Rei Trail 40 Review

Best Hiking Gear 2021

In This Guide
  • Hiking Footwear & Clothing
  • GPS & InReach
  • Must Have Gear
  • Camping Gear

Don’t waste your money on hiking gear that’s no good; I’ve already done that for you! Here’s my trail-tested best hiking gear list, last updated January 2021. I only recommend hiking gear that I’ve used over hundreds of miles. I don’t do any paid or sponsored reviews, and I don’t waste your time with gear that doesn’t make the cut. This is only the good stuff.

An easy way to say think you for my free guides to make sure you use the links on this page to buy your gear. I get a small commission that helps offset my website and gear costs. I depend on these commissions to keep the site running, so thank you in advance!

Quick List: Most-Used Gear

Fenix 6 Pro Altitude
I’ve been wearing a Fenix smartwatch pretty much 24/7 and it’s still a great resource for the trails that has a very small footprint and very long battery life.

I’ll go into detail on all the gear that I’ve tested and use below, but if you want to just see what I use the most, here it is. Overall my philosophy is go minimal and light with the important systems (navigation & survival) backed up.

Hiking Footwear

Hiking Boots Or Shoes
For most people I recommend hiking shoes or trail runners, and you can read all about the whys of that recommendation here.

Moab 2 Mall

Best Hiking Shoe: Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator
For most beginner and intermediate hikers, a hiking shoe is the best choice, and the Moab 2 is a winner. The ventilation is great, they last forever, and have a solid grip. There are sizing options for everyone’s foot in this really comfortable and reliable shoe. This shoe is also a favorite of thru-hikers.
Latest Price on Women’s ShoeREI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s ShoeREI | Amazon

Wildcat Small

Best Trail Runner: La Sportiva Wildcat
If you hike a lot or just want the best (but not the most durable) hiking footwear, the Wildcat trail runner is your best move. It’s fast and light on trails, the sole gives me good grip off-trail or scrambling, and they dry quickly. There are a few good trail runner options, but I’ve found that the Wildcat is the best for most of my hiking needs.
Latest Price on Women’s ShoeREI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s ShoeREI | Amazon

Altra Lone Peak

Runner Up Trail Runner: Altra Lone Peak 4.5
I really like the Altra Lone Peak 4.5 as a trail runner as well. It’s more cushy and lighter than the Wildcat, but not as rugged. I also noticed that my Wildcats last a bit longer. But if you are going longer distances on groomed trails, or want a wider toe box, the Lone Peak is a good choice. Another thru-hiker favorite.
Latest Price on Women’s ShoeREI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s ShoeREI | Amazon

La Sportiva Spire Gtx

Best Winter Hiking Shoe: La Sportiva Spire GTX
I used to wear these all year, but switched over to ventilated shoes for the main 3 seasons. But in the winter I like the water-resistance and warmth of a hybrid shoe / boot / trail runner like the Spire GTX. I get mine a half size larger so I can wear them with heavier socks.
Latest Price on Women’s ShoeREI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s ShoeREI | Amazon

Asolo Fugitive

Best Hiking Boot: Asolo Fugitive GTX
This boot is a perennial favorite. The Fugitive is not only comfortable, but is also bomb-proof. If you’re bushwhacking or hiking in extreme conditions, go with this hiking boot. Otherwise a trail runner or shoe is probably a better choice. I’ve had a pair of these last me 8 years.
Latest PricesREI | Amazon

Hiking Backpacks

Osprey Talon On Trail
I carry a pack that’s a little bigger than I normally use in case need the room for extras, especially in the backcountry.


Best All-Around Day Pack: Osprey Talon
I try so many backpacks and I can usually find something I love about all of them. But no matter how many I try, I always find that I come back to the Osprey Talon 33  (or for women, the Osprey Sirrus 36). It’s just the right balance between everything. You save weight because there is no frame, but the vented and padded back holds its shape, giving it a pseudo-frame. It’s big enough for long day hikes or overnighters, but when I don’t fill it on a shorter hike, it’s still nice and light. It’s got a sleeve for a hydration bladder and side pockets for Smartwater bottles.  I’ve been using (and beating) the same one since 2017 and it’s still going strong.
Latest Women’s Prices: REI | Amazon
Latest Men’s Prices: REI | Amazon

Rei Flash 22 Yellow

Best Budget Day Pack: REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack
Bang for the buck, you can’t go wrong with this pack. It’s super-lightweight and big enough to carry everything for a day hike, including a water bladder. Every year REI improves this pack and after a few years, it’s really solid in every way. I pack mine in a carry-on when I travel to do hikes on trips. And if you’re into ultralight backpacking, this is also a solid choice.
Latest PricesREI 

Osprey Exos

Best Overnight Backpack: Osprey Exos 58
This is a popular backpack with thru-hikers for a good reason: it’s light, durable, and roomy. This pack only weighs a fraction more than my daypack (under 3lbs) and carries 58 liters, enough for a long trip. I appreciate the fact that it’s a little roomier for my 3-5 day backpacking trips and easily fits a bear canister. I don’t have to jam everything in there like a puzzle. And the back is well-ventilated so it doesn’t become a soaked mess.
Latest Women’s Prices: REI | Amazon
Latest Men’s Prices: REI | Amazon

Being able to navigate is probably the most important thing on your hike. I realize that not everyone will want (or need to) invest in a dedicated GPS unit, so I’ll recommend a few levels.

Suunto Compass 2

Paper Map & Compass – At a very minimum, carry a paper map.  I use a Suunto M-3 D Leader Compass (REI | Amazon) but you can get away with any decent compass to point you in the right direction. Orient the north needle on the compass with the north pointing compass rose on the map to orient yourself. Obviously there’s a bit more to it, but that will get you in the game. You can get paper maps pretty cheap, and if you are following a guide, print it out or bring the guidebook. I also have a small illuminated magnifier for night viewing (and for starting a fire in a survival situation).


Mapping App With Offline Maps – Now smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS onboard. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS or AllTrails that supports offline maps. Make sure you put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. GaiaGPS is my favorite choice. You can drag the GPX tracks from my (or any) guides into the website and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get up to 40% off here).

Garmin 66i On White

Garmin GPSMAP 66i – Ideally you’ll carry a dedicated GPS unit like the the Garmin 66i (which also has InReach, more later). A GPS like the 66i is built for the outdoors. You can drop it, sit on it, and otherwise thrash it and it works. You don’t have to worry about airplane mode, batteries draining, or shattered screens. The downside is that compared to a modern smartphone, the performance and screen resolution isn’t spectacular. If you want to be as light as possible, just go with a smartphone, but if you want to have a purpose-built navigation tool for the backcountry, a dedicated GPS is the move.
Garmin GPSMAP 66iREI | Amazon | My Review
Garmin Etrex 32xREI | Amazon | My Review

Fenix 6 Map White

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar – Another option for a dedicated GPS is to have a GPS smartwatch. They’re not cheap but they have topographic maps, a GPS, altimeter, and compass. The watch is also a fitness tracker, sleep tracker, can load other apps, etc. It’s like an Apple Watch but built for outdoors lovers and athletes. The Fenix comes in several variations and you can customize it. If you don’t want to spend that much money, check out the affordable Garmin Instinct.
Garmin Fenix 6 – REI | Amazon | My Review

Navigation Resources

Backcountry Communications

Inreach Mini Review

I’m a firm believer in carrying a satellite communications device which works where cell phones don’t. I use a Garmin InReach which lets me send text messages back and forth to my family to let them know that I’m okay or if my plans change when I’m out in the backcountry. It also has an SOS subscription built in so that you can reach first-responders in an emergency. The devices also offer weather reports, GPS, and navigation functionality. For a few hundred bucks they could save your life, so for me it’s a no brainer to have something like a Garmin InReach.

InReach Resources

Hiking Clothing

Cris Hazzard At Bridge To Nowhere

I don’t like to have a lot of crap in my closet, so I just invest in a few key pieces of hiking clothing. In general I like clothing from REI and Kuhl. They fit well, are built for hikers, and wick/dry quickly.

This is what I use on the trail:

Hiking Gear

Rei Trail 40 Review
All your gear should easily fit into your day pack without it flopping around or being overstuffed. Prepare for all possible conditons before heading out.

Survival / Emergency Gear

I carry a few items in the bottom of my pack in case of an emergency. The idea is that you can make yourself comfortable in case you need to stay out after dark and wait for a rescue. Or if you need to signal a rescue without you InReach device.

Use your gear at home first on a simple walk and get used to it before you take it out on the trail. Unboxing and setting up at the trailhead is usually a recipe for bad times.

Camping Gear

camping gear
Want to camp here too? Check out my guide to Parsons Landing.

I don’t do very long thu-hiking; my longest trips are usually 4-5 days. Here’s what works well for me.

Winter Hiking Gear

Post Hike Recovery

Car Camping / Basecamp Setup

If I’m doing some car camping or setting up a little basecamp, this is what I use. It’s generally too heavy to lug into the backcountry, but is nice and comfortable for a car campsite.

Photo Gear

Planning Tools and Software

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