MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 306
edited April 23 in THE GEAR LAB

Words and Photos by Jessica Kelley 

THE SHAKEDOWN 2.0 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 one of our favorite creative trip planners and masters of multisport, Jessica Kelley!  


I love my Porter 85 pack - It can fit all my paddling gear including my drysuit, packraft, PFD, paddle–AND overnight gear. Plus it's comfortable! I also love that I have the ability to customize it for each trip, adding or subtracting the Bottle Holder, Vice Versa, Stuff Pocket, or Shoulder Pocket as needed.

When I'm only going for a short trip, or I'm not carrying any packraft gear, I grab my Southwest 40, which has just enough room to carry only what I need. I almost always add my Vice Versa and Shoulder Pocket to whatever pack I'm using because I like having snacks, water, and bear spray that are easily accessible. 


When it's truly frigid, my Marmot Col Membrain is my go-to sleeping bag. It kept me warm when I spent the night on a frozen river in Alaska at -30F. Maybe warm is a stretch–but it kept me alive, and that's saying something!


I love my HMG small Roll-Top Stuff Sack! It's the perfect size for storing my emergency kit, which includes a lighter, duct tape, epi-pens, pocket knife, emergency blanket, and a small first aid kit. I carry these items whenever I get "out there," confident that everything inside will be safe and dry. 


For bikepacking trips, I always reach for my HMG Ultamid 2. Yes, technically, it's a two-person tent, and I am usually solo. But I love having all that extra room, especially in places like Vancouver Island, Western Washington, and Alaska, when precipitation is more likely than not. There's enough room in the tent to take all my bikepacking bags off my bike and store them inside with me, while still having plenty of room to stretch out and sleep! I've never had any issues with condensation, and I carry a dedicated carbon tent pole that makes pitching the tent super easy. 


I've always admired folks who make their food via cold soaking, but the fact is, crawling out of my tent and enjoying a hot cup of coffee in the morning is one of my favorite parts of backpacking. So I carry a Jetboil Flash. It's perfect for heating up water at night so I can eat a hot, rehydrated meal, and for boiling water in the morning for the aforementioned coffee and oatmeal. I don't do any fancy cooking while I'm backpacking, bikepacking, or packrafting, so the Flash suits my needs perfectly. 


GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker mug for the win! It's lightweight, durable, easy to clean, and keeps coffee and hot cocoa warm while also protecting my hands from the heated liquid. 

I also carry a GSI Outdoors Essential Spoon. I previously tried a spork, but the sharp tines actually put a hole in my dehydrated meal bag! The Essential Spoon has a nice long handle and silicone edges that won't tear the bag. Plus, like the mug, it's lightweight and durable. My only complaint is that the silicone does tend to absorb flavor, so if you "wash" your utensils by licking them clean (that'd be me), you are sometimes treated to fettuccine-flavored oatmeal in the morning. The leftover taste usually subsides by the second or third bite of breakfast. 


Salomon makes awesome soft flasks that are easy to drink from while walking/running/biking and easy to refill with water when you're on the trail–even if the water source is only a small trickle. If I need to carry extra water, I'll store it in Platypus Soft Flasks with a closure cap. I love these because they collapse flat when empty and can be stored inside my pack without worrying about spilling any water. 


I like MSR Aquatabs. Super easy to use, very lightweight, kill both bacteria and viruses, and the taste isn't too offensive. If water is particularly silty, I'll let it settle out overnight and then use Aquatabs in the morning. 


For summer adventures, my favorite shirt is the Outdoor Research Women's Astroman Short Sleeve Sun Shirt. It's lightweight, soft, and comfortable, and dries super quickly. I wear it hiking, running, and paddling. I also swear by my Dirty Girl gaiters when trail running or hiking. I've tried many different types of gaiters and always come back to the Dirty Girl brand. They have super cute patterns, are well-made, and fit my shoes and calves perfectly. Other brands are either too small, completely cover my shoes, the ankle elastic is too loose–or sometimes all three!


Kula Cloths have been a game-changer! If you squat when you pee in the woods, you should really get one. Kula Cloths are anti-microbial and can easily be rinsed and dried in the field. They have a handy snap to attach them to your pack, and the front of each cloth features awesome artwork designed by artists that make a difference. Last but not least, the business is woman-owned!