An Outdoor Instructor’s Go-To Gear

Claude didn’t grow up in the Southern Appalachians but he moved here as quickly as he could. “I visited Asheville when I was younger, went home and immediately started making plans to move back,” Matkin says. “I knew right away that I wanted to live in these mountains.” He’s called Western North Carolina home for the last decade and has spent most of his free time exploring the surrounding peaks and valleys on foot. If he’s not on a trail with his dog, you’ll find Matkin in a classroom, teaching courses on key outdoor skills. Matkin is an outdoor instructor at REI, with a special focus on backpacking. “I teach everything from bear safety classes to food preparation to map and compass skills,” says Matkin, who says he’s had an interest in backpacking skills since he was a Boy Scout. We asked the Eagle Scout and outdoor instructor to dish on his favorite pieces of backpacking gear. Here are his picks in his own words. 

1. Gregory Paragon 58 

When it comes to long treks I am a bit of a minimalist. I have a bad knee so a heavy pack and long miles are not the best compadres on the trail. To help reduce the load, I carry the Gregory Paragon 58-liter backpack, which is lightweight with an external frame that allows you to wear the weight, not carry it. (gregorypacks.com; $230)

2. BearVault BV500 

I chose the larger pack size to allow for the mandatory bear canister, which is required when you backpack in Pisgah National Forest. I also use it for a camp chair, so you no longer have to debate about whether to carry a bulky chair with you anymore. (bearvault.com; $80) 

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3. MSR TrailShot 

Hydration is key when you’re hiking long miles and the MSR Trail Shot is my go to water filter. The easy-to-use hand pump allows for drinking straight from the source, or filling water bottles for transport. Msrgear.com; $50

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4. Kuju Coffee 

A cup of this single-serve coffee has become my new favorite way to start on a cold morning. It has a built-in filter for pour-over coffee, which makes clean up a breeze. And it’s a quality cup of coffee, too. (kujucoffee.com; $22 for a 10 pack)

5. Leki Trekking Poles 

These are an absolute must for me. Even if I didn’t have a bad knee, I’d still use them. Do you want to climb a mountain in four-wheel drive or two-wheel drive? That’s the difference trekking poles make and they take up to 25% of the impact off your knees and ankles, so you are going to hike farther, faster, and safer. $139

6. ZPack Duplex

This is another reason to carry trekking poles. This super light tent uses the trekking poles for the structure, which saves a ton of weight. It’s big enough for two people and weighs just 19 ounces. $599

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7. ExOfficio Give-n-Go Boxer Brief 

I can’t stress the importance of proper underwear and socks. Cotton makes everything rotten, so please make the best investment of your outdoor life and get some ExOfficio underwear. These are made from nylon and lycra and they’re built to be worn day after day. And get some good wool socks too. You won’t regret it. $26  

More GEAR

prAna Recycled Nylon Vivir / Innix

This reversible swimsuit features a racer-back top with a sweetheart neckline and full bust coverage, as well as a low-rise bottom with moderate seat coverage. The 78%-recycled nylon dries quickly and resists degradation from chlorinated water $115

myCharge Adventure H20 Max Charger

Complete with a carabiner clip, the myCharge Max provides 10,500 mAh of power and 2 USB ports, ideal for extending the life of your tablet, smartphone, bluetooth speaker or another USB device up to six times. $50

SALEWA Alpenviolet Mid GTX

This mid-cut hiking boot is designed specifically for female ergonomics and biomechanics, particularly in the forefoot, which offers a higher shape and wider instep. It’s built to handle the toughest terrain in Southern Appalachia and beyond. $199

Castelli Free Aero 4 Race Bib 

The 2019 version of this classic cycling bib is more aero than ever—vetted by wind-tunnel testing, computer modeling, and feedback from pros and amateurs across the globe. The Aero 4 is the perfect blend of comfort and performance. $140

BioLite Headlamp 330

This adjustable lightweight, 330-lumen headlamp offers 40 hours of run time (on low / 3.5 hours on high) with a spotlight distance of 75 meters. Rechargeable lithium-ion ensures a long battery life. $50

Garmont Dragontail Hike II GTX

This lightweight, versatile boot is built for fast-paced, technical adventures. It features a roomy toe box, Gore-Tex liner, and sticky Vibram sole. The boot’s asymmetrical lace closure, heel cuffs, and pads provide a more custom fit and allow the foot to flex naturally. $220

Silca Viaggio Travel Bike Pump 

The Viaggio is a compact folding floor pump featuring a Bluetooth® enabled gauge, designed specifically for cyclists who travel with their bike. Featuring folding feet, a detachable full-sized handle, SILCA’s innovative Bluetooth® gauge, and a waxed-coated canvas roll with tool storage, the Viaggio pump offers optimal portability without sacrificing any of the performance or durability benefits that you’d expect from a SILCA pump. $270

BOGS Sauvie Slip-On Boot 

Bogs has re-made rubber boots into stylish and versatile footwear. The 100% waterproof mid-cut boots are cushioned, slip-resistant, and durable. With stretchy sides and a heel loop, they’re also super-easy to pop on and off. $100