Let’s riff on hiking and backpacking gear! In today’s episode, I’m going to bust myths about hiking gear plus share what I think is absolutely worth it to have and what I’ve ditched or upgraded over the years.
Listen to Episode 7: Backpacking Gear, what’s worth it and what’s not
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Backpacking Gear Myths Busted
Myth 1: gear has to be expensive – yes there is a lot of expensive gear out there but guess what, just like how you can choose to just keep scrolling on social media and not caught in the weeds of Facebook comments – you can choose not to drop thousands of dollars on gear, you may have to be a little conscious about your gear shopping but it is possible
Myth 2: carrying that much gear is going to be impossibly heavy or take up a shit ton of room – again – it doesn’t have to be this way. I was about to meet a friend, and new hiker, for a day hike this past season and I sent her a list of things to bring if she had them, just explaining that those are the things I keep in my day pack – and she seemed surprised – like that is so much stuff, how do you carry all that on a day hike. But when I showed her everything in my pack she seemed excited to see that it really didn’t seem like that much stuff after all, since it all fits in my small day pack. Pay close attention to the size, weight, and bulk of every item before you purchase it.
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Myth 3: technical hiking gear, like super supportive hiking boots and trekking poles, are only for super-advanced, expert hikers – whether you’ve spent one-day hiking or one hundred – you are a hiker! And your body deserves to be supported and protected with appropriate gear!
Backpacking Gear Shopping Tips
First, a few tips when your shopping for gear and trying to build up your backpacking kit – be ready to splurge on some items – maybe you get an ultralight tent but get a cheaper or used sleeping pad.
Start shopping for gear well before you need it so you can keep an eye out for sales, wait for Black Friday, or a big event like REI garage sale.
Also, stalk discount gear sites like backcountry.com steepandcheap.com campmoor.com or moosejaw.com
Hiking Gear I Can’t Live Without
My six moon designs tarp tent – for me, it’s just too light and compact to ever change to anything else and so far, at the time of recording this, has lasted me over 7 years and that includes one long-distance hike and many many long weekend adventures.
My emergency GPS, I used to have a SPOT and have since upgraded to Garmin Inreach mini – they just provide too much peace of mind for both me and my family especially when I’m out solo, so I think its definitely worth it to save up for, ask for one as a gift.
My butt pad or the brand name is Zseat, but I actually found mine in a hiker box on the AT, it’s just the last maybe foot of a closed-cell foam sleeping pad, cut off and then I can use it as an extra cushion on lunch and snack breaks while hiking or a place to sit while cooking dinner while backpacking and usually put it under my sleeping pad at night or roll it up to add extra oomph to my pillow at night.
Fits socks! While they may seem expensive at first, I’ve accumulated many pairs over the years sometimes a handful of pairs all at once if they’re on sale, and now just get one or two pairs a year and retire my most worn-out pair at that time.
Rain gear – not that this has to be expensive but it is worth experimenting and finding rain gear that you love and are comfortable wearing, whether that’s a rain jacket, Frogg Toggs, a poncho, or hiking umbrella – you gotta figure out what works best for you. I’ve settled on a rain jacket and pants, I got a really nice north face rain jacket many years ago as a gift and still use it today, and went cheaper on rain pants.
This may be an unpopular opinion but hear me out – I freaking love my Ursack bear-proof bag – but I think this is a location-dependent decision, on the east coast I just hung a proper PCT style hang with a cheap stuff sack and pcord – and that worked fine…. On the east coast…. Where there are deciduous trees with tall long branches – we don’t have those in CO! At least where I live, we have forests and forests full of dead lodgepole pines, which makes it basically impossible to hang a proper PCT style bear bag.
This episode of the Hiking Lifestyle is brought to you by the Complete Backpackers Gear Checklist, this is everything I currently carry with me when I go backpacking after many years of trial and error, you can download it for free today!
Hiking Gear I’ve Upgraded or Ditched All Together
One of the very first things was to seriously pare down my first aid kit – since I had previously been guiding backcountry trips with minors, obviously the company I worked for took on quite a bit of liability and responsibility for all trip participants – so as guides, we carried MASSIVE first aid kits and emergency supplies, which wasn’t bad or wrong, but it made me used to carrying supplies for a fairly large group and every possible worst-case scenario – which I then carried that over into backpacking by myself where I really did not need like 3/4s of the first aid supplies I was carrying.
The next thing to go was my super heavy backpack! My first backpacking pack was like 7 pounds all on its own – that is way too heavy! Although in my defense, it was also very old – lightweight backpacks weren’t really a thing back then. But I’m just saying, be careful when shopping for packs to get one that, number one, fits well and secondly, is relatively lightweight like 3-4 pounds max.
The third thing on my shitlist if you will are cook sets – now I’ve never actually owned a full cook set – but even just seeing them advertised gets on my nerves because they are so excessive! You need one pot and one spoon – that’s your cookset, well along with your stove. But I see these sets that are like nesting pots and nesting frying pans all with lids, along with multiple spatulas and spoons and of course your own spoon, fork, and knife to eat with – it’s just too much. Like I said, for backpacking – you need one pot and one spoon that you use to both stir your food and then also that same spoon or a tortilla to get the food into your belly.
This may be another unpopular opinion – but I think ground cloths for your tent are overrated – I’ve never used one… and also never had one single issue with holes or water seeping into my tent. So hopefully you can see why I think they are just extra unnecessary weight plus a lot of the time you have to purchase it separately or pay extra to get it with your tent. In my opinion, it’s not worth it. But that’s a decision and risk I’ve been willing to take – so that’s up to you whether you think you need it. A lot of hikers carry a ground cloth and use it, but in over 1,300 miles on the AT and over a decade of backpacking – I’ve never used one.
Hiking clothes are another thing that you don’t need to splurge on. Most of my synthetic hiking clothes, like shirts pants, and shorts, are no-name brands that have come from stores like Target, Walmart, or Tj Maxx or even thrift stores or second-hand apps that sell fitness or athleisure clothes.
Again, if you haven’t already downloaded my Complete Backpacking Gear list that you can download for free so be sure to grab that before your next trip.
Until next time, happy hiking!