As many of my US readers will be aware, the REI Anniversary Sale is now underway. This is a great opportunity to save on any wishlist backpacking gear you may have been thinking about while stuck indoors during the lockdown. Up until May 25, all REI members can save 20% on one full-price item plus an extra 20% on one REI-Outlet item by using the code ANNV20 at checkout.
In light of the fact that a large percentage of the emails I receive through the website are gear related, I thought I’d put together a compilation of my favorite backpacking items from the iconic outdoor retailer. I have used all of the 25 pieces of gear listed below, with the exception of the Ursack Major and DeLorme inReach Mini, both of which I plan to pick up in the near future.
Big Ticket Items over $100
1. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-Lite – Since 2010 I’ve put well over 20,000 miles on the two small-sized NeoAirs X-Lites I’ve owned. Last year I bit the bullet and picked up the 25″ wide version, and I’ve got to say that the extra 5″ in width makes a big difference on the comfort front – well worth the weight penalty for a better night’s sleep. Click here for my long-term review of the X-Lite.
2. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm – I’ve used this 6.9 R-Value mat on all of my winter/cold weather trips since 2017, including the Altiplano Traverse when temps were regularly dropping down to 5°F (-15°C) at night. The most comfortable sleeping pad I’ve tried.
3. Patagonia R1 Pullover Hoodie – Possibly the most versatile item in my layering system. Over the past decade, I’ve regularly used the R1 as an insulation layer when hiking in “cold and wet” environments, and a base layer when venturing into deep winter conditions. Love the athletic fit, snug balaclava/hood, and the long front zip for temperature regulation.
4. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 2400 Backpack – I can’t say enough about the toughness and load-carrying ability of this lightweight pack. In recent years I’ve used it on my traverses of Southwest Tasmania, Badlands National Park, and Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Range. If you are looking for a bit more volume, try the Southwest 3400 model.
5. Granite Gear Crown2 – I carried Granite Gear backpacks (namely the Virga and the Vapor Trail – which is the predecessor of the Crown series) throughout most of the 2000s. The Crown2 is an uber-durable, well-priced, lightweight internal framed pack that is good for carrying loads up to 35 lbs (15.9 kg). For more lightweight and ultralightweight backpack suggestions, see Backpacks for Thru-hiking.
6. Ursack Major XL – I suspect I’ll be making a lengthy trip to Alaska sometime in the next couple of years. When I do, I’ll be taking one (or possibly two) of these along on the journey.
7. Garmin inReach Mini (reduced from $350 to $299.99)– Speaking of Alaska and other remote areas, the inReach mini rates as one of the most highly regarded backcountry communications devices. Tipping the scales at just 3.5 oz, it has two-way texting, tracking, and SOS capabilities.
8. Brooks Cascadia 14 – Now in their 14th incarnation. I’ve been using the Cascadias regularly over the past dozen years. Not the lightest trail runner out there, but they fit my feet perfectly, and I’ve always been a fan of the combo of comfort, stability, and grip. I also know that irrespective of the terrain, I can rely on them for 450 to 600 miles per pair.
9. Brooks Caldera 3 (reduced from $140 to $97,83)– I’ve been using the Calderas since 2017 and have grown to like them a lot. Similar durability as the Cascadias, but 3 oz lighter (per pair), more cushioning, less drop (4mm Vs 8mm), and less grip. If I was to do the PCT or CDT again, these are the shoes I’d probably go with. For off-trail and/or wet and slippery conditions, I still prefer the Cascadias or Moab Ventilators. Speaking of which………..
10. Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator (reduced from $100 to $79.99)– I’ve been a fan of the Moabs since I used them to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2007. They are by no means the lightest trail runners, but over the years I’ve consistently gotten more than 600 miles out of each pair, and they offer excellent stability and grip in rugged terrain. In recent years I used the Moabs on both the Southwest Tasmania Traverse and the Altiplano Traverse in Bolivia.
11. Altra Lone Peak 4.5 (reduced from $120 to $89.99) – Altras are the most popular trail running shoes among US long-distance hikers. Personally, I think they are a good or even great option for folks with medium to wide feet who do the majority of their hiking on well-maintained trails (e.g. PCT, CDT, AT). For those that do much of their hiking in rugged and/or off-trail terrain, many have found the Altras to come up a little short on the durability front.
12. Marmot Helium – An accurately rated 15°F sleeping bag, that with the REI discount will set you back less than $350. That’s very good value for a well made 800 fill power goose down bag. For more sleeping bag and quilt suggestions, see Sleeping Bags and Quilts for Thru-Hiking.
13. Patagonia Long-Sleeve Sun Stretch Shirt – Material feels soft against the skin, relaxed fit, dries quickly, useful zippered pockets, and UPF 30 protection.
14. Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket/Insulated Hoodie (reduced from $199 to $138.99) – Along with the Montbell Thermawrap, the Nano Puff has been my go-to synthetic insulation layer over the past decade. In regard to long-term insulation loss, I estimate that it’s approximately 25 to 30% less warm than when I purchased it, which is more than acceptable for a synthetic material such as PrimaLoft Gold.
Items Under $100
For those looking for something a little less pricey, here is a list of REI-stocked items that I regularly use that cost under $100:
1. Kathoola Microspikes – Ideal traction device for icy trails during winter in the Appalachians, and late spring in the High Sierra. I’ve been using Microspikes since 2011.
2. Suunto M-3G Global Pro Compass – Lightweight (1.6 oz / 45 gr), adjustable declination, and globally balanced needle. I picked up this excellent compass in 2018 after a decade of using the Suunto M-2.
3. Prana Stretch Zion Pants – I splashed out a few months ago and picked up two new pairs of travel/hiking pants – the Outdoor Research Ferrosis and the Prana Stretch Zion. Both models have exceeded expectations. I prefer the lighter Ferrosis for warm weather hiking, whereas the Prana Stretch Zions come into their own in cooler conditions (i.e. consistently below 67°F / 19.4°C). Both models are very comfortable, stretchy, relatively quick-drying, and look respectable when traveling through airports and towns.
4. Thermarest RidgeRest SOLite and Z Lite Sol – Budget-priced, lightweight, close-celled foam pads with heat reflective surfaces for added warmth. I swapped back-and-forward between these two mats between the late 90s and when I first started using the NeoAir XLite in 2010.
5. Aquamira – Chlorine Dioxide drops – effective against bacteria, viruses, and cysts, including Cryptosporidium and Giardia. Aquamira has been my water treatment method of choice since the mid-2000s.
6. Toaks Titanium Siphon Alcohol Stove – I upgraded to the Toaks back in 2016. A lot more efficient than Pepsi/Tuna can models that I had used in the past. Perfect for treks in developing countries, where denatured alcohol is widely available, but fuel canisters can sometimes be hard to find.
7. Loksaks 20×12 – I’ve been using Loksaks since 2007, and have yet to have any critter issues. Seals tend to fail after five to six weeks of regular use.
8. REI Merino Liner socks – Favourite hiking socks for all but winter conditions. I generally get around 350 to 500 miles out of each pair before they begin wearing thin and holes start developing.
9. Patagonia Baggies 5″ and 7″ – Comfortable and soft against the skin, durable, lightweight, and quick-drying – I’ve used Baggies on all my big hiking trips since 2016. Click here for my long-term review.
10. Buff (polyester) – Bandana, scarf, balaclava, headband all rolled into a 1.3 oz package.
11. Platypus 2 Liter Bottles/Bladders – Reliable, lightweight (1.3oz), and take up very little space in your pack when not in use.
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