Gear Up

Buy it once. use it a thousand times.

A man walking with a baby on his back in the mountains of Glacier National Park.
An aerial view of Horsehoe Bend with a cloudy sky in the background.
hike in Maroon Bells
maroon bells hikes

Explore Colorado

Where purple mountain majesties were born.

Gear that's got your back

There are things in my gear closet that I’ve had for ages.

My patched-up puffy is a security blanket.

That backpacking stove that’ll light right up in the pouring rain.

The portable noise machine that keeps my daughter (and let’s be honest – me) sound asleep on a windy night.

This is my list of must-haves that just keep on giving. These gear reccos are items I’ve had for years, some so nice I’ve bought them twice as newer models come out.

The Essentials

These are absolute staples. Coveted gear that has literally been around the world and back. Durable. Dependable. And down for mile after mile.

Anywhere. Everywhere. All-Around versatility.

A man using a headlamp with the milky way above

One layer to rule them all

Outdoor Research Astroman Air Sun Hoodie

This sunshirt is a game-changing layer. From the hot savannah of East Africa to the high alpine peaks of Colorado – this bad b*tch is always in my pack.

A fully functional (harness compatible) kangaroo pocket stashes almost anything, while the hood keeps the sun off your back. 

If you want protection from the rays while feeling like you’re wearing an air conditioner, look no further than the Astroman Air Sun Hoodie.

Finally. A headlamp that keeps the environment in mind.

Meet the Petzl TIkka Core

I got tired of constantly swapping batteries out of my headlamp. Then I discovered the Petzl Tikka Core. All the functionality you need (hello red light, late night diaper changes) without tossing batteries in the dump. 

The rechargeable battery pack was a game changer. Not to mention, the Tikka still takes backup AAAs for burly expeditions.

A woman wearing a sunshirt standing with hiking poles on her head in a red rock canyon.
two women climbing in a red rock chimney on Castleton Tower wearing sunshirts

REI Flash 22

REI flash 22 backpack that's small and compact for easy traveling

All-around winner for a budget-friendly pack that fits everywhere from under the airplane seat to in your backpacking bag.

Garmin InReach Mini

An image of a garmin in reach device.

Stay found and stay in touch. Perfect for a family on the go, group trips, or solo outtings.


Crocs are lightweight clog footwear that are helpful for backpacking and camping. This image shows a pair of Crocs shoes.

Lightweight footwear my whole family loves.

Camping Gear You Won't Have to Replace

These camping essentials have been in my gear arsenal for almost a decade. Buy it once. Use it for a lifetime.

MSR Pocket Rocket

An all-time classic in the backpacking stove world. I used to test stoves for Backpacker Magazine and nothing has ever come close to the abilities of the MSR Pocket Rocket. Nope, not even JetBoil.

Fast heat, quick meals, and compact storage make this a must-have for any backcountry camper.

The Camp Kitchen never smelled so good...

GSI Bugaboo Basecamp Cookset

I’ve had this cookset for almost 10 years and Teflon is still in great shape. That’s a tall order considering this set regularly bounces down the dirt. 

An MSR pocket rocket stove on a white background.

Exped MegaMat Duo

With 2 bad shoulders, this is the only ground sleeping pad that won’t have me aching in the morning.

Therm-a-rest Vesper 20

thermarest vesper 20 down sleeping quilt for camping and backpacking

Sleeping quilts feel like a home away from home. 

Grizzly Cooler 40L

A toddler standing in a cooler.

Our cooler is like a passport to our past adventures while refueling us on our current ones. Toddler approved!

Outdoor Gear You (and your Little) Will Love

Getting outside with a toddler is a big task. Having the right gear for the job streamlines even the biggest parenting days.

Camping with a guava lotus travel crib covered with a snoozey shade in the desert under a juniper tree.

Snuggle up and sleep tight

Morrison Outdoor Little Mo

Let’s be honest. Baby sleep is a bit like rocket science. You want to head outdoors knowing your nugget is cozy, warm, and safe. Cue the Little Mo. 

We started off with the Little Mo 40 and a fleecy onesie with footies.

We’ve since graduated to the Big Mo 20.

Both sleeping bags act like fluffy sleep sacks so both you and your young one can snuggle up and snooze confidently.

Rest your weary head.

The Guava Lotus Travel Crib

I hesitated on the price tag, but we’ve gotten more use out of our Guava Lotus Travel Crib than I could ever imagine.

From trips to grandma’s house to remote corners of the Grand Canyon, we’ve gotten mileage out of this packable (fits in an overhead bin) travel crib.

camping with a baby

Portable Sound Machine

A round portable sound machine.

A little white noise lets everyone go to bed without distractions. We’ll admit, we love the sound machine camping just as much as our daughter does.


Yet another purchase I thought I’d regret and have gotten TONS of use out of. Dark shade for napping and let’s the breeze through.

OXO Tot Travel Drying Rack

Bottles and cups galore! This easy-to-pack travel bottle brush makes quick work of cup mountain on the go!

Grab it Used

I’ll level with you – baby gear is pricey! I’ve found quite a few of the above items gently used on places like Facebook Marketplace and Mercari. I particularly like Mercari because it’s far less of a hassle. Just shop and buy – no need for pickup!
Use the code VMMZXV with the link below to get up to $30 off.

I didn't know I wanted that...

This list looks at the unexpected. The seemingly gimmicky stuff that actually delivers an elevated outdoor experience. These are things I don’t leave home without!

The Poncho that Keeps on giving

meet the therm-a-rest honcho ponco

Have you ever wanted a blanket, poncho, and pillow all in one?

Listen, I didn’t think I needed one either until I met the Honcho Poncho. AKA my security blanket!

This was a gift, and it keeps on giving. I take it with me camping, plane trips, and weekend getaways. 

It’s a great layer for some fireside chilling (complete with massively functional pockets) and I love using it as a pillow on the go!

Wee with confidence.

Freshette Pee Funnel

Squat to pee? Say goodbye to exposing your backside with this incredible funnel device. 

I’ve used this thing absolutely everywhere from backcountry camping to dirty public bathrooms. It’s life-changing!

Culo Clean

Culo Clean travel bidet for backpacking.

I like it clean down there and the Culo Clean keeps it fresh. Perfect for number 2’s and camping on your period.

Peak Design Camera Clip

hiking gifts for photographers

If you hike or backpack with a digital camera, the Peak Design Camera clip is a must-have!

Flextail Portable Air Pump

A flextail pump is a tiny motorized pump to pump up air mattresses.

Here at altitude, it helps to have a hand when you’re blowing up an air mattress at 12,000 feet. Compact and lightweight – this is my little splurge when I backpack.

Meg hiking a mountain with a helmet on while wearing a white sweatshirt, black sunglasses, and a backpack.

I'm Meg. And I used to write outdoor gear reviews for a living.

I spent many years writing reviews for outdoor publications. But I grew tired of the latest gimmicks. The more I wrote the more I found myself coming back to the tried and true. These are the true staples of my kit that outlast trends and outperform consistently. Rigorously tested. Loved in the field.