If you’re a backpacker who likes to count the number of days spent in the backcountry, you’re either going to love or loathe Tomas Marentes. The 25-year-old climber, paddler and backpacker spent 150 days in the field in 2015—close to half a year. Marentes is an instructor for North Carolina Outward Bound, living and working out of its Cedar Rock and Table Rock Bases. During the summer, he works multi-day backpacking and climbing courses through Pisgah National Forest, then transitions to canoe expedition courses during the fall and winter.

“Students get to camp, cook, and navigate all together in unique physical environments, like Linville Gorge,” says Marentes, who grew up mostly in Honduras and Peru. “For me the opportunity to help students discover their potential as leaders is a job that is quite fulfilling.”

We asked Marentes to detail the five most essential pieces of gear he carries with him on his multi-day backpacking expeditions. Here’s what he came up with.

Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Ultra Light ($37)

“With the number of days spent in the field, I’ve learned what I can’t do without. A good pillow goes a long way. The Sea to Summit Aeros pillow offers great comfort with fleece lining for your head. It also provides an easy and adjustable inflating system. And the best part is that it packs into almost nothing, making it easy to put in your pack.”

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Thermarest NeoAir Xlite

($129-$189)

“A good sleeping system outdoors will get you a long way. The NeoAir provides great comfort and insulation, but also has great compression for packing. And it’s very lightweight (12 ounces for a regular).”

©Earl Harper

MSR Dromlite Bag ($27)

“I currently use a two-liter Dromlite. Whether on personal trips or at work, I find the Dromlite meets all my needs. The multi-function cap makes it easy to drink out of and fill up. You can even use it as a hand washing station. The Drom is also an easy addition to a gravity filter system, and it fits inside or outside of your pack.”

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SealLine Kodiak Dry Sack ($33)

“For the rainy summers of Western North Carolina, I can rest assured that my clothes will be dry at the end of the day with my 15L Kodiak Dry Sack. The Kodiak has a see-through window down the side of the bag making it easy to locate your gear, and a one-way valve that makes compression an easy process. I absolutely must have it on my outings.”

©Earl Harper

Jetboil Flash Java Kit ($109.95)

“Coffee is always a great way to start the day. Jetboil offers fast boiling with little fuel consumption and best of all, the Java kit turns your Jetboil into a French press. The Jetboil Flash holds about one liter, making it ideal to share coffee with my hiking partner or my co-instructor.”

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