Every year I log hundreds of miles on the trail. Through those miles, some gear rises to the top that I end up absolutely loving. Here are a few of them…
There are a lot of sites/bloggers out there who do extensive reviews of products. They’ll list the “Top 10 day packs” and review them, looking at pockets, zippers, durability of materials, comfort, etc. I’ve dabbled in some reviews myself, but that’s not really my deal. I’ve also done a bit of sponsorships, but find that I’m more interested in using the best gear for me instead of being locked into something where someone is paying me (and I wear their great jacket and terrible pants).
Below is a list of what I’ve been using and what I love about it. I do hope to get some video blogs out about these products, but you may be in the market now, so I figured this would be helpful sooner rather than later. All of the gear I purchased myself with the exception of the MindShift camera bag. They sent that bag to me after I asked if they had a pro discount. As far as compensation, see my note below about affiliate linking.
Osprey Stratos 24 – Seriously, Osprey has been getting better and better at making backpacks. As soon as I tried the Stratos on, I knew that I had a replacement for my old Osprey that was gradually falling apart. It’s super comfortable, keeps everything close to my body, great suspension (especially to handle my camera), and swallows up everything I need from a short day to a long 29-mile day. Also includes a stowaway rain cover. Packs are a personal deal though so I would recommend trying them on from a great local shop… then buy it from them for their help, expertise and convenience!
Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket – I don’t spend much time hiking in a rain jacket.. in fact, I hate it. When I need one, however, I love it. This jacket is no frills and super lightweight, meaning that I always carry it with me which is what you should always do too! There are no side pockets or vents. It is a feather-light, full-zip, waterproof jacket with a Napoleon pocket, and a hood. That’s it.
Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter – Like a rain jacket, hat and gloves, I always carry along a water filter. There are bigger filters that have better flow rates, but much heavier (I’m looking at you Katadyn and MSR). I’ve also tried the UV light based ones, but they too are usually heavier, can only filter a liter at a time, can break/run out of batteries, and work best with a bottle. I love the lightness and simplicity of this filter for how I hike. It’s always with me and works great with any sort of bottle/bladder or you can drink directly from the bag. Also, spring for an extra bag as they can leak over time after many folding/unfolding episodes. The only downside is that getting water into the bag can be a bit tricky, so having something to scoop in the event of seeping water is helpful. Honorable mention to the Sawyer Mini as well which is lighter/smaller, but a bit slower and a shorter life.
Garmin InReach Explorer+ – Garmin bought out DeLorme, brought over a sweet product, and made it even better. I used to carry a Garmin GPS for tracking my hikes/seeing where I was, and a Spot Connect to let Kristen know where I was and in case of emergencies. I can tell you more about the Spot’s limitations, but the long and short was that you really didn’t know if a message was sent… and I was carrying two devices. The InReach Explorer+ comes chock full of topo maps and excellent GPS tracking. It also sends out my location at intervals and allows me to send two-way texts. I know if my messages are received and can receive replies. It’s got a long lasting rechargeable lithium battery inside. The screen is a bit smaller than my old Garmin 60Csx, but it’s brighter and has more features. Note that you need a subscription for the emergency features.
Panasonic Lumix FZ2500 – This is the follow up to my Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 that I still have as a backup camera (original blog here). Both of these cameras are excellent for hiking/backpacking/climbing. The lens isn’t removable (it’s not a DSLR), but it’s got a great range allowing for good wide-angle to good zoom (24-480mm) on a surprisingly larger 1″ sensor. It also only weighs 2lbs 4oz and shoots excellent 4K video. There are cameras that do better wide angle, better zoom, weigh less, better at low light, etc, but they don’t win as a complete package. The FZ1000 goes for $700 while the updated FZ2500 goes for $1000. If you like shooting great photos and video in the backcountry, but don’t want to haul around expensive, heavy camera equipment, this will do nicely.
MindShift Multi-Mount Holster 10 (Amazon) – For my Hike 734 project in 2011, I found a camera bag by ThinkTank Photo to haul around my Canon 7D and a few lenses. Since then, they’ve spun off a smaller, outdoor-focused company called MindShift. They started out with a backpack that was a good idea, but not super great in implementation. I saw that they updated their camera bag featuring quick-release buckles and a few other great additions. I reached out to them to see if I could get my hands on it. They sent me the Multi-Mount Holster 10 and it is a dream for carrying my Panasonic. Protects your camera from the elements, multiple ways to attach to your pack/body, and has a built in rain fly. They have other sizes for other cameras as well.
Anyway, that’s some of my favorite gear. Comment below and let me know what other gear you are curious about that I use and some of your gear that you can’t live without!
*Note that I’m a huge fan of supporting your local outdoor store. Buy from them first…. especially if you try stuff on and ask them questions. It costs them money to have staff/lights on/gear in stock. If you prefer shopping online and click on the links for the products I’ve recommended, I do get a small commission from them. Unlike sponsorships where the company pays me to be an ambassador, I get a small commission from Amazon or MindShift if you buy something. Basically, my reviews aren’t affected by them paying me to love their products and I’ll change gear to something better if I find it. 😀