Gear

Here’s What Backpacker’s Editors Loved in April 2021

Treat your feet or dip them into a new hobby with this month's editors' picks.

Merlin App

Merlin

Maybe you think that birding is for old people, an activity for retired, khaki-clad nerds. I don’t entirely blame you, because that’s what I used to think, too. But hear me out: Learning to identify the birds you see on your hikes or at your backyard bird feeder is an easy and rewarding way to start engaging with the natural world on a level that’s more than cosmetic, and a blow against the nature-blindness that’s epidemic in America today. The easiest way to do it is with Merlin, a free app developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Feed it a few easy data points—what color was the bird, how big was it, and where and when did you see it— or just snap a photo and it will spit out its best guess as to what it was, complete with pictures, description, and other possible identifications. Will it turn you into the kind of person who has a Double-Rainbow-Guy-level meltdown every time you see a Steller’s jay? That’s up to you. Free; Download Now —Adam Roy, Senior Digital Editor

foot massager

TheraFlow Dual Foot Massager Roller

Hiking season is just beginning, and your feet may not be accustomed to long miles or rough trails. Enter the best gift you can give yourself: a rolling foot massager. Get rid of soreness you didn’t even know you had and ease arch pain caused by plantar fasciitis—no more begging your partner for foot rubs. These knobby wooden rollers help work out any aches in the sole of your foot and under the toes, leaving you ready to hit the trail again tomorrow. $18; Buy Now —Zoe Gates, Senior Skills Editor

Simms Katafront Hoody

I know it’s Spring when the broad-tailed hummingbirds return (what’s up, Adam, wanna bird?). The other key indicator is that I end up packing every layer I own for dayhikes. I live in the foothills of Colorado’s northern Front Range, and in the past week or so, we’ve had a fresh 10 inches of snow, scorching highs in the 70s, Scottish Highlands-like rain, and even a red flag day. That’s how it is, and the Katafront is perfect for nearly all of it. It’s a form-fitting softshell that sheds everything but a downpour and packs just the right insulative oomph, too. Yep, it’s built for fly fishing (the hydrophobic cuffs are brilliant—they stay dry even after being fully submerged), but it’s great for so much more. $130; Buy Now—Editorial Director Shannon Davis

birkenstocks

Birkenstock Arizona Sandal

My Birkenstocks have often been my camp shoes, post-hike car shoes, apres-ski shoes, and on occasion even climbing approach shoes for eight years now, and they’re still going strong. They may not always be the perfect tool for the job, but they will get it done (on one memorable occasion, my climbing shoes forgotten at home, mine even managed 5.8 limestone). They’re comfortable, slide on and off with no fuss at all, and either fit right over my wool socks or let my toes breathe depending on the season. What more can you ask for? $100; Buy Now—Associate Destinations Editor Kristin Smith

hangboard

Metolius Light Rail

One of my goals for this summer is to finally become a competent climber, and the Light Rail has been my finger-strength training weapon of choice throughout the winter and mud season. It’s extremely unobtrusive and easy to set up in your house—I hung mine from a door-mounted pull-up bar, and can easily remove it to bring to the crag for warm-ups—and is a fraction of the price of full hangboards. Although the Light Rail doesn’t have as many edge sizes as a full hangboard, the three that it does offer are ideal for beginner-to-moderate climbers who want to up their finger strength without shelling out a lot of cash. $40; Buy Now—Senior Gear Editor Eli Bernstein