I’m lucky. I get paid to go outside for a living, often while writing about outdoor adventures for Outside. As a result, I’m always on the lookout for the best—and lightest—equipment to use on my next trip.
I wanted to share some of my go-to gear—the stuff that keeps finding its way onto the living room floor when Friday rolls around and I start packing. It’s all been field-tested across the West and western Canada, from packrafting trips in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness to ski-touring in Washington’s North Cascades National Park.
Stove: MSR Reactor System
Though the JetBoil stoves have served me well, I’m currently excited about MSR’s compact Reactor Stove System ($190). I’ve found that nothing boils up a hot drink faster (half a liter of water in 90 seconds) than the Reactor—this is especially nice at day’s end on a multi-day ski tour. The Reactor comes in three sizes, starting at 14.7 ounces.
Winter Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
In the summer, an uncomfortable sleeping pad can ruin your night. In the winter, an ineffective pad can kill you. My go-to pad when snow-camping is Therm-a-Rest's NeoAir XTherm ($150; 15oz.), which has never failed to keep me warm while resting on glaciers. In the summer, I like Klymit’s Inertia O-Zone pad ($100; 12.2 oz.). While there are lighter warm-weather pads out there, I like O-Zone because it has an integrated pillow with a separate valve to adjust firmness. The whole package rolls down to the size of a Coke can.
Trekking Poles: Black Diamond’s Ultra Mountain
I wasn’t a fan of trekking poles until after I did a few weeklong traverses with a big pack over rough country and felt the improved stability. A pole like Black Diamond’s carbon-fiber Ultra Mountain trekking pole ($170) is so light (1 lb., 2 oz. per pair), and breaks down so small, I barely notice that I’m carrying it in my hands or on my pack. My knees do, though, and they’re grateful.
Water Purifier: CamelBak All Clear
There are shelves of water purifiers on the market, and I’ve tried most of them—from pumps to drops and pills. My current favorite: the CamelBak All Clear ($99). The cap, which screws onto any standard-size water bottle, has a built-in UV light. Screw it on, press a button, gently shake for 60 seconds, and presto—you get a quart of purified water. Though chunky at 17 ounces, it’s worth the extra weight: the device is rechargeable via USB and able to purify up to 16 gallons per charge. No more batteries to toss or purifiers to pump.
Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
Often when moving in the mountains, I don’t need a Gore-Tex jacket or even a soft-shell. All I need is something to knock down the brisk wind. That’s why I like my Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer windbreaker ($165). Weighing an absurd two ounces with hood, I can’t afford not to shove it in my pocket.
Shoes: Salomon Gecko
I’ve done several ‘multi-sport’ adventures that combine fun on both water and land. I’ve needed an amphibious shoe that moves easily between worlds, from rafting to hiking. My favorite to date: the Salomon Gecko, (about 1 lb., 8 oz. per pair), whose tight mesh and neoprene ankle gusset keep out grit and dry quickly. Salomon stopped making them recently, but if you hurry, you can still find them online.
Crampons: Camp USA Race 290 Crampons
On a spring ski tour I might carry boot crampons for days and never need them. That’s why I’m a fan of Camp USA’s Race 290 crampons, ($180; 10.2 oz.). The company bills them as the world’s lightest. They take some adjustment to dial in the fit (don’t do it for the first time on the mountain), and I wouldn’t want to attack Rainier in these 10-point aluminum ’poons, which affix to the heels with a special Dynafit-only attachment. But they’re just the trick if you need some teeth to take a few quick bites of the mountain on a cold morning.
Backpack: Hyperlite Packs
Most packs weigh too much. Too many pockets, too much padding. That’s why I like the Hyperlite packs (larger packs range from $275 to $345) that are made of waterproof cuben fiber and are often at least a pound lighter than their competitors. Take the 3,400-cubic-inch Ice Pack, which weighs just 2.2 pounds. They can be customized at the factory, too. Even without much hip padding, my custom ski-mountaineering pack is surprisingly comfy—as long as I don’t overburden it.
Tent: MSR Carbon Reflex 2 Ultralight
I want two things from a tent—lightness and simplicity. MSR’s Carbon Reflex 2 Ultralight tent ($500) delivers on both counts. The two-person tent (2 lb., 3 oz. to 3 lbs., 6 oz., depending on configuration) has carbon-fiber poles that reduce the frame’s weight by nearly one-third and make set-up a snap. Yet the shelter still has some creature comforts—twin doors and vestibules so you’re not crawling over your buddy to pee.
So what’s on your list?