Help me find hiking equipment?
May 12, 2011 12:28 PM   Subscribe

What piece of outdoor equipment am I looking for?

I'm looking for something that I can wear while hiking that will carry everything I need but be as small and unobtrusive as possible. The following are items that I carry and would like to be within easy hand access at all times:


Additionally, I take the following things with me but wouldn't need them immediately at hand:

First-aid kit

I typically use a normal backpack but having to stop constantly to dig through it is getting very irritating. I don't want to wear a fanny pack; I also don't want to have things (especially a camera or cellphone) hanging off of me. It should be entirely secure at Something like a vest seems to make the most sense but it seems extremely hokey to wear any sort of tactical/fishing vest while hiking around - is there a hiking 'lite' alternative?

Any input would be greatly appreciated.
posted by _DB_ to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Photographer's vest?
posted by devbrain at 12:31 PM on May 12, 2011

What about cargo shorts/pants? They fit in with the hiking motif and would have enough pockets to handle everything you want to bring. If you carry too much they might get a bit clunky but otherwise I think it'd work, especially if you carry small-pack/light-weight stuff.
posted by Loto at 12:33 PM on May 12, 2011

Scott eVest
posted by pupdog at 12:33 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

You actually do want a waist pack of some kind. These are more serious options, but the key element there is that all the weight sits on your hips, not on your shoulders or upper back, which can make a big difference over a longer hike.

Alternatively, maybe some clips for your normal backpack, so your cell, camera, knife and water bottle hang accessibly off the shoulder straps? That's been my preferred approach for a while now.
posted by mhoye at 12:43 PM on May 12, 2011

Welcome to the holy grail of hiking gear. 25 years on, doing everything from light day hiking to multi-day winter backpacks and I've yet to find the perfect solution.

For water, for all but winter hiking I've switched to a bladder and I'll never go back. Most modern packs are compatible with bladders. For winter hiking, or if you don't want a bladder, the usual approach would be a Nalgene type bottle inside an OR parka hanging off your hip belt (some hang them off their main pack straps) with a carabiner.

For the other stuff, most of the time when I hike I wear nylon pants/shorts with cargo pockets. I've tried everything under the sun to keep things handy including a backwards fanny pack (facing forward) attached to my body or various straps on my back (always gets in the way of things), small pouches on my waste belt (get in the way and also too small to put things in) and various add-on pockets. In the end I just fit everything into my pants pockets and it seems to work out fine. As long as the waste belt on your pack (if you have one) doesn't get in the way of the pockets everything is handy.

So far the most promising thing I've found, and I've only used it once so the jury is still out, is this pocket. It attaches between your pack straps so it's never really in the way. It's very adjustable so you can put it where you want it. The only issue is you need to undo it when you take your pack off, as you would if you used a sternum strap. You look a little like a commando with it but it does keep everything right where you want it.

Personally, I keep my cellphone in my pack and generally pretend it's not there. It's not something I ever need to use on a hike and if I do need it for some reason I can take my pack off. That's more a personal philosophy thing and there's no reason to get into it here. Any of the techniques I've mentioned will certainly work with a cell phone.

Also, when you're in the middle of the woods, hokey doesn't matter. Comfort and convenience will go a lot further than coolness when it comes to your enjoyment. Not to mention safety.
posted by bondcliff at 12:45 PM on May 12, 2011

I'd take a page from military and law enforcement who need a lot of various things at hand quickly at all times. Since you don't want the standard backpack, you could go with a Tactical utility belt Or, if you'd prefer, a Tactical Utility Sling, so items would be similarly situated on a "belt," but over your shoulder rather than around your waist. I believe the slings could also be fitted with an accompanying small pack (for your jacket) that would normally be too large and/or cumbersome to put on a waist belt.
posted by Debaser626 at 12:47 PM on May 12, 2011

One thing I saw several years ago was a simple mod to put pockets on your backpack straps. This is certainly good enough for cellphone and knife.

The mod involved cutting off a pair of button-close pockets from a dead work shirt and sewing them onto the backpack strap.
posted by plinth at 12:48 PM on May 12, 2011

Nthing mhoye. I love my waist pack.

I've quit wearing backpacks whenever possible on serious SHORT or day hikes. I hate when my back gets all sweaty from wearing a backpack, even the kind that are designed to arch away from your back. And I like having my camera up front - a quick zip and it's in my hands, as opposed to having to twist around to grab something out of my backpack, or worse, having to heave my backpack off and putting it on the ground to open it up.
posted by HeyAllie at 12:56 PM on May 12, 2011

The thing about backpack-type bags is that they are sweaty at the points of contact (shoulders and back), which is not awesome. I'm voting for fanny-type pack, and while I laugh at people who use them on the street, on the trail it's a different story and I save by chuckles for the hiking pole people (kidding).
posted by rhizome at 1:44 PM on May 12, 2011

As a SAR guy, I often carry a lot more gear than you need to carry, but I also have the need to keep a radio and several other items readily available. This is where a radio harness or chest pack comes in really handy.

Why not pair a radio harness, with a compact camelbak, or small daypack? Carry your water and the bulkier stuff you might not need quite as readily accessible in the camelbak, and the stuff you want easily accessible in the radio harness.

Alas, a radio harness is gonna give you that "tactical" look you're trying to avoid...
posted by zen_spider at 1:44 PM on May 12, 2011

A bicycle jersey with three pockets in the back will hold all of that stuff. Get a nice wool one - it'll stay cool when it's hot and in general the wool ones aren't neon billboards for some phone company or other.
posted by gyusan at 1:59 PM on May 12, 2011

Some of the packs designed for adventure racing do what you want.
Here's one that's probably a little over the top, but there are plenty of other options out there.
posted by dolface at 2:34 PM on May 12, 2011

I think you just want like a hydration pack with some pockets. Hip packs get a little uncomfortable after a while, to be honest. I use something like the Ergon packs.

Although my day pack works as well. If I went ultralight, you could use it as a thu hike pack. I like less equipment, that's more flexible, sometimes that means, I'm the one that becomes more flexible.
posted by alex_skazat at 5:15 PM on May 12, 2011

There are CamelBak packs that are little more than a bladder with a tiny bit of storage (mostly outer pockets). Are those too hard-to-access for your purposes?

I have a Mountainsmith Blaze lumbar pack (a.k.a. "big ol' fanny pack") with an optional over-the-shoulders strap. I use it that way most often while walking, but it wouldn't be perfect for active hiking.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:49 AM on May 13, 2011

It sounds like you need a small daypack with pockets on the waistbelt and a hydration bladder pocket. Stick your knife, phone, and camera in the waistbelt pockets (or the camera in a holster on the waistbelt if it won't fit in the pocket), fill your bladder and you are good to go. You can also attach a holster for your cell phone or camera to the chest area of the shoulder strap of your pack.
posted by ssg at 11:22 AM on May 13, 2011

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