I’m not much of a gear reviewer, though you will find a review or two, but I do like gear, apparel or paraphernalia which makes my hiking miles pass more comfortably. In my opinion, those things you wear, carry or use which are unobtrusive… make themselves unnoticeable are the ones which leave you to pay attention to the sites and sounds of the hike, and not worrying about how your feet feel or having a drink of water.
Two items I have written about on the site are my pack, and trekking poles. So I will touch on them here, but you can follow the links to the full write-ups.
Osprey Manta 30 Hydration Daypack: Aside from last year’s rattlesnakes article, the page that gets the most hits, and results from search engines is the review I wrote for my hydration daypack, my Osprey Manta 30. Easily the most technical pack I’ve owned, and an all-around great daypack. I wrote that review after only having worn it once or twice. Now that I’ve worn for many hours, over many miles, I can say it’s as comfortable as ever, and I like it even more than ever.
Leki Makalu Classic: Judging from a few polls I’ve seen on Facebook, trekking pole users fall into 3 groups; avid/rabid advocates, casual/depends-on-the-hike users, and people who are way too awesome to consider crutches on any trail. I’m a pretty regular user, unless I intend to take a lot of photos. Mine are kinda fancy, but don’t have shock absorbers. I’m not a youngster anymore, my knees hurt sometimes, I need help balancing on logs, and trekking poles help me with all of that. They also keep my hands from swelling on long hikes.
Under Armour Compression Shorts: When some buddies of mine, and I, decided to hike Mt. Whitney in 2003 we started getting outfitted. One bit of clothing a few of us ended up buying, independently of one another, were what we jokingly called “hiking panties.” They were Patagonia polypro briefs, that didn’t have a fly. They were flimsy and flyless, like panties. Years later, and tired of uncomfortable chafing and bunching of cotton boxer briefs, I caved and bought a couple of pairs of Under Armour Compression Shorts – for what I could have bought 12 pairs of everyday cotton ones. Well, I’ll never go on a hike without first putting on one of, now 4 pairs, of those super-comfortable boxer-briefs. The major knock against them is they’re not very comfortable to be in for long after a hike. Like a lot of synthetic clothes, they get that weird plasticy feeling after a hike, and the sooner I get a shower and into cotton the better.
Merino Wool: Another revelation was merino wool anything. Except for the compression boxers, all my base layers are merino wool. All of my socks are merino wool, as are all of my sock liners. The combo of merino liners and merino hiking socks has been a game changer. I never get blisters (though, I rarely did), they are comfortable and functional soaking wet, in fact they barely feel wet, and my feet never feel hot or sweaty. Merino wool is pretty expensive though. I’ve always kept an eye on Steep and Cheap for any merino, and managed between S&C and Equipster to nab some good deals on merino socks and base layers. On long, cool-weather hikes I can be warm and comfortable under all my synthetic SPF shirts and hiking pants.
Smartwool Merino Wool Boxer Briefs: Above I talk about Under Amrour Compression Shorts, but there is a new sheriff in town, and I always use my dividends, coupons, and gift cards now for Smartwool Merino Boxer Briefs. Unlike the Under Armour, they are not synthetic, and as a result don’t leave you with the weird synthetic, sweaty feeling. Smartwools are light, airy, they wick perspiration, they are odor resistant, and supportive. Though, as I mentioned about the Under Armour costing as much as about 6 pairs of cotton boxer briefs, the Smartwools are nearly twice as much as a pair of Under Armour, about $40 a pair. You can see why I use every advantage to lower the price. They are great for hiking, backpacking, or travel and I may just go use my REI coupon to get another pair now. And yes, I’d trade all my synthetic briefs for another pair of Smartwools.
Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx: A few years ago I got interested in geocaching, so I researched and bought a hand-held GPS receiver. Aside from geocaching, which I only do occasionally these days, it is great to have along to record routes, see speed of travel, and elevation gain and loss, and mileage. All of this information transfers to software on my computer where I can see it on a map, in 3D, and then upload the data to Everytrail, which I use to add the animated maps at the end of many of my trail reports. My particular GPS, the Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx, an aging but solid model, known for its durability and accuracy.
What is your favorite hiking gear? Any game-changers for you?