An Ode to Quality Gear- Dirtbag Dreams Adventures

Recently, my partner (fellow OPL gear tester Patrick) and I went on a 6-week journey to the Balkans in Eastern Europe. We wanted to do it all: climb, hike, camp, sightsee, learn, explore, and eat delicious food. That meant we needed to bring all types of gear to stay prepared and comfortable.

The catch, though, was that we rented a car smaller than a two-person tent; a car that Patrick could reach out of the back of from sitting in the driver seat. We had to pack smart.

Thankfully we have both been testing badass gear with Outdoor Prolink for the past year and even though the competition was stiff much of this tested gear made the cut for the trip. Hence what prompted my ode to gear: to gear I’m proud to own; to gear that upholds its integrity and value long after many, many uses; to gear that is great.

The Beginning

To start, we needed a pack that was equally at home on the plane as it was at the crag: enter the DMM Flight. We tested this backpack back in August 2016. I’m happy to report the only signs of wear are on the zipper on the bottom of the pack that is in contact with the ground. It was an excellent carry-on bag for our many flights and performed just as usefully as our climbing pack. We like to climb light so one would take the Flight and the other would carry the rope to the crags. It was the perfect bag for an extended multi-country climbing trip.

The Clothes

We knew we were testing our chances with the weather by traveling to Eastern Europe in October. We wanted to make sure we brought along clothes that could handle it all – from fine autumn days to windy wintry ones. Icebreaker really came through for me as I brought along Icebreaker shirts that I had tested and others that I own independently. I wanted shirts that could be equally effective as part of a layering system or as a standalone top. I was not disappointed. Fine-made technical wool clothing is a treasure. It was a huge bonus that Icebreaker makes the Sphere odor resistant for the many stints away from laundry machines.

My other constant favorite was my Outdoor Research Verismo down jacket. I chose this jacket over others because its ultra-light, packable, and is just great all around for everything except deep winter conditions. I’ve worn this jacket enormously over the past year with no defects to date, besides it being dirty. Patrick’s go-to was Bergans of Norway Moa pant. He found himself wearing these most days whether climbing 1200’ of limestone or wandering the gorgeous capitols of the Balkans.

Camp Life

Except for kitchen knives and pans, we brought along all our camping equipment. Because of insane price hikes for extra-heavy bags we had to be incredibly careful with how much we packed and which of our two bags it would all go in. We rightly chose to bring our Mountain Smith Bear Creek 2 tent and our Big Agnes sleeping bags and pads. The tent, sleeping bags, and pads all pack down super small, specifically the sleeping pad. That and their low weight were critical in us not having to sacrifice a pleasant camping experience for airline overcharges. The “summer” only tent did just fine in cold nights as our trip edged closer to November. Big Agnes did a great job with their 15o bags. I still love my sleeping set up no matter what the terrain from the deserts of the southwest US to the Carpathian Mountains of Romania.

To cap off the essential camping list, we brought along Petzls reactik+ headlamp. It performed wonderfully whether we were exploring caves, cooking dinner, or enjoying some late-night reading. Being able to charge it while we drove was super convenient as well.

 The Final Word

We ended up taking almost everything we have tested with OPL to Eastern Europe and loved it all. The gear we have tried has won out over our old favorite down jackets, sleeping pads, and much more. I’m happy to report that it’s gear worth looking in to; it’s gear worth upgrading to, it’s just great gear.

Patrick Betts spends half his year as Head Guide for Front Range Climbing Company in Colorado Springs, Colorado guiding rock climbing across the front range of Colorado and the desert of Utah. The other half of the year he is traveling and climbing all over the world. Patrick is an experienced adventure photographer who enjoys taking photos of people pushing their own limits, and capturing the landscapes of the areas that rock climbing takes you. 

Mollie Bailey started climbing in 2011 in Sand Rock, Alabama. She quickly realized from those wonderful outings that an outdoor life was the one for her. She migrated to Colorado shortly after to pursue the outdoor lifestyle that’s overwhelmingly present in Colorado. She has been a Rock Climbing Guide since 2013; and loves to teach and share the world of climbing with everyone. You can find her on her days off with her two big dogs, chasing sunshine wherever possible, planning the next adventure.

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