I’ve done lots of different types of travel from budget backpacking to long distance trekking to semi-luxury. Along the way I’ve had to shop for some cool gear, luggage, or just cool stuff to travel with. I want to share some links where you can find the same cool stuff I used and maybe some other great travel gear to keep you comfortable when you’re on the move.
If you want to read more about the gear I used on a specific trek, you’ll find posts for those treks under Trekking on the main menu and some links as well, but most of the links are here.
I’m no fashion diva. When I am backpacking and traveling, comfort and function come before style. That said, there are some functional and fashionable lines of clothing for travel, comfort, and function.
Underwear chapping your ass? Not these. ExOfficio Bikini Briefs
Need to stay warm at night? Here ya go. Tops can even be worn alone and no one will even know it’s thermal underwear. Patagonia Capilene thermal underwear
Marmot all the way. I think my Marmot sleeping bag saved my life more than once on the AT. Marmot’s lightweight summer bag is great, too. I carried mine on the Camino de Santiago in Spain and everyone in the hostels was jealous. Marmot Sleeping Bags
I’ve had one Therm A Rest since I began backpacking in 2000. It probably has over 4000 miles on it. Works like a charm, but with Cascade Designs new designs, it might just be time to splurge on a new one. Cascade Designs Therm A Rest Mattress
My first tent was an REI two man dome tent that weighed 6 pounds. I still use it. Not sure why I thought I needed a two man tent on the AT, but at some point I wised up, mailed it home, and bought a Eureka one man tent at an outfitter along the way. It was $99. I still have it, although I did have to replace the poles after, well, let’s just call it an ‘incident.’ Eureka replaced them for free even though the ‘incident’ was my fault. I can highly recommend both REI, which provides great quality on a budget, and Eureka for the same reason. They both kept me dry, too. Leaky tent? No thanks.Eureka Tents
Winning the Rain Battle
When I say my Marmot rain jacket and pants saved my life, I mean it. In the Smokies I was exhibiting signs of hypothermia by the time I reached the shelter in the pouring rain and my PreCip rain jacket and pants kept me going till I got there. Also kept me warm on Kilimanjaro and kept me dry in a light rain on Day 2. Marmot PreCip Rain Jacket and Pants
There are so many quality shoes and boots on the market that I can’t possibly recommend one or many. Shoes are the single most important piece of gear you will invest in for a successful trek, whether it be short or long. I will just say that you should forget about style and appearance and go to a professional outfitter who knows shoes AND FEET! Get fitted for shoes that are right for you. I’ve never had a fitting that took less than half an hour.
However, I can recommend socks! There are a lot of socks out there for walking, backpacking, trekking, whatever you call it, and they are not all created equal or for the same purpose. You need a different sock when you are carrying the extra weight of a backpack than you would to go on a day hike with 5 pounds on your back. Whatever your needs are, Smartwool makes a sock for you. Different weights for different purposes. Smartwools keep your feet warm in winter and cool in summer, prevent blisters, dry fast and last forever.
I wore only two pairs the entire 2200 miles of the AT, and while they could walk by themselves at times, after a good wash, they were good as new. I still have and still wear those same two pairs, but I just wash them more often now. Get your socks before you get your shoes and take them with you when you go shoe shopping.
Cooking gear can easily add weight to your pack. You’re not going to feel like cooking a gourmet meal after trekking 20 miles. Keep it simple, keep it minimal, and get an MSR Pocket Rocket! First cookstove and ONLY cookstove I’ve ever used! Weighing in at just 3oz, it cannot be beat. Still using the same one since 2001! Pocket Rocket
For long distance hiking, you need one pot. One pot that does multiple, not double, multiple jobs. It should act as a storage container for all your other cooking essentials when not in use. Mine had a lid that also served as a cup with a handle and weighed less than a pound. Do your research. Don’t get a fry pan. Don’t get a cookset. Get one great lightweight, multi-purpose pot. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on titanium either. Cook pots
You don’t need a Leatherman with all the bells and whistles on the AT. They are heavy! You’re not going to have to cut down a tree! You need a reliable knife to slice salami and cheese and maybe use as a makeshift screwdriver, but I doubt it. Here’s the one I used, only it’s been updated and it’s cheaper than it was in 2003. I lost mine on a subsequent backpacking trip, so I’m thinking it’s about time I get a new one. Gerber Ripstop 1 Knife
Leki, man. Leki all the way. The quality cannot be beat. Leki Trekking Poles
Sometimes you gotta hike in the dark. Sometimes you wanna hike in the dark. And sometimes you gotta cook in the dark. You need hands free lighting. Nothing beats a Black Diamond headlamp. Guess how long I’ve had mine? Since 2004 After 2000 miles on the AT, on a weekend trip, my first one shorted out on me. Even though I think it was my fault, Black Diamond replaced it free of charge within a few days through my local outfitter in Tucson, Summit Hut. Black Diamond headlamps
I’ve used Petzel headlamps as well. Also great quality.
Backpacks for carrying all the other cool gear!
Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) is an American company in Utah that I used to design my own backpack before I did the AT. They. Are. Awesome. I still have that pack and while it has its own special aroma, especially when wet, it still works as great as it did in 2003. I have a sentimental attachment to this pack. It is extremely lightweight and durable. Made in the USA speaks to the quality of it. Check it out. ULA
That said, Osprey is a kick-ass, but not cheap, backpack. I have one I use for my laptop when I travel and I love their line of packs.Osprey Packs
Lowe Alpine is another fave of mine. I have a large backpack and a smaller one with side pockets that has probably been to about 25 countries with me. I walked the Camino with the smaller one, even though it was too big for that walk, and it is faded on top from the sun and black from some mystery substance in the Egypt Air luggage hold, but it still works and takes a beating like a champ.
Most important piece of gear for storing your electronics while hiking? Ziplocs are no joke
The camera I used on the AT in 2003 was a crap digital camera, which explains the quality of some of my AT photos, but I still preferred to use my own photos rather than pictures from the internet. I had a great little digital camera now that I can highly recommend for trekking or travel. Lots of special effects you can add to your pictures before saving. Fits perfectly in a Ziploc or a pocket.
When I started the AT in 2003, I wanted to keep a journal and update it as I walked. With the help of a friend, I did that with a device called Pocketmail. I thought it would be obsolete by now, but it’s not! Every night I would type my journal onto this device, save it, and when I reached a phone, I would transmit to my friend’s email and she would update my trailjournal online. It worked great! It may seem primitive now, but if you’re curious, you can check it out here. It’s actually great for when you’re on the trail or in a hostel and have no internet service.
Eagle Creek toiletry bag – Wallaby has a hook so you can hang it while in the shower, great pockets and space for organizing, tough as nails and will go the distance Eagle Creek Toiletry Organizer
Nothing refreshes you on the trail like all natural, biodegradable, safe to use in streams peppermint soap.
I wrote an article about Appalachian Trail guidebooks. You can check it out here Lowdown on AT Guidebooks
I didn’t actually use a guidebook for any of my other treks, but I did use trekking companies for some, which I can also recommend here. Some treks require a guide, like Kilimanjaro, and others are just more enjoyable with a guide, like Ghorepani Poon Hill in Nepal. For me, it is easier to plan a trek in a foreign country by using a trekking company. I am not paid to recommend any of these companies. I used them and if I wasn’t happy with them, I wouldn’t recommend them.
Ghorepani Poon Hill, Nepal – Adventure Discovery Treks You can read Rabi’s story here about how he came to own his own adventure travel company in Nepal Adventure Discovery Treks and Rabi The last guide on this page is Nabin Adhikari who was my most amazing, funny, knowledgeable, handsome trekking guide ever! Not sure why Rabi has two websites, but check them both out. He maintains both of them himself.
I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet guidebooks. I think they are well organized and thorough, and I find most to be pretty well updated in terms of maps, accommodation, and sights.Lonely Planet Tanzania
I’ve found some rather unique places to visit in this next book, and some that just weren’t worth spending the money to get to, even though I did. I ignore all the 5 star hotel suggestions. A hotel? Before I die? Really? But there are some gems in this book as well. It is how I first learned about Bhutan 13 years ago, and I finally went there in May 2016.