Outdoor Gear

My recommendations on the following pages originated with backpacking, but most of the observations are applicable to a variety of outdoor activities.  Related: Packing for the Camino (or other other hostel-2-hostel pilgramages) plus notes about packing light for travel. I also keep a list of “gear for life“.

Ultralight / Light Approach

Around 2000 I read Mark Twight’s Extreme Alpinism and came across materials by Ray Jardine and realized that I didn’t have to pack like a Boy Scout. I joined the backpackinglight Yahoo! mailing list that was moderated by Don Ladigin who later wrote the marvelous book Lightening Up… and started on a journey to drop my pack weight. I benefitted greatly from correspondence with Glen Van Peski and Ryan Jordan and the BPL community. While I don’t go as light at these folks, I have found that a light-weight approach (my 3 season backpacking gear list) keeps me as safe and comfortable as my heavy-weight friends in camp, and is significantly more comfortable when I am moving.

If you have enough money, it’s possible to purchase gear that gets you to an ultralight base weight, even though you are approaching an activity like a classic “heavy-weight” practitioner. True ultralight is a bit different:

The key to ultralight is to use your head… having enough experience to know how to deal with various situations, and to carefully think about what is needed (or more likely not needed).

An effective ultralight approach uses experience and skills to develop a system of gear and practices which allow you to face a wide variety of circumstances with less gear than most people.

Warning… don’t let your quest for the right gear to lead to gearaholism.

Lists and Reviews

Other information you might find useful include:

Buying Stuff

Other People’s Recommendations

I am not following outdoor gear as closely as I used to. As a result, some of my recommendations might become dated. There are several sites that I use when I want to see a list of current products that are likely to have category leading performance:

  • Ryan Jordan’s personal selection
  • Adventure Alan does a good job covering ultralight equipment. I  appreciated Alan’s articles in the early days of backpackinglight.com.
  • Frank Revelo has a pragmatic, moderate cost, often DIY approach to gear which is refreshing
  • Cleverhiker comes closest to my personal taste in equipment. While I don’t stack rank items exactly the same as they do, I never find myself saying “Why did they include XYZ in their listing?”
  • Greenbelly Backpacking Guide has a recommended gear section (need to scroll down) which I find is very readable. I tend to agree with Cleverhiker in actual picks, but Greenbelly’s pages are often more complete. 
  • Outdoor Gearlab covers a wide variety of gear types, but I never agree with their stack ranking. Sometimes items are in their list which I find myself saying “Really? You liked it?”. Most of the time items I think are the best appear in their lists, just not top rated by them. Fail to include the smaller, class leading cottage companies. Are they a shill for big name outdoor gear companies?
  • Gear Junkie for outdoor industry news and reviews.
  • roadtrailrun.com – running focus

Useful References / Tidbits

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