IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME FOR THE GEAR – HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS!
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 2400. 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:
Swiss Army Knife
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: rebeccasperry.com