CNN Asked and I Answered: My Top Five Best Pieces of Backpacking Gear

Oct 1, 2023

I was contacted recently by a writer for CNN and was asked, “What are your top must-have pieces of gear when backpacking? What makes each one so great? What are some trips you’ve taken them on?”

I quickly inventoried my hardest working backpacking gear and realized that these best picks centered on two parameters: consistent reliability and superior construction. 

These particular gear picks have been with me for years and have a zero failure rate through the abusive field testing of countless backcountry trips, high altitude sun, aggressive hiking, neglectful caretaking, and constant wear. 

Here are the five best picks that rose to the top of the cream of my gear crop:

1. REI Women’s Co-op Flash 55 Pack

This ultra-light backpack provides the ultimate foundation for all of my backpacking adventures, allowing me to confidently carry this work-horse piece of equipment on any given far-flung journey and remain problem-free.

I’ve taken this backpack (or rather, it’s taken me), filled with heavy loads of gear, to the highest of peaks in Colorado to the deepest of journeys into the heart of the Grand Canyon this backpack is THE one I trust absolutely. Click HERE to get yours from REI.

2. REI Co-op Flash Carbon Trekking Poles

I clearly remember the horrendous days of backpacking without trekking poles and the trip that revealed how instrumental they are to making life easier when carrying backbreaking loads.  It was a revelation, to say the least, to feel like I didn’t have to work as hard when my upper body joined the type-two fun and suddenly I was successfully powering up impossible looking backcountry ascents, all while feeling balanced and energetic.

After moving to the Pacific Northwest, I was grateful beyond words for my trekking poles when I experienced the uniquely difficult terrain of the volcanic mountains that rule this region. As for the trip that simultaneously broke me and made me a trekking pole convert forevermore?  Mt. Saint Helens.  And now I must go address my traumatic flashbacks with trekking pole therapy. Click HERE to get yours fast!

3. HydraPak HydraSleeve 3L Reservoir

I’m 100% on Team Water Bladder, as opposed to Team Water Bottle, after having tried all modes of on-the-go backpacking hydration. This particular method of threading a hose from an internal pouch to ultimately fasten onto a shoulder strap creates the easiest of accessibility and eliminates all excuses for becoming dehydrated.  It’s also hands free which means I won’t bobble my must-have trekking poles and watch them gleefully glissade away to never be seen again.

I take my HydraPak water reservoir hydration system with me everywhere but most recently on my hike to the summit of South Sister in Oregon which extended to 12+ hours, and I didn’t run out of water or become dehydrated.

4. Buff CoolNet UV Multifunctional Neckwear

Some cite the source of their favorite t-shirt to theft from their significant other and I admit (but only for this article) that I did the same for my sun buff.  My husband bought his from the OG makers, Buff, and only used it a few times before handing it over when my forehead was clearly cooking up a brutal batch of blisters under the intense high alpine sun on Mt. Adams, in Washington. It’s a match made in the mountains and we’ve been happy together ever since – no, not my husband, my Buff and I. My goodness, keep up.

I wear my simple, yet highly effective Buff like a low head scarf that covers my entire forehead and ears, the two places most likely to resemble a sun-ripened tomato by the end of an adventure.  Once we’re back from our latest trip, I throw it in the wash and it’s ready for duty in keeping me sunburn free and out of my dermatologist’s office. Click HERE to nab your own Buff.

5. Women’s Darn Tough Northwoods Micro Crew Lightweight Hiking Socks

I discovered Darn Tough merino wool socks after my brand loyalty in a different product failed me, leaving my feet adorned by not one but four blisters and a multi-week Oregon adventure trip perilously close to being ruined. I carefully stomped into a trusted outdoor outfitter and asked for recommendations from their expert staff. Darn Tough brand was the clear choice for every backpacker, mountaineer and alpinist on the clock that day.

Since my feet have healed up, these wooly socks and their mammoth level of comfort have kept my feet in top shape and ready to cheerfully conquer mile after mile of tough all-terrain hiking.

A Wanderfull Life may receive compensation for directing traffic and generating business for companies which may include Amazon and Backcountry. That being said, A Wanderfull Life only endorses products that this business wholeheartedly believes in. Period.

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