The mountains are calling and we mustn’t go, at least not yet, and definitely not in large groups. That doesn’t mean we can’t dream a little dream for all the hikes, campfires, crisp morning air, and high altitude rippling lakes that await us. And what better way to truly get into the spirit than to contemplate upon all the gear we could buy. Whether kicking it at home Kardashian style or sitting in your showerless van waiting for the pandemic to blow over, I’ve come up with an incredibly biased list of badass gear we can all gain from. If you don’t own them, at least you’ll know about them.
Who am I? As in, why should you take my advice and consider this gear…Well, I’m a writer and outdoor professional of sorts. I started as a guide for a Therapeutic Wilderness Program in Utah, then last year I hiked the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail, and I currently work for Snow Peak.
Disclaimer: I’ve included some of their products, making the conscious decision to only include those which I either had or would have purchased prior to joining their team. Can you blame me for wanting to work for a company that I also use?
Living in Boulder County, we’re in the mecca of outdoorsy greatness. With the Flatirons towering beautifully to our West, a constant reminder of the sheer might that lingers ever so sweetly beyond their jagged peaks, our town has become a city of purveyors and makers. From high calorie nourishment that gets us through those 20+ mile days, to authentically crafted Japanese Tenkara Fishing Rods, from American made knives to cosy teardrop trailers, the outdoor industry booms with crafts(person)ship and thoughtful execution of products we can all be proud of.
As I made my way through the virtually endless amount of gear, I placed my chips on two values above all others. The first was that I wanted to highlight local companies, especially those in the Boulder area but also in greater Colorado. Secondly, and this is why some non-local companies are included, I want to help bring ultralight into the mainstream. The word ultralight has been misused to represent a niche group of ultra-ripped thru hikers, when in reality, none of us want to carry more weight than we have to. This is especially true if we don’t have to pay more, give up comfort, and we can still receive the same functionality.
A gentle reminder: Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance and Pain and Punishment. Practice Leave No Trace (LNT).
Plan ahead and prepare
Travel and camp on durable surfaces
Dispose of waste properly
Leave what you find
Minimize campfire impacts
Be considerate of others.
And so, I’ll start my guide the same way I start the majority of my mornings, with coffee. (Click to enlarge images.)
“Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.” – Edward Abbey
Alpine Start – $8.99 (8 pack) alpinestart.com,REI
Boulder based and founded by badass Matt Segal, they’ve stormed the industry revolutionizing instant coffee into something sensationally more tasteful and enjoyable. Medium Roads, Non-Dairy Coconut Creamer Latte, Dirty Chai Latte.
Kuju Pour Over – $7.95 (5 pack) kujucoffee.com, REI
All-in-one, ‘true’ coffee with a functional pour over contraption ready to rock. Brings you coffee without whatever that instant coffee taste is.
Snow Peak French Press $55.95 snowpeak.com, REI
Coming in at 6.3oz, this titanium french press serves up 24oz in a shareable (or not) format.
GSI Collapsible Java Drip – $12.95 Backcountry.com, REI
Compactible, easy to use, just bring your own filters.
Wacaco Nanopresso – $64.90 wacaco.com, williams-sonoma.com
Espresso, boiling water, press, bada bing bada boom. With a cup as a lid you’ve got a portable, fairly lightweight, option for you and your winding trails. 15 bars of pressure.
“The echoes of beauty you’ve seen transpire, Resound through dying coals of a campfire.” – Ernest Hemingway
MSR Pocket Rocket 2 Stove $44.95 REI, Neptune Mountaineering.
Best ultralight stove on the market, check the reviews. Comes in a cute little case for easy and safe storage, all you need is a fuel canister.
Snow Peak Trek 700 – $44.95 Snowpeak.com, REI, Neptune Mountaineering
If you’re counting ounces the 700 is all you’ll need. Large enough to heat water for meals, small enough to comfortably drink out of. Made in Japan using high grade titanium and comes in at 4.8oz.
Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spoon – Long – $10.95 REI
Spork! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. I never ate anything in the wild that I couldn’t manage with a spoon, especially a long one like this. Good for deep corners, alright to scrap with, unnoticeable to hike with at .04oz
Jet Boil Micromo Cooking System – $144.95 REI, Neptune Mountaineering
Cooking faced a major renaissance when liquid fuel slowly phased out. Jet Boil became a force to reckon with. Whether you’re boiling water or cooking a 5 star meal that requires heat variety, the Micromo captures the essence of elaborate simplicity. 12oz.
Camp Chef Everest 2x –
$148.00 REI. It’s all about the BTU’s. The Everest has two 20,000 BTU burners fully capable of taking your basecamp to culinary enlightenment… or something like that. Heavy.
“Sleeping bags are like soft tacos” – Bears
Western Mountaineering Alpinlite – $570-$615 Neptune Mountaineering
American made, freaking badass, and an awesome company. If you’ve ever woken up in morning dew you’ll know that most down sleeping bags won’t stand a chance, this one does.
Big Agnes Copper Spur ULV 3 – $499.95 bigagnes.com, Neptune Mountaineering, REI
I’m biased, but so are all gear guides. I used the 2 person version for the entire PCT and sure, the rain fly has a couple rips from getting snagged but the tent held its own. Hands down would buy again and again, in fact I own two. Get the 3 person if you’re sharing with another.
Zpacks Duplex – $599.00
The thru-hikers tent. You’ll need hiking poles to set this up, which if you aren’t using them already, you probably should be. At 19oz, you’ll be able to carry all the other cool stuff on this list.
REI Co-Op Backpacking
Bundle – $275 – $295 REI
Great place to get started. For under $300 you get everything you need to sleep out. With a 2 person tent, 30 degree sleeping bag, and 2.9 R value sleeping pad, REI has come up with a good middle ground suitable for a wide range of conditions and locations.
Sea-to-Summit Comfort Plus Insulated Air – $199.95 REI, Neptune Mountaineering
Decently lightweight without that annoying crinkling sound, it also has two air chambers in case you pop one side, which eventually you will. An R value of 4 will keep you warm as you dream of pina coladas in a snowstorm at 13,000ft, (don’t take my word on it.)
Kelty Discovery Low Cot – $79.95 REI
I don’t know much about cots but this one was pretty comfy. Although they are certainly predestined for car camping excursions (or home use) they definitely add a layer of comfort that pads just can’t manage. Some people say this one can be hard to set up.
“Hunger is the best sauce in the world” – Miguel de Cervantes
Kate’s Real Food – $29.88 (12 pack) katesrealfood.com
Think energy bars that use nut butters, fruit, and complex carbs. Think tasty. Good bars are hard to come by and even harder to stick with, these ones taste pretty good, best of all, they feel good, and that can make all the difference. Our editor recently took some on his Ouray Via Ferrata adventure and loved em.
Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai
$9.95 backpackerspantry.com, Neptune Mountaineering, REI
Supposedly they’re currently making a killing during the pandemic, and although I can’t say all their food is awesome (I’ve tried most of it) a lot of them are absolutely delicious and high in calories, especially their Pad Thai.
Wild Zora Mountain Beef Stew – $12.95 wildzora.com, Neptune Mountaineering, REI
Tasty, healthy, and paleo, with a texture as though it was mildly blended before being freeze dried. With calories around 400 there’s definitely more bang for you buck out there but at least you know what’s in your food with Wild Zora.
Honey Stinger Energy Waffle – $1.50 Neptune Mountaineering, REI, University Bicycles
Proper nutrition goes way beyond three square meals, Honey Stinger is filling those gaps. Easy, tasty, pretty organic.
“No Pain, No Rain, no Maine” – Common Appalachian Trail saying
Osprey Aether AG 60 / Aura AG 65 – $290 / $270 Neptune Mountaineering, REI
Bred in Colorado, Osprey has been making packs for a long time. Although they eventually moved their manufacturing abroad, they continue to work very closely to maintain the high level of quality they are known for. And don’t forget the All Mighty Guarantee
Deuter Trail 28SL / 30 Women/Men – $135 Neptune Mountaineering, REI
Day hikes can range from an hour to 10 hours, either way you’ll want some key ingredient for a successful trip. Water, layers, food, first aid, and with 28 – 30L of space these two packs provide the space and comfort you’ll all want and need.
“Carry as little as possible, and choose that little with care.” – Earl Shaffer
Kylmt Luxe Pillow – $39.95
Creature comforts at their best. Using a layer may be lighter but they just don’t hold their form, go ahead, pack that pillow, there’s definitely room for it ;). Easy to pack, easy to expand, the better the sleep, the better tomorrow can begin.
Black Diamond Storm 400 – $49.95 Neptune Mountaineering, REI
I count ounces, but not here. If I’m going to be wandering around the woods late at night, be it to dig a hole or to get to camp, I want nature illuminated like I’m the freaking sun without looking like Robocop, so 375 lumens is enough.
Adventure Medical Kits – .7 Medical Kit – $28.95 Neptune Mountaineering, REI
First aid is super duper important! Not only should you have it, you should know how to use it. This one is good for a group of 1-2 for 1-4 Days. While you’re buying this, sign yourself up for a first aid course.
Rumpl Nanoloft Psychotropic – $111.00 REI
The way we sleep out in the wild is changing, goodbye mummy bags, hello loosely draped synthetic blankets (or down). Whether you’re at glamptopia 5000 or the middle of nowhere Rumpl has you covered. Pun intended.
Anker Powercore 13000 – $29.99 Best Buy, Amazon
Whether you’re in a pinch or working your phone like a professional photographer, this battery has enough to get you through a decently long trip. Up to 5 phone charges.
Solo New York Re:move
Duffel – $64.99 solo-ny.com
Using Recycled materials and working to tackle environmental issues, the Re:move Duffle provides space and organization in a comfortable and sleek travel bag to accompany you on any trip.
RTIC 65 – $239.99 McGuckin
I don’t know anything about coolers ‘cept the ones that everyone wants to buy. This one I found with very little research, same performance, less expensive, with a four letter name just like you know who.
Garmin InReach Mini or Explorer + $299.99 – $349.99 Neptune Mountaineering, REI
Garmin confirms that your message was received. Others (and I wont say which) just shoot the signal into the sky and hope for the best. There’s two main players, the mini and the not so mini, it’ll come down to what you’re doing with it. Be aware, active bluetooth drains batteries, very quickly.
Spyderco WolfSpyder – $189.95 spyderco.com, Jax Outdoor Gear
The WolfSpyder is made right here in the USA by Spyderco based out of Golden. All around a great knife. Slice through a little salami or whatever it is that you may use this for, just don’t fight a bear.
Tenkara USA Hane – $160
At 10ft 10in, it’s long enough for you to reach that pool and short enough to conquer some backcountry creeks. As a telescopic rod, it shrinks down to just 15 inches, perfect for backpacking. 3.5oz
Sawyer Squeeze – $36.95
Neptune Mountaineering, REI
Ultralight, compatible with Smart water bottles, kind slow, but gets the job done. If you’re not supplying an entire basecamp with water, it’s the way to go.
MSR Guardian Purifier – $349.95 Neptune Mountaineering, REI
Yeah, it’s pricey but it’s the best, and if you are supplying a basecamp, well here you go. Easy to use, produces fast clean water, all you have to do is carry it with you.
“There is one item of G.I. gear that can be the difference between a live grunt and a dead grunt. Socks, cushion, sole, O.D. green. Try and keep your feet dry when we’re out humpin’.” -Lt. Dan, Forrest Gump
Western Mountaineering Standard Down Booties – $100.00 westernmountaineering.com, Neptune Mountaineering
Handmade in the USA, these booties have textured soles soft enough to sleep with yet tough enough to wear around camp.
Smartwool – +/- $20 Neptune Mountaineering, REI, Pedestrian Shops
Steamboat Springs is home and with their lifetime guarantee they’re determined to keep your feet warm, dry, and healthy.
The I’m Drooling Wish List.
“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” – Beverly Sills
Alpacka Packrafts – $595 – $2450
Pack it, strap it, and eventually blow it up and ride that river. These things are cool and amazingly lightweight. People even strap their bikes to them.
Colorado Teardrops – $13900 – $27700 (base prices) coloradoteardropcamper.com
Off road capable, spacious, and constructed to last for generations. This local company is producing sexy little teardrops with enough room to hit the road for a while.
Biolite Fire Pit – $249.95 bioliteenergy.com, REI
I was hesitant about this one because it’s a lot. A bluetooth powered fire pit / grill / with an integrated fan to create smokeless campfires. Yeah, it’s pretty rad. Biolite has given you the controls to your fire and for the most part, it seems like it’s working.
AT Overland Atlas – $9600 atoverland.com
Truck bed cap mixed with pop top tent. This New Mexico based company has developed an alternative to the traditional truck bed camper and they’re pretty sweet. Endless possibilities for customization.
Earthroamer – $490,000 (base price)
Based in Boulder, Earthroamer starts with a Ford chassis and turns them into badass overlanding monsters. With a base price of close to half a million, we’re probably thinking the same thing. BUT THEY’RE SO COOL.