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Backpacker March/April 2021

Published nine times a year, Backpacker is a magazine of wilderness travel, offering practical, "you can do it, here's how" advice to help you enjoy every trip. Filled with the best places, gear, and information for all kinds of hiking and camping trips, each issue delivers foldout maps and stunning color photography.

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United States
Pocket Outdoor Media, LLC

in this issue

3 min
editor’s note

I’m always quick to point out to new hikers that you probably already own most of what you need to get into backpacking. Dayhiking, certainly. A walk in the woods is beautifully accommodating in that way. What you need more than any one bit of gear is curiosity and the means to break from the frontcountry and see what’s out there. But I’m equally as quick to advise that if you can improve your kit, you’ll upgrade your experience too. When you have the right gear for you and the journey ahead, everything is better. You can push through (or wait out) gnarly conditions in greater comfort. You can cover more miles by cutting weight. You can sleep better, eat better, and stay safer. You can show a new hiker that…

14 min
editors’ choice awards

Last year’s hiking season was like no other we’ve ever experienced. Between the lockdowns, and the wildfires, and the general unease of seeing other humans even on the trail, getting outdoors was much more of a feat than usual. Nevertheless, our testers did what they always do: take the year’s newest gear into the backcountry to see how it performs. After four months of testing, the results came in, and a group of Backpacker editors headed out to finish the job. Finding a destination wasn’t easy—see the aforementioned lockdowns and fires, and add in an early-season snowstorm—but once we did, everything fell into place. The canyons of southwest Colorado—steep-walled, rocky, remote—are well-suited for proving what works and what doesn’t, and offer magnificent scenery and solitude to boot. When we emerged…

3 min
a perfect little hole in the wall

Planning our Editors’ Choice trip is usually like ordering off-menu at a Michelin-starred restaurant. We target far-flung, life-list dreamscapes and work with the best local guides, land managers, and visitors’ bureaus to customize an itinerary that’ll provide a good story, great photography, and the terrain and conditions to beat the crap out of the year’s finest gear. But, as you know, these times are anything but normal, and like all hikers, we dealt with an ever-changing landscape of travel restrictions while pursuing the overarching goal of keeping each other safe and healthy. Long story short, this led us to scouring our home state of Colorado for minimally trafficked wilderness areas not buried under several feet of snow in late autumn. In lieu of Michelin stars, we wanted that perfect little…

19 min
dressed for war

The Chinook touched down, conjuring a cloud of swirling sand and dust around it. U.S. Army Lieutenant Nate Bethea ran from its rear bay with his head down and immediately took cover flat against the ground as small arms fire popped from the village around him. It was July 2009, and Bethea was part of an airborne unit searching for Private Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier who had walked off an outpost in Afghanistan and been captured by Taliban insurgents. Bethea was leading a group of soldiers in a war a long way from home. Joining his unit for the rescue mission, and lying prone next to him, was an Air Force joint tactical air controller (commonly referred to as a JTAC). The helicopter lifted off, and once they realized the…

12 min

BEST ALL-AROUND Osprey Talon Pro 30/Tempest Pro 28 $200; 2 lbs. 6oz. (m’s S/M); m’s S/M and L/XL, w’s XS/S and M/L OUR TAKE We would describe our relationship with the Talon Pro as “codependent.” Thanks to its bestin-test combo of cushion, breathability, and support, we found ourselves using it on everything from sweaty epics to after-work scrambles. The broad, wraparound hipbelt wings and flexible shoulder harness provide a close-to-body fit that eliminates pack sway, even when we had 20 pounds on board. “I did some intense scrambling on Adirondack slides in this thing and it stuck to my body wiThevery step,” reports one tester. Osprey manages to balance that close fit wiThexcellent ventilation: Air channels in the backpanel kept the air flowing up and away from the body, even in 80°F temps…

10 min

BEST ALL-AROUND Mammut Sapuen High GTX $189; 1 lb. 3 oz.; m’s 7.5-13.5, w’s 5-10 OUR TAKE For big miles and heavy packs, a boot with a little extra structure is a godsend, but you wouldn’t want to wear it for dayhikes if it’s too stiff. We’ll happily take the Sapuen anywhere, though. This boot is supportive yet light, thanks to a corrugated sheet of shape-retaining steel that acts as a combination shank and rock plate. The steel runs the full length of the EVA midsole to boost torsional stability without sacrificing toe-to-heel flexibility. A high ankle retains some flex and extra padding on the inside of the cuff adds comfort over the Achilles. All those factors made toting a 45-pound pack no problem on a trip in Olympic National Park, and we…