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Featured Gear 2023 08 11
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Best Hiking Gear 2023

Here's my unsponsored and non-promoted hiking gear list. I'm only sharing the gear that actually works and that you'll find me with on the trail. It's all been tested over hundreds of miles of hiking and backpacking.

Please use my links below to buy your gear. I get a small commission at no extra cost to you, and it allows me to keep this list and website ad and promotion-free.

Big updates from September 2023.

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Day Hiking Essentials

  1. Garmin inReach Mini 2 ( Amazon | REI | Review )
    There are some exciting new satellite communicators on the market, and having tested them all, I can tell you that the Garmin inReach is the gold standard and one you can feel comfortable relying on to save your life. The Mini 2 model is rugged, tiny, and has a long battery life.
  2. HOKA Speedgoat 5 ( Men | Women )
    Hiking with the Speedgoat is like hiking on air. They're well-cushioned, lightweight, and dry quickly. They run small, so I recommend getting a half-size larger in a wide. When you size up, the toe box is wide enough not to smush your toes together. If I need a more rugged choice, for example, in heavy mud or off-trail, I hike with the Terraventure 4 and Pursuit.
  3. Osprey Stratos / Sirrus ( Men / Women )
    There are more great backpacks out there than ever, but when you balance all the features like weight, comfort, and price, the Stratos and Sirrus are the best options for most hikers. You can see my video that dives into the features here. If you want a minimal and much lighter pack, check out the Zpacks Sub-Nero 30L, which I sometimes use as well (video here).
  4. Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles ( REI | Amazon )
    I don't always use trekking poles, but these are my solid choice when I do. The cork grips are excellent when I'm sweaty; they're lightweight carbon fiber and work well after repeated use and abuse. When I want something lighter I use the folding Black Diamond Carbon Distance Z.
  5. Nitecore NU25 Headlamp ( Amazon | Zpacks ) - Most headlamps are overbuilt with button combinations that are easy to forget when caught out after dark. The NU25 is simple, ultralight, and recharges with USB-C. It's everything you need and nothing more.
  6. Smartwater Bottle + Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System ( REI | Amazon )
    After years of using a hydration bladder, I've finally 100% switched over to using Smartwater bottles. They're simple, light, durable, and easy to pick up at any gas station in the USA. The Sawyer Squeeze just screws on the top of the Smartwater bottle, allowing me to fill it with untreated water and simply squeeze filtered water into my mouth. I do drink more with a hydration bladder, and when I use it, the Osprey 3L is my choice.
  7. Smartphone Navigation ( AllTrails | GaiaGPS | OnX )
    My primary navigation when conditions are good is on a smartphone. AllTrails is a great beginner's app, Gaia GPS premium has many map layers for power users, and OnX sits somewhere in between. The smartphone touchscreen is unreliable when wet or in extreme conditions, so then I'll use my Garmin GPSMAP 67 ( Amazon | Review ), which only works with buttons.
  8. Garmin Epix Pro 51mm ( REI | Amazon )
    These watches are pricey, but I use them 24/7 for sleep tracking, workouts, heart rate, and tracking my hike. It has preloaded hiking maps that help me navigate the trails and is a backup to my smartphone navigation. The Epix Pro has a great battery life, a screen similar to an Apple Watch Ultra, and works in harsh conditions when just using the buttons.
  9. Lightweight USB Battery Charger ( Anker | Nitecore )
    The nice thing about carrying USB devices like my phone, GPS, camera, and headlamp is that I just need one battery pack to charge them. New technology has made these smaller and lighter than ever. As an iPhone user, the Anker 622 is Magsafe and snaps on my phone, but it also allows me to charge USB-C devices with a small cable. I use the larger but still lightweight Nitecore NB10000 when I'm out on longer trips.
  10. Paper Maps ( NatGeo | Tom Harrison )
    As good as electronic navigation is these days, it depends on having power and your device not breaking. As a backup, you should always carry a paper map. Paper is also handy when you want to make some decisions in a larger format—spreading out a paper map and understanding the landscape as a whole blows away scrolling a screen any day. Put your map in a Ziploc bag to keep it safe. Pair it with a good compass.
  11. Nutritionally Dense & Healthy Snacks
    I'll generally bring a bag of salted nuts and fruit, which take care of cramping and nutrition simultaneously. I also like Probars, which are sweeter than nuts but full of healthy calories. And I'll carry a few Muir Energy Gels, a healthy and tasty equivalent of your standard (nutritionally horrible) gels.

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Hiking Emergency Kit

  1. Titanium Micro-Blade Knife ( Zpacks )
    You don't need a massive blade when hiking, and I rarely use all the options on a Swiss Army knife. A simple and lightweight blade is generally all you need.
  2. SOL Fire Lite Fuel-Free Lighter ( REI | Amazon )
    This lighter is impressive. It's a USB charging, weatherproof, no-fuel lighter that burns very hot. There's also an emergency flashlight and cord that you can use to start a fire. And it weighs less than 2oz. I'll also carry a cheap Bic lighter as a backup.
  3. Emergency Bivvy ( REI )
    This lightweight sleeping sack can help protect me from the elements and keep me warm. Simply stuff it with leaves or pine needles if you want extra warmth.
  4. Medical Kit
    I have a small roll of Leukotape for cuts or blisters. I combine that with a gauze pad, small antibiotic packets, and small alcohol wipes.
  5. Small Duct Tape Roll ( Amazon )
    Take 12 inches of tape off, coil it up, and use it to repair gear or cover a blister out on the trail.
  6. Whistle ( Amazon )
    Most sternum straps on backpacks include a whistle, which you should blow if you think a rescue is close. Otherwise, just grab a cheap one from the dollar store and keep it in a hip belt.
  7. Electrolyte Chews ( REI )
    If I'm hydrated but still wiped out, I might be in need of electrolytes. I carry a small bag of chews with me; they do the job.)

You can buy expensive stuff sacks to organize gear, but gallon Ziploc bags work great and are a fraction of the price.

Main Hiking Clothes

  1. KUHL Renegade Convertible Pants ( REI )
    I've gone through many pants, and there are some excellent choices, but the Renegade is the most comfy and durable year after year. I get the convertible version which I mainly use as a short. I keep the legs in my pack if it gets cold or overgrown.
  2. KUHL Engineered Hoodie ( REI )
    Lots of shirts have come and gone, but if I had to pick one, the hoodie is the best all-arounder. Use it on cool mornings, hot days, or under a rain jacket. It's soft and wicks away moisture; I couldn't ask for more. The REI Sahara long sleeves are also solid. For a lighter option or base t-shirt, the REI Sahara short sleeve T is durable and effective.
  3. Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks ( REI )
    There's not much debate in the hiking community about which socks are the best; it's Darn Tough. The Micro Crew Cushion model offers an outstanding balance of comfort and weight; it was designed for hikers. And as the name suggests, no holes or rips. I've been using one pair since 2006.
  4. Oakley Gibston ( REI )
    Being out on the trail all day exposes your eyes to sunlight, especially above the treeline or outside the tree canopy. Putting sunglasses on has eliminated sun blindness (photokeratitis) on long days.
  5. Outdoor Research Swift Visor ( Amazon )
    Smartwool Merino 250 Beanie ( REI )
    I've found that a workout visor is the perfect balance. The brim shades my eyes; the band soaks up sweat, and heat vents out the top when I work hard on a climb. I pair it with a Smartwool Merino 250 Beanie when temps are cooler.
  6. Black Diamond StormLine Stretch Rain Shell ( REI | Amazon )
    REI Co-op Trailmade Rain Pants ( REI )
    A shell jacket and pants go in my pack, just in case. Not only are they great for when it rains, but they also add warmth when I need it. The StormLine and Trailmade are the best combo that balances weight and keeps me dry.

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Backpacking Gear

This is going to look like a Zpacks ad! Their stuff is overall just excellent, although it does cost more. I've dealt with their customer service, and it's top-notch. I've listed good budget options that have worked for me as well where possible.

  1. Arc Zip Ultra 62L Backpack ( Zpacks )
    This 62-liter backpack, big enough for a week of backpacking, is lighter and stronger than most day packs. It's such a well-thought-out pack, I can't imagine using anything else anymore. Especially appreciated is the trampoline back, which keeps my back dry when carrying heavy loads. Try the Osprey Exos 58 or Eja 58  for women for an excellent similar, yet more affordable option.
  2. Plex Solo Tent ( Zpacks )
    For years I used freestanding tents because they work anywhere and are easy, but the elastic cord in the poles always fails. You can replace it, but who needs the hassle? I tried the Plex Solo tent last year, and I loved it. You need one trekking pole to make it stand; Zpacks sells ones long enough, or just use a small pole. Even with the pole, it's easier to set up than a freestanding tent and weighs about half. I use the 7" Super Sonic Stake in a stake sack. For a great budget option, try the REI Co-op Trailmade 1.
  3. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT ( REI | Amazon )
    I tried a few of the top-rated pads, and this was the most comfortable and warmest. I can roll on my side, and it doesn't squeak. Its extremely high r-value (7.3) is good even in the coldest environments.
  4. Zpacks 20F Solo Quilt ( Zpacks )
    This quilt is much lighter and packs smaller than other quilts with the same temperature rating. The sleeping pad straps are easy to use, and no mystery cords or straps leave you wondering if you're missing something. The REI Co-op Magma Trail quilts have also worked well for me; you can often find them on sale.
  5. Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Compact Plus Sleeping Bag Liner ( REI )
    Man, that's a long name. This sleeping bag liner is an excellent balance of weight and warmth and is as comfy as expensive sheets that you'd find in a fancy hotel. For summer camping, I just use this with my pad.
  6. Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow ( REI | Amazon )
    I used to be a tough guy and just put clothes in a stuff sack for a pillow, but I've mellowed out in my old age. This pillow is worth the few extra ounces. My quality of sleep is much better.
  7. MSR PocketRocket Deluxe Stove ( REI | Amazon )
    It's lightweight, tested over the years on the trail, and dead simple. Screw it onto the fuel canister, press the self-lighting button, and voila. The self-lighter has worked every time without a problem.
  8. TOAKS Titanium 750ml Pot ( REI )
    I just rest this guy full of water on the stove, boil it for a few minutes, and then dump the water into the food bag. After it's sat for a few minutes, just eat it with a long spork. The 750ml size is perfect for the average camping food bag. I also use it to drink my coffee. When I'm done, I store my fuel canister inside.
  9. Backpacker Cache ( Amazon )
    Ursack AllMitey ( REI )
    My attitude toward food storage has evolved over the years. I no longer use a bear hang. If I just need to protect my food from rodents and little critters, I use an Ursack. If I am in bear country, I'll use a (Garcia) Backpacker's Cache made out of ABS. I saw a bear gnaw through the clear blue container brand this year, which is made from polycarbonate, so I don't use those anymore.
  10. Basic Lightweight Flip Flops ( Amazon )
    Don't forget to pack comfy sandals for when your hike is over. It beats walking on sticks and rocks barefoot in the middle of the night when you have to pee.

Let's talk about sleep systems because there are many options, and it can get confusing. I've found that the best move that gives you the most flexibility is to use a quilt with a liner and a high r-value (warmth) sleeping pad. The quilt lets you sleep naturally under a cover; if you are too warm, you can simply put less over you. The liner adds warmth when it's cold, allows me to keep the quilt clean, and also works alone when it's hot out. And the high r-value pad insulates me from the ground and, combined with the quilt, allows me to regulate my temperature by simply covering up less.

Hiking Dangers & Annoyances

  1. Insect Head NetAmazon )
    These head nets look silly, but they are a lifesaver and have saved me from insanity many times. There's nothing as maddening as climbing a mountain, sweating, and swatting gnats out of your face. I carry this with me all the time, just in case.
  2. Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray ( REI | Amazon )
    You don't need bear spray most of the time, but it's prudent in some places where you find bears. It's also good for mountain lions and humans. If you are anxious about wild creatures, I suggest reading my guide to bears and mountain lions. The more you understand, the better off you'll be.
  3. Natural Insect Repellent ( Amazon )
    Don't use DEET; it's so toxic that it can melt backpacks. Picaridin is good but also a chemical. I have found great luck with Murphy's Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil, which is all-natural and smells lovely. It's kept me tick-free when others with me got attacked. It's also good at keeping the mosquitos off my skin.

Cold Weather Hiking Gear

I keep my cold-weather gear in a couple of stuff sacks. It's easy to grab and put it in my pack if the temperatures are cooler outside.

  1. Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket  ( REI )
    You can stuff this lightweight puffer jacket in your pack and have it for cool nights or cold summits. This Patagonia model has some room in the armpits to move around with a backpack on.
  2. Smartwool Merino 250 Beanie ( REI )
    I keep this light beanie in my pack and use it to stay warm when temperatures drop.
  3. Smartwool Intraknit Thermal Tops & Bottoms ( REI )
    I combine these heavier layers with my regular hiking gear when it's cold. There's no need to buy special winter gear unless you plan to spend a lot of time snowshoeing or hiking in winter. Combining layers with good shells will usually do the trick.
  4. Kahtoola MICROspikesREI | Amazon )
    I'll take these micro-spikes when there's a chance of snow or ice. I keep them in a little stuff sack so they don't get everything dirty when they come off.
  5. REI Co-op Minimalist GTX Mittens 2.0 ( REI )
    Black Diamond WindWeight Convertible Mittens ( REI )
    I'm a convert to mittens over gloves. I'll just go with the shell mittens if it's rainy or cool. And then, if it's colder, I'll wear the fleece mittens underneath. Or cold and dry, I'll just go with the fleece.

Heavy Rain Hiking Gear

Here's what I use in addition to the rain shell and pants I mentioned earlier, mainly when I know it will be very wet.

  1. NRS HydroSkin Wet SocksREI | Amazon )
    Wet socks are great for keeping feet warm in wet weather and for wearing on cool camping nights. I wear these with my regular trail runners, just letting them get wet.
  2. Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Storm Hat ( REI | Amazon )
    I use this for shade on hot hikes and in heavy rain. I recently used it during non-stop rainy days in Olympic National Park, making my life much dryer. It's versatile, light, packs flat, and completely worth it.
  3. Zpacks Lotus UL Umbrella ( Zpacks )
    I was skeptical about using an umbrella when hiking. I'm a convert after trying it out and using it with the Zpack clip; it fits right on my backpack. This feather-light umbrella keeps me dry in the rain and shaded in the sun. I saw hikers using it at the bottom of the Grand Canyon this year, and they were raving about how cool it was keeping them.

"The Other" Emergency Kit

  1. BoglerCo Ultralight Backpacking Trowel ( Amazon )
    If you need to go, dig a hole away from a water source and do your business. I like this trowel because it's not only very light, but has a small plastic cover at the top that's easier on your plam when digging.
  2. Single Ply Toilet Paper ( Amazon )
    Single ply is not as comfortable but it's light and biodegrades quickly. Just take a few feet and roll it up.
  3. Mini Hand Sanitizer ( Amazon )
    You don't need a lot, so just get the smallest size you can and replace it if you use it.

Post-Hike Recovery

  1. Crocs  ( Amazon )
    Yea, go ahead and make fun of me. I wear Crocs. They're super soft and comfortable after a long day of hiking. I use the back strap so they don't slip off while driving. Whatever you do after a hike, air your feet and give them a break from your hiking shoes.
  2. Trigger Point Performance GRID X Foam Roller ( REI | Amazon )
    It looks hokey, but rolling your back and legs on this thing does wonders.
  3. Pro-Tec Athletics Spiky Ball Massage Ball ( REI | Amazon )
    It's a dog toy, but just spending a minute or two rolling your feet on this little ball makes them feel great.
  4. NUUN Active Tabs Hydration Tablets ( REI | Amazon )
    Pop one in a big water bottle to ensure all your electrolytes and minerals are topped up. There's no sugar or crap, just the stuff you need.

Production Gear

  1. Sony FX-3 ( Amazon)
  2. Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM ( Amazon )
  3. Sony ECM-B1M Shotgun Mic ( Amazon )
  4. DJI Osmo Action 4 ( Amazon )
  5. DJI Wireless Mic ( Amazon )
  6. Peak Design Travel Tripod ( Amazon )
  7. iPhone 14 Pro Max ( Amazon )
  8. Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2 30L ( Amazon )
  9. Shure MV7 ( Amazon )

Have a question about the guide or want to see what other people are saying/asking? View the Youtube comments for this video. Leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.