There are many hiking gear review blogs out there (I’m partial toward Stick’s Blog) and I don’t intend stepping into that arena. I’m a huge fan of the phrase “hike your own hike,” and I extend it to the gear I wear and carry on my hikes. On that note, I thought I’d share an overview of my daypack for those that hike a similar hike and are curious what I deem worthy of being carried for many miles.
“My hike” tends to be on the light and minimal side, yet I have a family waiting for me at home so I carry emergency items for precautions.
Camelbak Zephyr—This is the only daypack that I have owned. It was a gift and has suited my needs perfectly. It has three pockets (one which holds the 70oz resevoir), a hip belt and sternum strap and a few compression straps. Its tall and narrow design keeps it out of my way while burning up the trail and has more than enough capacity for all of my gear. I don’t think that Camelbak makes this model anymore. If I had to guess, the Rim Runner 22 model seems to be the closest (though it has a larger capacity and reservoir it is the smallest model with a decent lumbar strap). I know quite a few people who have bought Platypus reservoirs (I have a 1 liter one instead of a water bottle) and who have ended up with wet gear when it fails. I’ve had this same reservoir for years without any issues.
Marmot Southridge—This shell is lightweight, wind-proof, “water-proof,” and inexpensive for a Marmot. When it rains you’re going to get wet eventually. Old or water-resistant jackets will soak through and seriously waterproofed jackets will lead to excessive moisture from sweating. For me, the point is to carry something light that will extend your protection from the environment and make the hike more enjoyable in bad weather.
Under Armor Tactical Hood—This balaclava-style face mask is lightweight and can be thrown on if the weather takes a turns for the worse. It’s important to have a hat and gloves when hiking in high altitudes, even in the middle of summer.
Gloves—My current gloves are just a cheap pair of work gloves from Home Depot. The idea is just to add some warmth if the weather is bad.
LEKI Corklite Trekking Poles—I purchased these for my 3-day hike on the Long Trail this year. I tend to only use one trekking pole at a time, so these poles should last a long time. I chose them because they are light (under 10z per pole), the SpeedLock system is easy to use and the composite cork handles are supposed to improve with time rather than degrade. I feel that descents are much easier on my knees than they used to be.
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp—I have an older version of the spot headlamp. It takes 3 AAA batteries and last for a long time. It has a bright spot light, a dimmer spread light and a red light. Both of the non-red settings can be dimmed as well. I don’t foresee needing a different headlamp unless this one breaks.
Bear Grylls Survival Series Scout—This relatively inexpensive and reliable knife suits my needs, which are typically cutting paracord and sharpening marshmallow sticks. I always carry this knife in my pocket on hikes. As Aron Ralston, from Between a Rock and a Hard Place, can testify: a sharp knife is one of the most important pieces of equipment to have at hand.
Paracord 550 Utility Cord—I always carry 50′ of paracord with me when hiking. It’s a habit from multi-day hiking trips where I might need to hang a bear bag or tie off my tent on a platform. Just like a knife, compass and map it is one of those things I never hike without.
Suunto Compass—This is a simple and sturdy compass. I always carry a compass with me, though I only have very basic knowledge on its use from orienteering sections of adventure racing in the past. Look for a future post on how I learned more about compasses.
Maps—My bible and tome is the AMC White Mountains Guide. I do a majority of my planning using this guide and I carry the appropriate maps on my hike (in a ziplock bag). When I’m hiking outside of the White Mountains I print out a map from AllTrails.com, which has partnered with National Geographic. I have a Pro account so all of Nat Geo’s Trail Illustrated maps are available as well as US and world TOPO maps.
Emergency Shelter—No matter how much gear I’m carrying, this shelter can fit into my pack and adds very little weight. There is literally no reason not to carry it. Since I do a lot of solo hiking it is important that I carry a shelter with me at all times. I can only find this shelter on Ebay now but SOL has an emergency bivvy that looks even better.
First Aid Kit (not in photo)—I carry Adventure Medical Kit’s Ultralight 1-2 person first aid kit as it is light and waterproof and contains the essentials. I leave this kit in my car when I’m not hiking so it doubles as my car’s first aid kit.
Miscellaneous—I carry a bunch of other miscellaneous gear regularly. These include some of the essentials like toilet paper, batteries and matches. I also carry a pen and weatherproof notepad so that I can log my hikes, which makes it easier to keep things straight for my blog posts. I use Rite in the Rain notepads, but I really think they missed the mark when they didn’t name their company Write As Rain.
Water—As mentioned above, I carry a 70oz Camelbak reservoir. If I’m going on a shorter hike I will carry a 1 liter Platypus soft bottle. Typically I consume a lot of water so I will go with the reservoir instead of the bottle. I also have a thermal kit for my reservoir. On a recent hike my water tube slushed up. Without the thermal kit it probably would have been frozen solid and I would have been out of luck. It also help if you take sips often in below freezing temperatures.
Aquamira Water Treatment—These drops are the best water purification method that I’ve tried as far as flavor goes, and that’s why I use them. The down side to is that you have to mix the drops for 5 minutes before adding to your water, so you can’t use them on the move.
Nuun—I started using Nuun tablets after my brother starting using them to prevent leg cramps while hiking. I add a couple to my reservoir and they add electrolytes and potassium as well as some flavor which can hide the minimal off-flavor from the Aquamira water treatment.
GORP—The tried and true method for energy while hiking. I prefer Second Nature because all of their flavors are vegan. Wholesome Medley is my go-to flavor, though Dark Chocolate Medley is good as well.
Energy Bars—I basically always go with Clif Bars if they are available. They have a ton of flavors, all of which are vegan. A few of the flavors also contain caffeine (using green tea extract) and I’ll grab those for particularly long hikes.
Beer—Occasionally I carry a canned beer with me for celebratory moments. I prefer Sixpoint Resin because of the small cans, but have been known to bring a 16oz Heady Topper or Bissell Brothers along for the trip. Beer also makes the return trip easier as it provides a boost of carbohydrates and is a mild pain reliever. Be smart, make sure the trip back to the trailhead is safe as well as the drive home.
Some equipment that others may carry which I’m missing is a repair kit, sun protection and bug juice. My knife and paracord as well as the duct tape in my first aid kit doubles as a repair kit. I do carry sunscreen in my car and if it is particularly sunny day I’ll throw some on before hitting the trail. Occasionally I’ll wear sunglasses and/or a hat as well, though they tend to bother me. Lastly, I never wear bug spray. I’m very conscious about everything I put on my body, going with products with all natural ingredients when I have to and going without when it’s not necessary, like bug goop.
My pack comes to a total weight of 11lbs. That includes some gear which I carry in my hands (trekking pole) or in my clothes (knife, map, notepad and pen) and food and water. That weight might be excessive for some, but for me it is worth the peace of mind and at this point I don’t even notice it.
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