Your choice of gear can make or break a hiking trip. Your gear is what will keep you warm, dry, comfortable, hydrated, and fed. It is important to carefully consider each piece of gear you choose to bring with you into the wilderness. Here, I will list and briefly review each of the major pieces of gear I take with me on overnight hiking trips! Keep in mind, hiking gear is a very personal matter, so what works for me may not work for you. Lots of research and trial and error will go in to creating your own perfect gear list.
Backpack – Gossamer Gear Mariposa
I love my Mariposa!! It has a 60L capacity, lots of handy pockets and compartments, a removable internal frame, and a removable back pad that doubles as a sit pad!
Pros: Extremely comfortable (I can forget I’m wearing it most of the time), holds all my stuff nicely, very light.
Cons: It is built to carry a maximum of 35 lbs, so you need to commit to being lightweight in order to use this pack.
Shelter – Tarptent Protrail
This is a great little one-man, single-walled tent, which uses your trekking poles as tent poles for a nice reduction in weight.
Pros: One of the more reasonably priced lightweight shelters on the market, easy to set up (it takes less than 5 minutes!), and it seems to stand up to the elements pretty well (I slept in mine during a full night of steady rain and everything was dry as a bone in the morning). It’s super light, and it’s big enough to hold me and all my gear.
Cons: Since the tent is not free-standing, it needs to be staked out in order to stand. This means that if you’re camping in an area where it will be hard to keep stakes in the ground (rocks, snow, sand, etc.), you’ll need to go to a bit of extra effort to pitch this tent (or just cowboy camp). I find it’s roomy enough for me, but some people may prefer something a bit larger.
L: EE Revelation, R: Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Spark
I always intended for the EE Revelation to be my main sleeping bag, but the wait time for shipping meant that it wouldn’t make it in time for last summer’s trips, so I ordered the Mountain Hardwear Spark as a backup. The Revelation is down, while the Spark is synthetic, and the Revelation also has a warmer rating (10 degrees F vs 30 degrees F).
Pros (Revelation): Super light, very warm and comfortable. The Revelation is a quilt, which makes it super versatile. You can open it up fully like a quilt for a bed, or you can zip up and cinch in the toe box and strap the edges down to make it into more of a traditional sleeping bag. As a side/stomach sleeper and someone who tosses and turns a lot, this is great! This quilt allows much more freedom of movement than a traditional mummy bag. It’s also very reasonably priced.
Cons (Revelation): There’s no hood, which could be problematic on chilly nights. Too much tossing and turning could also let in drafts. I got the wide size to try to negate this issue. I haven’t actually slept out in this quilt yet (I’ve only tested it out in a living room campout sesh), so I’ll have to report back later on whether this actually becomes a problem. Lastly, you need to be careful to not get this bag wet, as moisture will render the down filling useless.
Pros (Spark): It’s inexpensive (thanks to the synthetic filling), and is one of the lighter options out there for synthetic mummy bags. It’s a full hooded mummy bag, which is nice for snuggling down on cooler nights. It’s comfy, and pretty warm.
Cons (Spark): The mummy style of the bag is somewhat claustrophobia-inducing, especially on warmer nights. The temperature rating isn’t warm enough for reliable use during the shoulder season.
Sleeping pad – Thermarest Neoair Xlite
Pros: Super comfortable!! It’s like going to sleep in your own 5-star wilderness hotel every night.
Cons: Blowing it up every night can get a bit annoying. It’s also a bit crinkly when you move around on it, but I’m a lot less bothered by this than some other people seem to be. Since it’s an inflatable pad, there’s a risk of getting a hole, but these can usually be repaired pretty easily.
Hiking poles – Fizan Compact
Pros: I love these poles! They’re super durable – I’ve put them through a lot on my hikes, and they came through just fine. They make hiking on rough terrain so much easier. They also do a great job of holding up my tent.
Cons: I’ve had a few instances where the twist lock got stuck, and I had to put a lot of effort into adjusting the pole height.
Hiking shoes – Salomon Ellipse GTX
I’ve had these shoes for about a year now, and have used them for almost every hike I’ve done in that time period. However, I will not be using these shoes on my PCT thru-hike, as I’m planning on retiring them in favour of some trail runners.
Pros: Comfortable, sturdy, waterproof.
Cons: Gave me some pretty nasty blisters on my heels. They’re also a bit stiff for my liking, which is why I’m looking forward to trying out some trail runners instead. The waterproof feature is great, until the shoes eventually do get wet, and then it causes them to take forever to dry (pruney feet = no bueno!).
Water filter – Sawyer Mini
Pros: Super easy to use, makes water safe to drink.
Cons: Takes a long time to make water safe to drink. The O-ring on mine fell out during its second use, and it’s been leaky ever since (which means that unfiltered water tends to drip into the bottle that’s holding the clean, filtered water). I’ve heard of a lot of other people also having this problem with the Mini, so it seems to be a common issue. Verdict: Go for the full-size Squeeze instead, which has a much faster flow rate.
Water containers – Platypus Platy Bottles + Plastic water bottle
This is the 1L bladder, but I plan to carry a couple 2L bladders for my thru-hike.
I use Platypus water bladders to carry all of the water I collect, and a plastic bottle (just something like a Gatorade or Smart Water bottle) to actually drink out of.
Pros: Bladders allow me to carry as much water as I need, and I’ve never had any issues with leaking. Carrying a plastic water bottle that will only ever hold clean, filtered water is a good idea, and it’s good for mixing powdered drinks into (Gatorade, Crystal Light, etc.).
I used my Primus gas burner on all my overnight trips, but I recently replaced it with the MSR Pocket Rocket. I have yet to use the Pocket Rocket, so I’ll have to report back later on that one.
Pros: Small, light, boils water quickly.
Cons: Uses canister fuel, which is a bit bulky and heavy to carry.
Spoon – Optimus Titanium Long Spoon
Pros: Gets food from the pot to my mouth. The long handle is great for getting down to the last bite.
Cons: None. This baby is my best friend.
Food bag – Z Packs Bear Bagging Kit
Comes with a food bag, 50 feet of cord, a rock sack, and a carabiner.
Pros: Durable material, and super easy to use if you actually have to hang it. Trust me, I spent years performing bear hangs by throwing some bulky rope into the trees and hoping for the best (my dad once wanted to tie my mom’s shoe to the rope to make it easier to throw, but there was no way she was letting her shoe get stuck up in a tree). The cord is super slick and slides over branches with ease, and the rock sack is a blessing (no need to stick your shoe up a tree!).
Cons: I’ve only used it to hold about 4 days worth of food so far, and I’m not sure it’ll be big enough to hold all of my food for a long food carry during a thru-hike.
External battery – AuKey Portable External Battery 20000 mAh
Pros: Keeps my phone charged for several days. I’ve used it for four so far, but it still had plenty of juice left at the end of that trip and could probably last a full week.
Cons: Heavy as hell. I could lose a full pound off my pack weight without this thing. The size of it is probably overkill, you could make do with a somewhat smaller/lighter one.
Headlamp – Petzl Tikka
Pros: Lets me see in the dark. It has two brightness settings, and it glows in the dark so you can actually find it at night.
Cons: You have to carry batteries. A headlamp with USB-charging capability would be better. I also wish it had a red light setting (edit: apparently the updated version does have a red light setting!).
Knife – Victorinox Classic SD
Pros: It’s tiny, light, and has all the tools you might actually need.
Cons: It’s so small, it could be very easy to lose.
Down jacket – Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
It’s good for all kinds of activities!
Pros: Shockingly light, but keeps you super warm.
Cons: Freaking expensive. And it literally feels like a piece of tissue paper that’s ready to rip at any second. This always makes me feel nervous, but so far it’s held up super well to everything I’ve put it through (which includes hauling and throwing logs at a Timbersports practice). I wish I had the version with a hood, but I got it on sale from the REI Outlet, and they only had the non-hooded version.
Rain jacket – Outdoor Research Helium II
I went running in the run and I’m still (kind of) dry!
Pros: Keeps you dry in light to moderate rain, and it doubles as a great wind breaker. It’s insanely light, and compresses down into a tiny built-in pocket.
Cons: Outdoor Research describes this jacket as being made of “super-breathable” material, which is pretty laughable. If you’re not wet from the rain, you’ll soon be soaked in your own sweat anyway. As with pretty much any rain jacket, it can’t hold out forever, and you will eventually get wet in a steady or super heavy rain (but you probably won’t notice, because you’ll already be soaked in your own sweat!). Also, there are no side pockets, which is kind of annoying but not a huge deal if you’re wearing a pack with hip belt pockets.
I use these merino wool base layers as sleep clothes. It’s important to me to have something clean and dry to change into at the end of the day.
Pros: Sooo comfy and warm! Changing into these at the end of a long day of hiking is heavenly. In an extreme case, they could also be used as base layers while hiking to keep warm.
Cons: Expensive. But to me, worth it.
Pack liner – Large trash bags
Pros: Practically free, keeps my stuff dry.
Cons: A little fiddly to get them to properly line my pack. And they can rip pretty easily.
For this summer’s trips, I wore a long-sleeve or short-sleeve tech shirt, with convertible hiking pants. This was fine, but the pants were not my favourite. The waist was too loose, but the zippers were too tight on my thighs. They also chafed a bit and got super uncomfortable when wet. For my thru-hike, I am switching to running shorts for my every day bottoms, and carrying warm running tights for when I need full-length coverage. The rest of my uniform consists of my hiking shoes, socks (Darn Toughs), sports bra, sun glasses, and ball cap.
Just a Ziploc bag with the basics. Small toothbrush, travel-sized toothpaste, floss (+ sewing needle), chapstick, travel-sized hand sanitizer, body glide, small sunscreen and insect repellent. Don’t bring deodorant, it won’t be able to cut through the hiker-stench.
First aid kit
I carry an Adventure Medical Kit that contains cloth medical tape, band-aids, antiseptic towelettes, sterile sponges, afterbite, moleskin, and safety pins. For my thru-hike, I’ll probably put together a DIY kit of band-aids, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen, safety pins, and a few different types of tape (wrapped around my hiking poles!).