When I have to carry everything I need to survive on my back, I make sure what I carry is the best.
The gear I use is only stuff I believe works, stuff I would use anyway even if I had to pay full price and wait several months for it to be assembled, and stuff that I believe is made by good people.
Many thanks to the following sponsors (or partners/ambassadorships), past and present, for making my adventures possible. I know my gear more intimately than most of my other physical possessions and working with these fine companies has been a source of pride for me.
Mountain Laurel Designs: packs, shelters, gaiters, gloves
I started using MLD gear on my first AT hike and have used MLD stuff on every thru-hike since. MLD makes gear that is ultralite, but works even better (and is easier to set up!) than its heavier counterparts. MLD is a cottage industry based in Virginia and I like knowing my gear is made by a person in the U.S.–and a person who realizes the form and function of gear–that it has to survive 2,500 miles without failing me in the woods days from a trailhead. MLD gear is durable, functional, sleek, and well-made. They do customizable gear (pretty helpful given that, as a woman, I don’t necessarily fit into the same gear as ultralite gear’s usual market). MLD is always on the cutting edge of ultralite gear and it is a treat to take MLD gear stuff out on the trail and watch other hikers drool!
Sawyer: water filters
Few pieces of gear come along that revolutionize the hiking experience, and Sawyer filters are on the top of that list. This 1.8 oz filter weighs less than its chemical water treatment counterparts. It requires no pumping, no waiting for water to be good enough to drink, and it lasts for 1 million gallons. There is no hunting for obscure filter cartridges while in a small town of 90 people–you backwash your filter with a sink to clean it and its good to go. I believe this filter will change the face of backpacking.
One of the reasons why I have been so successful at beating records and achieving my goals is because I am freakishly good at avoiding injury (which means I can keep going and going when others need to stop). My one “weakness” is a mild case of plantar fasciitis, usually associated with long periods of being on one’s feet (unsurprising, given that I’m hiking for 15 hours for months on end). The pain got so bad that I would sometimes walk barefoot (sometimes on pine needles!), just to alleviate the pain. It took me abut 4,000 miles of hiking until I discovered SOLE and within days, I could walk again, pain free and feeling brand new. My whole foot was continuously supported and I could bust out miles even better than when I first started that thru-hike.
Vermont Darn Tough: socks
As a long distance hiker, my most important body part is my feet. The first time I hiked the AT, I had one pair of socks which I wore every day. Putting those wet socks on in the morning over chaffed toes was the worst part of my day. Now, putting on a clean pair of socks each morning (or in the middle of a long day) is the best part of my day. I like to have at least 3 pairs of Vermont Darn Tough mesh socks in my pack–they weigh in at less than 1 oz per pair so I don’t feel guilty bringing a couple extra. Plus, because they are mesh, they dry quickly when wet and also don’t weigh my feet down. They are among the lightest socks available and are made in the U.S., which is a huge plus.
As an ultralight backpacker, every ounce I carry gets moved thousands of miles each season, which starts adding up. Headsweats makes the lightest hats on the market with great coverage of the parts of my body that are exposed to the sun day in, day out. Before, I had always found hats hard to wear, but the mesh fabric on my Headsweats had enough ventilation that I usually didn’t notice, which was nice walking through treeless high deserts in Colorado. On uphills and on hot days, the built-in sweat band captured beads of sweat before they hit my eyes and dropped my focus—a major plus on the infamous up-and-downs of the humid Long Trail. Headsweats neatly integrated into my backpacking system and stood up to tests of heat, cold, humidity, and dryness in all sorts of climates.
Alpine Air Foods: freeze dried hiking fuel
Over thousands of miles, Alpine Aire has helped me push harder at the end of the day because I’m so excited to get into camp and cook up some tasty Texas Style BBQ Chicken or Chicken Teriyaki. Alpine Aire cooks super fast—usually everything is ready to gobble up by the time I’ve got camp set up—and comes in exciting flavors (which, believe me, after eating the same type of food for four months, exotic tastes like Hurry Curry can be a mindblowing experience). The best past is that the ingredients are wholesome. My body burns “real food” calories a lot more efficiently than junk food calories (PopTarts—that’s you). Alpine Aire is made with real ingredients that mean real energy.
I have also worked with non-profits including the American Hiking Society Team:
In school, I studied how the long distance trails I loved were built–and it wasn’t easy! American Hiking Society advances policies that build trails and get people outdoors and walking. I’m enormously proud to be working with one of hiking’s best advocates. I’ve worked with American Hiking Society as a hiking ambassador for the 2010 Outdoor Nation Youth Summit in New York City. Together, we produced the Special Report on America’s Great Outdoors for President Obama.