Shell: Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Jacket
Hopefully the skies will remain bluebird and your shell won’t ever see the light of day, but you still need to pack one. The Plasmic offers full-on protection at paltry weight, and the Dry.Q EVAP treatment on the shell’s inner surface makes it feel soft, not sticky, against bare skin (like when you toss your shell on over a tee shirt during a summer thunderstorm). $140; 10 oz.; mountainhardwear.com
Boots: Asolo Reston/Athena
“The Athenas are ideal for dayhiking,” reports one tester. “But they also provide the underfoot shielding to keep my feet from feeling bludgeoned after two 12-mile days with a 35-pound pack.” $189; 2lbs. 6 oz.; asolo-usa.com
Pack: L.L.Bean Day Trekker 25
This is one of those items that you’ll use so much, you’ll never regret a penny spent on it. We gave this daypack our Editors’ Choice Award because it carries big-day loads with aplomb thanks to a stiffened framesheet, great padding, and innovative (BOA) compression. But it works equally well as a daily communting bag or a carryon for any of your airline travel thanks to its super-smart and convenient packbag layout. $100; 1 lb. 14 oz.; 25 liters; llbean.com
Insulation: The North Face ThermoBall Hoodie
This jacket has logged more days on my back and in my pack over the last 8 months than any other in my quiver—and that’s saying something. It’s the perfect puffy to stash in your daypack for rest stops and lunch breaks because it cranks BTUs, packs tiny, and doesn’t mind errant raindrops.
$220; 10.4 oz.; thenorthface.com
Pants: KUHL Raptr
These convertible pants (legs zip off to create shorts with a 10-inch inseam) look pretty darn cool and way less dorky than any others we’ve found, but they don’t skimp on technical features, material, or performance. $79; 15.5 oz.; kuhl.com
Tee: MontBell Wickron
Our test crew loves this stink-resistant polyester fabric because it’s cottony soft, wicks sweat fast, and holds up against pilling.
$35; 8 oz.; montbell.us.com
Socks: Point 6 Active Medium Cushion Crew
Made from super-soft merino wool, with an impeccable fit and just the right amount of cushion, these will become your go-to socks, just like they have for us. $18; point6.com
Book: 10 Essentials of Outdoor Gear
Learn how to build your own kit with my latest book, The 10 Essentials of Outdoor Gear.
($13; Falcon Press; available on amazon.com)