Best Gear Picks Spring 2023

Best Hiking Gear 2023

Don’t waste your money on hiking gear that’s no good; I’ve already done that for you! 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.

Last updated March 2023. 

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Primary Spring 2023 Hiking Gear

There's more detail below, but for a quick glance at what I'm using all the time now and why, here it is.

  1. Topo Athletic Terraventure 3 ShoesREI | Amazon ) - After using the Altra Lone Peaks for a long time, I can't recommend the new model (7). I've switched to the Terraventure, which is almost the same but slightly less soft, has a much better grip, and is more durable. 
  2. Osprey Stratos and Sirrus 24 Daypack ( Amazon | Sirrus REI | Stratos REI ) - This pack is an excellent balance of comfort, space, and durability that will work great for almost every hiker. I've tried them all, and the Stratos is where I landed.
  3. Garmin Mini 2 Satellite Communicator ( Amazon | REI ) - The Mini 2 lets me share my location and status with family using a text message. If I get into trouble, I can text back and forth with SOS/911.
  4. Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles ( REI | Amazon  ) - I don't use trekking poles all the time, but they are a godsend on slippery and steep slopes, and stream crossings. The Trail Ergo are light, and the cork works well with sweaty hands.
  5. Gaia GPS App ( HikingGuy Premium Discount ) - Gaia GPS is a great way to get my hike track (a GPX) off the internet and synced to my phone. I use a premium membership to save maps offline. I also use it to plan my hikes before hitting the trail.
  6. Garmin Epix Gen 2 ( REI | Amazon ) - These watches are pricey but something to use 24/7. I use this for sleep tracking, workouts, heart rate, and for tracking my hike. It has preloaded hiking maps that help me navigate my hike.

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 a recipe for bad times.

Hiking Footwear

Terraventure 3

Topo Athletic Terraventure 3
I hiked in the Altra Lone Peak shoes for many years, but the new model took away some of the features that made it great. So I've moved onto the Terraventure, which, after many miles, is a much better choice and the perfect hiking shoe. It's durable, offers more protection than the Lone Peak, and, most importantly, has an incredible grip. It's well-vented and keeps your feet dry. The Terraventure has a balanced feel of trail and protection. If you want lots of cushioning, check out the HOKA below.
Latest Price on Women's Shoe - REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men's Shoe - REI | Amazon

Hoka Stinson 6

HOKA Stinson ATR 6
When you need something really cushy and forgiving, these HOKAs are a great option. They're also good if you need to hike long distances and your feet are not used to putting in that kind of mileage.  They have some drawbacks, and I recommend checking out my 300 mile review and why I wore them. I've found these HOKAs are the best of all the HOKA options for hiking.
Latest Price on Women's Shoe - REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men's Shoe - REI | Amazon

Hiking Backpacks

Osprey Stratos 24

Osprey Stratos and Sirrus 24 Daypack
I test a lot of daypacks, and overall, the Stratos (men) and Sirrus (women) are the best all-around bet for day hiking. The pack is big enough to hold everything for 3-season day hikes and has many convenient pockets. But more importantly, it's the most comfortable I've tried. There's a lot of padding, it's very adjustable, and the trampoline back allows sweat to evaporate quickly (as opposed to soaking your pants). I'm also testing the new version of the Gregory Zulu 30, which was my prior pick and is redesigned. So stay tuned for a report on that.
Women's Latest Prices: REIAmazon 
Men's Latest Prices: REIAmazon

Osprey Waistpack

Osprey Talon & Tempest 6 Waist Pack
When I'm doing a short hike, a backpack is an overkill. I love the feeling of having nothing on my back. With this waist pack I can carry essentials like a headlamp, inReach, and two small water bottles (cycling water bottles work great). This size seemed to be the perfect balance of space for short hikes (and bigger waist packs tended to slip down). FYI, it's not cool to call these "fanny packs" anymore as much as I want to.
Women's Latest Prices: REIAmazon 
Men's Latest Prices: REIAmazon

General Hiking Gear

Black Diamond Ergo Poles 2

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I've gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I've had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.
Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon

Hiking Navigation

Garmin Epix

Garmin Epix
Another great for a dedicated GPS is a mapping smartwatch. They're not cheap, but they include topographic maps, an accurate 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 enthusiasts and athletes (and has buttons instead of a touchscreen - much better for hiking). The new Garmin Fenix 7 came out, but I prefer the better screen on the new Epix (Gen2), and the multi-band GPS can't be beatIf you want something similar without the maps, try the Garmin Instinct 2.
Epix Prices: REI | Amazon 
Garmin Instinct 2 Prices: REI | Amazon
Epix & Fenix 7 Review

Inreach Mini 2 Sos

Garmin InReach Mini 2
I'm a firm believer in carrying a satellite communications device which works where cell phones don't. I use a Garmin InReach Mini 2 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 function so that you can reach first-responders in an emergency. The devices also offer weather reports, GPS, and navigation functionality (what's the difference between a GPS and satellite communicator?). 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. If you use a smartphone to navigate and want a more affordable option that integrates with your phone easily, check out the ZOLEO.
Latest Prices: Amazon | REI
My Mini 2 Review Here
ZOLEO Review Here


Gaia GPS
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS on board. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn't drain. Gaia GPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map 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.
Download Gaia GPS - HikingGuy Premium Discount
How to Use Gaia GPS
My Favorite Map Layers
How to Read a Topo Map

Gpsmap 66i

Garmin GPSMAP 66
Why get a dedicated GPS unit? The interface might not be as slick as a new smartphone, but a GPS like this is built for the outdoors, works in heavy rain, and with gloves on. You can also get more granular control over your track recording and navigation. The GPSMAP 66i includes inReach satellite communications. If you don't need inReach and just want a solid purpose-built GPS, I'd go for the highly-accurate GPSMAP 66sr.
GPSMAP 66i Prices: REIAmazon
GPSMAP 66i Review
GPSMAP 66sr Prices: REI | Amazon
GPSMAP 66sr Review
How to Use Your Garmin

I'm testing the new GPSMAP 67i now.

Paper Maps

Paper Maps
As good as electronic navigation is these days, it's all dependent 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 it in a ZipLoc bag to keep it safe. These are the maps that I like.
National Geographic Trail Maps: REI | Amazon
Tom Harrison Cartography: REI | Amazon
Suunto M-3 D Leader Compass: REI | Amazon

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 rescue. Or if you need to signal a rescue without your InReach device.

Hiking Clothing

I don't like to have a lot of stuff 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:

Camping Gear

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

I don't do very long thru-hiking; my longest trips are usually 4-5 days. Generally I like to keep things light without buying specialized (and expensive) ultralight gear. Here's what works well for me.

Post Hike Recovery

Production Gear

Winter Hiking Gear