The Difference Gear Makes
Anyone who has been hiking knows that the gear that you bring on the trip can really make or break the hiking experience for you. When I was younger my Dad and I went on an 8 day hiking trip through Isle Royale. To this day, that remains one of my favorite hiking and camping experiences. We were well prepared with quality equipment and that helped keep us enjoying the time we spent together. As we wandered the island we encountered several other hikers out enjoying the park before winter set in.
One pair of hikers stood out from the others and has stuck with me to this day. This pair of middle aged men were of strikingly similar build and physique, but one hiker appeared to be enjoying himself thoroughly, while the other looked so completely gassed that he wished he was dead. Upon striking up a conversation with them we learned that it was the tired ones’ very first time going on a hiking trip like this. He was a professional chef and couldn’t imagine cooking without several ingredients and pans that he considered necessary. After having packed up all his cooking necessities his pack weighed over 100 lbs! Even with the short hike into the camping area where they were spending the first night, after carrying that much weight the hiker was completely exhausted and miserable.
I don’t know if that pair continued to hike, or whether that particular individual ever attempted hiking again, but with the proper gear and managing the pack weight I do know that experience could have been as wonder filled and incredible as it was for my Dad and I.
Critical Hiking Equipment
In order to prevent other potential hikers from having such a terrible first experience we have decided to compile this list of the top 10 best equipment choices for backpacking trips. First Up? Backpacks!
Obviously, the pack you take plays a huge role in the success of the trip. Leave on a week-long trip with a daypack and you’re likely to be cold and hungry before the day is up. Where an external frame pack would be a bit much for a simple day hike. Whether it’s a day pack, or an overnight pack, our favorite packs are all manufactured by Osprey. Osprey has a legacy of quality packs that reach back into the 70s. They have taken their experiences to fashion some truly comfortable and long lasting packs. I even use their Duplex 65 model to commute back and forth to work every day!
It’s difficult to go wrong with any Osprey pack, but if I were to pick a new backpacking pack it would be the Aether. This pack is resetting the standards of comfort while carrying heavier loads, keeping the weight evenly distributed between your shoulders and your hips to prevent sore spots. Even for those accustomed to the comfort and durability osprey packs provide, the Aether takes it to the next level.
For a day pack, the Duplex is always an excellent choice, but if I were to get a new pack it would undoubtedly be the Archeon. This pack not only looks incredible in my opinion, but is versatile enough that I could use it anytime as a day pack, while still being able to comfortably commute with it to and from work.
However, If you are looking for an excuse to get out in nature with the kids, Deuter makes the best kid carrier pack we have used to date. This is the only pack we have ever used that takes into account not only the comfort of mom or dad as they haul their kid to the summit, but also looks after the child’s comfort and safety in all weather conditions. It comes with a rain fly/sun shade for the child, adjustable seating and footrests, and is so simple to use that our kids can strap themselves in!
- Tents or Hammocks
If you are planning on doing more than just a day hike picking out a tent or hammock is an important next step. In a previous article we already discussed some of our favorite Hammocks, if you’re looking into hammocking I’d recommend you start there. For tents, the number 1 backpacking tent on my list is the Big Agnes Copper Spur. Big Agnes has made many of the most comfortable sleeping arrangements in the world of camping for as long as I’ve been around. The copper spur is a very well engineered, lightweight, and durable tent that is simple to set up and take down. Comfortably sleeping 3 people and weighing only 3 lbs 14 oz the copper spur tops the charts in my book for best backpacking tent around
- Hiking Poles
Hiking poles never seem to make much sense to hikers until they’ve used them. Once you’ve used hiking poles in your trekking, it’s difficult to live without them, and the best hiking poles that I have used in my travels have been Black Diamond Hiking Poles. All of their hiking poles are strong, lightweight, and easily collapsible. They are great for adding extra stability hiking or trail running experience.
- Hiking Pants
Picking the right pair of pants for your hiking excursion can be a challenging one, clearly we want the lightest clothing possible when packed, but something that will still protect us from the elements Prana clothing has taken years of experience on the trail to the sewing machine to bring us some of the best trail clothing I have ever seen. Every aspect of their clothing is designed with adventure in mind, from keeping you warm, dry, and free of unwanted chafing! My favorite pair of hiking pants has to be the Prana Stretch Zion Straight
- Hiking Boots
Last but certainly not least comes the hiking boots. This is probably the hardest section to determine an all time best because of the number of quality boot companies in the running. My grandfather swore by Herman Survivors, with one pair lasting him upwards of 30 years. For a more affordable boot, I’d have to agree with him, the quality has lowered in recent years, but the boots are nearly just as rugged and comfortable as they were all those years ago. My dad prefers Oboz boots and has used his most recent pair for the last 10 years with no trouble whatsoever. But if you were to ask me, my absolute favorite boot company for hiking boots is Asolo boots. They are exceptionally comfortable when under load or even just for everyday use. I’ve used my most recent pair every day for the last 7 years, and still have no trouble getting good grip on technical terrain.