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The 5 Things Our Skills Editor Takes on Every Backpacking Trip

Here are the products that help Zoe Gates mow down the miles.

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When it comes to backpacking, there’s necessary gear that keeps me alive, and then there’s gear that just makes the experience more fun. I think that fun is what it’s all about anyway—but if you’re cold, tired, or hangry, fun is a lot harder to achieve. These products keep me comfy, clean, and well-fed so I can make the most out of every hike.

Voormi Short Sleeve Merino Tech Tee
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Voormi Short Sleeve Merino Tech Tee

My favorite hiking shirt packs everything I love about wool into one superlight, supercomfy garment. The breathable material moves with me and has a nice stretch, making it my go-to even on sweltering Colorado summer days. The cut is flattering enough to wear off the trail, plus the Merino Tech Tee offers UV protection and fends off stink better than my other hiking shirts. During a year and a half of wearing it my shirt has suffered only one loose thread, but otherwise it looks great, with no pilling. $70; Buy Now

 

Fozzils Snapfold Bowl
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Fozzils Snapfold Bowl

It’s a bowl! It’s a cutting board! But most of all, this handy camp kitchen product is superpackable and virtually weightless. The Snapfold starts flat (perfect for slicing up some summer sausage or serving cheese) and fastens at the corners to go from plate to bowl in an instant. Its lightweight plastic has held up to years of chopping, scraping, and licking the plate clean. It comes in at a little over an ounce, and since it packs flat, I can slide it into the side of my full pack and not have to worry about dead space. $10; Buy Now

Kula Cloth
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Kula Cloth 

The one piece of gear I never thought I needed is the one I can’t live without. This antimicrobial swatch of silver-infused fabric hangs off your pack and is at the ready for cleanup duty after a trailside pee. Let the sun work its magic drying and sanitizing your Kula between uses, then pop it in the washing machine when your trip is over. With a selection of cute patterns and prints, wilderness bathroom breaks have never been so fun. $20; Buy Now

Cocoon Sleeping Bag Hood Pillow
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Cocoon Sleeping Bag Hood Pillow

I used to be a clothes-in-the-stuff-sack kinda girl, until I borrowed a friend’s camping pillow. Now every backcountry sleep feels like I’m bedding down at home thanks to this plush inflatable. The microfiber side is soft against my cheek, and it packs down to the size of a peach. At less than $30 as well, bringing a product that promotes a good night’s sleep is a no-brainer. $29; Buy Now

Trader Joe’s Soft and Juicy Mango
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Trader Joe’s Soft and Juicy Mango

Is it technically gear? No. Is it the most delicious way to fuel up on the trail? Absolutely. Dried fruit helps keep my candy habit in check while offering a little more nutritional value, and this stuff blows craisins out of the water. Sweeter and more tender than regular dried mango, the Trader Joe’s version is easy on the teeth and so addicting, I don’t have to worry when my appetite dwindles at mile 7. If something makes me leave the gummy bears at home, it’s got to be good.  $5.50; Buy Now