Whether you have been naughty or nice this year, the Holiday season is upon us and as all of my hiking friends, new and old, think about things to put on their lists for Santa, I thought I would share some of the equipment and brands that I use and endorse.
Osprey packs is a pack company that has always been ahead of the curve in terms of technology and customer service. Years ago they created what they called the re-curve suspension for full sized packs and it remains one of the most effective frames for transferring pack load to your hips. With re-curve framed packs, I have hiked the Long Trail in Vermont and the Haute Route in Europe, as well as a good number of other shorter multi-day treks. A few years back they came up with a suspension Osprey named “airspeed” on their day and technical packs that allows for air to get in between the pack and your back. I have used one model or another of an Osprey pack for all my day hikes for at least the last fifteen years. Additionally, I cannot say enough about Osprey’s warranty. Since 2009, if you have had an issue with their packs for any reason, they will make it right. They call it their “All Mighty Guarantee” and you can read about it on their website.
I do not buy equipment that is not high quality, preferring to buy something that will last and take care of it, rather than something that is less expensive but will require replacing in just a few seasons. Some of the brands that make what I feel are quality items are Leki for poles, Marmot and Arc’teryx for clothing, MSR for a bunch of miscellaneous outdoor equipment, and Jet Boil for back country cooking. When I sleep on the trail, I bed down in either a Marmot sleeping bag or, in the middle of winter, a Feathered Friends -60 degree bag that keeps me toasty no matter how cold it gets. While I do not have a Big Agnes sleeping bag, I do know that they too are a brand worth mentioning and I would not overlook them. Regardless of the sleeping bag I sleeping in, I am resting atop a Thermarest inflatable pad of one sort or another. In winter, good pads are important to insulate you from the cold ground or snow below you, and they improve your sleeping comfort in all seasons.
I have talked before in my blog about my Garmin Fenix 3, which only leaves my wrist for recharging. It gives me more metrics about every outdoor sport I do than I sometimes know what to with and with it on my wrist, I rarely need to take out the full-size GPS. When I do pull out the GPS, it too is a Garmin. Magellan is the competitive brand to Garmin and I know little about them one way or another, but I have never gone wrong with Garmin and, as with many of the other brands I have mentioned here, their customer service is great.
I have used a lot of water purification methods since I started hiking and backpacking. First I used tablets, and then an MSR pump that I thought was a great improvement over chemical tasting water, although it was heavy in the pack. From there I moved to another MSR device, this one called a Miox which made a little saline elixir with rock salt and batteries that you dumped into your water and let sit for 30 minutes. In all honesty, while neither my charges nor I ever got sick, I was never 100 percent convinced that everything that needed to be killed in the water had been. I now use a SteriPEN Adventure Opti Water Purifier that I know makes my water 100 percent safe. It is easy to use, lightweight and safe; quite a remarkable device, actually.
For headlamps, I have a bunch of headlamps made by Petzl, which is another one of those great brands that makes a wide range of outdoor equipment. Besides headlamps, they primarily make climbing equipment, and a few years ago, they combined with the French company Charlet that makes one set of crampons I use. The other crampons I use and like are Grivel and they have worked well for me for years. Both of these companies make great ice tools and axes. For lighter ice traction, I use Microspikes by Kahtoola and Hillsound trail crampons which are very similar to the Microspikes. I recommend staying away from Yaktrax which may be good for shoveling your walk, but not for hiking. On my feet, whether summer or winter, I am usually wearing La Sportiva hiking shoes or boots and I am super excited to wear some new G2 SM Mountaineering boots this winter from La Sportiva. La Sportiva is an Italian company that has always made high quality footwear and equipment.
Other hiking gifts to consider are some books and maps published by the Appalachian Mountain Club, including the White Mountain Guide, written and edited by Steve Smith who runs a great map and book store called the Mountain Wanderer in Lincoln, NH. Steve’s books are great and he has written a number of other guides to hiking, snowshoeing and back country skiing in the Whites. If you are purchasing just maps, be sure the get your favorite hiker maps that have been printed on Tyvek which makes them lighter than paper maps and waterproof.
If you will indulge me and allow me to plug myself, of course one of the best gifts you can get your favorite outdoor enthusiast are the Exploring the Whites Gift Certificates that are available in either dollar amounts or for complete trips. Whether your favorite hiker is a beginner or an expert, a summer or a winter enthusiast, I have adventures designed for everyone.
If you are after some equipment for which I have not made a recommendation, please feel free to reach out to me for a suggestion and I will gladly share what I may know and make a few recommendations to help you choose the perfect gift. The equipment and brands I have mentioned are just based upon my experience with them and my endorsements and recommendations are not intended to warrant or guarantee how well you will like their equipment. As always, get equipment that works within your budget, fits you well, and suits your needs.
Happy Holidays everyone.