I see a lot of "gear of the year" and "favorite piece of gear" posts going around Twitter. While I did include many of my favorite pieces of gear in my gift guides for hikers, I hadn't given much thought to choosing a single favorite. Looks like I'm behind the times!
So let's catch up. The first thing that pops to mind is duct tape, and I'm only being half facetious. You can fix anything with that stuff. But I'm not ready to isolate it in the "hiking gear" category -- I also keep a roll of the stuff at home, and another in the car.
My second thought is hiking boots -- but I had to finally throw away my beloved boots last year because I'd ripped big holes in the uppers. (And they stank. I don't mean they smelled bad -- they stank!) I've tested a few replacements since, but haven't yet found anything that I'm completely in love with. I've been hiking in Keen Targhee II Mids for the last few months and they're nice, but the soles are too stiff for me. (Not their fault -- I'm super-biased toward lightweight, flexible footwear.)
I've been wanting to try the Vasque Breeze for a while, but just haven't gotten around to it -- maybe it's time. Meanwhile, if I can't choose duct tape and I haven't found my new favorite boots, there's one other thing I reach for almost every time I hike... my Black Diamond Ion headlamp.
I realize that might seem like a dorky favorite. It's not big, it's not flashy, it's not expensive, and it's not even brand shiny new -- I can't remember when I bought it. (And no, this is NOT a paid endorsement!) Most people never know I have it along (unless you've read through my list of emergency must-haves). It's just a tiny, light headlamp that I often wear like a necklace.
I don't actually use my Ion very much -- mostly I just tote it around. But every time I have used it, it's been like one of those MasterCard commercials: Priceless. From reading in a tent without disturbing my roomie/neighbors to getting me home safe when I really hadn't expected to be out after dark, that dinky little headlamp has gone everywhere with me since I got it. Not bad for a little $20 light.
So, what's your favorite piece of hiking gear from last year?
Photo © Lisa Maloney: My little hiking buddy!