Black Diamond Axiom Pack 40L Feel the relief of unrestricted motion on the trail. Black Diamond has developed an innovative new suspension system that moves with your body, so you don’t get the jerking resistance of a backcountry load. The breathable shoulder straps independently move with your stride, so you can shuffle through a rock scramble without the back burn. $150; blackdiamondequipment.com
Easton Mountain Products Kilo Eastern Mountain is revolutionizing the tent world again with their new Carbon Ion poles with Air Lock technology. The carbon and aluminum poles use a monofilament to keep the individual pole pieces in order (instead of the traditional shock chord) and snap together with pressure fit connectors. The result is a stronger pole that’s 56 percent lighter than standard tent poles. Cutting so much pole weight allowed Easton to put more durable materials into the tents themselves. The Kilo is a two-person, three-season tent with a 20D Ripstop fly and 30D nylon floor. Even with the thicker materials, the Kilo comes in at a svelte 2pounds, 2 ounces—the lightest freestanding two-person tent on the market. $399; eastonmountainproducts.com
Steripen Sidewinder The newest offering from Steripen still uses their UV technology to purify drinking water on the go, but the Sidewinder needs no batteries. Instead, fill the reservoir, attach it to the sidewinder, and crank the handle to activate the UV stick. You can purify 32 ounces in 90 seconds, so it’s as fast as other Steripens, but the process is a little more involved than just pushing a button and waiting for 90 seconds. However, not having to pack extra batteries on a long backpack is worth the extra “work.” Weighs 16.6 ounces and the lamp lasts for 8,000 treatments. $100; steripen.com EXPERT PICK “The one piece of gear I can’t live without would be a generic plastic coffee drip filter holder. I haven’t arose without coffee in a long time and don’t intend to any time soon. Put a paper filter and coffee in it and place it over your cup, pour hot water in, and presto, fresh java! I’ve had it for more than 20 years and it is easily the longest continuously used backpacking item I own. One downside: all my camping buddies expect me to make the morning coffee!”
—Johnny Molloy, the Tennessee native and veteran guidebook writer, who has written 37 books about hiking, paddling, and camping. He is approaching his 700th cumulative night backpacking inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.