Gear for us has been a challenge. I consider us extremely lucky in that we have stores and websites that have return policies that allow us to check a piece of gear out. Some of them even allow us to try it out/test it a few times before we decide to keep it or return it. Short of plugging an ad for these companies I just want to publicly announce my thanks to REI and TravelCountry.com. Both of these retailers have truly amazing employees and customer service, return policies and deals. Check em' out if you're looking for something outdoorsy. I was not paid/compensated in any way to say that, but I wouldn't mind if they did.
Now, onto the skinny! I used to work at a small, family owned sporting goods store in my hometown. I definitely wish I would have been able to get more of my gear there, but as we carried mostly fitness and team sports, there wasn't a whole lot of room for the deeper niche of backpacking gear. But without them I wouldn't have my key item. My backpack.
I had never heard of Deuter before this pack walked into the front door, but after I had tried it on I was sold. The pack I am so lovingly referring to is the Deuter ACT Lite 65+10. Deuter has an awesome adjustable strap system and ridiculously comfortable foam used in the straps and along the wearers back. Anyone who hasn't heard of this company should check them out. Rival them to the best. I've tried on and used my fair share of packs, none of them have compared. Not to mention this pack only weighs about four pounds. My pack has been to the Continental Divide, twice to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and plenty of other memorable places. I probably have close to 300 miles on this pack and it looks just as good as the day I bought it.
There's no way not to consider me biased. I love all the gear I have, and absolutely recommend it to everyone. Among my other favored items:
- REI Quarterdome T2+ Tent. I have it at just about 4 lbs now; groundcloth, rain fly, stakes and guyout lines included. The first night Jess and I tried out this tent it was clear as could be when we went to bed. At 3 in the morning, it starting pouring as if the heavens wanted us to know just how good this tent really was. Also, the + at the end of the name is there because this tent is longer than the normal T2. I'm about 6'3" and have never ever woken up in a tent without either my feet or my head pressed up against the wall. So when we found this tent I ran around screaming, "I fit! I fit!" Jess made me stop.
- Go-Lite Adrenaline Long 3 Season Mummy Bag & Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Mattress. The whole sleeping package together weighs under 4 pounds. I could honestly sleep on this stuff at home. The air mattress is 2 1/2 inches thick when inflated and the bag fluffs up like a down comforter. In the morning it all packs up to the size of about two nalgene bottles.
- Katadyn Vario Water Filter & Steripen Adventurer Opti. Filter hooks directly to a nalgene and filters water at a very fast rate. What the filter misses the Steripen will get. Extra weight? Sure, but I'm not taking any chances with our water.
- Smartwool shirt, pants, socks and balaclava. Anything that keeps me nice n' warm (even when wet) while not smelling after a week of heavy wear is considered a treasure.
- Marmot Zeus Down Jacket & Oracle Rain Jacket. I was going to bring a fleece but between the Smartwool and these jackets I'll be comfortable no matter what the weather throws at us. I've worn the down jacket bare chested in single degree weather. No complaints. The rain jacket became my lightweight ski jacket. This year we've been skiing in 40 degree weather since February.
- Brooks Cascadia Trail Runners. I've got some weird feet. Weird, I tell ya. Size 12-13 and A-B width. Hiking boots just don't fit. Bottom line here is Brooks saved my bum. Great grip, just as comfortable as my running shoes and sweet colors.
- Crocs Prepair II Clogs. I never EVER wanted to own a pair of these. They look nothing like how they feel. Putting these on after hiking all day in the Grand Canyon almost brought me to tears. They say that these particular Crocs are designed to help feet relax and increase blood flow. I believe 'em.
Please feel free to contact us with any equipment questions/comments. It'd be a shame to leave all this knowledge to just us!