My gear list has evolved over the years through a lot of trial and error and a desire for a lighter pack. Below I’ve briefly given reviews of gear I’ve used in the past and explained why I replaced those items, followed by descriptions of the items I use now.
Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Sleeping Pad – Regular (no longer use)
I bought this sleeping pad because it was thick (3.5 inches!) and had a good R-value (5). However, I realized it was much bigger than I needed, and at 27 ounces, it was also too heavy. I can’t say there was anything particularly wrong with this pad (except its weight), though I expected it to be more comfortable considering how thick it is (I never really felt like it was any more comfortable than other options). I decided to replace it to lighten my pack.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm – Regular (my current sleeping pad)
I purchased this sleeping pad because it seemed to have the perfect combination of weight (15 oz.) and warmth (R value= 5.7). I’ve never had any problems with it leaking or tearing, and it’s comfortable (I prefer this over my Big Agnes pad), seems to insulate me well, and is the perfect size for me and my sleeping bag. I’m really glad I chose this one!
Thermarest Compressible Pillow (medium) (no longer use)
I used to use clothing in a stuff sack as my pillow, but decided it was too uncomfortable. I decided to buy this pillow because it had good reviews and was one of the cheapest available options. The foam in this pillow expands quite a bit, and I found it to be reasonably comfortable. However, its size when packed wasn’t very small, and at 9.8 ounces, it was simply too heavy so I decided to replace it.
Big Sky Dream Sleeper (my current backpacking pillow)
I read many positive reviews of this pillow on Backpackinglight (BPL), so I decided to give it a try. Although a bit expensive, it ended up being exactly the pillow I was looking for. It’s very light (3.6 oz. with the pillowcase, 1.4oz. without), and has a curve in the center which cradles my head comfortably. I was worried that it would be a bit uncomfortable because it is an inflatable pillow, but surprisingly, I actually like that this pillow is inflatable because I can adjust the firmness (I like mine slightly deflated to make it the right combination of ‘soft yet supportive’). Although I still have my Thermarest pillow, I always use this one now, even when weight isn’t an issue (‘car camping’, flights, etc.).
Merrell Women’s Siren Sport Hiking Shoe (my current day-hiking shoe)
I have been using this hiking shoe model for years. They’re comfortable, provide great underfoot protection, and have very good traction even on wet and rocky surfaces. I’m not sure what I’ll do if they’re ever discontinued and part of me just wants to buy a bunch of them and stash them away ‘just in case.’ With that said, I tend to only use them on day hikes nowadays because they take forever to dry after getting wet. I learned the hard way that I needed to find a different shoe that dries more quickly for extended trips where rain is a possibility.
Brooks Cascadia 9 (my current trail runner for backpacking trips)
I bought this particular trail runner for backpacking because I heard it was a very popular model among PCT thru-hikers, and I really like it. They dry faster than my Merrells and have always been very comfortable. However, my current pair is getting worn out and I’m not sure if I can rely on them lasting through my whole JMT hike in July. Brooks Cascadia 9s are no longer available, so I’m still deciding whether to get Brooks Cascadia 11, Pearl Izumi Trail M2 or Altra Lone Peak 2.5 as a replacement.
Biore Aqua Watery Essence SPF50 (my daily-use sunscreen)
This is the sunscreen I use in my daily life, and is my favorite sunscreen that I have ever tried. It is very smooth and doesn’t leave any stickiness, shininess, or white residue. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s completely unlike any other sunscreen I’ve come across, and I hope it is never discontinued. I really wanted this to work for when I go hiking because I was using Bullfrog as my ‘sports sunscreen’, which tended to ball up and peel off. Unfortunately it isn’t waterproof (at all…), so I had to search for an alternative.
Sawyer Stay-put Sunscreen SPF30 (my current hiking/backpacking/sports sunscreen)
I eventually tried this sunscreen, and I really like this option for days when I’m hiking and need something water-resistant. It’s long-lasting, effective, and doesn’t leave any strange residues, so it meets my standard! I’m glad I finally found a ‘sports’ sunscreen that I like.
Over time, I learned the importance of reducing my baseweight and leaving unnecessary items at home. There are numerous items, however, that I added to my gear list to make hiking a more comfortable experience:
I never used to wear wind jackets when hiking, but am very glad I decided to try this one. Sometimes I’m too hot/cold with my other clothing options, and quite often it’s my Patagonia Houdini that makes my temperature ‘just right’. I don’t like hiking in my rain jacket unless it is raining, so I don’t feel like having a wind jacket is ‘redundant’ for me. It makes me feel so comfortable while hiking, so I don’t mind the few extra ounces in this case.
It works well on trails with lots of sunlight. When access to sunlight has been interrupted, I like that it automatically re-starts charging my phone/camera/etc.
The scissors have been helpful numerous times, and I’m glad I added it to my pack.
I use a Sawyer mini to purify water, and now also bring these tablets as a back up.