I ran this post last August. With Summer approaching, I thought it would be a useful time to post it again. My recommendations remain the same as before—this is the best gear I’ve been able to find for what I do.
Over the past five years or so, some gear has proven its worth—the stuff I use every time, the stuff that just works great, stuff that lasts a long, long time and I would simply never go without, not even in summer (it can snow in summer!).
Here’s a quick summary.
- Five Ten Men's Guide Tennie Leather Approach Shoe also the mid-ankle Guide Tenie Mid Hiking Shoe. The Stealth C4 rubber sticks to rocks like glue and does well even on wet slippery rocks. The lace design allows “shaping” the tightness from the forefoot on up (very tight for class 4 and harder climbing, a bit looser for normal wear). MUST HAVE SHOE. Not so good for sharp pointy rocks and not waterproof—get a boot with a tough and less flexible sole for that kind of thing.—the Five Ten Camp Four Mid is perfect (I wear an older low-cut version).
- North Face Recon daypack — this is how I carry all my gear in the field: camera and lenses (in pouches), food, water, clothing. A steal at about $90. Current models also can fit a 15" laptop into a padded interior slot.
NOTE: the design keeps getting dumber and more oriented towards laptops and iPads, what shame: I like the older model (still available online, shown at left); the model being sold in late 2015 reduces the size of the outer stuff pocket, and the interor also balkanizes the space with pencil slots and similar while also reducing the size of the large slide-in pocket. It also loses the dual laptop/iPad slot in favor of a single slot. The model I do NOT like as much (the later one) is shown at right in tan.
- Lupine Piko headlamp. I don’t leave for any hike that might approach dusk without this headlamp.
- For sunglasses, that varies by conditions but I always use polarized lenses, because these cut atmospheric haze, road glare and let me see my dinner (trout) through the water. When lighting is not extremely bright, I use the Revo Redpoint sunglasses for cycling and hiking. The sunglasses in the image below are Revo Guide RE4054-01 polarized and with a blue reflective coating (models have change, the Revo Guide II sunglasses seems to be the closest match). These are my preferred sunglass for summer in the Sierra, where granite and/or snow can be very difficult on the eyes. See also Are your sunglasses protecting your eyes?.
- For moderate temps, an Ibexwear hoody (preferably with front pocket; models vary each year too). This is what I wear from spring to fall in the mountains. The hood protects head and sides of face and neck from sun;x the front zip pocket (models that have it) is great for stowing a smaller lens, lens cap, etc. Also terrific for bright snow and granite are the Revo Guide sunglasses which I am wearing below. I particularly like them because they tend to preclude getting sweat onto the lenses as most of my sunglasses do.
- Western Mountaineering Sequoia GWS Sleeping Bag — the amazing thing about this bag is that it is good even into relatively warm temps, because its ultra high quality down “tents”. Or in really cold conditions (shoes freeze to floor mats inside the car), zip it up and stay warm.
This Western Mountaineering Sequoia GWS is one of the best investments I’ve ever made in camping comfort.
- Exped Downmat 9 DLX — Never sleep on hard cold ground again. Air mattress with down inside. If not backpacking, the Megamat absolutely rocks—just as comfortable as at home for me.
- Western Mountaineering Flash XR jacket — I would not leave for the mountains without it. Its XR fabric resists rain and slushy snow for hours, extremely light, perfect for hiking (stuffs small into bottom of pack, put camera gear on top.
Be sure to get the XR version if you want the rain resistance (the non XR is awesomely light, but does not resist rain/snow very well)—yes there are snowstorms in June. The Flash down pants are great for well below freezing stuff, or if you have to stand around in near freezing temps, photograph in cold nights, etc.
- IbexWear wool jacket — Another must have that I often wear over the Flash XR for times when I need even more warmth. Also, Ibex Shak Two Layer Wool Glove and Ibexwear NZM gloves (you need both, for cool and cold conditions). Ibex changes their product line every year—a bit annoying if you want a replacement for a favorite, so if you find a piece you love, buy two or three, at least during the early spring sale. I have jackets and pants for which I did not do this, and I regret it, because they're gone forever.
- Pearl Izumi Elite Thermafleece Cycling Tight — great for hiking, keeps sun off legs, greaet as a layer under another pant, or by themselves under shorts.