Gear Round Up! Are you thinking about new gear? Interested in investing in your own backpacking gear after years of borrowing others' gear? Below, I've listed my 10 Essentials for Backpacking in Florida. If you have any questions about the following gear, let me know. I personally own and love every product listed here.
Smartwool PhD Run Light Women's Socks
There isn't much to say about these socks. I love them, You don't need heavy wool socks in Florida, you just don't. These wick sweat well, I don't need sock liners (gosh, remember those?!), and they don't stretch out. I wear these with boots and running shoes because they are a great multitasker. They work really well with my Merrell boots.
Osprey Aura 65 Backpack
If I didn't seriously love this pack, it wouldn't be on this list. Really. Everyone has a pack or borrows one, they don't need to be told what pack to love in a typical gear round up. I made an exception for this pack because it is the best I've ever owned and I've heard a lot of women say this. Particularly women with a petite frame. It's really difficult to find a comfortable pack for a petite woman's frame that isn't a youth pack. Youth packs work ... enough. This is an awesome pack for a petite outdoor woman!
I love the flexible packing options, the super comfortable and adjustable hipbelt, the air-flow technology on my back, and the collapsible nature of this 65 Litre pack. Big enough for several days on the trail without food drops and yet, can collapse small enough to be useful on a one-night backpacking trip.
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid Sunscreen
Is it odd to have this on the list? Not in Florida! All the sunscreen!
This is my go-to sunscreen. This sunscreen is not greasy, has fantastic coverage, and can be worn alone or under makeup. Additionally, I have issues with sunscreen on my face because apparently I have sensitive skin. This sunscreen doesn't burn my face or leave it tender. As far as sunscreen goes, it is kind of pricey at $10-15 a bottle but coverage is great with a small amount of product. I go through approximately two bottles a year and I wear sunscreen at least four days a week. That said, my husband uses it a bit more aggressively and goes through them quicker.
Platypus Big Zip SL, 3-Litre
I love this hydration pack for a few very particular reasons. First of all, it works. Plain and simple! It works well with little fussing. The zip-top may scare some but I have no complaints. In fact, I love the zip top for it's wide opening and ease of use. My previous bladder (the other 'big' brand) had an awful 'ergonomic' opening that was near impossible to open by me, my husband, and several other adults who would inevitably need to help me fill the bladder before hiking out. No one wants to be that person.
Another reason I love this hydration bladder is the quick-release on the hose. The quick release is just one more small feature that makes using this bladder so easy. No more hose dragging in the dirt while I try to balance the filtered water and my bladder! Yay!
In case you need another reason to try this bladder, there is an extra piece of plastic in the middle of the bladder holding the front and back together at a certain distance. This prevents the bladder from spreading into a full cylinder when filling and instead, keeps it in a shape that built-in bladder pockets are designed to hold. Again, a very small feature that makes this bladder very easy to use.
Black Diamond: Apollo Lantern
I literally cannot count how many lanterns I have owned for car camping and backpacking. Everytime someone would ask if I would recommend one, I'd always get stuck on, "Well, I like this one but...". That is, until we discovered the Black Diamond Apollo Lantern. This little lantern has several features that put it at the top of my list.
Columbia Saturday Shorts
I reviewed these in my post, New Backpacking Gear, Purchased for Philmont, so I'll keep it short here. I love these shorts. They dry quick, stay 'in place' when hiking, resist dirt and smell, and simpley put: fit well. They fit true-to-size in my opinion and I have multiple pairs. Columbia has once again hit it out of the park.
Platypus GravityWorks 4.0L Filter System
Last fall I was in the market for a new water filter for some upcoming canoe and backpacking trips with groups of up to nine people. After talking with some friends who have bought filters in the past few years, the answer was clear. For a group of people, the gravity-fed Platypus filter would fit my needs best.
The system features very clearly marked 'clean' and 'dirty' water bladders. After filling the dirty bladder, one simply hangs it in a tree or something above the ground and walks away. After a few minutes (depends on turbidity of the water), you have fresh, clean, potable water. If you are hiking in an area known for chemicals, toxins, or viruses you'll need to look for something else but this filter is effective against "Bacteria and Protozoa, including Giardia, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Salmonella and Cholera" according to the instructions.
Petzl Tikkina 2 Headlamp
Update: Petzl Tikkina 2 no longer available, see newer model: $19.95
As far as headlamps go, this one is pretty basic but I find it very reliable. I was so sick of headlamps that had cheap battery cases, loose bands, loose tilt features, etc. I just wanted a good lamp with reliable features and I didn't want to spend $100 to get it. This Petzl, while basic, fits the bill and comes in at only $23. That's all there is to it. It's a well-made and reliable piece of necessary equipment.
This lamp has a highbeam, lowbeam, and flashing beam, all in white LED light. There is a more expensive model that features a red light; I occasionally wish I purchased that version.
Chaco ZX/2 Yampa Sandals
I love Chacos. I purchased my first pair in 2005 and having run those into the ground, I finally replaced them in 2014. They are pricey at $100 on average but they will literally last five years or longer; mine lasted about seven years before they really started to fall apart. I've owned the single strap and the double strap. Why did I include sandals on a list for backpacking? Because I am a firm believer that you should bring camp shoes which allow your feet breathe and provide arch support. These sandals are great for side hikes and as camp shoes. I never go camping without them and occasionally, they are the only pair of shoes I bring. I'm never afraid I'll loose my footing in these sandals.
Some people ask if the toe-strap is bothersome but I love it. I do not like feeling like my foot is going to slip forward when standing on a slippery rock or in moving-water. Pro-Tip: Search Amazon for chacos and buy last year's colors at a discount. I purchased my husband's pair for $65.
Cocoon Silk MummyLiner
You'll notice I didn't include a sleeping bag or pad on this list. These are optional 90% of the year in Florida! It's not cold enough to require them and you can often find sugar sand to camp on for comfort and keeping with Leave No Trace. Additionally, I'm in the market for a new sleeping bag and wouldn't feel comfortable recommending my old bag as it is no longer sold and it isn't my perfect bag. I'm still looking for that.
So, if I don't think you need a sleeping bag what do you need? A Silk mummybag liner. This is an ideal substitute for a sleeping bag when the weather is above 70F at night, which it is! Most of the year! In most of the state! I highly recommend this piece of gear, which is usually considered optional. Really. This is a must-have in the hot and humid Florida environment. It saves weight and space, is machine washable, and feels so soft against your skin. I have the white one but I would recommend another color that doesn't show dirt and wear so easily.
All of these items were purchased online at various retailers, with no compensation for my review.
However, in the interest of full disclosure, I may earn a small commission if you purchase items through the links provided here. There is no increase in cost, to you or anyone else, associated with these links.
In my post, "Preparing for my Return to Philmont" I promised a gear review upon my return. I purchased a lot of new gear to prepare for a week in the woods, and boy am I glad I did! Some of it, I wouldn't have enjoyed the program without; while other things, I could have left behind. Before flying to Philmont via Colorado, I purchased: a Colombia fleece, Columbia hiking shorts, a Leatherman multi-tool, an Osprey pack raincover, an Osprey travel duffle, and new dry bags.
This was the first time I've bought new backpacking gear since my last trip to Philmont in 2006. Why? Because I was in college and gear is expensive.
Besides, I had gear that worked... well, it worked well enough. Since this was the start of a new chapter in my camping and backpacking life, I wanted to start off with great new equipment. I am so glad I did. I also purchased some new Merrell hiking boots. After a few more miles, I'll post a review of those too.
Columbia Women's Trek II Full-Zip Fleece:
This fleece was a steal for me! I happen to love bright colors and the Fuchsia, shown to the right, was $20 less than the other colors. If you don't love pink don't worry, there were at least ten other colors available including black and white.
I love this fleece because it fit true to size, stayed relatively clean looking through 10 days of wear without washing, and resisted starting to smell. Oh yea, it was incredibly warm too! The collar and sleeves are both long enough to be cozy and warm without being in the way or uncomfortable. I really liked the zip pockets, they kept my essentials safe and didn't get in the way. The upper arm small zip pocket was a nice surprise. I didn't expect to like it but it was a great place to keep chapstick.
Columbia Saturday Trail Shorts:
These shorts fit the bill for hiking and longer camping trips, if you ask me! I have struggled for years, not kidding, to find suitable hiking shorts. These fit well, are true to size, and are extremely comfortable for long wear. Lightweight, quick to dry, and comfortably long so they don't 'ride up' when hiking. Like the Columbia Fleece (above), these shorts resisted smell and dirt for several days without washing. These are a must have for my next three day hike.
Osprey Airporter LZ Duffle:
Anyone who has flown with their pack knows you need a great duffle with a removable strap to protect your gear. If you're flying somewhere you plan to take public transportation to the trailhead, you need one that is also lightweight and compactable. This airport duffle does the trick. It compacts to a very small size into a built in pocket, has a removable cross-body shoulder strap which hides in the same pocket, and the zipper is conveniently placed to aid in putting a full pack into the bag. That said, this duffle isn't perfect. I found the strap way too large for my petite frame as I lugged it across the Denver airport and the duffle was slightly too tall and thin for my full pack. The former was much more trouble than the latter as I can fix the pack dimensions by repacking. Had I tested this at the house and not the airport, it would have been an easy fix. If you are taller than 5'2" the shoulder strap likely will not be an issue for you.
Osprey UL Raincover:
I am very pleased with this raincover! It is easy to put on in a hurry, has elastic that you can attach via snap in the middle of your pack (under your back), is lightweight, and compacts well. My only wish is that it came in a bright color. The dark grey is attractive and the Osprey logo is reflective; however, I find it is safer to hike in wilderness areas with Blaze Orange or similarly bright color. In case you are interested, the "Medium" fit my Osprey Women's Ariel 65 with some room for clip on gear.
Leatherman Sidekick Multitool:
I love this Multitool. As a petite lady with small hands, this tool is perfect for any situation I may face on the trail. The edges are rounded, making clamping down on something much more comfortable than the squared ones, the knife and saw are accessible without opening the multitool and lock in place, and the tool features spring-assist pliers. My only wishes are for a scissor and a corkscrew. Both of which are available on larger multitools that I wouldn't likely carry.
Outdoor Products 3-Pack Ultimate Dry Sack:
I am moderately pleased with these dry bags. I purchased them partly as gear dividers for in my pack and partially as insurance that my cell phone, underwear, and socks would stay dry no matter what conditions I encountered. I am not confident that my gear will stay dry in these but for most rain events, they should work fine. They were inexpensive; you get what you pay for.
All of these items were purchased online at various retailers, with no compensation for my review.
Like what you see? In the interest of full disclosure, I may earn a small commission when you purchase items through the links provided here. There is no increase in cost, to you or anyone else, associated with these links.
Preparing for my return to Philmont.
I'm preparing for my week at Philmont Scout Ranch this week and having been out of the backcountry for at least a year, realized I needed a lot of new gear. I'm not hiking a trek like most visiting Philmont this summer, but I will be at in the backcountry for seven nights.
I haven't packed into mountain terrain in almost six years and completely forgot how quickly the temperatures will drop when the sun drops below the mountains.
Thankfully, a colleague volunteered with the same program a few weeks ago and reminded me how used to the warm weather we are in Florida. Let's just say, I am not prepared for the 40F nights I'll see in New Mexico.
Items that needed replacing included:
When I return from the trip, I'll review the products purchased as well as summarize the trip and what I learned from it. I am beyond thrilled to return to Philmont Scout Ranch. The fact that I can go back to one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited and teach? I cannot express in words how thankful I am.