gear test

I generally consider myself to have been cursed with a birthday just days after Christmas, but in this case it meant I got to load up on new gear while I was prepping to apply for a JMT permit. Last week’s Grand Canyon trip provided a chance for me to finally test out my new loot.  I got to retire my synthetic sleeping bag of fifteen years and try out the North Face Blue Kazoo, a much warmer bag than I needed for this trip, but one that will be perfect for the Sierras. A grand success, my two nights in the Kazoo were indistinguishable from my nights in the hotel beds. It resembled sleeping inside what a child imagines a cloud is like.

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I also got to test out my Patagonia Nano Air jacket, which I scored in a glorious online sale. The award-winning design lives up to the hype. It’s so warm, you guys. And light, and comfortable to hike in, though I mostly used it around camp or at the windy rim. It’s also way cuter than I expected— fairly form-fitting and not at all constrictive in the shoulders (unlike reports about the redesigned Nano Puff). I didn’t notice the longish sleeves one bit and loved the pockets.I did find myself trying not to snag the delicate-seeming fabric on sticks and zippers, but I have a feeling it’s sturdier than it appears. It also makes a fabulous pillow—since, in the Kazoo, sleeping in a jacket was no longer necessary!

My gear replacement epiphany was sparked by nighttime chills on a short solo trek last September, in particular at Long Lake’s 10,760 feet. Staying warm wasn’t a huge issue on this trip, but I’ll have some cold nights on the Muir Trail without a doubt—especially since I’m starting from the Mono Pass trailhead at a higher elevation than the traditional route.