New Backpacking Gear for 2022
I’ve been testing a lot of new gear for backpacking this year, including a new backpack, two-person tent, pack accessories and other gear. After I use these items for a full season, I’ll be posting full reviews of them.
REI Co-op Flash 55 backpack
I’ve been looking for a lightweight backpack for a long time, and the Flash 55 has everything I was looking for plus adds a few more features. The adjustable Packmod components and pockets on this pack make it much more functional for the way I backpack. With water bottle pockets that are easily accessible while hiking, I no longer need to use a hydration hose to access water. Just behind those pockets are two larger side pockets, perfect for carrying a tent, poles, backpacking chair, or anything else that doesn’t fit in the main compartment. I’m excited to finally have a pack that fits all of my gear without needing to strap anything on the outside. The front mesh pocket is larger than most and works great for carrying rain gear and my water filtering system. Even the hip belt pockets are larger than those found on most packs. The Packmod components allow you to configure the pack the way you want to use it, with the ability to place compression straps where needed, or to remove pieces you don’t need. The suspension is comfortable, and the raised foam back panels help to keep air flowing to reduce sweating. For the way I pack, I like the simplicity of the roll-top main compartment. I don’t need a separate sleeping bag compartment or zipper access to the main compartment.
REI Co-op Flash Air 2 backpacking tent
This is an ultralight two person tent, but it’s a palace when used as a one person tent – with plenty of space to spread out gear inside. A hybrid single/double wall design made with silicone-coated nylon, this tent is not freestanding and requires the use of included poles or trekking poles and stakes to setup. The hybrid part is where the doors and mesh overlap at the top, allowing for more ventilation and star gazing when rolled back. A short pole in the middle of the foot end raises the top to keep from touching your sleeping bag. Two gear pockets are good for stashing small items (like a headlamp or smartphone) to keep within reach. While single wall tents have a tendency to produce condensation on the inside of the tent walls, the Flash Air has multiple ways to mitigate this, including vents at the top and high vestibule walls that allow air flow.
- weight: 2 lbs 2 oz
- price: $349
- purchase from REI Co-op
Six Moon Designs pack liner
Using a waterproof pack liner will protect insulated items from getting wet. This is especially important for a sleeping bag or quilt and down jackets. Made to fit most backpacks, this pack liner is seam sealed and utilizes a roll top closure to keep gear inside dry.
- weight: 3 oz
- price: $20
- Purchase from Six Moon Designs
Six Moon Designs pack pods
Pack pods can help to balance the load in your backpack, keep your tent better organized, and make it easy to grab your gear for a last minute trip. Whether you are the type who is hyper-organized, or the type who struggles with keeping things where you can find them, pack pods can be a handy solution for packing and storing gear. I have a multitude of stuff sacks, but none are the same size or are built to work together. Sold in sets of three and shaped to stack inside a backpack, these make trip prep an easy task rather than an awkward puzzle to figure out. In addition to the large pods, they also offer a multi-size set that work for smaller bits of gear.
- weight: 1 oz (each)
- price: $45
- Purchase from Six Moon Designs
Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Women’s sleeping pad
I recently upgraded to the Ether Light XT Insulated sleeping pad when I was looking to replace an older Exped UL M. With an R-value of 3.5, this pad is warm enough for three seasons, and it’s extremely comfortable due to the 4″ thick mattress-style tufting. The women’s version of the Ether Light is a bit shorter and wider than standard pads, at 22″ x 66″. This pad comes with a stuff sack that has an integrated pump, but I haven’t been able to get the pad to fit back in the stuff sack and I use a small pump to blow it up instead (see the Tiny Pump below).
Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow
After trying many air pillows, I finally found the most comfortable one for me. The Aeros has an internal air bladder that’s curved to cradle your head, soft brushed knit fabric, and synthetic fill on the top that cushions the air bladder for better comfort and provides insulation for additional warmth. The multi-function valve allows for easy adjustments for firmness level. I like to keep it filled about three-quarters full.
Air pump for sleeping pad
Flextail Gear Tiny Pump (& light)
Save your breath (and prevent mold inside the pad from the moisture in your breath) and use this small air pump to blow up your sleeping pad. This pump is rechargeable and includes a powerful light with three settings – perfect for hanging inside your tent to read at night.
- weight: 3 oz
- price: $29.98
- Purchase from Amazon
Enlightened Equipment Torrid Sidekicks
After a few too many cold nights with freezing feet, I bought these booties to wear while sleeping on backpacking trips. They are soft, extremely lightweight, and insulated with synthetic fill. The fabric won’t hold up to walking around camp with them on, so I plan to use them in my tent only.
- weight: 2 oz (medium)
- price: $65
- Purchase from Enlightened Equipment: Stock Sidekicks | Custom Sidekicks
Outdoor Vitals Ventus Hoodie
The Outdoor Vitals Ventus Active Hoodie is an ultralight insulated mid-layer that provides a lot of warmth for the weight. Made with synthetic 3DeFX insulation, the Ventus is bodymapped for warmth and breathability. When you are more active, the insulation uncoils to expand and allow more airflow, and contracts when you are less active for more loft and warmth. Most mid-layers built for warmth are bulky, but the Ventus is extremely lightweight and yet keeps me warmer than wearing a fleece or wool mid-layer so I can stay active without feeling restricted. The ripstop nylon fabric is stretchy with a soft feel. Coated with a DWR coating to resist moisture, the fabric also blocks wind well. And I like how the hood moves with me when I turn my head instead of blocking my vision on one side like other hoods can do. Since this is super light, I plan to use it as part of my layering system on backpacking trips in colder temps. I always wear a lightweight base layer under it (see the Ridgeline base layer below), and my puffy and/or rain jacket layer well over it. See my full review of the Ventus Hoodie.
Showers Pass Ridgeline Half-Zip base layer top
This base layer top is made from summer weight merino wool, with a mix of polyester and nylon for fit and durability. It’s light enough to wear alone in warmer weather, or under a mid layer in cooler weather. A hidden zippered back pocket can stash small items, and the UPF 40 finish provides good UV protection. I like having the half-zip for venting when I get too warm. This has become my favorite base layer due to how incredibly light it is – great for layering without feeling bulky.
- weight: 4.8 oz
- price: $99
- Purchase from Showers Pass: Women’s
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