Heading out into the wilderness requires a surprising amount of gear. Even for a simple day hike, a well-prepared hiker will have a small daypack packed with a decent list of essentials to handle any situation. For many, these items become so well-used and loved and even coveted (think saving up to buy that ultralight backpacking tent you've wanted for years) that they almost become a part of who you are as an adventurer. As I feel that my last article "dehumanized" the carefully selected objects that go into a backpacking trip by simply listing them at face value, I am attempting to make up for it by sharing both Andy and my top three favorite outdoor items that we simply couldn't live, couldn't adventure, and couldn't explore without. Don't get me wrong, I love just about every piece of outdoor gear I own. Each item has served me well on a countless number of wilderness forays and I cannot easily forget that. However, like most outdoor enthusiasts, we each have our top list of favorites, the go-tos; The items that often support us emotionally as much as they do physically and here they are below:
Jess's Top Three Favorite Outdoor Inanimate Objects
MSR Pocket Rocket Stove: This thing! I can't stress this enough... is the absolute cutest. And if cute doesn't convince you to take it into the woods with you, it's also ridiculously light, compact, efficient and even comes in its own little carrying case that's smaller than your fist. I used a bunch of different backpacking stoves before this one and going back simply isn't an option. The carrying case alone is enough to lift my backpack-weary spirits every time, its so light I don't even know it's there and it has consistently shown up to feed me after even the most exhausting hikes. Not to mention that at $45, it comes in well ahead of the others in terms of budget.
Bear Grylls Multi-Tool: First thing to know - I'm a huuuuuge Bear Grylls fan and have been for many years. I've frequently been congratulated for my Bear Grylls impressions and I've been channeling his ridiculous energy into my outdoor endeavors since freshman year of high school. I was loaned this tool about 3 years ago for a backpacking trip and immediately loved it- haven't given it back since. It had scissors, a variety of knives, tweezers, a corkscrew, a bunch of other tools and on top of it turned into a full size pair of pliers. After recognizing the BG initials, I was completely sold. This tool and I have gone on so many adventures together; it has sliced my cheese, cut rope to hang shelters, removed splinters, saved my car from being destroyed by a loose piece of plastic on my kayak, spread peanut butter for many young backpackers and has provided me with the ultimate feeling of safety... I mean, I basically had Bear Grylls with me !
Hoodie Melanzana: Ever since living out here a few years ago, Melanzanas have been the envy of my eyes. Unfortunately the single location/no online situation makes them pretty tough to come by - not to mention the price tag that I simply can't afford. Ridiculously long story short, a friend and I went to Leadville, attempted to climb Mt. Sherman (in may !), got my car stuck in 4 feet of snow halfway into a ravine, spent an entire day digging it out, building tracks, pushing, etc. with the help of some of the nicest strangers I've ever met. After two days, some ridiculous sunburn and the worst exhaustion I've ever experienced, I walked into a thrift store and bought a lovely green and blue Melanzana hoodie that is now my forever best friend. It's warm, lightweight, and reminds me of a horribly beautiful memory.
Andy's Top Three Favorite Adventure Accessories
Alaska Ball Cap: Multi-purpose. Cool. Adventurous. Am I right? I feel like we all know that person whose identity almost goes hand-in-hand with their baseball hat and Andy is one of them. It's almost concerning when he shows up without the famed hat on. Andy received this hat when he worked as an ice climbing/sea kayaking guide in Alaska and it's been on every adventure with him since. Besides the amazing memories, the hat serves a higher purpose. It protects your face from the sun, prevents your scalp from getting sunburnt- something not many people think about-, keeps the hair out of your face and also serves as a rain shelter when needed.
Polartec Waffle-Knit Hoodie: Andy has had this military-issue hoodie for over ten years now and still considers it one of his key adventure partners. As he puts it, "I have worn it to stay warm on chilly mornings, to keep the direct sun off me, and to sleep in for extra warmth. It is a great layer to keep warm but also is very breathable". Some things just don't go out of style and the dual ability to provide warmth and sun protection is timeless. Despite occasionally saying he may need to replace it, Andy's Polartec hoodie will likely be with him for at least another ten years, serving up the very best of outdoor comfort and protection.
Compass: As Andy wisely states: "GPS and phones have a time limit, a compass and map last your whole trip" and that's pretty difficult to disagree with. Being able to use a compass is a fundamental skill in the wilderness, and something Andy has nailed down to a science. "Paired with a map, I won't get lost", he states, adding that even on its own, a compass is one of the most important tools to carry with you as it allows you to know your direction of travel regardless of where you are. Navigation is a huge part of what we teach at New Treks so it's only fitting that Andys third and final adventure object is the compass.
While it may seem silly to give way this much credit to inanimate objects, I find it's actually a great lesson in appreciating what you have. Not to mention it allows you to reflect on how even just the little things can provide a lot of joy, comfort and support. Maybe next time your brain has a free moment (which I know can be oh so rare), take the opportunity to think about your own outdoor gear favorites and why they're special. Oh and also check out our Reels on Instagram for a fun visual representation of this article!
Have a great week and happy trekking,