The absolute tried and trued gear that a middle-aged guy uses

It seems like my feed comes up with the-latest-cool-article-to-sell-you-crap from the BigOutdoorCongelemorate.

You know the type of article: Something about what an extreme Crossfit Yoga HeliSkier guide uses for their intriguing sounding job.

No word of a lie, I found this photo when googling “Yoga” and “Heliskiing.” Reality trumps snark. From Luex.

A  career that seems much better than your job that involves mainly PowerPoints, lots of acronyms, “stories,” “sprints”, and management practices that sound like something out of a third-rate college fraternity or sorority that many of your peers (perhaps even you?) belonged to in the university.

Ramones > Six Sigma or Gemba

Usually with links for expensive gear modeled by photogenic people doing things I am not nearly cool enough to do and then rhapsodizing about in a way that sounds like a cross between a Zen monk and the latest Banff Film Festival entry.

I’m none of those things: I’m short, I’m bald, I have bushy eyebrows, and, unless you are looking for central casting’s idea of a background extra from mob movies set in the 1990s, I’m certainly not photogenic.

Providence, Rhode Island skyline from the “City of Providence” website. The podcast version of my theoretical movie makes a good listen, though.

And I don’t do anything remotely Banff Film Fest worthy –I take walks on weekends, I drink beer, and I hang around on my camp chair with Joan the night before a trip.

PCO Joan

I know how to walk. And I’ve done it reasonably well since I’ve been about 3 or 4 years old.  I got it down!

In the spirit of those over-the-top BigOutdoorCongelemorate articles, I present my version of what I take on my trips.  Instead of cool people doing extraordinary things, I offer:

The absolute tried and trued gear that a middle-aged guy uses

When I go somewhere on a dirt road with our truck, I need gear that works well. Gear that survives the rutted dirt roads and remote nature of Utah and into the rugged backcountry of the Colorado Plateau.

Needles District visitor center. Places along the pavement with wifi access. And bathrooms. And running water. The wifi’s slow…so that’s rugged.  PCO Trip Advisor

I challenge myself by walking 2 miles per hour or sometimes even 2.5 or even 3 miles per hour. And my pants occasionally get dirty. I may even sweat.  I need gear that serves me well. I do things extreme enough where there aren’t enough adjectives in the thesaurus to describe how I do these extreme things.

I use the gear. And you should, too. Preferably the same equipment that I, a middle-aged guy, use that may or may not fit your needs. But because I’m on a glossy photoshoot with lots of adjectives to describe me and what I do in the advertisement article copy, you’ll want to buy it for some reason.

I drink lots of coffee, too. PCO Joan,

Here’s the gear that I, a short-middle aged guy who still speaks with a funny accent, uses:

Running shorts

PCO Joan.

Practical shorts for hiking?  Just get some running shorts; they dry quickly, feel light and comfortable.

What brand? It doesn’t matter. It’s nylon or polyester at the end and probably made in the same factory as all the other shorts.  My sub-$20 pairs seem to work well enough.

Union Bay/ Ubtech hiking pants

Of course, much of my hiking does not take place on well-maintained and defined trails.  From the Canadian Rockies to the deserts of Utah to the green chile’ delights of New Mexico, these $35+/- pants served me well over the years. Not overly baggy but not ridiculously skinny-jean style, they’ve worked well for many treks over the miles.

However, they do not work as well for artfully composed photos of me playing the guitar by a campfire.

Santa Fe square at the end of my Northern New Mexico Loop. I’m not kidding about green chile’ delights.

Baggy Western-style plaid snap shirts

What’s a comfortable shirt that breathes well, looks good, is durable, light, protects from sun and insects, and is not expensive? A western snap shirt!

In stylish plaid, so you can look like every middle-aged outdoors guy and a few select hipsters, you can get these shirts at the thrifter or buy them online for less than $30.

But, Paul, cotton KILLZZZZ!!!!   Sure. Kinda, sorta. In specific conditions. And they very work well for three-season backpacking. And I have not died as of yet.

Joan approved, too!  (Note: Joan’s not a short, bald guy. )

Military surplus ECWCS Gen 1 liners aka Puffy Pants

They are warm, they are ugly, they are cheap…and every person we let borrow them loves ’em.  They are the M65 pant liners, Gen 1 ECWCS liner pants, aka “Puffy pants!”

At only $15 or less delivered, they end up like sleeping bags for your legs in cool to cold weather.  They easily slip over your other clothing, never seem to die, and crumple up easily. Try to get a “long” since they size up better for hiking shoes vs. combat boots—roughly 10  to 11 oz. for a men’s medium-long.   Different manufacturers make these pants, so there may be variations in the shell material, and some even have such features as buttons on the sides of the legs.   

Buy it. Wear it. Be warm while drinking cold beer.

Also, Joan approved. She likes hot drinks while being warm, though.

Flyers Kit (Parachute) Bag

You need a bag to haul all this crap in.  You can purchase one that has a big honkin’ logo on it and pairs well with your Yeti cooler and Sprinter Van.  Or, if you prefer to impress the lighterpack crowd, you can get a DCFwonderduffle for a third of the size of #vanlife duffle above and only $175!

Or you can spend ~$30, get something from eBay surplus stores, and get another 90-liter duffle that’s durable, swallows your gear, and easier to pack: The Flyers Kit (parachute) bag.

From Joan’s trip this past summer. PCO Joan.

We each have one for our gear, use it every week, put out shared packrafting gear in another one, and make our outdoor time much more effortless as getting organized helps with the most remarkable item for any outdoors person: The gift of time.  

What’s better than gear?  Going outside and using it!


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2 years ago

I find a lot of my hiking gear and clothing at thrift stores, most of it is slightly used or never used with the original tags still on it.

Ed K
Ed K
2 years ago

Hey, we have a lot in common, being short, balding, bushy eyebrows, and keep using the same gear that just works! But you have walked way more than I have. I support you in keeping backpacking real and down-to-earth…but you have a stiff headwind!

Heather Vecchio
Heather Vecchio
2 years ago

Great article. My best gear has been found in thrift stores. My “luxury items” are Smartwool still purchased at a fraction of retail used, due to a love of merino wool. You can tell at the trailhead who actually hikes… look at their gear.