THE BEST AND WORST BACKPACKING GEAR OF 2021

As the year comes to an end I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on the backpacking gear that I both loved and regretted buying during 2021. I was looking back on my first backpacking trip in 2016 and my gear choices have completely changed since those days. Nowadays I'm more of a lightweight backpacker. I will never go “ultralight” as I like my luxuries and comforts too much, but I am very much an ounce counter.

There are three parts to the video / blog. First is the best backpacking purchases of 2021, then I have the “I'm done with this gear for 2021”, and finally I list all the things that I am keen to test or try out during 2022. Any comments would be welcome.

The Best Gear of 2021

If you are not keen on watching the video, then have a look through this list of items which is by far my absolute best gear that I have purchased during 2021.

#1 – Best tent of the year

Without question, the Tarptent NotchLi is the BEST tent I have ever owned and I will be using this tent on my upcoming PCT hike. It's an expensive tent (due to it being made of carbon fibre), but it is super lightweight and just the right size for me.

#2 – Naturehike Puffy Pants

These have been a game-changer for my winter hiking experience, especially as I sleep in a quilt rather than a sleeping bag. You can't go wrong with a pair of down trousers.

#3 – Thermarest Xtherm Sleeping Mat

Another expensive bit of kit, but this one of the warmest sleeping mats for backpackers on the market. I have no regret buying it at 6.9 R-Value as it is super warm and keeps me toasty in the colder months.

#4 – Rode iPhone Microphone

This was not a new purchase for 2021, but actually, an old purchase that I have resurrected. I use the Rode Wireless Go Microphone for gear reviews, or What's In the Box videos, but keeping this charged when completing a longer hike is just a pain. For the SWCP I swapped back to the Rode iPhone Microphone and it has a huge windshield (dead cat) and there is no need to charge it. Lesson learnt, more expensive is not always better.

#5 – Best backpack – My Atom Pack 50 L

There will be no surprises here as everyone knows how much I love my Atom Pack. It's just a fantastic backpack for all seasons. I use it for day hikes as well as long-distance hikes. Coupled with the Roo pack it's just fab.

#6 – Best Hiking Pole – the Komperdell Camera Staff

Another piece of gear that has been a game-changer for me during 2021. Having gear that is multi-use is just brilliant. This is a hiking pole, a monopod, and a video watching bit of gear!

#7 – Naturehike Down Blanket

Rather than spending a fortune on a four season sleeping bag, I thought it would be a better option to “layer up”. I invested in a Naturehike down blanket that you can also make into a poncho. Not only does this help take the chill off you when you are sitting around camp of an evening, but it is also very effective as an extra warmth layer under my Thermarest quilt. A great purchase for 2021.

The Worst Gear of 2021

The items listed below are all bits of kit that I am no longer using on my backpacking trips. Never say never, but for now they are on the “do not use” pile. I'm not saying that these items are awful or ineffective, I'm just saying that they are no longer right for me.

#1 – Mountainsmith Swingback Chair

It didn't take me long to realise that I can't use a “trekking pole chair” when I also have a trekking pole tent, unless I take four poles with me (which defeats the object!). So, for that reason the wingback chair is out!

#2 – Flextailgear Tiny Pump

The Flextailgear Tiny Pump is a popular product on YouTube. I jumped on the bandwagon and was very excited about using it. The first few nights I went to go for a wild wee in the night and instead of turning on the light, I woke up the whole campsite by turning on the pump. When you are tired than I really don't want to think about how to turn on a light – I just want to switch it on. Secondly, the nozzle never stays on my air pad and thirdly, the hook broke.

#3 – A surprise, but bye bye Solar PowerPack

Yes, my much loved solar power pack is going to powerpack heaven. I have replaced it with a new Anker 26,800 mah charger. It took me about 3 years to figure out that the sun doesn't shine much in the UK!

#4 – Sock Gaiters

For now, I am retiring the sock gaiters. They are in a safe place, so I may get them out again if I know I am walking in an area where there is lots of sand or chalk (such as the South Downs or perhaps on the PCT), but they will no longer be part of my staple backpacking kit.

#5 – Pee Cloth

The pee-cloth is a good idea and I like the concept and helping “leave no trace” principles, but I struggled to use the cloth more than once on a hike (just a brain adjustment needed). So, drip drying and using “ladies things” in my undies just works better for me.

#6 – Mini Tripod

Again, never say never, but for now, the Ultrapod is a thing of the past. It has been replaced with my camera staff which I absolutely love.

My wish list for 2022

  1. Quick charge plug / travel plug
  2. A decent skillet so that I can experiment with some real cooking on the trail.
  3. I’m keen to learn some bush crafting skills.
  4. I need to figure out a good rain gear combination before my PCT hike.
  5. Like to try packing pods or cubes 
  6. Toiletries – i’d like to try toothpaste tablets, powered soap and a system to feel cleaner on the trail. 
  7. I’d like to try a different water filter (looking at the quick draw platypus) 

That's all folks!