, I set up a spike camp on a point to glass and pattern the animals as they transitioned from grazing to bedding locations. The Recurve weighs less than two pounds and pitches via a two pole system that forms a “T” where one pole runs along the tent ceiling, and the other drops down into a hole in the tent’s floor. You can access the canopy from both vestibuled sides. Carbon fiber struts in the tent shift to upright when guyed out, creating vertical walls where your head and feet end up when sleeping. No more sloping tent wall in your face as you lie down. $460 —D.C.
The Claim: Sage’s small-water rod delivers small flies in tight spots with short casting distances.
Field Test: Not only is my spot on the Pecos—and most of the rivers I fish—a longish approach, but it’s also small, but full of wild Brown and Cutthroat trout. So I’ve dropped my long, heavy 5-weight rod in favor of light and short.
Verdict: At 7’ 6”, the Dart is a full two feet shorter than my other rod, and it comes in 0 to 4 weight models. I chose a 3 weight, and its fast action was perfect for dropping tight loops into tight spots. And when a fish strikes a tiny caddis dryfly a few feet away, it’s game on. $700
COSTA MAG BAY
The Claim: These polarized sunglasses that remove refracted light glare off the water’s surface are essential for sight fishing.
Field Test: Small, freestone rivers and streams mean spot fishing for spooky trout, and for me matters get complicated because I wear a prescription. SportRx.com—a San Diego-based group of opticians that work with sunglass makers like Costa, fit my prescription into these performance frames.
Verdict: Not only did I see fish in the water with the Trivex lenses, but the lenses were progressive—that’s basically no-line bifocals to you hawk eyes—meaning I can look down into the lower part of the lens and tie on a tiny Mayfly, a total day changer. Prices vary depending on your RX.
SIMMS G4 PRO SHIFT FISHING BACKPACK
The Claim: With the pack on, you can unclip the lower “fanny pack” compartment and spin it 180-degrees around your waist while the shoulder straps and pack stay on your back.
Field Test: My local stretch on the Pecos River in New Mexico requires a bit of a scramble to get to the goods. I thought this pack would help.
Verdict: The Shift allowed me to carry everything I needed without having to change into my waders at the put in. With its two separate compartments, the reel, flies, tip-it, float sat in the lower waist pack while the rest of the gear rode up top. In my case, I removed the upper half of the pack, and fished with the essentials in the lower pack until I got to a hot spot. $350
GRAYL ULTRALIGHT PURIFIER
The Claim: The cartridge on the Grayl removes viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, while also filtering out silt, heavy metals, and microplastics.
Field Test: When I’m on the water, I don’t carry water, but the deer and elk upstream of me don’t care. The Grayl works like one of those coffee plunger pots, pull it apart, fill the lower half with water, then plunge.
Verdict: I never want to get Giardia again! $60
KAMMOK MANTIS ALL-IN-ONE HAMMOCK TENT
The Claim: Finding a patch of ground devoid of rocks, roots, and windfall branches to set up a tent can be vexing, so why bother?
Field Test: I never find that one rock—until I’m settling into sleep. This year I lofted it, hammocking to avoid tortured terra.
Verdict: All I needed was to find two live trees between 12 and 18 feet apart, and I hung the webbing straps and attached the carabiners integrated into the hammock. I was swinging in less than five minutes. The bug net can be removed, and a rain fly guyed out hovers over the hammock. An optional Pongo Pad inflatable mattress helps keep the base flat to avoid the banana effect on your back. And all at under three pounds. $229
The Claim: A great solution for “dogs must be on leash” campgrounds, this hitching rope ties to two trees above the ground, and you simply attach your dog’s leash to the thread-locking carabiner for 20 to 30 feet of tangle-free rover roaming.
Field Test: My German Short Haired Pointer, Daisy, will never sit still. Who better to test it?
Verdict: Tangle-free Daisy. One end has webbing with loops to adjust to various tree or post diameters, the rope is reflective, and the stuff sack is attached to the rope for no more “where is that little sack?” moments when packing up. $60