Go Play: An end-of-summer gear guide to sleeping bags, solar lanterns, packrafts and base layers | PostIndependent.com

Go Play: An end-of-summer gear guide to sleeping bags, solar lanterns, packrafts and base layers

Stephen Regenold
Special to the Free Press
The Patagonia Merino Air base layer.
Special to the Daily |

Ski swap season

Not only is autumn the perfect time to find discount summer gear — it’s also the first chance to update your winter kit. A guide to ski swaps in Summit and Eagle counties.

Team Summit Ski and Snowboard Swap — Sept. 11-13, Breckenridge

Team Summit is hosting its annual ski and snowboard swap during Breck’s Oktoberfest. Drop by the Riverwalk Center Sept. 11-13 for 30 to 70 percent off on nearly 10,000 winter items. It runs the gamut, from hard goods like skis, boards and bindings, to soft goods like outerwear, gloves, beanies and more. Like most ski swaps, it’s a mix of new and gently used gear from major brands and their niche counterparts. Entry is free for shoppers, with doors opening 3 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

In need of winter cash? Try consignment. Team Summit takes 30 percent of every sale, while the seller gets a check for the remainder. All proceeds go to funding club scholarships and other programs. Consignment check-in is at the Riverwalk Center on Sept. 10 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. or Sept. 11 from 9 a.m. to 3 pm.

Vail Ski Swap — Oct. 23-25, Vail

If you miss the local swap, Ski and Snowboard Club Vail hosts another massive sale at Dobson Ice Arena in Lionshead Village from Oct. 23-25. The selection is almost the same — think thousands of new and used items from brands of all sizes — but the format is slightly different. Aug. 23 is “early bird” day at the swap: $15 gets exclusive admission from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., followed by $10 admission from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The remaining two days are free to enter, beginning on Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. For more info, including consignment details, see http://www.vailskiswap.com.

The start of September is bittersweet for summer folk.

Across Summit County and other mountain towns, the evenings and mornings are already chilly — watch for the first frost in just a week or two — and October is just around the corner, which means so is opening day at Loveland and Arapahoe Basin.

But, autumn in the High Country isn’t all cold nights and waning sunshine. It’s also prime time for gear junkies on a budget to finally (yes, finally) afford the gear they’ve been eyeing all summer. Outfitters have started clearing space for winter gear, and end-of-summer sales begin in earnest with Labor Day.

Sure, shopping at the end of the season means you’ll wait until next summer to really make the most of a discounted packraft, rain jacket or warm-weather bag. But, don’t fret — a few weeks remain to test your shiny, new toys on the trail. Here’s quick wish list to get you started.

LED Lenser mega headlamp

At 2,000 lumens, it is brighter than most car headlights. The XEO from LED Lenser was built for biking at night, skiing after dark and other nocturnal adventures where a normal headlamp won’t cut it. To manage the inevitable heat build-up that comes from all that light, there’s an air intake chamber on front — as you bike, run, or ski, air gets “scooped” into the vent, cooling the LED unit.

Kammok down sleeping bag

A high-quality down bag serves as the base for the Thylacine system from Kammok. From there, a camper can add or remove layers (sold separately) to use a single bag in many temps and seasons, from 30 to zero degrees Fahrenheit. The company markets the Thylacine as “the last sleeping bag you’ll ever need.”

NEMO Moonwalk waterproof sleeping bag

The Moonwalk sleeping bag from NEMO has an impermeable “bathtub” floor, meaning you can lie on wet grass, mud, or other surfaces without getting wet or damaging the bag. The lightweight materials clock in at 2 pounds, 2 ounces, and it is rated for nights down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

MSR backpacking water filter

The MSR Guardian Purifier is unique to the world of pump-based units because of a new kind of filter so small it eliminates viruses. It is touted to remove every biological threat, including viruses, bacteria and protozoa. It even cleans itself, flushing the filter with 10 percent of the water you pump. Finally, the purifier’s hard-to-break plastic case can supposedly withstand 300 pounds of force for mishaps in the outback.

Goal Zero solar-powered lantern

This little workhorse of a lantern packs a lot of power into an 8-ounce package. With a runtime of more than 500 hours on its low setting, you can likely plan on an entire summer of camping without a recharge. Look for the Goal Zero Lighthouse MINI, with a light that works double duty as a battery pack. Recharge electronics like a camera or phone through a USB output on the front.

Whitewater packrafts

At the recent Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Utah, two brands debuted the category’s first lightweight, self-bailing packrafts. Aire and Kokopelli designed boats that pack up small but can navigate big, burly whitewater. How so? Instead of taking in water, the rafts “bail” the excess water through the floor, which helps the crafts remain lighter and more maneuverable in fast river currents.

Patagonia Merino Air base layer

Releasing a base layer in July might not be the savviest marketing move. But, apparently, Patagonia couldn’t wait for what the brand is touting “the world’s most advanced base layer.”

Those are tall claims. But the Merino Air Baselayer product line, which went on sale in mid-July, appears to be something new. It consists of men’s and women’s pieces made of a wool-polyester blend put through a process I have not seen.

What sets it apart: During manufacturing, the yarn is exposed to a type of high-pressure air gun. The result is an “exploded” yarn that is soft and stretchy in the hand. Put it on and the fabric contours to your body, from the tight-fitting hood on down. It’s a seamless, stretchy fleece that immediately feels warm. But, because of the exploding process, the fabric is highly breathable.

In the heat of July, I wore a hoody made of the stuff. It was too warm outside to test any of the cool-weather capabilities, but having the Merino Air Baselayer on did seem different.

Compared to most merino-based tops I have worn, the Patagonia piece fit and felt more like a thin sweater, not like long underwear. The fabric is thin and super stretchy. Pull on the sleeve and hold it up to a light, and the zigzag fabric pattern disappears to reveal an intricate knit web of pinprick holes. You can both feel and see the breathability of this top.

Style comes second to performance. The aqua-blue is a bold color choice, and while wearing the face-framing hoody, I was compared to a Teletubby more than once.

But warmth, breathability, and wicking are more important than aesthetics with this product launch. This fall I will test it out again when the weather gets cool. Until then, I’ll wear the Merino Air hoody for comfort if I feel chilled. Call me a Teletubby — I don’t care.

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