I’ve poured over REI’s biggest sale of the year to find the best deals on hiking gear that I’ve used for years. There’s nothing too technical or niche here, just good quality stuff that’s versatile, durable, and withstands wear. Everything on this list performs great in the field, and most of these pieces function capably in other areas of life, too. Whether you’re planning a backpacking trip or looking for gear that makes family-friendly hiking easier, you can count on these seven items to work well and last a long time. And they’re all on sale right now.
Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Poles ($105; 25 Percent Off)
When I first started using trekking poles, I was surprised at how much balance and support they provided. They’re also fun; I like the repetition and focus they create when I plant them with each step. The Distance FLZ is lightweight, stowable, easy to use, and rigid when you require support.
These poles feature a ton of great features. First, they combine the best of both worlds: the stowability and simplicity of foldable models with the length customization of telescoping ones (I like to lengthen my poles an inch or two on the descent). The three-section streamlined design collapses down small (13 to 16 inches, depending on the size), making them easy to pack, and there’s really no bulky hardware that might snag on loose clothing. There’s a minimal locking mechanism on the top section that allows up to eight extra inches of adjustability, but it doesn’t get in the way.
I trust the Distance FLZ to help me navigate loose rock, tangled roots, and ever changing terrain. Its rubber tech tips are precise, and the low-profile stopper baskets don’t trip me up when I’m moving quickly. The hand grips are comfortable and breathable (the grips on the women’s version are slightly shorter), and the wrist straps are easy to slip in and out of. The sliding lock requires a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, deploying them takes a couple seconds, and once they’re locked in place, they’re solid.
Salomon Women’s Quest 4D 3 GTX Hiking Boots ($172; 25 Percent Off)
The Quest is an exceptional all-around hiking boot that straddles the line between backpacking and day-hiking footwear. It isn’t the lightest boot, nor is it especially rugged, but it offers a great mix of features to make it more than suitable for most adventures on the trail.
I’ve worn the Quest year-round on routes that involved climbing slick and muddy switchbacks, in peak summer temperatures as well as in pouring rain, and high in the mountains, slogging up scree slopes and over glaciated alpine terrain. It’s comfortable right out of the box, cushioned, sturdy, provides excellent ankle support, and manages to be both breathable and waterproof (often a tough combo to achieve). This is my go-to hiking footwear because I know I can put them through anything. To borrow from John Cameron Swayze’s famous Timex tagline: these boots can take a lickin’ and keep on kickin’.
Nalgene Sustain 32-Ounce Wide-Mouth Water Bottle ($7; 50 Percent Off)
The Nalgene wide-mouth water bottle is iconic for two reasons: it’s simple and it works. First created in 1940 for laboratory use, it quickly entered the mainstream and has been a staple on hiking trails for the past 70 years. Now it’s the reusable bottle of choice for, well, almost everyone. It’s leakproof, odor-proof, and damn near bulletproof. You’ll lose this plastic bottle before you break it—and if it does break, it’s backed by Nalgene’s limited lifetime warranty. The Sustain is made of Tritan Renew, a next-gen recycled resin that turns plastic destined for landfills into BPA, BPS, and phthalate-free bottles (eight single-use plastic bottles are recycled to produce one Nalgene Sustain).
The easy-to-use design hasn’t changed since its inception—it’s a plastic bottle and a screw-top lid—and it’s compatible with many water-filtration systems. There’s a narrow-mouth version, but I prefer the wide-mouth bottle because it’s more versatile; you can toss in ice cubes, and you can fill it with more than just liquid (perhaps last night’s leftover pasta for tomorrow’s hike). Whether it’s covered in stickers from gear shops across the country or sports a new national-park graphic design, one thing’s for certain: you can’t go wrong with a good ol’ reusable water bottle.
Matador NanoDry Towel ($26; 25 Percent Off)
I’m a fan of Matador’s superlight, super-compact NanoDry because it’s a great take-with-you-everywhere towel. Over the past five years, I’ve brought it hiking, paddleboarding, camping, to the beach and the playground, and just about everywhere else that might require such a necessity. It has also taken a fair share of abuse yet is still in essentially the same condition as when I first got it.
This ultrathin nanofiber towel stuffs into its own unique silicone case, and with the sturdy carabiner clip, it attaches to the outside of a backpack, which is where it lives permanently for me. Smaller and lighter than my iPhone, it takes up almost no space or weight; with the case, the whole unit weighs five ounces, but the towel itself is only 2.4 ounces. Its size is that of a standard bath towel: 47 by 24 inches. Although it boasts high absorbency, if you take a lake dip midhike, you’ll probably have to wring the towel out a couple times to get completely dry, given how thin it is. It dries just as quickly as other microfiber towels I’ve used, but it doesn’t seem to pick up odors or debris like grass or dirt the same way. If you’re looking for the kind of result you get from drying your hair and body with a cushy bath towel, this isn’t it. But if you need a towel that dries sufficiently and will work in a pinch and on the go, the NanoDry does the job.
REI Co-op Talusphere Rain Pants ($63; 30 Percent Off)
The Talusphere is a versatile pair of rain pants that can handle anything from a big downpour to an afternoon thunderstorm. They’re also good for everyday off-trail use, like walking the dog in the rain or hanging with your kid at the playground. Constructed from REI’s proprietary 2.5-layer breathable laminate, these pants pack down into their own pocket for easy stowing. And although not generally as durable or as heavy as three-layer rain pants, they’ll see you through most trail pursuits just fine. Tightly sealed pockets keep your essentials dry, and the polyester fabric is quiet (read: it won’t sound like you’re walking with two garbage bags rubbing against each other).
The Talusphere unzips to mid-calf, so putting them on over hiking boots is easy enough, while the generous fit means they can be donned over an existing layer or two. The elastic waistband and four-way-stretch fabric are comfortable and facilitate seemless movement, and the hem drawcord and fabric tab over the ankle zipper keep rain and debris out. A range of sizing options means you can pick the best fit; these include women’s (XS to XL), women’s petite (S to XL), women’s tall (S to XL), men’s 32-inch inseam (S to XXL) and men’s 34-inch inseam (S to XXL). The one downside: they don’t have vents, but if you don’t need something too technical and you don’t plan to log a ton of miles in inclement weather, the Talusphere is a solid pick that will keep you dry.
Arc’teryx Atom LT Insulated Jacket ($179; 25 Percent Off)
Arc’teryx is known for making high-performance products that last, but those also often come with a high-performance price tag, which is why any discount on its gear is something to get excited about. The Atom LT is a supercomfortable midlayer (not to mention an essential piece of hiking gear to own) that doubles as an outer layer, thanks to DWR coating that allows rain to bead off rather than soak in. After four years, my Atom LT shows almost no signs of wear; the wrist cuffs are just as snug, the color just as black, and the zipper functions like it did on day one. The synthetic Coreloft insulation, an alternative to down, will keep you warm, but not too warm; in the Pacific Northwest, where I’m based, I get four-season use from this jacket.
This Atom LT sits midhip and has a narrow cut, so you won’t fit much underneath except a base layer or light shirt, but it wears well as part of a layering system with an outer shell. Zippered pockets include an inner one at chest level and two hand warmers. What I like most about this jacket is that it doesn’t feel restrictive; the stretchy, breathable, fleece-lined side panels allow for free movement. Whether I’m scrambling up loose rocks or crouching down to tie my son’s shoes for the umpteenth time, this jacket works with me, not against me. Sizes range from XS to XL for women and S to XXL for men, and as an added bonus, the jacket is backed by Arc’teryx’s limited lifetime warranty.
Smartwool Performance Hike Light Cushion Crew Socks ($17; 25 Percent Off)
Socks can make or break your hiking experience. Bad socks cause blisters, result in sweaty feet, don’t stay in place, and are generally a pain in the butt. Good socks do the opposite, wicking moisture, reducing friction, regulating temperature, and generally staying put. I always recommend investing in two pairs of hiking socks: one to wear, and one as a backup.
These Smartwool socks hug your feet in all the right spots, providing cushioning, compression and ventilation where it’s needed most, which is along the top of the foot and up the shaft of the sock to help dump heat. Made with over 50 percent merino wool, the Performance Hike socks have light cushioning along the bottom and mesh worked in throughout key areas to add breathability. Best of all, they don’t move around or bunch up. The crew version hits approximately mid-calf and is a solid choice if you’re wearing hiking boots or want some extra coverage against the environment. These socks come in both men’s (S to XL) and women’s (S to L) versions, but for something that sits lower on the leg, the Mid Crews (designed for women and men) have all the same features—they’re just shorter.
Lead Photo: Ebony Roberts