All About the Gear

Our hike this past weekend had me nostalgic for last year's adventure in Banff National Park. I purchased a whole lot of gear when I was planning to embark on my first backpacking trip ever. I knew that having the right equipment was going to make all the difference. It was mid-August and weather in the Canadian Rockies is notorious for changing in an instant. Everything I read said that I shouldn't expect the weather to be the same going up the mountain as it is coming down. So after a good deal of research, I was well-equipped and happy with my choices, but I wanted to wait to post until I determined my favorites. After a year of use, I feel like they've proved themselves:

Black Diamond Distance Trekking Poles (2) 11.7 oz. – I was skeptical when everyone I talked to encouraged me to get trekking poles. It took a little while to catch my stride, but once I did, these were magical. I have notoriously bad knees and we had some serious elevation gain ahead of us. These meant I could not only keep up, but also kept me injury-free.

Salomon X ULTRA GTX® W Trail Shoe – Originally I had brought a pair of trail runners on this trip. I later lost them on the trail when I failed to attach them securely to my pack to dry out. Looking back, it was a great opportunity for an upgrade. These waterproof shoes kept my feet dry and warm. I was glad they took no time to break in. I'm still wearing them a year later.

EMS Women's Velocity 35° Sleeping Bag 1 lb. 14.9 oz. – Given the weight, size, and price-point of this bag, it's pretty hard to beat. We had some chilly nights, just above freezing, so I think 35 degrees is more of a survival rating rather than comfort. Nonetheless, I was quite cozy sleeping in my thermals, Smartwool socks, and Lululemon hat.

Smartwool Next-to-Skin Lightweight Crew Merino Base Layer – I was surprised how much warmth this thin layer could offer. While I only wore my thermals to bed on this trip, I appreciate the two tone fabric and colored stitching. It looks a little more athletic than your average base layer.

Athleta Shasta Pant – This might have been the best purchase I made, as I'm still finding countless uses for them. I lived in these pants. They were comfortable, didn't wrinkle, and dried extraordinarily quickly. But most notably Athleta, with their amazing "give it a workout" return policy, was happy to exchange them for a new pair after the zipper broke only one trip in. My only possible complaint is that I wish the cargo pockets were a little deeper, as that's where I stashed my camera.

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photo by Amanda Dennelly