Hikers and backpackers talk a lot about getting away from it all, about simplicity in the style of Henry David Thoreau, about leaving the trappings of civilization far behind. Sounds good in theory, but it’s a fact that our favorite recreational pursuit requires a lot of civilized gear to get us where we want go in the back of beyond.

The cornucopia of gear available for our hiking pleasure makes most of us natural gear heads, the term affectionately applied to those with added exuberance for the many and varied toys, and that insatiable desire for the latest and greatest. We may not need any new stuff, and maybe we can’t even afford it, but no matter, because we’ve just got to have it. Sound about right? I thought so.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m right there with you, suffering along with the very same affliction. Try as I might to limit my indulgence for new gear in preparation for a recent European hike — a two-week, 125-mile trek around Mont Blanc through France, Italy and Switzerland — I came up short in the resolve department. That’s right, despite really having all the gear I needed, I nonetheless ended up with a half-dozen new items in my pack. I should know better than to think otherwise.

That said I’m glad I had the new gear with me, as each and every item performed admirably and provided an extra measure of comfort and convenience along the way. At least that’s what I tell myself anyway. With the hope that you too will find more “must-have” gear, here’s a quick review of the newly acquired and field-tested goods.


My trekking pack doesn’t have a detachable lid to double as a fanny pack for those summit hikes and village walks. Enter the Ultra-Sil Day Pack, a compact and lightweight day pack that doubled as my clothes stuff bag the rest of the time. Made of siliconized nylon, this tiny pack expands to hold twenty liters but weighs only 2.4 ounces. $30, seatosummit.com.


Long treks usually mean blisters for this hiker, but no longer with Injinji Toesocks, a real “hey, why didn’t I think of that” item. Unlike regular liner socks, this unique seamless anti-friction sock wraps each individual toe in soft, sweat-wicking comfort and prevents blisters like nothing I’ve tried before. $15, injinji.com.


I had one of the classic Opinel knives as a youngster but couldn’t appreciate its simple functionality — just a single blade — and finally gave it away. But that was then. Made in France, these compact folding knives are just the thing for slicing up your sausage, cheese and crusty bread for a trail-side lunch. The No. 8 is the perfect size and weight, just a couple ounces. Choose from a variety of wood handles and a carbon or stainless steel blade. From $8, opiknife.com.


OK, I admit it. I take a smart phone — an iPhone 4S — into the backcountry on a regular basis. Mostly I like to use the GPS app to track the trails, but I also use Facebook and Twitter for on-the-spot updates of my hiking adventures. All of this takes a lot of power, however. The Mophie Juice Pack Plus slips right over the iPhone and more than doubles its battery life while functioning as a protective case, just the thing for a long day or weekend on the trail. $100, mophie.com.


The Micro Bites 5-in-1 chow kit includes a spoon, fork, knife, spatula and spreader that snap together. These lightweight (less than one ounce), nonstick, nylon-polymer tools make it easy to eat your granola or pasta and spread the cream cheese or peanut butter. $5, guyotdesigns.com.


When I want my coffee, well, I want my coffee. Good coffee. Dr. Drip individual coffee packets allow you to have a cup of brewed coffee wherever and whenever there’s hot water. Just tear open the packet, expand the cardboard filter, and set it on top of your mug. Pour in the hot water and voila! $9 for a box of 5 filters, drdripcoffee.com.

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is an avid hiker and freelance writer. Comments are welcome at:

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