Trail Talk


What’s In Your Pack?

There is an expansive array of gear available to make your outdoor experience enjoyable and safe. It’s challenging enough to make your way through all the technical jargon of fabrics, food, gadgets and gear, but then you have a startling array of brand names reaching out for your favor.

Possible outcomes of all these choices can be a closet filled with unused gear and even worse, less happiness experienced while on the trail. So what is a person to do? This page offers some suggestions that could lead to increased happiness with your closet and all the wonders waiting for you outside!

Reviews and Recommendations

Recommending any specific items, brands or models on one web page is futile. When it comes to your ultimate comfort in the outdoors, what is most right for you depends on who you are as an individual, what you are planning to do, and when you are planning to do it. The most important thing to remember is that we are all unique. We all have different bodies, expectations, abilities, budgets, and tolerances for comfort. Keeping in mind that sources providing reviews and recommendations are subjective, conduct a comprehensive research strategy and use a variety of resources to help you narrow down your list of possibilities.

The Internet

The internet has an impressive, sometimes overstimulating amount of information. If you have access to the internet, this can be a good first step in your research. To reduce that overwhelming sensation of information overload, try to limit your research project to an hour at a time and stay focused on your original goal. Companies depend heavily on selling the brands they carry.  Look for a large number of recent user reviews and read through both the good and the bad comments. You might find one person’s delight could be another person’s misery. Make sure your research includes at least a few websites that have user feedback unique to their sites.


With the myriad variations of products and technologies out there, reading product specs in catalogs can be helpful with learning about the many options available. Try to focus on the technology content. This information can guide you through the usability of products, e.g., wool vs. cotton and titanium vs. carbon fiber.

Friends, Groups and Stores

If you are lucky, you will have a local outfitter who has come to know your specific needs and is happy to help you identify your best options. Ask about their return policy or if they have a rental program so you can try before you buy. At a minimum, spend as much time with an item in the store as possible while trying to simulate its intended use.

Don’t forget family, friends, and members of local outdoor activity groups. These are great resources with personal stories and might even be open to lending you some of their favorites. It’s fun to see folks show up to an event with an old pair of boots and a wide grin, and take interest if you see them finish with that same delighted expression. Take note of that gear for future and ask these happy folks about their experiences.


In most cases, selecting a brand is a highly personal and emotional choice so narrowing down a brand might be better after you have a good understanding of the underlying technology and production methods. Some brands do offer superior satisfaction guarantees and differentiating production methods that could be important to you.

Protecting Your GeaBear_Proofr

Once you have your gear, you are going to want to keep it working for you for as long as possible. Be sure to read and follow care recommendations such as washing and conditioning. Dirt can wreak havoc with clothing and footwear. So can other natural instigators such as thorns, rocks, water and bears. Speaking of bears, hang your pack high and away from camp. Use proper storage devices to mask the smell of food. If feasible and safe, strap your boots over your shoulder when crossing a creek that requires walking in water. Keep dry socks in a sealed bag at the top of your backpack. Attach your essentials securely to your person or backpack. Losing a glove, hat or map while on the trail is bad enough but at 10,000 feet, that loss can have serious consequences.

Built to Disappear

The ultimate goal is to not have to think about your clothing, gear and food while on your outing. Clothing should be comfortable and appropriate for the weather. Food should be tasty and easy to prepare. Overnight gear should be reasonably effective for its intended use and be easy to setup, break down and carry. If you made the right choices, more of your time and thoughts can focus on the beauty around you and the happiness within.

Got gear recommendations? Tell us about your favorites!