When it comes to kit management and refinement, I call myself a gear nut. With the amount of traveling I do and time I spend outdoors, it is key to find the best kit that works time and time again. I don’t know how many times I bought sub-par products that didn’t work – forcing me to buy the more expensive product in the end. What I have done with this list is include some of the critical items I take with me for virtually any experience – be it work or pleasure.
Comments: The Leatherman Skeletool is my go-to multi-tool. It is sleek and fits nice in your hand. It is not too big and not full of tools I don’t need. It is stripped down to the basics. If comes with a standard blade, pliers and the basic screwdriver set. You do have to buy the additional ends separate but it does come with philips and flat head attachements. One of my favourite things about it is its weight. It feels solid but not something that weighs you down.
Buy from REI | $99
Description: The sleek new Leatherman Skeletool CX gets you back to basics… very cool basics. The Skeletool CX has only the most necessary of multi-tool features, because sometimes that’s all you need. With a 154CM stainless steel blade, pliers, bit driver, pocket clip and carabiner/bottle opener, you’re set. Lightweight, low volume, perfect size.
This is the perfect base to your kit.
Comments: I stumbled upon these lights in Moab, Utah. I must say that these lights are an amazing bang for your buck. Personally, I own 10 of them and use them to light up objects for astro time-lapses as well as campsites. They give off a nice soft light and light up large areas. They work on 3 AAA batteries and last FOREVER. Left on, they will last a solid 16 hours minimum. A critical part of any kit.
Buy from Manufacturer | $19
Description: Extremely simple and extremely bright, the Black Diamond Moji is a compact camp lantern featuring a durable construction and 100 lumens of power for no-frills illumination.
Bright, light and simple to use, the Moji is a fun, pocket-sized lantern ideal for campsites, vehicles and table-top illumination. A streamlined, single-piece design houses a frosted globe for even distribution of the Moji’s TriplePower LED, which emits 100 lumens at max setting. A dimming switch provides adjustable brightness, and a collapsible double-hook hang loop makes it easy to suspend in a tent, from a branch or strung together with additional units in a strand.
Comments: I found the VSSL Supplies kit through Gear Patrol. Having products that serve many purposes is a great addition, especially when trying to keep your kit slim. What I like about this kit is that it packages many things into one small container that also functions as a flashlight. When you are in a pinch, you never know when you might need a little support. VSSL also has other kits for such things as first aid, shelter and even flasks.
Buy from Manufacturer | $99
Description: Whether you plan to be out for a few days or a few hours, having critical supplies in a compact weather-resistant case is an essential part of preparation. Each VSSL unit is 9″ long by 2″ diameter made from seamless extruded military specification anodized aluminum. These kits include a compass (oil filled), 4 hour pure Canadian beeswax candle, razor blade, 6 Aquatabs® water purification tablets, wire saw (high tensile, 60lb working strength with handle straps), aluminum beadless emergency whistle, waterproof matches, Tinder Quik® fire starters, Fishing Gear, Signalling Mirror, Marine grade rope (250lb breaking strength), Reflective trail markers, P38 military GI Type can opener, First aid suppliesand VSSL priorities of survival and instructions.
Comments: Face it, you come back from a long day hiking in the rain and need to start a fire. All the wood is wet but you need to start a fire to warm yourself up and dry out. Who wants to fight to get a fire started when you can make the process easier? This kit works great to dry out your wood and start a fire.
Buy from MEC | $15
Description: Start a warm blaze with flint-based fire starter and tinder, all stored in a waterproof case. This kit’s waterproof case has an accessory biner and lanyard. It also includes WetFire™ Tinder lighting material (5 packages). The SparkForce™ Fire Starter is a dependable, flint-based starter.
Comments: Okay, don’t laugh at this one. It might weird to include a bivy and no sleeping bag but I can vouch for the importance of having this small, essential piece of kit if you plan to spend any time in the outdoors and want to stay dry and warm. I’ve been stuck in the past and having this with me was the difference between a good and bad experience in the wilderness. Further to this, this is also a great option if you are looking to keep your kit small and rough it a bit as it can act as a replacement for your sleeping bag in some situations. I prefer this over an emergency blanket as it serves dual purposes.
Buy from MEC | $52
Description: Highly water-resistant and breathable with waterproof taped seams, this emergency bivy sack helps you stay dry and warm through unplanned nights out. The material reflect up to 70% of radiated body heat, the hard-wearing fabric resists punctures and tears through heavy use and it is highly water-resistant and windproof. It also comes with a stuff sack.
Comments: There is nothing like a nice drink for those cold winter trips. I received this as a gift from Nasa Koski last year and don’t go anywhere without it. Stanley is a well established business that knows how to build quality products.
Buy from Manufacturer | $25
Description: From camping to celebrating, this retro flask’s slim profile, wide mouth, and rugged exterior make it a perfect accessory for any adventure, party, or night. Engrave it and give as a gift. 18/8 stainless steel won’t rust; naturally BPA-free. Wide mouth for easy filling and pouring. Integrated lanyard – never lose your cap. Leak proof and fully packable.
Comments: When spending anytime outdoors in the winter – especially in Canada, having a few packs of hand warmers are a great addition. I will usually work with a pair of thing gloves and then a pair of heavier mitt style gloves. I then place one hand warmer in each and am then able to work with cold camera gear and not worry about freezing my hands. Another solution if you are taking pictures in the cold for longer periods of time, shooting such things as time-lapses, these are great to wrap around your lens to keep it clear of frost. You will want to make sure to keep them insulated from the wind though. I do this by placing thicker cloth around the outside of the lens / hand warmer combo attached with an elastic.
Buy from Amazon | 10 Pack for $11
Description: To use, simply open a packet; contents are air-activated, providing heat for up to seven hours. Works best in enclosed areas such as pockets or gloves, where oxygen is restricted. Heat packets maintain a temperature of 135 – 156° F, and can be wrapped in cloth if they feel too warm. Made with environmentally safe, nontoxic ingredients: iron, water, cellulose, vermiculite, activated carbon and salt. Not reusable; dispose Grabber hand warmers properly in trash after single use. External use only—heater is nontoxic, but avoid getting contents into mouth or eyes.
Comments: Although these don’t come with me on every trip, trekking poles are a great addition for an hiking adventure. You will be surprised how much they help on longer trips.
Buy from Manufacturer | $99
Description: A versatile four-season pole for skiing, hiking and hauling loads to advanced base camp, the Black Diamond Expedition 3 features dual FlickLocks for a full range of adjustability. This pole fits in your duffle when it’s time to lug your gear to the airport, and the extended foam grip lets you choke up on the pole when you’re booting up a remote couloir. The Expedition 3 comes with both powder baskets and trekking baskets, so you can switch them out to match the season and the trip. 100% aluminum: 18 mm (.71 in) upper, 16 mm (.63 in) mid, and 14 mm (.55 in) lower. 4-season extended foam grip with aggressive hooking point for manipulating bars and buckles. Adjustable 4-season strap for ergonomic comfort with or without gloves. Dual FlickLock adjustability. 100 mm (4 in) Powder Baskets.
Comments: I have went through many small and portable tripods and right now my go to are the MeFoto tripods. With me traveling so much, I wanted a small and compact solution that held up to the elements. I have broken many CX tripods so have settled on the aluminum options even though they are a bit heavier — they just seem to last me a bit longer than the others. One tip when shooting in snow, when setting up the tripod, do not fold out the tripods to the end, keep them closed a bit and then push into the snow. If you spread the legs all the way and then push the tripod into the snow, you will likely break the legs. I have done this with multiple pairs.
Buy from Vistek | $249
Description: The MeFoto Metallic Convertible Travel Tripod Kits from Benro feature an exceptional combination of materials, construction and features – plus a splash of colour! Only 15.4″ when folded yet 67.6″ extended, the Convertible Travel Tripod weighs 3.6 lb and can support up to 17.6 lb. This kit is the combination of an A1351T Transfunctional Travel Tripod with reverse folding Twist Lock Metallic Aluminum Legs and a Q1T Double Action Ballhead. Aluminum alloy is utilized extensively to take advantage of cast, forged and CNC machining techniques, all accentuated by an elegant series of robust surface treatments and a choice of five Metallic colour accents. Seriously stylish compact support for the latest generation of lightweight cameras and compact camera systems.
Comments: I received the Bose Soundlink Mini Speaker from Eric Kessler and after hearing the quality of sound from the speaker from such a small design, I was blown away. I don’t leave the house without this small little gem.
Buy from Manufacturer | $199
Description: Enjoy your music on the go, everywhere you go. The SoundLink® Mini Bluetooth speaker II delivers full, natural sound with dramatically deeper bass than you’d expect from an ultra-compact speaker that fits in the palm of your hand. It connects wirelessly to your smartphone, tablet or otherBluetooth device, so you can listen to your music, videos or games anytime, anywhere. And the built-in speakerphone lets you take calls out loud, too.
Comments: On a recent trip to Canmore, Alberta, I stumbled upon theHydrapak Stash Collapsible Bottles. I first saw Nasa Koski using one on a recent trip but never had the opportunity to try one out. After using this on my last trip, I won’t travel without it because of how it collapses into itself. However, if you are a carbonated water drinker, this solution will not work for you. During this trip, I tried to store carbonated water in it but as it sat in the bottle, it expanded dramatically and lost all carbonation very quickly.
Buy from MEC | $27
Description: Because empty bottles are a waste of space. The Stash is there when you need it, barely there when you don’t. A firm top and bottom keep it upright when it’s full. When it’s empty, the soft TPU body packs down to nearly nothing and provides excellent puncture resistance. Perfect to keep in your gym bag or daypack.
Comments: I got my first Drylite Towel before a trip to the Jackal Hut in Colorado. I wanted a small option to have with me when traveling and staying at AirBnB rentals. I ran into a situation where towels were not available and had to use a T-shirt to dry myself off after a shower. I travel everywhere with this as it can also be used to keep camera equipment dry and protected.
Buy from Manufacturer | $26
Description: The DryLite Towel™ is the perfect travel towel: it’s soft, compact and quick drying. Available with an silver antibacterial treatment that impedes the growth of bacteria and other microbial life without the use of ‘nano’ particles. The result is a towel that doesn’t smell or transmit unwelcome germs. It stays fresher for longer, dries you off then dries itself quickly and packs down small and light.
Comments: I stumbled upon these bags in Moab, Utah. They are AMAZING day packs that, w
hen stored, is the size of your keychain. I have ran into situations where bags were overweight at the airport and I was able to use the day pack to get the luggage underweight. The bag is very light weight so don’t expect to be able to pack your kitchen sink. However, I have carried multiple camera bodies and lenses when I was in a crunch.
Buy from Manufacturer | $33
Description: Great as a summit pack, carrying groceries when on foot or on a bike or as an extra traveling tote. The tiny packed size fits easily onto your key ring, in a jacket pocket or a purse.
Comments: The Pinnacle Soloist is a small compact cookset that works great when you want to keep your kit small.
Buy from MEC | $50
Description: Featuring a versatile, multi-sport design, our PhD® Outdoor Light Pattern Mid Crew includes ReliaWool™ technology for superior durability in high wear areas and the 4 Degree™ elite fit system to keep the sock in place. Now available in mid crew height. They have strategically placed mesh ventilation zones provide ventilation for temperature and moisture management, a flat knit durable toe seam and made of 61% Merino Wool, 36% Nylon and 3% Elastane.
Comments: Headlamps are absolutely critical for any trip, especially in the winter when days are extremely short. There are many solutions and I personally have at least five different solutions. Here is one of my favourite based on light quality and ease of use.
Buy from Manufacturer | $46
Description: Compact headlamp for outdoor activities, with CONSTANT LIGHTING technology for guaranteed constant brightness over time. The TIKKA + headlamp offers 160 lumen brightness in Boost mode. It is ideal for outdoor activities that require rapid movement. Featuring CONSTANT LIGHTING technology to ensure constant brightness over time, and a mixed beam (wide, focused or red for discretion).
Comments: I have used many stoves over the years and one of my favourites is the MSR MicroRocket, which I just purchased on my last trip. It comes its own carrying case and starter. I like this stove because when it is paired with the GSI Soloist, you have a super compact cooking solution.
Buy from Manufacturer | $59
Description: If you’re on a mission to reduce your load to the absolute minimum, this is your rocket. The MicroRocket stove is not just our smallest and lightest, it also delivers the best balance of weight, size, performance and price of any stove in its class. It fits easily inside an MSR® Insulated Mug, weighs a mere 2.6 oz. (73 g) and features outstanding stability. We also engineered the MicroRocket to maintain top-notch efficiency and power so the hard-earned weight savings aren’t lost carrying extra fuel.