As creator of an award-winning Best Day Hikes series of guidebooks, I’ve had ample opportunity to use, abuse and review a wide range of gear while conducting trail research. After several thousand trail-miles, many done in day-long bites, I’ve identified the components of the Perfect Day Hiking Kit. Here are some of the most current models of gear to fit that kit.
The Osprey Talon 33 ($130) has earned its place as my ‘go-to’ daypack after wearing literally hundreds of daypacks and rucksacks over the last 25 years. The Talon 33 offers great compression of the pack bag to keep loads of all sizes secure and in place while the pack’s harness proved adept at keeping the pack stable even during the most aerobic off-trail scrabbling. Exterior pockets are limited to a roomy lid, a deep but snug stuff-it panel and two tight side pockets, as well as a couple small zippered pockets on the hipbelt. As a result, the packbag is slim and sleek with nothing to catch on branches or rocks when exploring off-trail.
To stay hydrated, I slide a Camelbak 100-oz Antidote Reservoir ($35) into my pack. The Antidote’s quick-release fitting means I can leave the drink tube threaded through my pack’s sleeve and harness loops while still pulling the reservoir completely free of the pack to refill or clean. The Antidote’s internal baffle also prevents the reservoir from ‘sausaging’— it stays relatively flat for a more comfortable, stable ride in the pack. The 100 oz volume ensures I have plenty of water for a day on the trail.
I’ve found the MSR Talus TR-3 Trekking poles ($160) ideal for maintaining balance and secure footing in rough scrambling. The three-section poles adjust easily as you hike—just pull-up on a ‘trigger’ to release the lower sections and allow them to slide out to the desire length and release the trigger. The sections lock securely together, and offer good support, even to heavier hikers (or hikers with heavy packs).
For all but the most hardcore off-trail day adventures, I turn to low or maybe mid-height boots and a current favorite is the Vasque Breeze 2.0 Low ($150). These trail shoes feature a fairly stiff midsole for great support in rough terrain, with a waterproof-breathable liner to keep moisture out during wet spring and fall outings, or when rock-hopping on stream crossings. The heavy toe rand and nubuck leather uppers resist wear, ensuring the boots last more than one season of heavy use.