Gear Updates: All the Must-Haves, Upgrades, and Dreamy Wishes for the Next Season.
The dust is settling on the summer of 2019 adventures, and it's time to review my gear. Some of, thank goodness, is still great and will serve me well for another season or two. Some are at its last breath, and some needs replacing or upgrading.
I already wrote a review of the boots I had this year, and will probably write another on another piece or two of my gear and clothing. But it's also time when I build my dream list of gear for the 2020 seasons of hiking and camping. A few pieces are must-buys, while some are in the category of "would be awesome to have." So, let me share with you what's on my list.
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Necessary gear upgrades and replacements
A new big backpack
The Maven backpack is fantastic - comfortable and lightweight, but just a bit too small for longer treks. I can fit in, but only if I take my lighter (colder) sleeping bag, and I might have issues with carrying water in the begging of the trek (when I have a lot of food on me). I was cold a few times when I slept in the thinner sleeping bag and as I consider going to Norway next summer and I hope for a winter hike in Spain or Italy (days can be nice and mild, but nights still pretty cold) - I want to take my warm sleeping bag.
The Deuter pack is very comfortable and bigger than the Maven. But it's a tank. It can survive anything but weighs 2,5 kg, so I would love to get a pack that is around 50-55L (max. 60L) but weighs no more than 1,5 kg. Here are two possible contestants:
As I already own a Gregory pack, I trust the quality of their work. I've read a few reviews, and it collects praises for comfort and air ventilation. Octal is women-specific and is close to ultralight packs with structure and suspension I need. It weighs: 2,58 Ibs/1,17 kg. That's crazy light - Maven 45L is about 1,5 kg.
I own one Osprey pack - but it's a daypack for commute and carrying a laptop. As much as I love how comfortable it is, I can't say much about backpacking Osprey backpacks. It gathers accolades on the other side of the pond, and it raises in popularity in Europe as well. I got my eyes on the ultralight Lumina series. There is one in 45L size and 60L. 60L might be an overkill for my needs, as there is always a risk of taking too much crap you don't need when you have room to pack it. So a 55L would probably be sufficient. It's very light, weighing less than a kilo - 0.8 to be exact.
As I had to throw away the boots I had in Portugal and Ireland - Keen Targhee III (you can read my review here), I am on a lookout for a new pair, hopefully of better durability this time. I need well-cushioned, with good traction, highest comfort possible, and waterproof membrane. My feet are wide and very sensitive. It also seems that I developed plantar fasciitis, so comfort and cushioning are key features. I am considering one of these:
Hoka One One Sky Series
I have one pair of Hoka One One hiking boots - the Tor Ultra Hi, and I liked them a lot. I hiked in them on Crete and in Norway. I worry a bit about their rain protection, but the cushioning and comfort is superb. Hoka One One has new Sky series of hiking boots and they all look promising. Sky Kaha provides the most cushioning and is the highest, hugging the ankle completely. Looks very similar to my old Tor Ultra Hi. Sky Toa is lower and looks lighter (although they all are crazy light, deceiving the eye with their plump looks), with a more responsive sole. There is also Sky Arkali, which doesn’t seem to have waterproof membrane. Great for people who prefer more ventilation and don’t mind getting wet (although they look horrid). They all come with eye-watering price tags, though.
Three years ago I bought the tanks of hiking boots: Salomon Quest 4D and I loved them. I hiked through Scotland and Iceland with them, and they seem to survive anything. Take a bit of time to dry after being soaked, but other than that, a pair of high-quality boots. But they are heavy. So if I could get the high quality of Quest 4D but slightly trimmed down - it might be a perfect choice.
A pocket knife
Three years ago I bought a cheap pocket knife, and it reached the end of its life in Ireland. It lost two screws, paint was peeling off (I had no idea it was painted, I thought it was an oxidation or something, haha) and I didn't want to find it in my food. So I need to find another one. I don't want to spend crazy amount of money, as I don't use the knife all that much. Sometimes to spread cream cheese on my bread, cut fruit or plaster, but no cutting trees for shelter or any survival work. So I need a basic, lightweight, easy to clean pocket knife with regular sized blade (no tiny Swiss pocket knives). The one on the right looks good, and has great reviews, but is a bit too expensive for my liking. Maybe will buy another no-name piece.
Long tent stakes for sandy or loose soil
Many times when I struggled to keep my tent upright on a sandy, rocky terrain, I wished I had stakes that were made for such conditions. I like the small MSR mini-groundhogs, but when the ground is not cooperating, I need to look around for big rocks to hold them in. Four wider and longer stakes in addition to 4 smaller ones for the porch, should be perfect.
I like the MSR’s Blizzard stakes (for snow and loose soil) or the Cyclone stakes.
Gear I would love to have
Now we are in the realm of stuff that I don't necessarily need, and would have to find a significant amount of extra money to excuse the purchase. Or maybe I could convince myself it's for the gear reviews? Who knows.
A camping chair
As I get older, camping chair - something I scoffed at and considered completely unnecessary, starts to move up the list of things I want to buy. Going for weeks of hiking and camping takes its toll on my back. I don't have any issues with carrying the backpack, and I’m fine with the basic sitting options during breaks (I usually sit with my back against the bottom of my backpack). But in the evenings I really start to dream about one. Sometimes, especially in the early spring, I have hours to read in my tent. There is only so long you can lie on your belly reading a book before the back starts to scream. When I realized there is a kind of chair you can sit in inside the tent, my mind went crazy. I have a lot of room in my tent, so there would be no problem with fitting it in. I could sit comfortably and read for hours! Here is the kind of camping chair I'm thinking about - it's small, can be easily set up during breaks, and wouldn't make holes in the tent's floor. The only downside is the price. That's a lot for a chair with no legs, right? *sight*
On the left you see the Crazy Creek Original chair (0,7 kg or 26 oz). There is a lighter version of it - Hex 2.0 but it might not be as comfortable and supportive (at least to the folks at The Outdoor Gear Lab).
A nice pair of hiking leggings/backup pants
I have a pair of very comfortable soft shell pants by Rab, but that's it. No second pair of well-fitting pants or leggings to have as an alternative. The pair I use now - by Patagonia, is OK, but very wide in leg and way too long. I stuff the bottom rim under the boots' shoelaces. It works, but the pants look like balloons and I am not big on the look. I want to try hiking leggings, and there is a number of them on the market. I don't feel well wearing ordinary bottoms, as they often have cut emphasizing the crotch. I guess when you sleep in them or wear them as underwear, it's not a big deal, but when out and about, I am way too self-conscious about it. I also want a light pair, as the ordinary leggings I own now are way too heavy to carry in the backpack as a backup pair. Here are some possible options:
A new day pack
At the moment I have an old pack I bought 7 or 8 years ago by Bergans. It’s not bad - but I don’t like the way the straps fit me. As I don’t go often for day hikes, I don’t consider it a must-buy. Also, even when I go, there is not much risk of a back pain or injuries as day packs are light. So I keep on using the one I have. But if I could replace it, I would like to have one of these below. I don’t like the smallest possible packs, as I like to have a big enough pack for colder hikes, where I need to fit a fleece, rain jacket, lunch or vacuum bottle with hot coffee, in addition to all the other essentials.
A Sleeping Bag
It’s not like I don’t have any, or that there is anything wrong with the two I have. I actually love them! It’s more of a Goldilocks problem I have. Both of my bags are very high-quality, custom and hand made by Robert’s company in Poland. The first one I got has 800g of 850 cuin down. It’s basically a winter bag, and sleeping in it is like floating on a cloud. But it’s obviously a bit big and and overkill for summer hiking. So I also got a summer sleeping bag - 300g fill, no hood, light, and small. But a bit too cold during some nights. Most of the time I go hiking where it’s not too hot. In summer I try to go hiking in northern countries, in winter I go hiking in southern Europe. Sometimes the nights can get cold. Rarely below freezing, but if it’s humid and windy, it can get really unpleasant. I had nights in the small bag where I was putting all the clothes I had (including down jacket, two pairs of socks, double pants, etc.) to feel somewhat warm.
And so, I would love to have one more sleeping bag with 450 - 500 g of down fill, as it should be the perfect one for early spring, northern summer temperatures. As I’m thinking of going to Norway next summer, I know I don’t want to take the small bag, there is no sense to “save” on weight that way. If I don’t get the Goldilocks sleeping bag, I will take the big one and sleep in a cloud.
I have my old Kindle and it’s working just fine, but for added comfort of reading, I would love to upgrade to the Paperwhite. In the summer I read mostly by daylight but in Spring or Fall, I often need to use the headlight. The problem is, the light often reflects in the Kindle’s screen and it’s distracting. Paperwhite has its own light source which should be enough for a pleasant evening read. An additional perk of this newest version is that it’s waterproof, which is always a nice quality when backpacking.
A few smaller bits and pieces I would love to add to my gear box and wardrobe:
What’s on your dream gear list for 2020?
Do we share any dreams and wishes?