Outside Bozeman's Top 10

Outside Bozeman's Top 10

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Between a long Rocky Mountain winter and the placid euphoria of shirtless summer days comes the classic Montana swing season—spring, that dubious down-time that engenders raging restlessness among outdoor enthusiasts across the state. To avert a calamitous cabin-fever climax, we suggest getting outside for an early-season backcountry fix. But with the trails still wet and the mountains cold, you’ll need to keep yourself prepared and protected with bomber, fail-safe gear. Our reviewers put dozens of products to the test and came up with a top-ten list of recommended spring gear.


1. Arborwear’s Original Tree Climber’s Pants are warm, durable, and super-comfortable. Think Carhartts with an extra millimeter of fabric between you and the elements—and less initial stiffness. From hiking to fishing to rock-climbing, the Tree Climbers offer outstanding protection with plenty of mobility. Errant tree branches and rock outcroppings may rip through summer-weight nylon, but with these tough-as-nails trousers, you’ll cruise confidently through everything from mud bogs to prickly underbrush. www.arborwear.com; 888-578-TREE.

2. For an all-around hiking and backpacking boot, you can’t beat the Sundowner GTX from Vasque. With its old-school style and out-of-the-box comfort, you’ll find yourself wearing it around town as much as in the woods. Ankle-high support, a burly Skywalk sole, and waterproof construction make for a solid footwear choice in wet or muddy conditions. www.vasque.com; 800-224-HIKE.

3. In our experience, Gerber makes the best, most durable multi-tool, bar none. Their Multi-Plier 600 is a veritable mini-toolbox, containing 10 easy-opening, fully-locking components for just about any kind of camping or backpacking tool need. Pliers, several screwdrivers, lanyard ring, two blades, can opener, bottle opener, file, crimper, wire cutter, and a ruler—all this in a tool that fits in the palm of your hand. www.gerberblades.com; 800-705-2040.

4. SmartWool pioneered the recent wool-sock Renaissance, and after a half-dozen years and as many imitators, they’re still the best sock for both comfort and performance.
The Field Mid-Calf is great sock for cooler, wetter weather and more vigorous trips into the spring woods. www.smartwool.com; 800-550-WOOL.

5. We’ve reviewed a lot of camping lights, but the Princeton Tech EOS Headlamp is our new favorite. Small and compact, it offers three brightness levels for effective battery conservation. Internal AAA power means no rear battery pack on to interfere with evening reading. And with 12.5 hours of run time at the medium setting, you won’t need to pack extra batteries on an overnight trip. www.princetontec.com; 609-298-9601.

6. The Vortex 5800 Backpack is one of the most comfortable packs we’ve ever used—you’ll be amazed at how much weight you can carry without feeling undue strain on your back or shoulders. A top-lid fanny pack, two exterior pockets, and oversized zipper tabs make this pack a joy to use. Big enough to hold all your gear and bomber enough to take a beating, the 5800 all you’ll need for a multi-day trip into the backcountry. www.vortexbackpacks.com; 800-386-7839.

7-9. If you think dehydrated meals are passé, a long-forgotten backcountry fad, think again. Backpacker’s Pantry travel meals debunk the myth that freeze-dried food has all the allure of frosted cardboard. A variety of dishes are available, from Cajun Chicken & Rice to Buttermilk Pancakes. Cooking is quick and easy—just open the zip-lock top, add boiling water, and re-seal for 10 minutes. Take it from us, this stuff is tasty—one bite of the Pad Thai and you’ll leave the Ramen and beef stew behind for good. For conventional cooking or for melting spring snow, the Escort Cookset is an ideal multi-purpose pan set, and the Spice Wheel is a handy, water-tight device for packing along all your favorite seasonings. www.backpackerspantry.com; 303- 581- 0518.

10. Spring’s persistent chill means you need extra energy to stay warm. Honey Stinger makes two carb-rich snack foods to augment your intake and keep you going all day long. Their Energy Gel Packs come in a variety of flavors and give you a 100+ calorie burst of all-natural, honey-based energy. Four different 180-calorie Energy Bars add protein to the mix for a more sustained energy dosage. www.honeystinger.com; 866-GO-HONEY
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