The Gear of Py

Hiking gear is such a loaded subject to talk about with personal preference, hiking style and the very core reasons as to why you go hiking all being factors that go into what you look for in your gear. With that in mind I've had a few requests to do a post about what gear I use and I'll also include any lessons I've learned along the way.

Just as a disclaimer, I've purchased these items or been gifted from friends/family and are not affiliated with any particular company (as much as it looks like it).

Click on each photo in the gallery for a link to that item.

Clothing

Pants - Kathmandu Mens Pants - Kathmandu cop a lot of flak about their camping/hiking gear and I'd tend to agree about their sleeping bags/packs/tents etc but when it comes to clothing they are right up there for quality and price. This is my second pair of pants from Kathmandu because the first pair were so good. The material is stretchy, light, quick drying, comfortable and is perfect for hiking trips where you won't wash for over a week. Every pocket has a zip (great for not losing gear) and there are enough without looking too adventurey.  I cannot recommend these pants enough.


Shirt - TLoP Tri-Blend T-Shirt - I get these shirts through Redbubble because I can get my logo put on them but they aren't bad t-shirts to wear hiking. They dry fairly quickly and are comfortable. Ideally in the future I would upgrade to Merino shirts but I'll get serious about that when these current ones start to show signs of expiring.


Jacket - Again I've gone with Kathmandu here as I find their clothing really great quality for the price. This jacket I actually use as my go-to jacket for most aspects of my life so it is well worn. Out on the trails of Western Australia it is usually worn early on during the colder months and at night around camp. It's comfortable, warm and looks pretty good so I have no complaints about this jacket.


Rain Jacket - Given we mainly get passing showers in WA and you only end up wearing a rain jacket for a few minutes before it starts getting too warm, I just have a basic foldaway Kathmandu rain jacket (it's starting to become a Kathmandu ad I know). It folds away into the size of a drink bottle and makes for a handy extra pillow when you're in your sleeping bag watching movies at camp.


Hat - I used to wear an old Mountain Design lightweight cap but it search of better sun protection I ordered a stylish wide brim hat off Amazon last year. I don't look good in your typical wide brim hat but this one isn't bad and serves to protect my neck and ears from the harsh spring/summer UV a lot better than the traditional cap.


Shoes/Boots - Brooks Caldera 3/Scarpa Boots - After initially only buying big heavy boots because I thought that was the best option for long distance hiking in terms of comfort and weather-proofing, my world was flipped upside down when I converted to trail runners. Lighter, quick drying and more comfortable, I don't think I'd go back to boots unless I was trudging through mud for several days on end. Having waded through several sections of flooded trail on the Bibbulmun, my shoes and feet felt dry not long after, compared to having wet boots for days afterwards if that happened with my Scarpa boots. Gone are the days of sore feet and heavy legs thanks to trail runners. The Scarpa boots were okay but for the extra weight they weren't like walking on clouds and every gram of weight matters when you're taking 20k-30k steps a day.


Socks - Injini Toes Socks - Some people don't like them but I swear by the toe socks as a way of avoiding blisters and keeping your feet happy. I haven't had a blister since wearing them and the initial weird feeling of having each toe wrapped up goes away very quickly so they just feel like any other sock. Small and compact, these replaced my bulky merino socks and I'm much happier for it.


Day Hike Packs - Kathmandu 34L Pack & Osprey Dura 6 - I've had my trusty Kathmandu 34L pack for many years now and it's been a solid workhorse over that time. It can be a bit clumsy to access the main storage area but it does the job and has some weatherproofing features that come in handy. Would I buy another one? Probably not, I'd switch over to Osprey as I think they make some really comfortable packs. Just recently I've added an Osprey Dura 5 into my collection that I'll be using on shorter hikes where I don't need a lot of gear. It is more of a vest than a pack and has enough space for all the essentials plus a few cool pockets that I can use to store my photography equipment for quick access.

Multi-Day Hiking

Bag - Osprey Atmos 65L - This is probably the most important piece of equipment you'll buy for multi-day hiking so make sure you get it right. This is my third big pack after a Mountain Designs pack in the late '00s and a Kathmandu mountaineering pack in 2017 (never again with Kathmandu packs). Osprey have a great system they call anti-gravity and once you get the straps all adjusted for your body, it is almost like wearing nothing at all (I'm exaggerating but they are great packs). I used to get really sore shoulders and a sore back from my other packs no matter how differently I packed things in or adjusted the straps. I thought multi-day hiking was meant to be that way but then I tried on a friends pack after our fifth day of hiking and it was a game changer. Now I can carry upward of 20kg and feel fantastic at the end of long day of hiking.


Tent - Black Wolf Mantis UL2 - Having done the majority of my multi-day hiking on the Bibbulmun Track, a tent is seen as a necessary evil. You won't be using it every night as the shelters are mostly free so it feels like dead weight most of the time. Having said that, I really like my Black Wolf Mantis UL2 and when I do use it, I absolutely love it. It's relatively lightweight for the size, has seen some pretty rough weather and is roomy enough for all 6ft1 of me and my gear (it has slept two adults plus gear when required). It will be getting upgraded to a Nemo Hornet 2P in the near future as it's almost half the weight for about the same size and that means carrying 1kg less on every step.


Sleeping Bag - Sea to Summit Trek III - I'm a cold sleeper so I wanted something with a good comfort rating and the Trek III has a cosy -1C rating. Now it's paired with an insulated sleeping mat, on warmer nights I use it as a quilt so I can stretch out. I've had no issues with this sleeping bag and will continue to use it until it gives up the ghost. It's fairly lightweight being down and squeezes down to a reasonable size. 


Sleeping Mat - Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated - Buying this mat was a saviour of my multi-day hiking enjoyment. Previously I had the uninsulated version and while lightweight, it was basically like sleeping on the ground in terms of warmth. The insulated version is a little heavier and bigger but it's worth every gram and more. Yes, it is noisy like every other lightweight sleeping mat but I can now have super warm and comfortable sleeps out on the trail and I wake up feeling refreshed and full of energy. If you have the money then the Thermorest X-lite is warmer and lighter but at twice the price it really comes down to how much you want to spend.


Pillow - Sea to Summit Aeros Premium - To complete the Sea to Summit sleeping system I have the super comfortable and lightweight Aeros. It packs down to next to nothing and is the next best thing to having your own pillow out on the trail. Highly recommend going the premium version as it adds a bit of softness. Alternatively you can add a S2S pillow case, something I might do this season.

Technology 

20000amh Power Bank - In the modern world of multi-day hiking it's important to have a power bank that can keep up with all your devices. I bought this one off eBay after a recommendation by Michelle from WalkingTwoByTwo and it will last me a week charging my phone, watch, headphones and Bluetooth speaker provided I have my phone on flight mode. I occasionally carry a smaller power bank for emergencies but most of the time it isn't needed. 


Kogan Bluetooth Shower Speaker - Sometimes the best gear is repurposed from its original design to have a better use. I got this for $15 to replace my old Kathmandu portable speaker. The beauty about the shower speaker is that it can be exposed to the elements with no consequence. When I'm on my own for days on end and still want to hear the sounds of nature then this tucks into my hip pocket and lets me listen to music or podcasts without feeling like I'm isolated from everything else.


Wireless Headphones - Sometimes when you're hiking on a busy trail or at camp you need something just for you. I enjoy the freedom of a Bluetooth headphone and the latest range of in-ear headphones means you don't have the annoying connecting band between each piece. 


Samsung S8+ - I've been an Android guy for a while now and my latest phone does a great job of being video camera, movie theatre, music player, navigation tracker and when I have reception, my connection to the world. Most of the time I have it in airplane mode as I'm with Vodafone so don't get reception or just want to switch off from the world. 


Nikon D5300 - I upgraded my camera back in late 2014 and 99% of the photos on the website have been taken with it. It's far from the best camera and is really getting long in the tooth (the autofocus doesn't work, the lens is coming apart and it really needs a professional clean). It's served me well over the years and has copped a fair bit of punishment from being dropped to being carried in the rain a lot so I can recommend Nikon DSLR cameras as pretty tough units. 


Garmin VivoActive 3 - This is a recent purchase and will mean navigation tracking will be taken off my phone to this device. It's handy having the information on your wrist instead of getting your phone out every time and it also tracks my heart rate and steps, something I love as a stats nerd.


PLB - Safety is key out on multi-day hikes so one of these is important (also for day hikes). It doesn't have the spot tracking like the more expensive models but it's a comfort to my family that I have one of these just in case.

Cooking

Kathmandu Titanium Stove - A little lightweight stove that hasn't let me down over the years. It attaches to the gas canisters easily and can generate some decent heat. 


Kathmandu Aluminium Pot - Another trusty piece of equipment that has served me well. It is really only used to boil water but it does that well and is also a good size to use as storage for my cooking gear when not in use.


Sea to Summit Collapsible Bowl and Mug - The space saving design of the Sea to Summit bowl and mug is ingenious and when you are only having dehydrated meals in the bowl and coffee/tea in the mug then you don't need fancy items. 


Plastic Spoon - Lightweight, easy to clean and easy to use. What more do you need?


Coffee - I great addition to my setup has been a GSI Ultralight Java Drip so I can have fresh coffee out on the trail and do away with the wasteful coffee bags that come in individual packaging. Check out my full review here.

Other

Dry Sacks - These come in handy for more than just keeping your gear dry. I use them as packing cells so I'm not spending ages digging around my pack for a particular item. It can be a hassle getting the air out before sealing them but it's a small price to pay for the convenience. 


Hydration - Osprey 3L Bladder - I used to carry water bottles but I find them a bit cumbersome to get in and out of your big pack while you're on the move. The bladder and magnetic mouthpiece makes hydrating a breeze and having up to 3L of weight closer to your back is a much better distribution of the weight. 


Wine - Platypreserve - Comfort and enjoyment is a big part of multi-day hiking for me so to have a good bottle of wine with me on longer trips to enjoy at night with a movie is something I like to have. The Platy-preserver is a lightweight pouch that has a system where you can squeeze out the excess air and thus preserving the wine for longer. It also folds up to a small size when you've finished with your vino for the trip. Genius. 


Entertainment - Puzzle Set or Book - Along with watching movies when the sun goes down, I enjoy carrying a puzzle set and book to give me something to do if it's a short day on the trail. This is particularly important when on solo trips and you need something to engage your brain. If you're travelling with someone or a group then I recommend getting a card game like Exploding Kittens, Unicorns or Sushi Go.


Sleeping Gear - Beanie, Thermals, Heat Holder Socks, Sleeping Bag Liner - Most of these are extras to ensure a warmer sleep on those cold nights so get ditched during the warmer months. I do enjoy the comfort of my Hufflepuff beanie and the Heat Holder socks are like wearing ugg boots in sock form.

So there you go - all my gear and the reasons why I have it. I'm far from an ultralight hiker and have actually gone the other way in terms of thinking. If I'm comfortable and happy out on the trail then there is no need to go gram chasing to the nth degree and ruin a perfectly enjoyable hobby. I'm also of the thinking that constantly upgrading is a very wasteful practice so if it works and isn't causing serious discomfort then use it until it breaks.

All up my pack weight varies from 12kg-20kg (fully loaded with food, water, wine and luxuries) depending on the length of the hike, time of year, water availability and if I'm hiking with others. 

Gear is a very personal thing as what works for you may not work for someone else. Listen to your body, your bank balance and people you trust when it comes to purchases and once you've found what works then enjoy it whenever you can. 

© The Life of Py       E: thelifeofpy@gmail.com

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