Gathering Gear: Backpack and Tent


Since the end of my bicycle travels last Fall, my focus has been equipping and preparing for my next escape attempt this coming Spring. Seeing as how this next attempt is going to be by foot, I needed to upgrade the bulk of my gear.  The gear I already had worked fine when it was being carried on my bike and trailer, but a lot of it was way too heavy and/or bulky to carry on my back.

The first thing I needed was a backpack.  I had a couple of Black Diamond climbing packs which my son and I had used for climbing trips, and short backpacking trips, and while they worked great for such trips, there was no way they were going to cut it for an extended trip such as the one I am planning now, so I began backpack shopping for the first time in many years.

As is the new norm, I began shopping for my new pack by consulting the Google monster.  I’ll admit, that, at first, I was a bit overwhelmed.  After all, my last good sized backpack was a Dana Designs Bridger pack that I had bought at the end of the last millennium, and not only does Dana Designs no longer exist, but the array of backpacks has grown significantly in the last couple of decades.


My New Atmos

So, after reading every recommendation and review I could find, I headed to REI and started trying on packs.  After trying on most every 60+ liter pack in the store (a few more than once) I settled on Osprey’s Atmos 65 AG.

(This is actually the second Osprey pack I’ve bought. I already had a Talon 22 which I bought for cycling, and used as a daypack and shopping bag while on my bike trips.)

I picked the Atmos for it’s comfort, organization, and Osprey’s warranty.

As I’ve mentioned, I tried on a lot of packs, but once I tried the Atmos I found myself comparing all of the others to it.  I like the adjustability of it and the way the AG suspension wraps around my body.  The Osprey site makes the claim that this new suspension makes the pack’s load feel lighter than it truly is, and I’ll say that they are right. I can’t explain why, but with equal weight in it, the Atmos did feel lighter once it was on my back than other packs did.

I also liked the shape and size of the shoulder straps.  I have a defibrillator implanted in my left upper chest so the position of the shoulder straps was very important.  The straps on the Atmos don’t run right over my defibrillator, so don’t grind it into the underlying muscle, which, believe me, is quite painful after a while.

The next thing I really liked about the Atmos was it’s design in terms of organization.  I am a big fan of gear organization.  I hate having to dig around in the dark or during a storm for that one thing that I need, so the Atmos’ many pockets were a big draw.  It has a separate sleeping bag compartment as well as pockets on the back, hip-belt and lid which, in my opinion, is much better than having everything in one cavernous area.  The ability to put various things in separate pockets makes it easier to retrieve a water-filter, snacks, camera, rain gear, etc. without having to dig through everything else.  Very little is more frustrating than digging around in one’s pack in the dark during a rain storm to find a headlamp…been there, done that, hated it.  It also makes it easier to get to the tent and sleeping bag when setting up camp, especially if it’s dark or raining.

The final selling point of the Atmos was Osprey’s warranty.  I can be rough on my equipment sometimes, and I bought this pack for the long haul, so a no-questions-asked, lifetime warranty was quite appealing.

Next up in my overhaul quest was a new tent.  I have been using an REI ASL 3 for my bicycle trips, and love it.  It’s roomy; it sets up easily; and it’s convertible so it handles a lot of different weather conditions like a champ.  The only problem it has is with hot and humid conditions.  Sleeping in it at the height of Summer in Southern Kentucky is not recommended.  Though, to be honest, sleeping outside period in those conditions is rough.


My ASL after a night of fending off downpours and 20 MPH winds

While perfect for my bike trips the ASL was way too heavy and bulky to carry on my back for an extended period of time.  So, once again, I consulted the Google monster, and after another round of reviews and recommendations, I got another REI tent…the REI Quarter Dome 1.

Picking a tent was an even lengthier process than had been picking a pack.  After all, this was going to be my new home.  Originally, I had been looking at a couple of Big Agnes tents, but I really wanted a side entrance, low weight, AND a tent that wasn’t going to cost a small fortune, so I opted for the QD1.  Having had good experiences with REI tents, and REI customer service I felt that I might as well go with a company I knew.

So far I’ve only set my new tent up in the living room (it’s too cold, wet, and snowy outside right now), but I feel good about the ease of set-up, and the space inside and in the vestibule, and I really love the weight.  At just over two pounds the Quarter Dome is a third the weight of my ASL, which is something that I am sure my back will appreciate this Spring.  It also packs down to about a third of the size of the ASL which makes for more room in my pack for food:  win, win.

My only fear about the quarter dome is the cold.  A few years ago my son and I spent the night in an MSR Hubba Hubba, in Ohio, in the middle of February when the temps dropped to 15 degrees. Needless to say we were quite cold all night.  But, seeing as how I don’t intend to Winter-camp with this new tent I should be OK.  Though I do have my eye on a TNF Assault 2 for a possible round of cold-weather camping next Winter.

Having gotten a pack and a tent, my final item in the big three is a sleeping bag.  Still haven’t settled on one yet, but will update when I do.