Whether it’s hiking, backpacking, snowboarding or climbing I have a staple set of gear that I always pack with me. Most of these things are can’t live without items. And a couple are for safety purposes as well. Some of these things may be rather obvious but, if you ever find yourself wondering….’what should I pack?’ hopefully starting here will help.
So, without further adieu (and in no particular order)…
Top 10 won’t-go-anywhere-without items
No. 10 – A hat
I pack with me both a trucker cap and a beanie (unless it’s for snowboarding, then the trucker hat stays home). One, since you lose most of your heat from your head, I find having a hat with you indispensable in the PNW. As well as in the summer, a trucker hat can do no wrong (and let’s ne honest ladies, as we get older, we for real need to take care of our skin). I prefer to find the foam and mesh trucker caps as they hold up a little better to sweat in the summer and keep you cool from the hot sun, but still keeps your dome warm during colder months. A few of my favorites I’ve come across are The Great PNW Evergreen Hat (1) and the Topo Designs 5 Panel Nylon Camp Hat (2) I’m looking at adding to my arsenal. Lastly, my go-to for the past 2 years has been the Poler Venn Diagram Trucker Hat (3).
For beanies, I like something warm but not overly hot like fleece. My absolute favorite beanie I wear everywhere is the Brixton Heist (1). I’ve also been eyeballing the Poler Hunstman Beanie (2) for the awesome flecked color ways. I’m also a huge fan of the options of wearing it as a slouchy beanies of fisherman’s style, rolled up. I also love my Coal Kate beanie (3). It’s super soft and can be worn unfolded in a slouchy style which is my preferred.
No. 9 – A knoooiif (or…a knife if you want to be boring about it)
Because you just ever know if you’ll have to battle bear, whittle a stick or cut some salami. All uses being equally important. If you can spare the room, I have the 1. Morakniv Companion (1) that’s super lightweight and super sharp and durable. Other useful knives I bring are a general Leatherman (2) and a Buck Knife Metro (3) for everyday use. (p.s. these can get through TSA guidelines and fit easily on your keychain, plus it doubles as a bottle opener! A most excellent stocking stuffer.)
No. 8 – Sunglasses
Yes, it is true, Pacific North Westerners cannot live without their sunglasses. 99.999999% of days I will be wearing sunglasses and any given time (hey, overcast can still mean it’s bright outside!). I also know I have a bit of a problem and have probably purchased over 800 million pairs over the years. BUT for the purposes of outdoor activity, I rely on 2 pairs religiously. My Oakley Frogskins (1) that are super light weight, unisex and great all-purpose sunglasses. And my most favorite brand in goggles has now become my favorite brand in sunglasses. I will plug away for them because they are doing some amazing things in optics (and really, have always been). My Smith Colettes (2). Smith has been making crazy cute frames for gals lately that have smart little touches like rubber pads on the bridge to keep your sunnies from slipping. These are a fabulous ‘sporty cat eye’ that look feminine but can hold their own while hiking and climbing. HUGE fan.
No. 7 – Sunscreen
Protect your skin people! Living in the great PNW, sunburns have a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. As a general rule, I tend to choose foundations with SPF in them for my daily makeup. But when I leave the house to head out for a hike, I carry sunscreen with me always, usually SPF30 at the very least. My friend Ben also introduced me to the mini travel and clippable sunscreen that can ride on the outside of your backpack for convenience, (genius!). A few of my favorite brands are Neutrogena Clear Face SPF 30 (1), Coopertone Sport Continuous Spray (2) (for those hard to reach areas) and Sawyer Mini Sunscreen (3), for convenience. (p.s. do not bother with the ‘all natural with bug repellent’ sunscreen. As much as I love to use the natural stuff when I can, that stuff neither blocks sun nor bugs. My legs were not appreciative of either of those things during our Enchantments trip.)
No. 6 – Thermarest Z-seat
The Z-seat is the most simple and amazing invention ever. Light weight, comfy and warm, it’s the perfect little pad to pack with you no matter what you’re doing. Easily strap on the outside of your pack or stick it in one of your mesh pockets and go.
No. 5 – The most amazing and best chapstick of all time.
Seriously. I had found this random stick of Patagonia Chai chapstick that my boyfriend and received in a swag bag and shortly after using it, I knew I had stumbled upon something amazing. After doing a little digging, I realized that it was made by a company named Elemental Herbs. Lo-and-behold, they are the company behind the brand All Good Lips. Turns out they do a lot of corporate ‘custom chapsticks’ and this wondrous chai-flavored lip goodness was one of those. Normally, I’d give other suggestions on chapstick but in this case, I have none. This is by far the best with SPF 12 and made with a formula that won’t dry out your lips and won’t make you feel like you need to apply more 20 minutes later. (note: don’t get the SPF 20, it has Zinc in it and will turn your lips white, so stick to the original SPF 12. And if you can find the Patagonia Chai flavor, it’s soooooo worth the $5 or so bucks.)
Elusive, and possibly never seen again. *tears errrywhere*
No. 4 – Camelbak
Water, SO important. I honestly find carrying water bottles cumbersome (unless you have to pack in LOTS of water, then they are quite necessary) so I elect to always have a pack that can carry a hydration system like a Camelbak. I have the 2.0 liter Antidote Reservoir (1) from Camelbak and love it. It lasts a full day of hiking during the summer and is easy to use and clean. If you end up having to carry in water bottles, I also really like the PlusBottles (2) from Platypus. They’re 80% lighter than normal water bottles, BPA free and are tough enough to hang off your pack or a tree with a carabiner.
No. 3 – First Aid Kit
This seems obvious, and also maybe a bit overkill on a day hike. But ever since I had my little ‘accident’ in the middle-of-nowhere Utah, (you can read about that here) I carry a basic first aid kit with me along with a Sam Splint (1). What is a Sam Splint you may ask? My sister introduced me to these handy little babies when she got her certification as an EMT. They pack these light weight and compact splints with them versus the old school clunky ones. Not only are they waterproof and easily fastened in place with a wrap or tape, but they’re also latex free, reusable and made in Amuuurica. I now carry one in my hiking pack as well as my backcountry snowboard pack.
In addition to the Sam Splint, I purchased a small basic first aid kit (2) that came in a waterproof pouch that works perfect for backpacking. It carries enough medical supplies for 4 people and is good for a 1-2 overnighter. If I can spare the room, I also carry and extra roll of climbers tape (3) as it has totally saved my butt more than once.
No. 2 – Rain coat or puffy coat (or both!)
Oh man, anyone that knows me knows I don’t go far from my red down Patagonia jacket (1). Year-round that thing is glued to by body. I’ve been known to come home after work on a cold day, keep my coat on and fall asleep with it on the couch and when it’s time for bed, sometimes crawl in with it still on. With the weather in Washington being as unpredictable as it is, having the standard ‘PNW black’ rain jacket is also a must since no one around here uses umbrellas (at least if you’re a local). I went on a hunt for a packable but still pretty waterproof jacket and, once again, found one by Patagonia. The Torrentshell (2) is awesome, works for torrential downpours (such as the name implies) and is packable. Yes, the price is steep, but so far Patagonia has stood the test of time and wear.
Dat puffy coat doe. When it dies, I may write it a love letter.
No. 1 – A quick snack
Always always aways….I pack food. I have a insane fear of getting lost with no food and being forced to forage in the woods, eat a weird fungi and end up like that baby bear in the 1980’s documentary that went on a serious shroom trip. Or worse yet, ending up curled up in the bottom of a bus from eating the wrong plant (R.I.P. Mr. McCandless). SO, with that totally sane rationale, at the VERY least I carry a Larabar (1) or a Kind Bar (2) for some quick energy. I also tend to have ShotBlox (3) hiding around in my packs as well (the fruit punch flavor is the best).
No. 0.5 – Extra socks (because I decided that yes, this needs to be on this list)
I know my friend Ben will appreciate this most out of everyone. But nothing beats having an extra pair of socks for either during or after whatever you’re doing. Sweaty and wet feet are never fun and sometimes, depending on what adventure you’re on, dry feet make all the difference. I have a few favorite hiking and snowboarding socks I’ve been rolling with lately. Wright Sock (1) brand are awesome hiking socks. I’m a total double layer convert. Just YES….try them once, you won’t go back. Comfy, cool, blister-less feet on any type of day. Another classic is SmartWool snowboard socks (2). I use these hiking too in the winter time and they keep the toesies nice and toasty. For summer, I stick to something a little lighter weight and shorter to wear with my hiking shoes. I like these light micro socks (3) by SmartWool as well.
*Bonus item* – BEER.
Because…well…yes. It’s beer. And it’s good. Do you need more?