I’m always happiest outdoors, and as a travel journalist, most of my time is spent out and about exploring new hiking trails or back at home writing about my adventures. Part of my job involves testing out adventure kit, and over the years, I’ve put hundreds of pieces of outdoor gear through their paces before settling on my tried-and-tested favourites.
I’m definitely not someone who is overly obsessed with pricey equipment, despite writing about it so much. I don’t really mind if I shave off a few extra grams with a super-expensive lightweight kit, and I’ll just as happily go exploring with a cheap backpack from a discount retailer as one of the best hiking backpacks from a big-ticket brands - all that matters to me is that a piece of kit does its job well. I’ll also readily admit to going on short walks or casual camping trips in jeans and Birkenstock sandals (controversial!).
That said, any hiker worth their Gore-Tex jacket knows that serious mountain adventures and long days of trekking require good quality, weatherproof gear that will make you far more comfortable and, in extreme conditions, could even save your life. When I’m hiking or camping, I really rely on hardy outdoor gear that won’t let me down if a storm suddenly rolls in, and years of testing have helped me to perfect exactly what to wear and pack for any conditions.
1. Quality hiking footwear
Best foot forward – warm and dry feet are essential for happy hiking. You’re likely to find a pair that suits your hiking style on T3's best hiking boots guide, and for me and my high arches, it’s Scarpa. I wear Scarpa hiking boots, mountaineering boots and climbing shoes, and they do me proud. I’m now on my second pair of Scarpa Peak boots, which the brand no longer makes – I wish I’d bought ten pairs, as they’re comfortable and waterproof and have seen me through many miles of trails all over the world, from Greenland to Japan.
The Scarpa Mistral (retailer link) is a similar boot, but whichever brand works best for you, I recommend spending as much as you can afford on a well-fitting pair of boots designed with Gore-Tex waterproofing technology and grippy Vibram soles. On hot days or when backpacking abroad, I swap my boots for lightweight Teva Terra F1 Lite sandals, which have good grippy soles you can hike in and are quick-drying if I stop for a wild swim.
2. Lightweight insulation
They say that there’s no such thing as bad weather – only bad clothing. I fell in love with my Jottnar Fenrir (retailer link) down jacket as soon as it landed on my desk - it’s very lightweight and packs down into a small stuff sack that I can pop in my rucksack, but when I put it on, I’m immediately cocooned in warmth. I wear mine over base layers, under my waterproof jacket, and even in my sleeping bag on cold nights. Montane make a more affordable version, the brilliant Anti-Freeze.
3. Comfortable walking trousers
I have a secret hatred of wide, flappy walking trousers, so I always wear close-fitting leggings or trekking tights on the trail, popping waterproofs on top in a shower. Fjallraven’s Abisko (retailer link) is the best of the best for women – it’s stretchy and tough wear-after-wear. You can get away with more affordable options, such as Craghopper’s Kiwi (also a retailer link).
4. Lightweight tent
A good tent makes all the difference on overnight hiking adventures, and my Sierra Designs Meteor Lite 2 (retailer link) lightweight tent has never let me down. It’s one of the best backpacking tents, and I can strap it to my rucksack on my solo treks, which is excellent. It sleeps two comfortably and has roomy porches for stashing hiking boots and a cooking kit. It’s well-made and is a joy to use and sleep in.
5. Sporty hiking backpack
Everything on my list of outdoor essentials ends up squeezing into one place – my trusty Tatonka backpack (retailer link). Inside, I always carry a small first aid kit plus P20, a sunscreen which goes on as a transparent liquid and stays put if you sweat or swim, and Smidge midge repellent, which I’ve found the most effective repellent for those pesky Scottish midges (abroad I’d swap this for a DEET-based repellent from Lifesystems. For more options, check out T3's best hiking backpack guide.
6. Insulated water bottle
It’s important to carry enough water on the trail – I love Nalgene bottles (retailer link), which take a litre of liquid and fit in my backpack’s bottle pockets. Little life hack – fill your Nalgene with hot water from your stove and wrap it in a base layer before camping for a comforting hot water bottle to help you drop off on cold nights. On longer treks, a Lifesaver Liberty bottle lets me filter water from any natural source to stay hydrated.
7. Sturdy head torch
I would never leave my house without my Petzl Tikka (retailer link) head torch in case I'm out later than expected. The head torches are some of the most essential pieces of kit you should always have on you, no matter what time you head out. You should respect the outdoors and never assume the path is entirely unobstructed. Next thing you know, it's dark, and you're still a mile away from the checkpoint. The best head torches don't take up much space but can mean the difference between returning home safely and raining your ankle because you didn't see where you were going.
+1. Way of getting around
As well as carrying a physical map, I record my hikes on the Komoot app on my phone, which has encouraged me to go further and farther and also allows me to find and follow walking routes recommended by other users, a brilliant way to plan my next hiking adventure.
T3 Outdoor Month
T3's Outdoor Month is a 31-day celebration of all things the Great Outdoors. We have the best experts on board to provide active people with tips, tricks and product recommendations to help you enjoy time spent outside the confined walls of your home more.