As many of my US readers will be aware, it’s Members Rewards time at REI. That means that in addition to the release of the annual dividend earlier this month, from March 22 to April 8 they are offering members 20% off a full priced item, plus an extra 20% off an item in the REI Outlet. Use the coupon code MEMPERK2019 at checkout.
In light of the fact that about a third of the emails I receive through the website are gear related, I thought I’d put together a compilation of my favourite backpacking items from the iconic outdoor retailer. I have extensively used all of the gear listed below, with the exception of the recently released Therm-a-rest UberLite and the Ursack Major, both of which I plan to pick up in the near future.
Big Ticket Items over $100
1. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-Lite – Since 2010 I’ve put well over 20,000 miles on the two NeoAirs I’ve owned. I’m due for a new one, but I must say my interest has been piqued by the recently released UberLite. I may go double bubble.
2. Therm-a-Rest NeorAir UberLite – 8.8 oz for a regular sized mat with a 2.0 R-Value. I suspect it will be good down to low/mid 30’sF. Online reviews seem positive so far.
3. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-Therm – I used this 5.7 R-Value mat on my trip to Bolivia/Peru in 2017, where temps were regularly dropping down to -15°C at night. The most comfortable pad I’ve used.
4. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 2400 Backpack – I can’t say enough about the toughness and load carrying ability of this pack. I used it on my traverses of SW Tasmania, the Badlands, Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Range and Bolivia’s Altiplano. If you are looking for a bit more volume, try the Southwest 3400 model.
5. Patagonia R1 Hoodie – This has been a stalwart of my “cold and wet” backpacking kit for almost a decade. I sometimes use it as a base layer in deep winter. Love the athletic fit and the snug balaclava/hood (Note: The Hoodie is currently discounted from $159 to $110).
6. Granite Gear Vapor Trail – The legend has returned for a limited time. I used this pack on my PCT thru hike of 2007, and on many other journeys around the world between 2003 and 2008. Good for carrying loads up to 30 lbs, and considering it retails for $150, it arguably represents the best value of any lightweight backpack on the market.
7. Ursack Major XL – I suspect I’ll be making a lengthy trip to Alaska sometime in the next few years. When I do, I’ll be taking one of these.
8. Brooks Cascadia 13 or 12 – Now in their 13th incarnation. I’ve been using the Cascadias regularly over the past decade. They have made a bit of a comeback in recent times, after the Cascadia #10 was widely panned for its durability. Not the lightest trail runner out there, but they fit my feet perfectly, and I’ve always been a fan of the combo of comfort, stability and grip. I also know that irrespective of the terrain, I can rely on them for 500 to 600 miles.
9. Brooks Caldera 2 or 3 – I’ve only been using the Calderas for the past couple of years but have grown to like them a lot. Same durability as the Cascadias, but 5 oz lighter (per pair), more cushioning, less drop (4mm Vs 10mm) and less grip. If I was to do the PCT or CDT again, these are the shoes I’d go with. For off-trail and/or wet and slippery conditions, I still prefer the Cascadias (or even the La Sportiva Bushidos).
10. La Sportiva Bushido 2 – I picked up a pair of the Bushidos in 2017, when my size in the Cascadias wasn’t available. They feature a stiff mid-sole, grippy tread, and a 6mm heel drop. A few ounces lighter than the Cascadias; similar on the durability front. I’ve got about 400 miles on my current pair and they are still feeling ok.
11. Marmot Helium – A comfortable, accurately rated 15°F bag, that with the REI discount will set you back less than $350. That’s very good value. For more sleeping bag suggestions, see Sleeping Bags and Quilts for Thru-Hiking.
Items Under $100
For those that are interested, here is a list items that cost under $100 that I regularly use from REI:
1. Suunto M-3G Global Pro Compass – Offspring of my beloved Suunto M-2, which is no longer made.
2. Kathoola Microspikes – Ideal traction device for icy trails during winter in the Appalachians, and late spring in the High Sierra.
3. Aquamira – Water treatment of choice for more than a dozen years.
4. Loksaks 20×12 – I’ve been using loksaks since 2007; yet to have any critter issues. Seals tend to go after about five to six weeks of regular use.
5. REI Merino Liner socks – Favourite hiking socks for all but deep winter conditions. Not quite as durable as they used to be.
6. Patagonia Baggies – Comfy, durable, quick drying. Worthy successors to my old Macpac Cross Terrain shorts which are no longer made.
7. Toaks Titanium Siphon Alcohol Stove – I upgraded to the Toaks back in 2016. A lot more efficient than the Pepsi/Tuna can models that I had used in the past. Perfect for treks in developing countries, where denatured alcohol is widely available, but fuel canisters can sometimes be hard to find.
8. Platypus 2 Liter Bottles/Bladders – Reliable, light (1.3oz) and take up very little space when not in use.
Disclosures: I thought about calling this post “An Insider’s Guide to the REI Members Sale.” Ultimately I decided against it, because I didn’t want to run the risk misleading my burgeoning eunuch readership. Speaking of which, only a few more weeks until Game of Thrones Season 8 begins. #teamgreyworm.
On a less interesting note, this post contains some affiliate links, which means ‘The Hiking Life’ receives a small commission if you purchase an item after clicking on one of the links. This comes at no additional cost to the reader, and helps to support the website in its continuing goal to create quality content for backpackers and hikers.