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Dawson’s Smoky Mountain Hiking Kit (Winter Edition)

A small collection of essentials can make all the difference when planning a trip into the woods.  Everyone has a favorite piece of gear or something that is always in their pack.  Here’s a list of items that our co-founder, Dawson takes when he hikes in the Smokies during winter:

Pack: “I carry my gear in either a Osprey Stratos 24 or a Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin pack if i’m carrying a lighter load.”

Base layers: “I prefer hiking in a wool layer or two — either Smartwool or Icebreaker.  I choose a lighter 150 weight t-shirt and a slightly heavier 200-260 weight long sleeve zip neck on top.”

Shell: “A light/breathable soft shell jacket (Patagonia Dirt Craft) or a rain shell (Outdoor Research Foray) to block wind if it’s not raining.”

Mid/Outer layer: “I never go into the woods without my Patagonia Nano Puff. If it’s below freezing, I’ll pack a heavier down jacket (Marmot Guides Down.)”

Our co-founder in his element with his trusty Patagonia Nano Puff. (Gaston Farmer)

Pants: “I like to hike in the winter the soft-shell Arc-terxy Gamma Lt pants. (Patagonia Quandary or Outdoor Research Ferrosi are other options in this category.)  Sometimes, I wear a Smartwool base layer or Patagonia base layer on my legs depending on temperature.”

Hat and gloves: “always a ‘must.’ I usually wear Outdoor Research Backstop or Marmot Windstopper gloves.”

Socks: “Always Smartwool!”

Boots/Shoes:  “I wear Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid waterproof boots if the trail has snow, ice, or excessive moisture. I typically wear the Hoka Mafate if trail conditions are dry. When in doubt, always pick the boots. After all, you are hiking and it is winter. So hedge your bets and insure dry feet and ankle protection. I also carry Yaktrax in my day pack all winter incase of ice on the trail.”

Trekking Poles: “I hike with Black Diamond trekking poles for a number of reasons, but primarily they make it easier going up hill and give support going down hill. Also, in the event of a turned ankle they can save you a lot of discomfort and aid in getting out of the woods.”

Dawson hiking on the AT during winter. (Jake Wheeler)

Stove: “I have a small Snow Peak Giga Power stove that travels with me and a titaimum mug that I carry so can make a cup of hot tea or soup. Again, it weighs nothing and not only will you enjoy a hot drink but you will be everyone’s friend on the top of the mountain. If hiking with a friend just have them bring along a mug.”

First Aid Kit: “I converted an old peanut butter jar into a container for my first aid kit.  It keeps everything dry and protected from getting crushed.”

Headlamp: “Petzl Tikka+.  You’ll never know when this item will be needed.”

Map: “I always carry a map regardless of matter how many times I’ve hiked a trail.”

Phone: “I carry a phone for photos and emergencies and usually stays in a ziplock bag either ‘off’ or on ‘airplane mode’ to conserve batteries. You can’t count on your phone for navigation or emergency calls. Cell coverage can and usually is limited.”

Water: I like carrying a hydro flask bottle so I can either have hot or cold liquids. I always carry a small water filter unless the hike is very short.

Food: “I enjoy packing a nice lunch; cheese, homemade bread, sausage, fruit and something sweet. Its your day off — enjoy yourself!”

What about you?  What are some things that you never leave without? What’s your favorite piece of gear? Let us know in the comments below.