During winter when the darkness comes too soon and lingers for far too long, all the shiny, sparkly, and glittery things seem to have extra appeal. The six things that made my list for this year’s winter gift guide ($7 to $70) and gear review all make dark winter days and long winter nights a little bit brighter, shinier, and more sparkly. So, without further ado, here are a few of my shiniest things (additional holiday song spoofs included in photo captions):
What it is: A 1000 Lumen headlamp (USB-rechargeable) for winter hiking/backpacking and home power outages.
The Shiny: The 1000 Lumen USB Rechargeable Nitecore HC60 ($59.95) is the shiniest headlamp I’ve found, and it makes the snow on a fine winter’s eve sparkle like nothing I’ve seen. It’s highest output setting, which I call “day light mode,” throws light the length of a football field. Weighing in at ~5oz (3.47oz not including batteries) it’s not exactly ultralight, but it’s beefy 1000 Lumens makes my much lighter ~1oz Petzl e+Lite ($29.95) with its meager 50 Lumens seem completely and utterly pathetic. Unlike my other electronic devices, the HC60 seems to do better as the temperatures drop instead of worse (I’ve tested it down to -20°F), and that’s makes it my number one choice for winter hiking/backpacking. I’ve used the HC60 for hundreds of hours of hiking/backpacking since receiving it as a Christmas gift last year, I absolutely love it, and I highly recommend it.
- Features: 1000 Lumen (beam: 117m distance; 3400cd intensity; 100° angle)
- Micro-USB Chargeable
- Waterproof (IPX7) & Impact Resistant
- Pros: 1000 lumens is impressive in a <5oz package.
- Cons: You may be tempted to do more winter night hikes, it doesn’t have a red light mode, and switching modes is a bit clumsy with thick gloves. The HC60 is a bit heavy for summer backpacking.
- Upgrade: considering upgrading to the 1000 Lumen USB Rechargeable HC65 Headlamp, which fixes the button issue and has a red light mode.
What it is: A popular nonfiction book about trails for whiling away long winter nights
The Shiny: The bright silvery trail snaking across the cover of “On Trails” by Robert Moore ($16.00) and the word ‘TRAIL’ caught my eye as I walked through the airport book store. When I picked it up and read the back cover I was intrigued but couldn’t help but wonder if this book was actually going to be about trails. I’d felt misled by the last couple of books I’d picked up in airport bookstores that were written by hikers (see my reviews of: Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Wood and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild), but was hoping the third time would be the charm as I purchased Robert Moore’s “On Trails.” As I opened the book and began reading I discovered that “On Trials,” is a popular nonfiction book about trails that was written by a thru-hiker. A thru-hiker that has found himself asking many of the same questions that I’ve asked and wondered about as I explore the trails around me. I have to confess that I haven’t finished reading the book yet, but I’ve been enjoying it so much that I’m recommending it anyway. Based on what I’ve read so far I’d recommend it for hikers (and others) that enjoy popular nonfiction books.
- Features: Available in paperback (11.4oz) and for Kindle (ultralight?). Published: July 12, 2016
- Pros: Lots of interesting information about trails written from the perspective of someone that has spent a lot of time hiking them and thinking about them
- Cons: A bit erudite and dry at times
What it is: A lightweight, form-fitting hat for cool mountain nights year-round and for hiking and backpacking in mild-to-moderate winter conditions
The Shiny: Last weekend when I bought myself a birthday gift: a green sparkly Choucas Glide Plus Hat ($36.00) , which is a slightly warmer/beefier version of the sparkly purple Choucas Glide Hat ($32.00) that has been my favorite backpacking hat since my 2013 AT thru-hike. It’s not often that I stumble onto a piece of gear that I recognize as fashionable and not just functional, but my sparkly Choucas hats seems to combine the power of BOTH quite nicely. They are lightweight hats with a Polartec Windpro headbands that are the perfect combination of warm but breathable for my aerobic (and occasionally anaerobic) outdoor adventures.
- Features: Polartec Windpro fleece band keeps ears warm and the thinner fabric on top allows for better ventilation while exercising. 25 fabric color choices.
- Pros: Both functional and fashionable; made in New Hampshire, USA; after four years of heavy use my purple Choucas hat still has its sparkle.
- Cons: Glitter and sparkles on a hat are great, but glitter and sequins are notorious for becoming MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) and violating Leave No Trace principles; If you think your hat might shed glitter or sequins into wild places leave it at home. NOTE: Glitter free options are available
What it is: A seat for winter hiking/backpacking trips for resting, cooking, and camping.
The Shiny: Normally I think that the ground is a good enough seat for me, but in the winter I’ve come to learn the value of keeping my butt both warm and dry, so I’ve started carrying the reflective silver Z-seat with ThermaCapture ($14.95) with me for winter day hikes as well as winter backpacking trips. I’m not sure if I’ll think it’s worth the weight and bulk to carry for summer hikes, but I definitely enjoy having it around for my winter treks. By consistently using the Z-Seat when I plop myself onto the ground each time I put on MICROspikes, layer up, or switch to crampons, I’ve been staying warmer and my legs feel stronger.
- Features: lightweight (2 oz), egg-crate shape helps keep it from slipping under my weight; convenient bungee cord tie for keeping it closed and for anchoring it to my pack and/or the ground so it doesn’t fly away.
- Pros: Keeps my largest muscle group warm when taking breaks, cooking, and camping in the winter
- Cons: Bulky and catches wind in exposed areas
What it is: A water repellent for car windshields that improves visibility in wet driving conditions
The Shiny: Although it may not be the most obvious gift for winter adventurers, the bottle of Rain-X glass-water-repellent ($7.68) that I bought and applied to my windshield a couple months ago has probably had the biggest positive impact on my winter adventures and safety. Improving wet weather visibility is especially important because the most common view from the mountains is the inside of a cloud, and the most dangerous part of most hikes is driving to- and from- the trailhead. The improvements in visibility in wet and snowy conditions I’ve gained from just a single application of Rain-X to my windshield are impressive. It was quick and easy to apply and it eliminated the annoying water smearing effects that I’d tried to get rid of by changing my windshield wiper blades. The beading is really cool and I end up not needing to use my wipers as much.
- Features: easy to apply liquid, coats windshield hydrophobic silicone polymer
- Pros: Improved visibility while driving in mountain weather
- Cons: Needs to be applied at temperatures above 40°F
What they are: Pull-on shoe coverings that provide light traction for winter hiking.
The Shiny: My Kahtoola MICROspikes ($69.95) may not give me wings, but they do make me feel like I have superpowers as I cross shimmering sheets of glare ice without hesitation (note: some restrictions apply). MICROspikes are great for winter and shoulder season hiking where light traction is required and I advise people interested in doing winter hikes with me to acquire a pair of MICROspikes or equivalent. I’ve been using my MICROspikes for every winter hike/backpacking trip since my PCT thru-hike in 2014 (click here for my 2014 review) and they’re still going strong.
- Features: 12 small (1cm) stainless steel spikes connected to a stretchy elaster harness that pulls over your shoes; weight per pair ~11 oz
- Pros: Provide traction in icy conditions, lighter weight than crampons, much easier to navigate mixed ice and rock terrain than crampons.
- Cons: MICROspikes cannot be used for kicking steps into snow/ice and they are best when used with a relatively stiff soled shoe. I still prefer crampons for navigating steep ice floes and when kicking steps is required (For some hikes in the White Mountains of NH, I find that the MICROspikes are not enough and I switch to my full crampons).
For a more complete list of the gear that I use for winter backpacking check out: Winter Backpacking Gear: Light Weight Gear for Temperatures < 32°F/0°C
❄️❄️❄️ Happy Holidays to all and to all a good hike! ❄️❄️❄️