***Note that Brian and Sylvia receive no compensation of ANY sort from any brand named seller of goods for appearing on this page. IE we are not paid; this is not product advertising. Not yet anyway. if that changes we’ll let you know. Meantime ALL of this is strictly advice. Any endorsement you see here are because we have used the products, not because we were paid to say it. Scouts honor.***
Our gear list is fluid. It is seldom static for long because we are constantly searching for ways to improve it. Which means, the gear we are using right now isn’t necessarily the gear we’ll be using next year. I fully intend to replace at least a couple items, and then there maybe be a few items I am forced to replace because they broke, were lost or just wore out.
Personally, I have replaced at LEAST five pairs of hiking boots in nearly twenty years of hiking, not including those I simply took back to the store because they weren’t right for me. As I gravitate toward less durable but less expensive lightweight hiking shoes, I expect replacement rate to increase, maybe to a pair each year.
Here is a snapshot of our gear as it stand right now:
- Brian: Vasque Low Top Hiking Shoes
- Sylvia: Salomon Fast Hikers
Though he has used Vasques for FOREVUH and likes their toughness and fit, Brian’s next purchase will likely be fast hikers too. Sylvia very much likes the Salomon brand of shoes and uses them for everything (running, hiking, biking, and delivering swift motivational kicks to her husband’s behind.) Brian’s experience with Salomon has been somewhat less remarkable; he uses Saucony running shoes. Sylvia and Brian have also used Keene Brand; I LOVE their closed-toed sandals, but neither Sylvia nor I could completely endorse their hiking shoes.
- Brian and Sylvia BOTH use and recommend Osprey packs for backpacking
- Brian and Sylvia also BOTH use and recommend Camelback lightweight packs for hiking/biking/trail running
Note the current Osprey pack is only the second I have even owned, excepting one failed experiment used only once. I used a Lowe Alpine pack for nearly 15 years and liked it.
- Brian: Marmot Sawtooth 27 degree down
- Sylvia: North Face Cat’s Meow 20 degree synthetic
- We both use Thermolite Bag Liners
I have only ever owned three backpacking sleeping bags in my entire life…the current one (recommended), the Cat’s Meow used by Sylvia, and an ancient Sierra Designs lightweight down model, probably rated high 30’s, from back in the 1990’s. Of all of them, my favorite by far was the Sierra Designs one which I still have, and have used in temps as low as 15 degrees. The Cat’s Meow, which is over 10 years old, is my least favorite, but it is still quite serviceable. My biggest issue with synthetic bags is they simply don’t compress well.
- Brian: Princeton Remix
- Sylvia: Black Diamond
My first hikers headlamp from dating from the turn of the century, by the way, looked very much like a miners lamp.
We aren’t committed to any particular brand of headlamp. We replace headlamps often. I have used Petzel and Black diamond and they all work well, but my main issue is, they break very easily. My current Princeton is more durable than the last few I have owned.
- Brian uses (and recommends) the Leatherman Wave. I have never owned an actual Swiss Army knife, but have used several Leatherman and Gerber knives and liked them all. I think a multi-tool has more than enough utility to justify its weight.
- Brian: Leki Traverse
- Sylvia: Brian’s battered old REI poles
Note that Sylvia uses poles about 50% of the time; Brian almost always does. The Leki’s have proven VERY durable, but even so I am not convinced the big price tag is really justified. I have had several pairs of REI ones that I liked as much or maybe even more, but they fell apart eventually.
- Two Person: REI Quarter Dome 2 (recommended)
- Solo: MSR Hubba (recommended)
The Quarter Dome is actually the second one we have owned, the first one having basically dissolved after about five-six years of use. Improper storage might have contributed to this. I have also replaced the rain fly on my Hubba…MSR was VERY good about this and I would endorse all MSR products excepting maybe the water filters.
Both tents, and ALL lightweight tents in general, come with the caveat that each must be meticulously cared for, and even then last about seven years in average use. Lightweight fabrics are high-maintenance and wimpy. 😦
- Brian and Sylvia both use and recommend Thermarest inflatable mattresses. While we consider it optional gear, an inflatable sleeping pad makes a HUGE difference and I will always carry one. The few times it got left at home I ended up deeply regretting it. This is my second…The first perished after a week in Big Bend National Park after cactus needles did a number on it. Generally expect to replace them every few years. Note that I have used foam pads too; they are cost effective but not comfortable.
- Brian and Sylvia BOTH use Marmot waterproof rain protection. Of all the overpriced outdoor clothes I think Marmot does the best job at repelling water, and the wind breaking ability of their jackets for their weight is also excellent.
- We use the Jetboil Flash cooking system.
Brian LOVES the Jetboil and insists you aren’t cool if you don’t have one, but admits that he got by just fine with a much smaller and cheaper MSR stove for years.
We also purchased some lightweight pop-op containers which we have been very pleased with, and nothing beats a titanium spork (except maybe TWO titanium sporks.)
- Brian uses an Osprey Hydration System that was designed for his pack.
- Sylvia uses a Camelback hydration system
Sylvia likes her Hydration system. Grumpy old uncle Brian, meanwhile, is not entirely satisfied with his hydration system which he believes to be too fragile, and sometimes stops drawing water at odd times. He feels the old plastic Platypus bags were about as good, or better, for less money. Grumble grumble grumble.
As a water purification system Brian does own an MSR Sweetwater pump filter, but is generally not very satisfied with it (and with pricey, heavy hand crank/pumps in general.) He will seek to replace it.
Sylvia asked that one more piece of gear be included here:
Sylvia uses Kuhl and Mountain Hardware hiking pants
Brian, a ‘one pants’ hiker, currently uses Kuhl pants.
Sylvia insists that the right type of hiking pants are essential as they provide ‘more fleixibility’ and ‘elasticity.’ She uses two pair — a pair of Kuhl and Mountain Hardware pants. She endorses both. She used to have a pair of REI pants and pronounces these to be “Less flexible.”
Brian has used a variety of hiking pants and prefers, if possible, to have a pair that is convertible (converts into shorts with zippers) and uses draw strings/straps instead of a belt. He has owned many pairs; some have worked better than others. I was told by somebody that the Kuhl brand “makes my ass look LESS flat.”
My own opinion of the Kuhl brand is that I am less than “Kuhl” with it; the fabric is very durable but I also find it to be somewhat stiff and inflexible. I have had some issue with the quality of this brand as well; I had to return the initial pair to the store because the stitching was clearly defective (they had sewn right over one of the pockets.) I am still ambivalent about this brand (not entirely “Kuhl” with it yet) but at the moment I am using it. I have personally never owned Mountain Hardware pants but I have owned other apparel by this brand and would endorse it.