Gear Reviews

Click on a category below to see gear suggestions and reviews:

Jump to: shelter and sleeping
Jump to: clothing
Jump to: cooking equipment
Jump to: dehydrated meals
Jump to: general gear
Jump to: footwear
Jump to: water filtration
Jump to: boating and fishing


Shelter and Sleeping Gear

Best affordable backpacking tent:
ALPS Mountaineering Chaos 2 (click here to see on Amazon)

Within a reasonable price range (~$140), I think it is hard to beat the ALPs Chaos 2 tent. I love that this tent has two doors and two large vestibules. Having a door on each side makes it easy to get in and out without disturbing the other person in the tent. Dual vestibules make it easy to store all your gear under the rain fly but not inside the tent. The tent also has multiple well-placed pockets inside where you can store assorted gear. Another nice feature is the mesh ceiling, which let’s you look at the stars when you are not using the rain fly. My only gripe is that the tent is a bit heavy at ~6 pounds. Key features:

  • Doors on both sides
  • Large vestibules on both sides
  • Mesh roof
  • Easy set up and break down
  • Plenty of room for 2 people
  • Very affordable price

Best lightweight backpacking tent:
MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Tent (click here to see at REI)

This tent is expensive (~$400), but has all the features you want and a very low pack weight. Fully packed, the tent is less than 4 lbs. Compared to the Alps Chaos 2, the MSR Hubba Hubba has similar features including dual doors and large vestibules. The mesh roof of the Hubba Hubba is also more transparent for better star gazing. Key features:

  • Very lightweight tent
  • Large vestibules and dual doors
  • Mesh roof
  • Easy set up and break down
  • Plenty of room for 2 people

Tent footprint:
ALPS Mountaineering Chaos 2 Tent Floor Saver (click here to see on Amazon)


This is a pretty typical backpacking tent foot print. It is light weight so it can be easily packed in the tent bag. It’s made for the chaos 2 so the fit is perfect and it has straps and metal holes for the tent poles. Overall a nice foot print to protect the bottom of the chaos 2 tent. I have used this footprint on several trips and it has held up nicely.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX Footprint (click here to see on REI)


Similar to the footprint above, this one is design to work with the MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent. You will want one of these to protect the bottom of your $400 tent!

Best inflatable sleeping pad:REI Co-op AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad (click here to see on REI)

This sleeping pad provides a good value at under $100. It is fairly lightweight at 1 pound 10 ounces and packs down nicely into modest cylinder when placed in its carrying sack. The rails on the side of the pad add some width and make sure your shoulders and arms get to be on the pad as well (and not on the ground). They also prevent you from sliding off the side of the pad. Overall this is a great value. Key features:

  • Self-inflating compressible foam insulation with R value of 4.2
  • Air tubes on outside to keep you in the center of the pad
  • Weighs under 2 pounds

Best backpacking hammock:
Kammok Roo Single Hammock (click to see on REI)


This is a great lightweight hammock for backpacking and camping. It is super packable, uses breathable fabric that is designed to not stretch, and has a built in stuff sack. This hammock is also designed to have the correct width such that you feel comfortable and secure! You will need to buy hammock straps to hang up the hammock (see below). Key features:

  • Lightweight at only 10 ounces
  • Built in carabiners and slings for hanging gear
  • Fabric designed to not stretch, to be comfortable, and to be waterproof
  • Well designed width that makes for a comfortable and secure sleeping experience

Best hammock tree straps:
ENO Atlas Hammock Suspension System (click here to see on REI)


These straps are a limit more expensive than some alternatives you can find on amazon (Goodman gear straps), but they are sturdy and have great reviews. The last thing you want is for your straps to stretch overnight and cause you issues. These straps have been tested many REI members and maintain excellent reviews. Key features:

  • Pair of straps only weighs 11 ounces
  • Each strap is 9 feet long
  • Straps can support up to 400 pounds

Best sleeping bag:
The North Face Furnace 20 degree Sleeping Bag (Click to see on REI)


This is a great down sleeping bag that you can typically find for less than $200. It is designed for three season backpacking with a 20 degree temperature rating and is lightweight enough for easy backpacking. Another great feature of this bag is that it uses a special type of insulation on the bottom that resists compressing and prevents cold spots from developing underneath you. Key features:

  • Lightweight at 2 pounds 10 ounces fully packed
  • Less tapered cut than many other bags allowing more room for shifting around
  • Draft collar and fitted hood for added warmth
  • Highly compressible for easy packing

Best sleeping bag liner:
Sea to Summit Reactor Extreme Thermolite Mummy Liner (click here to see on REI)


This is the sleeping bag liner my wife uses when we backpack at high altitude. She really likes it and says it adds a solid 20 degrees to her bag temperature. The weight is reasonable (<1 lb) and the cost is less than you would pay for a cold weather down bag. A liner such as this allows you to only own one sleeping bag and to just bring the liner when you anticipate sleeping in colder conditions. Key features:

  • Designed to add 25 degrees F of warmth to a sleeping bag
  • Can be used alone in summer as an ultralight sleeping bag
  • Weighs only 14 ounces
  • Packs down into a small cylinder when palces in carrying sack

Best backpacking pillow:
Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow (click here to see on REI)

This inflatable pillow weighs only 2 ounces. It packs down into a small sack and is easily inflated when you get to camp. It is not as comfortable as your pillows back home, but it gets the job done while backpacking. If you don’t want to pay full price at REI, there are some knock-offs on amazon for cheaper less than $20.

Best earplugs:
3M Soft Yellow Earplugs (click to see on Amazon)


It is always nice to have earplugs when backpacking. Sometimes you end up camping next to an angry turkey or a bunch of noisy frogs. These ones are easy to use, cheap, and super light.

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Best backpacking shirt:
Columbia Silver Ridge Lit Long Sleeve (click here to see at REI)

This Columbia long sleeve hiking shirt provides pretty much all you need for hiking and backpacking. The long sleeves and UPF 40 block UV rays and keep your skin safe. The synthetic wicking fabric keeps you cool, and the antimicrobial treatment helps reduce stenches. Additionally, the fit is less baggy than most other button up hiking shirts, so you get a trimmer fit and look. The shirt is made of tough polyester fabric that keeps its shape and doesn’t fade. Key features:

  • Quick drying and moisture wicking synthetic fabric
  • UV protection from the sun
  • Less baggy fit
  • Buttons for rolled up sleeves and Velcro secured chest pockets.

Best backpacking pants:
prAna Stretch Zion Pants (click here to see at REI)

These pants are more slim fitting than many of the other options available. I found that many other hiking pant options are incredibly baggy, which means you are lugging around extra material. The fabric breathes well and is super durable. There is a built-in adjustable strap for the waist, which is nice. They are also easy to roll up into shorts, which I like. I am not a big fan of convertible shorts because the zippers can be uncomfortable. I just turn these into shorts by rolling them up above the knee and they stay put while hiking. Lastly, the fabric dries pretty quickly so you can wash these in a river and they will dry overnight. Key features:

  • Less baggy than many other options
  • Side pocket with a zipper
  • Built in waist adjuster
  • Quick drying performance fabric

Best backpacking leggings:
Minus33 Merino Wool Men’s Kancamagus Midweight Bottom (click to see on Amazon)


These leggings from Minus33 are great though. They are thick enough wool that they do not feel like they will tear when I bend down. They are also stretchy enough that they do not turn into baggy pants after one use. These are my go-to after a hike is done and I often just wear these as my pants at night. I love the wool because it does build up a musty smell over time and it dries out fairly quickly after washing. This pair of leggings is also available in long sizes. Key features:

  • 100% merino wool to prevent odors
  • 230 grams/m^2 interlocking knit for warmth and durability

Best backpacking cold weather shirt:
Pendleton Men’s Long Sleeve Board Shirt (click here to see on Amazon)


Pendleton wool shirts are bit pricey, but they are built to last for years. I love this shirt because it is nice thick wool and provides a ton of warmth at night. The wool is great for backpacking because it will dry out quickly after getting wet. Also, it does not pick up nasty smells after you wear it multiple nights. Key features:

  • 100% wool
  • Machine washable
  • Built to last many years

Best cold weather baselayer:
Smartwool Men’s NTS Mid 250 Crew (click to see on Amazon)


This is a great baselayer to wear after you get to camp. It provides good warmth and the wool does not pick up any bad scents. The shirt has a nice stretch to it, so it clings to your body nicely. It is also long enough to be tucked into your leggings if you want to ensure that bugs do not get underneath your base layer. Key features:

  • 100% merino wool
  • Flatlock seems and shoulder panels to reduce chaffing and improve comfort
  • Enhanced fit for use as a baselayer
  • Machine wash and dry

Best warm weather baselayer:
Icebreaker Sphere Long Sleeve Crew Shirt (click here to see on Amazon)


This long sleeve, quick drying shirt is a nice baselayer to wear on a warm night. Alternatively it can be worn during the day to protect your skin from the sun. I like this shirt because it dries extremely quickly. The Cool-Lite fabric in the shirt helps to wick moisture away and keep temperatures down. It breathers very well, so it is not too hot when out in the sun. Key features:

  • Breathable cool-lite fabric to keep cool in warm conditions
  • Fit designed for full range of motion while hiking

Best backpacking boxer briefs:
ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go Boxer Brief Travel Underwear (click here to see on REI)


These boxers work nicely for backpacking. The material dries very quickly, so you can wash them at night after hiking and they dry by the morning. They pick up a bit of body odor scent, but it is easily washed away with just water. I tried many types of boxer briefs and think these are the best, even though they are not perfect. The wool options I tried were not durable enough and broke down easily. Cotton options never dry and smell terrible. These do pretty well all around, so I have stuck with them. Key features:

  • Breathable mesh material to keep cool
  • Anti-microbial treatment to prevent bad smells
  • Active fit to allow full range of motion

Best backpacking socks baselayer:
Wrightsock Men’s Coolmesh II  (click here to see on Amazon)


I use these socks as my baselayer underneath a thicker wool sock. They are great and also double as my go-to running sock. They are made of two thin layers that can easily slide past each other, which helps prevent blisters. These socks breath well and dry out quickly. Key features:

  • Double layer construction to prevent blisters

Best backpacking wool socks:
People Socks, Crew Wool Blend Socks (click here to see on Amazon)


These are nice, affordable, thick wool socks. I where these over my Wright socks and do not get any blisters when hiking. They dry out fairly quickly and do not pick up much odor.

Best backpacking rain jacket:
The North Face Venture 2 Rain Jacket (click here to see at REI)


This is a good lightweight rain jacket that can be used as a wind breaker or as a waterproof shell. It can be purchased for less than $80 if you search for different colors and sales. For the price, it works quite well and is light weight. The fit is good and fairly athletic/slim. This jacket also works well as a wind breaking layer and heat trapping layer if you are camping in cold conditions. In rain, I have found that it does a good job of repelling water. For warm conditions, there are vents under the arms that can be opened. Key features:

  • Windproof, waterproof, and breathable shell
  • Adjustable hood and armpit vents

Best backpacking down jacket:
Eddie Bauer Men’s MicroTherm StormDown Jacket (click here to see on Amazon)

This is a lightweight down jacket that works great for use while backpacking and hiking. Many jackets that I have tried are either too short or super baggy. This jacket has a nice athletic fit that contours nicely to the body. It certainly is not as warm and puffy as other options there, but you can stay plenty warm wearing this jacket, a baselayer, and a rain shell on the outside. If you plan to hike in sub zero temperatures, you likely want a thicker jacket. But, for most treks, the 12 ounce weight makes this a great option for extra warmth. Key features:

  • 800-fill storm down
  • Durable nylon shell
  • Athletic fit with panels designed for mobility
  • Packs down into the chest pocket for easy storage

Best backpacking belt:
Adjustable fabric belt with black buckle (click to see on Amazon)


My waist size tends changes a lot during a hike as I lose water weight. This adjustable belt is nice for on the go adjustments and is super durable.

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Cooking Equipment

Best backpacking stove (standalone):
MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove (click here to see at REI)

This stove is great. It is very lightweight and packable and is fairly inexpensive (<$50). You screw it onto any typical backpacking gas canister. The stove cools down quickly when you turn the flame off, which allows you to quickly pack away the stove. Key features:

  • Only 2.6 ounces
  • Extremely small when collapsed and put into case
  • Durable, fully metal design
  • Pumps out a large amount of heat

Best large backpacking pot/kettle:
GSI Outdoors Halulite Boiler Pot (1.8 Liters) (click to see at REI)


This 1.8 Liter (1.9 Quart) pot is large enough to boil water for multiple dehydrated meals. The extra water is great if you are cooking meals for two and also want some warm water left over for tea. It is aluminum so it heats up and cools down quickly and does not have a non-stick coating that can be scratched or chip off. Key features:

  • Only 11 oz. in weight and gas fuel canisters nest nicely inside
  • The handle folds easily to make the pot easy to store
  • Graduated markings inside allow for water measurement

Best backpacking frying pan:
MSR Alpine Fry Pan (click to see at Amazon)


This frying pan is great for back country cooking. It is super solid and is made of stainless steel. The base of the pan has an aluminum pad, which helps distribute heat and cook evenly. I use this pan whenever I want to fry fish. The pan is tad heavy, but you likely are not super worried about weight if you are packing in gear for a fish fry. Key features:

  • Durable construction that makes it pretty much indestructible
  • Removable handle for packability
  • No coatings that will scratch or chip off

Best backpacking cup:
GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Cup (click here to see at REI)


This is a very solid and sturdy stainless camp cup. It is large enough for a big cup of coffee. The hand is great and the cup is durable enough to be heated over a fire. Key features:

  • Durable stainless steel can be heated directly over a fire
  • Holds 18 ounces of fluid, weights less than 5 ounces
  • Folding handles to improve packability

Best backpacking spork:
Snow Peak Titanium Spork (click to see at REI)


The $10 investment in a nice titanium spork is totally worth it in my opinion. These sporks are very light and are pretty sturdy. One big benefit of titanium sporks is that they do not heat up quickly since the thermal conductivity of titanium is low. This means you can stir hot liquids and not worry about the handle of the spork getting very hot. Key features:

  • Weighs 0.6 ounces
  • Resistant to corrosion and rusting
  • Durable and strong metal construction

Best bear canister:
Bear Vault BV500 Bear Resistant Food Canister (click to see at REI)


When backpacking in the Sierras, a bear canister is essential is several areas. People are very particular about which type of canister they like. I like these canisters because the plastic is clear and you can see what you have packed in each canister. These also make for fairly decent seats around a campfire as well. Key features:

  • Clear, durable, light polycarbonate construction
  • 11.5 Liter great capacity can hold several days worth of food
  • Easy to open with no need to coins or screwdrivers to unlock

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Dehydrated Meals

The best dehydrated backpacking meals:

The following are meals that I really enjoy and repurchase on a regular basis.

(1) Mountain House Chicken Noodle Casserole (click to see on REI)


This is my favorite dehydrated meal (previously this was called Chicken-a-la-King). The flavor is great and the bag contains almost 900 calories. When made with the correct amount of water, you get a delicious and creamy mixture of chicken, noodles, and veggies. The only downside is that this meal can be a little pricey.

  • 870 calories in the 3 serving pouch
  • Lots of chicken and a good variety of veggies
  • Cooks in only 10 minutes
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars on amazon

(2) Mountain House Beef Stroganoff (click to see on REI)


Another delicious option from Mountain House, the beef stroganoff is a combination of beef, mushrooms, and flavorful creamy sauce. I’d say this meal tastes as good as the chicken noodle casserole, but it ranks lower do to having fewer vegetables and ~25% fewer calories per pouch. The beef stroganoff is a great overall choice though.

  • 650 calories in the 2.5 serving pouch
  • Good portion of beef with a delicious sauce
  • Cooks in only 10 minutes
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars on amazon

(3) Mountain House Chicken and Dumplings with Vegetables (click to see on REI)


The chicken and dumplings ranks closely behind the beef stroganoff in my opinion. This meals tastes very similar to a chicken pot pie, though the texture is such that the pot pie has already been cut into and mixed up. There is a good ratio of chicken and vegetables, and the dumplings are reminiscent of the pot pie crust. Overall a good option, though it is a bit low on the number of calories.

  • 620 calories in the 2 serving pouch
  • Tastes like a chicken pot pie with a rich creamy sauce
  • Cooks in only 10 minutes
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars on amazon

(4) Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy (click here to see on REI)


The biscuits and gravy from Mountain House is my go to breakfast when backpacking. It is hard to beat a warm and filling breakfast on a cold morning. The texture of this meal is impressive given that you still have crunchy bits of biscuit after rehydrating. The gravy is creamy and has a good amount of sausage (although it could be a little more flavorful). A great breakfast, though it can be very filling for only one person. I usually split one of these for breakfast with my wife.

  • 620 calories in the 2 serving pouch
  • Crunchy bits of biscuit with a rich sausage gravy
  • Cooks in only 10 minutes
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars on amazon

Pretty good dehydrated backpacking meals:

The following are meals that I enjoy and occasionally repurchase.

(1) Mountain House Pasta Primavera (click here to see on REI)


The Mountain House pasta primavera is a great option if you are craving vegetables and light meal for dinner while backpacking. The meal is loaded with several types of veggies and has a light cream sauce. I occasionally bring one of these on a long trip because I can get sick of the other heavier and more filling Mountain House meals. When cooking this meal it is important to add less water than recommended. In my experience it turns out watery if you use the full amount of water. The primary reason why I don’t buy this meal regularly is that the full pouch only has ~500 calories.

  • 525 calories in the 2.5 serving pouch
  • Loaded with vegetables
  • Cooks in only 10 minutes
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars on amazon

(2) Backpacker’s Pantry Chana Masala (click to see on REI)


The Backpacker’s Pantry chana masala is a large meal that I sometimes like to eat after a long hike. This meals packs almost 900 calories and is super filling. The chana masala has a nice flavor and is a bit spicy. Overall it’s a good option but I don’t love that it can take up to 30 minutes to properly rehydrate the rice and chickpeas when you are at high elevation. This meal can also be almost too filling and can hard to finish at times. Reviews for this meal are not the best, but many of the poor reviews are from people who just didn’t cook the meal long enough.

  • 860 calories in the 2 serving pouch
  • Filling and a good amount of flavor and spice
  • Takes 20-30 minutes to took
  • 4.0 out of 5 stars on amazon

(3) Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef (click to see on REI)


The Mountain House chili mac with beef can be a really great meal if cooked correctly. The meal is very flavorful and the inclusion of beef and whole beans is great. My only gripe is that it can be tough to both completely rehydrate the pasta and beans and prevent the meal from becoming too watery. If you can properly dial in the cooking, this is a great choice.

  • 575 calories in the 2.5 serving pouch
  • Great if you can dial in the texture
  • Takes 10 minutes to took
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars on amazon

(4) Mountain House Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (click to see on REI)


The Mountain House spaghetti and lasagna (below) are both pretty similar. I enjoy both meals and typically bring a pouch of one or the other on most backpacking trips. That said, I don’t really like to bring more than one bag because I tend to get bored of the pasta sauce. The spaghetti is pretty good overall. I find that the sauce is a little closer to a marinara and less like Chef Boyardee (compared to the lasagna meal). I also like the beef chucks in the spaghetti.

  • 575 calories in the 2.5 serving pouch
  • Pretty good taste overall
  • Takes 10 minutes to took
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars on amazon

(5) Mountain House Lasagna with Meat Sauce (click to see on REI)


The Mountain House spaghetti and lasagna (below) are both pretty similar. I enjoy both meals and typically bring a pouch of one or the other on most backpacking trips. That said, I don’t really like to bring more than one bag because I tend to get bored of the pasta sauce. The lasagna texture is very good, but the sauce tastes a lot like a can of Chef Boyardee. I still gladly eat the whole pouch every time, but I think the meal would be better if the marinara sauce tasted more “real”.

  • 600 calories in the 2.5 serving pouch
  • Pretty good taste overall
  • Takes 10 minutes to took
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars on amazon

Mediocre meals that I have not repurchased:

(1) Backpacker’s Pantry Kathmandu Curry (click to see on REI)


I really wanted to enjoy the Kathmandu Curry because it is loaded with lentils and other nice vegetables. However, it was over spiced and too salty. I felt like I was just eating vegetables that had been liberally mixed with cheap curry spice. The meal is also absolutely full of fiber, so you can expect to feel bloated and gassy after eating a whole pouch. After taking a few of these on a trek, I haven’t purchased any more.

  • 660 calories in the 2 serving pouch
  • Lots of vegetables, but curry flavor tastes artificial
  • Cooks in 20 minutes
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars on amazon

(2) Mountain House Macaroni and Cheese (click to see on REI)


The Mountain House macaroni and cheese has potential, but is just really hard to cook correctly. Every time I have cooked one of these, they come out either watery or the noodles do not cook properly. The meal overall tastes good (it can use some salt and pepper), but it is just too hard to dial in the texture. On the plus side, the meal is loaded with calories and is one of the less expensive Mountain House meals.

  • 960 calories in the 3 serving pouch
  • Tastes good, but texture is lacking
  • Takes around 15 minutes to cook
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars on amazon

(3) Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai (click to see on REI)


The pad thai from Backpacker’s Pantry gets very mixed reviews on REI and amazon. I decided to take a chance on it and ended up in the camp that doesn’t like the taste. To me, this was nothing like real pad thai and was way too sweet. The positive qualities (high calorie count, varying textures, good price) do not make up for the fact that I simply did not like the taste. If you enjoy sweeter meals, you may be a fan of this one. But, if you like pad thai on that is savory and has a good amount of salt, I would steer clear of this one.

  • 920 calories in the 2 serving pouch
  • Decent texture, but too sweet
  • Takes around 15-20 minutes to cook
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars on amazon

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General Gear

Best backpacking headlamp:
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp (click to see at REI)


This headlamp is more expensive (~$50) than many entry level models but has several features that make the extra cost worth it. In my opinion the key features are:

  • Night vision mode with red or green single color LEDs
  • Easy ability to dim the light and brightness memory so the light turns on and off at the same brightness
  • Lock mode that prevents light from turning on accidentally in your backpack
  • Dustproof and waterproof

Best Backpacking lantern:
MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0  (click to see at REI)


This solar powered lantern is great. It weighs only 4.4 ounces and lasts for >12 hours between charges. It works great for lighting up a tent or a dinner area. Key features:

  • Collapses to small form factor for easy packability
  • Waterproof and durable
  • Multiple brightness settings
  • Very affordable price at ~$20

Best trekking poles:
Cascade Mountain Tech 100% Carbon Fiber Quick Lock Trekking Poles (click to see at Amazon)


These are a solid set of trekking poles that cost less than $50. Many other trekking poles cost over $100 ad boast the use of titanium or advanced aluminum. This set is made of carbon fiber and works very well. The quick release locking mechanism is super convenient and is easier to use than the twist lock mechanism on many other trekking poles. Key features:

  • Affordable price
  • Pair of poles weighs less than a pound
  • Unlikely to break because there are few moving parts and simple construction
  • Durable cork grips

Best bug repellent:
Natrapel Mosquito, Tick and Insect Repellent (click to see at REI)


I prefer this picaridin based repellent over the DEET varieties. Both types work well as far as repelling bugs go. But, concentrated DEET products can discolor synthetic fabric and can melt plastic. I have not noticed any issues like this with the Natrapel spray. This stuff also doesn’t smell as quite as much like chemicals as DEET sprays do. Key features:

  • Provides up to 8 hrs of protection
  • Will not harm plastics or synthetic clothes
  • Better odor than concentrated DEET products

Best bug treatment for clothing and gear:
Sawyer Products SP657 Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent (click here to see at REI)


This stuff is really great because you can pre-treat your clothes and tent before heading out on a trip. As result you can use less bug repellent on your skin each day and still insect bites.  Permethrin treated clothes will effectively repel bugs for up to 6 washings or 6 weeks. Key features:

  • Repels ticks, mosquitoes, flies, and chiggers
  • Treatment remains effective over the course of long backpacking trips
  • Little to no smell after treatment is completed

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Best hiking shoes:
adidas Outdoor Terrex Fast R Gore-Tex Hiking Shoe – Men’s (click to see on Amazon)


I really like these hiking shoes because they a nice hybrid between running shoes and more hardcore hiking boots. They fit closer to a running shoe, but have the thick sole and waterproofing of a hiking boot. I have worn them for three year now and they are still going strong. For less than $150, it is hard to find a comparable pair of gortex hiking shoes. Key features:

  • GORE-TEX waterproofing
  • Continental rubber sole for excellent grip
  • Lightweight so they do not weigh you down

My water/camp shoes:

Xero Z-Trail Lightweight Sandals (click here to see on Amazon)

The Xero Z-Trail sandals are a great lightweight option to be used as a camp shoe and for river crossings. The pair of sandals weighs around 11 ounces, which is less than a pair of Tevas and significantly less than Chaco sandals. I like sandals because you can wear socks underneath the sandals to keep your feet warm, but still get to air out your feet. Key features:

  • Very lightweight
  • Rubber sole to prevent rock punctures
  • Easily packable

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Water Filtration

I did not want to spend >$100 for a Platypus Gravity Water Filter System, so I hacked together my own gravity filter system for a bit less.  The Platypus systems are high quality and work great, but I already owned a Sawyer Squeeze Filter System and the additional cost was only ~$20 to make it a gravity filter.

My water filtration system:

Sawyer Products SP131 PointOne Squeeze Water Filter System with 3 Pouches
White SiliconeTubing, 1/4″ID, 10′ Length
White Cotton Medium String In Ball
Sawyer Inline Hydration Pack Adapter for Screw On Filter

To make the gravity filter, you punch holes in the marked areas on the Sawyer squeeze bag and attach the string. Then, you place the blue adapter on the Sawyer bag and place the gray adapter on the inlet of the filter.  Note that some Sawyer kits come with adapters and some don’t, so you may or not need to purchase the separate inline adapters.  My kit came with the gray adapter, but did not have the blue adapter.  Long story short, your shopping list may change slightly depending on which Sawyer kit you buy.  I do highly recommend getting a kit with a 64 oz. squeeze bag or buying a 64 oz. bag separately.  The smaller bags run out quickly and need to be refilled often.

Next, cut two pieces of the tubing to your desired length.  I made my pieces each 3 feet long, but this largely a matter of preference.  Positioning the filter lower below the filter will increase the flow rate, but you also do not want the tube to be so long that the filter lays on the ground when you hang the bag from a tree!  The piece of tubing connected to the outlet of the filter is not strictly needed, but it helps when filling up bottles because you can just stick the tube in the bottle and let it fill up on its own. Overall the system works quite well!

As a backup, I also always carry some iodine tablets for water purification.
Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets (50 Tablets)


These tablets work fine, but the resulting water has a fairly distinct iodine taste. That is why I prefer to use a filter.

While hiking I typically carry a Camelbak 100 oz Antidote Reservoir and a 1.5L bottle. I use the bottle to get water out of lakes and streams since it is easier than trying to fill up the Sawyer squeeze bag directly.

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Boating and Fishing Gear

Backpacking raft:
Intex Explorer 200, 2-Person Inflatable Boat Set with French Oars and Mini Air Pump (click to see on Amazon)


I have taken this inflatable raft on about 5 backpacking trips and it still holds air. For a $20 raft, it is fairly impressive. It only adds about 6-7 lbs to your pack and lets you explore areas of lakes that people on foot cannot reach. This is great for both fishing and photography. My major gripes are that it takes ~5-10 minutes to blow the raft up and it takes 10 minutes to deflate it.

Best backpacking fishing rod:
Fiblink 4 Piece Travel Spinning Rod (click to see on Amazon)


I like this fishing rod because it breaks down into 4 pieces and can easily be carried on the outside of a backpack. The rod is fairly lightweight and easily to assemble. At around $40 the rod does not break the bank. I would not want to buy anything more expensive for backpacking because it would be a shame to accidentally break a $200 rod if your backpack fell down and snapped the rod. There are certainly higher quality rods available online, but this one is pretty good value for the money.

Backpacking tackle box:
Flambeau Tackle Kwikdraw Soft Side Tackle Bag (click here to see on Amazon)


This is a small and fairly lightweight tackle box that I use for some backpacking trips. It is good because there is a shoulder strap and it is easy to pick up and walk around. It’s big enough to fit most anything you would need on a short fishing trip. Depending on how much weight you want to carry, you can decide how many of the plastic containers you want to bring. Generally, I just bring one container of lures and use the extra space in the pockets for other gear (stringers, pliers, etc.).

Affordable filet knife:
Rada Cutlery R210 Sportsman Knife (click here to see on Amazon)


Review: This is a good entry level filet knife. It comes with a sheath, which is great when you are packing the knife in a backpack. It will need to be sharpened occasionally though. At only $20 it is a decent knife that you will not feel bad abusing a bit when cleaning fish in the backcountry.

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2 Replies to “Gear Reviews”

  1. Thank you for an excellent hike log for Rae Lakes Loop along with the most detailed gear list I have see.
    I have a question for your topo/elevation profile app. They look really great with good relief. Thank you in advance


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