Acquiring gear can be fun, rewarding, but also very pricey and time consuming. Feel free to use some of my amateur experiences to help you decide if a particular item suits your needs.
Tent – Mountain Hardware Skyledge 2
Purchased this bad boy from their Richmond, CA employee store (I believe there is also one in Beaverton, OR). Before this tent I was trying out the Marmot 2P Force; I really enjoyed the Marmot, but questioned its long term durability. Aside from MHW discount, I wanted this tent for its multiple pitching options, particularly their “Dry Pitch” feature. It serves multiple benefits of being a lightweight set-up or if it’s raining, setting up the tent under an already erected rainfly to keep everything as dry as possible.
Hammock – ENOS Doublenest & Bug Net
If I can, my first choice is always to hammock. I sleep better, it’s lighter/smaller than a tent, and oodles of fun. You want that, don’t you? OODLES of god damn fun! Paired with a bug net, the only thing I fear is rain. ENOS makes a variety of colors, from the more conservative pairings to the one I own that is neon yellow and blue – YOLO. Don’t buy the $30 rope hanging system, instead buy webbing by-the-length or use paracord.
CON: Not the lightest hammock option.
Must be used with underquilt/sleeping pad to prevent loss of body heat.
Suspension system sold separately ($30). More cost effective to buy webbing and tie in manually.
Pack – Osprey Aura AG, 65L
The AG, anti-gravity, is a welcome design choice by Osprey for a heavy-back-sweater like me. I knew I wanted something larger than 50L, but smaller than 80L. The size of this pack forces me to be efficient with packing. Pack also came with 3L dry bag and rain cover through REI.
CON: Limited color selection: grey or blue-green. EVERYONE has the blue-green one.
No size larger than medium.
Sleeping Bag – REI Siesta, 30ºF & The North Face Blue Kazoo, 15ºF
The REI bag is my general use bag. Not the lightest, nor the smallest, but it’s cost-effective so I put it through the ringer. My TNF bag was purchased with an employee discount. Regardless, I love this damn bag. It performs like a dream in cold weather. Added bonus, TNF also has a great warranty system. I needed to replace a gummed zipper that was stuck from catching fabric. Other than the cost of sending it to their warranty department, it was covered!
CON: TNF zipper can catch fabric with hasty zipping.
Sleeping Pad – Therma-A-Rest Trail Scout Sleeping Pad
I never leave this at home. It’s self-inflating and moderate in price. It’s not made for hammocks and sizing can be awkward in one, but the tapered shape helps it fit.
My CON: Would not repurchase because it’s large when packed down and if popped, it’s game over. Considering a foam-cell variety in the future to decrease weight and increased durability.
Stove – JetBoil Zip & French press attachment
I usually settle for dehydrated meals, oatmeal, and ramen so all I need is boiling water. Cooking is not recommended in most JetBoils because the flame is very difficult to adjust, if done so, it’s at the risk of having burnt food. The next model is more expensive with features like a built-in lighter and visual indicator to show the water is boiling. Worth it? No! The capacity is identical to the Zip model, 2 cups! I always carry waterproof matches and can use my eyes to see if the water is boiling, so uh, the Zip is all I need. French press attachment is gratuitous, but having a coffee ritual is a nice way to wake-up in backcountry.
Headlamp – Black Diamond Spot, 130 lumens
Basic headlamp with a bunch of great features (locking mechanism, red light, dimmer, flood/spot/blinking). Prior to this I was using a 90 lumens headlamp I purchased from The Home Depot and had no issues. All I look for is that it’s water resistant and has a red light option.
My CON: Not the lightest option.
Water Containers – Nalgene & CamelBak, 3L
If you’re going to get a Nalgene bottle, beautiful colors aside, the white frosted one is the way to go because it’s the best at reflecting light when being used as a light source. I always opt for the larger capacity CamelBak because 3L is a typical day-hike water recommendation. Need less, pack less.
Dry Bags – Sea to Summit Clear Stopper Bag, 13L & Osprey, 3L
I love my clear dry bag because it’s easy to see contents without opening it. I put first-aid gear in my 3L or clothes. Filling it with clothes makes a decent pillow.