Road to Adventure: Backpacking Gear


Adventure racing is a multidisciplinary sport where racers navigate through backcountry terrain – often without the benefit of trails – using map and compass, and all manner of transport from stand up paddle boards to mountain bikes. In September Austin Parker is tackling the Adventure Xstream Series adventure race in Glenwood Springs, CO to get a taste of this grueling sport. As part of his training, we are documenting the best gear for paddling, running, biking, and recovery, as well as keeping track of all the (mis)adventure along the way.

Oftentimes this summer our training for trail runs and the big race takes us into the backcountry further than we can handle in a day. For long weekends away from civilization, we backpack into a basecamp so we can spend more time at altitude climbing and running, and take off for hidden lakes and high summits. Being able to haul all our training and backpacking gear is a tricky proposition, so going ultralight has been the goal. Read on for our favorite pieces of gear we’ve discovered this summer.

Related: RtA: Mountain Biking | RtA: SUP Gear

Cotopaxi Taboche 55 $149

We spotted the Taboche at the Outdoor Retailer Show early in August, and have been stoked to get it loaded up ever since. Originally we thought it would be more of a budget minded pack, but after a few dozen miles under the adjustable harness (easily changing 4.5 inches of height) and burley wasit belt, it started to take over weekend duty from every other pack in our gear closet. What sealed the deal was the organization – front packets, water bottle holders, lid pouches and an included rainfly. The bright colorways also help to keep track of friends on the trail – you’ll definitely never get lost with the bright red or green llama pack.

Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi WP $230

Hokas have been our go to running shoe for a couple of seasons now, so we jumped at the chance to test out the all new Tor Ultra boot. It’s got the same over padded mid sole as their award winning trail runners, but with the added protection of a high ankle for support when carrying heavier loads. The Vibram outsole shines in loose dirt and scree, charging up and downhill with ease. The eVent membrane is a finishing touch that rounds out these amazingly lightweight boots.

prAna Stretch Zion Pants $79

prAna’s Stretch Zion pants are a staple in any mountain town wardrobe. Originally designed as a climbing pant (the button up ankle cuffs give them away), they are just as at home pulling duty hiking, wet wading fly fishing, and in a pinch running down the trail for the last beer in your cooler. They are Scotchgard treated to shed water and stains – perfect for pulling long days of back to back wear. The nylon-spandex blend is just burly enough to have bomber abrasion resistance and stay comfortable against your skin. Don’t be surprised when you start bringing a backup pair on every weekend adventure.

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 $400

The Copper Spur line from Big Agnes is an ultralight backpacker’s dream. With rainfly, packing bags, and stakes it weighs in just over three pounds, but with a few titanium stakes and ditching extraneous stuff sacks we’ve gotten that to two and half. The over sized vestibules accommodate packs and smelly dogs easily, and the polyurethane coated floor is extremely tear resistant and water proof. Combined with a mtnGLO lighting kit, this tent is a mini backcountry palace where ever you pitch it.

MSR WindBurner $130

The WindBurner was another Outdoor Retailer find, and we are kicking ourselves for not converting to one sooner. This little stove kit packs a serious punch when the weather turns nasty. Building on the Reactor’s heat exchanger technology, the WindBurner is completely enclosed and almost impervious to wind. This makes it much more efficient when you’re burning through fuel at high altitude or in harsh climates. We liked most that it all packs into the pot for transport, freeing up valuable pack space for extra food.

Klymit Inertia X Frame $80

Gone are the days when you have to sleep on a glorified yoga mat to shave ounces from your pack. Klymit’s Inertia X Frame is a skeletonized inflatable mattress that weighs a mere nine ounces. It fits in your mummy bag, which ensures you won’t slip off, and also that you’ll have extra air pockets and loft to keep you warm. It’s got a mouth inflation valve as well a a small hand pump (it looks like the buld on a blood pressure cuff) so you can fine tune it to your comfort. If you’re counting out the ounces, this is one comfort you cannot afford to cut out of your pack.