Before we get into gear, I want to take a step back and examine the reasons we use gear in the first place. I think there is value in considering the why before considering the what. Too often we run around buying the newest and lightest gear to assuage our fears of the unknown, to go along with the heard or to be taken “seriously.” By thinking critically and really examining why we are buying something and how it will help us achieve our end goal, we can make smart decisions that assist us and save us time and money.
Decide Your Gear Goals
- Keep me safe (from the elements, injury, dehydration, animals)
- Give me a modest degree of comfort
- Let me hike a considerable distance each day
- Help me navigate on my hike
- Let me capture my journey for memory’s sake and sharing content with the world
Thinking about what you want to accomplish with your gear can help you make intelligent decisions and avoid impulsive purchases. I would much rather have the funds to take an amazing backpacking trip than have a base weight that is a pound and a half lighter. The expensive Zpacks tent won’t do you any good sitting in your closet, and in the end, you are going to remember the experiences, the people you met, and the wildlife you encounter, not the titanium cook set that saved you 3 oz over your old aluminium one.
Evaluate What You Have
Don’t fall into the trap of buying everything new. Take what you have and use it. Before I bought a thing, I took my 5-year-old backpack I used when travelling southeast Asia, my 2-person car camping tent, and an old platypus bladder and went on several short backpacking trips. My goal was to figure out if these items still worked for me in a backpacking context. I also learned about what features of each item I liked and disliked. For example, my backpack didn’t have any accessible side or back pockets. I couldn’t reach back for a snack, water bottle or trowel while I was hiking. Through this experience, I knew I wanted a backpack with easily accessible side pockets and a stretchy back pocket to store everything I would need throughout a day of hiking. I was going through this process for every item so I could make my next purchase the right purchase and not have to “upgrade,” aka buy what I should have the first time, in a year’s time.
Acquire Gear Piece by Piece
There is real value to buying gear one piece at a time. Not only can you feel the effects of that new purchase and how it is (hopefully) improving your experience, but you may find out that you don’t need to upgrade other gear because you have already achieved you gear goals. For example, replacing your 5 pound tent with a 1 1/2 pound one may make such a difference in your base weight that you realize you don’t need you purchase that $400 dollar sleeping bag to save another 8 oz. Buying everything at once makes you less likely to know where the benefits are actually coming from.
Test Before You Buy
If you have a friend who has the upgrade bug, I bet they have lightly used models of last year’s gear sitting in a closet somewhere. Ask to borrow it for a weekend. Another option is to try switching gear with a friend on your next backpacking trip. Your goal is to field test potential gear before you buy whenever possible.
Used Gear is Still Good Gear
Whether it is ebay, craigslist or an REI garage sale, used gear is a great way to save money. Often times, people will buy new gear for their two-week vacation in Yosemite or the Grand Canyon and then it will sit unused in their garage. One man’s garbage is another man’s gold.
The most important thing about my gear is that I used and tested it before undertaking any long distance hikes or backpacking trips with high risk. I took it through week-long backpacks in Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and other smaller trips. This helped me become proficient with my gear and experienced using it in a variety of environments and conditions. The below list helps me achieve my trip goals for the majority of my trips. Certain items may be added or subtracted based on expected conditions.
- Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 (36.25 oz)
- Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 Footprint (5.15 oz)
- Big Agnes Tent Stakes (3.2 oz)
- Enlightened Equipment 10° Revelation Quilt 800 Fill (24.85 oz)
- Therm-a-Rest Neo XTherm Max Sleeping Pad (17 oz)
- InstantCamp Ultralight Pillow (2.2 oz)
Water & Cook System
- Optimus Crux Lite Stove (2.95 oz)
- Optimus Terra Solo Cook Pot Without Lid (4.95 oz)
- *Bic Mini Lighter (.5 oz)
- Sawyer Squeeze (3.65 oz)
- Smart Water 1L (1.4 oz) x 3
- Platypus Bladder 2L (1.3 oz) x 2
- *Fuel Canister 4 oz (7 oz)
- Plastic Spoon (.5 oz)
- Columbia Silver Ridge Long Sleeve Shirt (6.95 oz)
- Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants (10.35 oz)
- or Time to Run Pace Running Shorts (4.64 oz)
- Light Synthetic Sock Liner (1.45 oz)
- Brooks Cascadia 11 (27.2 oz)
- Polarized Sun Glasses with Case (3.4 oz)
- Synthetic Underwear (2.4 oz)
- Leki Trekking Poles (16.4 oz)
- Glacier Glove Islamorada Gray Sun Gloves (1.2 oz)
- Champion Base Top (6.2 oz)
- Champion Base Bottom (6.45 oz)
- Smart Wool Mountaineering Socks for sleeping (2.8 oz)
- Fleece Hat (1.4 oz)
- The North Face Thermoball Hoodie (13 oz)
- REI Windbloc Fleece Mittens (2.2 oz)
- Extra Socks (1.25 oz)
- Frog Toggs Rain Jacket (5.8 oz)
- Handkerchief (.87 oz)
- Tooth Brush (.45 oz)
- *Travel-sized Tooth Paste (.65 oz)
- *Wet Wipes & Toilet Paper (2.25 oz)
- *Hand Sanitizer (2.5 oz)
- Pack Towel (1 oz)
- *First Aid w/ Sunscreen & Floss (4.8 oz)
- Trowel (1.8 oz)
- Samsung Galaxy S5 (5.55 oz) – love that it’s waterproof & has a replaceable battery
- Anker Astro E5 13000mAh Portable Charger (10.4 oz)
- Princeton Tec Fuel Headlamp (2.8 oz)
- Peak Design Capture Camera Clip (4.5 oz)
- Sony Alpha a6300 w/ kit lens (19.65 oz)
- Anker 2-Port 24W USB Wall Charger (4.6 oz)
- Para Cord 50 ft (2.7 oz)
- Suunto A-10 Compass (1.1 oz)
- Stuff Sack for Food (1.85 oz)
- BearVault BV500 (41 oz) – Keep bears safe and doesn’t habituate them to humans. Only bring if required.
Early and Late Season Snow
- Hanz Lightweight Waterproof Calf-length Socks (5.45 oz) – For stream crossings and snow
- prAna Men’s Stretch Zion Pants (13.45 oz) – Hands down my favorite pants ever.
- Hillsound Trail Crampon (17.7 oz) – For ice, snow, and climbing over passes
- Black Diamond Carbon Whippet Self-Arrest Ski Pole (17 oz) – You always have it in your hand ready to use as opposed to an ice axe
*Denotes consumable item
If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments. Follow me on instagram @timeforahike