REAL GEAR REVIEWS
Take a read of my authentic gear reviews
My gear reviews will always be authentic based on my opinions and experiences. Currently, I have no affiliation with any of these companies however some links will direct to Amazon where I do receive commission off of sales. Regardless, I will only give my honest feedback on these products after extensive use in the real world. I have no desire to grift off of people trying to do their due diligence.
For any long distance ruck or run I would recommend layering and using compression pants and shirts as base layers. Compression layers help support muscles and can improve blood & oxygen flow during exercise.
DFND Compression: Performs as good if not better than the popular brands. 100% made in the USA and supports small business.
Popular sport brands have produced the compression gear I've worn in the past. Again they perform well but there's other American made brands out there that put out comparable products.
DFND Compression gear is 100% made in the USA, supports small business and will be my next brand to put to the test.
Bottom Line: Darn Tough socks are exactly what they sound like.
They keep feet comfortable and dry after several hours of hiking. The Micro Crew Midweight Hiking sock was perfect for the dry heat of the Grand Canyon and cold snowy days in the North East. Darn Tough makes a variety of socks for any condition, not just hiking, right in Vermont. As far as durability is concerned, under extreme conditions I've had a pair of these partially fused to the bottom of my feet. Gross, but after the painful removal you couldn't tell that significant amounts of that Merino Wool was left behind. 100% worth the money.
Bottom Line: Great for carrying heavy loads over long distances
My current boots are the Quest 4D 3 GTX but those are no longer available. The boot I linked is their new version. If the new versions can live up to the abuse I put my Salomons through then they are definitely a great choice for carrying heavy weight through trails and mountains. Solid support throughout never let me down through any terrain carrying loads from 40-100lbs for long distances.
After a few hundred miles the lining between the toe box and sole has started to separate at a crease point. Though this hasn't seemed to effect waterproofing as I have hiked through heavy rain and had no issues.
BAGS & PACKS
BAGS & PACKS
Bottom Line: Durable and high quality materials. Excellent customer service and 100% Made in America. My favorite piece of gear.
Your choice in backpack can make or break your rucks, especially over long distances. A traditional military style ruck sack is fine but if you have the ability to, you may as well upgrade to a beast of a system made to be tough and versatile.
The EXO MTN Gear pack systems are by far the best backpacks I've used. They're rugged, functional and easily carry heavy loads. They're an Idaho based company and every component from fabric to zippers are made right here in the USA.
The pack are designed for hunters essentially to be able to carry field dressed big game out of the out of the wilderness along with all the gear you need on a multi-day backpacking hunt.... but why does that matter aren't we rucking or hiking?
Well if you Google how heavy a field dressed elk is you can probably tell why I figured these bags would have no problem handling the 60-100lbs of weight I'll load up in a ruck. In fact its probably way overkill but I had another popular brand backpack loaded to its upper limit of rated capacity and it was struggling after a couple 7-8 hour rucks.
The pack systems (now upgraded to the K4 Pack systems as of 2023) are modular with a lightweight titanium frame where you mount your bag, hip pads, and straps. The pack is actually designed to carry a load (typically harvested meat) between the pack and the frame, making it an extremely expandable system where you can pack out for 10+ days easily.
The packs come in multiple sizes and are simple with a large open compartment in the middle with center zipper and roll top access. A detachable hood adds more storage as well as two full length side pockets and most bags have a zippered or stretch fabric front pouch.
The hip pads have a MOLLE system with individual pouches, pockets, holsters and more that can be bought as add-ons to customize the functionality to suit your needs. And of course it has a water bladder pouch but the cool part is its completely separated by a waterproof liner and easily accessible with a fully loaded pack
The strap systems make it easy to shrink the pack down to fit your load and the frame can be adjusted as well to adapt to your situation.
I've put in hundreds of miles with this pack loaded up and it hasn't showed any signs of wear. When you put your hands on these packs you know its quality and made to last. At 2-3 x the price of a traditional hiking backpack I'd be hesitant to make such a resounding recommendation if it weren't for the quality of the materials, quality of construction and the fact that every component is made 100% in the USA. Those reasons are why you pay a premium and in my opinion it is worth it all day. Especially if you're going to be putting heavy things on your back for long periods of time, these packs are literally made for it.
I've definitely left out some features but there's a ton of useful info on the EXO MTN Gear website and the customer service is excellent.
TREKKING POLES &
TREKKING POLES & TRACTION
Bottom Line: Kahtoola knows what's up when it comes to traction. Best brand for slip-ons.
Slip on boot spikes are a pack necessity in cold weather especially if you're climbing elevations. No one really does it better than Kahtoola. The micro spikes are super packable and great for snow and ice on low to moderate incline.
Bottom Line: Good but they don't quite get my stamp of approval.
I still use them but one of the locking clamp retention screws backs out often which loosens its grip and allows the adjustable pole section to slide down under pressure. I keep a multitool in my pack so I don't mind snugging it up every now and then but on a set of trekking poles this expensive I would expect them to perform a bit better. Packability and durability so far I don't have any complaints. I intend to test out another set soon.