On Monday, June 19 at 8 am, seven Sunlight Sports employees piled into two Tundra trucks to set out toward one unforgettable backpacking overnighter on Yellowstone’s Hellroaring Creek Trail.

Between the time we finally reached the trailhead on Monday – starting the 2.5 mile trek to our assigned campsite 2H6 at about 4:30 pm (luckily the summer evening light is endless this time of year in the Park!) –  and the time we returned to our Tundras on Tuesday at around 11:30 am, we tested some awesome new gear, reaffirmed our deep love for some classic gear, and realized what gear a hiker just can’t live without on a backcountry trip into Yellowstone’s teeming wilderness.

Sunlight Sports Presents: Backpacking Essentials
Brought to you by the Sunlight backpackers, Employee Summer Backpacking Trip 2017, Round 1 – Hellroaring Creek, Yellowstone Nat’l Park – June 19-20

The GRAYL Water Filter
“It’s like a French press,” said Zayne Hebbler of Sunlight. “Super light and easy to use.” This sleek device makes filtering water so quick and simple, you’ll have no excuse not to stay hydrated. We used a trio of GRAYLS to filter all our water throughout the trip – so fresh!

Nemo Vector Sleeping Pad
“I loved it!” said Sonya Graves of Sunlight. “It’s so light and easy to blow up with the foot pump. I also loved how quickly it deflated, which made it really easy to fit right back into its stuff sack.” Sonya looked pretty flashy toting her light ‘n bright blue NEMO pad around camp – it was so comfy she used it to double as her camp chair and sleeping pad.  

Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Mat
“This is a good addition to anybody’s backcountry pack,” said Christian Baumeister of Sunlight. “It only takes about 10 breaths and it’s fully inflated. This is a pad that’s super comfortable, insulated, and only weighs about a pound.” None of us could help checking out Christian’s ultrathin Sea to Summit pad with a mixture of awe and envy – legit backpacker status.  

Alpine Start Coffee
“The truth is I hadn’t tried these until recently,” said Sonya. “But once we opened some up, we knew we had to bring them on this trip! They’re so good for instant coffee.” Rich, dark and quick to prepare, a package of this early morning goodness fueled most of the crew – except Fiona, who isn’t (yet!) a coffee drinker – for our steep climb out on Sunday.

Goal Zero Nomad // Garmin Earthmate + In Reach
We used the solar-charging Goal Zero Nomad to power Christian’s phone that ran the Garmin Earthmate app to locate us throughout our hike. Zayne carried the Goal Zero on his pack on our hike in to charge it, and it charged Christian’s phone like a champ. “The functionality of the panel is extremely simple and easy to understand,” said Zayne. “The feature that allows it to be clipped to a backpack while hiking makes charging devices in the backcountry as easy as at home.”

It was sweet to be able to see in real time where our little troupe was in relation to our destination and the whole Park! Using Earthmate. “We like to pair the Garmin EarthMate with the Garmin in Reach, which is an awesome device that we sell a lot of in the store. With the In Reach, if you break your ankle or something in the backcountry, you can text directly with dispatch and share your location real-time within 5 meters anywhere in the world.”

The Helinox Chair One
Helinox has come out with all kinds of sweet variations on their original design, but when it comes to packing a chair into the backcountry, the Chair One still seems to be the ultimate go-to. Proof of this being that six of the seven companions on our trip sat around meals (no fire allowed!) together snug in our variously colored Chair Ones. “I really love the Helinox chairs because they’re so lightweight and super comfortable,” said Fiona Ruesch of Sunlight. The only one who didn’t sit in a Helinox on our trip was Sonya, who opted to use her new Nemo Vector Sleeping Pad to create a camp chair from an older model THERM-A-REST Trekker Chair setup she brought, which made quite a comfy, if just a tad comical looking, seat.

Chacos
Camp sandals are a must, and the toe-less Chacos made a strong showing at Hellroaring site 2H6. “Chacos are just iconic,” said Bruce Larson of Sunlight. “There’s a reason everyone wears them – you can hike in them, and they’re just so comfy.” Pretty much everyone sported the classic Chacos with socks sitting around the jetboils in the evening and morning. Except for Fiona, who unfortunately left her sandals in the truck. A couple of pairs of Tevas also made an appearance, but Chacos still take the win for best camp/river-crossing sandal. Christian took it to the next Chaco level by hiking into and out of camp in just sandals, a true testament to Chacos’  versatility + comfortability.

Jet Boil
We heated virtually all of our water for our myriad of Backpacker’s Pantry and Good-To-Go dehydrated meals with Jet Boils. “They always work so well to get your water boiling,” said Bruce. “You know you can count on them, and they’re easy to deal with.” From Pad Thai (we recommend the Backpacker’s Pantry version! Nice and peanut-buttery!) to Katmandu Curry to Mac ‘N Cheese to Bananas ‘n Granola to our Alpine Coffee, the Jet Boil did not let us down in getting our GRAYL filtered river water boiling fast. Now, if only it could have emitted campfire-like smoke to keep the mosquitos at bay…

NEMO Bungalow 4P

“In our situation, this tent was a lifesaver,” said Christian. “It made it so we were able to still hang out without being devoured by mosquitos. I was pretty stoked on that. It’s a burly tent, but you can split that up between multiple members of your party.” This tent became our haven on Tuesday night as all seven of us escaped into its spacious netting to drink hot chocolate, admire the budding stars, and play a fierce game of BS! FYI, Sunlights employees are mostly really bad liars … this game made for a lot of calling out and even more laughs. Thank goodness Michelle remembered the cards!

Nemo- Hornet 2P Tent
Michelle and Fiona shared this Nemo tent that was made for bringing into the backcountry, weighing in at just over 2 lbs. “It’s super cozy, but definitely still comfortable,” said Michelle Oliva of Sunlight. “It goes up in a cinch – it’s two poles that are interconnected, and they just snap right onto the tent.” With a tent this light, there’s no need to argue about who’s carrying it … just who gets to cuddle with who 😉

Sea-To-Summit Towel
We have Zayne to thank for reminding us that when weather conditions are ideal, and there’s a gorgeous, crystal clear (if a little fast-running!) creek right next to your campsite, there’s really no excuse not to take a dip! Yes, it was ice cold, and yes we got it on video as Zayne, Christian, Sonya and I all took multiple dunks into the frigid rapids. Though the evening sun remained warm and bright when we emerged, we swimmers still lamented not bringing towels to speed up the drying process. Fiona saved the evening when she pulled out her Sea-To-Summit towel from it’s tiny little case in her pack. “It’s really, really light and you can get it so compacted,” said Fiona. This little guy is a soft and loyal companion you will want with you to stay cozy during all your backcountry swimming adventures!

Sawyer Maxi Deet Bug/mosquito spray
Thank you to those of us who did bring bug spray and saved the whole rest of the crew … Sonya, Bruce, Zayne and Christian, I’m talking to you guys. This is our group takeaway regarding bug spray when venturing into the backcountry: BRING MORE. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT: IT’S WORTH THE WEIGHT!!! DON’T LET THE MOSQUITOS HAVE YOU. Sonya had some of the Sawyer Maxi Deet Insect Repellent Sunlight sells in store, and that stuff worked like a dream … we just needed more of it! Mosquitos are worthy opponents, and especially with fires not allowed in the backcountry, you’ll find yourself pretty helpless against their onslaught unless you armor yourself with some serious spray.

Sea-To-Summit Alpha Light Spoon + Fozzils Cup/Bowl/Dish solo pack
These last two “lifesavers” are the most basic, beginner components in the book when it comes to learning the Backpacker’s Way. “Bug spray and a spoon – that’s what you can’t forget,” said Wes Allen of Sunlight, “for the first 45 minutes I’m training someone, I hammer in that they cannot forget a spoon when backpacking.” Well, we learned our lesson well on the bug spray front (hundreds of cumulative bites to prove it!), and I am mortified to say it was I who learned the spoon lesson the hard way. I was that person on the trip who forgot her own spoon and dish. Luckily, my Sunlight peeps had me covered, but seriously … bring your own spoon and dish/cup … you don’t wanna be waiting for your backcountry bites! “The long handle on the Alpha spoon is really nice because it allows you to for sure be able to get to and stir your food without getting it on your hand,” said Wes. “And the Fozzils dish pack is awesome because you can fit all of it in one little ziplock bag for your pack.”

Sunlight Sports crew