I poured over REI’s biggest sale of the year trying to find the best deals on hiking gear I’ve been using for years. There is nothing too technical or niche here, only high-quality products that are versatile, durable and wear-resistant. Everything on this list is great in the field, and most of these pieces work in other areas of life as well. Whether you’re planning a backpacking trip or looking for gear that will make family-friendly hiking easier, you can count on these seven things to work well and last a long time. And they’re all on sale right now.
Black Diamond Distance FLZ trekking poles ($ 105; 25 percent off)
(Photo: Courtesy Black Diamond)
When I started using trekking poles, I was surprised at how much balance and support they provided. They’re fun too; I like the repetition and focus they create when I plant them at every step. The Distance FLZ is light, stowable, easy to use and stiff when you need assistance.
These bars offer a lot of great features. First, they combine the best of both worlds: the stowability and simplicity of foldable models with the length adjustment of telescopic models (I want to lengthen my poles an inch or two as I descend). The three-piece, streamlined design folds up small (13 to 16 inches depending on size) so they’re easy to pack, and there’s really no bulky hardware to get caught on loose clothing. There is a minimal locking mechanism in the upper area, which allows additional adjustability of up to 20 cm, but does not interfere.
I trust the Distance FLZ to help me navigate loose rock, tangled roots, and ever-changing terrain. The technical rubber tips are precise and the flat stopper baskets won’t trip over me when I’m moving quickly. The handles are comfortable and breathable (the handles on the women’s version are slightly shorter) and the wrist straps are easy to pull in and out. The slide locks take a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it takes a few seconds to deploy and once they are engaged they are solid.
Salomon Women’s Quest 4D 3 GTX Hiking Shoes ($ 172; 25 percent off)
(Photo: Courtesy of Salomon)
The Quest is an extraordinary all-round hiking shoe that crosses the line between backpack and day hiking boots. It’s not the lightest shoe, nor is it particularly tough, but it has a great mix of features that make it more than suitable for most trail adventures.
I carried the Quest all year round on routes on which one climbed smooth and muddy serpentines, at maximum summer temperatures as well as in pouring rain and high in the mountains, on scree slopes and over glaciated alpine terrain. It’s out of the box, padded, sturdy, offers great ankle support, and is both breathable and waterproof (often a difficult combination). This is my hiking shoe because I know I can pull off anything. To borrow John Cameron Swayze’s famous Timex slogan: These boots can lick and kick.
Nalgene Sustain 32-ounce wide-mouth water bottle ($ 7; 50 percent off)
(Photo: Courtesy of Nalgene)
The Nalgene wide neck water bottle is iconic for two reasons: It is simple and it works. First developed for laboratory use in 1940, it quickly established itself in the mainstream and has been an integral part of hiking trails for 70 years. Now it is the reusable bottle of choice for almost everyone. It’s leak-proof, odor-proof and almost bulletproof. You’ll lose this plastic bottle before you break it – and if it is broken, Nalgene’s Limited Lifetime Warranty applies. The Sustain is made from Tritan Renew, a next-generation recycled resin that turns landfill plastic into BPA, BPS and phthalate-free bottles (eight single-use plastic bottles are recycled into a Nalgene Sustain).
The user-friendly design hasn’t changed since its inception – it’s a plastic bottle and screw cap – and it’s compatible with many water filtration systems. There is a narrow mouth version, but I prefer the wide mouth bottle because it is more versatile. You can throw ice cubes in and fill them with more than just liquid (maybe last night’s leftover pasta for tomorrow’s hike). Whether it’s covered in stickers from equipment stores across the country or featuring a new national park graphic design, one thing is for sure, you can’t go wrong with a good old reusable water bottle.
Matador NanoDry towel ($ 26; 25 percent off)
(Photo: Courtesy Matador)
I’m a fan of Matador’s super light, super compact NanoDry because it’s a great towel to take with you. For the past five years I’ve taken it to hiking, paddling, camping, the beach and playground, and almost anywhere else such a need might be required. It has taken its fair share of abuse too, but is still essentially in the same condition as it was when I first got it.
This ultra-thin nanofiber cloth is put into a unique silicone cover and attached to the outside of a backpack with the robust snap hook, in which it lives permanently for me. Smaller and lighter than my iPhone, it takes up almost no space or weight; With the case, the entire unit weighs five ounces, but the towel itself is only 2.4 ounces. Its size corresponds to that of a normal bath towel: 47 x 24 inches. Although it has high absorbency, if you take a bath in the middle of the hike, you will likely have to wring the towel out a few times to get completely dry as it is thin. It dries just as quickly as other microfiber towels I’ve used, but it doesn’t seem to pick up odors or debris in the same way that grass or dirt does. If you are looking for the result that you can get by drying your hair and body with a comfortable bath towel, this is not the case. However, if you need a towel that dries adequately and works in a pinch and on the go, the NanoDry will get the job done.
REI Co-op Talusphere Rain Pants ($ 63; 30 percent off)
(Photo: Courtesy REI Co-op)
The Talusphere are versatile rain pants that can withstand everything from heavy rain to thunderstorms in the afternoon. They are also good for everyday off-road use, e.g. B. when you walk the dog in the rain or hang out with your child in the playground. These pants are made from REI’s proprietary breathable 2.5-layer laminate and can be stowed away in their own pocket for easy storage. And while they’re generally not as durable or heavy as triple-layer rain pants, they’ll go well with you in most trail activities. Tightly closed pockets keep essentials dry and the polyester fabric is quiet (read: It doesn’t sound like you’re walking with two garbage bags rubbing against each other).
The talusphere can be opened up to the middle of the calf, so that putting it on over hiking boots is easy enough. Thanks to the generous fit, they can be pulled over one or two existing layers. The elastic waistband and four-way stretch material are comfortable and allow apparent movement. The hem and the fabric flap above the ankle zip keep rain and dirt out. A number of size options allow you to choose the best fit. These include women (XS to XL), women (S to XL), women (S to XL), men’s 32-inch inseam (S to XXL), and men’s 34-inch inseam (S to XXL). The only downside: you don’t have any vents, but if you don’t need anything too technical and don’t plan to cover a ton of miles in bad weather, the Talusphere is a solid choice that will keep you dry.
Arc’teryx Atom LT Insulated Jacket ($ 179; 25 percent off)
(Photo: Courtesy Arc’teryx)
Arc’teryx is known for making high performance, durable products, but often comes with a high performance price tag. That’s why every discount on your equipment is something to be excited about. The Atom LT is a super comfy midlayer (not to mention a must-have piece of hiking gear) that works as an outer layer thanks to the DWR coating that allows rain to hiss off rather than suck in. After four years my Atom LT shows almost no signs of use; The wrist cuffs are just as tight, the color just as black and the zipper works like on the first day. Coreloft synthetic insulation, an alternative to down, keeps you warm, but not too warm. In the Pacific Northwest, where I am based, I can use this jacket for four seasons.
Located in the middle, this Atom LT has a slim fit so you can only fit under a base layer or a light shirt underneath. However, it can be worn well as part of a layer system with an outer shell. The zip pockets include an inside pocket at chest height and two hand warmers. What I like most about this jacket is that it doesn’t feel restrictive. The stretchable, breathable, fleece-lined side panels allow free movement. Whether I’m crawling up loose stones or crouching to tie my son’s shoes for the umpteenth time, this jacket works with me, not against me. The sizes range from XS to XL for women and S to XXL for men. As an added bonus, the jacket is backed by Arc’teryx’s limited lifetime warranty.
Smartwool Performance Hike Light Cushion Crew Socks ($ 17; 25 percent off)
(Photo: Courtesy of Smartwool)
Socks can enhance or enhance your hiking experience. Poor socks cause blisters, sweaty feet, don’t stay in place, and are generally a pain in the buttocks. Good socks do the opposite, wick away moisture, reduce friction, regulate temperature, and generally stay in place. I always recommend investing in two pairs of hiking socks: one to wear and one to replace.
These Smartwool socks hug your feet in all the right places, providing cushioning, compression and ventilation where they’re most needed. They are located at the top of the foot and at the top of the sock’s shaft to help dissipate heat. The Performance Hike socks are made from over 50 percent merino wool and have a slight cushioning along the underside. The net is incorporated in all important areas to increase breathability. Best of all, they don’t move or clump together. The crew version hits roughly mid-calf and is a great choice if you wear hiking boots or want extra environmental protection. These socks are available for both men (S to XL) and women (S to L), but for something lower down the leg, the mid crews (for women and men) all have the same characteristics – they’re simple shorter.
Main photo: Ebony Roberts