Before about this time last year Lesser Places was primarily a hiking blog.
However, since my back injury I have focused more on backcountry activities that allow me to still get outside without putting quite as much wear and tear on my body, primarily fly fishing, hunting, and light canyoneering. This has given me an new perspective on my gear, nearly all of which was purchased with hiking in mind. Some gear has adapted really well to this new diversity of tasks. Others, not so much. This is my completely subjective list of what I have found to be the most versatile gear I own.
(Editor’s Note: To make things easy on you we have also included links to places you can purchase these products. To be clear, Lesser Places no longer participates in affiliate programs and receives no monetary compensation from any of these companies. When companies have provided gear for us to test in the past, it was noted in the text. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.)
ARC’TERYX MIURA 30 PACK
This was my most favorite piece of outdoors gear for a great many years. Big and burly, the Mirua 30 was a pack that begged to be used a shield for pushing through cat’s claw, and was the perfect pair for my deep jaunts through the very-pokey Superstition Wilderness. However, just before my back injury I had decided it was time to retire this pack. My trips had gotten increasingly lighter/faster and such a big heavy bag had proven to be overkill on any type of reasonably manicured trail or open forest.
As a multi-sport pack I have fallen back in love with the Miura. With very secure hip-belt and rigid back plate, it is exceedingly stable while wet wading and carries heavy loads better than any other pack I have owned in the day pack category. Further, the large roll top open and nearly top-to-bottom side zippers provide quick access to all your stuff, which can be really important when you’ve added fishing or hunting gear on top your regular hiking base pack. It is also worth comparing the Muira with the pack I had intended to replace it with, the Patagonia Ascensionist 35. While the Ascensionist remains my everyday bag and go to bag for dedicated hiking, it has far too many snag-worthy straps for fly fishing, poor exterior attachment points for tripods, rod tubes, or waders, and is a little on the delicate side for thorny trails. No doubt the Ascensionst is a good pack, but the Muria is better as an all-rounder.
Where to purchase: Unfortunately this pack has been discontinued for eons. They do still pop up on Ebay occasionally. No, you can’t have mine.
PATAGONIA TECHNICAL SUN GLOVES
Originally given to me for a long summer of field work on the Tibetan Plateau, these gloves have been a constant companion ever since. Yes, they make you look like a goob, but you know what else makes you look like a goob: sunburned hands.
There are lots of sun gloves out on the market, so I wont pretend that these are radically better than any of the alternatives. That being said, I have found the synthetic suede palm section to be far more durable than other gloves I have tried and the polyester/spandex backing still breathes well enough. Unlike a lot of other designs, the Patagonia Technical Sun Gloves extend nearly to to finger tip, which provides excellent protection while still allowing you the fingertip dexterity to tie on a tiny fly.
Where to purchase: All your usual outdoors stores should have these, but you can buy them directly from Patagonia as well.
ARC’TERYX ACRUX FL SHOE
I have written a great deal about the Arc’teryx Acrux FLs, which you can read HERE, HERE, and HERE if you are interested, so at the risk of repeating myself I’ll keep this short. The Acrux Fls are okay camp shoes, good hiking shoes, and the best water shoes I have ever worn.
These shoes are a great example of what this list is about: they aren’t perfect at anything but they do everything well. Yes, they are a little heavy for a dedicated hiking shoe, and yes, they are a little uncomfortable for a camp shoe, and yes, they don’t offer quite enough feel for real scrambles, but as a general purpose, do everything tool you wont find anything better.
Where to purchase: Unfortunately like the Muira 30, these shoes appear to have been discontinued. That being said, they still are around at many outdoors retailers at steeply discounted prices but limited size/color options. Mine have been loved to death.
RAILRIDERS COOL KHAKI
Full disclosure: RailRiders has provided me gear to test and evaluate in the past. Lest that make you think I am biased, let’s get one thing clear right off the bat: these are not my favorite pants. Hell, these are not even my favorite pants that RailRiders makes (that honor goes to the VersaTac Lights, which I love so much that I reworte an entire Dr. Suess book about upon their untimely death). That being said, my beloved VersaTacs take a little too long to dry between wet wades and are heavy. In switching over to the Cool Khakis I gave up quite a bit in durability, but got a radically lighter, more comfortable, faster drying pant in return. The VersaTacs are still my go to pant for when thorns are involved, but if the trail is in good shape the Cool Khakis are great. My only serious complaint is that I wish the back pocket were zippered.
Where to purchase: As with all things RailRiders, your best bet is to purchase directly through their site.
SCHNEES ENCAMPMENT WILD RAG
I was a buff wearer for a very long time. Buffs work well, but for the Arizona summer I found them to be a little too warm. Essentially a large bandanna made of a thin layer of 100% silk, the Encampment Wild Rag breathes excellently and is large enough to be worn in any way you can imagine. Hard to imagine that the buff, whose long claim to fame has been versatility, could be bested by a giant square of silk, but so it goes.
Where to purchase: There are lots of makers of wild rags, but I only have direct experience with the one made by Schnees, which you can buy directly from their site.
TILLEY LMT6 AIRFLO
Another full disclosure: Tilley Endurables has also provided me products to test and evaluate in the past. That being said, I’ve owned a loved Tilley hats since I was 15 years old and I think the LMT6 Airflo is their masterpiece. It takes the brim pattern of the more traditional cotton duck hat, combines that with a more durable and quick drying synthetic material, and tops all that off with a breathable crown. When I need to look presentable, I grab my T4 Cotton Duck Hat, for conditioning hikes I grab my Tilley Hiker’s Hat, but for everything, and I mean everything else, the LMT6 is a constant companion.
Where to purchase: Nearly every outdoor retailer carries Tilley Products. If you are willing to wait for shipping and want to compare all your options, start at the Tilley Endurables site.
PEAK DESIGN CAPTURE CLIP v2
The Peak Design Capture Clip is essentially a device that allows you to quick attach your camera to a strap the same way you would attach it to a tripod head. Because we usually only carry one camera at a time in the backcountry, I don’t have many pictures of the clip in action. That being said, the capture clip is unquestionably the most indispensable tool I have in running this site. In general I try not to stop our backcountry activities so that we can take pictures. Instead I walk in the back of the group and as soon as an image catches my eye I pull out my camera and take the shot in real time. Since walking around with the camera dangling from a neck strap isn’t sustainable over miles and miles of hiking, the type of photography I do would not be possible without the single-button instant access the Capture Clip allows. Even better, my only real complaint about the Capture Clip, it’s width, appears to be resolved in the version 3, which is due to be released soon.
Where to purchase: Peak Design is a small company doing truly innovative stuff. Just buy it from them.
That’s all I’ve got for now. With my back on the mend I look forward to getting back to more hiking specific posts. If any new gear jumps out to me in the meantime, I will update this list.
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Max Wilson is a graduate student studying ecology at Arizona State University. He writes here at Lesser Places, has occasionally written for Backpacker.com, and even more occasionally written for scientific journals. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.