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Our Favorite Things: WTA Staffers Pick Their Go-To Gear

Posted by Erika Haugen-Goodman at Nov 04, 2016 12:15 PM |
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From well-loved shirts to the latest and greatest in footwear, WTA staff share their favorite hiking gear picks.

If you’re like most WTA staffers, you probably have at least one piece of gear in your hiking arsenal that you just can’t live without. Maybe it’s a hand-me-down jacket, 15-year-old trekking poles that refuse to quit or the latest pack equipped with all the bells and whistles. Whatever the item is, it goes with you on every hike and backpacking trip and you can’t imagine life without it.

Here are a few our favorite things we can't imagine hiking or backpacking without.

Jacob Mandell, youth programs assistant

Favorite piece of gear: MSR Dromedary with hydration kit

Jacob w/ MSR Dromedary
Jacob taking a hydration break while hiking with the WTA youth team. Photo by Andrew Pringle.

I love my MSR Dromedary and hydration kit for its functionality and strength in the field. I’ve found my hydration has drastically improved by having water accessible while I’m hiking. Having the 4-liter water storage capacity in a lightweight, collapsible system is awesome and has proven to be especially useful when I’m leading trips with youth who don’t always remember their water bottles.

Steven Moore, volunteer associate

Favorite piece of gear: Kahtoola Microspikes

In my early hiking days I had my fair share of falls on icy and snowy terrain. While this was embarrassing, the bigger concern was falling and getting injured. Now, whenever I encounter slick hiking conditions, I break out my Microspikes. Not only are these spikes incredibly effective at improving traction—they are small, lightweight, durable and extremely easy to use on any pair of hiking boots.

Krista Dooley, youth programs director

Favorite piece of gear: Kelty Child Carrier Backpack

Krista Dooley with daughter on the PCT
Krista hiking on the PCT with her daughter in the Kelty Pathfinder.

This has been a great backpack for hiking with my daughter. She loves riding in it and can sleep comfortably in it as well. It adjusts easily to fit both my frame and my husband’s frame, without a lot of fuss. The small zip pockets on the waist belt are handy for storing car keys and other small items I might need quick at hand. It also has a nice overhead cover to protect my daughter from the sun and rain. It was handed down to me from my sister, who used it with her two sons, now ages ten and five, so I love to think about the many adventures it’s already enjoyed.

Andrea Martin, youth programs manager

Favorite piece of gear: Sea to Summit Sleeping Bag Liner

I like my sleeping bag liner because it’s light and adds 5–10 degrees of warmth on a cold night. I’m also one of those people who needs something over them to sleep, so when it’s really hot, I can just sleep in my liner on top of my bag. I first got it five years ago when I was leading youth trail crews in Northern California—poison oak country! I wanted to be sure I wouldn’t get the poison oak oils in my sleeping bag, where they might be impossible to remove.

Kindra Ramos, director of communications and outreach

Favorite piece of gear: Black Diamond Headlamp

One of my earliest hiking memories is of a solo night hike at my fifth-grade environmental camp. The counselors took us all out a half mile in the woods and then set us loose one by one to find our way back by ourselves. Everything looked and sounded so different in the dark—that is still true. Now, my sister and I take a night hike together at least once a year, and it still adds a level of adventure you can’t re-create during the day, even in the backcountry. The red night-vision mode on my head lamp lets me enjoy the sights and sounds in the dark without disturbing the wildlife.

Anna Roth, hiking content coordinator

Favorite piece of gear: Platypus SoftBottle

My family has an extensive collection of water receptacles, from bladders to hard-sided bottles of all sizes, so when I started hiking in earnest, I raided their stash. My favorite is my Platypus bladder. It’s been backpacking and hiking with me, seen a couple of Sasquatch! festivals and even been an ice pack once or twice.

Andrew Pringle, outdoor leadership training manager

Favorite piece of gear: KEEN Durand Mid WP Hiking Boots - Men's - Women's

Keen Durand Boots
Youth group members wearing the KEEN Durand boots on a snowshoeing outing. Photo by Andrew Pringle.

I find myself using trail running shoes more and more, but if I need a comfortable waterproof boot for snowshoeing or similar activities, the American-made KEEN Durands are absolutely bombproof, which is why we stock them in WTA’s gear library for youth groups— they get abused by teenagers week after week with little to show for it!

Arlen Bogaards, Northwest regional manager

Favorite piece of gear: Foam sit pad

Arlen and his sit pad
Arlen resting comfortably on his homemade sit pad. Photo by Anna Roth.

My sit pad is just an old piece of closed-cell foam that I cut off of a free pad I acquired, but it’s insulated me from snow, cushioned me from rocks and protected me from water and mud on work parties, backpacking trips and day hikes. It’s also stood in for a sled on long glissades and added comfort when sleeping in less-than-level conditions.

Andrea Imler, advocacy director

Favorite piece of gear: Jetboil Stove with Ruta Locura stove modification kit

I like this combination because it’s the lightest stove setup with the most efficiency. Two people can boil water for three or four meals for at least six days on a small gas canister. For trips that are 9 or 10 days long, I take two full small canisters and that’s it. Not carrying around extra fuel canisters has saved me a lot of extra weight.

Loren Drummond, digital content manager

Favorite piece of gear: Hand-me-down, threadbare wool shirt from my dad

Loren's hand-me-down shirt
Loren's well-loved shirt sporting some new handwarmers thanks to holes that have formed over the years. Photo by Erik Haugen-Goodman.

This shirt used to be my dad’s, and when I snagged it from him, it was already paper thin, full of holes and on the way to the trash. I’ve put a few more holes in it, and stitched them up as well. Because it is so thin and threadbare, it is the exact right weight to hike in. My dad was the one who got me out on trails in the first place, so it’s kind of great to have something of his with me when I play outdoors.

Allie Tripp, annual fund and events manager

Favorite piece of gear: Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack

This was a recent birthday gift from my awesome roommate and it's rapidly become one of my favorite pieces of gear. The waterproofing is stupendous (first tested when I dropped the bag in a creek) and the compression feature makes it extremely helpful for backpacking and even ordinary travel. I don't foresee taking any kind of trip without this bag any time soon.

Erik Haugen-Goodman, communications associate

Favorite piece of gear: Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry Backpack

Erik w/ Scrambler 30 Pack
Erik climbing with his Scrambler 30 pack. Photo by Andrew Bertino.

Nearly every hike or climb I went on this year was either in the rain or snow, so having a truly waterproof pack is essential for me. The Scrambler 30 has far exceeded my expectations in terms of keeping my gear dry and being comfortable enough to take on alpine climbs, day hikes and even bike commuting in Seattle. I haven't been gentle with it either, it's been scraped on rocks, drug through snow and chewed on by my cats. It's survived it all and still keeps my gear dry.

Frances Chiem, advocacy and outreach associate

Favorite piece of gear: Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter

This filter works great and weighs practically nothing. Filtering water is my favorite backpacking-related chore. It makes me feel like a pioneer. This little piece of gear hasn't failed me yet and has been part of some of my favorite back country memories. On a recent trip, I was standing in the middle of the Waptus River, looking up at Mount Davis, while filtering water on an 88 degree day. Refreshing and serene.

Kate Neville, development director

Favorite piece of gear: Prana Halle Women's Pants

After more than 10 years of backpacking in the Pacific Northwest I have a lot of favorites, but my Prana hiking pants are definitely at the top of the list. I always loved these pants but they earned a special place in my heart on my Wonderland Trail adventure a couple of years ago. The first three days of our trip was solid rain and thunderstorms, day and night. Spirits were low when we got to the South Mowich river and found the bridge had washed out. I found myself butt-scooting across a rough log with a full pack, in the rain, the wild river churning below. It was muddy, wet, and a little scary. Not only did these pants protect my legs like a champ, they were the first thing to dry out when it finally did stop raining. I’ve had them for years, I wear them all the time, and they still somehow basically look like new.

Jen Gradisher, Puget Sound field manager

Favorite piece of gear: Stanley Classic Vacuum Mug

This mug keeps my coffee hot for a long time and most importantly, the vacuum seal prevents the contents from spilling out, which is essential for the amount this mug gets thrown around. 

Visit our gear page for more gear related articles and reviews.

This article originally appeared in the Nov+Dec 2016 issue of Washington Trails magazine. Support trails as a member WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.