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Why This Active Pass Member Packs a Sponge on Every Hike

These products help keep him safe and comfortable in the white mountains.

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I often hike in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, a range known for its ruggedness and unpredictable weather. My pack contents focus on three gear categories; safety, necessity, and comfort. Some of that gear is seasonal, and some varies by destination, but here are five items that I take on every trip.

Garmin inReach Explore+
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Garmin inReach Explorer+

Every adventurer should have a way to dial in navigation, communication, contact the authorities in case of an emergency. My inReach checks all those boxes and more in a compact, relatively lightweight device I’ve found to be invaluable. Using the Iridium satellite system, I can text or email from nearly anywhere (view of the sky required), receive weather reports, view maps, and have one-button access to emergency response if anything goes sideways.

$450; Buy Now

SOL Emergency Bivy XL
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SOL Emergency Bivy XL

When a dayhiking route extends beyond a point that SAR could reach in 2 to 3 hours, or anywhere above treeline, I plan for protection from the elements on a potential emergency overnight. A two-person bivy, combined with a puffy jacket and other layers, offers enough warmth and protection to keep me or another injured hiker safe until help arrives. Weighing under 6 ounces, this pint-size shelter retains 90 percent of your body heat, is waterproof, windproof, and stands out among dense terrain thanks its blaze-orange exterior.

$23; Buy Now

The North Face ThermoBall Eco Hoodie
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The North Face ThermoBall Eco Hoodie

When my wife and I planned our Appalachian Trail hike, we tried to dream up as many “what-if” scenarios as possible. Several of those included the need to stay warm when wet, and whether it was from rain, a stream-crossing slip, or a water bottle spill, we wanted gear that wouldn’t be compromised. So, when it came to selecting a puffy for daily use, the ThermoBall was a great choice. This synthetic jacket weighs under a pound and offers plenty of warmth in all conditions—including if you get caught in a rainstorm.

$220; Buy Now in men’s and women’s

One Bottle Hydration System
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One Bottle Hydration System

The term “game-changer” is probably overused, but this hydration option fits the bill. I like to sip water as I hike without breaking stride, but I also like knowing how much water I have available and having a reservoir that I can easily fill. The One Bottle Hydration System provides a replacement top/tube/bite-valve combination that fits most wide-mouth bottles, delivering hydration on-the-move from your vessel of choice; it’s also easier to pull from your pack for refilling than a traditional reservoir.

$25; Buy Now

Photo: Courtesy


I packed a sponge once on a whim, and never thought twice about packing it again after that. It’s simple but incredibly useful, superlight and stores anywhere in your pack. I’ve used mine to wipe down dew-covered tent flys, mop up spilled drinks, pad an injured shoulder, and occasionally bathe. It may not be cutting-edge tech, but I haven’t found a lot of other gear this versatile.