MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 306
edited July 2023 in THE GEAR LAB

Words and Photos from Rebecca Sperry

'Tis the season to get stocked up on the gear that gets me stoked to hike. Winter has just made its presence known in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and as I switch over to my winter hiking kit, I thought there's no better time than now to stock up on the things that need to be replaced or to add those that I've been secretly coveting for the last year. In creating my own shopping list, I thought that I'd share my top six favorite pieces of gear in the hopes of helping my fellow gear junkies come up with their own holiday wishing (and giving) lists, so let's get started. 

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 2400 

It won't surprise anyone who knows me that the top item on my list is the pack that I've carried on every single hike since I got it in January 2019, the Southwest 40. This pack has never let me down and is the only one that I carry, regardless of how long the hike may be. What I love most about this pack, besides the fond memories I have made while carrying it, is its versatility. Although I rarely go on overnights, I have no desire to switch to a smaller pack because the Southwest is so light it rivals daypacks in weight. On top of that, it's water resistant, something my old day pack isn't. The other thing that makes this the pack that I use religiously is that I can attach my snowshoes to it in winter. It's incredibly important that I have the ability to strap these four-pound behemoths onto my pack, and the Southwest allows me to do that easily. 

Tubbs Flex Vert Boa Snowshoes (Women's)

I'm not going to pretend that I like breaking trail, especially solo, but when it comes to snowshoes, I have tried the two most common brands, and the Tubbs Flex Vert are my go-to shoes in winter conditions. These snowshoes feel more natural on my feet than the alternatives. They are more narrow towards the heels, and I love the Boa binding system, which makes it so much easier to take them off and put them on (read: no more tightening straps across your feet). Although there are certainly some cons to these shoes, they are by far my favorite snowshoes, and the aggressive spikes on the bottoms make me feel badass in the backcountry while giving me superior gripping power on icy surfaces. 

Salomon Sense Ride 4

Salomon has been my go-to trail runner since 2016, when I swapped out my hiking boots. With chronic Plantar Fasciitis, it's really important to me that I wear shoes that support my feet and minimize pain. Once I find a pair of shoes that works for me, I stick with them because it's not worth the potential flare-up from a shoe that aggravates my PF. When my old trail runner style was discontinued, I was forced to try something else, and the Sense Rides are a perfect upgrade from the X-Mission 3. What I love about the Sense Rides is that they dry faster than the X-Mission 3 and still give a lot of support. They also have just the right amount of grip, perfect for the moss-covered trails of the White Mountains. 

Superfeet Trailblazer Comfort Hiking Insoles

In keeping with the theme of feet, the insoles that I rock in my Salomons year-round are the Superfeet Trailblazers. I need the added arch support because of my PF, and these insoles offer just that. They are also really comfortable and give me just the right amount of cushion. I prefer my shoes to have less-cushy soles (I've tried the Hokas and just can't get used to the pillow-like soles), so I need a little extra padding, and the Superfeet insoles provide just that. They're also not super expensive and work just as well as the ones that I was getting through my Podiatrist. 

Katadyn Befree Filter

Treating my water is a must, and after giving Sawyer a try back in 2016, I was really disappointed. I suppose the flow rate on that filter has probably improved, but I didn't stick around long enough to find out because I found the Katadyn Befree and haven't gone back to the Sawyer since. What I love most about the Katadyn is the flow rate and the bag that attaches to the filter. When I'm trying to get water from really awkwardly shaped streams or against flat ground, the bag allows me to do so with little difficulty because it's soft, unlike a Smart water bottle. Did I mention the flow rate? It's insanely fast. It's not too pricey, and although I will purchase replacement filters perhaps more regularly than if I was using the Sawyer (which I understand clogs less frequently) I much prefer the Befree for my lifestyle.

Darn Tough Micro Crew Lightweight Hiking Socks

Although I have been rocking the men's ankle-length Smartwool hiking socks for years during the summer, I much prefer Darn Tough hiking socks for shoulder season. They are much more rugged and have never formed holes in them, something I can't say about the Smartwools. They also come in some really cute patterns, including ones with bears on them, and are super comfy. It's really important to me that my socks last, and after going through over a dozen pairs of Smartwool ankle-high socks in the last year, I'm making the switch to Darn Tough going forward. 

Stocking Stuffer Ideas

Some of the pieces of gear that are super inexpensive and a must-have in everyone's kit are: 

Emergency Blanket 

Emergency Bivy

Hand/Feet Warmers 

Swiss Army Knife

Buff balaclava 




So, what are some things on your holiday wish lists? Post 'em below!  


Rebecca Sperry is an avid hiker who spends the majority of her free time either hiking in New England or writing. In 2020, she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and continued to hike throughout an entire year of aggressive treatment. She is a strong proponent of the importance of staying active, especially as a way to alleviate some of the side effects of cancer treatment. You can follow her journey on Instagram @sockedinhikes, or her website: 


  • bugglife
    bugglife Member Posts: 99

    Nice! Definitely some good ideas in there. I will second the Katadyn water filter both in terms of excellent flow rate, and in terms of easy clogging (especially in Grand Canyon). Overall, the filter has worked out for me for shorter trips (less than 1 week), but I would be hesitant to use it as my only option on a thru hike or longer expedition. Here are some less expensive things I am looking at getting and giving over the holiday season:

    The Packraft Handbook ($35) - this is pretty straightforward. I've been doing some more packrafting, and am hoping to increase my skill set, so this seems like a good investment.

    Tricer Teepee adapter ($35) I'm interested to try out their other products as well, and this seems like a good entry point. It allows you to attach two trekking poles end to end for use with an ultamid, instead of using straps. Maybe it won't be worth it, but I'm willing to give it a try. For photographers, they also make versions so you can create a tripod out of trekking poles if you have two people, aren't using a tent, etc.

    Flipfuel ($35) Another new product I'm interested to try. Condensing a bunch of 80% used fuel canisters into one sounds like an excellent plan.

    HMG Tent Stakes ($40) I have a set of these stakes and absolutely love them. I plan on getting more as stocking stuffers for friends. You may be thinking, "How can these be better than regular stakes?" Trust me, they are. They're light, but they are also very sturdy. You won't break off the head, bend them, or cuss while one rotates as you're trying to set up your tent in the rain. Friends who have helped me set up my ultamid for the first time have made comments on how nice they are. Well worth the investment.

    Pack Stays ($40) This one is going to fall under the category of, "Well first of all, it's not stock, so that's cool." Far from a need, these are definitely in the want category. Shave a few ounces, get some additional rigidity to transfer more weight onto my hips and carry loads better, I'm willing to give them a try.

    Enlightened Equipment down booties ($65) Warmer feet = better sleep. A little more expensive at $65, but less than 2 oz, I definitely think these will be worth it. I had a different pair of down booties for a while that I loved, but I ended up selling them to a friend because they were too big on my feet and I slid around in them too much. These are not designed for outdoor wear, but that works fine for me as I only plan to use them inside my tent.

  • sashaswashut
    sashaswashut Member Posts: 41

    Love these ideas!! On my wishlist is some wool base layers- great for snowshoeing and skiing.

    Also have some fleece tops on my list. I really like the ones from Cotopaxi.

    I already have one, but I would suggest a Garmin mini. My husband and I love ours for hiking, backpacking + hunting. Jetboil is always a great gift!! Some other stocking stuffer ideas: Injinji socks, Buff Headbands/Beanies, Versa (of course!), Hyperlite water bottle holder, and fold over gloves.

    MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 306
    edited November 2022

    @bugglife I just got one of those FlipFuel dealios. I'm embarrassed by the sound I made when I first saw it shown over on - very excited to get it into rotation and eliminate the stockpile of canisters I don't trust to take on trips but refuse to throw away. Also, assumed bias aside, I too love those tent stakes. Definitely the kind of gear I'd backtrack a reasonable distance to retrieve if I lost one!

  • HikingThru
    HikingThru Member Posts: 1

    Great list! I concur with plenty from your list. The Southwest 2400 has been something I have always wanted, but haven’t putted the trigger and same goes for the Katadyn Befree. I have had fantastic luck and love my Durston Kakwa 40 though and still planning to experiment past my sawyer and platypus as water is always a pain.

    I am in love with my Solomon Sense rides combined with injinji socks and will not wear anything but on my feet. In over 15 months and about 1300km of hiking I have not had even one blister…

    I am hoping that Santa snags me a good pair of snowshoes.. I have been researching plenty and think I have myself set on the Atlas Helium Back Country, although admittedly my snowshoe knowledge is only in its infancy stages..

    Ever since switching to my Durston Xmid 1p & 2p, it has changed the way I hike.. I will not go hiking without these tents. As for winter use, I’ll have to update you next month as we just got our first dump of snow last night!

    I have yet to see or find anything of its kind that works for me, but I really want a decent tripod holder on my hiking pack in a location that I can access quickly and easily. I currently use 2 gossamer bungy clips on a shoulder strap, which works lovely, but I may end up stitching some stretch fabric to the bottom side of my bag as a sleeve. Making YouTube videos of my hikes and adventures is something I love to do, but this is one area that has made it slightly cumbersome and I am surprised that there aren’t and gear attachment options (that I have found) for this purpose.

    Love reading up on all of your lists. It’s making my list even bigger!

    Happy Hiking - Hiking Thru