The 5 Things Backpacker’s Editor-in-Chief Takes on Every Trip

From indestructible socks to mood-boosting snacks, these are what made the cut.

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I’ve been testing gear for more than 20 years, and I’ve seen a lot of things come and go. I’ve seen some classics emerge (hi, JetBoil), and I’ve also wildly underestimated a few things (hello, GoPro and stand-up paddling!). But the five products below are ones that have earned their permanent places in my pack.

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody

This is the most versatile and breathable shell I own, and I’ve packed it on nearly every trip for the past seven years. I live in the arid Rocky Mountain West (read: generally not much rain), and this diminutive-yet-tough softshell sheds wind and light precip like a forcefield. It’s lightish at 7.4 ounces and packs to softball size. It’s summited some gnarly peaks, mountain biked, and rock climbed with me as part of a layering system (it’s primo in 30°F-55°F temps) and has no signs of serious wear, other than some persistent red-dirt stains on my backside. $165; Buy Now

Trader Joe’s Super Sour Scandinavian Swimmers

Trader Joe’s Super Sour Scandinavian Swimmers

When it comes to snacks, I’m a bit of a hummingbird: I take them sweet and often. These gummies are a major pick-me-up anytime, but totally shine as a chaser to a dull energy bar or dessert after a bag of chili mac. Or, if I’m honest, as a side with breakfast. $3; Buy Now

Darn Tough Socks

Darn Tough Sock

Literally any of them: Darn Tough is my go-to for all use cases. I wear the cushioned Hiker Boot Midweight Hiking Sock on most multiday trips and the comparatively thinner Light Hiker Micro Crew for dayhikes and trail runs. As a volunteer firefighter, I use the Westerner Over-the-Calf Lightweight Work Sock. What sets them apart is durability—I haven’t worn through any yet (oldest pair: six years). When I do, they have an unconditional lifetime guarantee. And no matter how many days in a row I wear them, they feel snug. Starting at $23; Buy Now

Benchmade Mini Griptilian

Benchmade Mini Griptilian

Multi-tools are for kitchen drawers and car-camping bins. And, okay, for some more gear-intensive trips with the chance of breaking stuff. But for the trips with a low probability of building a cabin or tightening bolts, I go for Mini Griptillian. I’ve had mine for 15 years, and not only has it retained an edge (I sharpen every year or so), it’s also (still) the smoothest-opening, most secure and balanced pocket knife I’ve used. I’ve cut cord, cheese, salami, and even whittled make-shift tent stakes. At 2.8 ounces, it’s not ultralight, but it’s a great everyday carry. I find the model with the serrated edge more versatile and excellent for cutting cordage. $125; Buy Now

AeroPress Coffee Maker


Long trips? Instant. Everything else? This. It’s basically a single-serve French press, minus the grit and mud. It makes such a good cup, I even use it at home. Put in your grounds, add just-off-the-boil water, stir, steep, and slowly plunge. This great cup of coffee makes a cold, wet morning comfortable—or is a cherry on top of a perfect morning, too. Clean-up isn’t as easy as instant but it’s far better than drip or French press: just remove the filter cap, and press the plunger until the grounds pop into your trash bag in puck form. $35; Buy Now