I am a 2018 Appalachian Trail Thru Hiker. I will be hiking the PCT in 2020 I have spent thousands of dollars on backpacking gear. My backpacking set up has many iterations featuring products from brands such as: NEMO, Warbonnet, Gossamer Gear, Wright, Merrell, MSR, Sea to Summit, Patagonia and many others
MSR Pocket Rocket 2 Stove
Light. Hot. Reliable.
I used this stove for the entirety of my Appalachian Trail Thru Hike and it never failed me. This stove performs well in 95 percent of conditions. It runs hot and it stays there, it doesn’t lose power as your fuel runs low, going full boat until the can is empty. This may cause you to occasionally run out of gas mid boil but personally I put the onus on the hiker to make sure you are aware of your fuel levels and view this feature as a plus. The heat levels are relatively adjustable and I’ve found I am able to simmer liquids, if you are trying to thicken a sauce or say, your Mac and cheese, it will scorch but it is possible to use lower temps when needed. The only real negative with this product is in high wind conditions, low to moderate winds are combated by the Y-Shaped piece of metal on the heat surface that separates the flame in to three sections leaving the two others burning while wind is blowing from one direction. I love my Pocket Rocket 2 and will use it again, I have also recently purchased the new Pocket Rocket Deluxe and will be reviewing soon.
Wrightsock Adventure Crew Hiking Socks
The *Wright* Socks
I have owned 6 pairs of the Adventure Crew Hiking Socks. These are my single favorite hiking socks. The thing that sets Wright Sock apart is the fact that they are built with an internal liner, meaning you do not need to wear a separate sock liner under your socks in order to prevent blistering and hot spots (which is any long distance hiker will tell you is the norm). Wright socks hold up well, a pair usually lasting around 600 hiking miles. At $20 a pair they are not the cheapest socks on the market but for their functionality I would choose Wright Socks 8 days a week.
The North Face Wasatch 20 Degree Synthetic Sleeping Bag
Does the job at a good price. Slightly heavier than many modern options.
I used this mummy bag for the entirety of my Appalachian Trail Thru Hike. I bought this bag last minute at a Dick’s Sporting Goods thinking I would replace it at some point. I never replaced this bag and it served me well. I found it to be very durable. The warmth stays in all around, in six months of daily use I never developed a cold spot. The zipper is sturdy and comes up to the hood. The hood has cinch points to bring it in right around the face, I was even able to close it almost fully and disappear inside of the bag on colder nights when need be. It is heavier than other bags and most quilts but for $90 this bag will get you there.
AQUAMIRA Water Treatment Drops
My go to water purification.
Aquamira is a chlorine solution similar to what is used to treat municipal water sources. I prefer Aquamira to filtration due to the fact that as long as you follow the instructions and keep yourself in stock you have drinkable water just about anywhere you go in North America.
Saxx Ultra Boxer Briefs
Great for chafe. Do not last.
This product has me truly torn. They are incredible effective when new, their Ball Park Pouch separates your private areas fro your legs leading to drastically less rub than other brands. The down side is at $30 a pair their durability leaves much to be desired. With occasional use these are the best hiking briefs I’ve found but I have not had a pair continue to be effective past a few hundred miles. I love these briefs when they are functional but they are not for everybody.
Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion
The major upside of Darn Toughs are the life time replacement, as long as you do not lose them Darn Tough will replace them free of charge, for life when ruined (as long as they were not burnt). Personally, as tough as these socks may be I have not had the best experience with them, without wearing sock liners they lead to just as many blisters and hot spots as any pair of cotton socks ever has. I also dealt with major shrinkage of every pair I have owned. I prefer Wright Socks which have a liner installed in them already and will be reviewing soon.
NEMO Tensor Ultralight Sleeping Pad
The Cadillac (pretend it’s the ‘50s) of sleeping pads
This pad is light enough to be reasonable on long backpacking trips and for people with back issues like myself it is a treasure. I have the Wide-Regular-insulated version of this pad. The best features for me are it’s 3 inches of loft that keep you elevated and comfortable and NEMO’s baffle system that makes this one of the quietest sleeping pads I’ve ever heard (or not heard rather). I have never woken up on a deflated pad laying against the hard ground with this product. It also includes a Vortex stuff sack that inflates the pad in seconds, saving your breathe and your time. I am partial to hammocking but this product has made sleeping on the ground bearable. This review will be amended as needed but as of now I am thoroughly impressed with this product.
NEMO Equipment Hornet Elite Ultralight 2P Tent
Lightest Semi-Freestanding tent with dedicated poles on the market.
The Hornet Elite 2 is a recent purchase of mine, having spent about 20 nights in it so far in varying Shoulder Season conditions in New England. I was looking for the lightest possible tent that still had dedicated tent poles (meaning you do not need to use trekking poles to set it up) and the Hornet Elite checked all of those boxes. To start I will note that this tent as listed as 2P but that is only the case if both persons are using 20” Mummy pads that taper towards the feet. I personally use it as a semi spacious 1P tent on my adventures through the back country. This tent uses a color coded pole system that connects twice at the head side that does not require stakes, and once at the center of the foot box where two stakes are required for set up. The body of the tent then hooks to the poles at multiple areas, the most impressive of which is the top most point where the Flybar connects to the pole at the center but has two point where the mesh is connected to the Flybar at the ends, this feature offers inches more head room while sitting up than if there was a single hook from the mesh to the pole. The rain fly attaches at multiple points with Velcro straps and is then staked our to the left and right sides of the tent. The rain fly has cinch cords at the corners and stake loops to achieve optimal tautness. One of my favorite features are a set of hooks on the sides of the mesh tent body that attach to loops on the fly, pulling out the tent body and creating more living space. The vestibule is large enough to store your gear and there being two of them means double space for yourself or personal space for each you and another to both store your gear out of the weather. This review will be amended as need but as of now I am thoroughly impressed with the performance and functionality of this tent.
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L Backpack
Light in weight. Light on the wallet. Heavy in Quality.
I bought my Mariposa in January of 2018. I have since trekked more than 2,500 miles with it. To start from the top, I was looking for a light weight alternative to the many roll top packs that populate our trails today. The Mariposa opens to a large Seabag style pack like a roll top pack but uses a buckle at the opening to close the top, you then fold over whatever material you haven’t filled and two more buckles (that are visible in the picture shown) are used to secure the flap and cinch it tight, meaning you can use as much or as little on the storage space as you’d like (roll top packs have this same capability). The Mariposa has a large stuff pouch on its left side large enough for most shelters (I keep hammock, tarp, and stake bag and also my tent when used in this pocket) making for easy access when arriving at camp. The right side of the pack has two stuff pouches, both large enough to hold up to a 1.5L water bottle and other gear you may need on the fly (bug spray etc). The large mesh pouch on the back became one of my favorite features, I have stuffed this pouch with an unbelieveable amount of gear and food and wet clothes on many occasions and have yet to find its limit, the only hole it has gotten was from being handled by baggage personnel at the airport. The shoulder straps and load lifters are adjustable in a multitude of ways and you withe some experimentation I believe almost any hiker would find their sweet spot of comfortability. The hip belt on this pack is one of the best I’ve used, two large pockets are great for holding phones and snacks (even together in the same pocket) and in over 2,500 miles and I have never dealt with pack rash with this secure belt except on extremely high mileage days in soaking wet conditions. This pack stays tight to the back and distributes weight very comfortably. The foam pad that touches your back while mounted is meant to be removed as a sit pad and I love that functionality, the frame as well is also removable. There is an internal pouch that is used to store a water bladder, it works well but it is certainly cumbersome to try to reinstall a full bladder if your bag is packed ( I don’t know of any pack that would have a solution for this. All in all I rate the Mariposa 10/10, as long as Gossamer Gear is making this product, I will own one.