Gear review: backpacking products for the very tall

The very tall Tyrone Burke tests out gear that will give him a comfortable sleep on the trail.
  • May 11, 2015
  • 629 words
  • 3 minutes
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On a multi-day hiking trip, excess height is more of vertical challenge than a vertical gift. Getting gear that fits just right and keeping your backpack as light as possible are both crucial to an enjoyable backpacking experience. Both are considerably more difficult to achieve when you’re over six feet tall. Simply wearing larger sized clothing means it’s more challenging to keep your pack weight down, and whether you’re talking about a tent, backpack, sleeping pad or sleeping bag, most gear seems to have been made with a maximum height of six feet in mind. Feet dangle onto rocky ground, shoulders pop loose from sleeping bags into cold air and crouching in your tent is unnecessarily uncomfortable.

So as I geared up to take on the Lycian Way, a 540 km trek along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast that winds along sandy beachs, past ruined ancient Greek cities and along rugged Taurus Mountain ridges, there were a few pieces of gear I threw in my bag for which I’ve developed a special appreciation. Gear that’s ideally suited for taller people will typically weigh in a little heavier – there’s more material required to make it, after all — but when it adds real comfort, it can be well worth the weight.

Mountain Hardwear Hyperlamina Spark Long Sleeping Bag
Sealing body heat inside your sleeping bag is critical to keeping warm at night. For very tall people, this can be challenging; most mummy bags are not as long as they are. If you move at all in your sleep, your head ends up wiggling free of the mummy hood, your shoulders pop out and the previously trapped body heat escapes from the bag. Great for your tent mates, but somewhat less great for you. The Hyperlamina Spark checks in at a very manageable 788 grams, and actually lives up to its 0C rating. At seven feet tall (216 cm), it offers up a comfortable night’s sleep for people up to 6’6”.

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The Klymit Inertia X-Frame sits on a wall dividing terraced pastures traversed by the Lycian Way. (Photo: Tyrone Burke)

Klymit Inertia X-frame Ultralight air mattress
What you sleep on at night is one of the most important decisions you’ll make on any camping trip, and also one of the most difficult. The most comfortable options are often the least portable, and many options can leave your feet dangling uncomfortably over the end. Klymit’s Inertia X-frame is an ultra light, ultra thin sleeping pad that balls up into a stuff sack smaller than your fist. At 72” (180 cm), it doesn’t add significant length over other sleeping pads, but by providing comfort at such a thin size, it limits the discomfort of the foot dangle and allows easier use of a pillow at the top end.

Mountain Hardwear Optic 2.5 tent
For most, the primary selling point of the optic series tents will be its dual vestibule, dual window design that lets you open up your tent and really take in the view. For those among us who find that a two-person tent doesn’t really fit two people, the Optic 2.5 is a pleasant surprise. The added length and width affords space for two large people and some gear. For the very tall, the Optic 2.5’s added height is an even greater asset. The extra square footage also means high ceilings that let you move around inside without having to crouch, and a space that’s much easier to change in.

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The Optic 2.5 tent shines when you drop it into grand vistas. Even with the fly on, it’s easy to survey the panorama. (Photo: Tyrone Burke)

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