Gearing up for Long Days in the Outdoors

This summer I am once again focusing on long days outside in the form of ultramarathons and overnight backpacking and fastpacking trips. Each year I test out some new gear to see what’s available and if there are ways to improve my comfort or reduce weight.

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 has branched out to fastpacks with their Crossover line, available in three capacities.

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

Switftwick Flite XT socks, my new favorite.

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

Escapist tarp pitched in Utah.

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.

Cowboy camping in Utah with the Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Mat.
I like many things about the Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Mat. First, it is very comfortable which is of utmost importance. At 2″ thick and using their “Air Sprung Cell” design, it provides a cushy and supportive carriage, even for side-sleepers like myself. Another thing I liked about this mat was how fast it deploys. I can fully inflate this mat with five breaths, which is practically unheard of among competitors. Instead of getting lightheaded and needing to take a break while setting up at night, I can have this mat ready to go in seconds. On the downside, it’s a little heavier than I would like at 17oz and although it has “insulated” in the name, it has an R-Value of just 3.1, meaning it’s not ideal for shoulder-season trips or winter camping. That being said, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it for midsummer overnights or car camping.

Check out the Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp and Ultralight Sleeping Mat.

BioLite Charge 80 and SiteLights – $79.95/$19.95

BioLite Charge 80 PD.

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.

BioLite SiteLights.

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.

Using the Charge 80 PD to power my laptop.

Check out the BioLite Charge 80 and SiteLights.

Final Thoughts

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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