MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 296
edited April 1 in THE GEAR LAB

THE SHAKEDOWN marches on with some familiar faces and some new contributors! Dive into what some of our favorite backpacking friends are carrying these days and why. There's sure to be some new advice, trail-earned best practices to share, and other tips and tricks to add to your own adventuring! Gear has obviously changed–it's one of the few constants we gearheads can rely on in this day and age–so let's see how it's worked its way into our contributor's packs. Jump into the comments and share some of your own findings!

Let’s check in with Triple Crowner and hiking life prioritizer, Eloise Robbins!


A good backpack is maybe the most personal piece of gear you can buy. It literally hugs you all day, and can be the difference between floating over trails, or being miserable with bruised hips and shoulders. It’s one of the few places that you really can’t get away with using something cheap or ill-fitting without being miserable.

My Windrider goes everywhere with me. I love that I can cinch it down and use it as a daypack, or load it with two weeks’ worth of food and disappear into the mountains. Somehow it carries heavy weight better than any other pack I’ve owned, even without load lifters, but is still light enough to take on a quick overnight trip. It’s durable too- mine has three years of heavy use on it (including two thru-hikes, and some serious multi-week off trail adventures), but still doesn’t have a single hole.


I adore my Flat Tarp more than any shelter I’ve ever used. I can pitch it low and tight to the ground for incredible storm worthiness (I’ve even ridden out snowstorms in it). Or I can leave it in my pack as a backup on desert trips where I cowboy camp under the stars. The only time I leave it at home are on trips where there’s loads of bugs.

If you haven’t tried a DCF shelter yet, you absolutely should. Yes, they are expensive, but they are surprisingly durable (my Flat Tarp has completed the CDT, AT, Long Trail, and AZT in addition to many shorter trips). The real magic is that DCF doesn’t sag when it gets wet. That means your tarp pitch is the same in the morning as it was the night before, no matter what the weather throws at you. And of course, DCF shelters are crazy light. It’s hard to go back to any other material after using a DCF shelter.


If you’re looking to sleep better without adding weight to your pack, I swear by the Stuff Sack Pillow. You almost certainly already have a stuff sack for your extra layers- this just adds a fleecy side that’s far more comfortable than any inflatable pillow I’ve ever used. I store mine with the fleece side out, so it takes seconds to set up my bed at night.


When I hike with my husband, we have a pretty luxurious menu. Home-made dehydrated meals, and hot coffee every morning is a huge part of our routine. We’re big fans of Jetboil, which heats water incredibly fast, and is the most reliable stove I’ve ever used. He carries it, so it’s fine that it’s a bit heavier than other options.

When I’m solo, I leave the stove at home. Cooking for one always seems like too much work, and I’d rather use the time to go an extra mile. Eating bagels, cheese, and salami for dinner doesn’t bother me, although I always miss my morning coffee.


If you haven’t yet discovered the magic of a long handled titanium spoon, what are you waiting for? They are perfectly sized for reaching the bottom of a dehydrated meal bag without getting food all over your hands. I also really love a good titanium mug, especially in the winter when I put it right on the fire to melt snow for water.


I’m team Smartwater all the way. Light, surprisingly durable and easy to buy if you need to double your water carrying capacity for a section, I always have one with me. I use a Sportcap on a liter bottle, and normally have my bottle clipped to the front of my pack.

The only exception to my Smartwater bottle devotion is in the winter when I bring a Nalgene. There’s nothing toastier than snuggling into my -30 degree sleeping bag with a Nalgene filled with hot water.


Apart from the obvious no cotton and dressing appropriately for the weather, I only have one requirement from my clothing: it has to make me happy. Most of the time, I have a single outfit for the entire summer, and I spend an awful lot of time looking at my feet. Patterned socks mismatched brightly colored gators, and fun clothes are just as important to me as whatever’s trendy for being the most technical gear. I hiked the Appalachian Trail in a thrifted red dress, and loved it far more than the expensive backpacking specific outfit I had on other trails.


All I bring is a knife. My favorite is a tiny, ultralight folding blade with a wooden handle. I found it in a wash on the Arizona Trail after being knifeless for a week (the airline lost my luggage with my knife and trekking poles). The trail provides!


  • AustinHager
    AustinHager Member Posts: 34

    Couldn't agree more with your comments on a DCF shelter. All tents work great in clear, warm nights but when you actually need one for weather DCF is as good as it gets. Being able to quickly dry the tent and not dealing with stretch/sag is a game changer and makes it feel way less clammy in the tent.

    I have a stuffsack pillow in the mail! Can't wait to use it!