For me, it’s more of a case of really not having the time to test every piece of gear offered to me. But in the time I have spent roaming around the outdoors, I’ve picked up some equipment and apparel that I have found noteworthy. Call this my outdoor gear all-star list, and the “review” I’m giving here is based solely on my observations through extensive use.
Tent: Kelty Teton 2. This is a three-season, two-person tent that I’ve used for six years. I bought it for about $100. It’s light, easy to set up and compact. I’ve crawled in that tent in sub-freezing temps and have endured long nights of nonstop rain. The tent has never had a rip or hole and has never leaked. Kelty is one of those bang-for-your-buck brands. The Teton 2 and an external frame pack I own from the same company prove that, at least to me.
Backpack: Lowe Alpine Contour. This is The Beast. It’s good for multi-day or even multi-week backpacking trips. The internal frame is adjustable and the pack has a narrow profile, making it easier to get around off-trail. For mountaineers, it has ice axe loops and lots of straps to tie other things down, like pads, trekking poles and other gear. This is an awesome pack, though I wish it had a sleeve for a hydration system. Picked it up for less than $150, which made it a pretty good buy. Nothing on it has broken down. They call that being “bombproof.”
Day pack: North Face Solaris 40. This is a more recent buy of mine, and I’ve made the most of it. Any day hike or climb I’ve done within the past two years, this has been with me. It has three compartments on the body, plus side packets, a hydration system sleeve and port and ice axe loops. I’ve used every feature on this pack. Again, it has yet to break down despite the abuse, and I picked it up on sale for about $80. Maybe one of the best deals I’ve come across, seeing that I’ve been able to use it for hikes, short climbs and bigger mountain forays.
Sleeping pad: Thermarest Trail Pro. This has been a durable, inflatable yet compact sleeping pad that serves two purposes: It takes the bumps out of the ground and insulates you against the cold. It beats foam pads any day. Retail, it goes for about $80.
Boots: Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex XCR. My newest piece of gear. The boots I’d been using were off-brand and pretty much bit the dust on my last outing in the Wichitas last summer. I bought the Merrells shortly before going on my last mountain trip. So I spent some time breaking them in and was very pleased with how they performed during my climb of Matterhorn Peak. Light, tough, waterproof and comfortable. After a couple of days of hard hiking, I didn’t have any foot fatigue, hot spots or blisters. They were good for hiking as well as non-technical rock scrambling and climbing. They cost about $110, but I think this was a good compromise of price and quality, seeing I’d been eyeing some much pricier Asolos that were out of my price range. It’s hugely important that you have happy feet on trips like these. Don’t skimp on the boots.
I have other gear, but I think what I’ve mentioned here represents my most-used and/or best-performing pieces. And please note: This is all gear that I have bought. Nothing here was sent to me for free for testing/reviewing purposes. I got it all retail, just like all of you.
Got any gear that you’ve found to be particularly good? Let me know your story so I can share. Message me here or send me an e-mail.