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If you’ve ever been caught in a backcountry downpour, you know how important it is to have high-quality rain gear functioning at its full potential. Being cold and wet in the wilderness is not only extremely uncomfortable, it's also incredibly dangerous.

After extended use with your rain gear, you’ll notice that water no longer beads up like it used to. In fact, you’ll start to notice water soaking into the fabric and you may even think it’s time for a new jacket. This is called “wetting out,” and it’s a major indicator it’s time to wash and retreat your rain gear.

Luckily, caring for rain gear is a simple task. We put together this quick guide to help you get your rain gear function like new again. For more of our guides and recommendations on our favorite jackets, tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, and a whole lot more, check out the CleverHiker Backpacking Gear Guide

How Rain Gear Works

To keep it simple, most rain gear is usually made of three bonded layers: the inner laminate, the middle “waterproof/breathable” membrane, and an outer layer called the face fabric.

LAMINATE (INNER) - The inner layer provides comfort against your skin and protects the middle membrane from sweat and grime.

WATERPROOF/BREATHABLE MEMBRANE (MIDDLE) - The waterproof and breathable middle layer is composed of microscopic pores which allow water vapor (sweat and condensation) to get out, but preventing any liquid water (rain) from getting in. To be honest, the term "waterproof and breathable" is a stretch, but it's the best technology we currently have. 

FACE FABRIC (OUTER) - The outer fabric layer is usually made of polyester or nylon and treated with Durable Water Repellent (DWR). The DWR chemical bond is what causes water to bead up and run off your coat. Every new coat comes with a strong factory sealing of DWR, which is when your coat will perform its best.

WEARING DOWN - Over time, sweat, grime, and particles from the air wear down the DWR chemical bond on the outside of your jacket. Eventually the DWR will be rendered totally useless and your jacket will fully “wet out.” The main problem with wetting out is that the middle layer of your raincoat can't breathe when the outer layer is soaked through. When moisture can't escape, you'll end up getting soaked from the inside out, due to condensation and sweat.

  a "wetted out" rain jacket prior to washing 

The same jacket after wash and re-DWR

How Often Should I Wash?

The moment you realize your rain gear is "wetting out” you need to wash and treat it. By washing your shells with Tech Wash and reapplying DWR, your jacket and pants will be as close to new as possible. The more you use your rain gear, especially in harsh conditions, the more often you’ll need to wash it.

Truth be told, most backpackers and hikers don’t wash their rain gear nearly enough, if ever. This leads to wetting out and hikers may even buy new rain gear because they think their old shells are worn out. But don't worry, your jacket hasn’t reached the end of its life, it just needs some love. How often you wash your rain gear will vary, but here are some general rules:

  • If you wear your rain gear casually, then wash your coat once a month or after 20-30 normal uses.
  • If you wear your rain gear during exerting activities, such as hiking or jogging, it’s good to wash your rain gear after 10-15 uses. Sweat and other contaminants build up much quicker under these circumstances.
  • As soon as you notice your rain gear is "wetting out,” give it a full wash.
Wash-In or Spray-On DWR?

There are two ways you can reapply DWR to your rain gear: wash-in DWR such as Nikwax TX.Direct Wash-In or a spray-on DWR such as Nikwax TX.Direct Spray-On. We use the wash-in treatment for rain shells and pants because it's easy and effective. If you're washing a multi-layer garment, such as a fleece or down-lined rain jacket, the spray-on treatment should be used. 

Directly below we give instructions on how to wash your rain gear using a wash-in DWR, which is the most common procedure people will use. For those washing fleece or down-lined gear, you'll be using a spray-on DWR, which we cover later in the post.

How to Wash Your Rain Gear

By the time most people get around to washing their rain gear, they'll not only need to clean their jacket, but also reapply DWR. If your rain gear is still repelling water and is not yet wetting out, you may only need to wash your rain gear with Tech Wash. If this is the case, you can follow steps 1-5 below and then tumble dry on low. For most people, you'll want want to reapply DWR as part of the full washing cycle listed below. 

Materials:

Steps:

1. Check the manufacturer’s washing instructions on the tag. Though the instructions are most likely similar to the steps below, make sure you follow the garment’s instructions first and foremost.

2. Clean any residual laundry detergent from the laundry machine soap dispenser. Standard detergent can break down the waterproofing elements on your rain gear.

3. Pour in the recommended dosage of Tech Wash. Never use powder detergent, bleach or fabric softener, which can damage the membrane of your gear.

4. Zip up your rain shell and make sure there are no objects in the pockets. Then load it into the machine.

5. Wash on the gentle (or delicate) cycle. If it appears that the soap isn’t completely rinsed out after the cycle, you may want to run the rinse cycle again without tech wash.

6. Next, you'll reapply DWR to your jacket. Pour the recommended dosage of your Wash-In DWR into the laundry machine soap dispenser, set the recommended temperature (usually low-warm), and run your rain gear through the gentle cycle. If you're using Spray-On DWR, see instructions below in the Insulated Rain Gear section. 

7. When the cycle is complete, you can either air dry or tumble dry on low setting, if the care label on your jacket allows.

8. Finally, be sure to only store your rain gear once it’s completely dry. If not, mildew and mold can build up in the creases of your rain gear.

Washing Down/Fleece Insulated Rain Gear

If you have a rain jacket that has down or fleece insulation, the process to wash and reapply DWR is a little different. The first thing you always want to do is read the instruction label on the rain gear, as this should dictate the process.

FLEECE-LINED RAIN GEAR:  You'll need two products for this: Tech Wash and Spray-On DWR. First, wash your rain gear using a Tech Wash. There's no need to dry garments before applying DWR. Find a flat surface and lay a protective barrier such as cardboard down so you don't harm the surface. Lay your rain gear flat and close up all zippers. Holding the bottle 6 inches away, spray the garment evenly on outside fabric, ensuring that no areas are missed. Wait two minutes and then dab way any residual product with a damp cloth. Air dry or tumble dry on low setting, if the care label allows. 

DOWN-LINED RAIN GEAR: You'll need two products for this: Down Wash and Spray-On DWR or Down Proof (read below). First, wash your gear with the down wash according to the directions. If you need more clarification, check our our article on How to Wash a Down Coat. Next, you need to reapply the DWR. There's no need to dry garments before applying DWR. For spray-on DWR, find a flat surface and lay a protective barrier such as cardboard down so you don't harm your surface. Lay your rain gear flat and close up all the zippers. Hold the bottle 6 inches away, and spray the garment evenly on the outside fabric, ensuring that no areas are missed. Wait two minutes and then dab way any residual product with a damp cloth. Air dry or tumble dry on low setting, if the care label allows. We recommend tumble drying when possible because down garments take a very long time to dry. 

DOWN PROOF: For added protection, you also have the option of using Down Proof after your completed wash cycle with Down Wash. Rather than using the spray-on DWR, the Down Proof will ensure that not only will the shell get a reapplication of DWR, but also the feathers inside your jacket. For our high quality down garments, we normally use spray-on DWR. 

More Information

We hope this guide helps you get your rain gear clean and revitalized. As always, please leave a comment below if you have any recommendations, questions, or suggestions. And if you found this guide helpful, please share or click the little heart button below to give us a digital high five!

For more popular CleverHiker content, check out the following links:

 
Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.
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Freeze dried meals aren’t just for astronauts anymore. In fact, they’re some of the most popular meal options for hikers heading into the backcountry. They’re convenient, calorically dense, lightweight, and tasty at the end of a long day. All you have to do is add boiling water, wait a bit, and then eat your delicious meal straight out of the bag. Also, no dirty dishes makes for a happy backpacker. 

Ok, before we get ahead of ourselves, it's probably important to set your expectations. This is not your grandma's home-cooked dinner; it's a backcountry meal. Chances are, even if the flavors aren't quite what you were expecting, you're going to be hungry enough to wolf it down with a smile. Everything tastes better in the wilderness. That being said, we always bring a small container of hot sauce, olive oil, and some salt and pepper packets for when we need kick a meal up a notch.

There are tons of different freeze dried meal flavors, and some are better than others. It’s tough to get more subjective than ranking personal food tastes, but we feel like sharing our opinions anyways. We hope this guide helps you upgrade your backpacking food game and find some tasty treats. For more information on backpacking meal planning, check out our Lightweight Backpacking Food Guide

For more popular content, check out the CleverHiker Backpacking Gear Guide:

Energy-to-Weight Ratio

Many backpackers choose freeze dried meals because they're a lightweight dinner option. The process of freeze drying a meal removes 80% of it's water weight, while retaining a high level of calorically-dense nutrition. Most meal pouches range between 500-900 calories and weigh around 5-7 ounces. This puts them in the 100-130 calorie-per-ounce ratio, which isn't spectacular, but is still quite good. 

Are they nutritious?

The process of freeze drying can retain up to 90% of the nutrients, but the product will only be 20% of its original weight. That said, most freeze dried meals are packed with sodium and unrecognizable ingredients. Scientifically speaking, we’d put them into the “sorta nutritious” camp. Freeze dried meals will still do a better job providing a balanced meal when compared to most hiker dinner options, like ramen or instant potatoes. Certain brands, such as Mary Janes Organic and Good To-Go, use all recognizable ingredients or "real food," which is a step in the right direction in our opinion. 

Cost

Freeze dried meals are not cheap and there are inexpensive alternatives (mashers, pasta sides, ramen, etc). If you’re spending months on the trail thru-hiking, meals like these will probably be too expensive to be sustainable. But for the casual backpacker, meals like this can add a lot of value, convenience, and enjoyment.

PRO TIP: When you buy 8 or more backpacking meals from REI, you save 10%. We usually stock up for the hiking season. You can also save money by purchasing bulk meal kits.

SQUIRREL RATING SYSTEM

Whenever we go backpacking, we take some of our tried-and-true favorite freeze dried meals. Each trip we also take some new flavors to test out. First established by our dear friend David Branson while hiking the Zion Traverse, the very “scientific” CleverHiker Squirrel Rating System was born. We’ll call it the SRS for now.

While consuming new freeze dried meals, we deliberate about how it tastes and ultimately decide on a squirrel rating. Every meal we eat earns a squirrel rating score between 1 and 5 based on flavor, texture, and overall deliciousness. There are only whole squirrel ratings, because half a squirrel would be gross. We update this list every time we put on our snobby food critic pants and stuff our faces in the backcountry.

Five Squirrel Meals

Did my grandma make this?! Our go-to favorite freeze dried meals for happy trail bellies.

Four Squirrel Meals

Pretty darn tasty! However, some flavors and textures made us knock it down a squirrel. 

Three Squirrel Meals

Quite good still, but nothing to write home about. We might buy them again, but we weren't amazed.    

Two Squirrel Meals

Meh. Edible, but pretty underwhelming. This is when the hot sauce and spices come into play. But it's not like we had any leftovers or anything.

One Squirrel Meals

Whoa boy, that was a disappointment. Considering how hungry we were, backcountry meals should probably be more foolproof than this.

WHAT'S IN OUR CAMP KITCHEN?

When we head out on backcountry trips, these are the items usually found in our packs. For more information on our favorite gear, check out the CleverHiker Backpacking Gear Guide and our Stove Buyers Guide.

 MORE INFORMATION

We hope this guide helps you upgrade your backpacking food game! For more information on backpacking meal planning, check out our Lightweight Backpacking Food Guide. Please share it with your friends and click the little heart button below to give us a digital high five! 

For more popular CleverHiker content, check out the following links:

 
Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.
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The Grand Teton Mountains are home to moose, deer, elk, bighorn sheep, black and grizzly bears, mountain lions, wolves, and many other species. But they also showcase one of the nation’s most scenic hiking routes: the Teton Crest Trail. This high route trail traverses ridges offering spectacular wide-angle views of towering granite peaks, glacier-carved canyons, crystalline lakes and wildflower-pocked meadows of penstemon, lupine, paintbrush, monkshood and western coneflower.

With mileage varying from 35 to 45 miles, depending on your route, the serpentine trail cuts through the Jedadiah Wilderness Area, two national forests — Bridger Teton and Caribou-Targhee—as well as Grand Teton National Park, rarely dropping below 8,000 feet. Along the way, you'll touch at least three ecological zones and circumnavigate a classic glacier with well-defined terminal and lateral moraines, crevasses, and a proglacial lake. For ambitious backpackers, using some creative side trails, the route can be extended to 75 miles. 

Quick Facts
  • Distance: 63 km (40 miles)
  • Days Needed: 3-5 days
  • Peak Elevation: 10,695 feet
  • Elevation Gain/Loss:  8,061’ ascent and -7,576’ descent, (average grade is 8%, with max grade at 34%)
  • Best Travel Time: July through early September
  • Permits: Required (see below)
  • Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
Highlights
  • Stunning vistas from the multitude of ridgelines and passes.
  • Beautiful sunrises and sunsets from most campsites.
  • Gorgeous high alpine scenery
  • Relative solitude, but expect to see a lot of other backpackers.
  • Challenging side trips (Hunt Mountain, Static Peak, Upper Cascade Canyon)
  • Good shuttle options from the start (consider parking a car at the exit and shuttling to the trailhead) 
  • Moose and bear sightings, if you’re quiet and lucky.
  • Excellent hiking temperatures.
Lowlights
  • Competitive permit process
  • Can be susceptible to quickly changing weather
  • Seasonal bugs and snow
  • Campfires prohibited
  • Some years, mostly wet ones, the flies are vicious.
  • In late August, many streams dry up making water options a bit sketchier (depending on rainfall early in the year). 
  • A few spots require stream fording (particularly South Fork Teton Creek). 
  • You’ll hike 31 miles before you gain the highest elevation on the crest trail, but that also means a fast and furious descent to the trail terminus over the last 8 miles.  
  • You may need to carry and know how to use an ice ax and microspikes for self-arrest to traverse several passes until late July. 
  • Parking at trailheads can be challenging. Inquire at the backcountry office for your best options that day. 
Photo Gallery
























Best Time to Travel

In general, July through September is the best time to hike the Teton Crest Trail, but in some years you may still be able to safely hike as late as early October. Snowpack is a key factor for trip planning in this area, as snow can linger on passes until late in the year. Rain and snow can fall at any time of year here and freezing temperatures are possible as well. During the summer months temperatures can reach into the 80s during the day and drop down into the 30s at night.

As always, be prepared and diligent in monitoring current conditions as weather can change quickly in the mountains. Before heading out, check the National Weather Service for up-to-date conditions.

While snow conditions vary from year to year, snow usually melts on trail elevations below 6,700 feet by mid-June. At higher elevations up to 10,000 feet, depending on the year, the snow progressively melts, bearing ground by the third week in July. To safely traverse Paintbrush, Static Peak and Moose Basin Divides, and Hurricane, Mt. Meek and Fox Creek passes, you may need an ice axe and knowledge of its use as late as August. Microspikes can help add traction too. Always check in with the the Grand Teton National Park Service for the snow level and condition of the passes. 

Difficulty
  • Total Distance: 63 km (39 miles)
  • Total Elevation Gain/Loss: 8,061’ ascent and -7,576’ descent, average grade 8%, max 34%.
  • Overall Difficulty: Moderate - Difficult

We rate this hike as moderate to difficult due to two significant ascents and descents. As always, difficulty ratings depend on your experience, physical fitness, pack weight, and weather conditions. Although not a technically demanding hike, it requires careful planning for campsites and water resources. Like any backpacking trip, you should plan accordingly, train properly, know your limitations, brush up on your skills, and dial in your gear. Doing so will make for a safe and enjoyable adventure.

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A down sleeping bag can be a backpacker's greatest ally in the wilderness. If treated with care, a down sleeping bag can last for decades of frequent use, keeping you toasty warm on the trail. But many backpackers mistreat their down sleeping bags, letting grit and grime soak into them for years without a wash. Not only will this make for a super stinky sleep sack, but it will also eventually ruin the fabrics and decrease the loft and insulation of your bag.

Fortunately, cleaning and maintaining the loft of your down sleeping bag is actually pretty simple. However, down feathers are incredibly delicate, so it’s important to wash your bag with care. There are two ways to go about it: Machine Washing or Hand Washing.

Popular Content: Here's a list of our favorite sleeping bags and quilts. Need a new tent, backpack, sleeping pad, etc? Check out the CleverHiker Backpacking Gear Guide.

Machine Washing Your Sleeping Bag

Washing your down sleeping bag by machine will just take several easy steps. Be sure to read the bag maker's label to see if there are any special requirements. The complete process can take anywhere from 4-6 hours, so you'll need to be patient.

Materials Needed
  1. Large front-loading washing machine (we recommend visiting a laundromat for this)
  2. Special Down SoapGranger Down WashGear Aid ReviveX Down Wash, or Nikwax Down Wash
  3. Large front-loading dryer
  4. Tennis Balls, Wool Dryer Balls, or Clean Sneakers - to help break up down clumps when drying. If you choose to use sneakers, make sure you wrap them in socks so that the tread on the bottom of the shoes don't snag and rip your sleeping bag. 




steps

1. Prior to beginning the process, read the washing and drying instructions on your sleeping bag label. These instructions should dictate the water temperature and settings of your washing machine. 

1. Turn your sleeping bag inside out, zip it up, and load it into the washing machine. Be sure it’s a front load washer or a top load washer WITHOUT an agitator. An agitator is a spinner at the center of some top load machines that has grooves and fins which can rip apart a down sleeping bag.

2. Check the washing machine to ensure there are no foreign objects left behind that could snag your bag. Also, ensure that there is no noticeable detergent residue inside the dispenser that could strip your feathers. 

3. Put in your down soap according to the instructions on the bottle. With NikiWax down soap, they recommend 100 ml of soap per wash. Never use bleach, bleach-alternatives, or fabric softener. Also, avoid using regular detergent as this will strip the natural oils from your down.

4. Set the temperature of the water to the settings on your sleeping bag label. You will want to use the gentle (or delicate) cycle. When the cycle is complete, check if all the soap suds are out by pressing into your bag and looking for any soap bubbles. If there is still soap, you will need to run your sleeping bag through a wash cycle with no soap. However, we find that this is rarely necessary.

5. Put your bag into the dryer on a Tumble Dry Low setting. Be certain the heat is set to low. If not, the high heat can harm the down feathers inside your bag. The time it takes to dry a down sleeping bag can vary slightly, but generally budget for 3-5 hours to dry completely. You can keep check in from time to time to see how far along it is in the drying process.


6. Lastly, when your sleeping bag is nearly dry, open the lid and toss in 3-6 tennis balls or a clean pair of sneakers. The dryer will use these items to fluff up your down sleeping bag, helping to disperse any clumps of feathers that might have grouped together during the washing process.

7. Hang or store your bag loosely in an uncompressed manner when fully dry.

Popular Content: Here's a list of our favorite sleeping bags and quilts. Need a new tent, backpack, sleeping pad, etc? Check out the CleverHiker Backpacking Gear Guide.

Hand Washing Your Sleeping Bag

If you don’t have access to a front loading washing machine you can always hand wash your sleeping bag at home. The process will take a bit longer, but some people find it's a more gentle process for their beloved bag. If you don't have a large front loading dryer, you will need a flat surface for your sleeping bag to dry. Below are the steps to hand washing your sleeping bag. 


materials needed
  1.  Bathtub
  2.  Special Down SoapGranger Down WashGear Aid ReviveX Down Wash, or Nikwax Down Wash
Steps

1. Fill up a bathtub with lukewarm water. Turn your sleeping bag inside out and close all zippers. 

2. Mix in your down soap according to the instructions on the bottle. With NikiWax down soap, they recommend 100 ml of soap. Never use bleach, bleach-alternatives, or fabric softener. Also, avoid using regular detergent as this will strip the natural oils from your down.

3. Lay out your sleeping bag into the bathtub and begin gently massaging your bag. This helps the down soap enter into the fabric and clean the feathers.

4. Leave your bag in the tub to soak for one hour.

5. Drain the tub and refill it with clean water (no soap). Gently massage the bag, this time with the goal to get the soap out of the bag. Do NOT wring or squeeze the bag.

6. Repeat step 5 as much as necessary. You may have to drain and fill the tub multiple times before you get all the soap out of your bag.

7. Dry your bag by laying it on a clean surface outside, such as grass or a beach towel. Lay your bag under sunlight or partial shade for best results. If you have a large front loading dryer at home, you can also put your bag into the dryer on a Tumble Dry Low setting and follow the steps from the above procedure.

8. Once your bag is somewhat dry, you’ll need to manually unclump the down feathers. Do this by delicately pulling apart the clumps of feathers by hand, or by gently fluffing up your bag like you would a feather pillow.

9. Hang or store your dry sleeping bag loosely in an uncompressed manner.


DWR Restore

Sleeping bags generally come with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating on the fabric, which initially makes water bead up and run off. After many uses, the DWR will wear off your bag. If you notice that water is no longer beading up on the surface of your sleeping bag, reapply a DWR treatment with a product such as Nikwax TX.Direct Spray-On or ReviveX Spray-On Water Repellant. Follow the DWR manufacturers’ directions, which are usually fairly simple. 

 General Sleeping Bag Maintenance Tips

1. Whether you wash your sleeping bag with a machine or by hand, when your bag is absolutely dry, be sure to store it loosely in a large mesh storage sack, which is often included when you purchase a sleeping bag. Do not store your bag compressed.

2. The more you fully wash your sleeping bag, the more the fabric and loft will eventually degrade. Sometimes, all your bag needs is a spot wash around areas such as the head or footbox. To do this, apply a small amount of down soap to an area and use a toothbrush to scrub away the grime. When completed, wash with a sponge. If possible, hold the fabric away from the down filler to minimize getting the down wet. It's ok if you do, you'll just need to give it adequate time to dry before storing your bag.

More Information

We hope this guide helped you revitalize your favorite piece of gear. As always, please leave a comment below if you have any recommendations, questions, or suggestions. And if you found this guide helpful, click the little heart button below to give us a digital high five! 

For more popular CleverHiker content, check out the following links:

 
Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.
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Before REI shuts its doors and encourages everyone to #optoutside on Black Friday, they're having a big sale. They'll also be offering members a 20% off coupon, which we’ve all grown to love. The Gear Up-Get Out sale runs from November 10-20 and includes some of our favorite backpacking gear. So, snag an early gift for the holidays or pad your own gear shed. Here are some of the sale items we’re most excited about.

Big Agnes Copper Spur Tent

The Copper Spur HV UL2 is an excellent lightweight tent with great features for backpackers of all levels. It has all the features for maximizing comfort - freestanding, double-wall, near-vertical sidewalls, two large doors/vestibules, interior pockets - and it's still somehow under 3lbs. The Copper Spur HV UL2 is at at the top of our Best Backpacking Tents list.

MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes

The MSR Lightning Ascents are best-in-class snowshoes that will make any winter trekker swoon. Along with solid overall construction, they have excellent traction, which is critical on icy surfaces. They also come with televators, which are excellent for hilly terrain. We prefer the smaller 22 inch size for maneuverability.

Patagonia Nano Puff Jackets

Patagonia released their new Nano Puff Jacket and initial reviews are very positive. It’s lightweight, comfortable, and highly compressible. What sets this jacket apart is the patented PrimaLoft Insulation, which helps retain heat better than down in wet conditions. It’s a great shoulder season jacket when conditions may not always be ideal. They offer the Nano Puff in hooded and hoodless versions. 

REI Co-Op Passage 2 Tent

For beginners and weekend warriors on a limited budget, the price and durability of the classic REI Co-op Passage 2 is hard to beat. This tent has a rectangular tent design with dual crossing poles, double doors, and large vestibules. The Passage 2 has a fully-rectangular floor, two condensation-reducing top vents, and lots of interior mesh pockets. It's an all-around solid budget buy. 

Jetboil Flash Cooking System

We love Jetboil products for their convenient, compact, and fuel-efficient integrated cooking systems. The Jetboil Flash is one of the base models in the series, while still retaining most of the features we love. The Jetboil Flash does not have simmer control, but most backcountry meals just require boiling water. We think the Jetboil Flash is a solid budget buy.

ENO SingleNest Hammock

Weighing only one pound and packing up to the size of a softball, the ENO SingleNest Hammock is of the most convenient and cost effective hammocks on the market. It’s made from durable and breathable woven nylon and can hold up to 400 lbs. Whether you are using it as a backcountry bed or a car camping luxury, you can’t go wrong with the SingleNest. Note: Straps not included. We recommend pairing with the ENO Atlas Hammock Suspension System.

Kahtoola Microspikes

You will almost always want to carry traction devices with you when hiking in the mountains over spring or fall snow patches. Kahtoola Microspikes are one of our favorite tools for adding traction on icy trails.They fit nearly any type of hiking footwear, even trail running shoes, and they’re tough enough to withstand years of heavy use.

Darn Tough Socks

We love our Darn Tough Socks. They're made of Merino wool, which wicks away moisture and breathes to regulate temperature for comfort. These socks are reinforced in all the right areas. The best part? Darn Tough has an unconditional lifetime guarantee on their socks, no strings attached. So if you wear them out, you get a new pair.

Patagonia Better Sweater

We consider our Patagonia Better Sweater to be a staple in our wardrobe. It straddles the line between sweater and fleece, with a wool-like exterior and a soft fleece interior. It’s a midweight article we can use in our layering system during outdoor activities, but also can wear as a stylish shoulder season jacket.

Hydro Flask Water Bottle

Hydro Flask water bottles have double-wall vacuum insulation to keep cold beverages cold (24 hours) and hot drinks hot (12 hours). They’re durable, versatile. and come in a range of sizes and colors. We use our Hydro Flask bottles in camp and around town.

 For more CleverHiker content:

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.

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We've updated and released our new 2017 CleverHiker Gift Guide!

Outdoor adventure gifts are the best kind around. The items listed in our Gift Guide are can’t miss recommendations for anyone that enjoys backpacking, hiking, and camping. We have stocking stuffersmid-range gifts, and big ticket gifts to choose from.  Give a gift that gets someone outdoors this year! 

 

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The Sawback Trail in Banff National Park is a 74 km (46 mile) traverse through the rugged and beautiful Sawback Mountain Range. Along the route, hikers climb over three spectacular passes and wind through meadows dotted with stunning alpine lakes. This trail spans a good portion of Banff National Park, stretching from the Lake Louise area to the town of Banff. With most people flocking to crowded trails on the west side of the Trans Canada Highway, this trek provides a true backcountry feel in a stunningly beautiful wilderness. 

Quick Facts
  • Distance: 74 km (46 miles)
  • Days Needed: 4-6 days
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 734 meters (2,408 feet)
  • Best Travel Time: Late July - September
  • Permits: Required, see below
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Highlights
  • Beautiful mountain passes and high alpine scenery
  • Relative solitude, less crowded than other trails in Banff
  • Good side trips (Badger pass, Ink Pots, etc.)
  • Good shuttle/hitchhike options with trailheads in popular areas
Lowlights
  • Competitive permit process
  • Can be susceptible to quickly changing weather
  • Seasonal bugs and snow
  • Campfires prohibited
  • Heavy horse travel from Cascade Amphitheatre Trailhead to Mystic Junction
  • Route finding required from Baker Lake to Wildflower Creek
Sawback Photo Gallery



























*Thanks to our good friend Marshall Lee (@mwalkerlee) for sharing some of his fantastic photos with us.
Best Time to Travel

In general, July through September is the best time to hike the Sawback Trail. Snowpack is a key factor for trip planning in this area, as snow can linger on passes until late in the year. Rain and snow can fall at any time of year here and freezing temperatures are possible as well, even in summer months.

As always, be prepared and diligent in monitoring current conditions as weather can change quickly in the mountains. Before heading out, check the Banff National Park trail reports for up-to-date conditions.

Difficulty
  • Total Distance: 74 km (46 miles)
  • Total Elevation Gain/Loss: 734 meters (2,408 feet)
  • Overall Difficulty: Moderate - Difficult

We rate this hike as moderate to difficult due to some big climbs and occasional route finding.

As always, difficulty ratings depend on your experience, physical fitness, pack weight, & weather conditions. This is not a technically demanding hike, but like any backpacking trip, you should plan accordingly, train properly, know your limitations, brush up on your skills, and dial in your gear. Doing so will make for a safe and enjoyable adventure.

Permits

According to the Parks Canada site, a backcountry permit and campground reservations are mandatory for anyone planning an overnight trip into the backcountry of Banff National Park. When making a..

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At CleverHiker, we’re big fans of REI and have been for years. If you’re an REI Co-Op member, you probably already know about their generous dividends and excellent return policy. And if you live in a city with an REI, you may be familiar with their popular "Garage Sales," where people line up hours before open to score killer deals on used gear. Well, REI is taking that idea to another level with the launch of their new online used gear website, making shopping for discounted gear even easier.

How it Works
  1. Customers return gently used gear.
  2. REI inspects returned gear and selects the items in the best condition.
  3. REI puts these items up on their site in well-organized categories
  4. You score sweet gear on the cheap!

REI's new used gear program sells apparel, footwear, camping gear (tents, packs, cooking systems, etc), and a whole lot more. Discounts generally range from 20-30% off retail, which is a fair deal for gently used gear in our opinion. We took a look through REI's used offerings and were surprised to find quite a few items from the CleverHiker Gear Guide on there. A lot of used gear programs carry mostly junk, but that seems not to be the case with REI's offerings. 

Downsides? Well apart from not getting shiny new equipment, items sold through REI's used gear site will only carry a 30-day return policy, instead of their usual one-year policy. Also, REI won't be selling large, hard-to-clean items like bikes and sleeping bags through the site. But other than that, this seems like a solid win-win scenario. 

While selling used gear is not a new concept, we can certainly get behind one of the largest outdoor retailers bringing this practice online. Keep used equipment out of the dump, minimize the loss to the retailer, and increase outdoor accessibility for adventurers on a budget. Good for the planet. Good for people. Count us in.

 
Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.
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Located in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness of Utah and Arizona, this spectacular and unique hike winds through one of the deepest and longest slot canyons in the world. Wavy sandstone walls twist their way to the sky for nearly thirteen miles, creating surreal patterns of light and sound. The canyon walls often soar hundreds of feet above the wash, and are sometimes only a few feet apart. Buckskin Gulch is truly an amazing place, and visitors are sure to appreciate it’s stunning beauty. This is a popular area though, making permits difficult to obtain. Also, flash flood warnings should be treated with the utmost of caution on this hike, as there are very limited opportunities for shelter.

Quick Facts
  • Distance: varies, 21-51 miles depending on trip
  • Days Needed: 2-5 days
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: varies, 500-1500 ft, depending on trip
  • Best Travel Time: April-June or September-November
  • Permits: Yes, very competitive
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
  • Shuttle: Yes, unless doing an out-and-back hike
Highlights
  • Stunning slot canyon scenery
  • Less sun exposure and slightly cooler temperatures than nearby locations
  • Nice campsites, especially in Paria Canyon
  • Lower congestion due to limited permits
Lowlights
  • Possibility of dangerous flash floods
  • Highly competitive permit system
  • Limited water sources
  • Two boulder jams require moderate scrambling
  • Muddy pools require wading, sometimes waist deep
  • Rattlesnakes live in this area
Best Time to Travel

Officially, the hike through Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon is open year-round, but every time of year brings different conditions. The best times to visit are April-June and September-November when the temperatures are cooler and the risk of flash floods is lower. Hiking in the summer months can be dangerously hot and the risk of flash floods is higher. If you hike in the winter, be prepared for very cold temperatures. Also, keep in mind that fires are prohibited in this area.

Flash floods are a serious threat of backpacking in this area, especially in summer months. You need to be diligent in monitoring the weather before your trip as conditions can change quickly. Call the Paria Contact Station - (435)-644-1200 - before your trip for current conditions. Be willing and ready to change plans if there is even a slight chance of rain in the forecast.

Difficulty
  • Total Distance: varies, 20-50 miles, depending on route
  • Total Elevation Gain/Loss: ~1500 feet
  • Overall Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

As always, difficulty ratings depend on your experience, physical fitness, pack weight, & weather conditions. There is not much elevation gain or loss along this route, but you'll likely have a long day of hiking through sand and loose rock to get through Buckskin Gulch to an area where you can camp. Along the route you'll encounter two boulder jams that will require moderate scrambling ability, balance, strength, and confidence. You will also encounter several pools of muddy water, resulting wet and muddy shoes/feet.

As always, know your limitations, brush up on your skills, and dial in your lightweight gear. Doing so will make for a safe and enjoyable adventure.

Permits

Advance permits are required for overnight stays in the Paria Canyon. They are limited to 20 people per day, making them highly competitive. Reservations can be made up to four months in advance of your departure date. As of 2017, the fee is $6.00 per person per day for day hiking and $5.00 per person per day for overnight trips. Check the BLM.gov Paria website for more info.

Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon day use permits are available via self-serve envelopes at the Wire Pass and White House Trailhead.

Solitude

Because there are such tight regulations on the number of overnight visitors to Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon, there's a decent amount of solitude on this trip. You may see day hikers closer to trailheads, but if you are spending the night things should quiet down later in the day. 

Possible ItinerariesWire Pass to White House Trailhead (2d/1n)

The most common way to explore this area is a one-night trip beginning at the Wire Pass Trailhead and ending at the White House Trailhead. Over the course of two days you will hike just under 21 miles. Make sure you get an early start on your first day as you will hike through the most spectacular portion of Buckskin Gulch and camp near the confluence with the Paria River. There is not a year-round dependable water source along this route, so make sure to carry enough water for your entire trip (more water info below). After camping near the confluence, you'll hike north through the Paria Canyon to the White House Trailhead on your second day.

Wire Pass to White House Trailhead (3d/2n)

If you have more time, we recommend spending an extra day exploring the Paria Canyon south of the confluence. Big Springs is an excellent water source located about five miles south of the confluence with good camping options nearby. There are many more camping options in Paria Canyon, although many of them are dry camps. On day 2 you could do an out-and-back hike to Wrather Arch and camp around Big Springs again. Another option would be to camp farther south at Shower Springs in the Paria Canyon. Shower Springs is another good water source located about 1.5 miles past Wrather Canyon. End this trek by hiking out to the White House Trailhead.

Wire Pass Trailhead to Lee’s Ferry Trailhead (3-5 days)

This options is the longest and most challenging of our suggested itineraries, but also quite rewarding. Begin at the Wire Pass Trailhead, hike through Buckskin Gulch and continue south at the confluence down Paria Canyon all the way to Lee’s Ferry. This trip should take 3-5 days one way. You’ll notice the farther southeast you travel, the more the canyon will open up, becoming wider, hotter, and more exposed. There are plenty of campsites in Paria Canyon to choose from, but water planning is critical. This itinerary will require a longer shuttle (roughly 2 hours by car).

Buckskin Gulch Trailhead to White House Trailhead

You could choose this option if you wanted to hike the entire length of Buckskin Gulch. When people begin at Wire Pass Trailhead, they cut off about three miles of Buckskin Gulch. We generally recommend beginning at Wire Pass because you'll still experience the most impressive parts of Buckskin and it's a quicker access point. 

MIddle-Out Route

The narrows of Buckskin Gulch run for about fifteen miles with only one access point along the way referred to as the Middle-Out Escape Route. This the only way out of Buckskin when bad weather hits. This route can also be used for day hikers and backpackers, however, it requires some steep rock scrambling, route finding, and is definitely not recommended for beginners or those with a fear of heights.

Day Hiking Options

If you are planning on day hiking in this area, there are a couple options. Our top recommendation is an out-and-back hike from Wire Pass Trailhead into Buckskin Gulch. From the trailhead you'll hike 1.7 miles to reach Buckskin Gulch, then explore the gulch as far as you like and turn around when you're ready. Know your limitations, carry water for the entire day (more water info below), pay close attention to the time, and turn back with plenty of energy to reach your car. Ambitious and fit hikers can still explore a good portion of Buckskin Gulch this way.

Another option is to hike from White House Trailhead south into Paria Canyon towards Buckskin Gulch. This is far less ideal for exploring Buckskin Gulch because most of your day will be spent in a sandy and exposed section of Paria Canyon (roughly seven miles one way) before reaching the confluence with Buckskin Gulch.

Getting To the Trailheads

Wire Pass Trailhead: From Kanab, head south on US-89 for 38 miles. Turn right onto House Rock Valley Road and continue for 8.4 miles. Wire Pass Trailhead will be on your right.

White House Trailhead: From Kanab, head south on US-89 for 43 miles. Turn right onto White House Trailhead Road. About 2 miles down this road you will arrive at the White House Trailhead and Campground.

Lee’s Ferry Trailhead: From Kanab, head south on US-89 for 78 miles. You will cross over into Arizona on this route. Turn right onto Lee’s Ferry Road and follow this for 4.4 miles, then turn left onto Lee’s Ferry Campground.

Buckskin Gulch Trailhead:  From Kanab, head south on US-89 for 38 miles. Turn right onto House Rock Valley Road for 4.5 miles to the Buckskin Gulch Trailhead.

Shuttle Options

In order to complete many of the backpacking routes listed above you'll need to use a shuttle service or drive two cars and shuttle yourself. Using two cars is the most economical, but it's also more time consuming. For a more convenient option, you could hire a shuttle service instead. Grand Staircase Discovery Tours is a good option and their 2017 prices are listed below (*prices are for a group of up to 4 people). You could also call the ranger station for shuttle service recommendations before your trip.

  • White House to Wire Pass - $100
  • Lee’s Ferry to Wire Pass - $200
  • Lee’s Ferry to White House - $175
  • Lee’s Ferry to Buckskin Gulch - $200
Maps & Guidebooks
  • Best Backpacking Trips in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico - This book is a fantastic resource for backpacking Buckskin Gulch and the Paria Canyon. It has in-depth information on the itineraries listed above and it also covers other excellent trips in the area.
  • Paria Canyon, Kanab National Geographic Map - A good topo map is essential for any backpacking trip, and this one is detailed and reliable. It has information on trailheads, campsites, mileage, and water sources.
  • We use Caltopo to research trips, plan routes, and print maps for many of our backpacking adventures. It takes a little time to learn the tool, but it's is an excellent resource.
  • We use Gaia GPS for on-trail navigation on most of our backpacking trips. We always bring a topo map and compass, but Gaia is an excellent tool in the field.
  • BLM-Buckskin Gulch Website - This website offers a good overview of information you’ll need to hike in the Buckskin Gulch area.
  • BLM-Paria Canyon Website - This is where you will apply for permits and find up-to-date information on the Paria Canyon conditions and regulations.
Water

Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon have limited, and at times unreliable, water sources. To be safe, you'll want to carry 4-6 liters of water per person per day. If it’s hot out, you’ll likely want to drink 5-6L per day, though you could survive less comfortably on 4. The first year-round, reliable, and clean water source in this area is Big Springs, located 5 miles south of the Paria/Buckskin confluence. Many hikers head north at the confluence towards White House Trailhead, so they'll never pass a year-round reliable source. In an emergency or when water is plentiful, there is usually water in Paria Canyon and near the Buckskin confluence. However, the water in Paria Canyon is generally not considered clean and should be avoided if possible. For water treatment, we often use the SteriPEN Ultra when backpacking, but in the desert we prefer chemical treatments. The lightest and most foolproof method is chlorine dioxide tablets or drops. If you prefer to filter your water, our top choice is the Sawyer Squeeze.

Navigation

There is no official trail to follow through Buckskin Gulch or the Paria River Canyon. Instead, you will walk down sandy, rocky river beds and following the curves of the canyon walls. It’s easy to follow as there is nowhere else to go. That being said, having a GPS or offline navigation like the Gaia GPS phone app is still recommended. In wider sections of the canyon you'll still get a connection and can plot your location. Caltopo is another excellent pre-trip mapping software that we recommend. Navigating the twists and turns of these canyons can be tricky due to the similarity of the landscape. Always pay attention to key landmarks like boulder jams and confluences to help orient yourself.

Human Waste

Human waste bags are mandatory for Buckskin and Paria Canyons. "Wag bags" are easy to use and improve everyone's experience in this beautiful area. Just think about how many visitors hike in these canyons every year, and there's nowhere for human waste to go. When wag bags aren't used, campsites smell awful and water sources become contaminated. This is for the greater good and you love nature, so please do your part to preserve this special place. Human waste bags are provided with overnight permits at the Paria Ranger Station, Kanab Field Office, and Arizona Strip District Office, though you may need more than one depending on the length of your trip.

Backpacking Gear

We prefer lightweight backpacking because it’s more comfortable and it allows us to cover more ground with less effort. For recommendations on our favorite lightweight backpacking equipment, check out the CleverHiker Gear Guide and Top Picks page.

What to Pack

TENT - We used the Zpacks Duplex single-wall tent on this trip. It's one of lightest tents we take on the trail and it's included in on best lightweight backpacking tents list.

BACKPACK - For this trip we used the Zpacks Arc Blast backpack. It's incredibly light and comfortable if your base weight is minimal. The Arc Blast made our favorite lightweight backpacks list as well.

SLEEPING BAG - Nighttime temperatures in the desert vary greatly depending on the season. When evening lows dip around freezing, we use the Feathered Friends Egret UL 20 Women’s Sleeping Bag and the REI Magma 10 Men’s Sleeping Bag. When nighttime lows are 40°F or higher we prefer lightweight quilts like the Enlightened Equipment Revelation. Here’s a list of our favorite lightweight sleeping bags/quilts.

SLEEPING PAD - We used the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite and Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated sleeping pads on this trip. Both are light, comfortable, warm, and make our list of the best backpacking sleeping pads.

COOKING SYSTEM - We used the BRS StoveSnow Peak Mini Solo Cookset, and Snow Peak Folding Spoon on this trek, all of which make our top picks gear list and best lightweight stove list

WATER PURIFIER - It’s important to remember that you will likely not find clean, reliable water until Big Springs, 5 miles south of the Buckskin/Paria confluence. When we’re backpacking in an area with clear water sources, we often use the SteriPEN Ultra. However, in the desert, water sources tend to be a bit less dependable, so we prefer filters or chemical treatments. The lightest and most foolproof method is chlorine dioxide tablets or drops. If you prefer to filter your water, our top choice is the Sawyer Squeeze

WATER BLADDER -  You will have to carry a lot of water along this route, so good water bladders are key. We used Platypus Platy Bottles on all our desert hikes this year and were impressed with how well they held up over the miles.

SHOES OR BOOTS - Footwear is a somewhat complicated choice for this trip. You could hike in trail sandals if you have long-distance hiking experience with them. However, sandals are not a good choice for rock scrambling and will get small rocks/sand stuck in them. A more reliable choice would be lightweight trail runners, such as our favorites: Saucony Peregrines. Trail runners will get wet in the pools, but will dry relatively quickly. The problem with most trail runners is that they'll slowly fill with sand through the mesh and will need to be emptied out every now and again. Boots are another option, and they won't fill with sand as quickly, but they will get wet in the pools, and then they'll be very heavy and take much longer to dry. Also, your feet will be much hotter/sweatier in boots which often leads to blisters. More info: 5 reasons to ditch your hiking boots. In the end we chose to hike in trail runners for this trip and would do so again.

HEADLAMP - We used the Petzl Actik on this trip, which is an affordable, bright, and lightweight option.

FOOD - When backpacking in Buckskin Gulch and the Paria Canyon you'll have to carry all your food. For some suggestions on common backpacking food options, check out our backpacking food video.

FOOD STORAGE - Although you won’t have to worry..

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The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is one of our all-time favorite backpacking tents and one of Big Agnes’ best selling designs. The Copper Spur strikes an excellent balance between weight, livability, convenience, and weather protection. It’s a great choice for backpackers wanting to keep their packs light without giving up convenience and comfort. We think the Copper Spur HV is one of the highest quality freestanding tents on the market, so if you’re looking for a new tent, we highly recommend putting it on your list.

Note: The Copper Spur HV UL2 earned Best All-Around Tent in our 2017 Best Backpacking Tents List. Check out the CleverHiker Gear Guide for our other favorite backpacking equipment recommendations (backpacks, sleeping bags/pads, stoves, etc.).

COPPER SPUR HV UL2 PHOTO GALLERY






























COPPER SPUR HV SPECS

Price: The Copper Spur is not a budget backpacking tent, but in our opinion it’s well worth the cost if you put it to good use. The Copper Spur is one of the lightest and highest quality freestanding tents on the market, and as is often the case, you get what you pay for. To see if it’s in your budget, find current pricing for the Copper Spur HV UL2 here at REIAmazon, BackcountryCampsaver, and

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