Not just any sandal will do—Chacos have soft adjustable straps that can loosen to the brink of sliding off, making room for swollen feet or a pair of fresh socks. Their aggressive Vibram sole aids in rock-hopping and log-jumping and gathering firewood. Meanwhile, heavy boots get a rest next to the campfire, drying out from the day's big adventure. Chacos are also a savior when crossing swift streams. The straps cinch down, securing the sandal snugly while thick soles protect the foot from sharp rocks. Once you’re on the other side, keep them on for a while. They also make an incredibly comfortable alternative to hiking boots— so long as there's not too much scree in your path. (Cathrine L. Walters)
TRAVEL JOURNAL For almost 10 years now, I’ve treated my backpack more like a bug-out bag than a piece of weekend-warrior equipment. The essentials remain nestled in there at all times, part of a grab-and-go mentality that’s allowed me to at least dream of hitting the trail the moment the 5 p.m. whistle blows. My camp stove, first-aid kit, headlamp, duct tape—they never leave the pack for more than a few minutes. Neither does my travel journal. I’ll probably get shit for suggesting that a journal is essential. And as a 16-year-old on his second weeklong canoe trip in Ely, Minn., I thought it a fairly silly concept. My crew had cameras and the steel-trap memories of youth. Writing it down seemed redundant.
I have yet to fill every page in that cloth-bound tome, but it’s won a hallowed space in my pack. Today, its pages tell of pictographs on Darky Lake, morale breakdowns on Elk Mountain, nightmarish heat in Idaho’s Hells Canyon, and trout caught on a green drake up Rock Creek. My dad would argue that a travel chess set is the essential nonessential, having hauled one through canoe country and badlands alike. I’ll stick to that years-old travel log, the running list of where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’ll eventually be. (Alex Sakariassen)
GARMIN GPS I didn’t think I wanted a GPS until my wife bought me a Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx (starting at $299.99) about five years ago. Now that I’ve got one, it goes everywhere I go. Not a whole lot smaller than a compact camera, the Garmin’s a load, but it’s also loads of fun. I can quickly figure out my precise location in the field, plus download the recorded track afterward and do all kinds of tinkering with it. The mapping software also comes in handy for pinpointing obscure trailheads in the comfort of my office, before I’m out searching on abandoned fire roads. And my purpose-built Garmin crushes those iPhone GPS apps, which exhaust the battery in about an hour once they get out of signal range. Has my GPS ever saved me from getting lost? No. But it makes getting from here to there an indispensably electrifying process. (Matt Gibson)
MSR MUGMATE My MSR MugMate has gone on every single trip I have taken since I shelled out my $18 years ago—and it’s never let me down. Many of us recognize coffee as an essential item for any trip. Our cowboy forefathers proved, however, that fancy French presses are not. This simple filter weighs in at 1 ounce and disappears for storage inside my travel mug. The cute little black tabs on the side of the filter securely hold the filter in the cup so all you have to do is fill it with your favorite coffee grinds, pour in some hot water, and let it steep. Simple, effective and durable, this filter has become an essential component of my every adventure. (Robin Carleton)