gear we use
We are often asked about our gear by friends, family, or people just looking to do stuff in the outdoors (who know we do similar activities). I love to research and talk about gear, so this will be a collection of the stuff that we use on our trips. Through the years our gear has evolved from heavy, poorly optimized and sometimes useless into a small, relatively lightweight kit that is setup to optimize function in all of our outdoor activities. We have learned through trial and error that sometimes the most expensive item isn't the best, but we are not afraid to pay a bit extra to get something that works perfectly and will last a long time. These are some groupings of the ever-evolving things we currently use, and will be updated and sometimes reviewed as we find new and awesome equipment that we are stoked about.
1. Featherd Friends Sleeping bags -- Lark UL 10 (his) and Petrel UL 10 (hers). These are the newest additions to our camping gear and we couldn't be happier with them. A bit too warm for a low elevation summer trip, but pretty perfect year round in the Pacific Northwest. Super lightweight, packable, and warm enough to make cold snow trips very comfortable. Opposite zips for his/hers so we can make one big bag...
2. Thermarest NeoAir XTherm mattress pads -- These were added to our kit last year to replace some decade old Thermarest base camp style pads. We are now able to fit our sleeping bags and pads on the inside of our packs and they are way warmer on snow than our previous versions. The weight savings is pretty good too!
3. To round out our sleeping comfort we use MEC silk mummy liners (though I would go with synthetic for the price if they would have been in stock when we needed them) and MEC basecamp pillows. These were the cheapest/lightest/most comfortable of each we could find at our local outdoors store. Obviously there are cheaper liners, but the weight savings and packability of the silk was worth it to us, and they are a bit more comfy. Generally on mountaineering trips, or even some longer backpacking trips, we'll leave the pillows at home and use a rolled up puffy jacket for a pillow to save on space and weight.
4. MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-person tent -- We replaced our old The North Face integrated fly tent in 2014 with the Hubba Hubba NX. Now in our second iteration (the first one snapped a pole), we still love it as much as day one. I think we'll have to replace the poles again soon, as the elastics are getting a bit stretched and thin in places -- UPDATE: we have just had our poles restrung, for free here in BC at the factory (quick shipping each way and back to us in a little over a week) -- but overall, this tent has taken us across the country a couple times, on many trips in New Zealand and the Pacific Northwest, and is generally good in most weather and temperatures. Excellent ventilation and great set up variations.
5. Lowe Alpine Mountain Attack 45/55L Backpack (discontinued) -- I love the design, functionality and lightweight of this pack. It's a bit small for longer trips, and lacks outside stash pockets, but as it was designed for mountaineering, it's best to keep everything inside anyway. Every single piece of this pack is well thought out and I've found it to be very durable. It carries well, and has a slim footprint.
6. Osprey Aura 65L Backpack -- Osprey is an amazing company! Candice is on her second edition of the Aura backpack as Osprey will repair/replace any of their gear that is damaged or not working as well as it used to... for life. If you like the design and fit of their packs, you can't go wrong with a company that stands behind their product 100% for life. Candice's first pack had a couple blown out zippers, some rips and abused seams, and upon inspection for repair, the only question asked was what color would she like for her new pack?
7. Headlamps -- Last year we replaced our 6yr old Petzl and Black Diamond headlamps with the Black Diamond Spot lamps. These are the brightest and longest lasting headlamps we've ever owned, and pretty easy on the wallet too. It feels like daylight when you fire up one of these little lights to the high setting.
8. Knives -- ESEE 6 (I generally bring this knife when I feel like there might be some wood splitting in my future, but don't want the workout of hauling the hatchet) and MoraKniv Companion (lightweight and capable for most backpacking and kitchen tasks aside from wood work). MoraKniv Light My Fire (Candice's favorite non-folder, perfect sized for any backpacking or kitchen tasks, with the added ability to spark a fire!)
9. Cooking/Kitchen -- We have been using a MSR pot (like an older model of this -- that originally came with one of their cook sets) with a MSR Pocket Rocket burner (ours is the older model, not the 2) for about 7 years now. Both are still in excellent condition and the only time the stove gives us any trouble is on the coldest of nights in the Alpine. For mountaineering trips, we normally borrow (or someone in our group brings) a MSR WhisperLite Liquid Fuel stove to solve any issues of cooking in colder temperatures.
10. Cups/Utensils -- We have been big fans of KeepCup mugs for years now. I always liked the design but once we found the glass/cork version, we were hooked. We carry these with us every day, almost everywhere we go. We both feel that the small inconvenience of carrying a reusable cup with you is drastically better than producing waste every time you want a coffee/tea while out. We have also carried these with us up mountains and into the backcountry for years now, though not the lightest bit of gear, they are great for wine, beers, and morning coffee. I have recently upgraded to a Snow Peak Titanium Mug for backpacking trips, and do enjoy the weight savings and extra insulation, but the design and feel of the glass KeepCup is still hard to beat. We each also have a Kleen Kanteen insulated mug that we generally take on winter ski trips and snowshoe treks where we'd like a nice warm beverage several hours after setting out but have no intention of firing up a stove. These are also great for late nights of Aurora chasing or star gazing.
11. Coffee -- While we're on the topic of coffee cups, I'll share the rest of my coffee preparation gear. I use an AeroPress and a Porlex Stainless Steel Ceramic Burr Grinder a couple times a day, whether at work or in the woods. I have a metal filter disk for the AeroPress to cut down on the paper filters I have to carry (though a lot of people prefer the taste of the paper filter). This system is fairly lightweight, small and packable, and delivers an amazing cup of coffee with minimal work.
12. Hydration/Filtration -- 1.5L CamelBack (his) and 3L CamelBack (hers) hydration bladders. I generally carry a 1L Nalgene bottle for collecting water to filter with my Steripen Classic (discontinued now) when on trips where I know I will have access to fresh water.
13. Navigation -- Suunto M3 Global Compass, Garmin eTrex 10 GPS and Garmin InReach Explorer+. We have used traditional maps along with a bare bones Garmin GPS unit (and cell phones) to navigate for years. We've found that a map, elevation reading, and a breadcrumb trail on the GPS keeps us fairly safe and pointed in the right direction or confident enough to retrace our steps when off track. In preparation for our upcoming trip, we decided it would be worth it to get an InReach unit so we'd be able to keep in touch with/update family and track our location anywhere in the world. We first tested this idea in Costa Rica for our honeymoon, and though the GPS functionality isn't as good as the current top-of-the-line Garmin, it's great for plotting routes and giving you the added piece of mind that you can contact help in an emergency or rescue situation.
14. Extras -- For backpacking trips, we generally lay out a ton of gear then pack things till we think we have just enough, a little too much or we need to take things out to save some weight. We always carry plenty of (beer and) emergency gear -- stuff that you hope to not need but you'd be glad to have on the off chance you do... In certain terrain/geographical areas, this means bringing a puffy jacket when you don't expect it to be super cold, or rain jackets and pants when the forecast is nice. In B.C. we generally bring bear spray, emergency blankets, extra first aid gear, some sort of SOS communication device... Along with this, we normally use a few Sea-to-Summit stuff/compression sacks to slim down our sleeping bags and parkas, rain slickers for our packs, and a trusty whistle.
1. Patagonia Ascensionist 25L (now discontinued for different sizes?) -- Somehow I got this pack on a super discount and only paid about $15 for it. That's probably the best $15 ever spent. It's starting to show a bit of wear after a year and a half of everyday use -- commuting, mountain activities and general travel, but I love how simple and effective the design is. One big compartment with a small zip top pocket, tons of places to lash gear and a couple axe loops. Not hydration compatible, but you can make it work, no outside mesh pockets, but you get used to having everything inside for those quick day trips.
3. Helmets -- Black Diamomd Vector --
4. Ice Axes -- Petzl Summit and Black Daimond
5. Harness -- Black Diamond and Petzl
6. Rock Shoes -- Five-Ten Anasazi VCS (his and hers) -- I've had my pair for about 6 years now, and they are definitely in need of a resole or replace, but still going strong in the gym and outdoors. I'm pondering replacing them with a pair of Quantums that fit my feet a bit better, but it'll be hard to ditch the classic velcro that I've grown so used to.
1. Patagonia DAS Parka -- Synthetic belay parkas. Now discontinued and replaced by the Hyper Puff ("HyperDAS") We chose the Patagonia DAS parka as a super warm layer to serve from belaying in terrible cold weather to walking the dog in the Canadian winter. Looking at the market now, I might pick up some kind of hydrophobic down or the newer Patagnonia synthetic, but these jackets are still as warm and tough as day one. Super durable, super comfortable and pretty packable for a beefy parka.
2. Base layer shirts -- Arc'Teryx synthetic flannel (his) and Icebreaker Merino zip (hers). I scored the former at an Arc'Teryx sample sale in Vancouver, and we won the latter from a BCMC photo contest. These are great pieces of gear that keep us warm and dry on everything from backcountry skiing to mountaineering, and even some days in the woodshop.
3. Hard shells -- Arc'Teryx Alpha SL (now possibly similar to the Alpha SR?) and the Patagonia Torrent Shell (hers). The Arc'Teryx shell has been going strong since 2011, starting to get a bit of delam action on the back of the neck/hood, but overall still solid, waterproof (with the occasional DWR treatment) and a great lightweight piece of rain gear. Pockets work well with a harness, and it's been super durable and I always have it in my pack. The Patagonia jacket is slightly less water "proof" with the H2No instead of the Goretex, or maybe it just doesn't breath as well resulting in a wetter feeling in general. Still takes a beating from the constant Vancouver rain and is a go-to piece of gear for any season.
4. Fleece/Insulation layer -- The North Face Hybrid, fleece with some Primaloft insulation (his) and Patagonia Mixed Snap T Pullover (hers). Both nice mid layers to bring along on trips containing warm days of action with cooler nights at camp. Each is easily packable and comfortable. The North Face Jacket is definitely showing some wear around the thumb holes after 8 years of duty, but still perfect for most trips to the backcountry.
5. Beanie (or Toque for you Canadians) -- Pretty sure we picked these up at the same Arc'Teryx sample sale as above. Great synthetic slim fitting caps to go under a helmet or just keep you warm and dry during strenuous cold-weather activities.
6. Mountaineering Gloves -- Lowe Alpine (his) and
7. Gaiters -- REI brand for both. His fit a bit big, do a test fit instead of choosing by shoe size, but these gaiters have held up for years through all kinds of hiking and mountaineering activities.
8. Soft Shell Pants -- Patagonia (his and hers). For our climb of the Grand Teton, it was recommended we grab some lightweight pants for the ascent. Candice generally wears yoga pants of some sort for hiking, and I stick to synthetic shorts or sometimes a lightweight athletic warmup style pant. These were the cheapest pants we could find to fit the bill at the local mountain shop. For the more technical climbs and activities we do, we've found them to work great -- breathable, lightweight and durable
9. Salewa Pro Guide Mountaineering boot -- These boots have been great. Pretty durable, really comfortable in any condition, and I have enjoyed the walk/climb adjustable last. They are pretty rigid even in walk mode, but when you crank the dial to climb, they don't budge. Great to give a little extra comfort for the approach. Overall, it's probably a bit of a gimmick and I generally leave them in the setting that will be the majority of the trip I'm on as it's a pain to remember to bring along the allen wrench. Doing it over, I'd probably grab a pair of boots like the La Sportiva Nepal as it's less moving parts and they are renowned for their quality, but I have been happy with the Salewas thus far.
10. Five-Ten Guide Tennie approach shoes -- These shoes are great. I originally started replacing my high tops with low tops for backpacking. Most of my shoes are "barefoot" style or minimalist. I've tried trailrunning shoes for hiking and backpacking and finally found the Evolv Cruzer approach shoes. These were great in comfort and grip, but lacked in durability. Enter the Guide Tennie. Super grippy, not too bulky or heavy and so far very durable. I use these on hikes, scrambles and backpacking trips.
1. Water Purification/Filtration
3. Electrical system/battery