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My Favourite Hiking Gear – 2023 Edition

My Favourite Hiking Gear – 2023 Edition

While my addiction isn’t as strong as it used to be, I’m a bit of a gear junkie. As an outdoor writer and guidebook author, I pretty much hike for a living, so good gear is important. I also know waaay too much about gear since I spent three years working in an outdoor store and then seven years working at the head office of an outdoor retailer writing about gear.

Every year, I put together a list of the best gear I tried. These are the things that I reached for most often, that were usually in my backpack, and which were on high rotation in my washing machine so I could wear them again. So here are my favourite pieces of gear from 2023.

Hey there: I bought most of the gear in this post with my own money, but some of the products in this post were gifts from brands. I also received lots of other gear that didn’t make the cut so you can be sure that I only share info about products that I really use and love. As well, some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for your support. -Taryn

Mountain Hardwear Dynama Pants

Taryn wearing the Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2 Pants on the alpine trails at Blackcomb
Wearing the Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2 pants while hiking on the Blackcomb alpine trails. You can see the crop length leaves a swath of my sock showing. (I’m also wearing my Ciele GoCap.) Photo: Sierra Searing

I have a love/hate relationship with hiking pants. Over the last few years, it had trended more towards hate and I did a lot of trips in hiking leggings. But this year I found a pair of hiking pants that I loved – the Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2 Pants.

My biggest gripes with hiking pants are that they are usually too hot and they fit poorly. The Dynama Pants solved both of these problems for me.

They are made from a thin and stretchy nylon that breathes well and wicks sweat. So far, the durability on these has been great – I’ve tested them on lots of backpacking trips and on some scrambly hikes with sharp rocks and a bit of butt-scooching. No rips yet!

Mountain Hardwear also nailed on the fit on these: They have a stretchy waist that is comfortable under my backpack hip belt but also doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall down. The Dynama/2 Pants also fit me well in the butt and thighs, which can be a challenge for some brands.

I initially got the Ankle length in the Dynama/2 pants, which are a bit cropped. It’s a flattering silhouette and a bit better for warm weather. But I realized that the open ankles left me exposed to bugs, especially in camp in the evenings, so I picked up the full-length version too.

My only nitpick: The hand pockets fit my phone, but they aren’t particularly secure due to their shape.

These pants are easily my favourite gear piece of 2023.

Specs: Made of 94% nylon, 6% elastane with a DWR finish and a UPF 50 sun protection rating

Check prices: Mountain Hardwear, Altitude Sports, REI, Amazon

Psst! These pants are on my list of the best women’s hiking pants.

Black Diamond Pursuit 15 Backpack

Taryn wears the Black Diamond Pursuit 15 Backpack
Wearing the Black Diamond Pursuit 15 Backpack at Brohm Lake in Squamish. (I’m also wearing my Ciele GoCap and Goodr sunglasses.)

If a hiking backpack and a running vest had a baby, you would get the Black Diamond Pursuit 15 Backpack. I’ve been wearing this pack on all my high-intensity hikes this year, especially on my home trails in Squamish. It’s been up the Stawamus Chief with me a ton of times!

The harness fits like a running vest and wraps around my body so it doesn’t move around as I hike. I’m a bigger woman, so sometimes packs aren’t that comfortable to wear, but I’ve had no issues with this one.

My favourite feature is that it has tons of pockets that I can access without taking the pack off: There are lots of little pockets on the shoulder straps for snacks, lip balm, and other little things. The side pockets are big enough to fit my phone and easy to reach from the front.

It also has a quick-access external pocket for my hydration bladder at the back, which makes it easier to fill up on the trail (using my Katadyn BeFree Filter, which is also on this list!)

At 15L, it’s tight to fit everything I need into it for a long day out where I need lots of layers and food, but I’ve made it work. The stretch pocket on the outside holds a lot! This year, the BD Pursuit 15 has been my most-used day pack.

Specs: 15L capacity, available in men’s and women’s fits and S, M, and L sizes for different torso sizes. Weight: 686g

Check prices: Black Diamond, Altitude Sports, REI, Amazon

Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System 1L

I’ve been using a Platypus GravityWorks water filter for backpacking trips for a long time now. For day hikes I typically carried all the water I would need or brought purification drops. And sometimes I did bring the GravityWorks on day hikes if I was with a group. But all of those options seemed either time-consuming or heavy (or both).

This year I picked up a Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System and I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. This thing is crazy light and easy to use – you just squeeze it. After using it extensively for a full summer, the flow rate through the filter is still pretty fast. I’m impressed. I also love that I can carry an extra litre of dirty water inside the filter bottle, so it ups my total water-carrying capacity for dry stretches.

So far I’m mostly using the BeFree on hikes, and solo backpacking trips. For group backpacking trips, the GravityWorks is still a bit more efficient. But the BeFree is tiny and light enough to carry as a backup filter for groups so I’ve done that too.

Specs: 1L soft flask with hollow fibre filter insert that removes bacteria, cysts, and sediment. Weight: 63g

Check prices: MEC, REI, Amazon

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Goodr OG Sunglasses

Taryn wears Goodr sunglasses while kayaking in Haida Gwaii
Wearing my Goodr OG sunglasses while kayaking in Gwaii Haanas National Park. (I’m also wearing my Ciele GoCap.)

I’m really light sensitive so I wear sunglasses in all kinds of weather. Some people in my life affectionately, (I think?) call me a mole person. Since my sunglasses get used so much, I’m always on the lookout for inexpensive sunglasses that are polarized and good for hiking, but look cute enough for everyday.

This year, I picked up a pair of Goodr OG sunglasses and instantly fell in love. They are designed as affordable running sunglasses so they have a grip-coating to stay put when I sweat – no more sliding down my nose.

All of their sunglasses come with polarized lenses and despite tons of abuse, so far they haven’t scratched up too badly.

They classic Wayfarer frame shape doesn’t look too sporty when I’m off the trail. They come in lots of fun (and tame) colours and styles too (and most of them have ridiculous names). And, at about $40, they are super affordable – I now own three pairs!

Specs: Polymer frames have a non-slip coating. Lenses are polarized with an anti-scratch coating.

Check prices: MEC, REI, Amazon

Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody

Taryn wearing the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody
Wearing the Capilene Cool Daily Hoody for sun protection above the treeline at Semaphore Lakes. (I’m also wearing my Ciele GoCap and Goodr sunglasses.) Photo: Bryony Coombs
Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody in blue
Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody

My favourite piece of hiking gear in 2022 was my Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Sun hoody, so I was shocked to find another sun hoody I liked just as much this year – the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody.

The Capilene Cool Daily isn’t actually designed specifically as a sun hoody (they test out at about 34 UPF instead of the 50+ UPF that a sun hoody should have). But after wearing mine a ton this summer, I think it’s a great sun hoody option.

Compared to my Crater Lake sun hoody, the Capilene Cool Daily Hoody fabric is a bit slicker and doesn’t feel as nice against the skin. But the big advantage of the Capilene Cool fabric is that it seemed a bit less absorbent so it dries faster than the Crater Lake fabric.

And I think that the anti-odor treatment in the Capilene Cool is holding up a bit better than the Crater Lake. But that might not be a fair assessment as I really wore the Crater Lake a ton last year on book research trips so the anti-odor treatment got more of a work-out.

I still wear my Crater Lake Hoody a lot, but on multi-day backpacking trips where I’m worried about my shirt drying overnight, I find myself bringing the Capilene Cool since I think it dries out a little faster.

Specs: Made of recycled polyester with wicking treatment and anti-microbial treatments. Weight: 147g

Check prices: Patagonia, MEC, REI

MEC Zephyr 65L Backpack

Taryn wears the MEC Zephyr 65L backpack on a trip to Mount Assiniboine
Wearing my MEC Zephyr 65L pack on a five-day trip to Mount Assiniboine. (I’m also wearing my Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody, Ciele GoCap and Goodr sunglasses.) Photo: Brenda Remedios

I’ve been using a Gregory Amber 65L backpack for a few years now, and while it’s still a great pack, I wanted to try something new. Enter the Women’s MEC Zephyr 65L Backpack. For a budget-priced backpack, I was really surprised at how much I liked this pack!

It uses a suspended mesh back panel that keeps your back from getting sweaty and is comfortable to carry even with five days of gear. The big pre-curved hip belt was like wearing a hug. It comes in men’s and women’s versions and two different torso sizes for a better fit.

The Zephyr also has big mesh side and back pockets, which I love for storing on-the-go gear. It’s been a while since I a had pack with bottom and side zippers, and I thought I didn’t need them. But with this pack, I found myself using these zippers a lot to make packing and unpacking my bag easier.

Honestly, this pack has pretty much all the fit and features of the Osprey Aura (women’s) or Osprey Atmos (men’s), except it costs $170 less!!! The only key feature it’s missing is an included rain cover, but you can just buy one separately for about $35.

Specs: 65L capacity with a trampoline-style mesh vented back panel. Weight: 1.75 kg

Check prices: MEC

Arc’teryx Cerium Hoody

Taryn wears the Arc'teryx Cerium hoody to stay warm at a backpacking campsite
Wearing my Cerium hoody to stay warm in camp at Semaphore Lakes near Pemberton. (I’m also wearing my Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2 Ankle Pants.) Photo: Bryony Coombs
Arc'teryx Cerium Hoody
Arc’teryx Cerium Hoody

I feel the cold easily. On summer backpacking trips, I bring a fleece or a lightweight puffy jacket to wear at camp. But in the high mountains or in fall weather, that doesn’t cut it. This year I got an Arc’teryx Cerium Hoody and it’s been great.

This is a super-premium jacket: It uses high-end 850 fill-power European goose down that is Responsible Down Standard certified and gossamer thin 15 denier nylon and polyester fabrics with a DWR finish. The down placement is strategically mapped to give you more warmth where you need it most and to swap out for synthetic insulation in places where moisture might build up (like your pits!)

The premium materials in the Cerium make it incredibly warm for its weight. (It weighs just 290g!) It was a life-saver on my September trip to Mount Assiniboine where we had snow, slush, and freezing temps every day.

And it’s so light that I have used it to extend the temperature rating of my summer sleeping bag instead of bringing my warmer three-season bag.

Specs: Made of lightweight 15D fabric with a DWR finish and 850 fill power goose down. Weight: 290g

Check prices: Arc’teryx, MEC, REI

Ciele Athletics GOCap

Taryn poses with a friend on the summit of Diamondhead Peak in Squamish while wearing a Ciele GoCap
Wearing my second Ciele GOCap on the summit of Diamondhead, a subpeak of Nch’kay (Mount Garibaldi). (I’m also wearing my Goodr sunglasses.)
Ciele GoCap in purple
Ciele GoCap

If you’ve run into me on the trails in the last year, there’s almost a 100% chance that I’m wearing a Ciele Athletics GOCap. I got one as a Christmas gift last year and loved it so much that I bought another one this summer to wear when the first one is in the wash.

I’ve tried other running and hiking hats, and nothing is as good as the Ciele (although the Sunday Afternoons Ultra Trail Cap is close).

I always hike in a baseball-style cap for a few reasons: They shade my face from the sun. I sweat a lot, so the wicking interior brim keeps most of the sweat from running into my eyes. The brim of the hat keeps the hood of a rain jacket or sun hoody from flopping into my eyes.

Ciele is a Montreal-based company that started with just one product – the GOCap. These days they make other hats and running clothing, but their original hat is perfection for both running and hiking.

I love the quick-drying fabric because it breathes well and doesn’t absorb sweat. It also provides UPF 40+ sun protection. The brim is soft enough to pack easily, but not so floppy that it gets deformed in your pack or blown around by the wind. The 5-panel style fits my head well. Plus they come in a million different colour combos.

The only downside? For a hat these are a bit pricey.

Specs: Made of lightweight polyester mesh with UPF 40+ sun protection. Weight: 62g.

Check prices: MEC, REI

Mountain Hardwear Minimizer GORE-TEX Paclite Plus Jacket

Taryn wearing the Mountain Hardwear Minimizer Gore-Tex Paclite Plus jacket in France
Enduring two days of pouring rain in the Mountain Hardwear Minimizer Jacket on a bike touring trip in the Dordogne region of France.

For summer hiking and backpacking, finding a waterproof jacket that keeps me dry, fits me, and is light enough to bring on all kinds of adventures is a tough ask. I have a bunch of durable rain jackets in my closet, but they all feel pretty heavy for summer use.

This year I tried the Mountain Hardwear Minimizer GORE-TEX Paclite Plus jacket. It’s shockingly thin and lightweight. When packed into its own pocket, it’s about the size of a grapefruit.

I did a ten-day bike trip in rural France in April and this was the only jacket I brought. It was a bit of a gamble, but it paid off – despite two days of riding in a downpour, it held up fine. After that, I brought it on backpacking trips all summer. It proved itself again on a rainy and slushy five-day September trip to Mount Assiniboine. The GORE-TEX Paclite Plus definitely kept me dry and breathed fairly well.

The only downside to this jacket is that it doesn’t have pit zips, so it doesn’t vent as well as some of my other jackets. But it does have mesh-backed chest and hand pockets which you can leave open to increase breathability.

Specs: Made of ultralight 13-denier waterproof breathable 2-layer GORE-TEX Paclite Plus fabric. Weight: 225g.

Check prices: Mountain Hardwear, Altitude Sports, Amazon

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Stanley Classic Legendary Camp Mug

A Stanley camp mug next to a bowl of homemade ramen
I used my Stanley mug car camping a lot, but I also use it at home almost every day…. as this shot of my mug of tea and some homemade ramen shows.

I got the Stanley Classic Legendary Camp mug for car camping (along with the Stanley Adventure Camp Pro Cookset, which is also great), but I’ve been drinking out of it pretty much every day in my home office too. (It’s too heavy for backpacking – I use the Snow Peak Double-Wall Titanium Mug for that.)

The double-wall stainless steel construction keeps my tea hot for nearly an hour. The handle and the lip at the top are single-wall so they don’t heat up. (No burnt lips!) And in general, the mug is just nice to hold. The press-fit plastic lid is pretty standard, but it does the job. It holds 12 oz (350 ml) which is just the right size.

It’s hard to explain why I love this mug so much – it’s just one of those simple things that does exactly what it’s supposed to do so well that you don’t even think about it. I think part of its charm is that it has great camp vibes, which can be a big moral boost when you’re stuck at home.

Specs: Made of 18/8 stainless steel with a double-wall vacuum insulated design. Dishwasher safe. Holds 12 oz/350 ml. Weight: 318g (but who cares!)

Check prices: Stanley, Altitude Sports, Amazon

Odlo Kinship Performance Wool Base Layers

Taryn wears the Odlo Kinship Performance wool base layer on a hike with a friend in Squamish
Wearing the Odlo Kinship Performance Wool baselayer top during a chilly fall hike with a friend in the Smoke Bluffs in Squamish. (I’m also wearing my Ciele GoCap.)

I love the idea of merino wool especially since it doesn’t stink, but in practice, it often doesn’t work that well for me. I find even the softest merino wool just a tad itchy. And there’s the issue of it wicking sweat (and staying wet) a little longer than polyester and weighing a bit more too. (For more on this topic, read my post – Is Merino Wool Worth it?)

This year I tried Odlo’s Kinship Performance Wool base layers. (Odlo is a Norwegian base layer and outdoor apparel company.) They blended merino wool (52%), with polyester (31%), nylon (15%), and a little bit of elastane for stretch (2%).

So far, it seems like the best of both worlds for me. It doesn’t itch. It’s really stretchy. And despite feeling thin, it’s really warm. It also seems to wick sweat better and dry faster than any other merino wool base layers I’ve tried.

I also really love that Odlo provides a recommended temperature rating for their base layers. They say that the Kinship Performance wool series is good for -10C to 15C if you’re standing still, -15C to 5C if you’re walking, and -20 to 0C if you’re running. In my experience, that seems pretty accurate even though I run really hot when I’m moving and really cold when I’m stopped.

Specs: 52% Virgin Wool (Merino), 31% Polyester, 15% Polyamide, 2% Elastane

Check prices: Odlo, Valhalla Pure Outfiiters, Amazon

Outdoor Vitals Vario Jacket

Taryn wears the Outdoor Vitals Vario Jacket while snow tubing at the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish
I wore the Outdoor Vitals Vario for snowshoeing a lot. But it was also great for snow tubing at the Sea to Sky Gondola since its chilly on the ride down, but you sweat on the walk back up the hill.
Outdoor Vitals Vario jacket
Outdoor Vitals Vario jacket

It can be tough to figure out what to wear in the winter when you’re working up a sweat but it’s cold out. That’s where breathable synthetic insulated jackets come in. Last winter I got the Outdoor Vitals Vario jacket and it really excels in this category.

Outdoor Vitals is a small ultralight gear company from Utah and they put a lot of thought into their gear design. If you’re a gear tech geek like me, you’ll want to pore through the specs on their website since they are using some unusual and interesting fabrics and insulation from Toray. And everything is so lightweight!

But for the layperson, I’ll explain it in plain language. Basically, it uses body-mapped super breathable synthetic insulation with more insulation in areas where you need it and less in places where you get hot. Both the insulation and the fabric have stretch, so it moves with you. And the fabric is soft, not shiny and plasticky, so it doesn’t feel sticky if you do sweat.

It also has a feature I’ve never seen on another insulated jacket – pit vents! It has a mesh panel in the underarms to dump excess heat.

Specs: Made with 20-denier ripstop nylon that is breathable, stretchy, and water resistant. Insulation is stretchy synthetic and is body-mapped. Weight: 269g.

Check prices: Outdoor Vitals

It was hard to narrow down my list of favourites, but I managed! What were your favourite pieces of hiking gear in 2023? Share them in the comments!

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Taryn Eyton