Sea To Summit - Spark SP1 (First Impressions)

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Sea To Summit - Spark SP1 (First Impressions)

Sea To Summit Spark SP1 - Hammock Style

Sea To Summit Spark SP1 - Hammock Style

I recently picked up Sea To Summit's Spark SP1 sleeping bag. The bag was first unveiled at the 2013 Outdoor Retailer Show in August. The Spark SP1 is an ultralight (12.3oz) and incredibly compactable summer sleeping bag (comfort rating of 54°, lower limit of 46°, extreme of 23°) that compresses down to the size of a grapefruit. Literally. It is that small. So small that Sea To Summit had to redesign their compression stuff sack to cinch down that much.

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Everything about this bag is beautiful. The white water-resistant shell. The soft, downproof gold lining. The black and gold typography is crisp and contrasts beautifully against the white shell. The bag seems to glow, like a ghost. It perfectly matches Mountain Hardwear's Ghost Whisperer ultralight windbreaker.

MHW Ghost Whisperer Jacket + Sea To Summit Spark SP1 = Ultralight Bliss

MHW Ghost Whisperer Jacket + Sea To Summit Spark SP1 = Ultralight Bliss

The Spark SP1 uses 850+ Goose Down treated with moisture repellent Ultra-Dry Down and has one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios of any sleeping bag available on the market. I was eager to try it out, so to do so I took it out on the Gabrielino Trail, a 28 mile trail that begins at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and ends at Chantry Flats just east of Altadena. I figured that if I slept below 5,000' temperatures would be manageable for this bag. Knowing that it would be a low of 34° I utilized the Ultralight backpacking technique of sleeping in all of my layers, including a down jacket, socks, gloves, and hat. I wrapped a mylar blanket around my legs before tucking them into the bag. 

This adventure was more of an ultralight gear test than a test of the bag's ability to keep me warm, as I knew going in that the night temperatures would be near freezing. That being said, I was amazed at how small this bag compresses to, and even more so how that translates to packing. It literally takes up the same amount of room in my pack as a 1L solo pot. Less bulk means smaller, easier-to-pack pack, which means less weight. All good things. And it's the most beautiful bag I've ever seen.

Once I have a chance to test this bag in warmer weather, I'll create a more in-depth review. 

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Eureka! Alpenlite XT

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Eureka! Alpenlite XT

Moonrise over Upper Boy Scout Lake, 11,300'. Mt. Whitney.

Moonrise over Upper Boy Scout Lake, 11,300'. Mt. Whitney.

The Eureka Alpenlite XT is a bombproof, two-person, four season tent designed to handle extreme weather conditions. Like all of Eureka’s tents, the Alpenlite XT is of great quality and offers a lot of value with its competitive price.

I’ve been using the Alpenlite XT for snow camping throughout this winter season, with trips on Southern California’s San Gorgonio, throughout Yosemite, and on Mt. Whitney. 

Dig a snow pit, before the winds come.

Dig a snow pit, before the winds come.

Set up of the tent is relatively straightforward. There are two pairs of aluminum poles for the front and rear, a pole to span between the front and the rear, and a longer pole with a bend in the center to provide support for the tent’s center. The rain fly clips into the tent body at the corners, and has additional anchor points for the middle, front, and rear.

The tent’s interior is cozy, but not cramped when used by two people. There is plenty of room for not only two lofty, zero-degree sleeping bags, but for additional gear as well. There are six interior mesh pockets: one rectangular pocket hanging on each side, and two triangular-shaped pockets on each side as well. The pockets are small, but numerous, and well-placed for storing night-time essentials.

Lofty, 0-degree bags, check!

Lofty, 0-degree bags, check!

The vestibule is large enough for storing two pairs of mountaineering boots. There is room for a bag as well, but the space would be completely full in that case.

Nearly every surface of the Alpenlite XT can be vented, including the ceiling, front door, rear panel, and lower panels on each side. There is also a scoop vent in the vestibule. Using these vents to their fullest potential is necessary when sleeping in below-freezing conditions, otherwise condensation from breathing will collect on the interior sides and ceiling of the tent, freeze, and fall down onto your sleeping bag and gear. That being said, when I used all of the vents, I did not have any issues with condensation.

If planning to do any snow camping with the Alpenlite, I would upgrade the included stakes to snow stakes in order to get maximum staying power. 

The sun is setting over camp at Upper Boy Scout Lake.

The sun is setting over camp at Upper Boy Scout Lake.

A true test of the Alpenlite’s strength came during a windstorm on Mt. Whitney, while camped at Upper Boy Scout lake – at about 11,300’. Forecasted gusts of 30+mph winds were actually 60+ mph gusts. These gusts were strong enough to knock our mountain guide off his feet! The Alpenlite held up wonderfully, staked in with snow stakes. The rest of our team was not so lucky with their tents. 

Excited after summiting Whitney and returning to camp!

Excited after summiting Whitney and returning to camp!

At just under 8.5 pounds including snow-stakes, the Alpenlite isn’t quite as light as the comparable Mountain Hardware EV2, but at half the price, it offers similar performance for a much better value. The added weight can be negated by splitting the load if travelling with a tent mate. Once I figured out the ventilation system, I was very impressed with the Alpenlite, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a four season shelter.

Eureka! Alpenlite XT - $350

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Boreas Lost Coast 60L

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Boreas Lost Coast 60L

The Boreas Lost Coast 60 is a lightweight, midsized backcountry pack. The Lost Coast features Boreas’s unique eVa z-foam backpanel and suspension system, which pumps air behind your back as you walk, providing excellent ventilation. It has a removable frame sheet allowing you to trade stiffness for weight savings. The pack has a removable top-lid with two main pockets, as well as a large mesh pocket on the bottom. In addition to the main compartment, the Lost Coast features a full-face front stretch-fabric pocket, two stretch-fabric side pockets, and two generously sized hip belt pockets. It features dual daisy chains and gear loops that tuck away when not in use, as well as hidden gear loops on the shoulder straps. The pack is hydration compatible and has left and right tube exits. It also includes a rain cover.

The first things one can’t help but notice about this pack are it’s bright colors (Marina Blue shown) and clean lines. Silicone stripes line the sides and front, adding reinforcement and subtle design cues. Each compression strap, seam, and pocket carefully aligns with these stripes. The front stretch pocket is hidden, and the daisy chains and gear loops all tuck away, creating an extremely clean, slim, and aesthetically pleasing look. These clean geometric lines are accented by other geometric patterns that are visible in the shoulder strap foam, top lid, and hip belt pouches. All of these design cues work together to create a very minimalist and modern design

The suspension system is very effective and I had no problems carrying 40 pounds up and down Mount San Gorgonio. The main compartment utilizes a stretchy nylon, and the interior is cavernous. The hip belt pockets are massive as well, and the zippers run all the way across. I had no problems cramming four Cliff Bars in each one for easy access. They are easy to open and close with one hand. The side pockets feature vertical openings as well as horizontal ones, making water bottles easily accessible while on the go. The top shoulder adjustment straps utilize loops making them easy to locate and pull.

“The Boreas Lost Coast has everything you need and nothing you don’t.”

My main complaint with the pack was the lack of gear straps on the bottom where a sleeping mat would normally be attached. I was able to fit my mat under the side compression straps, but that negated the use of one side pocket. 

The Boreas Lost Coast has everything you need and nothing you don’t. The suspension system makes the pack very comfortable and breathable. The pockets are well placed; yet blend into the overall aesthetic of the pack. The pack design is clean, geometric, and modern. It’s one of the best looking packs I’ve seen; however form follows function. The Lost Coast has both.

4.5/5

Boreas Gear

60L - $209

45L - $189

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