I like to hike and run. I also like to write, mostly about running and hiking.
Salomon XA Pro 3D Trail-Running Shoes - Men's
A trail running shoe that’s perfect for hiking, but not running
I picked up a pair of these in Lincoln NH to replace my Altra Superiors, a lightweight trail runner with zero drop and a flexible sole. And though these Salomons are also advertised as a “trail running” shoe, the two are not at all alike. The XA Pros have a thick, stiff sole and significantly more support than a pair of Lone Peaks or Superiors. They did feel somewhat clunky at first, basically like a hiking boot without the hightops. And my pinky toes, which had been spoiled by Altra’s roomy toebox design, blistered by the end of the first day. I also found that the pull laces seemed to slip over the course of the day, and needed to be retightened every 4ish hours. Not all was bad though. I can see how one would prefer the extra cushioning and structure of these shoes for particularly rocky trails (The AT through PA, the Whites, Maine), but they just aren’t for me. I had less of a “feel” for the rocks, and couldn’t arch my foot around rocks and roots to improve traction. I’d also never run in these - they’re far too heavy and inflexible. So the XA Pros are good for steep and/or rocky trails and are a perfect compromise between a trail runner and a full-on hiking boot. They’re just not for me.
Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System
It's the best.
There's a reason this is the most popular filter on the AT - it's the best filter on the AT. Sure, you could go lighter with the Sawyer Mini, but you'll also feel like a gerbil suckling individual droplets of water at an agonizing rate. The full-size Squeeze weighs about 2oz more and you can drink from it as you would from a normal nozzled water bottle. Just make sure you don't let it freeze - the filter membrane will break and the filter is useless. On cold nights put the filter against your body, inside your sleeping bag. Yeah, your Sawyer bags are gonna break. Go ahead and buy a CNOC water bladder, or just screw the Squeeze onto a Smartwater bottle. Keep track of your o-ring though - the rubber nubs that hold it in place wore down on my, and it tends to fall out after without them, leaving you to be doused with unclean water with every sip.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket
My (girlfriend's) favorite jacket (to steal)
The Ghost Whisperer is like the iPhone of ultralight backpacking. Sure, it's overpriced. And sure, it's not the most durable option out there. (If you fall in a patch of briars while wearing it you'll come out a downy bloody mess. Source: me). But it's light and sleek, it has all the features you need, and it gets the job done. In terms of sizing, I'm 5'11" and between 150-165 (post- and pre-thru-hike, respectively) and the medium was roomy. I can comfortably layer a fleece underneath. However, I would have preferred the torso to fit a bit slimmer, as it could be drafty at times. The sleeves and wrists felt a bit narrow at first, but they were plenty spacious towards the end of my hike, once I'd emaciated myself sufficiently. Now, note that when they say "Water-resistant", they mean "moisture resistant". This is not a rain jacket. Nor would I recommend layering a rain jacket over the Ghost Whisperer while you're hiking - you'll sweat straight through it.
Gossamer Gear The One Tent
Kept me dry once I learned how to set it up
Before thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail this year I'd never used trekking poles and so I'd clearly never used a trekking pole tent. But I'd had enough experience with broken tent poles to take a chance on the Gossamer Gear The One. The One was fickle to set up the first few times I tried. Just make sure there's a little bit of tension on each of the four corner stakes when you prop up the first pole. I never staked out the bathtub floor but also never woke up in a puddle. As long as the guy lines are taught and even, you should be able to avoid all but a flash flood in this thing. I even found that by turning the entryway away from the wind and positioning the trekking pole on that side at a steeper angle, I could leave the entrance flaps up and enjoy fresh air during light drizzles. However, this tent would probably be better for backpacking in western states. When fully rain-readied it can get quite stuffy inside, and condensation tends to accumulate on the interior (even with the flaps up). In terms of durability - I'd give it a B+. After 4 months of use there were 2-3 popcorn kernel-sized holes in the mesh, which might not sound like too much of an inconvenience until you're camped by a swamp in Maine at the height of black fly season. Just keep a few yards of duck tape in your kit and you'll survive. At least for the night. I also never used a footprint because #ultralight, and but I only found one pea-sized hole in the flooring that appeared after a night camped on the jagged boulder fields of Rocksylvania. Overall, a fantastic all-in-one shelter. In other words, it's "The One" you need. (get it? get it??)
Enlightened Equipment Revelation Stock
Warm until it's not
I used the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 degree quilt on my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail this summer. I'm a side sleeper, and an erratic on at that, and so I've never been able to get a good night's rest in a traditional sleeping bag - it feels like I'm sleeping in a straight jacket. The first thing I noticed about the EE Revelation was how insanely light it is. At less than 1.5 pounds, there are liners that weigh nearly as much. It also packs down fairly well, though stuffing it into a dry sack compresses the down and creates cold spots. Every packed loosely, down tends to accumulate in clumps at the base and head of the quilt. Just make sure to shake it out each night and sit it out in the sun to dry when you can, or else you'll shiver at even the slightest breeze that pierces through the paper-thin nylon outer. Speaking of the outer - it's impressively sturdy, despite it's weight and thickness. Several times I curled up on splintery shelter floors, and once on a rocky outcrop in Shenandoah, and never found even the slightest tear in the fabric. Though 20 degrees is an extremely generous rating (even relative to the standard hyperbolic sleeping bag rating system), I managed to stay warm down to about 35-40 degrees wearing just wool base layers and my puffy. Of course, this warmth threshold varied greatly depending on whether the bag was dry and the down well distributed. I wasn't a huge fan of the closure system, and found that the upper snaps didn't do much to keep out drafts. The foot box was nice, but it seemed impossible to completely seal in my wittle toesies against the cold. Overall: the Revelation is perfect for adventures in relatively dry climes when temperatures are sure to remain above freezing.