I am a self-confessed adventure seeker. On the weekends when I’m not participating in a cycling event, I’m bagging Colorado’s highest mountains.
Spanning across six different ranges across the state, Colorado boasts over fifty (54 “official”, 58 “unofficial”) mountains whose elevation is over 14,000 ft. high; thus making them the largest group of mountains in a single state.
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of hiking with friends of all abilities, ranging from novice to absolute beast (I had a friend climb five 14ers in one day). Inevitably, we end up talking about gear- which is the most comfortable backpack, our favorite footwear, etc.
Based on those discussions, here is a list of some of my favorite basic items that I wear/use when I hike a 14er.
Because I Have To:
The two questions I receive most often are what back pack to use, or what boots I use.
To date, the Osprey Mira AG™ 26 is my favorite pack to use on a 14er. I first tested it out over Fourth of July weekend when hiking San Luis and Uncompahgre Peaks, and have used it on every 14er I have climbed since then (more recently, Holy Cross on Labor Day). Unlike other Osprey day packs I’ve used in the past, the Mira features an Anti-Gravity (AG™) suspension system (LightWire™ frame, mesh backpanel, BioStretch™ shoulder harness and AG™ hipbelt) that offers unparalleled support and weight distribution.
Initially, I was skeptical of the AG™ suspension system because it made the pack seem bulkier than I expected. Five miles into our hike, I couldn’t believe how I had gone so long without it. The compression straps did not slide from my narrow shoulders and stayed in place. Because of the variable conditions, I was carrying a larger load than I normally pack. The bulk did not shift at all, even when I was scrambling on slick rocks.
Osprey abandoned the round, wide opening that was on their older reservoirs and replaced it with a flip top closure. This change makes the process of adding water less cumbersome, faster, and helps to avoid spilling water all over the place when the bladder gets too full.
Other notable features of the Mira AG™:
- Removable rain cover (I used this all weekend and it kept the pack’s contents dry).
- The stretch mesh back and side pockets made reaching for gloves, a hat and nutrition a breeze.
- Pockets in the hip belt (perfect to stow away keys).
- Hydration compartment with 2.5L reservoir included.
- Stow-On-The-Go System to quickly tuck my trekking poles when I’m scrambling.
- Blinker light attachment on the back- useful for O’Dark Thirty hikes for visibility.
I keep my feet comfortable and dry with Darn Tough Vermont Hiker Micro Crew Cushion socks. I was first introduced to these about ten years ago when my mother accidentally sent me this brand for a present instead of another brand that I had requested. Her mistake was fortunate- I have worn Darn Tough Vermont hiking socks ever since. They offer superior cushioning without all the bulkiness. Also, they do not make my feet sweat or itch. I usually carry a spare pair along with me when I hike.
Finally, there’s a reason Merrell footwear can be seen everywhere on the mountain- they are affordable and comfortable. I use the Women’s Moab FST Mid Water Proof boot. The boot offers support without the weight and the Vibram® MegaGrip outsole provides outstanding traction on rugged surfaces, while the air cushion in the heel absorbs shock and M Select™ technology keeps my feet dry.
Because I Want To:
There are some necessary accessories that I rely on to get me through a hike: trekking poles, headlamp, and an element-proof phone case.
For someone who is prone to skiing and cycling injuries, using trekking poles to hike even the less technical terrain is an absolute must. Trekking poles reduce the strain on my knees and keep me balanced.
This year I finally put my old LEKI Makalu trekking poles into retirement and replaced them with the LEKI Micro Vario TI Cor-Tec DSS poles. LEKI is the first company to offer antishock in the folding pole category with its Dynamic Suspension System (DSS). There is a noticeable difference when I plant the poles on rock gardens and do not feel as much pole-plant shock. Additionally, the women-specific fit (15% smaller AERGON COR-TEC grip; 20cm of length adjustment) make the poles more comfortable to use. It takes a little while to get used to the folding pole construction (I pinched my fingers on the push button release mechanism a few times), but they save space and weight on my pack.
Headlamp: To avoid crowds and decrease the odds of encountering storms on the summit, I prefer to start hiking around 2 or 3 a.m. I use a Black Diamond Spot Headlamp. The sleekly designed waterproof headlamp features 200 lumens of power to help me navigate the trail in complete darkness. I appreciate the ease of the brightness adjustments and that wearing it for prolonged amounts of time does not give me a headache, unlike some headlamps I had worn previously.
Phone case: LifeProof’s FRE case is practically indestructible. It is waterproof, dirt proof, drop proof, and snow proof. Basically, it is a case made for outdoor adventures. The LifeProof case works great for taking summit photos- I did not have to worry about dropping it (it survives drops from 6.6 feet) or it getting damaged from the elements.
Because I Can:
Since the majority of my 14er hikes begin in pre-dawn hours, it’s ideal to arrive to the campsite in early evening and set up as close to the trailhead as possible. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost™ UL3 Tent is a great option. It can hold two people, a dog, and gear comfortably. Weighing in at a little over 3 lbs., the tent is light enough to take hiking, but durable enough to protect from wind and rain. The large door makes it easy to access the tent and gear without much difficulty.
If you have any questions about gearing up for your first fourteener, you can always contact the Engearment Gear Concierge!