Thru hike like a boss with my ultimate backpacking gear list in 2019

Note that I didn’t use just one Catalyst for this ten year stretch – I replaced it and bought a new one in 2014. Over time the frame starts to punch through the bottom of the pack, the side pockets get torn up by thorns (If you go off trail), and the plastic buckles tend to snap. Maybe I could have returned it to ULA and got a replacement for free (Or not), but I consider this to be normal wear and tear.

The Osprey Exos is an exceedingly popular choice, and my number one pick for new backpackers. When someone with zero experience comes to me for a recommendation, I point them toward this pack. It has everything a beginner loves (a sturdy fit, zippered removable lid, sleeping pad straps, etc.) and still maintains a lightweight package.

Final word on backpacks

My only caveat about Big Agnes is their zippers – they’re horrible! I’ve owned several different variations of their Fly Creek and Copper Spur series, and the zippers have failed on virtually all of them. This cannot be user-error, as I’ve been careful to be easy on the zippers, keeping them out of sandy environments, leaving them closed when packed up, etc.

For some reason the manufactures are building taller, thinner pots nowadays, as opposed to those with a wider base. Why they do this is beyond me, as it lifts more volume away from your heat source, and the higher center of gravity is more likely to set you up for a disastrous spill. Keep this in mind when you do your shopping. Titanium Sporks!!!

The popularity of the Alpine Carbon poles seems to span through a broader range of hikers, acting as a more established choice. These are the heavier of the two, but weight doesn’t seem to matter as much for something that’s in your hand. What won me over was their cork handles (Less likely to get nasty) and more sturdy appearance. Water Containers

In my effort to cut weight I’m finally leaving it behind and switching to a puffy jacket. The REI men’s Co-op 650 fits the bill, without being too heavy or breaking the bank. Other jackets I considered were the classic Patagonia Down Sweater and and super light Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. I almost sprang for the Ghost Whisperer, but a few reports about their flimsy zippers turned me off. Tops

I liked the ventilation and overall style, but eventually these shirts started making me feel like a stiff old man. I have the rest of my life to feel like an old man, so I’m moving back toward a more basic long-sleeve shirt – specifically the NRS Men’s H2Core Silkweight Hoodie. Marketed as a paddling shirt, it’s especially comfortable for backpacking, too. Extremities

I haven’t made a final decision yet, but I’m increasingly tempted to leave the DSLR behind on my next big hike. In the past I was willing to accept the extra weight for high-quality images, but the benefits in carrying a light DSLR or even a mirrorless camera are rapidly shrinking. Until I can justify buying a full-frame mirrorless camera, I’m leaning toward simply using a phone (At least for a long distance hike). The Best Smartphones for Thru-Hiking

GPS devices come in two breeds – emergency beacons and navigation. The Garmin InReach Explorer takes a first step in combining these functions, but it isn’t quite there yet in the navigation department. However, a reader in the comments section (Pat) says “ the InReach will connect to your phone via Bluetooth, giving you a full function GPS with offline maps.” Emergency Beacons

The ability to keep things dry is the Hyperlite’s main advantage. As opposed to extended day hiking, I especially like it for quick, spur of the moment outings where it’s a handy place to keep my camera dry in the rain or snow. It’s great for bicycle commuting too, where I can be confident that my laptop and other civilized items will stay dry in a random downpour.

Hiking poles are always recommended for dealing with treacherous ice and snow, but it’s less often that you’ll hear about traction devices. Rather than full fledged mountain-climbing crampons, some companies make some basic, lighter spikes. I’ve found them to be useful in the winter at Grand Canyon, and I like them for early season trips in the mountains.

A cheaper and lighter option is the Slide Stopper Cleats. I owned these for a while and they always wanted to slip out of place. Eventually I learned that I had to tie them into my shoelaces, but then they still insisted on giving me problems as the metal cleats would slide up the outside of my shoes. Still, they were better than nothing. Bear Canisters