Essential Kit for Summer Adventures
This summer I was lucky enough to spend nearly two and a half months living out of a tent. Between time spent instructing and personal exploration, I had plenty of time to perfect my kit. Here are some of my favorite items that came with me on nearly every adventure.
(P.S. I have zero, that's right zero, affiliations with any of these companies and receive absolutely nothing for posting this article, or linking you to these products. This, simply put, is just the stuff I love.)
Patagonia Sunshade Hoodie
The Patagonia Sunshade Hoodie quickly became a staple of my outdoor wardrobe this summer. From long trips into the backcountry to days of rock climbing, the sunshade hoodie is ideal for sun protection in the hot summer. As someone who strongly dislikes wearing sunscreen, the Sunshade quickly became my best friend. It fits comfortably over a tee-shirt, stays relatively cool even on the hottest days, and has a hood that fits easily over a normal ball-cap. While I will admit that wearing this shirt on hot days is not exactly ideal, its incredibly important to protect your skin. This shirt is given a UPF 25 rating, meaning it only lets in about 4% of the UV that would normally get to your skin if unprotected. Wearing clothing vs wearing sunscreen has a number of advantages, especially if you sweat off sunscreen faster than you can re-apply like I do. Most importantly however, is this clothing is way more effective than sunscreen, and, regardless of how much time you spend outside, it's important to protect your skin. Nearly 40-50 percent of Americans over 65 will have some form of skin cancer. At only $80 dollars, this sun hoodie was a no-brainer purchase for me, and has already made up for its cost in savings from sun screen.
Goal Zero Solar Panel and Portable Battery
Next on my list are a series of products from Goal Zero, the Nomad 3.5 Solar Panel and the Flip 10 portable charger. I've already talked a bit about the importance of backup power when it comes to responding to emergencies in the backcountry, but I'm going to expand a bit on the power of technology in the backcountry. Starting this season I've been carrying a solar panel (for 5 day+ trips) in addition to my Flip 10 charger. As mentioned I've been using the Nomad 3.5, which has been replaced by the Nomad 7 which is more efficient than the model I've got. I use portable power in the backcountry for two reasons, first to keep my iPhone charged, and second to keep my camera running. We can get into the ethical debate of technology in the wilderness later, but for a number of reasons, I carry my phone with me. Besides having a way to communicate with emergency services, apps like NOAA Weather and Gaia GPS have become incredibly useful supplemental tools for the backcountry. With that side note out of the way, lets get back to the panel. Goal Zero is hands down the leader in portable solar. Their simple and functional designs are just hands down the best options for solar out there. The panel itself usually lives on the front of my backpack, charging all day as I move around. I keep the Flip 10 with me for backup storage, as the panel itself doesn't hold any charge. For cloudy days or stretches of bad weather, it's nice to have a tool to charge up whatever is needed. For shorter trips, the Flip 10 is usually all that comes with me. I usually find that both my camera and phone tend to charge in 6-10 hours, depending on the light, which is pretty good considering it just idles on my back all day. While I haven't used the new Nomad 7, it claims to work twice as fast. Considering I've never had issues keeping both my camera and phone charged (with regularly daily use of both), I'm confident the new panel will work even better. If your someone who spends an extended period of time in the backcountry, this light and simple setup is something I'd definitely look recommend.
Nemo Fillo Elite Travel Pillow
I bought this pillow on a whim before this summer while I was shopping for some last minute small items while packing up to head off to Colorado, and boy am I glad I did. The Fillo is an ultralight travel pillow that weighs in a under 3oz and packs down smaller than my fist. In the past I've been sleeping on just my pack, or on a stuff sack with some spare clothes. That being said, this little pillow is awesome and I can't recommend it enough. Small enough that you hardly notice it, this pillow has seriously improved my night sleep, and makes a big difference on my neck. It fits into a little stuff sack that is built into the bag so it's never lost, and inflates in a few quick breaths. My only grip is that my valve can sometimes be a bit tough to get open, but I guess the plus is that it never accidentally deflates. As someone who is usually pretty tough on gear (I've accidentally sat and stepped on this thing numerous times) I haven't been able to break this thing. If you're spending enough time on the sleeping on the ground, I'd highly recommend adding this to your pack.
Darn Tough Socks
I've said it one and I'll say it again, Darn Tough Socks kick ass. I've officially converted 100% of the socks I wear to Darn Tough, front and backcountry. Simply put, I can't find a sock that fits more comfortably, or lasts as long. I managed to wear just 3 pairs of socks for 22 days of early season Mountaineering, and I easily could have used just two pairs. For those of you who are still not in the know, all of the socks are locally in Northfield, Vermont (which is not the case for other major brands like Smartwool). On top of that, Darn Tough guarantees their socks for life, which means you can mail back or exchange in store any pair of sock that has worn a hole or had some other issue. So long as they've been washed, you literally can't be turned down for an exchange. Like I said I wear these socks for everything I do. My favorites for hiking, trail running and winter use are the Micro Crew (featured above) and Micro Crew Light. For hot summer trail running or day to day I often wear the Vertex 1/4 light and I ski and climb (in the winter) in the Over the Calf light Ski sock.
Portable Adventure Camera: Fujifilm X30
I love photography. More and more, it's been something I've been focusing on. Sharing my adventures and documenting this beautiful world is something I've come to love. Regardless of your motivation, more and more people are starting to carry a camera into the backcountry. My choice is the Fujifilm X30. Affordable and functional, this camera has been my best friend in the backcountry, and has taken just about every photo found on my photography page. Mirrorless SLR are becoming more and more powerful every year, and when size and weight is an issue, it's no surprise that they are often the top choice of amateur photographers like myself. I'll let you read about the features for you yourself on the Fujifilm page, but I will say that this camera is extremely user friendly, and performs well for what I am using it for. (That is to say, primarily landscape and action photography.) It fits comfortably under my backpack straps or over my shoulder when climbing, and is easy to use with cold hands or gloves on. Best of all, the battery life is amazing. Despite owning a spare battery, I rarely have to switch it out, finding it lasts for hours of use, even in the cold. If you're looking to step up your game from iPhone photography, this is a great launching point that won't break the bank.