Gear Review: Good and Bad

A year and a half since I started section hiking the Appalachian Trail. I’ve now hiked over 1700 miles in all kinds of weather- from feet of snow to summer droughts and everything in between. 

I figured it’s past time to revisit some of my gear and take a look at what works and what I’ll likely change. 
1. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 3400: I’ve been hiking with this pack since March 2016. I love it. It transfers the load well to my hips, it’s simple, and it’s about 90% waterproof, so I don’t have to bother with a pack cover. It’s not ideal for heavier winter loads, so if I keep up trips in deep winter, I may eventually look for something that can handle 30lb loads better. But for 3 seasons and short winter trips, it’s absolutely amazing. (NB: this is not a casual backpackers pack. For one, it’s expensive. For two, you need a lightweight base weight to even think about using it. Not ultralight, but around 12-15 lbs for sure.)

2. Darn Tough Socks: I have about 3 different styles of Darn Tough socks (mountaineering, boot, hike, etc) and I like them all. I treated a pair of the tall mountaineering socks with permethrin for summer hiking (great protection against ticks and other nasties when hiking in shorts) and it’s a choice I’m likely to make again and again. Darn Tough also has an incredible warranty, so a few pairs that have been mouse-chewed or fire-burned will be sent back soon to be replaced. 

3. Lulu Lemon Tracker Short: I think this is the right one. These shorts have a wide, comfortable waist band that’s good with a hip belt and comfortable while sleeping, something that was a problem with my Nike shorts I used to hike in. A small side zip pocket is great for Vaseline in the winter or fall. 

4. Ray Bans sunglasses: I used to only hike with cheap sunglasses. I get migraines, and have a problem with sun in my eyes, so hiking with a hat and sunglasses is important to me. Cheap ones are good if you’re worried about losing them, but I’ve only lost one pair on the trail and I know exactly where they are, so I could have gone back for them if I wasn’t lazy. Changing to quality frames and real polarized lenses made a huge difference in comfort for me. 

5. Klymit Pillow X: I sleep on my side and stomach, so a good pillow is a must. This one is incredibly comfortable, inflates in like 4 breaths, and doesn’t appear to have the weak points that caused 2 of my neo air pillows to fail. 

6. Klymit inertia x frame pad: y’all know I was super committed to my Ridge Rest foam pad for a long time, but this funky looking sleeping pad is amazing. It’s tiny and light and surprisingly comfortable. And inflates in like 4 breaths ๐Ÿ™‚ I supplement this with my foam sit pad at the hips, since I’m like half and inch too short for it, but it’s great. 

(No pic sorry ๐Ÿ˜)

7. Z-Rest Foam Sit Pad: it’s just a small piece of foam. I use it to sit on and to put under my sleeping pad. It’s solid. Worth the weight to carry it. 

8. Nike Pro insulated leggings: winter hiking pants. Water resistant, warm, comfortable enough to sleep in. Love them. 

9. Patagonia Nano Air Hoody: a great water-resistant layer for most seasons. It’s new, but replaced my puffy this summer and will likely be a go-to later for hiking and camp in the fall and spring. And winter too! 

10. Apple Watch Series 2: I love this thing. Tough enough to hike in, looks cute, and helps take awesome pictures. Not completely accurate for distances when hiking, but fairly close (off by about .5 miles over 4 miles). 

11. Jet Boil Stove: I honestly don’t know if I have the Zip or Minimo or something else but this is a killer canister stove for colder weather. Stoves aren’t worth it for me in warmer weather, but in winter, this is a no-brainer. 

12. Patagonia H2No Rain Jacket: its heavy, but it’s good at keeping me dry. Well, better than most ๐Ÿ™‚

13. Sea2Summit SilNylon Dry Bags: I keep al of my clothes and sleeping bag stuff in one big bag. I kneel on it to compress it, and that thing packs down so small and stays nice and dry. I’d love to upgrade to cuben fiber, but it’s just not worth the cost. 

14. Crocs: I became a believer in camp shoes this winter. Hiking on rocks all day in Pennsylvania convinced me even more. Having crocs to slip on after the days hike is fantastic. And, in a pinch, I know I can hike in them. 

15. iPhone 7+: well I think you’ve all seen how awesome my pictures got after my last iPhone died in VA and I had to upgrade. 
1. Sleeping bags: I have like…4. A Western Mountaineering that may actually be too cold for me for the winter, a GoLite 32F bag that’s ok, an Enlighted Equipment 32F quilt that’s ok, and my military poncho liner. The only one I’m sold on is the poncho liner. That’ll be my blanket in the summer, and it’s great as an extra layer in shoulder seasons when you aren’t sure what the weather will do. The rest…eh. 

2. Headlamp: I have a Black Diamond Headlamp that always turns itself on, even when I have it locked. It’s bright and good for night hiking and all, but I hate that. 

3. Shoes: I’ve gone through a few different pairs of Salomons (too narrow), a pair of Altras (rough on my heels), and a few boots (too heavy). I’m just not sold on any of them 100%. Maybe trying La Sportivas next? I have problem feet, so any of these would probably work great for most people. 

4. Water Treatment: sawyer mini, sawyer full sized, chlorine tabs… usually I just don’t treat it. 

5. Tent: I’m currently using a TarpTent of some sort. It’s pretty good, but ideally I’d love a 2-person cuben fiber tent for some more room. I’ve been tenting more ๐Ÿ™‚

So that’s most of it! Part of the fun is trying out new stuff and reading reviews. If there’s anything you’re wondering about or are looking for recommendations on, let me know. Leave a comment on the blog or wherever you see it posted, and I’ll do my best to let you know what I think! 

Happy trails, my friends! 

5 thoughts on “Gear Review: Good and Bad

  1. Have you ever tried Keens? I realize I don’t do nearly as much hiking as you, but they are my go-to for fieldwork. They keep my dry and have zero break-in. I’m sure there’s a real reason you haven’t, of course, but I thought for problem feet it was worth suggesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have! I started with keen targhee mids but found them very heavy and stiff and just…not right for my feet. On paper they should work, but in reality they just don’t fit me right. I still have them if you want them! ๐Ÿ™‚


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