Must-Have Gear

I’m frequently asked about my favorite gear. Of course, I love to share….when I truly have a favorite.

Because that’s the thing about gear; it’s subjective. My trail shoes may move mountains for me, but they might give you a hot spot within minutes. That said, all of the items below are quality products and I’ve personally had great success with each one of them. Hopefully they help you too!

Note: Many of the links below are affiliate links which means I receive a small commission if you purchase items. This comes at no additional cost to you, and as always, I appreciate the support. 

Photography

I’m *finally* upgrading to a DSLR this year, but I’m absolutely in love with my current camera and won’t be getting rid of it any time soon. It’s the  Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II (Black). It’s part of Canon’s PowerShot series which means it is small and compact; great for travel and outdoor adventures where I don’t want to lug around size and weight. But, it shoots in manual mode and is full frame. It also has a flexible LCD screen which makes awkward-angle snaps much easier to grab. Battery life is strong, and the focal length is pretty awesome. The glass itself renders good color and contrast.

Of course, I need a sturdy case to go along with my camera, and I’ve been happy with the Osprey Ultralight Camera Case. I snagged it on a whim from REI, but it’s perfect. I removed the shoulder strap since I never use it; the back of the case has loops so you can run your backpack waist belt or chest straps through it. I like to secure it on my chest strap so my camera is always accessible while hiking. Plus, it was inexpensive which is always nice to find in the world of outdoor gear!

I also really like my JOBY Gorillapod tripod. It’s cheap, lightweight, and small enough that I can easily take it with me into the backcountry. It won’t be my tripod of choice once I upgrade to a DSLR, but for the G7X above, it’s the perfect solution for those nighttime photos.

Backcountry Skiing

My touring setup has gone through a few iterations since I first adventured in the backcountry in 2012, but I’ve found a few items I’m happy with. In particular, I love my G3 Ion 12 bindings. They provide enough stability and control for the downhills but are still lightweight enough that I don’t mind touring all day.

I’ve done major battle with my touring boots over the past few years and only recently did I give my old pair the final heave-ho in favor of a new set. I’m thankful that I did because my feet love the Salomon MTN Explore Randonee boots. They’re lightweight and have significant range of motion, making them comfortable for all-day tours. For the first time in forever, I’m not dreading smashing my feet into my boots!

Hiking & Backpacking

Hiking pants are a dime a dozen these days, but there are two pairs that I keep coming back to for my  adventures. For local hikes and travel days, I can’t get enough of the Mountain Hardwear Dynama pants. I own them in both the skinny fit and the boot cut, but I actually think I prefer the skinny fit. In a word, these pants are SO COMFORTABLE! They have a yoga pant-inspired waistband so they don’t dig into your stomach, even on long travel days. And there is infinite stretch in the fabric {think: yoga pants again} so they move really well, whether I’m hiking or running to catch a plane.

The Fjallraven Abisko trekking pants

For burlier adventures, I dig my Fjallraven Abisko Lite trekking trousers. They’re not as fashionable or trail-to-town as the Dynama pants, but they are tough and durable. These are what I grab for multi-day trips or bushwhacking adventures where I know I’ll be tearing through bramble and debris. They have strategic mesh in the legs too, adding additional stretch and breathability.

So far, I haven’t found a large backpack that rivals my Osprey Aura 50 AG pack. Equipped with Osprey’s anti-gravity system, it rides comfortably and rests squarely on my hips. I used this pack on our Canyonlands packrafting adventure {when I was carrying 50-60 pound backpack} and it came out unscathed….definitely better than I did!

We always bring a water filter on our backpacking trips, and Will and I both prefer the Platypus GravityWorks system. In a nutshell, we’re lazy and it’s so nice to avoid pumping! You simply put the dirty water in one bladder, hang it on a tree branch or somewhere higher than the clean bladder, and let gravity do the trick.

Trail Running

For trail running packs, I truly believe that Ultimate Direction can’t be beat. For smaller, shorter runs, I go with my Ultra Vesta. In fact, I used this for my one-and-only ultra {34 miles} and it worked well. It holds 1.5 liters of water, but has two chest pockets for additional 500 ml bottles. Most importantly, it doesn’t bounce and I’ve found the fit to be perfect for my torso. No rubbing underneath my arms!

For longer adventures {or even day hikes} I snag my Ultimate Direction Fastpack 25. It fits more gear {obviously} but I like the roll top closure. This makes it easy to cinch it down to a smaller size if I’m carrying less gear. And, like the Ultra Vesta, it sits comfortably on my torso with minimal bouncing.

If I have to choose, I will always opt for the Ultra over the Fastpack but sometimes, I need the extra space!

For trail shoes, I like the Altra Lone Peaks. I really love the roomy toe box on the Altras so I wear those when my feet are feeling extra wide or it’s hot outside and I know my limbs are swollen. But, they are zero drop so my body doesn’t love to wear them ALL the time. To make my joints happy, I swap in the Hoka Stinsons. They have much more cushioning and I prefer the 6 mm drop, but the toe box is tighter than I would prefer. Word on the street is that Hoka is launching a new Stinson in 2017, compete with a spacious toe box. Watch out, world. I may be all in for Hoka!

Tech Gadgets

I’m not one for much tech in the backcountry, but there are a few gizmos I can’t live without. Namely, I dig my Suunto Ambit3 Sport watch. It has far more features than I know what to do with, but I enjoy the compass and altitude while in the backcountry. I use the GPS feature on hikes and trail runs, but I’ll even flip it to heart rate-only for CrossFit workouts. I also like that it isn’t too big and bulky because I am not about having a gigantic computer on my wrist.

CrossFit

I love me some Reebok Nanos! I know there is a hot debate over which shoe is the best in the CrossFit world, but I’ve been through four iterations of the Nano. While I love some versions more than others, I’m always happy with the shoe. I’m currently wearing the Nano 5 and really like it. They’ve come out with a 6 and a 7, but I won’t be swapping until I wear these suckers into the ground.

Of course, I’m always lugging around a Blender Bottle with me to the gym! Will and I have a half dozen of these because I’m notorious for leaving them in my car, my gym bag, my locker…..you get the point. ETA: Don’t leave the bottles in your car on a hot day, especially if you haven’t cleaned them out yet. I’ve ruined SO MANY because we couldn’t wash out the putrid smell of day-old protein!

I’ve also become a fan of Vega All-in-One Protein in Vanilla Chai flavor. I had to cut out dairy which meant no more whey protein. I had major concerns that this Vega stuff would taste like plants {since there is 6 servings of green in each scoop} but the Vanilla Chai flavor is tasty! I wouldn’t recommend putting it in smoothies since the chai flavor is dominant, but it goes great with almond milk and/or water on its own. Downside: it’s expensive. But, I try to justify that by telling myself I’m getting a lot of greens mixed in!

Odds and Ends

There are a handful of oddball items that I carry into the backcountry, regardless of the season or trip. Unlike other gear, all of these items are affordable which is helpful since they go everywhere with me!

I’ve written about it before, but the Elemental Herbs All Good Tinted lip balm is my FAVORITE! It’s 80% organic and is made with zinc oxide, meaning it has SPF 18. I’m reliant on chapstick with SPF for high-alpine adventures, so this is a must. Plus, I really love the light tint of the Maroon Creek color; matches my lips perfectly.

Regardless of whether we are camping or backpacking, I always bring my Sea to Summit X-Mug with me. It’s big enough to use for dinners but small enough that it totally functions as a mug for coffee. But the best part is that it collapses completely flat, allowing me to pack it anywhere in my backpack. Plus, it only weighs 2.5 ounces….so practically nothing.

Like the cup above, Will and I both love our Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spork. The key? Its long handle! We typically bring store-bought dehydrated meals and the handle length on this spork means you don’t get food all over your shirt sleeve as you dig around inside the meal bag. It sounds silly, but trust me: you won’t go back!

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