If you any of you guys know me personally or follow me on Instagram, then you know I love to be in the mountains. It’s kind of interesting how this has come about. I grew up in the mountains. Well, it was more like a valley between two mountains. For my entire life, I had been aching to leave that area and see more of the world and eventually see what the city life was like. Well, in my opinion, it isn’t all it’s hyped up to be. Maybe I’ll save that idea for another blog. Ten horrible things to expect in the city…It’s perfect! Once I finally had the opportunity to move closer to a big city, I kept finding myself endlessly craving the mountains. It does help that I have a decent DSLR camera, Nikon D7000, and love to do landscape photography. Other than lots of cool pics, I have gathered some pretty cool hiking gear over the past decade or so and have recently been working towards being comfortable with less stuff while I hike and camp. With that being said, I’m no minimalist hiker. Sometimes I actually enjoy the workout that comes with a heavy pack up a steep incline. And if you don’t know anything about cameras and lenses, they definitely add some extra weight to a pack. In this blog, I wanted to share some reviews on stuff I have accumulated and use regularly in the outdoors. I have found that some stuff works and some don’t. If it has held up to the test and is worthy of being on my list, I consider it as an essential for a fun overnight trip anywhere.
Whenever I’m planning a hiking/camping trip I like to begin with food. Nutrition is one of the most important parts of the trip and usually the part that takes the longest to plan for me. There are plenty of junk items to take along but I like to keep things lean and healthy. What you need to fuel your adventure usually depends on only a few variables; temperature, distance, and the intensity at which you plan to hike. Most trips I will pack freshly cooked chicken and sweet potato in sealable sandwich bags and throw them on top of a few Ultra-thin Ice Packs inside a small insulated Insulated Lunch Bag. I never plan anything that needs to be on ice after the first day. Sometimes I will also bring a pre-cooked bag of oats and eggs for the first morning, then resort to bars and lightweight foods like Mountain House Scrambled Eggs with Bacon for the remainder of the trip. I also highly recommend Pure Protein Bars. The chocolate coconut ones are the bomb! The entire variety of bars is high in protein to keep you full longer. Each bar runs around 200 calories. Jack Link’s Beef Jerky is another trail favorite of mine. Not only is it a good source of protein but it is high in sodium as well. Electrolyte imbalances can cause serious challenges and difficulties to any healthy individual so never underestimate them, especially in the severe heat. You can grab a bottle of Electrolyte Replacement Capsules to take care of your needs. If you have any questions or concerns in putting together a nutrition plan for your trip, feel free to get in touch with a good friend of mine, Gabrielle Fundaro, PhD, CISSN and nutrition consultant at Renaissance Periodization. Drop by her site and she will take care of ya!
After the food is taken care of, things just kind of fall into place. First off, you’re going to need something to pack your stuff in. A good solid and comfortable pack doesn’t have to break the bank either. One of the most comfortable and best-designed packs I tested was the Osprey Men’s Atmos AG 50 Backpack. Most have an open design and the fit was perfect. However, the price was just a little outside my range. After comparing multiple packs in the same range and style, I decided to go with the Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack. It was a bit cheaper but the main reason I went with this pack is that it works as a hybrid pack for me. There is a padded laptop slot and an easily accessible outer slot that works well for my camera. In all honesty, you shouldn’t be packing more than 50L. Although, you do need a big enough pack to hold your essentials. Depending on the location of the hike, you might need to pack your own water along with your food. I found these 3L Hydrapak Seeker Collapsible Containers that roll up into a tiny attached bag that stash away when not in use. Two of these have lasted me around 16 miles. The nice thing with any water pack is your pack gets lighter as you go. These are long tube structures and I put one on each side on the inside of my pack but have loops built in in case you need to attach externally. This gives me room to put my Outdoor Vitals Atlas Lightweight Down Sleeping Bag between them. With this setup, I have created the foundation to pack the rest of my bag. The sleeping bag I have been using was actually bought on a whim for a long hiking trip in northern GA and the Great Smoky Mountains back in November of 2016. This bag has passed the test on many trips since then. I give it 5 stars! For me, a sleeping pad, Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout Mattress , is also an essential part of the trip. Whatever you do, don’t get the rolled up foam ones from Walmart. You will quickly regret it and from my experience, packing a bulky rolled up piece of foam around gets rather annoying. I grabbed this mat. It is thermoregulated for colder nights and is partially self-inflated but easily topped off with a few breaths.
Depending on the pack you have, it’s probably beginning to fill up by now. Before you zip it closed and head out, make sure you have some form of a First Aid Kit with you. Make sure your kit has a Compression Wrap and some basic meds. This could potentially determine whether or not you make it off of a mountain. I usually pack some ibuprofen to help with inflammation and some Benedryl for any allergies to pollen, poison ivy, bee stings, etc. It does help induce a good night’s rest as well if you’re not already exhausted from your hike. With a full pack pushing upwards of 20-25 lbs, a nice pair of boots can be a dream come true out on the trail. I used to hike with a heavy pack in Merrell’s Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boot but the comfort level was not designed for a heavy pack. Don’t get me wrong, these are excellent boots. I’ve had mine nearly 6 years and the rubber soles are just beginning to deteriorate. Still no leaks, though! This year, I had decided to upgrade. I grabbed a pair of Salomon’s Quest 4d 2 Gtx Backpacking Boot. With my pack loaded down upwards of 30 lbs, my comfort level has significantly increased and the boots just fit so well with hardly any break in period. Of course, they are slightly heavier than the Merrells but I can literally hike all day in these. I honestly love them. I even came across a pair of Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks – Men’s Light Gray Large that matched well with the boots and even have a lifetime guarantee! What more can you ask for with a pair of socks!? Another item I highly recommend, mostly depending on the terrain and elevation change, is trekking poles. There are a lot of folks out there that swear by carbon fiber or other expensive poles out there claiming it’s going to make the hike easier in some way. The fact of the matter is there is no easy way. I have put 50+ miles on a set of BAFX Anti Shock Hiking Trekking Trail Poles and still have no issues with them. I talked with a few other hikers that have put more mileage than this on the same brand and said they love absolutely them. The best thing about them is if they break, you’re only out $20. Even the most expensive ones break or bend the same. I’ve read that carbon fiber ones more or less explode when they break and you’re left with not even a bent one to assist you but I have not experienced this directly.
Last but definitely not least, you’re going to need something to sleep in. The options are endless when it comes to most anything these days so don’t overthink it. Tents can be heavy and sometimes so heavy that it defeats your purpose of trying to pack light in the first place. They get even heavier if you include a footprint and rain cover to make sure you stay dry just in case of a dreaded storm. Mountain Hardwear makes an excellent line of super lightweight tent options but don’t get caught up in buying the most expensive option. If you keep an update on the weather forecast you can easily get by with a simple double hammock. The CHILLAX Double Travel Hammock has made camping a breeze this year. A single works fine but the extra fabric from the double can serve as a protective outer layer against bugs and mosquitos.
So there you have it. Ten essentials to get you outdoors and off to having a fun time before you know it. I have taken the time to put together all the links right here so you don’t even have to go searching for the items. I consider myself frugal and often live on the cheap side but some things you don’t want to cut cost on, especially when it comes to comfort and security. If you any questions, please leave a comment and I will try to help with my best efforts or refer you to a better-qualified individual to help with your needs. Hiking, camping, and photography are areas that have become not only a hobby but a love of mine. Sharing my adventures and ways to inspire others while doing it on a budget is why I decided to start these blogs. If you are throwing these items on credit take a look at my last blog for easy ways to help pay down that bill as well. I am fortunate to have the time to explore, photograph it, and write about it. Although there is no pay, I potentially get incentives when you click on my links and make purchases at no extra cost to you. Putting these blogs together takes a great deal of time and these potential incentives create an opportunity to do what I love and of course, they allow me to share more information with all of you. If you like these blogs, come join the mailing list and follow whatever social media platform you like the best. Good luck on your hike and enjoy camping in the great outdoors!