All the Things I Never Knew I’d Know About Hiking Gear

One thing you should know about Eric is that he hates shopping, as in despises it. One thing you should know about me: I also hate shopping. A shopping trip with the two of us goes something like this:

Step 1:  Gather courage to leave the house with a clear mission of what is needed.

Step 2: Enter store/outlet, or god forbid, MALL, and start shedding layers of clothing due to sudden rise in body temperature from stress over the number of people and general chaos that is called a store.

Step 3:  Enter first store which is playing way too-loud music with way too-intense fragrances and extremely harsh lighting.

Step 4: Look through store from end to end, possibly find a few things to try on. Eric is much less successful at this step because, let’s face it, he’s super picky.

Step 5: Decide that all the things you’ve picked are horrible.

Step 6: Repeat step 4 and 5.

Step 7: Leave store grumbling.

Step 8: Realize how hungry you are; find food!

Step 9: Revitalized, go to store #2, and repeat steps 3-7. Add in grumbling about how stores can justify charging X amount for Y.

Step 10:  Decide you’re incredibly over this horrifying experience and leave empty-handed.

Gear Hunting

Given all of this, you may be surprised to know that Eric has become quite the shopper when it comes to trail gear. I have found him on more than one occasion awake until the wee hours of the morning, browsing every backpacker site in existence, looking for just the right thing from just the right company at just the right price. I am incredibly grateful for his meticulousness, although I wish it carried over into other areas of our lives like cleaning and budget—but I digress. It is because of Eric’s relentless searching, and many very generous return policies, that we find ourselves practically fully geared for the trail. Now, I won’t even begin to wade into the debate of the right gear; I’ve read my share of articles to believe that the right gear is a myth.  I’ll just list out what we’ve purchased, what we’ve returned, and what we’ve settled on. For non-hikers, you may want to end here because it will now get very hiker-y.

First, a few lessons:

Read the Return Policy

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a lot of backpacking sites have very generous shipping and return policies, and some do not. (I’m looking at you for making me buy a $15 label to return an 11 oz. coat!). I truly believe REI is the best, bar none. We have used—borderline, abused— their “return within a year, no questions asked” policy a number of times over the last year, especially when it comes to shoes. For some reason, Eric’s feet continue to tear through various types of mesh lining that a lot of the minimalist shoe brands have, and every time, we’ve been able to return those shoes for a brand new, different pair. We’ve finally found ones that last. Read on for the big reveal. Other sites that have been excellent with returns are and

As much as we’ve loved the generous return policies, it has driven me slightly more than crazy at the sheer number of times we’ve had to return something. As previously mentioned, Eric has been a prolific researcher, so by the time we go to buy something, he has both of us convinced that what we’re ordering is, by far, the best product out there. And then it arrives.  Eric takes two looks at it, puts it on for two seconds, assembles it for two seconds, and immediately declares: THIS IS NOT THE RIGHT THING. We’ve become BFF’S with our building’s front desk with all of the packages we’ve picked up, only to drop back off the next morning. We’ve returned–in no particular order:

Tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 (the funnel-like shape was sure to have us headed for divorce before reaching Tennessee)

Pack: Granite Gear Crown VC 60 (the suspension system)

Mid-layer: Minus 33 Chocura midweight crew top (cuffs were very loose)

Outer layer: Mont Bell UL Down Jacket (not the right fit)

Rain jacket Marmot Mica (the inside lining has started separating form the jacket core)

Hiking poles (wrong length)

And the list goes on, although really, I hope to God it doesn’t!

 Can You Live With It For Six Months?         

 This question was never more important than when it came to our tent. We originally decided on the Big Agnes Fly Creek 2, but shortly after erecting it in our living room, I knew right away it was not the tent for us—or at least not if we wanted to make it out alive on the other side. While I’m sure it’s a good tent for someone, and I do mean ONE person, I cannot imagine having two people in that thing for more than a few minutes. Its funnel-like shape and narrow roof made me feel very closed in and claustrophobic. So, while its weight was something to envy, it ultimately was not. Bless Eric for going back to the drawing board and coming up with a great alternative, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX. It’s incredibly airy and provides the overhead space to make it feel – dare I say- spacious? While it may be a little on the heavy side for a lightweight tent, we have the advantage of splitting it between the two of us. A few extra ounces is worth a marriage, or so she says, two months out from even taking a step on the trail.

You Do You

 I have found myself dissecting every single female hiker gear list I can get my hands on, which by the way, are way scarcer that you’d like to think! Each and every time, I grill Eric with “ARE YOU SURE I GOT THE RIGHT THING? THIS GIRL GOT XXXX”…. . I think I’ve finally gotten to the point where I know I need to trust the list we’ve created, as well as the strategy behind the list, and know that everything is changeable if needed- she says, while her bank account is still full. But seriously, at the end of the day if it feels like it will work for me, then I just have to go with it and make adjustments once we’re out there. With some luck, our upcoming pseudo shakedown hikes should hopefully reveal any flaws in time to fix them before we leave.

And finally, here’s the list…


 Tent: MSR Hubba Hubba NX (2 pax) 3 lbs.13 oz.

Pack: Mens Granite gear Blaze AC 60 2 lb. 14 oz.

Pack: Womens Granite gear Blaze AC 60 2lbs.11 oz.

Sleeping bag: (Eric) Eddie Bauer First Ascent Karakoram +20° 2 lbs. 4 oz.

Sleeping bag: (Laurel) Sierra design 18°F CLO Down Sleeping Bag – 800 Fill Power, Mummy 2 lbs. 1 oz.

Sleeping pad: (Both) Big Agnes Double Z 17 oz.

Hiking poles: (Eric) Black Diamond Distance Z Poles 1 lb.4 oz.

Hiking poles: (Laurel) Black Diamond Distance FLZ pole 16 oz.

Water system: Sawyer Squeeze water filter

Stove: MSR pocket rocket

Pot: cheap aluminum

Sacks: REI dry sac (15 litre and 10 litre)




Outer layer: Patagonia Nano Puff

Rain jacket: Marmot Precip

Socks: Darn Tough (3 pairs)

Base layer: Patagonia Merino 3 midweight zip neck hoodie

Base layer bottom: Minus 33 Kancamangus Midweight bottom

Mid layer top: Marmot Stretch Fleece jacket

Shorts: cheap athletic shorts

Shoes: Brooks Cascadia 9

Camp clothes: extra synthetic pants and long sleeve shirt


Outer layer: Patagonia Nano Puff

Rain jacket: Marmot Precip

Rain bottom: Froggs Toggs

Socks: Darn Tough 3 pairs)

Baselayer top: Icebreaker BodyFit 200 Oasis Crew long sleeve

Long bottom: Helly Hanson Warm Pant

Short bottom: Adidas sport short

Midlayer top: REI airflyte hybrid jacket

Shoes: Brooks Cascadia 10

Camp clothes: extra synthetic pants and long sleeve shirt



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Comments 1

  • SoniaButton : Feb 26th

    I adore the Granite Gear Blaze AC 60! Me and my partner have the same bags in the same colors. I suppose that makes us partner ‘n bag twins.


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