My Hiking & Camping Gear Winners: Gear I Use, Love, and Recommend.

Over the past few years I’ve gathered quite the collection of hiking and camping gear. Some of it I left behind, some is set aside for another time and some is my go-to gear every time I hike and camp. I would love to share with you what is my core gear set-up, which I can recommend to you, too. Go ahead and click on links - they will take you to my reviews or other useful sites.

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My Hiking & Camping Gear: the big three

Let’s start with the big three of hiking and camping: shelter, sleeping system, and a backpack. That’s the gear you want to invest in – they make or break your trip. I know it’s not easy when they tend to cost a lot but they provide you safety and comfort, and if cared well for – serve you for many years to come.

If you would like to learn more about your options in backpacking shelters - read this article.

Tent

  • I started with Vango Blade 200 and I can recommend it as a beginner’s tent. It’s affordable, not too heavy (about 2 kg) and was easy to set up. Over a year ago I updated to a much lighter (1 kg) single-wall tent from the TarpTent, called Double Rainbow (click to read my review). I absolutely love it. It’s a breeze to set up, I have plenty of space in it (it’s 2 person) for me, my gear, to sit, change clothes, etc. I’ve never had any issues with rain and only some with condensation. I love how I can set the “porch” up even during rainy weather, so there is no need to be closed completely.

Sleeping system

  • In the beginning I had a self-inflating mat from Vango, which was fine in the beginning. But it’s heavy and not as comfortable as an air mattress. Pretty early on I updated to the fantastic Therm-a-Rest NeoAir mattress for women. It’s crazy light, thick, and comfortable. Pricey – but I think it’s worth it. You can read my review of the NeoAir right here.

 
  • I have two sleeping bags at the moment. Well, three actually. I first bought synthetic Deuter Orbit 5 for women but I felt cold when sleeping in Scotland in the summer. After that I decided to invest in down bag. Down is expensive and it’s worth reading more on it before you buy any – as the difference in quality can be staggering between one and another. After doing some hours of research online, I decided to go custom. Before I went hiking in Catalonia in February, I got myself a big, fluffy cloud of highest-quality down. I ordered it from a Polish company called Robert’s (no aff.), with 20+ years of experience in hand-made down products. They are hand-made to my needs and the owner – Mr. Roman Werdon, explained to me all about down, different needs, how women sleep, how we sense warmth or cold when tired, etc. I was amazed how detailed the explanation was.  

    My winter sleeping bag is made of 800g of 850cuin down. For most people that’s serious winter sleeping bag, I was glad I had with me during my summer treks in Iceland!

    After a while I ordered another sleeping bag, this time much lighter for warmer conditions. It’s a lovely 350g 850 cuin bag, with no hood. I decided on cutting off the hood as I always slept in a warm hat or a buff anyway. Instead I asked for a nice, thick collar.

  • After a long time of using my clothes as a pillow, I bought myself an ultra-light hiking pillow by Sea-to-Summit: Aeros Premium and it elevated my sleeping experience like crazy. It’s expensive but seriously helps with getting a proper night sleep. Finally I can wake up without weird pains in my neck!

Backpacks

I have two different ones, depending on my needs.

Deuter AirContact 50+10 SL is my big bag for long trips. It’s on the heavier side (2,5 kg) but is amazingly comfortable and perfect when you need to carry heavier loads (in my case it means food for 3 weeks or such). This rucksack was with me in Scotland, Quebec, Iceland, Norway and Spain – and it’s just perfect. You can hardly see any signs of usage and - believe me! – I’m not gentle with my gear.

I got the Gregory Women's Maven 45L pack as I wanted something smaller and lighter for shorter trips. I had a few different packs on my radar but I scored a sale and it helped me decide on this one. I am glad I got it – I find it absolutely perfect. It’s light but supportive and comfortable. I can hardly feel it on my back! It’s roomy and I can fit a lot of gear and food in it. It’s a bit more delicate than the Deuter and I’ve noticed a few holes in the mesh but other than that it’s just awesome. I mostly use it for shorter, up to 1 week treks but I also managed to pack into it for 3 weeks on Crete, so it’s not as small as it looks!
 

My Hiking & Camping Gear: My Backpacking Kitchen and Hydration System

I’m a cooking minimalist, I just boil water and pour it over my noodles and powder soup. I don’t cook anything fancy, don’t fry or cook for longer time. I need something light, small and reliable.

  • First time I was buying my gear I got Esbit with solid fuel. What a failure. It’s a stinky disaster. Then I bought MSR pocket rocket which is a great piece of gear. I later saw another shiny object – Jetboil MiniMo and bought it. There was nothing wrong with the pocket rocket I just wanted to see what everyone was raving about. Once I got it, I keep using it. It’s a great design and takes little room. It boils water really fast and is easy to use.

  • GSI mug – that’s such a great find. Cheap, insulated, and crazy light. It goes with me everywhere and I even used it at work.

  • Sea-to-Summit coffee dripper – that’s my recent upgrade. I was fed up with the instant coffee ersatz, I love the real thing. It’s actually added to my gear weight but I don’t care. There is nothing like a freshly brewed coffee in the wild. It’s worth the extra weight, the filters and coffee grains.

  • The Sea-to-Summit titanium spoon is my only titanium piece of gear – and I love it. It’s extra-long so I don’t have to worry I get food on my wrists. I don’t use sporks or forks – this little thing is my only utensil.

  • A simple and cheap pocket knife that I don’t even know the name of. I hardly ever use it but it’s in my belt pocket just in case. I don’t feel the need for big and fancy knives.

  • As an extra security, I have a Platypus collapsible water bottle just in case I need to carry more water. Recently, when I was in Norway, I never used it but it’s so small that it’s good to have.

  • As my water filtration system I use mini-Sawyer. It’s fine for one person but it takes a while to filter enough water. Even after I clean it, I still have to squeeze the bottle hard and, to be honest, my hands hurt or go numb from it. I plan on updating to the Kathadyn filter as I’ve heard only good things about it.

  • For years I used various kinds of water bottles to use while hiking. But I found that I simply didn’t drink enough when I had to stop to drink. I was somewhat hesitant about the hydration bladders but finally decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did.

    I got the Hydrapak Shape Shifter and I absolutely love it. I keep myself hydrated much better than before and the water stays cooler for longer. I store it at the top of my backpack and not in the designated pocket because I’m nervous I would put too much pressure with my other gear on it. I like the wide opening, so it’s easy to fill and clean. I can highly recommend it!

If you would like to learn more about your options in backpacking kitchen gear you can check this article.

My cooking and hydrating gear at the moment:

 

My Hiking & Camping Gear: Trekking poles

This summer I upgraded to new pair of trekking poles and I got Leki Corklite Speedlock. I’ve read a lot of good reviews on them and hoped they would be a good match. And they generally are. The handle is comfortable and I love the straps. But two or three times the pole collapsed under me when I put all of my weight on it (when I tripped or such). I have a hard time figuring out the closures – when I tighten the screw up, I can’t flip the handle. When I loosen it, it’s not completely secured. But other than that, I really like them.
 

My Hiking & Camping Gear: Electronics

  • For my light source I have a Tikkina headlamp by Petzl. It’s tiny and perfect for hiking. I used it only once or twice for night hiking and it’s not the most powerful but I rarely use it for that. I mostly need some light in the evening in my tent and for this it’s OK. I think I might upgrade to something more powerful in the future, though, as I sometimes go hiking in winter when there is a bigger risk of not making it before the sunset. I also would like to have the option of red light which is a must when used in a mountain shelter or whenever there are sleeping people around.
    EDIT: I’ve just got a new one: Black Diamond Storm. It’s waterproof and provides more options (including red, blue, and green light).

  • After running low on juice in Canada and Iceland, I learned my lesson. I bought a powerful 20k Anker power bank to make sure I won’t have to risk my phone dying or not being able to take photos (the horror!). It’s big and heavy but I’m fine with that. I can go hiking for more than a week with no access to electricity and be fine.

  • I love taking photos and a good camera is a must for me. I started with the great compact Sony rx100 m3, which was really great. But I wanted something with bigger sensor and changeable optics. I decided to on Sony a6300. It’s still new to me but I love the quality of photos I’m getting. The only problem I have is making sure I don’t dirty it when changing lenses in the field. I’ve got some grit on it already.

  • Any kind of smartphone is a must nowadays. It holds maps, trail description, entertainment, GPS location, contact with family, and – most of all – a chance to call emergency services. When I was about to update to a new phone I made sure it would be a waterproof one – perfect for hiking condition: Sony Experia Z5 (E6653) . Now, when it rains, I don’t have to worry about it. I can store my camera safely in my backpack but keep taking photos with the phone. I use the aps for map and location (in addition to paper maps) and I like to let my friends and family know I’m fine – this is crucial when hiking alone.

  • For my lonely nights my main entertainment is my Kindle. It goes everywhere with me and I love to snuggle in my warm sleeping bag and read a book. I also store trail descriptions and variety of documents helping me along the trails.

 

My Hiking & Camping Gear: Bits and pieces

Dry Sacks – I have quite a number of them by now, in every possible color and size. I have two expensive ones: Sea to Summit eVent compression sacks for my sleeping bags. They protect them and can be squeezed to really small sizes. The other bags I use for everything else – food (breakfast and dinner separately), extra set of clean clothes, electronics, etc.

Seat Pad – that’s a piece that is far from necessity but oh, so useful. It’s a small square of foam that folds nicely and I can carry it in my backpack’s side pocket. I don’t have to worry about wet grass, somewhat muddy ground or cold rock when looking for a break spot. Such a small and cheap thing but great in adding comfort.

 

I hope this lists might help you in making your own gear choices.

Do you use any of the above gear? Do you like it? Let us know!


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