Aspen Times Weekly: Summer camping gear


North Face Stormbreaker
Courtesy photo

Even though the kids are back in school and tourists are headed back to Texas, there’s plenty of summer left to get in some quality camping. Still in summer gear testing mode, below are a few items I’ve tried out in the past few weekends.  

1. North Face Stormbreaker 3 Tent

When I’m camping with my dog, it can be a battle for space. At 65 pounds, he thinks he should be able to sprawl out like we’re in a hotel. To gain a little more wiggle room, I decided to give a three-person tent a try. The Stormbreaker is on the small side for a three-person. It would be extremely tight for three adults to fit, but for my situation it was the perfect size. It’s a bit on the heavy side, so I’m not sure you’d want to take it backpacking unless you divided it up among three people. 

The pole configuration is extremely easy, and I was able to set it up in a matter of minutes on my first go. After two nights in a significant downpour, I stayed nice and dry, even though I forgot the footprint. The large vestibule doors on both sides were a bit finicky with sticky zippers and could use some better engineering. I’m a little apprehensive on how the fly zippers will hold up over time. At a relatively affordable price, you lose some features like gear lofts and sturdy steaks, but it gets the job done where it counts. $199, 

2. Thermarest Vesper 32F Quilt

Quilts are a trusted favorite among backpackers for their ultralight weight and extreme packability. The concept is to save weight and space by utilizing the warmth of your sleeping pad. The Vesper quilt is made with 900-fill hydrophobic down that claims to stay drier and maintain its loft 60 times longer than untreated down. This particular quilt has an insulated footbox to stick your feet into that I believe is one of its best features. Without it, the quilt would slip around during sleep and leave feet exposed to the cold. It also includes thin elastic connectors, so you can attach the quilt to your mattress; it also snaps around the neck, and all of this allows you to secure the quilt in place during sleep. 

I tested this quilt for a few nights that got down to around 40 degrees. The quilt worked amazingly well and kept me warm as long as it stayed in place. If a leg or your tush gets too close to the edges, you’ll get drafts. Once you see how tiny it packs down, about the size of a Nalgene, the hefty price is a little easier to stomach. $380, 

Thermarest Vesper
Courtesy photo

3. PACT Outdoor Bathroom Kit

Pooping in the outdoors is potentially everyone’s least favorite thing about camping. It’s gross, uncomfortable, inconvenient and embarrassing. But with the recent exploding numbers in outdoor use, all that s*#t has to go somewhere. It’s actually become a huge debate among rangers and recreators about the ethical way to handle the problem. No matter your opinion, being responsible with your poo is of utmost importance to the environment, as well as the enjoyment of the wild for others around you. 

I first heard of the all-in-one PACT Kit after it won the Outdoor Innovation Award at the previous Outdoor Retailer convention. It’s a convenient case filled with everything you need for a successful poo in the outdoors. The lightweight aluminum shovel did a much better job of digging 6-inch-deep holes than my old standard plastic one. Included in the kit are PACT wipes that are about the size of a hefty vitamin. Once a few drops of water is added, it expands to a thick, biodegradable wipe that is dropped into the hole when you’re finished. Just don’t forget to bring a little water! After business is finished, three PACT tabs made of mycelium from fungi are dropped in to advance breakdown and kill harmful bacteria. When done, just fill the hole with dirt, give yourself a liberal douse of the included sanitizer and get back to adventuring. I can honestly say this is the most efficient bathroom experience I’ve had in the outdoors short of using a groover. $50, 

PACT kit
Courtesy photo

Meg Simon is an Aspen-based freelance writer, graphic designer and founder of Simon Finch Creative. She can be reached at


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