Have a bunch of outdoor gear but want to step up your experience? Well, this shortlist targets the items I would upgrade first in order to have a more comfortable, enjoyable experience in the woods.
Consider a Rain Jacket Upgrade
A good rain jacket can make or break your experience in the backcountry. If your rain jacket cannot keep your core warm and dry in a torrential downpour, then this upgrade is an easy choice to make. My favorite rain jacket is Gore-Tex with an adjustable hood and pit zips, for when it’s a bit too hot. The seams inside have a double seam taped on the inside, ensuring no water finds its way in. I paid about $100 for this jacket. It’s not top of the line, but it does the job I need it to do. Some jackets have high costs, but the key is that Gore-Tex. If you have one of these, make sure you wash it, oils can break down the lamination, making it such a good rain barrier.
Think About a Sleeping Pad Upgrade
When I first started guiding in 2009, I did not even use a sleeping pad. One of my friends thought I was nuts, and I thought I was just tough. Now I laugh at myself. Not only does a sleeping pad insulate you from the ground, a good one can help you sleep through the night. I have gone through phases of sleeping pads. The one I have now is a Thermarest NeoAir, the biggest one that they sell. It is so good that I will sometimes bring it over to someone’s house to sleep on instead of the pull out bed or the couch. I now sleep soundly on even some of the toughest granite slabs. It is about the size of a Nalgene and weighs a pound, give or take. The price tag was about $200.
Upgrade Your Boots
Finding the right pair of boots that work for you can make or break a trip. I know that the key is ankle support for some of my friends; for others, they like something lightweight. I know for my trips into the Boundary Waters, I wanted something that was a high top lace-up that was sturdy but lightweight. The grip is a big deal, too; some shoes can be super slick on some surfaces, others grip super well but may lose some durability. I take different boots for when I go backpacking. My Oboz has been a game-changer for the hiking experience. I think either pair of boots was $100-$200.
Make Upgrading Your Clothing Choice a Priority
I had poly-cotton blends or polyester for years. They are certainly a step up from cotton. My critiques there are that they often retain smell, and quality has been all over the map. The big step up here that you can make is switching to Merino Wool. My shirt, buff, underwear, and socks are all merino wool from various brands that I have loved. They are resistant to odor, get more comfortable over time, and have more consistent quality across brands. Even when wet, they tend to stay warmer. Even in the heat of summer, I have a wool tank top that does the job. These items run anywhere from $20-$75 and are well worth the money.
Final Thoughts on Upgrading Gear
There a ton of items in the outdoor retail world. I drilled down on which things have brought me the biggest improvement in my backcountry comfort. They are a little pricier than I expected when I wrote this, but I wouldn’t change any of those purchases. Got a great suggestion? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!