We just got back from a hiking trip of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Killarney Provincial Park and once again, we’ve refined our backpacking and hiking gear a bit more. Of course, this time, we had a bit more weight to carry, in the form of one mini-dachshund who hiked a decent bit of terrain but over 3 days and 80 kilometers, spent most of his time here:
I’m relatively new to backcountry camping and hiking, so I’m still 100% refining what I bring with me. Thankfully, we had Sara Quackenbush come on the podcast recently to talk about hiking with us (ahem, ‘packing your fears’) and thanks to that episode, I am SO proud to report that at least as far as clothing was concerned, I wore every piece that I packed, with the exception of a single tank top.
We’re still pretty green, but we are learning every time, and trying to find the balance between buying all the camping/hiking-specific gear versus picking the bits and pieces that we need but sticking with generically ‘athletic’ gear where we can, since we don’t camp enough to need to have a full set of hike/camp-only stuff.
Here’s what I wrote the last time we did this hike:
This time around, we made a few upgrades and swaps, and I wanted to write about the ones that really were worth it.
A better tent
We debated for a long time about what kind of tent to get, because we had so many things we wanted to do with it. We wanted to do backcountry hikes, but also car camping with it, because we didn’t want to own a billion tents. It needed to have enough space for us and DW to be comfortable. It needed to be light enough to hike but relatively bombproof. And, of course, price was a factor. Tents can easily run into the 600+ range!! We ended up with the Mountain Hardwear Shifter 3 and we really got to test it out in rainy conditions … which, on night 1 is always a little scary. But it seriously held up.
We invested in a camp stove, finally, and we got the idiot-proof one that has a wind screen and is made for bigger pots. Is it the lightest and sleekest? Absolutely not. But… it works all the time, every time. And we can actually heat enough water for 2 people to have coffee at once, or eat oats or dinner at the same time. I like a smaller stove for singular campers, but the bigger pot just makes things so much easier. Really though, any camp stove is an improvement compared to what we had last time we did this hike, which was no camp stove.
Lighter sleeping bag
Like the tent, we could have gone even lighter and more hiker-friendly here, but we weren’t willing to shell out the serious bucks for a small sleeping bag to replace the one crappy one we had. We really wanted one that could handle 99% of the hikes and trips that we do, so finding one that was reasonably light, cheap, hardy, and could handle most weather was tough. We settled on this one from Big Agnes, which worked out super well, thought I’m not a huge fan of the built-in sleeping pad pocket, since we don’t have the matching pad. I should say we don’t have it yet, because my sleeping pad died on this trip so I might just opt to replace it with the right one for the bag!
Last time we did La Cloche, some may recall my mosquito situation… and how I learned that those little vampires could bite through leggings. My new favorite thing? These Northface Aphrodite hiking pants. I admit, I don’t think I would have enjoyed actually hiking in them had the bugs been terrible, but I would have if I needed to. (That’s not a slam on the pants, it’s just that I really prefer shorts or tights for the style of hiking we do.) These were so nice to pull on at the camp site, though, and made the few bugs that were out less of an issue, dried fast after getting rained on, and kept me comfortable temperature-wise. They’re way lighter than any other pants I would have brought other than tights, but much more camping/hiking friendly. Highly recommend.
Extraneous stuff we didn’t really need
I would say that out of everything we bought, the only extraneous spend was camp meals, since we could have built dinners with real food on the cheap at home. That said… It was really nice to have super quick and easy meals, especially with DW to contend with at the campsite. He was great, but definitely required handling, so to not be stressing about putting real meals together was nice.
My money savers for camp food:
- Our moneysaving hack dinner-wise, for the hungry people like us: Get cheap pre-cooked rice packages at the grocery store and dump them in with your meal-in-a-bag. It adds a ton of calories and carbs without doubling the cost of the meal!
- Breakfast was SO GOOD: Quick oats, vanilla whey protein, walnuts, raisins, a bit of brown sugar and shredded coconut made for SUCH great mornings, and super cheap per serving!
- Make your own trail mix: A little duh, but I’m always amazed at the quality of trail mix when I buy pre-mixed vs make it, and you can really tailor it to fit your needs better. Plus, you can make single serve bags!
- Gummy bears vs gels/bars: I used candy corn before and prefer that, TBH, but gummy bears were a good sub in now that candy corn is out of season. Easy to eat, and I find that having a bag of them in one hip holster and trail mix in the other equals a steady stream of calories in all day, rather than waiting for lunch stops.
- High/low on bars: For a lunch on the go on this hike, I did an Epic bar and a Snickers bar. I wouldn’t recommend this for daily life, but the Epic bars are solid quality and provide actual real food + protein, but they’re expensive. Snickers, on the other hand, provided the bonus calories needed for 8+ hours of hard hiking and are super cheap.
Love packing lists? You can also check out this one for cold weather: