let's talk gear.
Because I've basically lived out of my backpack for the past 3 summers, I rely heavily on the gear I use. I'm usually hiking in uniform and this makes me not only a target for people to find errors about how I'm doing my craft, but a target because people are always wanting to know what gear I use. While on duty I'm responsible for providing first aid supplies, food, water, and navigational information for other hikers if they're in need. With this being said, the gear I choose to bring with me on multi-day hitches MUST be reliable.
I'll go through each topic I can think of and provide photos if I have them. If I miss anything, don't hesitate to click on the "Contact" tab at the top of the page and shoot me an email- I love hearing from you!
Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 : My go-to tent. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this freestanding, ultralight, perfect backpacking tent. I've slept in this thing during a windstorm with gusts of 70mph all night, been in a downpour on the California Coast while listening to podcasts, and played chess during a snowstorm in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. All while staying completely warm and dry in this tent. It's freestanding, which I need because I work in the Sierra Nevada (granite everywhere, hardly any soil to stake into) and it's only about 3lbs.
MSR Freelite UL2 : This tent and I have a love/hate relationship because I was under the impression it was freestanding, but it needs 2 stakes to expand the tent to full size (otherwise it's all saggy and basically uninhabitable). I can't always find places to stake this tent when I'm up in the granite, but I absolutely love using this tent when I'm in lower elevations or places with soil to stake into. Other than that, this tent is even lighter than the Copper Spur and a lot smaller-looking. Here's a crappy picture I took of them side-by-side one morning. The Freelite is shorter and smaller looking but has more room horizontally whereas the Copper Spur is taller and has less room horizontally.
Z-Packs 900 Fill Down Bag : For sure the most comfortable sleeping bag I've ever been in. I don't like hoods on my bags so I sleep really good in this one, plus it cinches at the top so no cold air gets in. I custom ordered it to fit my body and it's pretty much my favorite item I own. Plus it's literally as light as a feather. I show it off to my friends and family whenever the opportunity presents itself and they're always in shock at how light it is.
Big Agnes' Cross Mountain 45 : A much warmer weather bag, very thin but has a pocket for a sleeping mat to slide in so that it doesn't move around (that means more warmth from the pad). Again, this bag doesn't have a hood because I hate hoods on bags. I use this bag when it's the dead of summer or when it's raining (it's synthetic) and it hasn't disappointed so far!
Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme Liner : I run cold, so my body always needs more warmth at night no matter which bag I'm using. I bring this liner on every trip and I always end up using it! It adds 25 degrees to your sleep setup which means it's worth every penny.
Therma-rest Trail Lite : My favorite sleeping pad ever. It's self inflating, lightweight, and extra comfy. This sleeping pad doesn't make noise when I move around on it which is a huge deal for me since I move around A LOT in my sleep. I use this one the most, and it's lasted 3 years. It's about 1lb 12oz. Sometimes I inflate it myself because I'm impatient and the self-inflate feature works a little slowly after all the use I've put it through!
Big Agnes Double Stuffed Double Z : This pad is super warm but makes a lot of noise when I move around at night. It's a four-season pad and super lightweight so I use it when I know I'll be out on a cold night. Oh yeah and it's 4" thick which means it's kind of a luxury when you're out in the backcountry.
Deuter ACT Lite Series : I only use Deuter packs when I'm backpacking. They're lightweight and come in great colors (a lot of women's packs come in girly colors and that drives me nuts). I've taken off the flowers that come with the packs & promptly thrown them in the garbage, but aside from that these packs have everything I require in an overnight pack like location of compartments, pockets, straps, etc. The shoulder straps are super comfy and I don't really have any problems with these packs. I usually use my 45+10 because I pack pretty light, but when I'm carrying ranger gear or my friends' gear I use my 60+10 or rarely my 70+10.
North Face Angstrom 20 : I use this pack for traveling, day hikes, and general use. It's the perfect size, has a rain cover, and it's hydration compatible. I use the dude version because the girl version has pink zippers and things like that which is not my style at all.
FOOD STORAGE & COOKWARE
Bearvault BV-450 & BV-500 : I used to hang my food from trees when I first started backpacking but then I realized how much better bear canisters are for my backpacking style. After using a couple different methods, I've settled on the Bearvault models BV-450 and BV-500. I own one 450 and two 500's because I always want to make sure that my food & the food of fellow backpackers is stored properly. I keep these bear vaults about 100-200ft away from my camp because they aren't smell proof. This way I camp responsibly, respect wildlife, and sleep soundly!
MSR PocketRocket : I usually use this stove because of its simplicity, but I find myself using my MSR WindBurner more and more. Basically I'm an MSR girl when it comes to stoves. The PocketRocket works better for me on most backpacking trips because the WindBurner has its own stove system and I prefer to use my own cooksets. They're both great but of course the WindBurner has more features that are especially handy in more extreme weather conditions.
GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Dualist Ultralight Cookset : I like having a bigger pot to mix my dinner with and having the freedom to cook for another person without wasting fuel, so I like the dualist set. I also own the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Soloist Cookset for when I'm not cooking for anyone else & want to go a little lighter. I usually ditch the bowls and utensils because I like using my own $3 plastic bowls and Snow Peak Titanium Sporks.
MSR Seagull Titanium Cup : I use this cup on every backpacking or camping trip I'm on. I couldn't find a link for the Seagull so I gave you the one to the newer Titan cup. I generally drink CaCafe's Coconut Coffee from it in the mornings because it's real powdered coconut coffee... doesn't get better than that. My main backpacking dinner is always gluten free white cheddar mac'n'cheese with fresh veggies and olive oil, and since I'm all about Leave No Trace I usually drain the rice water from the mac'n'cheese into the MSR cup and drink it. Yum.
Stanley Flask : This is a lightweight flask that holds plenty of mana and it's made from recycled plastic! It opens in two different ways so you can fill it up easily and also drink from it easily. I also really like Stanley's Two-Person Adventure Cook Set for front-country camping (although I bring the folding cutting board on every backpacking trip).
Petzl Tikkina : For the price, this is the best headlamp I've ever owned. It's lightweight, simple, and gets the job done. It's only 80 lumens which is all I usually need and it's 85g. Also the one I have is black and white because I don't like colored gear very much.
Black Diamond ReVolt : When I need a stronger headlamp, this is what I bring. It's a little heavier at 97g but has 130 lumens and it can charge with a USB cable. If water splashes onto the headlamp its totally safe too which I'm not sure that the Tikkina is.
UCO Gear Leschi Lantern + Flashlight : This thing rules. It can hang from your tent or anywhere else you want to put it as a lantern and it even extends into a flashlight! It's compact and pretty strong so I bring it everywhere with me.
UCO Gear Madrona Hang-out Lantern : This is a bigger and heavier lantern so I only use it for front-country camping, but it's really strong and I think it's waterproof. I dropped it into the ocean one time and it still works really well! I like to hang this one from wherever I can.
Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System : I bring this on every backpacking trip, but since I know better than to bring just one form of filtration, I bring the Sawyer Mini as a backup. The regular one is only 3.5oz, super easy to use, totally lightweight, and works best for my style of backpacking. I've used pump filters before but just prefer Sawyer.
Platypus Platy Bottle : This works great for me because it's basically as lightweight as you can get and doesn't take up much room at all. My Sawyer filter fits on top (it doesn't screw on so I have to hold it in place) and it's just an easy system for me. I also have a 1L and when these collapsible bottles are full they fit great in the side pockets of my Deuter packs.
CamelBak Antidote Reservoir : I have the 3L reservoir and it works great. I love being able to drink water while I'm hiking. That's all I have to say about it.
Vasque Erikkson GTX : These are my more heavy-duty boots that I use pretty much all the time both off-duty and on patrol. They don't make my feet hot, they're waterproof, and they're super supportive. Gore-tex & leather... need I say more?
Vasque St. Elias GTX : My lesser-duty boots that I wear every now & again. Again, Gore-tex and leather wins me over and here I am wearing Vasque boots on every outdoor adventure I go on.
FIRST AID & SMALL STUFF
First Aid Kit : I can't stress enough how important it is to carry a first aid kit while you're backpacking or hiking. While rangering, I need to make sure that I have enough supplies for other hikers as well as myself, so it takes up a bit more space than other people's first aid kits. I always used to put together my own first aid kits but since my fiancé is a paramedic he usually takes care of it now. Here's the baseline of what we always pack:
Moleskin, mini scissors, gauze, tourniquet, rubber gloves, benadryl, tick identification cards, honey sticks, sodium tablets, ibuprofen, tylenol, antiseptic towelettes, antibiotic ointment, bandages, sting relief towelettes, triangular bandage with a safety pin, 100% deet spray, and hand sanitizer.
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen : Hands down best sunscreen ever. It's not oily, it doesn't feel weird on your skin, and it works. I think all 8 of our rangers use it. I have 2 bottles of SPF 55, one SPF 30, and one SPF 100+ which means I highly recommend this sunscreen.
Skullcandy Ink'd Wireless Headphones : I rarely listen to music while on the trail. If I do, it's because I'm off-duty and listening with one earbud because I've had one too many encounters with unexpected wildlife while not paying attention. These are lightweight, comfortable, and don't come out of my ears while I'm hiking. Plus they're Bluetooth!
That's all I can think of, but make sure to let me know if I missed something you're interested in! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to make sure you know that this blog is 100% my opinion and I haven't been paid or compensated to write these reviews by any of these companies. I believe in the products I use and I would never recommend anything to you that I didn't stand by.