Arcteryx Bora2 Mid GTX Boots
The Bora 2 GTX boot was featured in my 2015 Gear of the Year list. This versatile boot has a removable liner, and you can buy additional winter liners that allow them to be used in much colder temperatures. This means that I no longer need to own a pair of summer hiking boots and a pair of winter hiking boots. I have the Bora 2s and a couple of different thicknesses of liners instead. It’s obviously great for packing when I’m unsure of the weather, but it’s also great at the end of the day because you can easily hang the liners up to dry. Once they’re dry, they have toughened bases so you can wear them around the camp or cabin as a booty.
Versatility is their key feature; I’ve worn them in the summer whilst hiking coastal paths and beaches, and I’ve also worn them during all night missions on frozen lakes where temperatures have been below -15 celsius.
MSR Guardian water filter
The Guardian is the new king of MSR’s water treatment lineup and its effective against protozoa, bacteria, viruses, and particulates. This thing is a real badass, and it’s even self-cleaning! Whether you’re camping or travelling in an area of the world with suspect water conditions, the Guardian is a great tool to keep you behind your camera and not… you know… in the bushes.
The Guardian’s filter is good for 10,000 litres of water, and you can pump 2.5l per minute. I don’t know about you, but it’s going to take me a heck of a long time to get through 10,000 litres of water!
MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-man tent
Great little 2-season tent that is lightweight enough to take on multi day hikes. I absolutely love the design of the carrying bags that MSR use for their tents. It sounds like a silly, small thing, but the open top design with drawstring closure means you never have to fight with your tent to pack it up, or roll it it tight. Dismantling and packing the Hubba Hubba NX can be done in two minutes, even if you haven’t yet had your morning coffee!
Joking aside, this is a great tent. It’s not cheap, but the quality is there to justify the price.
MSR Fury 2-man tent
The Fury is my winter tent so I get this one out when I’ll be camping in the snow. The igloo design sheds snow pretty well, and whilst it wouldn’t stand up to a night on Everest, it does the trick for my needs. Typically if I know it’s going to be really stormy, I’m unlikely to be heading out to take photos anyway. MSR tents are super simple to put together, and if higher temperatures do surprise you, you can always use it without the rainfly. Whilst it is a “4-season” tent, I find it too hot in the summer months, but it’s great for winter and the shoulder seasons.
Tents are kind of like tripods. A lot of people make the mistake of buying the cheapest one they can to start with, and inevitably it breaks, and they end up with the one they should have just bought in the first place. They aren’t necessarily the most exciting thing to buy, and good ones aren’t cheap, but I know I have the right ones for the job and they will now last me many years of use.
Thermarest NeoAir Trekker sleeping mat
I like the Thermarest NeoAir Trekker’s comfort/weight ratio for backcountry camping. There are lighter solutions that are thinner, but for me this one ticks all the right boxes, including an R-Value that’ll get me by in the winter months when camping on snow. A solid product that packs down impressively small.
Thermarest Camper SV sleeping mat
The Camper SV mattress is a little thicker and heavier than the Trekker, plus it’s 5 inches wider. I use this one when I’m car camping. The Speed Valve technology allows it to be inflated in just a few seconds which is pretty neat. When paired with my Sierra Designs “bed”, mentioned further down the page, it’s like a home away from home!
Sierra Designs Frontcontry 600 sleeping bag
This is one of the coolest things I’ve purchased in the last few years! As the name ‘frontcountry” implies, this isn’t a super lightweight sleeping bag, although they do make ultralight mummy style ones with the same open top concept. As you can see from the photos, this is a really uniquely designed bag that definitely feels more like a bed with a built-in duvet. I tend to run pretty hot when I’m asleep, but with this bag I can just peel the the top cover right back! It also has an opening in the foot box so I can stick both feet out of the bottom at the same time. It’s awesome for temperature regulation! They make fully synthetic versions, but I opted for the half down version to save a little bulk when I pack it into my usual travel roller bag.
I use this when I’m car camping, but it’s also a great travel bag for times when I know I might be seeking sleeping bag comfort on the road, for example, when renting a camper van. The reason they call it the “bed” is that your air mattress can be inserted into a sleeve on the bottom of the bag so it all becomes one entity. That means that when you roll over in the bag, it doesn’t actually roll with you, it stays in place, acting more like a bed. It’s also wide enough to wedge a full size pillow into it!
Jetboil make a range of these self-contained mini stoves that are perfect for camping, or just to get a coffee going after a sunrise shoot when you get back to your car. I’ve had mine for several years now and I don’t think they make the exact model anymore which is why I haven’t been too specific. The real difference between them all is volume and weight, so just pick the one that fits your needs in that department, and otherwise the features are basically all the same.
The great thing about them is how neatly they pack up. Everything you need folds back into the cup itself, so it’s a totally self-contained system, and there’s no dirty, greasy burners exposed to get everything in your bag all messed up. I mainly use mine for making a hot cup of tea or coffee, but they’re also great for cans of soup or bowls of cereal. You’d struggle to cook bacon it it, but other than that, it’s remarkably versatile!
PS. If you really wanted bacon, you can just take the mug off and use the burner with a frying pan 🙂
Nemo Designs Fillo Pillow
The amazing little Fillo Pillow from Nemo Designs has been the subject of one of my Gear Check videos in the past because I’m such a huge fan. Plain inflatable pillows SUCK, but the Fillo has a one inch layer of memory foam on top of it, and a super comfy cotton cover for it. These things are just plain awesome, and once you’ve tried it, you’ll wonder why you ever used a pile of clothes or those awful u-shaped neck pillows.
It’s a luxury I allow myself when I’m camping, but I also travel with it on the plane or in my car just in case I need a quick nap on a long haul. If weight is a priority, check out the slightly smaller Fillo Elite.
Arcteryx Beta Shell Glove
The best gloves for winter photography is a hotly contested topic. There are several companies that make specific gloves for photography, but in cold environments I don’t like using them at all. All the photography specific gloves I’ve ever tested have some way to poke a finger out of the glove, but this compromises the warmth and waterproofing. On a day of winter photography, the actual time spent pressing the shutter button is usually small. I therefore don’t see the point of compromising the glove just to facilitate marginally improved dexterity for a couple of minutes every day. In my mind, and in my experience, it’s much better to simply use a layered glove system that allows me to remove an outer glove when I need more control of the camera. The Beta Shell glove is a Gore-Tex outer shell, and then I can combine any variety of liner thicknesses inside the shell to suit the temperature on that day. Sometimes I wear a super thin merino Gothic liner, and sometimes I wear a thicker Atom liner.
Arcteryx Thorium AR Hoody
The Thorium AR hoody is my main winter layering piece, but the denier of the nylon on the AR models also makes is suitable as a standalone jacket on dry days. Being down, it compresses nicely into my pack when the weather warms up, and it also helps packing weight during travel. Arcteryx make three similar jackets like this, the SV, the LT and the AR. The SV is too bulky for my liking, and the LT’s nylon isn’t as strong, making it less suitable for everyday wear on it’s own. The AR line sits nicely in the middle, and pairs well with the SVX jacket to make a warm but manageble maneuverable layering system. Again, it’s Arcteryx so this stuff is a bit pricey, but you get what you pay for – it’s the best stuff on the market.
Arcteryx Cerium LT Vest
This vest is my go to emergency warmth layer, but I also wear it casually all the time. It packs down into a fist size ball but the down provides an incredible amount of insulation on a winter’s day. I’ve had mine for about three years and the denier of the nylon has been extremely durable.
Arcteryx Theta SVX Jacket
The Theta SVX jacket is an “expedition fit” jacket which means it’s cut pretty loose so that you can wear lots of layers underneath it. If you shoot in winter conditions as I do, this is important. It’s also cut much longer than their other jackets which means there’s plenty of material under your butt when you sit down in the snow. The price of the jacket might give some people sticker shock, but it’ll last many years (mine is already up to 4 years old), and it’s a small price to pay for comfort if your trip has already cost you a small fortune. Nobody wants to miss the shot they came for because they got cold and went home early!
Arcteryx Alpha SL Pants
Great photos don’t always happen in great weather. In fact, some of the best light is often to be found in short moments between passing storms, or in sub-zero, snow-covered environments. The Alpha SL pants are a super lightweight packable pant that can be put on without removing your boots by using the side zippers. That makes them ideal for emergencies, so if there’s a hint of rain in the forecast then I stuff these in the top of my bag. Being lightweight also makes then a great candidate for general travel purposes as well. I always pack these in my roller bag and since they are barely noticeable, it’s not a big deal if I don’t end up needing them. Not only is the side zipper access handy for putting the pants on while you’re on the trail, but it also allows great ventilation if temperatures are high. Whilst I do have some other winter specific pants for long days in highly negative temperatures, these Alpha SL pants see far more use throughout the year.
Arcteryx Fortrez Hoody
This is my current favourite Arcteryx mid layer for colder climates. It has a relatively tight hood which will fit under a climbing helmet, and the hood even has a face mask built into it for colder weather. When I pick a mid layer, or any kind of hooded sweatshirt, I always make sure that the pockets are zippered so that I can safely store camera related accessories in them if necessary. Things like lens caps and camera cable releases are far less likely to go missing if there are zippers on every pocket and I find the chest pocket on this hoody really convenient for those lens caps.
Gerber Freescape Sheath Knife
A great budget-friendly folding knife that comes with a sheath. Always seemed like great value to me when comparing to other knives in the store.
Goal Zero Yeti 150 Battery Pack
The Yeti 150 is a battery pack that can be charged via solar panels, 12v car battery or mains power. It allows me to have access to a power plug when I’m camping so that I can charge cameras or use my laptop in emergencies. On long car journeys I keep this in my trunk, and it has bailed me out of trouble on multiple occasions when I need suddenly recharge a drone or camera. I don’t have the solar panels so I mostly charge it before I leave my house, but I also have a cigarette lighter adapter to top it up on the journey. It’s too big and heavy to carry into the backcountry for any of that kind of camping, but if you are staying in or close to your car, it’s a great choice.
With a rugged design, built-in USB cable and 2x USB ports, the Venture 30 is part of my EDC kit and always in my bag to add extra juice to my phone, GoPro, GPS device or even my camera. You can read the full Venture 30 review here.
Got a gear question?
Leave it in the comments below!