I have also received a lot of questions about why I like certain things over other things. Here is my thought process for that.
Depending on where I am hiking and during what season I am hiking I want a backpack that carries somewhere between 20-45 lbs comfortably. I like a lightweight backpack, but it is very important to me that it is comfortable and it is padded in the necessary places. It is not worth cutting out weight on your backpack and sacrificing comfort. It is more important to carry a pack that is comfortable and then if you want to go lighter, shave weight from the gear inside your pack. The Granite Gear packs are ideal for me because they are extremely lightweight for their sizes and they have all of the right comfort features, without adding much weight. I switch between packs with the vapor frame sheet and the nimbus frame sheet depending on when and where I am hiking. The vapor frame sheet is perfect for me up to 35 lbs. Anything above that weight I want a pack with the Nimbus frame sheet. I have seen many people on the trail that try to carry a pack that is too light for them and not functional because it doesn’t have the necessary support and comfort. Some of these people end up duct taping foam onto the straps on their packs because they need to make up for the comfort that the manufacturer did not provide because they were trying to shave ounces on the pack.
There are a lot of options here and again I vary depending on the hike. I used to use a closed cell foam Ridgerest sleeping pad all of the time because it was light, convenient, and problem-free. Recently I have used the Big Agnes Clearview, Montbell sleeping system, Thermarest Prolite. I always use a ½ length pad and use my pack as lower half of my sleeping pad, this helps cut some weight and also I like to keep my food and some other items in my pack so that it elevates my feet while I sleep. I believe that after a day of walking your feet would naturally swell a little because of gravity, so this helps prevent swelling and then maintains the same size of your feet so that your shoes don’t cause any problems.
There are now a fair amount of options out there at 9 ounces. If it is a long trip and I am away from easy mail access then I am tempted to keep using the closed cell foam pad so that I won’t have any problems. On the Appalachian Trail with wood sleeping platforms an inflatable pad is a nice comfort.
For a sleeping bag, I really like the Montbell U.L. Super Stretch bags. They are as light as any bag on the market and I find them warm beyond there rating. I do sleep warm and I also roll around a lot in my sleep. So I do not like the pad to be attached to my bag. I got used to the Super Stretch bags and didn’t realize how much I actually used the stretch system until one night I slept in a regular sleeping bag and felt confined. The elastic stretch baffles can make the bag look under filled, but that is only a perception because the bag needs to have a little extra material so that the material can expand with the elastic. The bags definitely are not under filled.
My shelter of choice also depends on the trip and the conditions that I will be facing. For most situations I prefer a tarp because of its versatility, weight savings, openness, and lack of condensation. I have used the Granite Gear tarp system with the dodgers through the winter also and the Granite Haven with my tarp too. I really like this whole versatile system to go along with the inherent versatility of a tarp. On the other hand, when I am going to be going somewhere that doesn’t have many trees and I can be barraged by wind then I like the Big Agnes Fly Creek tent because it is really lightweight, yet functional.
I like a wool shirt to wear on the trips because they repel odor and are warmer than polypro when they are wet. A light rain will also bead up on the wool for a little while before it starts to soaks in. For all other layers I like the Montbell products because they last a long time and are some of the lightest weight layers on the market.