I will preface this post by admitting I am not a gear junkie, or a technical expert. I don't shop every season for the newest products, or even know what the latest and greatest performance apparel is.
But I do appreciate quality made products that are built to last, and I like supporting companies that advocate for the environment and actively participate in taking care of it.
When I'm purchasing new gear, I ask myself a few questions;
Quality/Functionality - What are the materials? Can I wear or use it for more than one activity? How long will it last?
Comfort - Can I move and groove without ripping seems? How well does it fit my body type? Will it still feel good day 3 of a camp or hiking trip?
Sustainability - How is the product made? How does it affect global environmental issues? Does the company have a mission that aligns with reducing pollution and using recycled materials?
Below are 10 items I've tested (and fallen in love with) on the trails from the Pacific Northwest to New Zealand. *Before purchasing straight from the store, look for used gear at second hand shops (like Assent Outdoors in Seattle) or online at REI's used gear website. They select and inspect the gear and clothing before putting it up for sale. This helps keep useful products out of landfills!
1.) Patagonia Ascensionist Pack 35 LB
I dig this bag because it's light and versatile. On longer hikes when I need to pack more, I can release the compression straps on the sides to manage a larger load. There is a foam back panel that provides structure and it has super soft/padded hipbelts. The top pouch is great for keeping important things within reach and the only qualm I have is that it lacks a seperate section for a hydration bladder.
2.) Sawyer Water Filtration System:
I have the squeeze water filtration and the S1 filter and purifier. You can get over 1500 uses out of the S1 filter and it was designed to remove bacteria, protozoa, chemicals and pesticides while improving the taste and odor of the water. The purifier uses a proprietary foam membrane in a durable silicone bottle in which molecules stick to the surface of the adsorbent foam. Kinda wild right?
* Get Involved: Help bring clean water to people that need it by donating a filter–or any amount toward the purchase of one–through one of their many international humanitarian partners.
3.) Non-Toxic Sunscreen:
SPF 15 is the minimum rating dermatologists recommend, and it should be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure. The FDA recommends re-application every two hours regardless of the SPF rating. Look for a sunscreen that’s labeled “broad spectrum” which will shield skin from both UVB and UVA rays. And remember that the higher you climb, the more intense the sunlight (and potential to burn) will be.
4.) Sawyer Picadin Insect Repellent:
One thing that can ruin what should be a wonderful outdoor experience is a swarm of relentless biting insects. Mosquitos are particularly pesky in the Northwest as are ticks early in the season. One time, Jared and I backpacked to an alpine lake and the mosquitoes were SO bad that we immediately pitched our tent and stayed there for the rest of the evening. The sun wasn't setting for another 5 hours, but there were droves of them so we cooked dinner in the tent and fell asleep early.
- Sawyer’s 20% Picaridin insect repellent is non-greasy, offers all day protection, actually has a pleasant smell (citrus), and is safe for use on adults as well as children. The repellent comes in a spray and lotion form.
5.) Topo Women's Tech Pants:
I can't walk out of the house without receiving a compliment on these pants. I wore them hiking all over New Zealand and they've become my trusty travel pants. The tailored fit is ultra stretchy, lightweight and breathable. I use the cinch chord locks at the ankles to crop them below my knee in hotter weather, and they have a durable water repellant finish which is great for someone like me who spills often and loves the water.
6.) Keen Women's Hiking Boots Targhee 2:
A trail tested favorite. I've hiked in these boots for the last 5 years and appreciate how easy they are to break in. The boots are super supportive, comfortable and lightweight. They have durable waterproof protection that stands up to wet weather, and the outsoles have great traction. I prefer low cut boots to high cut that wrap around the ankle and have used these for day hikes as well as 4 day backpacking trips.
7.) Chaco Sandals - Women Z2 Classic Wide Width:
After miles of hiking, nothing feels better than taking off my boots and switching over to sandals. Gotta let those feet breath! I stole Jared's pair (which he has had for a decade) for the longest time before finally getting my own. The adjustable straps custom-fits to your foot and a toe-loop for additional forefoot control. They are on the heavier side for sandals but they are the most durable I've ever used.
8.) Marmot Dreamweaver Jacket:
I wish summer automatically meant solid 80-degree temperatures no matter where I am and what time of day. But summer storms are real, and wind tends to visit us on the summit of a mountain. I throw this jacket on over my fleece or puffy for extra warmth. It's waterproof, breathable, seam-sealed and incorporates stretch shell material.
9.) Eno Double Nested Hammock:
This hammock tucks into a integrated stuff sack, making it super easy to toss into your backpack for a day hike. It's lightweight (weighing just over a pound) and can sleep 2 people - great for that afternoon nap to rest your mind and muscles.
10.) Hydroflask Water Bottle:
The build quality is better than most water-bottles (I can attest with the number of times I've dropped it) and the insulated double-wall keeps your water ice cold, or coffee piping hot. It's not that lightweight, and the wide mouth version doesn't fit in cupholders, but I will sacrifice for gulps of cold water after a hot hike day.