After covering the big items I use in separate reviews I won’t list them here, but there countless other things I use on every trip that I wouldn’t be without. I have my gear dialed in pretty well after several years and my gear choices don’t change from trip to trip, except for my choice of quilt depending on the trip’s predicted temperatures (10* EE Convert OR 30* EE Revelation).
So this is a list of the rest of the gear I use, why I chose it, why I like it and any pros or cons I have found.
Columbia Omni-Shield Down Puffy Jacket: I mostly chose this puffy as I found it on sale and it fit well. The silver dots (the omni-shield) compliments the down and helps to reflect the heat back towards the body. It is light-weight and moderately warm but does leak feathers. The sleeves have a synthetic lycra cuff vs elastic in the ends of the sleeves themselves and I really like that aspect. Overall this jacket has only been good into the 50s, for a skinny girl like me, with a t-shirt and my fleece base-layer.
LL Bean Ultralight 850 Down Jacket with hood in Mulberry: With my Columbia jacket only being good down into the 50s I was in the market for something warmer but still light that could take me into the 30s or at a pinch, high 20s for early alpine mornings and cold evenings. With a little research I decided on the LL Bean Ultralight as being the best puffy for my needs. I had looked at the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer but it was more comparable to my Columbia jacket in weight and warmth. After a couple of trips with this jacket it held up to the reviews and has been extremely warm and comfortable. The fit is perfect and I love the mulberry color. Don’t be afraid to look outside the standard down-gear providers to find a product that works for you. I have found no negatives with this puffy except that being warmer it is heavier.
Salomon Speedcross 3 or 4 Trail Runners: After one day hike in LE duty boots I was convinced to move to trail runners. My first choice had been the Salomon XD trail runners but they slipped in the heel and I ended up with tendinitis in my left Achilles tendon. I replaced the XDs with the Speedcross 3s, and then this year with a pair of the 4s. What I like about these trail runners is the superior grip of the lugs on the soles, although they don’t walk very well on pavement. I really like the speed lacing and find that the kevlar laces stay secure and don’t slip. Others may not like the brighter colors of the Speedcross but my hiking clothes tend to be bright and vivid for safety reasons but they do come in more muted colors for those who prefer. The updated model 4 has better designed lugs and uses a slightly tougher, stiffer rubber for the outsole. They are a narrow shoe which works great for me as I have narrow feet but won’t be comfortable for those with wider feet. They run small; I usually wear a 6 1/2 -7 but wear a 7 1/2 in these.
Dirty Girl Gaiters: For those not familiar with Dirty Girl Gaiters they are a light-weight lycra gaiter used to keep debris out of trail runners. They are not water proof. I chose DG gaiters after reading many, many recommendations and sung praises from people who use them. They come in dozens of patterns to choose from to suit any taste and several sizes to fit the smallest to largest feet. I have found them easy to keep clean and they have been great to keep the debris out of my shoes…when I have gone without them I have definitely noticed a difference and have had to stop repeatedly to empty out rocks and sticks and leaves. No cons; I am still on the first pair I bought 3 years ago.
Darn Tough Socks: Made in Vermont, USA and come in a variety of shoe sizes, not just “Fits Size 4-12”. Because of the more exact sizing they don’t bunch and fit perfectly which means less or no blisters. They are extremely comfortable and durable and come with Darn Tough’s Lifetime Warranty.
Ibex Women’s Bikini Brief: Made of wool so wick moisture and wool has some antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that limit the stink. Comfortable and fit like my regular everyday Hanes cotton underwear. I have no issues with riding up while hiking. The two issues with these are the cost and the sizing; they are very pricey so I reserve them only for backpacking, and they are sized extremely small. I wear a small (5) in Hanes but in these I have to wear a Large which makes no sense.
Other Hiking Clothes: Cheap Walmart fleece base layers for top and bottom. Cheap Danksin capri leggings from Walmart…I have fallen and put holes in the knees a few times so don’t like to spend too much money on them. Cheap Danskin sports bra from Walmart. Cheap Danskin fleece sweat shirt from Walmart. Walmart gloves and beanie. Buff-brand neck wrap.
Black Diamond Ergo Cork Hiking Poles: I started out hiking with Cascade Mountain Tech hiking poles which were a good, inexpensive pair of poles that I went with because of this review done by Andrew Skurka. However I decided to upgrade to the BD Ergo Cork poles in 2018 and have found them to be a good pole. They are aluminum vs carbon fiber which means that carrying them is a little chillier on the hands when not using them for actual hiking. I like the ergonomic design of the hand grips at a slight angle and they feel comfortable in my very small hands. The angle didn’t seem to be a problem for putting up my Duplex. The wrist straps were also soft and comfortable but I did find that they slipped more than they should and became loose so I was often re-tightening them.
Two things I don’t like about these poles: 1) The paint: Being aluminum they are painted/powder coated which will chip and scratch easily and being that they are black it shows very quickly. Also, if the poles are not dried properly you will lose the the length markings as if they are being dissolved by the water. I learned this the hard way and was informed by another hiker about the reason to keep the poles dry. 2) The adjustment mechanism: It is a screw and not a nut you can tighten with your hand fingers like on the Cascade Mountain Tech poles which means that if you need to tighten them up you need to carry something to do it with. Thankfully my cat hole trowel and my Ti spoon can both do the job just fine. The adjustment is also tricky as too tight and you won’t be able to close the flick lock (especially with cold fingers), and even a little too loose and the poles will collapse (it happened to me). I did not have this problem with the Cascade Mountain Tech poles.
Snow Peak Ti 900ml Pot: Fits a 220ml canister and half of a quick dry Sea to Summit small towel. I did not like the frying pan lid and now use the lid from my heavier Solo Stove. Fits inside homemade reflectix pot cozy. I wish the handles were a little longer as they get very hot when heating anything.
Snow Peak Giga and mini Bic lighter: Along with my Ti spoon the Snow Peak Giga is the only piece of original gear I have and I use it often. It is simple, packs small and unlike most other backpacking stoves it has four arms to hold the pot vs three which makes it more stable when heating. A mini Bic lighter fits perfectly in the plastic case with it so I don’t lose it and is pretty much infallible for a lighter.
Ti Long-handled Spoon: One of the few pieces of original backpacking gear I was given that first got me interested in this hobby. I still love it and find the long-handled, medium head invaluable to any trip. One of the best pieces of gear I have been given.
Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter and Evernew 2L Soft Bottle: The Sawyer Squeeze is fast, reliable and convenient. I purchased the couplers so it can be attached directly to a Smart Water bottle to make it even easier. It can’t be allowed to freeze so if low temperatures are expected it should be kept in your sleeping bag with you (in a Ziploc of course). The bags it comes with don’t last and are pretty useless (I blew one by back-flushing) which is why I bought the Evernew bag which last better but certainly aren’t perfect. The first Evernew I had developed a leak at the neck due to user error (not holding the neck while tightening the filter or the cap) and the second developed a small hole in the bottom of the bottle due to material fatigue. I still think they are worth the money and are far better than other choices. The cap is not leak-proof so I replaced it with a Smart Water bottle cap.
QiWiz Big Dig Shovel: Small, light, does a great job of digging cat holes. Doesn’t bend or break under pressure. Cuts through roots very well. The handle is a little sharp on the hands if much pressure is needed to dig a hole. You can find them here: QiWiz
MSR Groundhog Mini tent stakes: Light, solid and grip well. I prefer these over the longer stakes as you are less likely to run into buried rocks with a shorter stake. Even when I have hit rocks and put all my weight on the stake it has not bent or broken. They have remained in the ground and kept guylines tight even in high winds and unexpected crazy wind gusts during thunderstorms. In boggier or softer ground (such as the Scottish Highlands) I would choose to carry and use the longer full-length MSR Groundhog stakes but the Minis do great for most alpine and rocky conditions.
Thermarest Compressible Pillow: Doesn’t compress anywhere as small as a down pillow but has much more support. Doesn’t squeeze or crinkle like an air pillow. Generally comfortable if a little too supportive at times but wouldn’t trade for the world when it comes down to being comfortable to sleep and getting a good night of rest.
Other Gear: Trash compactor bag for pack liner, mini GorillaPod tripod, Sony DSC HX80 camera, minimal FA kit (band aids, ibuprofen, Imodium, alcohol wipes, tent repair kit, extra Bic lighter, chapstick and knowledge), TP and 1/2oz liquid soap or sanitizer, lightweight folding knife.
Separate review of the DeLorme InReach coming soon. (Older model)