Sunday, April 29, 2012

Backpack Review: Kelty Lakota 65

Weekend camping trips are my thing. Sometimes though I would like the flexibility of extending my trip a day or two. I need a backpack that would serve both purposes. I need a backpack that is well constructed, well priced, and larger framed. The Kelty Lakota 65 fits the bill. Kelty is a brand that is usually my go to for camping gear. My favorite backpacking tent that saw me through sand and dust storms in West Africa was the Kelty Tao 2 (I wore that tent out!). I researched several other brands and did find some that I thought were really well made, but the price just wasn't right for me. I initially tried out the Kelty Coyote 80 and really liked it. After some thought, I felt it was a little too big for what I needed. The comparable but smaller style pack but is the Kelty Lakota 65. After some price searching, I found a heck of a deal (more on the buying experience later). 

Back and Suspension
Close Up of Suspension and Air Channels

The Lakota lists at 65L, but the m/l size comes in around 67L/4000 It weighs approx. 4lb 1oz. The pack is made out of rugged polyester. I recently went on a weekend trip with this pack to Enchanted Rock State Park in Texas and encountered some rough brush and rock. No snags or tears. I have no concerns whatsoever about the durability of this pack. The back panel is constructed so that air is channeled across your back. It won't lay flat on your back and absorb sweat. I felt that I had good air flow across the back. I didn't get that sopping wet feeling that you get with some older packs. I have a long torso so I bought the m/l size (17.5-21in). The suspension for the Lakota 65 is fixed, therefore it is not adjustable. Even with the fixed suspension, the load felt comfortable and the pack transferred the weight to my hips. I carried about 35 lb. of gear with no problems.

Front Panel Entry
Top Entry

Bottom Entry

The pack has three points of entry pictured above. The bottom entry has a panel of fabric that will attach/detach from the pack to create a separate compartment for your sleeping bag. Besides the lid, the Lakota 65 has only one other storage compartment: a pocket attached to the front panel of the backpack (see below).

Front Panel Pocket

Without going into too much detail, I was able to pack enough for a very comfortable weekend hiking/camping trip. If I needed something in the bottom of my pack, I just unzipped the bottom. If I needed something in the middle of my pack (ie. fuel canister or first aid kit) I just unzipped the the front panel. I had my rain jacket and pants at the top of the pack. Our crew did encounter rain on the second day, and I will say it was fairly easy to get to my rain gear at the top of my pack with no problems. The lid is fairly roomy and easily held my essentials (map and compass, sunscreen, snacks, iphone, paperback, leatherman) with ample room to spare. 

Mesh Pockets

The only complaint I have about this pack is the depth of the mesh pockets on the sides of the pack. I don't feel they are deep enough. When the pack is full it is difficult for the pockets to retain a water bottle. The contents on the inside of the pack will squeeze the bottom of the water bottle from the bottom of the pocket and will eventually work itself out of the pocket. If the pockets were just a little deeper, it would allow for your container to stay put inside of the pocket. One of my skinnier water bottles did stay put, but my Nalgene bottle did squeeze out a couple of times. 

I purchased the Kelty Lakota 65 for $113 from Austin Canoe and Kayak located in Austin, TX. ACK has a really great website with very competitive prices. Kelty lists ACK as a trusted retailer. Because I live a stone's throw from Austin, I decided to walk into their store to see what they have. While they dont have a huge selection of their camping/hiking gear in store, I was able to tell them what I wanted from their website. Their online warehouse is located right around the corner from their store. I paid for my pack at the shop and drove to their warehouse where my pack was waiting for me. I got the online price without the hassle of shipping. Their customer service was great. I am certain that if I'm ever in the market for a kayak, I will be seeing these guys for any of my needs. 

The Kelty Lakota 65 is a smart choice for a moderately sized backpack. Its rugged, fits great, and priced just right. Overall the pack is awesome and the buying experience with Austin Canoe and Kayak put this backpack over the top. The Kelty Lakota 65 is Thrifty Gear Recommended.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review: The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide: Tools & Techniques to Hit the Trail by Andrew Skurka

Have you ever been in REI looking at sleeping bags, clothing, boots, and shelters and found yourself overwhelmed with the different materials and options? What is the difference between this polyester shirt and this nylon shirt? Should I go synthetic or down on this sleeping bag? How accurate is this temperature rating? It can get overwhelming fast especially if you aren't an impulse shopper and want to make a really informed decision on your purchase.

National Geographic has just recently published a book entitled The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide: Tools & Techniques to Hit the Trail. Andrew Skurka is the author. If you are unfamiliar with this dude then let me introduce: Adventurer of the Year by Outside and National Geographic Adventure magazines; Person of the Year by Backpacker magazine; over 30,000 miles of trekking. Needless to say, the honors speak for themselves and his knowledge of current techniques, gear, and materials are invaluable. He has tried to condense this knowledge into the Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide.

This book is very informative and easy to read. It has great pictures and an awesome index for referencing. Topics include: clothing, footwear, sleeping bags and pads, shelters, navigation, trekking poles, food, cooking systems, water systems, packing, and small essentials. Skurka provides excellent comparisons of the different materials that comprise today's hiking and camping gear. These comparisons help provide making a better informed decision on what to purchase and the correct purpose to apply you acquisitions. What I found really helpful are the Tried and True sections of the book that include topics on foot care, packing, and finding the right camping spot. Skurka also details his choices in the various topics covered. These are called Skurka's picks. There is also a comparison chart at the end of the book providing packing essentials for the different terrains and climates of the USA and what to pack for those differences.

Overall this is an excellent guide and one that will last for a while. You can pick this book up at for $19.99 and any books purchased from the author's website will be signed by Andrew Skurka. If you want to go a cheaper route, you can get it from for $13.01 with no signature. You can follow Andrew Skurka on Twitter @andrewskurka or suscribe to his YouTube channel: