I am pretty big into the outdoors lifestyle and always have a hard time deciding what newest piece of gear to buy. Endless hours of researching is usually invested before I make my purchase and I am hoping to make things easier on anyone in the market by providing my thoughts on what I have. I am also looking for yours - go ahead, tell us what you have, provide some links if you like and share your opinions!
Starting at my feet, I wear Gronell Klondikes
from MEC and I must say that, while expensive, these are awesome boots. They took me two months to break in but were well worth the investment. I have not read a bad review of these things yet and one will not be coming from me! They are heavy but when you are already carrying a substantial load for multi day treks you'll hardly notice these guys.
My socks are Wigwam Comfort Hikers
which are very good for wicking away moisture and feel very good inside my boots. I like them so much I find myself wearing them almost all the time. They can be a bit bulky but I like that in a hiking sock. The Comfort Hikers come in a two pack with a discount applied.
I won't yap on and on about pants and shirts, suffice it to say that I have some Columbia, North Face and Arc'teryx clothing. I will mention some of my top layer things though.
For rain, sleet and snow I wear a North Face M Resolve Jacket
that I can easily layer up underneath for colder days. I have tried soft shells and don't really like them. I am a proponent of the layering system in a big way and this fits in well with that philosophy. It's lightweight, compresses into a pack very well and stands up to some serious moisture while not making me feel all clammy inside.
I prefer a vest for warm wear and I am sold on the North Face Apex Elixer Vest
which is about the best damned thing I have ever worn in defense of the wind. The vest is always with me for those cool mornings in the summer and, combined with the jacket, makes for one hell of a winter trekking top combo, only a long sleeved t shirt further required!
My tent is an MSR Elbow Room 2P
. I went away from ultra light here and sacrificed more weight for more comfort and room. It was a bit more pricey than an ultra light but I find I get more use out of this. From treks to outdoor concerts, this thing goes to it all and is at home everywhere. Front and rear entrances make it easy to get in and out and the rain fly makes for two vestibules at either end which I like because I hate sharing my tent with my gear. It also is bathtub style construction which gives you added waterproofing as none of the seams are near ground level. I suggest buying the optional footprint to extend the life of your tent bottom. All of this being said I do know some guys who are very happy with MEC's brand of tents.
I bought Black Diamond Terra CF's
for my trekking poles and have been in love ever since. Formerly an opponent of trekking poles, I have seen the light and won't even go on a short hike without them now. They're collapsible which makes them easy to lash to your pack when not in use. I find them invaluable when doing anything with hills, water crossings or in snow. These things have saved me more than one serious fall.
The stove I went with is an MSR Whisperlite Internationale
. NOTE: There is a simple old Whisperlite model available which is one of the most popular selling stoves ever - the difference between this and the Internationale is that the Internationale will burn various different fuels. I believe that the price difference is about ten bucks and I thought better to have and not need than need and not have. About the stove? Backcountry gourmet's need back away! This thing boils water and that is about it! With some learning one can develop skills with simmer control but it's hard. It's pretty decent on fuel in my experience and boils water in about three minutes when you use the included heat shield. It's also very quiet in comparison to some of the other MSR stoves and it's really easy to light and holds flame in the wind with the shield.. Now, there is much debate about whether someone should go with a liquid fuel or LPG stove, here is my stance, take it for what it's worth: LPG stoves are only three season pieces as they do not work well in cold temperatures. As well, you have to pack more things, fuel cells and you have to get the empty ones back out. With liquid fuel you can have the thing work like a charm in arctic conditions (ask me, I know!) and the refillable fuel bottles eliminate the need to dispose of fuel cells.
My cookware is GSI Hard Anodized Extreme
. It's a lightweight set that comes with a small pot and lid set (1.4L), large pot and lid set (2.4L), pot gripper and two cutting boards/pot protectors. Both lids double as fry pans. I like having the ability to take just one pot for fast hikes and when I am alone but having two of them helps for multiple course meals - not that I make them often
. I think this is a pretty sweet set and is indestructible.
For a pack, well, I have had several over the years and just started using my newest one, a North Face Terra 60
. I am not completely sold on it yet. It seems decent and is comfortable enough but has very little area to lash things to. I may just sell it and go get something from Arc'teryx. What I value in a pack are a couple of different spaces for storage, a good suspension system with well padded straps, ability to integrate hydration, gear loops, lash points and top loading.
I bought an MSR Miniworks EX
microfilter. This thing is low maintenance and produces water at a good flow rate in poor conditions. One only has to scrub it after about every five litres and boil the ceramic filter after every trip out. It's pretty much bombproof and idiot proof - super easy to operate. Along with this piece of gear I picked up a 4 litre MSR Dromlite Bag
which mates up to my filter and provides easy water storage capabilities for the trail. If you're going to buy one make sure you fill it and leave it for a while then empty and repeat a few times to get rid of plastic tastes in your water.
My sleeping bag is an Asolo Silva
which is ultra light, ultra packable and rated to 0 Celsius. I only wanted a three season bag so this is what I went with. I used to have an MEC barrel bag but decided to upgrade recently and this is what I came up with after some research and asking some guys who have them.
I buy freeze dried food and am a fan of Mountain House
, Alpine Aire
and Backpacker's Pantry
which are all good choices, IMO, and have wide ranging menus. If I were you I'd stay the hell away from Richmoor as I fins their stuff bland and it always gives me heartburn. Though they do have a line, Natural High, that has a couple of good entrees.
I'll edit this if anything changes.