This season I’ve been trying a few things from Nathan, Sea to Summit, and BioLite that are worth mentioning.
Nathan Crossover 15L Fastpack – $124.95
Nathan is most known for its running gear including hydration vests, bottles, and clothing which I have used extensively and enjoy immensely. This year, they came out with a line of fastpacks they call the Crossover, which is available in 5L, 10L, and 15L capacities.
I like that this pack has a slim and low-profile design including two zippered pockets up front for quick-access nutrition and supplies as well as water bottle pockets and a 2L bladder (included). It also has two sternum straps and a lower hip belt to help stabilize the pack and minimize jostling while running. The padded straps and back panel also help wick away moisture to manage sweat on hot days, which is always a relief. Though I can’t see myself replacing my Nashville Pack Cutaway for longer trips, I have found myself reaching for the Crossover on shorter efforts, especially when guiding day hikes in Maine because of its utility, fit, and function.
Check out the Nathan Crossover 15L pack here.
Swiftwick Flite XT Five – $23.99
I’m on my third season using Swiftwick socks and I just can’t seem to find a reason to use anything else. In my past couple of trips, though, I’ve been developing blisters on the balls of my feet that are painful and annoying, so this year I decided to try a different model of sock to see if that would help and settled on the Flite XT line. For this model, Swiftwick added what they call “GripDry” fibers to the heel and forefoot of the sock which help minimize movement slipping within the shoe, as well as arch support and their moisture-wicking compression fabric.
In early July I ran a 50-mile ultramarathon in Quebec where I was on my feet for 15 hours straight while crossing rivers and super technical terrain and was blister-free, whereas I had blisters forming after the first day on a hike in Utah earlier in the season. I plan to use these for the rest of my racing this year and am hopeful that they are durable enough to last!
Check out the Swiftwick Flite XT Five here.
Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp and Ultralight Sleeping Mat – $219/$149
The most crucial aspect of maintaining performance and enjoyment in the outdoors is good sleep. My sleep system is the one area of my kit that gets the most attention and scrutiny to ensure it’s as good as can be. On overnight trips, I typically spend most waking hours walking or running and once I stop for the day, I want to be asleep as soon as possible. This means that my sleep system needs to be both easily and quickly deployable as well as reliable.
Tarps like the Escapist offer a lightweight and versatile option for overnight trips. If there is minimal bug pressure and no inner-net is needed, a tarp can be set up in just a few minutes and can be pitched in multiple configurations to help defend against wind and precipitation. I’ve found that tarps work best in situations where you can do without a shelter but need one as a backup in case of bad weather. I used the Escapist Tarp in Utah where I only needed to set it up a few times for possible overnight rain, but most days I cowboy-camped under the stars on the Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Mat. I think the Escapist Tarp is a good choice for these conditions because it is lightweight (10oz for the 8’x6′) and relatively inexpensive compared to other options. It can also be paired with the Escapist Groundsheet to provide protection from dirt, water, or pricklies underneath.
BioLite Charge 80 and SiteLights – $79.95/$19.95
Technically these are not products you would want to take on a long run or lightweight backpacking trip, but they make excellent company for aid stations, car camps, and boondocking. The Charge 80 is a 20,000 mAh battery backup that features two USB-A outputs and one USB-C PD input/output, meaning you can quickly power and charge up to three devices at once for hours on end.
The SiteLights are a string of four 150-lumen LED lights on a 10ft string that can be hung for ambient overhead lighting. They can be daisy-chained together to make multiple lengths and are powered via USB, making them a great low-power pairing with the Charge 80.
I used these two products often between trips or when car camping and would usually power my laptop from the USB-C connection as well as a string of SightLights and my phone from the USB-A outputs.
Moving fast, light, and long in the mountains is a favorite activity of mine, especially in the summer months when the weather allows for fewer items to be carried. I always enjoy trying new gear to see what works (or doesn’t) and making tweaks based on experience. I’ve had a lot of success with Sea to Summit, Nathan, Swiftwick, and BioLite this year, and hope that the descriptions above can help others achieve their goals this year.
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Brandon Chase is a writer, endurance athlete, and guide based in Maine. He is a former Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State and spent nearly a decade overseas serving at embassies in Egypt, Cyprus, and Pakistan.
Along with a 98-day thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, he has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked the West Highland Way, fastpacked in the Himalayas, and trekked around New Zealand and South Africa. He also regularly competes in ultramarathons at the 50k, 50-mile, and 100-mile distances.