There’s not much I love as much as getting out in nature and being active, and, although the last (*counts on fingers*) 20 months or so have been incredibly difficult, one silver lining is the fact that the pandemic did lead to many of us spending more time outdoors than ever before.
From weekend kayaking trips to epic mountain treks, I’ve been taking full advantage of all the fresh air Ma Nature has to offer — and with an Arizona camper van adventure planned for December, I have no intent of stopping. But, as I talk to friends about these exciting outings, I’ve realized that we don’t only trade tips and tricks for where to go and what to do — we also talk a lot out all of our gear. What did we wear? What did we use? What would we buy again and again?
And so, I figured that it’s time for a little product round-up full of my favorite active, outdoorsy gear and goodies. Keep in mind, this is not an all-encompassing packing list (although, if you’re planning to go backpacking and are looking for a list, I find She Dreams of Alpine to be an amazing resource). These are things I’ve used and loved for different types of adventures (both day and overnight, kayaking and hiking) that could help round out your supply.
IBEX Women’s Merino Tencel Pocket Short Sleeve Tee ($85)
Fun fact, in case you didn’t know: Merino wool is naturally antimicrobial (making it naturally odor resistant), which is part why you’ll see it used so often in hiking clothes that may be worn for several days on end. I put this silky soft shirt to the test over a few surprisingly steamy days in Colorado last summer, and I can attest that it works. Y’all might remember that I sweat a lot, but every time this shirt dried out, it looked (and smelled) like I hadn’t even worn it.
Salt Life Long Sleeve Performance Fishing Shirt ($64)
Okay, full disclosure — I have not worn this shirt fishing. Mostly, because I don’t really fish. Instead, I layered it over the aforementioned Ibex tee for a little extra sun protection for an epic hike from Crested Butte to Aspen via Maroon Bells, and, since the trail offered little protection from the elements, I was really glad to be able to roll the long sleeves down and cover up my arms when the sun came out. Plus, let’s be real — the color is gorgeous and it looks cute! I also appreciate the fact that it takes up very little room when packed, so it’s an easy option to have on hand, even if you don’t want to put it on right away.
Title Nine Clamberista Pants and Shorts ($89)
Granted, I was already a Title Nine fan based on some of their other clothes, not to mention the fact that it’s a women-owned company that goes out of its way to support other women. But even if I hadn’t been, these pants would’ve turned me into one. They’re abrasion-resistant with just enough stretch, easy to cinch at the ankle when you want to shorten them or wear them like a jogger, and, best of all, there are so many well-placed pockets! They come as shorts, too, which are perfect for a mid-summer kayak or SUP outing.
Branwyn Essential Bikini ($34)
Remember what I said about Merino wool? Branwyn uses it to make performance innerwear that, in their words, will keep you “swamp-ass free and funk-free throughout your entire day no matter your adventure.” Add to that the fact that this bikini-style undie is quick drying, has a non-digging waistband, and offers the perfect amount of stretch, and you can trust me when I say you won’t only want to wear these on big adventures!
injinji Women’s Liner + Crew ($29)
And, whaddaya know, it’s more Merino! And before you ask why I think a pair of socks is worth $29, hear me out. I wore this two-piece liner and sock system for the Aspen hike I mentioned above, paired with newer-than-advisable hiking boots, and ended the very long, very full day with zero blisters. A couple of days later, I wore the same boots on a shorter, far less intense hike with other nice wool socks and ended up with blisters the size of a half dollar on both feet. It was awful. If you’ve hiked ever, like, at all, you know your feet are the most important thing to keep comfy. Considering you can wear these a few days if needed before washing, well, suddenly getting a pair for under $30 seems like a heck of a deal, yeah?
HOKA Women’s Kaha Gore-Tex ($220)
Looking for a sturdy, supportive hiking boot that’ll keep your feet comfy and dry? Here you go. These offer a lot of cushion without being overly heavy, and the Vibram Megagrip traction is seriously grippy — which is so important for folks like me who aren’t terribly sure-footed on technical terrain. I splashed through a few rivers and never had an issue with my feet getting wet, and the lacing system makes it easy to adjust for comfort. I will say that these are the boots that I ended up blistering in with my lower-quality socks, but I’ll also admit they weren’t anywhere near as broken in as they should’ve been before I took them out, so they’re still 100 percent in my rotation.
Forsake Patch Mid Women’s Waterproof Hiking Boot ($160)
Maybe you’re in the market for a hiker that doesn’t look out of place with your street clothes, and trust me, I get it. Packing too many shoes for a trip is a pain! Forsake was a new brand to me, but I was intrigued by their Peak-to-Pavement philosophy that combines all-weather protection with versatile styling — and the fact that they’re officially climate neutral was just about enough to seal the deal. But really, it was wearing them for a nonstop weekend in New England, exploring trails and small coastal towns, that lit my fire. They were comfortable, had great traction, and looked perfect with leggings, jeans, and hiking pants. (Hey, it matters!)
Mammut Albula HS Hooded Jacket ($119)
I know I said that keeping your feet comfortable is priority numero uno — and that’s true! — but if the rest of your body is wet and cold, you might not care how cozy your tootsies are, which makes having a rain jacket a must. This sustainably-made (100-percent recycled polyester!) hooded jacket is super lightweight, packs up small, and comes in a few fun, bright colors. While it came in handy when Colorado decided to drop a monsoon on us, it was also amazing all summer here in Florida for our daily afternoon thunderstorms.
Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded Down Jacket ($250)
Nearly every hiking checklist I’ve found recommends a puffer or hoodie, and I honestly don’t know that you could find a better option than this. Available in a bunch of excellent colors, the Fuego is lightweight, water-resistant (as I learned when I got caught in a nor’easter in southern Maine), made with responsibly sourced down, and packs away into its own pocket. (Bonus: there are LOADS of great pockets for all your stuff!) The streamlined fit is topped off with a scuba hood, elastic binding, an adjustable drawcord at the hem. It’s my new go-to travel jacket, because, look, this Floridian does not care to be cold. Besides, I’m a big fan of Cotopaxi’s Gear for Good mission, so the more of their gear I can incorporate into my life, the better.
If you think tent camping is uncomfortable, you might just need the right sleeping pad. At least, that was the lesson I learned after using the Quasar 3D Sleeping Pad. I was fine with the regular, non-insulated version, but you can get wider, longer, and insulated versions as well to suit your needs. It comes with its own easy-to-use pump sack for inflation, and while it’s incredibly lightweight and great for backpacking, you could really use it anywhere you need a comfy bed on the go. I’ve slept in actual beds that are less comfy! So, if the cold, hard ground is holding you back from camping, this will be a total gamechanger.
Good To-Go meals ($14.25)
Raise your hand if you’ve ever set out on an outdoor adventure with grand plans of making an amazing camp meal, only to wind up tired, cranky, and snacking on yet another bar of some sort because you can’t bring yourself to do all the work needed for a great dinner. Yep, same. So, the fact that Good To-Go has a whole huge variety (risotto, bibimbap, chili, pad Thai, pho, the list goes on and on) of delicious meals that need nothing more than hot water? AWESOME. There are vegan options, gluten-free meals, and more — and they’re all hand-made in Maine.
Forclaz Trek 100 Easyfit 60L Hiking Backpack ($119)
You don’t need to be a backpacking expert to tell when your pack does — or does not — fit, and fortunately, this pack isn’t just specifically designed to fit women’s bodies, but it’s also designed to make adjustments incredibly simple. Seriously — it literally has illustrations to remind you what to adjust, in what order, for the ideal fit. I carried this with around 30 pounds on the Aspen trek, and although, naturally, walking over mountains with an additional 30 pounds wasn’t a piece of cake, the pack itself was never uncomfortable. Plus, the flaps and zippers made my gear easy to access.
Cotopaxi Tarak Del Día ($105)
A lesson I’ve learned is that, if your pack has the space, you’ll probably use it. And that means you’re far better off sticking to a smaller pack for shorter day hikes; that way, you’ll bring your essentials, but nothing more. This 20L pack has an internal hydration sleeve, configurable compression and lash points, comfortable straps, and a streamlined ice tool carry system, if you’re into that. Personally, I’m more into the fact that each one is made with high-quality fabric left over from other companies’ larger production runs, making each one a colorful, one-of-a-kind offering. (Told you I dug Cotopaxi!)
Parks Project Glow in the Dark Water Bottle ($20)
Here in Florida, I’m a big fan of the insulated water bottle — otherwise, your water is likely to get pretty hot, pretty fast. However, I’m learning that, on these longer hikes, every ounce truly does matter, and tepid water is a small price to pay if you can shave off a bit of weight. (Yes, I know most of the world has realized this for ages. I’m just a little slow to come around. I really like cold water, okay?) This nifty Nalgene wide mouth bottle isn’t only lightweight, but it’s also glow-in-the-dark, which comes in awfully handy when you’re sharing a tent, need a drink in the middle of the night, and don’t want to wake anyone up by using a flashlight to find your water. Besides, proceeds benefit the Open for Outdoors Kids Program led by the National Parks Foundation. Who can beat that? (I also have a cool little camp mug from Parks Project, similar to this one, that made my morning coffee just a little more enjoyable.)
Next on my outdoor adventure wish list: some trekking poles, a lightweight tripod for taking pictures, and a way to overcome my fear of heights so I can more fully enjoy some of those amazing views. Got tips? I’m here for them! —Kristen